2007 Cool List
We celebrate the best new thrills, from over-the-top water attractions and interactive art to North America's first bridge climb and New York City's best view.
Art That Moves People in More Ways Than One
Spiraling like tendrils through the soaring Turbine Hall in London's Tate Modern, the five Test Site slides by German artist Carsten Höller aren't just riveting to look at; they're fun, too. "Most people associate slides with playgrounds," Höller said in October, shortly before the installation opened to the public. "But there is no reason why they should be for children only." Judging by the giddy screams that echo through Turbine Hall each day, museumgoers absolutely agree. From Level 5, where the highest slide begins, it's an exhilarating plummet down 180 feet of steel and clear plastic to a padded landing area 87 feet below. Too scary? The shorter glide from Level 3 and the small, mirror-image chutes on Level 2 are positively restful in comparison. (The slide from Level 4 is already closed for another exhibition.) Timed tickets are required for Levels 3 and 5 (but not for Level 2); they're issued daily at the Tate. Hurry, though: Test Site closes on April 15. After that, you'll have to be satisfied with the tiny Höller slide that's on permanent display at Berlin's Kunst-Werke museum--or become good friends with fashion designer Miuccia Prada, who had a Höller slide installed inside her Milan office (it whisks her down to her parking space). 011-44/20-7887-8888, tate.org.uk, free. Note: Carsten Höller's Test Site closed April 15, 2007.
Sleep Tight! Don't Let the Walrus Bite!
Since January, a sleepover program at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City has allowed families with kids ages 8 to 12 to have their own Night at the Museum adventure. The dinosaurs don't rampage like they do in the movie, so kids wander around with a flashlight to find the beasts themselves. (They're on the fourth floor.) "Everything is dark and creepy in a good way," says 10-year-old Alex Mattei of Irvington, N.Y. Even for adults, the planetarium show will feel extra trippy because it's so far past bedtime. But there's a fine line between thrilling and scary when you're a kid, so parents would do well to arrive early enough to claim cots with a view of, say, cute harp seals, as opposed to a sperm whale and giant squid locked in combat. The $79 price tag (regardless of age) includes a cot, snacks, breakfast, admission to the museum the next day, and a goodie bag with a key chain and stickers. 212/769-5100, amnh.org.
When They Say a View of the Water, They Really Mean It
Boston's new Institute of Contemporary Art cuts a dashing figure, thanks in no small part to the galleries that are cantilevered four stories above the edge of Boston Harbor. Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the museum was built to showcase the institute's first-ever permanent collection, but the most popular spot has quickly become the Mediatheque, where 18 computers display digital media related to the artists and exhibitions. It's not the computers that are drawing crowds, however; it's the fact that the media center points down at a 24-degree angle from the underside of the cantilever. At the end of the room, there's a 21-foot-wide picture window framing a mesmerizing view of the water's surface. (No surrounding land or sky is visible.) "We describe the experience as vertiginous," says Jesse Saylor, a member of the architects' design team. "When you enter the room, you all of a sudden realize you're floating above the water." The Institute of Contemporary Art, icaboston.org, $12.
Surf's Up, Dude! (Thirteen Stories Up, to Be Precise)
Forget chasing an endless summer--now there's an endless wave. People have been lining up to surf onboard a cruise ship since Royal Caribbean launched Freedom of the Seas last May. The FlowRider is a continuous wave created by a six-inch sheet of water that rushes up an incline to keep surfers in position. "The FlowRider is the exact opposite of ocean surfing, where you move with the wave," explains Royal Caribbean sports supervisor Mitch Brooks. "It's like wakeboarding, without the boots and the lines." Falling doesn't actually hurt because the slope is made of a trampoline-like surface, but don't under- estimate the force of the flow. Hit the water and BOOM!--you're immediately swept up the wave and spat out at the top in a rush of foam, accompanied by the groans of spectators in grand-stands that wrap around three sides of the pool. Freedom of the Seas is the first of three Royal Caribbean ships to have a FlowRider; the second ship of the series, Liberty of the Seas, debuts next month. 866/562-7625, royalcaribbean.com.
2007 COOL LIST