I love to act like a tourist in Manhattan. There are so many irresistible things to see, taste, hear, and do. For one, the constant cycle of museum shows keeps me busy. I recently spent an afternoon at the Museum of the City of New York on Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street across from Central Park. Walk inside and you go back in time: to 1932, when the neo-Georgian mansion housing the museum was built.
Behind the entrance, a marble staircase curves to the second floor. Sun streams through the many windows, sparkling an installation called "Starlight" suspended above the rotunda. The show that drew me to the museum is "Through a Different Lens." It has black-and-white photos taken by film director Stanley Kubrick as a 17-year-old working his first job at Look Magazine in the late 1940s to early '50s. Kubrick photographed Dwight D. Eisenhower when he was named president of Columbia University, celebrities such as film star Montgomery Cliff, circus performers, show girls, people in the subway, and more—all in New York City.
Besides the Kubrick photos, a day at this museum is incomplete without seeing the exhibit, "New York at Its Core," which traces 400 years of New York City history. If you're interested in the city's architecture, there is a small exhibit about art deco apartments designed by Italian-American immigrant Rosario Candela in the 1920s.
After touring the museum, I walked two blocks uptown and came upon Central Park's Conservatory Garden for the first time. I often wander through the park yet never here. A tall iron gate marks the entrance. The gate was made in Paris in 1894. The garden spans six acres and includes three small formal gardens in the French, Italian, and English styles. This is a peaceful place to take a time out. If you go, bring a book to read, a sketch pad to draw on, or simply relax for a few minutes with your thoughts. I brought the book, The Italian Party, and read under the shade of a tree.
Having worked up an appetite, I headed to the west side of town at 103rd Street. On the exact opposite side of the park, there are many cafes and the French bakery Silver Moon. This is a sweet spot to sit at a sidewalk table, drink coffee with an apricot brioche, and do some writing. The bakery also makes several kinds of bread, from olive loaves to hazelnut baguettes.
If you follow in my footsteps, remember to wear good walking shoes. Time your visit to the Museum of the City of New York to overlap with one of its free guided tours offered on weekdays at 2 p.m., Saturdays at 1 and 3 p.m., or Sundays at 2 p.m. And have as much fun wandering the city as I do.