Thursday, December 2, 2010

Blue Grass Brunch and Museum Madness

It's easy to fall into the brunch and shopping routine on weekends in NYC. Not that this is a bad thing, but sometimes it's nice to check out some of the city's cultural attractions (isn't that why we say we live in New York?) Spending Thanksgiving in the city gave me a few extra days to take advantage of some things I don't always have time for.

If you want to shake things up in your brunch routine, there is a slight variation which you can pretend is cultural at Nolita House. You still get mimosas and eggs Benedict, but the addition of a bluegrass band makes it feel like you've had an experience versus just paid $25 for a meal that costs $2 to make. (Not that I don't love brunch in NYC, but you know how sometimes you can pay a lot for some eggs and a mimosa consisting of Tang and a splash of champagne?) I loved the bluegrass band - these guys were awesome and made me feel like I was back down South in college (yet did I ever wake up early enough for a semblance of something called brunch back then?)

After brunch, we hit up the MoMA (if you think "hit up the MoMA" is an appropriate expression when talking about viewing art) and saw a painting called "people staring at nothing," aka a solid black painted canvas.

MoMA has not only an incredible permanent collection, but always has intriguing rotating exhibits. If you've ever dreamed of screaming in a museum, now's your chance, with the participatory exhibit "Voice Piece for Soprano" created by Yoko Ono. A museum-goer participates here but Yoko's performance is even more entertaining (and totally awkward.) 

The other stop on the Thanksgiving museum tour was the Brooklyn Museum (@ Prospect Park.) There are a lot of interesting pieces here, though the museum flow/ feng shui felt a bit off... it's rather hard to navigate. I'm not a huge Norman Rockwell fan ordinarily, but was fascinated by this exhibit featuring his work and the photographs he used to stage his paintings (exhibit through April 10th.) It made me think about his work in a whole new light.

Also enjoyed this exhibit from Fred Tomaselli - it's hard to see, but much of his work consists of thousands of tiny pills, everything from Benadryl to hallucinogenics. 

Hope this provided a bit of inspiration, and would love to hear about any NYC escapes you've planned for the winter months!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Autumn at Storm King

Sometimes in NYC I forget it's even fall. There are a few trees turning on my West Village block, but it's hard to get that full autumn effect without getting out of the city. So this weekend we journeyed out of the city to the Storm King Art Center and saw a magnificent fusion of natural and man-made wonders:

The Storm King Art Center is, according to its website, "one of the world's most oustanding sculpture parks" and includes works dating from 1945 to the present in a beautiful 500-acre setting. It's a wonderful place to explore on a sunny afternoon, and I'd suggest allowing three hours to casually wander throughout the park. The website notes that it is also beautiful under cloudy or rainy conditions as the sculptures take on a whole new meaning. That could be cool too.

This off-kilter lighter-like structure is an architectural enigma (at least to us):
Many of the sculptures were created to summon UFOs:

 Although we didn't connect with UFOs, the waves spoke to us:

There is also a little cafe with coffee, gourmet sandwiches and other delicious treats. Food must be eaten in two designated picnic areas. We thought it could be nice to pack a bottle of wine and drink along the way, but you'd probably have to be stealthy about it.

Getting there: 
Storm King is an easy one-hour drive from NYC via the Palisades Parkway. Alternatively, the Short Line Bus offers a day trip for just $45.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Overlook Mountain Hike near Woodstock, NY

A 90 minute drive from NYC will bring you to the Catskills, a land of fresh heirloom tomatoes from roadside markets, clear night skies filled with stars, ice cold swimming holes and views like this:

This video was taken at a scenic overlook point on Overlook Mountain, reached via a steady uphill climb along a gravel road- about a 3-hour round trip journey. The trail head is easy to find - from the center of Woodstock, drive up Meads Mountain Road and it is across from the Tibetan Buddhist monastery of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra.  The entrance sign cautions to be wary of rattlesnakes (seriously?) ... fortunately we didn't see any.

At the top of the hike are the remains of the Overlook Mountain House, a prestigious old Catskills resort from 1820-1920. According to the www, in the 1800's it was allegedly "fashionable to take a vacation to the Catksills instead of Europe."

