West Village highlights

Manhattan is so many different things to so many different people, but for me (Set of Drifter Brady), Manhattan will always equal the West Village.  And why?  Well, aside from the fact that it was the very first neighborhood to capture my imagination upon my first visit to the city in 1999, it was also the home of my first residence when relocating to the city later that year.  (See “Jane Hotel” in “digs” for more information.)    

Naturally, there’s more to it than that.  The West Village (aka Greenwich Village) is the same area where artsy boho beatniks and writers flourished up through the 60s and, in 1969, where an angry drag queen started the historical Stonewall riots that soon led to the Gay Rights Movement.  And if that was not enough, the 80s found Bleecker Street as home to my favorite divorced mommie duo Kate & Allie!  

But seriously folks, many would argue there’s no other neighborhood on the island that is as picturesque, or as quaint.  With its proliferation of handsome brownstone edifices, and winding tree-lined streets (many of them cobblestoned), Greenwich Village is the kind of place where you’ll wish your parents had purchased property a few decades back.  Even “Carrie Bradshaw” lived here… well, sorta.  (Exterior shots of her Upper East Side pad were actually lensed at 66 Perry Street between Bleecker and West 4th.)

While many of our old haunts seem to have fallen prey to greedy real estate moguls ad name brand boutiques, the following goodies are still standing, at least as of August 2013.  Check them out on your next sublime visit to “the Village.”

Rebel Rebel Records:  Set of Drifter Brady’s favorite record store in all of New York City, he spent oodles of cash here in the late 90s and early 00s.  Specializing in rare vinyl imports and white labels, the knowledgeable staff will have you grooving on everything from jazz to dance to indie rock.  These days, they probably even sell Miley Cyrus.  Ha!

Rebel Rebel Records - 319 Bleecker Street, (between Christopher Street and Grove), New York, NY  10014, (212) 989-0770, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rebel-Rebel-Records/148458791874071

Goorin Bros. Hat Shop:  We first came across this impeccably-styled haberdashery while on a 2012 trip to New Orleans.  The family-run business has been in existence since way back in 1895 when daddy Cassel Goorin ran a custom-made hat service right off his horse cart!  Cassel prided himself in offering one-of-a-kind pieces tailor-made to each individual head, and he passed this attention to detail down to sons Alfred and Ted when they took over in 1921.  Under their direction, the company expanded, moving from Pittsburg to San Francisco, where new ventures included accessories for hunters, as well as gloves, mittens and socks for skiers.  Though the popularity of men’s headwear took a nosedive in the 1970s and 80s, a resurgence began in the 90s that continues to this day.  Now run by Cassel’s great-grandson, Goorin Bros. is surprisingly hotter than ever, with handsomely-outfitted shopfronts popping up all across the country.

Whether you are in the market for a new cap, fedora or beanie, we think you’ll be more than impressed by both the quality of product, and by the way each versatile style is merchandised.  Sure, the price point might be a bit higher than you’re used to spending on a hat, but with such rich materials and innovative designs to choose from, you’ll be hard-pressed to find more dapper head duds!

Goorin Bros. - 337 Bleecker Street, New York, NY  10014, (212) 256-1895, http://www.goorin.com/hat-shops/west-village

Bookmarc:  Previously the Biography Book Shop, this cozy corner spot has been annexed by top-end designer Marc Jacobs who, along with Burberry, Michael Kors and James Perse, also has a boutique elsewhere on Bleecker.  Now normally we would decry the closure of such a beloved “ma and pa” store, but quite frankly, Bookmarc eases the pain with a wonderful collection of reasonably priced accessories, gifts - and yes - books - all curated by the designers and his team of cool hunters.  Be on the lookout for graffiti art-inspired notebooks, greeting cards, and well, bookmarks!

Bookmarc - 400 Bleecker Street, New  York, NY  10014, (212) 620-4021,

August:  A perennial favorite that always surprises with each new visit, this is the place to brunch when shopping in the West Village.  Aside from the beautiful backyard garden that is often bustling with all types, the stage at August is initially set by the restaurant’s tour de force wood oven!  This is where dishes like Andalusian eggs en cocotte (with chorizo and peppers) and an assortment of tasty apps and entrees are fired up after being assembled with the freshest local ingredients!  August gets extra points for serving two varieties of our favorite beer - New Orleans’ own Abita!  Set of Drifters tip:  For dessert, make sure you check out August’s poached pear with Mascarpone mousse and almond biscotti!

August - 359 Bleecker Street (near Charles Street), New York, NY  10014, (212) 929-8727,

Old Jefferson Market Courthouse/ Library/ Gardens: 
Once voted as the fifth most beautiful building in the United States, this 1877 Venetian Gothic building was designed by Frederick Clarke Withers and Calvert Vaux.  When demolition bells tolled in the 1950s, local residents lobbied for its rescue and the then-vacant landmark was soon turned into a public library.  The remarkable edifice has since been added to the National Register of Historic Places.  You’ll at least want to snap a few photos in the garden, if not stage your next same-sex wedding!

