The Aviary. Courtesy, Mandarin Oriental New York
Glamour isn’t easy to define, even if New York City undeniably has a surplus of it. Find it in a coveted reservation at a Michelin-starred restaurant, sipping inventive cocktails made by some of the world’s best bartenders or simply pausing to let the sights and sounds of the City wash over you. Wherever it is, we guarantee it will take your breath away. Read on for our picks of New York City’s most showstopping experiences.
Courtesy, Minton's Playhouse
This Harlem jazz club got its start back in 1938 and remains a revered name in music history. Rightfully so: it’s where the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie and Billie Holiday made their names. While the club is in a new location, the historic provenance is no less evident. The walls of the dimly lit room are lined with depictions of the greats, while some of today’s best performers fill the space with live music that does their forebears proud. To get the full experience, dine first at the adjacent Cecil Steakhouse. After dinner, you will be whisked through a hidden entrance in the kitchen to your reserved table in the club.
Courtesy, Palm Court
The Plaza has been synonymous with New York glamour since it opened more than 100 years ago, and the Palm Court’s daily high tea is similarly legendary. The tables are arranged under a towering stained-glass dome and surrounded by, yes, palm trees. The menu is classic British high tea—finger sandwiches, scones and sweets—with a New York twist. Think lox on a mini bagel with house-cured pickles and black-and-white eclairs.
The Modern. Photo: Benjamin Johnson
After you are done viewing the Picassos and Monets at MoMA, adjourn to its Michelin-starred restaurant on the main floor. The more casual Bar Room has an a la carte menu, but the real experience is in the main dining room. Its three-course tasting menu includes seasonal dishes such as honeynut squash with black truffle and dry-aged duck with glazed turnips. Lunch is the best time to experience the high-ceilinged dining room, as natural light filters through its towering windows.
The Noguchi Museum. Photo: Nicholas Knight
There is nothing standing between you and iconic pieces by famed designer Isamu Noguchi at this museum, located in Long Island City, Queens. Wander through the galleries to view his abstract sculptures and designs that walk the line between futuristic and midcentury modern before heading into the Zen-like gardens. The museum’s shop has books and prints as well as the designer’s iconic Akari lights for purchase. Alas, Noguchi’s famous glass-topped coffee tables are not in stock—but you can order them (and one is generally on display).
The Aviary's deconstructed bloody mary. Courtesy, Mandarin Oriental New York
There are only 90 seats at this bar high above Columbus Circle, the most coveted of which line the picture windows overlooking Central Park; but there’s plenty to command your attention inside. Everything in the open space feels over the top. The ceiling is lined with swirling neon lights, the lounge chairs are oversize and out-of-scale floor lamps add to the fun-house feeling. And then there are the far-out cocktails. Each is its own work of art, elaborately presented. Take the bloody mary, which comes with a plate of garnishes elegantly arranged. Chef Grant Achatz's bar snack menu also defies logic, with the most popular item being the pork rind—a billowing specimen served in a glass vessel.
Madison Avenue. Photo: Julienne Schaer
Just the name Madison Avenue conjures the image of block after block lined with luxury boutiques whose windows shine with gems or display intricate couture and coveted bags. Luxury labels such as Hermès, Stella McCartney and Bottega Veneta have flagships here, and you’ll also find antique and rare book shops filled with unexpected finds. The architecture of the avenue adds to the glamour as well, with some shops located in art deco landmarks or former mansions (check out the Ralph Lauren men’s shop, at East 72nd Street).
Courtesy, The Knickerbocker Hotel
There are many rooftop bars around the City where you can sip cocktails and take in the views, but this bar on the 17th floor of the Knickerbocker Hotel is the only one in the heart of Times Square. The hotel, once owned by John Jacob Astor, recently underwent a $250 million renovation that brought the beaux-arts building back to life. This enormous L-shaped deck offers a chance to drink just far enough above the bustle below. For a truly glam night, bring a group and reserve one of the corner “Sky Pods” that curve out from the main deck. Summer nights are popular, but heat lamps and hot chocolate spiked with chartreuse keep the party going in winter.
Le Bernardin. Photo: Daniel Krieger
This Midtown seafood restaurant has been a go-to for a special night out since the 1980s, and especially since star chef Eric Ripert took over the kitchen more than 20 years ago. The prix-fixe dinner menu offers four courses of the best the world’s oceans have to offer, prepared in the southern French style from Ripert’s childhood. The wine list is as impeccable as the food menu. Aldo Sohm is considered one of the best sommeliers in the world, and the restaurant’s cellar holds 15,000 bottles.
Lantern's Keep. Courtesy, Triumph Hotel
After the final curtain call, head over to this elegant bar on West 44th Street. There may be a wait for one of the marble-topped tables, but it’s worth it. Located off the lobby of the Iroquois Hotel, Lantern’s Keep has a Prohibition-era vibe that carries over to the menu. The spirits are true to the time (vodka isn’t served, since it wasn’t popular then), with aged rum, bourbon and rye whiskey filling the cocktail-appropriate glasses. You can also request custom drinks, made to your specific taste. The rules of the room are no hooting and hollering and no parties larger than five, and the tables are mostly occupied by duos enjoying their cocktails in delighted peace.
Olmsted. Photo: Evan Sung
Chef Greg Baxtrom’s whimsical menu at this Prospect Heights restaurant reinvents classic dishes while incorporating seasonal ingredients—sweet potato and uni pierogi, for example, or heirloom tomato schnitzel. After dinner, retire to the back garden for dessert and cocktails. The space is heated on chilly nights, which are actually the best time to go. When the weather cools down, the dessert special is s’mores with house-made marshmallows to be roasted over individual charcoal fires. Be sure to peek into the coops in the back, where quails nestle down to lay eggs used in the restaurant’s dishes.
Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Photo: Julienne Schaer
Manhattan’s skyline is best seen from across the East River, and the Brooklyn Heights Promenade has been the perfect spot from which to view the borough’s skyscrapers since its opening in 1950. After strolling the neighborhood’s streets lined with gorgeous brownstones, enter the walkway at Remsen Street and walk the third of a mile from end to end, stopping to admire the Statue of Liberty, lower Manhattan and the view uptown to the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge. The best time to go is at the evening golden hour, when the light is at its most picture-perfect and the sun begins to dip behind the skyscrapers. It’s possible that the Promenade will be closed for years starting in 2020 , so enjoy it while you can.