Place to dance your heart out: 718 Sessions
Still packing the dance floor after nine years, this monthly Sunday tea party's roots go deep, with a vibe (and a crowd) that harks back to the scene-starting, dance-all-night '70s club Paradise Garage. That means this isn't the place to shake your inebriated ass, but you can still break out your best moves to Danny Krivit's selection of soulful house and classics. The party gets going as soon as the doors open (encouraged by a serious early-bird discount), and revelers ride a natural high till the last track. Santos Party House, 96 Lafayette St at Walker St (212-714-4646, santospartyhouse.com). 6pm--midnight; $20, with flyer or membership card $12, first 100 people before 7pm $5.
Place to find your inner Zen: Brooklyn Botanic Garden
This Brooklyn oasis boasts relaxed, peaceful grounds ideal for quiet contemplation. Claim a spot near the serene Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, surrounded by Japanese myrtle and cypress trees, and bliss out. Enter on Eastern Pkwy between Underhill and Washington Aves, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (718-623-7200, bbg.org).Tue--Fri 8am--6pm; Sat, Sun 10am--6pm. Beginning Tue 8: Tue--Fri 8am--4:30pm; Sat, Sun 10am--4:30pm. $10, seniors and students $5, children under 12 free.
Store for upgrading your wardrobe on the cheap: Dalaga
This elegant Greenpoint gem, owned by sisters Michelle and Mary Mangiliman, houses stylish clothing and accessories that will refresh your closet without emptying your bank account. Black suede lace-up boots ($115) offer year-round appeal; we also love the unique outerwear, like a tribal-print wrap coat ($145) and carryalls such as woven leather cross-body bags ($78). The shop's best offerings, however, are ladylike dresses: Wrap yourself in a multicolor splattered sleeveless silk frock ($68) or a rosette-bedecked shift ($80), and bring on the compliments. 150 Franklin St between Greenpoint Ave and Kent St, Greenpoint, Brooklyn (718-389-4049, dalaganyc.com)
Place to hang out with cute lesbians: Cubbyhole
Ladies come from all over town—and the 'burbs—to meet, drink and be merry at this aptly named, cozy lesbian bar (though you'll always find at least a few boys in the mix). There's no attitude here, just lots of paper lanterns and holiday decorations, so strike up a conversation with the sexy lady at the jukebox. You might get lucky—or at least make a new friend. 281 W 12th St at 4th St (212-243-9041, cubbyholebar.com)
...and cute gay boys: Nowhere
This East Village dive is one of the more friendly homo haunts in town; when you feel like chatting up new folks (not standing in a stranger-blocking circle with your pals), it's a reliably good bet. While you're likely to find cuties here most nights, Damian Cote's long-running Buddies party every Tuesday is especially packed with adorable East Village and Brooklyn boys. 322 E 14th St between First and Second Aves (212-477-4744).
Naughtiest burlesque show: !BadAss! Burlesque
The performances at this bimonthly revue aren't the playful, teasing kind; they're perverse and raunchy, catering to a crowd that skews toward dreadlocked rockers. If you've ever wanted to see Audrey Hepburn pulling a long string of pearls from her unmentionables, then this is the show for you. Impresario Velocity Chyaldd's band, Vulgaras, often opens each event, setting the tone with mournful torch songs. Look for familiar faces from other NYC burly-Q stages, like Gal Friday and Jo Boobs, who put provocative twists on their established acts. Theater 80, 80 St. Marks Pl between First and Second Aves (212-388-0388, badassburlesque.com). Dec 17 11pm--3am; $15.