Jefferson Market Library - 425 Avenue of the Americas (at 10th Street), New York, NY    10011, (212) 243-4334, http://www.nypl.org/locations/jefferson-market and http://www.jeffersonmarketgarden.org/

A.O.C. L'aile ou la Cuisse:  While it may not look like it from the onset (especially now that it’s covered in scaffolding for a renovation), this place can really get hoppin’.  Seemingly a French Bistro by trade, we’ve visited on a number of occasions where the crowd has erupted into a lively dance party!  The open-air garden out back is exquisite, and one of the best in the city in which to unwind your weekend.  Just thinking of A.O.C. now has us wistful...  a little wine, some soupe a l'oignon and filet de porc with forestiere sauce, mashed potatoes and string beans.  Ahhh!  The flavoring and decadence here is really top-notch.  Don’t miss it!

A.O.C. L'aile ou la Cuisse - 314 Bleecker Street (at Grove), New York, NY    10014, (212) 675-9463, http://www.aocnyc.com/

the SOHO we know

Even though NYC’s SOHO District, (an acronym for South Of HOuston - pronounced “House-ton”) is full of wonderful designer boutiques and cozy nosh pits, the reason we’ve included this popular neighborhood in our “sights” section is for its overall look and feel.  Perhaps no neighborhood in all of New York feels as chic, creative and stylish.  Certainly part of that upscale artsy vibe is courtesy a bevy of highly acclaimed galleries, but let’s be honest, the unique cast-iron architecture and cobblestone streets certainly don’t hurt... well, unless you’re wearing Jimmy Choo stilettos like Carrie Bradshaw & Co.  (Come on!  You knew we’d be making at least a few Sex and the City references here and there!)

Sadly, many of our favorite SOHO spots have closed in recent years.  (R.I.P. Space Untitled and Bar 89.)  The rents here are just too damn high!  Nevertheless, we’ve still got a list of old stand-bys that should keep you busy all day long, or at least until you max out your vacation fund.

Best Breakfast - Balthazar:  Ahhh, this place feels like it’s been in New York forever, though as recent as August of 2011, it was still as jumpin’ as ever.  There’s a reason for that popularity.  Balthazar’s ambiance and food is top-notch, and breakfasts here are something special.  Make sure you indulge in some of the fresh baked bread or rolls made on the premises from scratch.  To start your SOHO day right, we recommend the eggs en cocotte, a dish seasoned with thyme and individually baked in a ramekin with toast-point “soldiers.”  Mmmmm.

Balthazar - 80 Spring Street, New York, NY  10012, (212) 965-1414, http://balthazarny.com/

Best Avant-Garde Gallery - Deitch Projects:  Many SOHO galleries have come and gone through the decades.  The original influx occurred back in the 60s when SOHO’s many abandoned warehouses were threatened with demolition and offered cheap rents and vast space to anyone interested.

Only the strongest have survived the ups and downs of NYC’s real estate rollercoaster.  One of these is Deitch Projects, a duo of galleries that opened in the mid-90s to showcase the avant-garde pop/ graffiti epitomized by the likes of Keith Haring, Mariko Mori and Barry McGee.  In the years since, Deitch Projects has helped to further the careers of such contemporary luminaries as Terry Richardson, Momoyo Torimitsu, Michel Gondry and David LaChapelle.

Perhaps the best asset in Deitch Projects’ artsy arsenal is its seasonal roster of special events.  If you happen to be on the right guest list, you might just find yourself witness to the premiere party for Björk’s latest video or the unveiling of Jeremy Scott’s latest fashions.  Your Set of Drifters’ favorite Deitch moment?  The haunting spring 2003 unveiling of Steven Klein and Madonna’s “X-STaTIC PRo=CeSS” multimedia exhibit.

Deitch Projects - 76 Grand Street   and 18 Wooster, New York, NY  10012, (212) 343-7300, http://www.deitch.com/

Best Alternative to Going Uptown - MoMA Design Store: 
Featuring all the same goods with half the hassle, MoMA’s SOHO outpost has got everything from stationary to furniture, art tomes to cutlery!  (Back in the day, the book that features Set of Drifter Brady’s art was once sold here!)  And if you’re a fan of Muji’s streamlined office supplies and clothing, be on the lookout for a mini-department that features your next favorite pen and notebook set.  You could quickly drop a couple hundred $$$ here, so be careful.  Those Gladee Inc. coin pouches are pretty hard to pass up.

MoMA Design Store - 81 Spring Street, New  York, NY, (646) 613-1367

Best Everything Else - Pearl River Mart:  This place is a hoot, and perhaps the closest thing to Canal Street we’ll recommend.  (If you don’t know what we’re referring to when we mention Canal Street, consider yourself lucky.)  Virtually exploding at the seams, Pearl River Mart has assembled, in one single place, just about every cheap item straight off the barge from China!

Now normally, this would be a bad thing, but somehow, the merchandisers here have managed to keep their showroom looking clean, modern and surprisingly chic.  Nevertheless, this place boasts everything from imported Chinese slippers, lanterns and fans to bedding, stationary and foodstuffs.  If it starts to rain and you don’t have an umbrella, duck in here.  Not only will you be entertained by all of the bright color and kitsch, but you’ll also probably find an umbrella that you’ll actually want to take back home with you to use again from whence you came.

Still not convinced?  Just check out their website for a sampling of their wares.  Set of Drifters tip:  Pearl River Mart is right in the thick of it, and by that, we mean Broadway, the heaving commercial thoroughfare of SOHO.  In other words, if you’re looking for Charlotte York’s quaint little art gallery, head back to Wooster.  (Sorry, last one, we promise.)

