New York is the most written-about, sung-about, studied, chronicled and filmed city in America — maybe the world — and its stories, monuments and attractions are too numerous to count. So where do you start? Just go for a walk.
Author Layla Schlack Photography Chris Sanders
DAY ONE | Begin the day stretched out on your king-size bed high up in The Ritz-Carlton, watching the sunshine wash over the manicured vastness of Central Park. Donning a plush robe, you wander over to the window and use the telescope provided to survey what feels like your dominion. The scene below beckons, but then so does breakfast. Breakfast wins.
Step outside and have the doorman hail you a taxi. Your destination is 72nd Street Bagel, for a quintessentially New York start to the day. Behind an unassuming storefront, this popular spot serves the best whole wheat everything bagel in the city. It’s soft and chewy on the inside, with a bit of crust on the outside. You get yours with cream cheese and lox, and take it to go.
Head a few blocks east to Central Park and stroll through the Great Lawn, an impeccable 55-acre green that, while originally a reservoir, has been a prime picnicking ground since 1937. Now, in the autumnal chill, you mostly see people walking their dogs and the odd urban forager digging up mushrooms around the edges. To the north of the lawn is the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. Framed on either side by stately apartment buildings, it’s a favorite jogging track of Bill Clinton and Madonna, and a perfect spot for a morning constitutional.
Stopping short of the full 1.58-mile loop around the reservoir, step out of the park and walk to the corner of Fifth Avenue and 86th Street. There, you find the Neue Galerie, set in a gorgeous Beaux-Arts mansion constructed for industrialist William Starr Miller in 1914. Inside, your footfalls echo through the cool marble lobby as you make your way to two floors of German and Austrian holdings, which include an impressive collection of Gustav Klimt paintings, midcentury modern furniture and couture frocks.
Once you’ve taken it all in, head downstairs to Café Sabarsky, where Old New York meets Old Vienna. Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner specializes in hearty German and Austrian comfort food, and you opt for the goulash and bratwurst, which you nibble on at a wrought iron table while reading the New York Times and sipping coffee from a silver service.
Next, take a leisurely 20-minute stroll down Fifth Avenue toward the most famous shopping area in the world. Your eyes bounce from Bergdorf Goodman’s avant-garde window displays to the buttery soft leather bags fresh from Milan on display at Barneys to the vivid scarves at Hermès to the pearl-clad women walking tiny dogs. As you make your way south, the socialites are replaced by hustling businessmen. In front of you looms Grand Central Terminal. It’s one of the best examples of Beaux-Arts architecture in the country, but beyond that it has that quintessential combination of peerless grandeur and controlled chaos that defines much of Manhattan. With a sequence of balletic steps, you cut through the mob of commuters rushing to their trains, and you head upstairs to the Campbell Apartment, the restored office and salon of 1920s businessman John W. Campbell. Sitting at the bar sipping your Flapper’s Delight champagne cocktail, you gaze out the window while businessmen sip scotch around you, happy to be away from the madding crowd.
Time for dinner. You had the foresight to make a reservation at Per Se, Thomas Keller’s New York outpost on Columbus Circle, back by Central Park. You eat your way through nine decadent courses, including “Oysters and Pearls” — butter-poached oysters, osetra caviar and sabayon sauce — over three-plus wine-rich hours. After a long day of wandering through the city, it’s the perfect way to unwind.