We stopped by the North/South Lake for a picnic lunch - great setting with boat & canoe rentals - though the beach was a bit crowded so we left in search of a swimming hole.

There are several great swimming holes around Woodstock - get ready for ice cold water. This swimming hole with a rock to jump off of is relatively easy to find - continue along 23A past Kaaterskill Falls and park in the small gravel lot on the right. Another one just outside of downtown Woodstock has a rope swing - turn right into the gravel parking road across from Gallo's nursery on Route 212.

Don't leave the Catskills without stopping by Vinnie's roadside farm stand on Route 32 to get amazing heirloom tomatoes to bring back to the city.

Catskill trees. Lots of 'em.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Gigantic Pool in Red Hook

So there's a gigantic pool in Red Hook with hardly anyone in it. And there are only two weekends left in the summer to take advantage of it. Get there! Bike (6 miles from the West Village via BK bridge), take the NY Water Taxi or hop on the F train and get off at Smith - 9th street.

I'm not sure that I've ever been in a pool this big, at 330 x 130 ft ... of course it wasn't this empty, but it didn't have that "taking a bath with 500 people" feeling you get from other NY public pools.

There were actually even a few plastic lounge chairs that freed up towards the end of the session. Make sure to bring a lock and flip flops. Trust me - you do not want to walk around in that locker room without them.

Afterward, we couldn't resist a repeat of The Lobster Pound and Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pie. The Swingle is just too good to pass up. Another option is the Red Hook Ball Fields across the street from the pool for authentic Latin American food - vendors line the fields under tents selling empanadas and tacos on Saturdays. Delicioso.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lobster Quest Part 2: Newport, Rhode Island

My quest for lobster and chill music brought me to Newport, RI for the Newport Folk Festival. Newport is an awesome little town, attracting a lot of New Yorkers, Bostonians and bachelorette parties. My friends and I journeyed there via Amtrak from Penn Station, armed with plastic cups and bottles of wine. The 3-hour train to Kingston enabled us to avoid stressful getting-out-of-NYC traffic, and as we approached the stop we called a local cab to take us to Newport ($50 plus tip)

We stayed in a weekly rental, which is allegedly illegal in Newport, but vacation rental websites like VRBO or Homeaway offer plenty of options. Our house was right by the Cliff Walk, a seaside walking trail which I highly recommend. View from the Cliff Walk:

The Cliff Walk passes by many of the famous mansions in Newport, such as this one featuring our regal dachshund:
Next to the Cliff Walk is a beach with decent waves for boogey-boarding and even surfing at times. Plus… the beach snack shop offers twin (that means two) lobster rolls + fries for $10! Surprisingly good for the price. Can’t promise those prices when the lobster glut is over. As far as other meals, we ate at Scales & Shells – I highly recommend the grilled lobster and my friends raved about the clams. One night we purchased lobsters for $7 per pound from Aquidneck Lobster Co. and boiled them in pots at home. This was truly some of the best lobster I’ve ever had.

The festival itself was a ton of fun, and fed my Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros binge (seen them 3 times in 15 days- Webster Hall, Newport, & Lollapalooza!) They are magical and perhaps slightly cultish (Lead singer Alex could start a compound in Waco, TX)

This short little video featuring the Avett Brothers gives you a good sense as to the Folk Fest space – it’s at the Fort Adams park on a peninsula with water surrounding (per the definition of “peninsula”). Boats & yachts anchor near the shore to listen in.

Some advice about getting to/from the festival – I’ve heard traffic can be bad but we lucked out. We arrived early in the day via car– around noon – and left about halfway through the final act with little traffic. There’s also a ferry to/from downtown Newport– next to The Moorings restaurant.

A final note on the nightlife in Newport – the Cooke House rooftop bar is chill and breezy and makes you feel like drinking a rum cocktail and listening to Jimmy Buffett. In the basement, the Boom Boom Room is full of rowdy bachelorettes and wealthy looking older men supplying them with vodka sodas. Toss in a few cougars and you’ve got the Newport scene down pat. But seriously, Newport is not as pretentious as people believe – it is very un-Hamptons-like and everyone is laid back and ready for a good time.