Pearl River Mart - 477 Broadway, New York, NY  10013, (212) 431-7388, http://pearlriver.com/v2/index.html

"Where will you be summering this year?" (East Hampton/ Sag Harbor, NY)

While it seems the whole of New York City is aflutter with excitement as soon as the first buds of Spring reappear, those in the upper crust elite set have already moved on to summer, and specifically, where they will be spending it - and in what!  While many hop off to St. Barth’s or Miami, a much closer option beckons millions each year for long weekends or perhaps even months on end.  Oh, the Hamptons!

While we’re choosing to focus only a couple of them, “the Hamptons” is comprised of a number of communities that clearly participate in a friendly rivalry as to which is the best spot on “the Island.”

Perhaps the most well known of these destinations is East Hampton, a small stretch of land that boasts a reputation as one the hottest holiday spots for the world’s elite.  Donna Karan, P-Diddy, Martha Stewart and Jerry Seinfeld all have residences here and many other celebs have chosen the town for the location of their annual social/ charitable events which are held throughout “the season.”  (Yes, we’re talking “season” in the traditional sense - Memorial Day through Labor Day!  Better not be caught wearing white outside of those parameters!)

Truth be told, East Hampton is a bit uptight to say the least, and after a few days here, you’ll wonder when and where these people actually let their hair down!  It’s not unusual to leave after your weekend feeling as though you had travelled back in time to the 1980s “Me Generation.”  (Is it possible?  Are The Preppy Handbook and Tears For Fears still on the best-selling list at the local retailer?)  The village of East Hampton completes its upscale aura with a variety of designer shops (think Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger) and truly delicious gourmet delis and wine shops.  We’re fans of Citarella, the location where once spotted Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall ordering take out!  (Our local friend told us he would often run into Renee Zellwegger as well.  The chipmunk-cheeked actress made a point to speak only to his dog and not to him!)

Of course, one of the main draws of Long Island is its beaches.  Nearby the main stretch of sand in East Hampton lies the former domicile of “Big” and “Little” Edie Beauvoir, the eccentric cousins of Jackie Kennedy who, in the 1975, were immortalized in the classic Maysles brothers' documentary Grey Gardens.  For those who hope the cherished home is still in a ruinous state, infested by raccoons, we hate to disappoint you.  The home has been completely renovated over the years, and those unruly bushes and grass have been carefully cut back and manicured!  During one visit, we actually drove into the driveway with our friend’s old VW bug and managed to incur a large dent in the roof courtesy one of their tree branches!  (Whoops.)  Naturally, you might also want to walk the few hundred feet out to the beach to check out the sea and sand.  After all, there really is something quite special about Long Island beaches.  Whether it’s the Cape Cod-style homes or the scruffy vegetation, they just feel so quintessentially East Coast!

Sag Harbor (no, not the clothing brand) is another quaint seaside area about 20 minutes away that is also worthy of a visit.  The village was founded in the early 1700s as a port for whale oil trading, so important in fact that it even gets multiple mentions in the famous tome Moby Dick!  If interested, there’s an abundance of history to explore in between the obligatory fudge and ice cream parlors!  We particularly enjoyed rummaging through the many antique, consignment and book shops in town.  (This is where we picked up that guide on the infamous “Montauk Project” - see below).  Sag Harbor also features several cool little cafes and, of course, seafood restaurants.  Our favorite is B. Smith’s where fresh scallops and lobster are a must!  Trust us, there’s nothing much better than relaxing here at the Long Wharf while gawking at the latest issue of Social Life magazine!

Those interested in checking out the scene - and it is a scene, especially in the summer - should know that it’s surprisingly easy to get out to the far reaches of Long Island courtesy of the Hampton Jitney, a popular bus that departs several times a day from multiple locations within Manhattan.  The luxury liner ride lasts about two and a half hours, and comes with your very own orange juice and snack!  Though it’s not cheap.  One way fares cost $30 USD while round trips will set you back $53 USD.  Visit the Hampton Jitney website for more specific schedule information.

A slightly cheaper, but less frequent option is a MTA/ LIRR train that runs from Penn Station to East Hampton.  This trek will cost you about $19 USD (one-way/ off peak) and takes about three hours to complete.  Naturally, you can always drive into the Hamptons as well, but be warned... If it’s a sunny summer day, you’ll hit a lot of traffic on your way in and out of town.  While the choice is yours, the result will be the same.  Once in town, you’ll be able to relax in the relative peace and quiet that feels hundreds of miles away from the bustle of the city.

Citarella - 2 Pantigo Road, East Hampton, NY  11937, (631) 537-5990, http://www.citarella.com/

Grey Gardens home - 3 West End Road (at the corner of Lily Pond Road/ Apaquogue, East Hampton, NY  11937

B. Smiths - 1 Bay Street, Sag Harbor, NY  11963, (631) 725-5858, http://www.bsmith.com/restaurant_sh_home.php

Hampton Jitney - multiple pick-up locations in Manhattan, including Grand Central Station, (631) 283-4600, http://www.hamptonjitney.com/cgi-bin/nav.cgi?page=ny-hamptons.html

MTA/ LIRR - trains leave from Penn Station, http://www.mta.info/lirr/about/TicketInfo/Fares2011.htm

a museum a day keeps the sunlight away

To museum or not to museum, that is always the question when visiting large, cultural epicenters like New York, London or Paris.  If you’re short on time, we say skip ‘em.  (Oh, the blasphemy!)  It’s not that we don’t appreciate art and design, quite the contrary actually.  We just don’t feel that you’ll be giving any museum or gallery its adequate attention if you sweep in for a couple hours en route to a taping of Last Call with Carson Daly!

