Grand Central Terminal
More than 700,000 people visit GCT each day, but rather than rush for a Metro-North train, spend an afternoon in the terminal itself. Visit the "kissing room" (officially called the Biltmore Room, which got its moniker because it's where loved ones would greet arrivals with hugs and kisses). You'll discover even more secrets during a tour: The Wednesday 12:30pm option takes you through the interior (mas.org; suggested donation $10), and the Friday 12:30pm walk includes the surrounding neighborhood (grandcentralpartnership.org; free). Or buy a $6 audio guide in the main concourse. When you're done, shop the stores, grab a bite in the downstairs food pavilion or sip a cocktail in the Campbell Apartment. 42nd St between Vanderbilt and Lexington Aves (212-340-2347, grandcentralterminal.com)
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New York Transit Museum
The museum—dedicated to all things mass transit in NYC and the metropolitan region—is located in a subway station that was decommissioned in 1946, and once inside you can board 20 vintage train cars. Free public tours for adults are available Saturdays and Sundays. For a different take on platform performers, visit on June 23, when saxophonist Roy Nathanson and Sotto Voce give a subway-inspired jazz concert. Boerum Pl at Schermerhorn St, Downtown Brooklyn (718-694-1600, mta.info/museum). $4--$6.
Otto and Orient Express
Mario Batali's pizza joint, (1 Fifth Ave at 8th St; 212-995-9559, ottopizzeria.com) is modeled after an Italian train station, which becomes apparent as soon as you put your name in for a table and the hostess issues you a "train ticket" bearing the name of an Italian town. When it's time to be seated, you'll find that place announced on a departures board—the old-timey kind with flip-down letters. Then you'll be on your way to your culinary satisfaction—maybe via a garlicky vongole pizza topped with clams, a mini carafe of wine from the extensive 700-bottle list and an award-winning gelato. Continue your journey on the Orient Express (325 W 11th St between Greenwich and Washington Sts; 212-691-8845, orientexpressnyc.com), which is set up to look like a bar car on an old-fashioned train. The drinks menu here is similarly themed, with cocktails that have cloak-and-dagger-sounding names like the Mata Hari (Bulleit bourbon, Pierde Almas mezcal, lemon juice, agave, ginger, aloe; $14) or the From Russia with Love (Russian Standard vodka, ginger, lime, rosewater rinse; $12).
Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal
In the heyday of immigration, thousands of new arrivals passed through this impressive Richardsonian Romanesque building every day after being processed at Ellis Island. Today, the sprawling 1889 building still stands as the cornerstone of Jersey's Liberty State Park, and inside it you can learn about the history of immigration and buy ferry tickets to Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty. You can also stay on the mainland park and picnic in the shadow of the New York skyline, fish for shad and striped bass, or rent a bike from the CRRNJ building and hit the nature trails. The Liberty Science Center, also in Liberty State Park, offers the opportunity to test four of your senses in a pitch-black "touch tunnel" in addition to hosting other exhibitions that cater to your inner science geek. 1 Audrey Zapp Dr between Freedom Way and the East River, Jersey City, NJ (973-275-5555)
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