No sightseeing visit to Manhattan is complete without a visit to the Empire State Building. Though it lost its title as the world’s tallest building in 1970, the iconic Art Deco structure still captures imaginations as an enduring symbol of New York City itself. Whether you stop by for a quick photo op or a full exploration of the tower, these nearby destinations are worth making part of your trip.
1. Empire State Building Observatory
20 W 34th Street
Sure, it might seem a little touristy or kitschy — but the unparalleled 360º views and the up-close look at the building’s intricate details make the trip worthwhile. A trip to the 86th floor observatory starts at $38; or, for a truly memorable experience, set your alarm and join a smaller group to watch dawn break over the city at the Sunrise at ESB Experience ($125). On your way up, stop by the 80th floor to take in the Dare to Dream exhibit, an in-depth exploration of the building’s design, construction, and history.
2. Her Name is Han
17 E 31st Street
On the edge of Koreatown, this unassuming exterior hides one of the neighborhood’s most compelling restaurants. The rustic-modern blend extends from the tiny space’s decor to its menu. You’ll find both classic dishes like hotpot and buda jjigae and contemporary takes like black sesame panna cotta and ginger caramel plantain. Round out your meal with a glass of house-infused sochu (the not-too-sweet grapefruit gets top marks). The restaurant fills up fast at dinnertime; make a reservation via the Resy app to avoid disappointment.
3. The Morgan Library and Museum
225 Madison Avenue
In 1924, the Morgan family donated this exquisite Italianate building and the art collections it contained to the public. Since then, the Morgan Library and Museum has become one of Manhattan’s finest venues dedicated to the visual and performing arts. In addition to its permanent collections of rare books and manuscripts, it hosts special exhibitions on themes from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to medieval Persian painting. In the neighborhood on a Friday evening? Admission is free from 7-9 pm.
4. Grace Street Coffee & Desserts
17 West 32nd Street
Craving something sweet for a pick-me-up? Grace Street’s creative, Asian-inspired desserts are unusual enough to be interesting, yet draw on textures and flavors familiar enough to be comforting. Menu mainstays include ho-dduk (a soft Korean doughnut filled with walnuts, cinnamon, and brown sugar) and lavishly garnished waffles. Pair your snack with a milk tea, matcha latte, or chicory-laced Vietnamese iced coffee.
5. Greeley Square Park
Broadway between W 32nd St and W 33rd St
Tucked away just south of Herald Square, this modest triangle of land offers a respite from the surrounding busyness. Dominated by a large bronze statue of newspaperman Horace Greeley, it also includes welcoming seating areas and a variety of outdoor food vendors. Take a few minutes to rest, enjoy the landscaping… perhaps even join a tai chi workout or a friendly chess game.
6. The Museum at FIT
Seventh Avenue at 27th St
Whether you’re a full-fledged fashionista or just curious about style, the Fashion Institute of Technology’s museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the history and development of wearable art. The museum’s permanent collection includes more than 50,000 garments, textiles, and accessories, and temporary exhibitions bring together special collections based on designers, trends, and themes. Admission is free (though you might have a hard time passing up the student creations on sale at the Style Shop).
7. Blank Slate Tea
121 Madison Ave #3
This tiny pink jewel box of a tea shop offers hot and iced drinks, tempting snacks, and a warm ambience that invites lingering over a cuppa. Sample a single-origin tea or an artisanal blend. If you’re feeling extra-healthy, try the kombucha on tap. And don’t forget to get a selfie nestled on the complexion-flattering pink couch!
8. Turntable LP Bar & Karaoke
36 W 32nd St, 5th Floor
Attention, all audiophiles! This speakeasy-styled space is a music lover’s dream. The daytime menu serves up coffee drinks, while evening brings a transformation into a low-key cocktail lounge. No matter what time you visit, you’ll find a wealth of vinyl records and vintage audio equipment to browse through. before or after savoring a platter of their famous Korean fried chicken. Enjoy a live DJ set, or put your own spin on the music by reserving a private karaoke room.
9. Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site
28 E 20th Street
First, the bad news: Theodore Roosevelt was not born in this actual house. Though the 26th President was born and lived his early life on this site, the house was demolished in 1916 and rebuilt in the ‘20s using the original blueprints. The good news: This historic site is crammed with actual furnishings and decorations used by Roosevelt and his family. Knowledgeable docents are eager to share stories of the house’s history, as well as of the life of its most famous resident. Guided tours are offered on the hour from 10am to 4pm, and both tours and admission are family-friendly — and free.
10. Cloud Social Rooftop Bar
6 W 32nd Street
Before or after enjoying the sights from the Empire State Building, why not take in an unobstructed view of the building itself? Atop The New York Manhattan Hotel in Koreatown, this rooftop spot serves up craft cocktails with a laid-back vibe. Floor-to-ceiling windows mean you can enjoy the cityscape even in inclement weather. Try a sunset happy-hour special (3-7pm only) or a late-night glass of bubbly — no extra charge for the city lights.