Now, if you’ve got more time on your hands, say at least three days or more, a trip to one (or a few) of New York’s top museums is an absolute must.  There are many to choose from, and after repeated visits to most, your Set of Drifters still appreciate every one of them, albeit for different reasons.  And thus, we’ll now present you with our very quick run down on the best-of-the-best:

Best Museum for the Design Buff in You - Museum of Modern Art:  Fans of contemporary art from the 20th century and beyond will find it hard to stay cool and collected even a few minutes into any visit at Manhattan’s celebrated MoMA.  This is the place in NYC to hobnob with like-minded individuals, and in a $650 million renovated setting that is as sleek as they come.  (Don’t forget to look up, down and over as you make your way through the 125,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space.  The interior architecture is superb!)

We especially like the contemporary galleries (featuring art from the 1980s and on), as well as any of the spaces devoted to architecture, Mid-century design and performance art.  (Three cheers to Laurie Anderson, Cindy Sherman and Vito Acconci.)  Of course, if you just want to lay your eyes on Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” or VanGogh’s “Starry Night,” then you’ve come to the right place!

The MoMA is open Wednesday through Monday from 10:30 AM until 5:30 PM (closed Tuesdays).  Extended hours until 8:00 PM are available most Fridays through UNIQLO’s successful hosting of free admission after 4:00 PM.  The afternoon we visited in the summer of 2013, we saw a line clear around the block!  Why were so many willing to wait it out in the hot August sun?  Admission is normally hefty at $25 USD for adults(!), though children under 16 are FREE.

MoMA - 11 West 53rd Street, New  York, NY  10019, (212) 708-9400, http://www.moma.org/

Best Museum/ Architectural Experience - Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum:  Famous the world over, the Guggenheim is instantly recognizable by its undulating outside shell courtesy of architect Frank Lloyd Wright - his only design in New York City.  Perhaps because of this cache, the Guggenheim has been packing in art lovers ever since it debuted in 1959.  While the museum does have some impressive permanent side galleries, expect the real show to unspool along the curved (and slanted) walkway that hugs the interior of the building.  We’ve seen wonderful exhibits here showcasing the colorful work of James Rosenquist, filmmaker Federico Fellini and “Cremaster” art punk Matthew Barney, just to name a few.  Set of Drifters tip:  To make your Guggenheim experience less challenging on your calves, take the elevator to the top first and then work your way down in reverse.

The Guggenheim is open Friday through Wednesday from 10:00 AM until 5:45 PM (closed Thursdays).  Entrance tickets go for $22 USD for adults while children under 12 are FREE.   On Saturday nights, you can pay what you wish after 5:45 PM when the museum extends its hours until 7:45 PM.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum - 1071 5th Avenue, New York, NY  10128, (212) 423-3589, http://www.guggenheim.org/

Best Museum (Not) to Take the Family - The Museum of Sex:  Wow.  What can we say about this place, other than that its curators are certainly well-versed in the art and history of the sensual arts?  Now, don’t blush!  That’s just an anti-onanism device!  (Okay, you can blush.  It’ll be pretty hard not to when you see other vintage Victorian-era sexual aides saddled up next to modern items of S&M torture.)

We visited “MoSex” most recently in the fall of 2008 when an exhibit detailing the “live” lovemaking of wild animals caught on tape was all the rage!  Don’t worry, a counterpart showing the decade’s best celebrity-driven selfie vids proved that humans often have even less shame when it comes to showing off!  (Tsk-tsk-tsk Colin Farrell and Tonya Harding!)

Can’t handle all of that explicitness?  Why not just head to the R-rated ground floor gift shop instead?  It’s certainly stocked with unique items you never thought you’d find in a “museum.”  MoSex is open Sunday through Thursday from 10:00 AM until 8:00 PM and on the weekends until 9:00 PM.  (Keep in mind that the last tickets are sold 45 minutes prior to closing.)  Admission is $17.50 USD for adults.  (Those under 18 are, understandably, not admitted.)

MoSex - 233 5th Avenue,    New York, NY  10016, (212) 689-6337, http://www.museumofsex.com/

Best Place to Work off a Heavy Brooklyn Brunch - Brooklyn Museum: 
Another wonderful spot to catch vibrant art is the Brooklyn Museum located just off Prospect Park.  While we visited in the summer of 2006 solely to catch the incredible touring exhibit of Jean-Michael Basquiat’s graffiti goodies, we left entirely impressed by the museum’s more permanent collections, which include, among other things, arts of the Pacific Islands and the Islamic World, as well as a tantalizing display of 19th and 20th century decorative arts.

The Jean Paul Gaultier “From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” show coming in October 2013 is bound to be a huge hit.  It’ll run through February 2014.  Don’t miss it.  The Brooklyn Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11:00 AM until 6:00 PM (closed Mondays and Tuesdays).  Extended hours are available until 10:00 PM on Thursdays.  Cost of admission is $12 USD for adults while children under 12 are FREE.  (Suggested donation for students is $8 USD.)