Spot to discover the next band of the moment: Glasslands Gallery
This Williamsburg space has an amazing track record for booking hyped (or soon to be hyped) indie-rock acts. Earlier this year, glam purveyors the Smith Westerns and '90s revivalists Yuck played here before exploding onto the blogosphere and headlining much bigger venues. Glasslands is the ideal place to attain you-saw-them-when cred—and the DIY decor gives every show the air of a stumbled-upon loft party. 289 Kent Ave between South 1st and 2nd Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-599-1450, glasslands.blogspot.com)
Place to gawk at priceless art: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
You need more than just 24 hours to fully explore the masterworks on display at this venerable institution: The Met's collection is seemingly endless, spanning creepy Egyptian tombs to the shimmering Impressionist paintings to an unparalleled costume collection. During the summer, the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden features a contemporary sculpture exhibit—and doubles as one of NYC's best rooftop bars. 1000 Fifth Ave at 82nd St (212-535-7710, metmuseum.org). Tue--Thu, Sun 9:30am--5:30pm; Fri, Sat 9:30am--9pm. Suggested donation $25, seniors $17, students $12, members and children under 12 free.
Retro party: Dances of Vice
Nightlife queen Shien Lee broke out of DofV's early Prohibition-era mold and now throws the most creatively themed parties in town, mixing the Baroque with futurism, Dadaism, literary references and the occasional nod to Back to the Future. Regulars impress with intricate costumes, but those who show up in sophisticated civvies won't be given a hard time at the door. Regardless of the theme, expect burlesque or circus acts and live music, often in grand spaces like Morningside Castle. After a busy October, the party goes on hiatus until the end of the year, but check out Lee's monthly party, Disko Nouveaux, at Le Poisson Rouge (158 Bleecker St at Thompson St; 212-505-3474, lepoissonrouge.com; Nov 12 10pm--4am; $5), a less extravagant, more intimate, new-romantic--goth twist on the DofV recipe. Next event: The Moonlight Circus on Dec 30. Riverside Church, 490 Riverside Dr between 120th and 122nd Sts (dancesofvice.com). 7pm--midnight; $25.
Ballet company: New York City Ballet
Choosing between NYCB and American Ballet Theatre, NYC's two major ballet players, is a bit like splitting hairs. But if you were to twist our arm, we'd have to say the company with repertory works by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins and ballerinas Wendy Whelan and Sara Mearns takes it by a whisker, despite Alexei Ratmansky's presence at ABT. Your next chance to see the company in action is the sumptuous production of Balanchine's The Nutcracker (Nov 25--Dec 31). 20 Lincoln Center Plaza at 63rd St (nycballet.com)
Warehouse party: Blkmarket Membership
This nomadic soiree brings top-notch, genre-defying artists, primarily from Europe, to NYC. This Dec 2, look for Germany's groovy, left-field whiz DJ Koze, who returns after making his U.S. debut at a Blkmarket New Year's Eve shindig. The promoters deserve kudos for maximizing their excellent bookings with a booming, crystal-clear sound system, professional lighting rig and extended set times, allowing the DJs the space to treat the crowd to a wild musical journey. Next event: Fri 4 with Marco Carola. Location TBA, R.S.V.P. to firstname.lastname@example.org (blkmarketmembership.com). 10pm; advance $16.90--$22.50, at the door TBA.
Party night to kiss a stranger: Lip Service
House of Scorpio, the kinky offshoot of the Gemini & Scorpio parties, hosts this naughty and nice make-out mixer at the seductively lit Madame X. A happy hour with beer ($4) and suggestively named cocktails like Pussy Galore ($5) will calm your nerves, and games of spin the bottle will break any ice that's left. Attendees must come in pairs or trios to attend. Dress creatively to make it past the door—you'll be mingling with a high-end, artsy clientele looking to lock lips with more of the same. 94 W Houston St between La Guardia Pl and Thompson St (houseofscorpio.com). 10pm; $12, with R.S.V.P. via House of Scorpio's website $8.
