New York City Photos: Fotolia
New York City Photos: Fotolia

New York City Secrets

Bring Out Your Inner Artist
Those people copying paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art have joined the Drop-In Drawing at the Met program. Twice a month, adults and children of all ability levels can try their hand at sketching the work of a master artist in a class with instructors who gently guide the students. The program provides a folding stool, drawing board, pencils, erasers, and paper. Info: metmuseum.org/events/programs

People copying paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
People copying paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art


Blues on Bleecker
Big Ed’s World-Famous Blues Jam, every Monday night, is cohosted by New York Blues Hall of Fame guitarist Big Ed Sullivan and Grammy-nominated songwriter Christine Santelli at the Red Lion on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. Four other famous bluesmen play in the hot house band, whose performance is followed by an open-mic jam by seasoned musicians, often playing on their night off from touring. Info: redlionnyc.com


Shoot Out
Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver practiced at the Westside Rifle and Pistol Range and so can you. The staff will provide a 22-caliber semiautomatic rifle, bullets, targets, and safety gear, and you’ll be shooting in two hours. The gun range is in the basement of an apartment building. Everyone from police to ­hobbyists, hunters, doctors, lawyers, and teachers comes to either let off steam or get instruction. Info: westsidepistolrange.com     


Bureaucrats in Bronze
Political cartoons inspired sculptor Tom Otterness’s whimsical sculptures at the 14th Street and 8th Avenue subway stop. The installation, called Life Underground, includes one bronze figure that depicts a bureaucrat with a bag of money in place of his head; another shows a large suited man wresting coins away from a tiny, simply dressed woman. info: nycsubway.org

The installation, called Life Underground, includes one bronze figure that depicts a bureaucrat with a bag of money in place of his head
The installation, called Life Underground, includes one bronze figure that depicts a bureaucrat with a bag of money in place of his head


En garde!
Be in your own Game of Thrones by learning to use a sword at Sword Class NYC. This is the only school in the U.S. offering both Eastern and Western historical armed combat sword styles. Here, it’s not just about the sword: it’s about determination, strength, discipline, grace, and respect. Plus you’ll learn to control your thoughts, your body, your energy, and your sword. Info: swordclassnyc.com

Be in your own Game of Thrones by learning to use a sword at Sword Class NYC.
Be in your own Game of Thrones by learning to use a sword at Sword Class NYC.


Bind Your Own Book
If you love books, head for the Center for Book Arts, where experts teach everything from letterpress and woodcut to typesetting and leather techniques. You’ll be in the company of designers, visual artists, calligraphers, writers, and other book lovers. Info: centerforbookarts.org   

If you love books, head for the Center for Book Arts
If you love books, head for the Center for Book Arts


Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Pig
More than five million people visit St. Patrick’s annually, but how many of them know there’s a demon stone pig climbing up the masonry of the Lady Chapel at the back end of the cathedral? It seems the architect of the Lady’s Chapel lived in France for a few years and loved gargoyles, but the trustees made him create something more comical and less terrifying, so it’s not a scary pig. Info: saintpatrickscathedral.org

St Patrick's Cathedral
St Patrick's Cathedral


Sock It to Me
At the Sock Puppets Workshop, you’ll design a zany puppet (yours to keep) with the help of an instructor. Start with a great-looking sock, add floppy arms of your choice, a silly tongue, crazy eyeballs, and whatever else suits your fancy. Kids aged 8 and up are welcome—as are adults who want to get in touch with their inner child. Info: puppetkitchen.com


It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane!
The Daily News building, a National Historic Landmark, was the model for the fictional Daily Planet‘s headquarters, where Superman worked as Clark Kent. The lobby features a 4,000-pound revolving globe sunk into the floor as well as brass plaques showing the distance in miles from New York City to other places around the world. Info: wikipedia.org/wiki/Daily_News_Building

The Daily News building, a National Historic Landmark. Photo: Shutterstock
The Daily News building, a National Historic Landmark. Photo: Shutterstock


Whisper Sweet Nothings
Many New Yorkers know about the Whispering Wall in Grand Central Terminal: whisper into one arched corner, and you’re heard perfectly at the opposite corner. But few know that Central Park has its own secret 20-foot-long granite Whisper Bench at the top of the Shakespeare Garden (on the West Side, between 79th and 80th Streets). Whisper into one end, and your sweet nothings will travel to the other end. Info: centralpark.com/guide/attractions/shakespeare-garden


Indulge at the Food Hall
Hungry? One of the city’s best-kept secrets is the Plaza Hotel’s Food Hall (enter at 1 West 59th Street, right off Fifth Avenue, and take the escalator down one flight). Here, you’ll find an oasis of fine food purveyors offering everything from lobster, caviar, and sushi to sinful chocolate desserts and yummy frozen yogurt with counter-style seating throughout. Info: theplazany.com/dining/the-plaza-food-hall/

Plaza Hotel’s Food Hall
Plaza Hotel’s Food Hall


Big Cheese
Sign up for a class on rare and unusual cheeses at famous Murray’s Cheeses in Greenwich Village. You’ll try a half-dozen special wedges (with water and wine to wash them down) and learn about esoteric cheeses, such as Salers from central France, where dairy cows are milked only in the presence of their newborn calves. Info: murrayscheese.com/classes

Famous Murray’s Cheeses in Greenwich Village.
Famous Murray’s Cheeses in Greenwich Village.