Brooklyn Museum - 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY  11238,   (718) 638-5000, http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/

Best Place to Visit During a Torrential Downpour - The Metropolitan Museum of Art:  Folks, quite simply, this is the motherlode of them all.

On par with the Louvre as one of the best museums in the world, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is so cavernous that could spend your entire vacation inside its three-story walls.  Every culture on the planet, from the Papua New Guineans to the Celts, is given due attention here.  Obsessed with Ancient Egyptian artifacts?  Then you’ll love the wrapped up mummies, countless pieces of lapis-lazuli jewelry, and oh yeah, that 2,000 year-old Temple of Dendur structure accessible to spectators only via bridge over a small moat.  How about fashion?  18th century or modern?  The Met’s got both.  (Sorry.  The fab “PUNK:  Chaos to Couture” exhibit just closed in August!)

Our favorite galleries have always been the ones devoted to Asian empires like Japan, India and Ancient Siam.  But have no fear Anglophiles, more than 50% of the grounds are devoted to more familiar Western masterpieces from the likes of Gainsborough, Gauguin and Giacometti.  Set of Drifters tip:  One of the best parts about the Met is its busy gift shop.  Make sure to save at least a ½ hour for your visit, especially around the holidays when the store is filled with some of the best gift items and greeting cards you’ll ever give!  
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is open Sunday through Thursday from 10:00 AM until 5:30 PM, while extended hours are available Fridays and Saturdays until 9:00 PM!  Recommended admission to the Met is $25 USD for adults (though you can get in by paying whatever you can).  Students should pay $12 USD while children under 12 are FREE.  Your ticket/ badge should also get you in to the Cloisters on the same day (see above), though we imagine it would be pretty hard to take in both locations in any 24-hour period!

Metropolitan Museum of Art - 1000 5th Avenue, New York, NY  10028, (212) 535-      7710, http://www.metmuseum.org/

Coney Island (Brooklyn)

Coney Island is one of those classic New York destinations that you really need to experience at least once in your life.  Of course, you may already be familiar with the spot.  As the quintessential amusement park of yesteryear, Coney Island soon became the blueprint for other seaside funfairs across the nation after peaking sometime between the 1880s and WWII.

Perhaps not surprisingly, in the many decades that have followed, the attraction has become a New York staple that so many take for granted.  While the corndogs, funnel cakes, cotton candy and soda still flow, chances are that the majority of sunbathers out on Coney Island’s wide swath of beach are really just Russian and Ukrainian immigrants who have flocked to the surrounding neighborhood since the 70s.  (When you return from your visit, make sure to tell us how many you counted sporting that strange white paper nose covering!  We suppose the beak works better than zinc oxide, but that doesn’t make it any less bizarre.)

Unlike Disneyland and other large scale theme parks, Coney Island is actually an assemblage of smaller entertainment vendors who have acquired plots of land for individual carnival games, thrill rides and stomach-churning foodstuffs.  Luna Park is perhaps the most famous of these sub-sections, thanks in part to “The Cyclone,” a thrilling wooden rollercoaster now approaching its 85th season!  (Set of Drifters tip:  The rickety fright ride will reopen on April 1, 2012 with an upscale new look.  We hear “Deno’s Colossal Wonder Wheel” is also getting a refresh.)
When your Set of Drifters last visited during the mid-00s, we relished in the twisted carnival game “Shoot The Freak,” a target-based test that allowed patrons to throw projectiles at a mocking clown.  Sadly, like many of the amusement park’s more off-beat draws, “Shoot The Freak” is no longer, just another casualty in the recent rezoning and biddings wars that have put Coney Island’s future in jeopardy.

Luckily, Brooklynites who remain vigilant in their love of this historic landmark have come to the rescue, working with, not against, the Coney Island Development Corporation that hopes to improve the park’s commercial viability.  So far, locals have been able to keep a watchful eye on new redevelopment projects to make sure they stay true to Coney Island’s original “old world” charm.  According to our research, 2012 seems the perfect year to re-explore this classic destination.  We’ll definitely be heading back soon to check out all of the progress.  Watch this space!!!!

Set of Drifters tip:  Oops.  Did we forget to mention?  Coney Island also happens to be the home of the annual “Mermaid Parade,” a virtual cavalcade of wildly festooned creatures who come together each June to celebrate this venerable seaside destination.  The wacky parade finishes with an after-party at The New York Aquarium, another great attraction worth exploring if you’re in the area.  Pleasing children - and the adults who act like them (that’s us) - the New York Aquarium has all the polar bear, penguin and piranha exhibits you might expect, along with a special “touch pool” where toddlers can handle various sea creatures without being stung!  Trust us, they’ll have a whale of a time!

Coney Island is open seasonally - and get this - according to the year’s holiday schedule!  From Easter until Memorial Day and Labor Day until Halloween, the parks are open only on the weekends.  From Memorial Day until Labor Day, Coney Island operates daily.  Most concessions begin their day at 12:00 NOON and close at dark.  Admission prices vary for each attraction, making this a surprisingly expensive outing.  Check individual park websites below for more information.