Concert auditorium: Carnegie Hall
Hard to believe that in 1960, Carnegie Hall was at risk for demolition to make way for one more soulless skyscraper. Thanks to the legendary violinist Isaac Stern, whose name now graces the venue's 2,804-seat main auditorium, the concert hall that once hosted Tchaikovsky (during its opening-night concert in May 1891), Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and the Beatles survived. The world's greatest orchestras, instrumentalists and singers continue to honor its three stages (including the gemlike Weill Recital Hall and the chic subterranean Zankel Hall); lately, a growing number of prominent world-music acts and even rock bands have been added to the mix. 154 W 57th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves (212-247-7800, carnegiehall.org)
Place to remember why you love Manhattan: The High Line
There's something uniquely New York about this elevated park, the second section of which was completed earlier this year. Built atop an abandoned railway track, the space is ingenious for its use of reclaimed industrial detritus, a necessity in space-starved Manhattan. But what we like best is how the park takes you above the city while still keeping you rooted in urban life: Where else can you walk through a field of wildflowers or sprawl on a lush lawn as cabs zoom along the street beneath you? From Washington St at Gansevoort St to Tenth Ave at 30th St (thehighline.org). Through Nov 30: Daily 7am--10pm. Beginning Dec 1: Daily 7am--7pm.
Place to forget that you're in New York City: Fort Tryon Park
This 67-acre expanse was built on land acquired and developed by John D. Rockefeller Jr., who also purchased the New Jersey acreage facing the park to ensure that its vistas would remain beautiful. It's crammed with gardens, forests and other quiet nooks that are perfect for chilling out, and no visit here is complete without a stop by the magical Cloisters, an outpost of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that focuses on medieval works. Margaret Corbin Circle, Fort Washington Ave at Cabrini Blvd (forttryonparktrust.org)
Informal classroom: Brooklyn Brainery
The sessions at this laid-back Kings County school are cheaper and cooler than your typical continuing-education class, which is precisely why we love them. Taught by a team of enthusiasts in various fields—including teachers, chefs, makeup artists and graphic designers—courses run the gamut from practical (how to cut hair, crochet basics) to just plain silly. In October, the Brainery hosted "Disaster Strikes New York," a lecture on the destruction of New York City as depicted in film. We're guessing that's not something you'd learn at NYU. 515 Court St at 9th St, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn (brooklynbrainery.com)
Touristy venue: Empire State Building
No mere sightseeing spot, this 80-year-old landmark is simply one of the most stunning buildings in New York City. Even though more modern skyscrapers have sprung up around it, the building's Art Deco flourishes—check out the lobby, restored to its original gilded splendor in 2009—and sheer size cause us to crane our necks and stare upward every time we pass by. The views from the building's observatory decks (on the 86th and 102nd floors) have always been among the city's best. 350 Fifth Ave between 33rd and 34th Sts (212-736-3100, esbnyc.com)
View of New York City: Brooklyn Bridge
There are higher vantage points in the city, but for a true panorama, take a stroll across this national landmark. From the midpoint of the massive suspension bridge, you'll have spectacular sight lines of most of the city's east side, including Brooklyn Heights, Dumbo and lower Manhattan. Keep an eye out for other noteworthy sites, such as Governors Island, the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Enter at Park Row and Centre St (nyc.gov)
Collective backyard: Prospect Park
Urban visionaries Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed numerous NYC green spaces—most famously Central Park—but we're partial to bucolic Prospect Park. Amenities like the Long Meadow and Nethermead offer plenty of space to pull up on a patch of grass and indulge in some people-watching, and the woodland expanse of the Ravine is a towering forest within bustling Brooklyn. But we also have to give props to Robert Moses: The controversial city planner was behind some of the park's kid-friendly offerings, including the zoo and Wollman Rink (which is scheduled to reopen in late 2012 or early 2013 after an extensive renovation). Eastern Pkway to Caton Ave, Prospect Park West to Flatbush Ave, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-965-8951, prospectpark.org)
New York--focused museum: New York Transit Museum
This institution is a reminder of the sheer amount of work required to keep the subway moving—something that's easy to forget in an era of fare increases and service decreases. Exhibits trace the history of public transit in the greater metropolitan region, while the location—a subway station that was decommissioned in the 1940s—allows the museum to showcase its excellent collection of vintage subway cars. Boerum Pl at Schermerhorn St, Downtown Brooklyn (718-694-1600, mta.info/museum)
Birthday restaurant: Buvette
You can't make a regular reservation at Jody Williams's charming gastroteque, but savvy diners know to book the long "kitchen table" tucked in the back of the dining room for special gatherings. Under an eye-catching Warren Muller chandelier, groups of 8 to 12 can dig into a homey French feast. The family-style menus, planned entirely in advance by you and your party, center on a shareable dish like roasted chicken, coq au vin or a whole fish—along with appetizers, sides and a party-sized tarte Tatin for dessert. For reservations, e-mail email@example.com at least six weeks in advance; minimum cost is $125 per person, excluding drinks. 42 Grove St between Bedford and Bleecker Sts (ilovebuvette.com). Mon--Fri 8am--2am; Sat, Sun 3pm--2am.
