City on a Plate

Art, gadgets & pizza: the best way to spend 24 hours in New York

Only got time to take a small bite out of the Big Apple? Paul Ash has crafted a one-day itinerary that'll help you make the most of it

18 March 2018 - 00:00

Kick your day off with a proper caffeine infusion. New Yorkers are addicted to coffee and there are little independent coffee shops everywhere. Our local in Brooklyn was Tekoa, a bustling coffee shop with cheerful staff and great pastries and rows of tables at the back. It's very busy at rush hour but the croissants and coffee are worth the crush.9AM: MUSEUM
Brooklyn is a great base but the treasures are, of course, in Manhattan. First thing: buy a seven-day pass for the subway (that may be the best $33 I have ever spent) for unlimited travel on the trains and buses. Then head over to the island.
First stop: the Morgan Library and Museum. Built by financier JP Morgan in 1906 to house his epic collection of rare books, manuscripts, prints and drawings, it became a public institution in 1924. While his study itself is a thing of awe, the regular exhibitions are the main attraction.
Right now, its exhibitions include Tennessee Williams; medieval art; and drawings by Rubens, Van Dyck and Jordaens. But it was the photographs by Peter Hujar (Speed of Life, on until May 20) - a series of intimate portraits of life in New York - that alone were worth the long trek to America.
The holy grail of tech, cameras and other electronica is B&H, an emporium of delight for the gearhead. For me, no visit to NYC is complete without my dropping in to spend money I do not have. Even if you're not buying, stop by to see the plastic tubs carrying customers' orders rumbling around on the overhead "railway" as they move between departments.1PM: LUNCH
Grand Central Terminal is arguably the world's most beautiful railway station. Some 750,000 people a day rush through its echoing concourse, under the vaulted roof of stars and past the famous clock, which remains a traditional meeting place.
There are dozens of small eateries but what you've really come for is the experience, not the food. Don't miss the Whispering Gallery next to the Grand Central Oyster Bar, where the low ceramic arches allow you to hear whispers from the opposite corner.2PM: THE PARK
Look up the avenues. That distant gap in the canyon skyline is Central Park. In winter it is austere and beautiful, in summer it is a cool escape from the steaming streets. Walking through the park also beats tramping down the busy sidewalks.If you like dogs, head to the southeast side to see the bronze statue of Balto, the husky who led a team of sled dogs on a 1,600km mercy mission through a blizzard to take diptheria vaccine to Nome, Alaska. On a cold night, Balto's brassy flanks gleam with frost and for a second you will hear the dogs yelping and panting as they hustle through the frozen night.
Your walk in the park will eventually bring you to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Start with the American Wing with its beautiful sculptures, a complete living room from a Minnesota house by Frank Lloyd Wright and the epic American landscapes by artists such as Thomas Cole (showing until May 13).Don't miss the picture that sums up America's self confidence: George Washington crossing the Delaware River, brought to you in a 6.5m by 4m-high gold frame. A real showstopper.
Head back to the West Side and take a window table at Uncle Mario's, a classic New York pizzeria. Everything is freshly made, with the pizzas done in a proper brick, wood-fired oven. Pizza and beer, with yellow cabs hooting outside and neon signs lighting up the night. Nothing wrong with that.
Head to the Algonquin Hotel for a nightcap. The "Gonk" was home to Dorothy Parker and the "Vicious Circle" of writers who lunched there six days a week for a decade from June 1919. Expect an eye-watering bar bill. If you're a struggling writer, though, you can get a room-rate discount...

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