So how does one get here?  It’s actually quite simple from anywhere in Manhattan or Brooklyn.  Just head out on either the D, Q, N or F trains toward Stillwell Avenue.  We recommend bringing a book since the trip to the end of the line can sometimes take as long as 60 minutes!  (For more on transportation in New York, see "essentials.")

Coney Island - 1208 Surf Avenue (accessible via the D, Q, N or F Subway lines), Brooklyn, NY  11224, http://www.coneyisland.com/ and http://www.coneyisland.com/mermaid.shtml

Luna Park - 1000 Surf Avenue (at Coney Island), Brooklyn NY  11224, (718) 373-5862, http://www.lunaparknyc.com/

Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park - 1025 Boardwalk (at Coney Island), Brooklyn NY  11224, (718) 372-2592, http://www.wonderwheel.com/

New York Aquarium - 602 Surf Avenue (adjacent to Coney Island), Brooklyn, NY  11224, (718) 265-3415, http://www.nyaquarium.com/

mystery at the tip of Long Island (Montauk, NY)

One of the best weekends of our eight year adventure in New York occurred outside of the city - all the way out on the frigid tip of Long Island!  Now, anyone who’s tried to escape icy Manhattan in the middle of February knows that it’s no easy feat, yet the haunting wonders we experienced in Montauk, made any hassle well worth it.

We set the stage for Set of Drifter Brady’s belated birthday by first taking a room at the legendary Montauk Manor.  Built back in 1927 by Carl Fisher, the “Castle on the hill” was meant to broaden the Real Estate mogul’s reputation as one of the East Coast’s most successful movers-and-shakers.  (Fisher single-handedly put Miami Beach’s Art Deco District on the map in the decade prior.)  Upon opening, Montauk Manor became the preeminent retreat for sweaty Manhattanites looking to escape the summer heat.

Sadly however, the age of swanky ballroom soirees and croquet matches was short-lived.  After the Depression and World War II took their individual punches, decades of intense freeze-and-thaw cycles sent the English Tudor Hotel into disrepair.  It would be some time before the Manor got any proper renovation.

These days, things seems to be returning back to normal... that is if you call witnessing blue-sparkled specters in the middle of the night “normal.”  Oh, did we forget to tell you?  Montauk Manor is built on top of Signal Hill, a Colonial-era Native American burial ground!  Your Set of Drifters don’t want to ruin any specific surprises for you, but this place is definitely visited by spirits, and the staff is well aware of it.  They even go so far as to host an annual “Murder Mystery Weekend” every May!

We spent our first morning in Montauk walking through town.  Eerily silent in the middle of winter, the atmosphere feels a bit stuck in the 1950s... not that there’s anything wrong with that.  After lunching in a rather lo-key Mexican diner, we wandered past the relics of yesteryear before finding a path to the beach.  (Yes kids, this is the same beach where that weird dog/ chupacabra thing washed ashore back in 2008!)  Perhaps not the best place to hang out for an entire February day, there’s still something quit thrilling about seeing frozen snowbanks juxtaposed alongside windswept sand drifts!

Of course, our retro-fied Montauk mystery weekend would not come to a head until later that afternoon when we were lured out to Montauk Point and the beguiling Camp Hero by the latter’s enigmatic radio tower.  A former US military base, Camp Hero has had conspiracy theorists talking for decades.  Some believe that when the outpost was shuttered after the war, it was transformed into a secret underground lab where bizarre experiments involving mind control and particle beam separation were just the appetizers!  (Can you say “wormhole?”)

Prior to our visit in early 2005, we had head no such rumors, and looking back on it now, I’m glad we had been so naive, for I fear any tantalizing morsels would have probably made our investigation much more pointed.

After parking our car, we hopped over a fence (or two) and began snooping around.  So, what exactly did we find?  For starters, how about multiple sealed-off tunnels and ladders that went seemingly to nowhere?  Warning “KEEP OUT” signs are painted everywhere, though it appears no one has paid them any attention.  Over the years, taggers have dutifully claimed the giant radial tower some say was once used to alter the emotions of any living creature within a 10 mile radius!  How fun!  Of course, the most haunting aspect of Camp Hero just may be its weird decoy bunkers that are clearly constructed out of cement, but made to appear (at least from the sky) as though they are simple wooden homes!

Our meandering across the ground level of what may, or may not, have been an inverted seven-story secret lab took us into the deer-laden thicket, and eventually across to steep bluffs overlooking the blustery Atlantic Ocean.  We soon started feeling entirely sick to our stomachs and knew it was time to hightail it out of there.  The nausea was a physical reaction to a potentially macabre place that, at the time, we knew nothing about.

These days, Camp Hero is now an official New York State Park (though the remains of the Army base are still off limits).  Those interested in checking out some of the East Coast’s most rugged cliffs and exhilarating beaches will really vibe off this extraordinary half-day drive.  There’s a reason this place was picked at a military outpost.  The harrowing views out to the sea are absolutely insane!

Montauk Manor - 236 Edgemere Street, Montauk, NY  11954, (631) 668-4400, http://www.montaukmanor.com/

Camp Hero - 1898 Old Montauk Highway, Montauk, NY  11954, http://nysparks.com/parks/97/details.aspx

“I’m a hipster.  You’re a hipster.  Wouldn’t you like to be a hipster too?”