Birthday bar: Employees Only
Arrive early to lay claim to prime barside real estate, and order a round of original cocktails mixed by rascally, white-jacketed gents. Then ask the resident fortune teller to divine your celebrant's future for $20 ("we see Tanqueray No. 10 with...hibiscus cordial and...yes, grapefruit, that's it"). "Silky Sundays" are perhaps the best night for a soiree: Barkeeps swap their jackets for silk PJ's and a burlesque performer drops in at midnight. Volunteer that it's your birthday and you might get a personal dance to boot. 510 Hudson St between Christopher and W 10th Sts (212-242-3021, employeesonlynyc.com). Daily 6pm--4am.
Dive bar: International Bar
Wander into this neighborhood joint at any time of day (it opens at 8am Monday through Saturday), and you'll find regulars propping up the bar, making efficient use of the low prices. A draft beer—the six brews on tap include Franziskaner, Guinness and Negra Modelo—will set you back just five bucks; same goes for a two-ounce shot of Evan Williams whiskey and a can of Genesee lager. But don't feel bashful if you're flying solo. The owners (including TONY alum Shawn Dahl) have banished televisions to promote friendly banter, and there's always the jukebox packed with Merle Haggard, Detroit Emeralds and Black Flag albums to keep you company. 120 First Ave between St. Marks Pl and E 7th St (212-777-1643, internationalbarnyc.com). Mon--Sat 8am--4am, Sun noon--4am.
Museum to spend the day inside: MoMA
In addition to its unparalleled holdings in 20th- and 21st-century art, MoMA offers cool amenities like its plush movie theater, which has multiple screenings throughout the day. And then, of course, there's the MoMA Design Store. Oh, did we mention that besides spending the day, you might be tempted to spend some serious money? 11 W 53rd St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-708-9400, moma.org). Mon, Wed, Thu, Sat, Sun 10:30am--5:30pm; Fri 10:30am--8pm. $25, seniors $18, students $14, children under 16 free. For discounts, order your tickets in advance online at moma.org. Fri 4--8pm free. Film tickets free with museum admission; screenings-only admission $12, seniors $10, students $8, children under 16 free.
Place to see museum-quality gallery shows: Gagosian Gallery
The Pace Gallery may have invented this high-end form, but lately, Gagosian Gallery seems to have perfected it. Shows such as "Picasso and Marie-Thrse: L'Amour Fou," which brought together key works inspired by Picasso's favorite muse and much younger lover, Marie-Thrse Walter, packed in huge crowds last season. "Malevich and the American Legacy," meanwhile, put the early-20th-century Russian avant-gardist in the company of the big-name American artists—Richard Serra among them—whom he influenced. Both shows proved that you don't have to be MoMA to stage a blockbuster. 980 Madison Ave between 76th and 77th Sts (212-744-2313, gagosian.com).Tue--Sat 10am--6pm.
