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What to see

Harlem
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Harlem proper stretches from river to river, beginning at 125th Street on the West Side, 96th Street on the East Side. This area is benefiting greatly from the revitalization that has swept so much of the city, with national-brand retailers moving in, restaurants and hip nightspots opening everywhere, and visitors arriving to tour historic sites related to the golden age of African-American culture. The commercial areas are served primarily by the 2, 3, 4, 5, and A, C, D lines.
Harlem new york tourism new york tourist board visit ny hotelsDutch farms and roadside taverns were scattered across the East River in New York’s early years, but in the 1890s it was developed as a semi-suburban getaway for affluent whites. By the 1920s black New Yorkers, driven out of Midtown by high rents, moved . Harlem blossomed thereafter, with jazz spiraling out of clubs like the Apollo Theatre (happily, still open), Small’s, and the Cotton Club, where Josephine Baker danced and the floor shows were swank—though, ironically, only white patrons were allowed. Meanwhile, however, poverty spread in Harlem and housing projects rose up; the sixties brought racial protests, crystallized around the mesmerizing figure of Malcolm X. It is a sad fact that most white New Yorkers never venture into Harlem, and can’t quite figure out why so many foreign visitors wish to do so. (Most make the trip with an organized tour. I’d suggest Harlem Your Way Tours Unlimited, or Harlem Spirituals, Inc.). And in truth, most of Harlem is desperately rough.
Change is coming, but slowly—Bill Clinton’s choice to put his new office on 125th Street is helping things along, spurring real-estate brokers into touting the area as “up and coming.”
From the subway stop at 125th Street and Lenox Avenue (also known as Malcolm X Blvd.), Harlem’s main commercial drag, the skyline of downtown Manhattan looks like a mirage. The cultural heart of Harlem is the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (a branch of the New York Public Library, at Lenox Ave. and 135th St.), where you can see the collection of Puerto Rican–born Arturo Alfonso Schomburg (1874–1938). Just down the block is the Liberation Bookstore (421 Malcolm X Blvd.), a friendly little place; west on 135th is the Harlem YMCA, where Harry Belafonte and James Baldwin studied. The Abyssinian Baptist Church, on 138th Street between Lenox Avenue and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, is where all the Sunday morning tour groups stop to hear gospel voices raised. Londel’s, around the corner (2620 Frederick Douglas Blvd. on Eighth Ave.), is a good place to stop for soul food before heading on to Strivers’ Row, actually two rows of fine houses on 138th and 139th streets between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Eighth Avenue. These are known as the richest blocks in Harlem. In Hamilton Terrace, another high-rent Harlem neighborhood, you’ll find Hamilton Grange, a yellow frame house that would look at home on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.Targeted for relocation for decades now, the city has yet to get around to moving it. Hamilton Grange was briefly the summer home of Alexander Hamilton, first Secretary of the Treasury.

Whitney Museum of American Art
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What is arguably the finest collection of 20th-century American art in the world is an imposing presence on Madison Avenue—an inverted three-tiered pyramid of concrete and gray granite with seven seemingly random windows designed by Marcel Breuer, a leader of the Bauhaus movement. The rotating permanent collection consists of an intelligent selection of major works by Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, and other significant artists. A pleasing second-floor exhibit space is devoted exclusively to works from its permanent collection from 1900 to 1950, while the rest of the space is dedicated to rotating exhibits.
The springtime Whitney Biennial (2004, 2006, and so on) is a major event on the national museum calendar; it serve as the premier launching pad for new American artists working on the vanguard in every media. Free gallery tours are offered daily, and music, screenings, and lectures fill the calendar.
945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street
W–Th 11am–6pm, F 1–9 pm,
closed M–Tu, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day

 
Guggenheim Museum
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It's been called a bun, a snail, a concrete tornado, and even a giant wedding cake; bring your kids, and they'll probably see it as New York's coolest opportunity for skateboarding. Whatever description you choose to apply, Frank Lloyd Wright's only New York building, completed in 1959, is best summed up as a brilliant work of architecture—so consistently brilliant that it competes with the art for your attention.
Guggenheim Museum new york tourism new york tourist board visit ny hotelsIf you're looking for the city's best modern art, head to MoMA or the Whitney first; come to the Guggenheim to see the house. It's easy to see the bulk of what's on display in 2 to 4 hours. Inside, a spiraling rotunda circles over a slowly inclined ramp that leads you past changing exhibits that, in the past, have ranged from “The Art of the Motorcycle” to “Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People,” said to be the most comprehensive exhibit ever of the beloved painter's works. Usually the progression is counterintuitive: from the first floor up, rather than from the sixth floor down. If you're not sure, ask a guard before you begin. Permanent exhibits of 19th- and 20th-century art, including strong holdings of Kandinsky, Klee, Picasso, and French Impressionists, occupy a stark annex called the Tower Galleries, an addition accessible at every level that some critics claimed made the original look like a toilet bowl backed by a water tank.
1071 Fifth Ave. (at 88th St.)
Admission $12 adults, $8.50 seniors and students, free for children under 12; pay what you wish Fri 6–8pm.
Sat–Wed 10am–5:45pm; Fri 10am–8pm.
Subway: 4, 5, 6 to 86th St.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
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Home of blockbuster after blockbuster exhibition, the Metropolitan Museum of Art attracts some five million people a year, more than any other spot in New York City.
At 1.6 million square feet, this is the largest museum in the western hemisphere. Nearly all the world's cultures are on display through the ages—from Egyptian mummies to ancient Greek statuary to Islamic carvings to Renaissance paintings to Native American masks to 20th-century decorative arts—and masterpieces are the rule. You could go once a week for a lifetime and still find something new on each visit.
So unless you plan on spending your entire vacation in the museum (some people do), you cannot see the entire collection. One good way to get an overview is to take advantage of the little-known Museum Highlights Tour, offered every day at various times throughout the day (usually 10:15am– 3:15pm; tours also offered in Spanish, Italian, German, and Korean). Visit the museum's website for a schedule of this and subject-specific walking tours (Old Master Paintings, American Period Rooms, Arts of China, Islamic Art, and so on); you can also get a schedule of the day's tours at the Visitor Services desk when you arrive. A daily schedule of Gallery Talks is available as well. Highlights include the American Wing's Garden Court, with its 19thcentury sculpture; the terrific ground-level Costume Hall; and the Frank Lloyd Wright room. The beautifully renovated Roman and Greek galleries are overwhelming, but in a marvelous way, as is the collections of Byzantine Art and later Chinese art. The highlight of the astounding Egyptian collection is the Temple of Dendur, in a dramatic, purpose-built glass-walled gallery with Central Park views. The Greek Galleries, which at last fully realize McKim, Mead & White's grand neoclassical plans of 1917, and the Ancient Near East Galleries are particularly of note.
1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
Tu-Th 9.30am-5.30pm, F-Sa 9.30am–9pm, Su 9.30am-5.30pm, closed Mondays (except for holiday Mondays when open 9.30am-5.30pm), January 1, Thanksgiving Day, December 25.