New York: Midtown
SEE Ceiling at Grand Central Terminal
42nd St. and Park Ave., grandcentralterminal.com
A successful recent renovation project (and serious scrub down) gave this 1913 landmark building with Beaux-Arts facade a much-needed face lift. Now you can actually see the magnificent mural of the October night sky-complete with more than 500 recessed star-lights outlining the zodiac constellations-on the vaulted, pale blue ceiling in the main hall. Inquire at the information booth about free tours. Duck downstairs to the new dining concourse for a bite, or for a seafood-laden lunch at the counter at the historic (but noisy) Grand Central Oyster Bar (212/490-6650).
SEE Museum of Modern Art
11 W. 53 St., 212/708-9400, moma.org
Updated in every way, The Modern is now truly modern-more urban, ample, and visitor friendly. Architect Yoshio Taniguchi's vision (and the $425 million renovation) produced a soaring atrium and floor-to-ceiling windows that allow the city in. The ever-expanding art collections, though seemingly exhibited randomly, sing in their new spaces. The sculpture garden is also bigger, and better, than ever. Closed Tuesday. $20, but it's free on Friday evenings from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
EAT Bread & Olive
24 W. 45th St., 212/764-1588, breadandolive.com
A cheery, if narrow, Middle Eastern joint serving superb traditional little dishes (hummus, etc.), as well as succulent chicken shawarma, and unusual home-baked Lebanese breads such as keshik, which is sprinkled with dried goat cheese and sesame seeds.
EAT Delegates Dining Room at the United Nations
E. 46th St., at the East River, 212/963-7625, aramark-un.com
Reasonably priced, vast international buffet catering to homesick delegates. The patter of foreign tongues, the scenic views of the East River, and the prospect of rubbing elbows with Kofi also make this a great off-beat lunch spot. Mon.-Fri. only.
751 Ninth Ave., 646/289-3025
Hostess®-style, but preservative-free, dessert snacks called Fluff Balls and Fluffy Q's-think SnoBalls and Suzy Q's-are the main attraction, but other feel-goodies, such as pressed cheese sandwiches, are also offered. Open late on weekends.
EAT Tea Box Cafe at Takashimaya
693 Fifth Ave., 212/350-0179
A Japanese teahouse hidden in the basement of this famed Tokyo department store is a perfect place to rest weary feet. It serves over 40 kinds of tea; sample one with a generous bento-box lunch, or try the finger sandwiches and cookies.
EAT New York Water Taxi
A double-decker, high-speed catamaran that makes 10 stops in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, including Chelsea Piers, Christopher St., and South St. Seaport. $5 for single rides, $20 for two-day hop-on/hop-off ticket. Hoofing it in NYC It takes the average person one minute to walk one "short" (north-south) block, and two minutes to walk one "long block" (east-west) in Manhattan. Do the math.
EAT Tony Luke's Old Style Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches
576 Ninth Ave., 212/967-3055, tonylukesnyc.com
The real deal from the City of Brotherly Love. One bite of the authentic Cheez Whiz-laced steak sandwich, and you'll swoon. Other Philly faves, like the roast pork and broccoli rabe sandwich, are just as good.
DRINK Campbell Apartment
15 Vanderbilt Ave., inside Grand Central off the SW balcony at 43rd St., 212/953-0409, hospitalityholidays.com
Walled off for decades, this former opulent office of tycoon John W. Campbell has been restored to its earlier baronial splendor-an immaculate replica of a 13th-century Florentine palace room. It's terribly civilized, and drinks aren't as expensive as you might think. Helpful hints: Avoid the after-work crowd, and don't wear sneakers-the hostess won't let you in if you do!
DRINK Jimmy's Corner
140 W. 44th St., 212/221-9510
Midtown's best dive bar is a knockout winner of a watering hole-boxer motif, rockin' jukebox, and all.
SHOP Diamond District
W. 47th St., between Fifth and Sixth Aves., diamonddistrict.org
On this busy block you can save thousands of dollars on engagement and diamond right-hand rings, and other sparkly baubles. Some 2,600 diamond businesses populate the district, most of which have booths in the 25 jewelry "exchanges." One respectable name is Allure Diamond, Inc. (1 W. 47th St., 212/575-1885). Visit the website for other vendors that abide by the Jewelry Buyer's Bill of Rights. Do research before you go. Sometimes there are bigger discounts if you pay in cash.
PLAY Clearview's Ziegfeld Theater
141 W. 54th St., 212/777-3456 #602
Gotham's last remaining grand movie palace. The massive art deco style theater has 1,162 velvet-covered seats, gilded molding, and an old-fashioned balcony. There's no better spot to take in a blockbuster. For more classic cinematic fun, check out the free outdoor film series at Bryant Park, running Mon. nights at sunset throughout the summer.
PLAY Playwrights Horizons
416 W. 42nd St., 212/564-1234, playwrightshorizons.org
A writer's theater with a special emphasis on new works from contemporary American playwrights. Don't expect elaborate costuming or theme songs by Elton John: here, it's all about good stories and vibrant, haunting characters. The likes of Morgan Freeman, Dianne Wiest, and Kevin Spacey have graced the stage since its opening in 1971.