Our favorite: New York City!

Kristi and I are far from experts on New York. While we enjoy visiting every couple years for long weekends or work trips, our knowledge of NYC will in no way substitute for the hundreds of informed travel guides written about the world’s capital of art, fashion, finance, sports, media, dining, etc., etc.

With that disclaimer out of the way, we do have two recommendations to share. Yes, only two recommendations among the thousands of restaurants and dozens of museums, festivals, monuments and only-in-New-York travel opportunities.

One recommendation is a hidden gem. The other is an unhidden gem.

The Vintner Wine Market

Everyone who’s ever been to New York has a restaurant “you just have to try.” Here’s ours.

Located at 677 9th Avenue in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood (don’t let the name fool you, it’s perfectly welcoming and safe), you’ll find this tiny delight of a restaurant and bar. From its giant refrigerator case of craft beer bottles and cans, which runs the entire length of one side of the room, to its selection of artisanal cheese, to its food menu on which we’ve yet to find anything we wouldn’t describe as “outstanding,” the Vintner Wine Market scores high marks across the board.

Wall-length beer case at The Vintner
Wall-length beer case at The Vintner. (Photo Credit Chadd Scott / TRAVELING WITHOUT KIDS)

Sample one or more of the 100-plus craft beer choices available and pair it with fondue for a break from sightseeing.

I know what you’re thinking: fondue?

Kristi LOVES fondue. The Melting Pot is her favorite restaurant. While I like fondue, I find the ordeal of how The Melting Pot prepares it unbearable.

Not so at the Vintner Wine Market. Ten or 15 minutes after your order, delicious, gooey (not the only time I’ll use that word in this review) fondue arrives at your table with fresh bread and salami – nice touch – for dipping.

Looking for a stick-to-your-ribs lunch that will fuel power tourism?

Fondue and "breakfast all day" sandwich at The Vintner
Fondue and “breakfast all day” sandwich at The Vintner. (Photo Credit Chadd Scott / TRAVELING WITHOUT KIDS)

Try their “breakfast all day” sandwich with three eggs plus your choice of meat (chorizo for me) and cheese (goat fig jam for me). For beer, try UFO Huckleberry Hefeweizen and Ithaca Beer Company’s Apricot Wheat.

Their grilled cheese panini with brie, manchego and cheddar along with basil and tomato is so decadently rich and gooey (take two), eating more than half of it in one sitting challenges even big eaters.

Great beer, great sandwiches, great cheese plates, great charcuterie boards, great soups, great wines, great service in a local’s atmosphere at reasonable prices make the Vintner Wine Market a “must” whenever we go to New York, regardless of where in the City we stay. Generally, we go more than once.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Met Fifth Avenue houses the finest collection of art in the Americas. The scope and quality of its collections are astonishing. Countless books, newspaper and magazine articles, and blogs will tell you the same thing.

What I will tell you is this, as Kristi and I deepen our appreciation of art, we have realized that our favorite style of art is Impressionism. Without crossing the Atlantic Ocean, you’ll find no greater grouping of impressionist masterpieces than at the Met.

They’re all here.

From the artists who laid the foundation for Impressionism to flourish – Manet – to the great Impressionists – Monet, Renoir, Degas and Pissarro – to the Post-Impressionists – Cezanne, van Gogh and Gaugin. You’ll find their best works, in volume, closely grouped together to accommodate handy comparison.

Until you’ve seen a van Gogh in person (his “Cypresses” is pictured above), sadly, you’ve never seen a van Gogh. The color, the motion in his brushstrokes… the Met’s van Gogh’s were the first I’d seen and I was left dizzy. I have a new favorite artist.

Kristi, similarly, was most struck by another Post-Impressionist. Paul Signac’s “Notre Dame de la Garde” is a breathtaking example of Pointillism she returned to time and again. As with most great artworks, showing you a picture does little to capture its magnificence.

Paul Signac’s “Notre Dame de la Garde” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Paul Signac’s “Notre Dame de la Garde” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

To further your appreciation for the Impressionists, or many of the other collections at the Met, take one of their numerous, free, guided tours. Hour-long guided tours of the Impressionists are available almost every week day.

PRO TIP: purchase a year membership to the Met instead of daily tickets. A year membership provides for a free ticket each visit for a guest. If you attend the museum twice on your trip, and you should, it will pay for itself.

The museum’s vast collections are much too large to even browse them all in a single visit – or five – let alone stop and appreciate. Don’t even try. Research what you most want to see and stay focused there. When you’re finished, leave. Come back another day instead of binging. Avoid becoming “art drunk.” After a couple hours, you simply can’t appreciate what you’re looking at.

PRO TIP: The Met has a wonderfully informative, user-friendly app. Research what pictures or artists you most want to see and search them in the app which will tell you in which gallery they can be found. Write these down and find them on your map of the Met which you receive complimentary upon entry and your visit will become much more efficient.

Kristi and I popped in for an hour on the afternoon of our first day in town after we landed. We gave the Impressionists, and the Impressionists only, a once-over. We catalogued our favorites and came back two days later to view one of the special exhibits, take the Impressionist tour, then linger additionally over our favorites.

We tried looking through other wings, but were spent.

PRO TIP: The Met is the most popular tourist attraction in New York welcoming some seven million visitors a year. Despite the outrageously large size of the facility, it can fill up, particularly around top attractions such as the van Gogh’s and special exhibitions. The Met, however, is open until 9:00 PM on Friday and Saturday night. Grab and early dinner around 5ish then walk it off at the Met until closing. To truly take in much of this artwork and attempt to appreciate it, you need to spend time with it, several minutes or more, up close, in quiet, without being bumped aside by other visitors. For the most popular of pieces at the Met, this can only be done in off hours, like late Friday and Saturday night.

With a million different things to do in New York, make sure not to miss these two… and as a bonus, here’s the best pizza place in the City we’ve found thus far.

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