The question on everyone’s mind for 2013 is not “Will ObamaCare work?” or "When will Amanda Bynes actually disintegrate?"  No, sillies! The answer we’re all seeking these days is - drum roll please - “What is the current 2013 Hipster Uniform?”  Duh.

To be honest, these days it’s hard to tell.  With a staggering amount of new construction and gentrification (read: watering down), the ever-increasing crowds lining Bedford Ave. (and now Whythe, Berry and Kent, etc.) include a much wider variety of pedestrians than ever before.  Expensive high-rises sprouting up all along the Brooklyn seafront have attracted hordes of yuppies, and with them, their children and visiting relatives from the Midwest!

While on our most recent visit in August 2013, our friends (and longtime residents of Williamsburg), revealed to us that the biggest change they’ve noted - aside from all of the new buildings - is the proliferation of toddlers all under the age of four, precisely the amount of years it’s been since real estate bullies moved in on the once boho territory.

Nevertheless, the traditional Williamsburg hipster still exists; they’re just harder to spot, having scattered to “South Williamsburg” or further east to Bushwick.  If you’re headed in that direction, there’s nothing more fun than spotting what all those rich little fauxhemians are trying to get away with this season!   Get out your scorecards; we’ll expect a full report at the close of any investigation!

Though it now seems almost as touristy as Manhattan’s East Village - with an unprecedented number of artisan and second-hand stalls lining the streets - a visit to Williamsburg is still a great idea, particularly for a night out of great food and drinks, or an afternoon of shopping at boutiques that, thankfully, still offer an alternative to the norm.  Some of our favorites in this ever-changing neighborhood include:

Earwax Records:  This well-stocked haven for rare, out-of-print discs specializes in impossible to find imports and soundtracks, as well as groovy 1960s moog synthesizer records, as well as soundtracks and 80s New Wave, NoWave and Punk.  The prices are a bit steep (perhaps to pay for their recent relocation to 9th Street), but sometimes you just gotta pay to play!  After all, it was from Earwax that Dougee was finally able to find an original Free Design LP from 1968!  They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore, kids.

Earwax Records - 167 North 9th Street, Brooklyn, NY  11211, (718) 486-3771, http://www.earwaxrecords.net/

Academy Record Annex:  One step inside this North 6th emporium and you’ll soon realize it’s all about the music.  No frills - just discs, and at relatively good prices.  Set of Drifters tip:  Check the bargain bin outside for even deeper deals.  And don’t forget to visit with the resident cat, Tigger.  After all, these are his vinyl treasures you’ll be reappropriating!

Academy Record Annex - 96 North 6th Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY  11211, (718) 218-8200,

Brooklyn Industries:  Here it is!  The answer to that burning “Hipster Uniform” question - at least the non-vintage model - can easily be found at Brooklyn Industries!  Just like Red Lantern, our favorite NOLA clothing boutique, this spot is literally full to the brimmed newsboy cap with stripes, plaid, knock-off cardigans and/ or T-shirts that are printed to look like cardigans!  But seriously folks...

Though we hate to admit it, we’ve succumbed to peer pressure more than a few times and have picked up bags full of fun and practical essentials from this Men’s/ Women’s/ Hipster Offspring outlet.  Just remember...  If anyone asks you where you got that quirky corduroy ruffled jacket, simply tell them “Brooklyn,” not “Brooklyn Industries” - and certainly not “Williamsburg!”

Brooklyn Industries - 162 Bedford Avenue  (between 9th Street and 8th Street), Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY  11211, (718) 486-6464, http://www.brooklynindustries.com/

OddFellows Ice Cream Co.:  When the well-heeled yuppies moved in to the gaggle of high-rises on the Brooklyn waterfront, so did their toddlers.  And toddlers like ice cream, right?  So it should be of no surprise that OddFellows moved in just down the block.  Why the name?  Selling truly oddball flavors like chorizo caramel, rose raspberry with pink peppercorn and Guinness, we’ll bet there are more than a few adult hipsters invoking their inner-child.  So, is the homemade miso butterscotch scoop any good?  We’ll let you be the judge - that is, if you can brave the lines.

OddFellows Ice Cream Co. - 175 Kent     Avenue, Brooklyn, NY  11249, (347) 599-0556, http://www.oddfellowsnyc.com/

Roebling Tea Room:  Though it’s been a few years, we still remember our Sunday Brunch at the Roebling Tea Room.  Perhaps it was the quaint, cozy atmosphere - bolstered by elbow-to-elbow seating and friendly chatter exchanged between neighbors.  Or perhaps it was the 20+ varieties of tea on offer - a flavor for every mood and occasion…  Oh, who are we kidding?  We remember Roebling for those big baked pancakes served with stewed fruits and honey butter!

Roebling Tea Room - 143     Roebling Street (at Metropolitan), Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY  11211, (718) 963-0760, http://roeblingtearoom.com/

Spoonbill & Sugartown Books:  With so much of Williamsburg’s boho reputation falling by the wayside to make room for condos and the businesses that support them, it’s nice to see some of what originally made the neighborhood so hip still surviving.  Perhaps the epitome of that storied “hipster pretense” is, and always has, been Spoonbill & Sugartown Books.  Adroitly stocked with pricey art tomes, many of them limited edition, this is the place to find that special gift for the book lover in your family or circle of friends.  Got a rare book you want to unload?  Spoonbill & Sugartown will buy it!  How else do you think they get their hands on these rare gems!  Set of Drifters tip:  Check their website for upcoming author events!