Off Broadway theater: Playwrights Horizons
Give a hearty cheer for this artistic incubator, which has nurtured emerging writers and produced such hits as Bruce Norris's Pulitzer Prize--winning satire, Clybourne Park (it jumps to Broadway this spring). Currently on offer is playwright Kirsten Greenidge's New York debut, Milk Like Sugar (through Nov 20), revolving around a teenage pregnancy pact. Seat prices are also perfect for the emerging theatergoer: $25 rush tickets for under-30s are available an hour before each performance. 416 W 42nd St between Ninth and Tenth Aves (212-564-1235, playwrightshorizons.org)
Off-Off Broadway festival: Under the Radar at the Public Theater
This venue is already an adored staple of Off Broadway (and rightly so!), but the Public's annual Under the Radar festival this Jan 4 through 15 lends it serious credentials in this category. Last year, the daring international program of experimental theater included offerings from playwrights Suzan-Lori Parks and Richard Maxwell, as well as David Greenspan and funnyman Reggie Watts. The productions for 2012 have yet to be announced, but you're well advised to jump on tickets—you'll be rolling loaded dice. 425 Lafayette St between Astor Pl and E 4th St (212-967-7555; publictheater.org, undertheradarfestival.com)
Store to blow your paycheck in: Opening Ceremony
Covetable finds from around the world make Carol Lim and Humberto Leon's Soho boutique a primo place to plunk down a wad of cash: If you're looking for one big-ticket splurge, stick to the racks of luxury threads, such as guys' Patrick Ervell patterned sweaters ($325), and exclusive Rodarte ruffled chiffon dresses ($740). Or scoop up more-affordable goods like indie magazines ($3--$36), toys ($18--$80), CDs ($12--$20) and hip accessories, including Jeremy Scott x Swatch lightning-bolt watches ($70). 35 Howard St between Broadway and Lafayette St (212-219-2688, openingceremony.us)
Spa for pampering on the fly: Benefit
The retro, pink-and-white decor of this two-floor flagship beckons beauty buffs inside, where aestheticians stand ready to primp and polish at a moment's notice. At the store's On the Spot! Beauty Bar, you can get your brows and lip waxed ($23 and $12, respectively); there's also a private room for bikini hair removal ($34) and spray tanning ($48). Best-selling products like rose-tinted lip and cheek stains ($29) and cream concealers ($26) are also on hand, and a purchase of three will get you a complimentary makeup application. 454 West Broadway between W Houston and Prince Sts (212-769-1111, benefitcosmetics.com)
Store to indulge your analog obsession: Academy Annex
Music fiends can spend hours sifting through the massive selection of new and used seven-inches and LPs at Academy's Williamsburg locale: It's telling that CDs are relegated to a measly display case up front, while the rest of the place is packed to the brim with vinyl. The shop offers a wide selection of genres—garage rock, electronic, jazz, folk and world, to name a few—and stocks up on a good amount of releases by local bands and labels. Free in-store performances by the likes of Stephen Malkmus, the Black Lips, Thurston Moore and Kurt Vile make the shopping experience here even sweeter. 96 North 6th St between Berry St and Wythe Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-218-8200, academyannex.com). Daily noon--9pm.
