Even my most theatrically minded groups, on occasion, need a break from sweltering summer midtown—the heat index is up near 100 degrees again today. Reminds me of Spike Lee’s DO THE RIGHT THING, when my famous fellow NYU Film alum captured the pavement sizzle of New York so perfectly, so exquisitely. Traditionally, Central Park has been an ideal oasis—so much green space within a stone’s throw of Broadway. However, as Manhattan neighborhoods continually evolve and transform, the Meatpacking District has now become a great escape for tourists looking to get outta midtown for a minute and experience an altogether different vibe.
Not long ago, the old slaughterhouses, where so many “dead bodies” (hey, I’ve played one) have shown up on homicide shows like SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT, went the way of the dodo, and made room for high-end boutiques (like Diane von Furstenberg’s and Stella McCartney’s) as well as trendy nightclubs. (“Samantha” from SEX AND THE CITY had her apartment there.) Previously, the MD was not as strong an offering for student groups, but has now become one of my most requested neighborhoods to visit.
The notorious artisanal playground, Chelsea Market (the old National Biscuit Company factory), which some think rivals Flatiron’s Eataly, has now been joined by the more intimate and less trafficked Gansevoort Market, where I recently had a lobster roll dripping in the kind of chive drawn butter that keeps most of my jeans from buttoning. In addition to the food options—B-list celeb sightings at Balthazar, anyone?—the Highline elevated park is now more functional than ever, complete with food and trinket vendors (I heart trinkets), local artists, water features in season, and some great views of the water and Hudson River Park.
Newest of all, the tidal surge-proof newly relocated Whitney Museum, celebrating American Art (99 Gansevoort), is conveniently located at the downtown end of the Highline. My PSJA group, some delightful NYC repeat offenders, spent their last day exploring the Highline and lunching at Chelsea Market. I—no surprise—snuck into the Whitney and snapped some pictures just for you. Yes, photos are allowed—even encouraged, which just blew my mind in our otherwise no-flash-no-video-no-breathing-on-the-art world. The rooftop of the museum, along with several adjoining terraces, offer a pigeon’s-eye view of the area.
In the future, I predict the in-progress Pier 17/South Street Seaport annihilated by Hurricane Sandy, and the foundation-newly-laid St. George-district in Staten Island, will both join the ranks of more frequented spots outside of midtown. I’m twitching in anticipation for the mega-Ferris wheel on the water—alongside thoughtfully curated shopping and dining options. There will soon be even more reason to visit Staten Island beyond the ferry ride across the harbor. Borough politicians and small business owners certainly hope so. And, it’s a good excuse to go to Enoteca Maria to eat… the restaurant where an Italian Grandma takes over the kitchen four nights a week, concocting her favorite regional recipes. Not to mention—more food for thought—the historic theater in St. George is only a short walk uphill—and it’s STUNNING.