Back to Bach
For 50 years, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on 65th Street at Central Park West has presented Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantatas and motets during evening vespers. The music is accompanied by mystical chants and solemn processions, the same setting for which the composer was writing his music. The free concerts happen every Sunday at 5 p.m., and all are welcome. Info: holytrinitynyc.org


A Toast to Bemelmans
Ludwig Bemelmans, author and illustrator of the famous Madeline children’s books, loved hotel life and traveling. He painted a huge mural in the bar at the Carlyle Hotel, depicting the four seasons of Central Park with animals instead of people. Even the lampshades have been painted with Bemelmans’s designs. Instead of receiving money for his commission, the artist chose to live rent-free for 18 months at the Carlyle. Info: rosewoodhotels.com/en/the-carlyle-new-york/dining/bemelmans-bar

Ludwig Bemelman painted a huge mural in the bar at the Carlyle Hotel, depicting the four seasons of Central Park with animals instead of people.
Ludwig Bemelman painted a huge mural in the bar at the Carlyle Hotel, depicting the four seasons of Central Park with animals instead of people.


Monday Night Magic
You don’t need to go to Vegas to see a great magic show. Every Monday night at the Player’s Theatre in Greenwich Village, musicians invite a paying audience to a secret session. It’s all word of mouth. Don’t expect illusionists with red capes, real rabbits, or semi-naked assistants. This is New York’s oldest running off-Broadway show and the magicians are side-splittingly funny and edgy. Info: mondaynightmagic.com


Armchair Exploring
Not ready to climb Everest, paddle the Amazon, or head for Antarctica but curious about what these experiences are like? Stop by the Explorers Club, where non-members can enjoy lectures by astronauts, climatologists, and wilderness experts on some Monday nights. The wood-paneled building is filled with relics, such as the sleds Robert Peary dragged to the North Pole. Info: explorers.org/events/    

Stop by the Explorers Club, where non-members can enjoy lectures by astronauts, climatologists, and wilderness experts on some Monday nights.
Stop by the Explorers Club, where non-members can enjoy lectures by astronauts, climatologists, and wilderness experts on some Monday nights.


Just Add Popcorn
Love classic movies? On select Friday nights, the New-York Historical Society presents classic films preceded by an introduction by a movie critic, historian, or scholar. Coming this December: A Man for All Seasons (1966), introduced by U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito and scholar Philip C. Bobbitt. Info: nyhistory.org/programs/upcoming-public-programs


Sit Where Kate Sat 
Almost hidden inside Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, a small green space in midtown’s Turtle Bay neighborhood, is a garden named after one of the area’s most famous residents, the late actress Katharine Hepburn. The garden includes an old bench that the actress purportedly expropriated from Central Park and transported to her home in Connecticut. After Hepburn died, the estate donated it to the park. Info: nycgovparks.org/parks/dag-hammarskjold-plaza


Beyond Manhattan

Have time to venture beyond Manhattan? Check out these noteworthy stops in New York City’s other four boroughs:

The Early Bird Catches the Fish
Located since 1822 on South Street in lower Manhattan, the Fulton Fish Market moved in 2005 to a state-of-the-art, 400,000-square-foot facility in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx. The largest consortium of seafood wholesalers in the country, it is open from 1 a.m. to 7 a.m. Early birds will see top chefs choosing their catch of the day. Be sure to wear a jacket and hat because the market is as cold as a refrigerator. Info: newfultonfishmarket.com

Fulton Fish Market is the largest consortium of seafood wholesalers in the country. photo: Fotolia
Fulton Fish Market is the largest consortium of seafood wholesalers in the country. photo: Fotolia

Think New York’s Big? Not Here It Isn’t
Head to the Queens Museum to see the 9,335-square-foot Panorama of the City of New York, a model of all five boroughs that was created for the 1964–65 World’s Fair. The panorama includes miniature
versions of 895,000 buildings, every street and park, and 100 bridges. Airplanes, each less than an inch long, take off and land from the model’s LaGuardia Airport. Info: queensmuseum.org

Grandma’s in the Kitchen
Missing home-cooked food? Take the Staten Island Ferry to Enoteca Maria, a block from the ferry. Open Wednesdays through Sundays, this restaurant features food prepared by a rotating staff of grandmothers who cook their native cuisines from countries around the world, including Italy, Argentina, Algeria, Syria, the Dominican Republic, Poland, Liberia, and Nigeria. Enoteca Maria also offers free cooking classes. Info: enotecamaria.com

Rich, Famous, and Infamous
Looking for history, tranquility, and memorable architecture? Visit Brooklyn’s 400-acre Green-Wood Cemetery, a National Historic Landmark. Walk through the grand entrance, a marvel in itself, stroll past water bodies, up and down meandering paths and Revolutionary War sites, and visit mausoleums and graves of such luminaries as Basquiat, Tiffany, and Steinway as well as gangster Joey Gallo and the infamous Boss Tweed. Info: green-wood.com

Visit Brooklyn’s 400-acre Green-Wood Cemetery, a National Historic Landmark.
Visit Brooklyn’s 400-acre Green-Wood Cemetery, a National Historic Landmark.

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