Theater to see a movie that will change your life: Film Society of Lincoln Center
Considering that this classy theater hosts new art-house titles (at its Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center), rep series and beaucoup festival offerings, you are guaranteed to see something old, something new, something borrowed or maybe even a revival of Blue Velvet that will alter the way you watch movies forever. 165 W 65th St between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave (212-875-5600, filmlinc.com)
Theater to catch your favorite old movie on the silver screen: Film Forum
Yes, the crowds here are notorious for being a little chatty, but given the exquisite repertory and revival programming—plus gourmet snacks—this tastemaking downtown venue is still your best bet to relive that original thrill of seeing William Powell, Al Pacino or Jean-Paul Belmondo at their larger-than-life best. The schedule is consistently jam-packed with pre-Code oldies, '70s New York crime thrillers and more French classics than you can shake a baton at. 209 W Houston St between Sixth Ave and Varick St (212-727-8110, filmforum.org)
Place to laugh at funny people before they end up on SNL: Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre
The original members of UCB (Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh) decamped from Chicago to start this NYC offshoot in the mid-'90s, but TV execs began taking notice of the improv venue's rising stars only a few years ago. Now, nearly every sitcom on NBC's Thursday-night lineup—along with Comedy Central favorites like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report—features performers who honed their craft at the Chelsea venue. We expect the recently opened UCBEast, a stand-up--focused outpost in the East Village, to serve as a similar incubator. 307 W 26th St between Eighth and Ninth Aves (212-366-9176, ucbtheatre.com) * 155 E 3rd St between Aves A and B (212-366-9231, east.ucbtheatre.com)
Small venue for checking out headlining comics: Carolines on Broadway
Yes, you'll pay a cover charge, and yes, there's a two-drink minimum. But the pleasure of seeing big-name comics (Dave Chappelle, Susie Essman, Tracy Morgan and others) in a more intimate setting is worth it. The club also hosts under-the-radar talent, like delightfully filthy Australian jokester Jim Jeffries, who will perform Nov 23 to 26. 1626 Broadway between 49th and 50th Sts (212-757-4100, carolines.com)
Literary hot spot: McNally Jackson Books
Its warm atmosphere, well-curated selection and convivial caf make McNally Jackson a book lover's beacon in Soho. But on a grander scale, the store is a guiding light for brick-and-mortar shops throughout the city. It opened nearly seven years ago amid declining print sales and a multitude of closing indies, stepping forward with an optimistic business plan and thoughtful programming that aspires to offer much more than authors carrying on behind a microphone. McNally's enthusiasm for books and its literary-minded customers have paid off, and it's always looking to improve upon a winning formula. Case in point: It has the city's first Espresso Book Machine, which prints a growing number of texts on demand for impatient bibliophiles. 52 Prince St between Lafayette and Mulberry Sts (212-274-1160, mcnallyjackson.com)
Reading series with a twist: Happy Ending Music and Reading Series
Great authors (and musicians) line up to be a part of Amanda Stern's monthly show at Joe's Pub, in spite of, or perhaps because of, the fact that they can't just hide behind their words. Whether the writer in question is a Pulitzer winner like Jennifer Egan or former New Yorker Jonathan Ames—all scribes here tend to be high-caliber and have to have a book published in order to perform—they'll be required to take a risk onstage. Recently, A.M. Homes speed-dated several members of the audience and Jesse Ball taught the crowd how to steal a book from Barnes & Noble. Joe's Pub, 425 Lafayette St between Astor Pl and E 4th St (amandastern.com). Next event: Wed 9 at 7pm; $15 plus $12 minimum.
Place to remember why you love Brooklyn: Brooklyn Historical Society
There's no better spot to trace Kings County's evolution from a Manhattan suburb to a diverse, artist-friendly hub than this Brooklyn Heights institution. Its permanent collection and rotating exhibitions mine the borough's past and present, while assorted events—such as a Brooklyn Brewery beer night or a lecture on the Crown Heights riots—examine the borough's historical, cultural and gastronomic legacies. 128 Pierrepont St at Clinton St, Brooklyn Heights (718-222-4111, brooklynhistory.org). Wed--Fri, Sun noon--5pm; Sat 10am--5pm. $6, seniors and students $4, children under 12 free.
Game night: Gameshow Speakeasy
This five-year-old show relocated to Le Poisson Rouge, but its zany, spontaneous format remains the same. Master of ceremonies Neil O'Fortune runs the proceedings, during which wisecracking panelists from New York's nightlife circuit try to guess the occupations of regular New Yorkers from all walks of life (a Hooters girl and a rocket scientist have challenged attendees in the past). A famous mystery guest also joins the festivities; past celebs have included Zach Galifianakis and Martha Plimpton. Le Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker St at Thompson St (212-505-3474, lepoissonrouge.com). Third Friday of every month 8pm; $5.