PS If you know someone who knows someone with a yacht, the cruise around the harbor is stunning. And who knew… rum & grapefruit juice is surprisingly delicious!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Lobster Rolls and Key Lime Pie in Red Hook

When you think of Red Hook, your first thought might be deserted warehouses, lack of subway access and IKEA. But Red Hook is so much more - it's a relaxed neighborhood full of culinary delights, good bars and scenic spots to chill out overlooking the water.

I visited Red Hook with a group of friends on a recent sunny afternoon, on a quest for lobster rolls and key lime pie. Our first stop was the Red Hook Lobster Pound, manned by this kid who was not afraid to dive right into the lobster tank to show us dinner.

Red Hook Lobster Pound is located at 284 Van Brunt Street - directions are on the website. Our cashier (above, with lobster) offered us the choice of a Maine-style lobster roll (with mayonnaise) or Connecticut-style (with butter.) Most of us choose Maine style per his recommendation, featured below. Delicious!

Since the Lobster Pound does not have seating, we decided to eat at a beautiful little park on the Hudson with views of the Statue of Liberty - Louis Valentino Jr. Park, about a 10 minute walk from the Lobster Pound. This park is very empty, quiet and peaceful, and has a nice, long pier that one can apparently fish on.

Following the park, we made our way to Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pie at 204 Van Dyke Street, about a 5 minute walk away.

The Key Lime Pie was amazing, especially this frozen key lime pie on a stick dipped in Belgian dark chocolate, which is called The Swingle. It is an absolute must have!!

After we were practically in a food coma, we decided it was time for some booze. Our first stop was a lovely little wine shop Botta di Vino at 357 Van Brunt Street, where we happened upon a wine tasting. Looks like there are tastings all day on Saturdays, and the staff was extremely friendly and gave us some generous samples.

Finally, we ended our day in this wonderful garden in the back of Home/Made on 293 Van Brunt Street. They have a great wine list (not that I am an expert, but there were lots of choices) and we enjoyed several bottles of chilled white wine on a warm summer day.

We all left our Red Hook adventure feeling like we had truly escaped from New York City, even though we technically hadn't. Red Hook is a low-key, friendly place to enjoy a sunny afternoon.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Dia Beacon

I can't believe I am just finally getting around to visiting Dia: Beacon. It is one of the coolest museums I've ever been to, located in a little town on the Hudson River called Beacon. Beacon is about an hour and twenty minutes from the city, with trains leaving hourly. As I mentioned in the Cold Spring post, this train ride is beautiful. The Dia has a variety of important works, which you can read about on Dia's Website but if you are not that knowledgeable about art they have works by Warhol - heard of him?

An aerial shot of the museum below (photo courtesy of Dia). You can see the train tracks to the right of the museum, alongside the river. It's easy to walk to Dia from the train- signs are everywhere.

Below is a temporary instillation featuring tons of line drawings by Sol LeWitt, custom made for the Dia space.  I asked the museum guide what would happen when the exhibit was over, as these were drawn right on the walls, and he said they'd be painted over. Kind of sad. Photo courtesy of Dia.

Much of the Dia work revolves around the concept of space, which is why Michael Heizer created these holes in the floor of the museum. I love his quote in reference to this work: "Awe is a state of mind equivalent to religious experience, I think if people feel commitment they feel something has been transcended." Also, check out this very cool shot on Smithsonian Magazine. I'm not sure I have the rights to share.

On the topic of space, this sculpture is meant to feel awkward within its confines (Richard Serra sculpture, courtesy of offmanhattan)

The town of Beacon was nice  - not quite as quaint as Cold Spring but there were definitely some nice features. There was a great little waterfront with a Sunday farmers market and a big grassy area to picnic (with playground for kids.) There is allegedly a roped-off area to swim in the summer on the river.

There was a Puerto Rican Day parade in Cold Spring, same day as the NYC parade.

Finally, I had a delicious white bean & tomato soup at this artsy cafe called The School of Jellyfish

Beacon also has a monthly festival called "Second Saturday" ... on the second Saturday of each month... which is a citywide celebration of the arts. I'll check it out sometime and let you know what that's like!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Wave Hill in Riverdale via Bike (or not)

If you haven't heard of Wave Hill, it's a beautiful 28 acre retreat in the Bronx with views of the Hudson River, gardens and lots of grassy space to lay out and relax.

