Best of NYC®

Best Of 2015


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Arts & Entertainment

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Readers' Choice


Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

Best New York TV Show

New York has served as the setting for hundreds of television shows over the years, but its mysteriousness and majesty, its grotesque splendor, have never been so evocatively captured as in Guillermo del Toro's The Strain. The reviews haven't been exceptionally kind to this FX network vampire show — admittedly, it has its ham-fisted moments — but there's no arguing with its textural rendering of the city's darkest and brightest corners. Though Toronto stands in for New York, cinematographers Miroslaw Baszak, Colin Hoult, Gabriel Beristain, and Checco Varese are truthful to the feeling of the city. The Strain's five boroughs form a bleak fairytale kingdom, from the clinically chic penthouses of its scheming one-percenters to the perfectly disgusting factories, gas stations, and sewers where evil hunts for prey and hides from the light. It's a place that thrives on struggle, surviving despite, or because of, the contradictions at the heart of its troubled heroes. Beautifully, del Toro and Co.'s focus is on a street-level view of New Yorkers just trying to get through the day, supernatural apocalypse or no. That attitude is what keeps people alive when things look darkest. The show's heroes are a bunch of needy, squabbling working stiffs who find common ground in one another's weaknesses and offer unwavering support when it's most needed. There's no more appropriate tribute to the city than that.

Best Place to Take In-Town Guests

One of the greatest things about New York is that you could spend a hundred or so lifetimes here and never want for something to do. But finding new wonders to behold becomes more difficult the longer you live here, until you wind up caving in and spending your weekends at movie mega-chains and subsisting wholly on the Seamless "order again" option. Never fear, Obscura Society NYC is here. It has been here, actually, since 2009, an offshoot of Joshua Foer and Dylan Thuras's Atlas Obscura site, but it was never so active as it was this year, the first with Slate's David Plotz at the reins. Even the most jaded local will delight in the offbeat tours, talks, and parties these folks whip up. Did you know about the secret pinball arcade in the back of Greenpoint's Sunshine Laundromat? Or the Robotic Church in Red Hook? Or the entire series of abandoned asylum and quarantine islands that surround Manhattan? We didn't — until Obscura Society shed some light. Recent standout events include a five-part series called "After Hours: Inside the Rare Book Collection of the New York Academy of Medicine"; a swanky seminar on how to cheat at cards, held in a Chinatown gambling den; and, of course, the first-ever Obscura Day, a worldwide festival of happenings that featured nineteen tours in New York alone.

Best Place to Take Out-of-Town Guests

Out-of-towners are often appalled at how much walking we do in this town, but go ahead and march them to lower Broadway's Canyon of Heroes, where a raft of sidewalk markers offers a window into history that's sure to distract them from their blisters. Whether the inaugural 1886 Statue of Liberty dedication or a 1958 Cold War welcome for "Van Cliburn, First Winner of Moscow's International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition," each granite strip commemorates a ticker-tape parade. Honorees include tennis great Althea Gibson, pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart, and political giants Churchill, Eisenhower, Mandela, and Pope John Paul II. (Leaders from Ireland and Italy have had the financial industry's confetti rained down upon them numerous times.) After you've high-handed your guests with the Big Apple's sports dominance — the two-block stretch from Vesey to Park Place commemorates six World Series wins (one Mets, five [!] Yankees), a Rangers Stanley Cup victory, and two Giants Super Bowl triumphs — reveal Gotham's fulsome heart with a plaque from 1938: "Douglas 'Wrong-Way' Corrigan for his flight from New York to Ireland instead of his 'Intended' destination of California." Broadway, from the Battery to City Hall, Manhattan 10004,

Readers' Choice: The High Line

Best Place to People-Watch

Every city needs a Times Square, a holding pen for all the people in town who don't have any particular place they need to be. The Halal Guys cart at West 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue, a couple of blocks uptown, near the Museum of Modern Art, lures the most adventurous of those tourists — the ones who check Yelp and won't end up at Guy Fieri's joint, the ones who could show you a thing or two in their towns. In line, in sun or rain, folks eager for an authentic Manhattan experience jostle up against authentic Manhattanites just trying to get lunch. That tension is delicious, as office folks take calls, peck out emails, and attempt to power through a day that the tourists around them insist on documenting. Munching on that top-flight meat and rice, we've witnessed an Australian couple breaking up, a hardhat picking up a traffic cop, a white woman from down south telling her husband she wasn't sure about this "Muslim food," and a dude in a suit telling some East European teens who spoke no English that he was going to shove their selfie-stick up their asses. "They'd put those pictures on Facebook, too," a woman snapped, and the tourists in line laughed — and for once stopped snapping photos, actually living a New York moment rather than hoping to capture one. West 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue, Manhattan 10019

Readers' Choice: Washington Square Park

53rd Street and 6th Ave., Manhattan, 10019
Best Cheap Thrill

When Paul Giamatti climbs aboard the Roosevelt Island Tram in the 2009 film Cold Souls, he's on his way to have his soul removed, bottled, and stored at a futuristic quasi-medical facility. Both the clinic and the movie are profoundly weird, and the tram acts as a kind of symbolic bridge between the real world of the city and the more fanciful world on the island, where soul removal is a thing. It's that strange break that makes riding the tram for no particular reason at all a good, cheap thrill. And cheap it is. The tram, which leaves Manhattan from a gleaming new station at Second Avenue and 59th Street, costs the same as a subway ride. Just swipe your MetroCard. Along with a unique vantage point on the baroque truss structure of the Queensboro (or 59th Street) Bridge, if you go at night you'll get a not-terrible view of city lights from inside the glass-walled car. Groovy. The ride only lasts about three minutes, but when you land on the island you can walk the nearly deserted streets, which have the feel of a bland suburban office park after the Rapture. Plus, there are great vistas of the city to be had from the island's shore. If you've got half an hour and a couple of swipes to spare, the tram's just the ticket. Second Avenue and 59th Street, Manhattan 10022, 212-832-4559,

Second Avenue and 59th St., Manhattan, 10022
Best Place to Spot a Celebrity

The edifice at 30 Rockefeller Plaza has had many names over the years. From 1937 to 1988 it was known as the RCA Building. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, it was the GE Building. And now, as of July 1, Comcast's bold-lettered logo officially sits atop the iconic skyscraper's 70-story façade. It matters little whose name is on the lease. As long as 30 Rock remains the headquarters of NBC and home to programs like Saturday Night Live, Today, Late Night, and The Tonight Show, the building will continue to reign at the premier location to spot ultra-famous musicians, actors, athletes, and politicians as they swing through the city. Rockefeller Plaza is a tourist destination in and of itself, but for many celebrities, 30 Rock is where they go to work. Strolling through the building's high-ceilinged art deco halls, a New Yorker on the lookout might run into anyone from Questlove to Kenan Thompson to Fred Armisen to Jimmy Fallon. You never know. 30 Rockefeller Plaza, Manhattan 10112, 212-632-3975,

30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, 10017

Best New York TV Show: The Strain


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