Not-boring lecture: 92nd Street Y and 92Y Tribeca
Whether you're seeking a literary conversation, stimulating analysis of current events or an evening of sing-alongs, this 137-year-old organization has you covered. Offerings at the 92nd Street Y's younger sibling, 92YTribeca, are typically quirkier and cheaper and often include a beer. Three cheers for uptown and downtown culture. 1395 Lexington Ave between 91st and 92nd Sts (212-415-5500, 92y.org) * 200 Hudson St at Canal St (212-601-1000, 92ytribeca.org)
Bar to sing your heart out in front of strangers (in a group): Marie's Crisis Caf
This small, basement piano bar needs no gimmicks to coax rousing choruses from its patrons. Named in part after "The Crisis" by Thomas Paine, who died in the abode where the bar is now located, and Marie's, a house of ill repute that once existed at the site, the beloved dive attracts Broadway babies from all over the city. Every night, a pianist mines the Great American Songbook well into the wee hours. 59 Grove St between Seventh Ave South and Bleecker St (no phone). Daily 4pm--4am.
View from an all-weather rooftop bar: Top of the Strand
Who says rooftop lounges are a summer-only destination? All hail the retractable glass roof, providing a warm viewing platform on crisp, clear fall and winter days: The Strand Hotel's 21st-floor drinkery tops our list because of the uninterrupted sight line of the towering Empire State Building and first-come, first-served benches that offer a front-row seat. Don't let the imposing main attraction blind you to the rest of the skyline—to your left is the lit-up crown of the Setai at 400 Fifth Avenue, and over to your right is the illuminated double-fin roof of the Epic. The price of admission for this light show? Specialty cocktails are $15 and bottles of beer $9. 33 W 37th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-448-1024, topofthestrand.com). Mon, Sun 5pm--midnight; Tue--Sat 5pm--1am.
Bar to sing your heart out in front of strangers (solo): The Duplex
The city is rife with karaoke bars, but why settle for a prerecorded track when you can be accompanied by live pianists? Aspiring performers mix with regulars, tourists and occasional celebrity drop-ins on the first floor of this beloved watering hole, a West Village institution for more than half a century. The repertoire runs from classic rock and Broadway to modern pop; the chummy singing bar staff make everyone feel welcome at the mike. Just scrawl your name and request on a napkin, leave it atop the baby grand and wait for your shot at cabaret glory. 61 Christopher St at Seventh Ave South (212-255-5438, theduplex.com). Daily 9pm--4am.
Year-round market: Brooklyn Flea
No matter the season, this weekend bazaar brings together 150 local vendors carrying all manner of vintage, handmade and antique wares. Depending on the day, the treasure trove may consist of Cold Picnic's cool-kid accessories, like printed tube bracelets ($50), and Daily Memorandum's old rustic furnishings, including twig baskets ($65) and wooden crates ($10). Of course, there's also the droolworthy munchies: We're fans of the artisanal grilled cheese sandwiches ($5.75--$7.50) from Milk Truck and oat-and-peanut-butter sandwich cookies (one dozen $15) from the Good Batch. The Flea will move to its winter location on Nov 26; check the website for more info. 176 Lafayette Ave between Clermont and Vanderbilt Aves, Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Sat 10am--5pm. * East River Waterfront between North 6th and 7th Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Sun 10am--5pm. * brooklynflea.com
Hotel for a staycation: Gansevoort Park Avenue
There may be newer boutique hotels featuring terrace pools and conveniently placed cocktail bars, but the trailblazing Gansevoort (which opened its original location in the Meatpacking District in 2004) has truly perfected the urban-resort concept. The tri-level rooftop pleasure complex at the plush Park Avenue location is a year-round oasis: Relax in a glassed-in area by the pool, kept at a balmy 85 degrees, then swim through the warm water to take in an open view of the Empire State Building before a night of loungehopping in the deejayed five-bar space. Counteract the damage the next morning with a yoga class ($23) and massage (starts at $95 for 30 minutes) at the on-site Exhale spa. 420 Park Ave South at 29th St, enter on 29th St (212-317-2900, gansevoortpark.com). Rates start at $285.
