A couple of weeks ago, while walking to Central Park, I passed a building right across the street from the Museum of Natural History that I had never noticed before. Turns out, it's the newly renovated New-York Historical Society Museum & Library, the oldest museum in New York. On a hot summer day, I find museums to be a great way to escape the heat and learn a little something at the same time.
I'm a huge fan of museum guided tours. Years ago, when I went to Versailles, I did a tour and got so much out of the experience, I've been hooked ever since. The New-York Historical Society offers an hour-long docent-led tour which covers the permanent collection on the main floor. The tour is free and is offered Tuesday - Sunday. You just need to pay admission and at 2:00, show up at the marked area near the entrance. During my visit, there were only five of us in the group, so it was nice and intimate, but if you go on a weekend, I'm sure the number would probably be a lot bigger.
If you're interested in private tours, which I was initially considering, they offer that too, but you need to be a group of at least 10 people. Contact Ben Levinsohn at (212) 873-3400 x352 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to get more info. Super friendly and helpful.
After the informative tour, I went wandering around and walked through the Beer Here: Brewing New York's History exhibition, which to my surprise ends in a beer hall! The concept is pretty genius, I think. You can purchase beer right from the bar anytime from 2:00 till closing. It took about an hour to walk through the rest of the museum and after, sat down in the auditorium on the first floor to watch an 18 minute film about New York, which plays every 30 minutes. At first, I wasn't sure if I wanted to watch it, but I'm glad I did since it was really entertaining, notably with how it's presented. A must, if you're visiting.
They also have a children's museum downstairs, which I didn't go to, but since the museum is stroller-friendly, it might be a good place to visit for a change of pace from the Museum of Natural History.
For every museum I've ever been to, I can tell you what their cafe looks like. It's such a nice way to end a visit and this cafe is one of the prettiest I've ever seen. This is how I want my kitchen/dining room to look like. I sat down on the bright canary yellow bench and ordered a decaf ceylon ($5, from Tavalon), which came in a small pot and their warm strawberry rhubarb crostata with mascarpone balsamic gelato ($8), which is made in-house. It was fantastic. Now that I know that this cafe is here, and accessible without paying admission, I've already made a note to myself to go back for a quick bite if I'm in the area.
Note: Closed on Mondays.
LOCATION: New-York Historical Society | 170 Central Park West (77th Street) | New York, NY 10024 | 212.873.3400
ADMISSION: $15 (Adults) | Pay-as-you-wish on Fridays from 6PM - 8PM