There are a couple of ways to get to Wave Hill - I took the 1 train to 242nd street and biked through residential streets to get there, which takes about 20-30 minutes. The ride is safe and relatively car-less- it involves weaving through the neighborhood of Fieldstone, and crossing the Henry Hudson Parkway via an overpass designed for walkers/bikers. However, the hills in the neighborhood are pretty intense, and my bike is a rusty cruiser from Craigslist that isn't exactly suited for this kind of terrain. If you have Google Maps on your phone, you'll be able to easily figure out how to weave through the neighborhood and cross over the Henry Hudson Parkway (after that, there are signs for Wave Hill.)

I was excited to see some of a Riverdale neighborhood - it's hard to believe that there are homes this big right in NYC (home below):

A little bit of info about Wave Hill - it is an old estate from 1843 that was leased by Theodore Roosevelt as well as Mark Twain. The cost to enter is $8, and as I discovered, once in Wave Hill you cannot actually bike. Therefore, I would probably just recommend taking the Metro-North from Grand Central (a bit quicker) and walking to Wave Hill. I took the train home and it was easy, except I didn't know you need to buy a bike pass (they let me off the hook this time... probably figured with my rusty old bike I didn't know what I was doing.)

The food at the cafe is very good (slightly gourmet sandwiches and salads), and you can eat overlooking the Hudson River. Wave Hill was not crowded- lots of space to lay out and relax in the grass or in Adirondack-type chairs. It was a nice change from parks in NYC which are usually pretty packed with people talking loudly on cell phones.

Some images from Wave Hill:

Where I chilled out, read and slept in peace:

There were lots of beautiful gardens and a few mini trails through the woods (like 10 minute walks) Here's one shot of the pond:

I hope you enjoyed Wave Hill! I'd recommend it when you want an easy escape from the city and a quiet place to read.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Kayaking in Cold Spring

It was about 85 degrees out, compelling me to get out of Manhattan and cool off. So my friend and I journeyed up the Hudson River to kayak in Cold Spring, NY. Trains leave about every hour from Grand Central Station, and take about an hour and twenty minutes. The ride is gorgeous, as the train snakes up the Hudson River, providing views of the river and hills beyond. Once at Cold Spring, the kayak shop Hudson Valley Outfitters is less than a 10 minute walk from the station, on Main Street. (make a reservation in advance.) They have lots of cool outdoor gear for sale which I restrained myself from buying as I have zero room in my miniature NYC closet.  You'll sign waivers and pay and then walk down to the water to get fitted for your kayak. Kayaks are about $20 per hour, and they also offer fully guided tours. We just rented on our own and were fine.

Getting hooked up with kayaks (put your stuff in a plastic bag and you can store it in the kayak)
The scenery is beautiful, and the bay is calm and easy for beginner kayakers like myself.
You can also kayak in Constitution Marsh - enter under a very low bridge to get there. We kind of had to duck to fit under since it was getting close to high tide.

We saw a bit of the marsh, including these ducks and some crazy flying fish and want to come back to explore further (there is a lot to see- it is fairly extensive with lots of wildlife)
After, we chilled at a park along the water, and then went for some beers at the Cold Spring Depot, an outdoor restaurant/ bar in the old train station. 

The waterfront was charming with a little gazebo and some B&Bs. We ate dinner at the Hudson House Inn (blue building) which had a pretty cool little bar area & fireplace that would be super cozy in the wintertime.
Cold Spring is a super-easy, relaxing day trip! Anyone have any additional Cold Spring tips?

Introduction to the NY Escapist

Welcome to The New York Escapist! This blog is designed for escapists of all kinds - outdoor enthusiasts, art lovers, foodies, borough explorers and people who love the idea of getting on a train or subway and ending up somewhere they've never been before, in or out of NYC.

We all love lazy weekends in New York, full of brunches and shopping and catching up on the DVR list, but sometimes crave a little more adventure. There are tons of hidden gems in NYC, and also on the outskirts where you can forget about screeching taxis, weekend subway disruptions and forty-five minute brunch waits.

I am writing this blog to prompt myself to find more escapes in and out of NYC. I hope you are able to enjoy some of these escapes, and I would love to hear tips from readers as well!