Place to remember why you love Queens: Flushing Meadows--Corona Park
There's plenty to keep you occupied at this 1,255-acre destination, even when the Mets aren't in town. Among the diverse offerings are the New York Hall of Science, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (home to the US Open) and the iconic Unisphere. See the city rendered in miniature at the Queens Museum of Art, home to the Panorama of the City of New York installation, which was created for the 1964 World's Fair. 111th St to College Point Blvd between Whitestone Expwy and Grand Central Pkwy, Queens (718-760-6565, nycgovparks.org/parks/fmcp). Daily 6am--1am.
Place to remember why you love the Bronx: Bronx Museum of the Arts
Immerse yourself in the history and culture of the Boogie Down at this uptown treasure, which focuses on the work of underrepresented artists, as well as those based in the borough. The museum places equal weight on forms such as graffiti art and folk-art--inspired paintings, as well as more conceptual art. Don't miss the lively First Friday parties, which offer films, musical performances and lectures. 1040 Grand Concourse at 165th St, Bronx (718-681-6000, bronxmuseum.org). Thu, Sat, Sun 11am--6pm; Fri 11am--8pm. $5, seniors and students $3, children under 12 free. Fridays free.
Place to remember why you love Staten Island: Freshkills Park
When this former landfill's transformation is completed in 2036, the space will be three times bigger than Central Park. Until then, the park inspires visitors with the possibilities of the future: If 60 years of garbage can become usable parkland, then surely there's hope for greening other spots in the city. Get a look at the site during a two-hour bus excursion led by the NYC Parks Department, focusing on the land's history and redevelopment. Richmond Ave between Arthur Kill Rd and Travis Ave, Staten Island (nyc.gov/parks). Tours only.
Spot to discover your new favorite hobby: Museum of Arts and Design
The craft-art--and-design-focused museum gives you an up-close view of its artisans-in-residence during its daily open studio: Artists in MAD's sixth-floor studio utilize diverse methods such as ceramics, wood carving and paper sculpture. Watch them create something, and get inspired to make some art of your own. Interactive workshops, like the electronics-focused Hacking with NYC Resistor, provide more hands-on training from the experts. 2 Columbus Circle at Broadway (212-299-7777, madmuseum.org). Tue, Wed, Sat, Sun 11am--6pm; Thu, Fri 11am--9pm. $15, seniors and students $12, members and children 12 and under free. Thu, Fri 6--9pm pay what you wish.
Waterfront: Brooklyn Bridge Park
Located at the feet of the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, this space gives visitors a unique view of the lower Manhattan skyline (it's a bit like sitting in the front row at an IMAX movie). The park, built on former industrial and commercial sites, has a strong focus on waterfront access: Aquatic features, such as a salt marsh filled with native smooth cordgrass, showcase the East River's naturalistic side. One recent riverside addition is Jane's Carousel, open from 11am to 7pm until Sat 5 (Sun 6--Apr 5: Thu--Sun 11am--6pm; $2, children under 3 or under 42" tall free with paying adult), a restored, wood-carved ride from 1922 housed in a transparent acrylic pavilion. Main St (Fulton Ferry Landing), Dumbo, Brooklyn (718-802-0603, brooklynbridgeparknyc.org). Daily 6am--1am.
Skating rink: Wollman Skating Rink
This locale has some stiff competition for the top spot, but Central Park's iconic pond features the largest skating surface of any midtown rink—at 30,800 square feet, there's plenty of room to glide around. Plus, there's an awe-inspiring view, with the city's skyscrapers peeking over the surrounding trees. Central Park, enter at W 59th St and Sixth Ave (212-439-6900, wollmanskatingrink.com). Mon, Tue 10am--2:30pm; Wed, Thu 10am--10pm; Fri, Sat 10am--11pm; Sun 10am--9pm. $10.75--$16, seniors $4.75--$8.25, children 12 and under $5.75--$6.00; skate rental $6.75.
Contributors: Amanda Angel, David Fear, Andrew Frisicano, Howard Halle, Ethan LaCroix, Matthew Love, Tim Lowery, Amy Plitt, Lisa Ritchie, Kristina Rodulfo, Jonathan Shannon, Steve Smith and Sarah Theeboom