When you moved to New York, you at one point probably envisioned a life full of cultural activities: seeing Broadway plays on the regular, spending Saturdays wearing a tweed jacket at the Met. But then reality struck in, and instead you’re in bed hungover or stuck late at work, and the closest you’ve gotten to culture recently is seeing your old roommate’s Instagram post hashtagging #NewWhitney, followed by thinking about how you should really try to get tickets for Hamilton at some point in the general future.
In an effort to help you jumpstart those efforts, here are some ideas of cultural endeavors you might undertake, followed, of course, by where to eat afterwards. It’s definitely an entry-level list, but you’ve gotta start somewhere.
Go to the new whitney
The Whitney finally made its move downtown this year, and if you haven’t been yet, you’ve probably been lying about it just like you lied about having seen The Sopranos. Pinocchio, it’s time to pay a visit: the building, right under the Highline, is beautiful, and walking through is basically a crash course in 20th century American art.
where to eat
Untitled is located in The Whitney, which almost makes the whole thing too easy. If you’re taking a family member from out of town to the museum (which you probably are), this is the place to be. The food is great, and the environment is “refined” without being fancy.
Right next door to Untitled, you’ll find Santina, the rare “lively” and “fun” Meatpacking restaurant that doesn’t involve champagne sparklers or waitresses in American Apparel bodycon dresses. Santina’s a good time, and a great meal if you order right – stick to the squash carpaccio and the pastas, and avoid the tempting but ultimately bland chickpea flatbread cecina. They also do an impressive breakfast, if you want to get things started early.
The Brooklyn Museum/botanical gardens
This year, the Brooklyn Museum put on an exhibit about sneakers. Last year, an exhibit about high heels. So we’ll see you all at next year’s Teva exhibit. Footwear aside, the Brooklyn Museum always has a great, forward-thinking exhibit on. Right next door, if the weather’s nice, you can take a stroll through the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Looking at flowers is good for you.
where to eat
Nearby Franklin Avenue is full of great, casual, and mostly inexpensive options: Glady’s for Jamaican food, Güeros for top notch tacos, Chavela’s for sit-down Mexican (which is open for lunch every day), and many more, all detailed in this guide.
Give it up for northwest Brooklyn’s finest mom-friendly restaurant. It’s “New American,” executed very well, in a lovely space. You’ve seen it before, but it won’t disappoint.
You’re coming to this new bar on Flatbush Avenue for one reason, and that reason is a truly outstanding burger.
Planning a midweek museum outing? Hit Tom’s for breakfast (they’re open at 7am every day, and 8am on Sundays). This old school lunch counter has been serving griddled pancakes and egg creams since 1936, and is the kind of place that will make you think you might actually love America.
Check Out PS 1 In Long Island City
If you’ve been to PS1 in Long Island City, there’s a good chance it was for the Warm Up, the museum’s party series that runs on Saturdays throughout the summer. And while we love that party, in all its bros living in Murray Hill but thinking about moving to Williamsburg glory, a trip to PS1 is worth your time all year round. Right now’s a particularly good time – the “Greater New York” show, the museum’s every-five-years look at emerging artists in NYC, is on through March.
where to eat
How to have an excellent afternoon in LIC? Check out an exhibit at PS1, then book it a few blocks away to Mu Ramen for its 5:30pm opening. You’ll hopefully beat the wait that accumulates later on, and you’ll also eat some of the best ramen in the entire city.
We don’t throw the word “best” around lightly, but Casa Enrique is the best Mexican restaurant in New York. It’s not the “modern” fusion stuff, just simple, perfectly executed Mexican staples. They’re open for lunch on weekends, and there’s no better time to go.
Go Rock Climbing At Brooklyn Boulders
If you’re starting to feel dragged down by the fact that most New Yorkers’ definition of “outdoor activity” involves walking to the New York Sports Club six blocks away, but you’re not quite ready to commit to renting a ZipCar to go hiking in the Palisades, consider the following: indoor rock climbing. It’ll be just like your fifth grade birthday, but you can drink beer afterwards. Belay on.
where to eat
This big, casual bar/restaurant right next to the Gowanus Canal is probably the place you were invited to a casual Sunday afternoon 27th birthday last month. It’s also the ideal place to eat after climbing an artificial rock wall. The brussels sprouts are great, the burger is even better, the cocktails are solid. When the weather’s good, the patio is unbeatable. They’re open at 4 everyday, and noon on weekends.
Chicken ‘n waffles, a smoked trout omelet, and a sub-$20 lobster roll: all things on Littleneck’s brunch menu. This clam shack is a great hangout, and they’re open at 10am on weekends, if you want to pregame your climbing with some New England chowder.
Check Out The New Museum & Some Galleries
The New Museum has been in its location on Bowery since late 2007 (it was originally on 14th Street and then in Soho), and has been a kind of anchor for the neighborhood ever since. It’s also New York’s only museum dedicated solely to contemporary art. Afterwards, head a few blocks east and hit some of the Lower East Side art galleries – they’re smaller, younger, and less commercial than what you’ll find in Chelsea, and most of them are open on Sundays (unlike most Chelsea galleries). Orchard Street is a good place to start, and for further reference, we like an app called See Saw, which is a bit like The Infatuation app, but for art galleries.
where to eat
How do you appropriately follow up hours of looking at video art installations? By hiding out in the cabin in the woods that is Freeman’s. Head around the corner onto Rivington, and then onto Freeman’s Alley, to a land of bacon-wrapped dates and taxidermy.
Any time of day, you can’t beat a plate of these and a cuban sandwich at this Latin comfort food palace on the corner of Prince and Elizabeth.
see a play in the west village
Chances are, those tickets to Hamilton didn’t work out. It’s OK, maybe in 2017. Instead, save both some money and your sanity by staying out of Times Square for your theatergoing efforts. There’s always a great Off Broadway play happening at one of the theaters in the West Village – try the Barrow Street Theater, Cherry Lane Theatre, or the Lucille Lortel Theater to start with.
where to eat
As you know, the West Village is full of charming, excellent restaurants that are impossible to get into. The Clam is the rare delicious West Village restaurant that you can usually get into, and actually takes reservations, which you’ll probably need if you’re operating on a pre- or post-theater schedule. It’s also open for lunch every day, and is quiet enough to get deep into conversation about what you thought of Zosia Mamet’s performance in the dramatic play you just saw.
Take An Uptown Museum Tour
As you likely know, the Upper East Side is New York’s most museum-heavy neighborhood. In addition to the big hitter, The Met, you’ll also find The Guggenheim, The Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, The Jewish Museum, and The Frick. Pick two, and wander through Central Park afterwards. Done.
where to eat
Head down Fifth Avenue a bit to this little Italian restaurant on 73rd Street. The paninis are amazing and half the people will be speaking another language. It’s on the expensive side, but without feeling like the total ripoff you’ll find further south in Midtown.
If you find yourself at one of the museums in the 90s and don’t want to head south, check out Earl’s Beer And Cheese on 97th and Park. Thanks to a recent expansion, it’s no longer miniscule, and the fancy grilled cheeses won’t disappoint.