Spoonbill & Sugartown  Books - 218 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY  11211, (718) 387-7322, http://www.spoonbillbooks.com/

Other potential Williamsburg highlights you may enjoy include Catbird’s “finer sex” accessories, dinner and drinks courtesy of Maison Premiere’s New Orleans speakeasy vibe and Five Leaves Cafe & Oyster Bar, where artful presentation of tasty rustic foodstuffs is king - if you don’t mind the wait.  Set of Drifters tip:  If visiting NYC in the warmer months, don’t miss Williamsburg’s top summer draw, the Smorgasburg Food Market.  Delish!  For even more on Williamsburg, see “Cafe Colette” in “eats” and “Dram” and “Brooklyn Bowl” in “sips."

Catbird - 219 Bedford Avenue, NY  11211, (718) 599-3457, http://www.catbirdnyc.com/

Maison Premiere - 298 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211, (347) 335-0446, http://maisonpremiere.com/

Five Leaves Cafe & Oyster Bar - 18 Bedford Avenue, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY  11222, (718) 383-5346, http://www.fiveleavesny.com/

Brooklyn Flea:  Williamsburg/ Smorgasburg - 27 North 6 Street (between Kent and East Avenue), Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY  11211, http://www.brooklynflea.com/smorgasburg/

Wigstock at Tompkins Square Park is now “BUSHWIG” in Brooklyn

Lucky for us, your Set of Drifters were fortunate enough to be living in New York City in 2005 to experience the very last Wigstock, held that year at Tompkins Square Park as part of the annual Labor Day weekend Howl Festival. Wigstock, you ask?  Heck.  If you’ve never heard of Wigstock, then baby, it’s time for you to get schooled.

It all started way back in 1984 when the Lady Bunny (Rupaul’s Drag U) convinced Wendy Wild (of the Mad Violets) and some members of The Fleshtones to bring their madcap blend of showmanship out off the stage at the nearby Pyramid Club, and onto the streets of the East Village. 

Like Lady Bunny’s hair, the homegrown celebration of diversity grew and grew over the next few years, turning itself into a mini-Woodstock, albeit one festooned with drag performers, comedians and dance acts.  Additional venues and stages began popping up all over the city, drawing crowds from near and far who all wanted to witness a special piece of the wild, and free, pageantry.  (The 1994 fest was eventually documented in a film of the same name that “starred” performances by Rupaul, Deee-Lite, Leigh Bowery and more.)

Street crowding and noise complaints eventually forced the festival to shut down in 2005 after a number of starts and stops over the years, but in that final summer, we caught legendary performances by the likes of Jackie 60, Kate Pierson (of The B-52s) and Linda Simpson.  Still, it was ex-Deee-Lite groovette Lady Kier who really brought the crowd to its knees with her danceable, yet poignant, rendition of George Clinton’s anti-war tune “Bulletproof.”

Taking over Wigstock’s tradition, “Bushwig” is a newer outdoor drag fest also celebrated the first weekend in September.  Housed at the Secret Project Robot Room in, yes, Bushwick (off the Morgan L train stop), Bushwig may no longer be a free event, but with so many talents involved, including some from Rupaul’s Drag Race, the scheme seems entirely appropriate.

Of course, at Wigstock (and now Bushwig), scanning the crowd is almost as fun as watching the performers.  One of the best things about New York has always been its open-mindedness, and when attending any outdoor festival, you’re bound to spot peeps from all walks of life.  One thing’s for sure, at a party called “Wigstock” or “Bushwig,” you ain’t gonna find anyone lacking a sense of humor.

So go and grab that green afro from last Halloween and get your frock on!  Parties like this only come along once a year!

Tompkins Square Park - East Village, (Avenue A To Avenue B, East 7 Street to East 10 Street), Manhattan, NY  10009, http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/tompkinssquarepark

Bushwig at Secret Project Robot (held Labor Day Weekend) - 389 Melrose Street, Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY  11237 http://www.bushwig.com/ and www.secretprojectrobot.org

surviving a Yankee game

For most belonging to the heterosexual world, going to a baseball game is probably as normal as shopping for groceries or filling up the gas tank.  But for your less-than-hetero Set of Drifters, entering inside a baseball park is a foreign concept, akin perhaps to finally greeting little green men on the dark side of Obryska.  (Look it up.)

Meeting up with East Coast family members to celebrate a landmark birthday for my brother in 2013, a proposed night out at Yankee Stadium (one the most cherished baseball palaces in the world), seemed like an experience we could not pass up.

Heading uptown to the Bronx on the 4 train, we noticed packs of our fellow passengers adorned in navy and white – girls, boys, men and women, even babies!  Had the frenzy leading up to a game always been this obvious when we lived in NYC during the early part of the millennium?

After about 35 minutes, subway doors slid open at 161st Street to reveal the all-new gleaming Yankee Stadium, completed in 2009 at the cost of $1.5 billion.  (Hey, baseball is big business!)

The fact that it was 90+ degrees outside, and raining, clearly had not been a deterrent for New Yorkers.  Literally hundreds swarmed around us as we headed en masse to the entrance, and once beyond the ticket gate, the din of thousands more joined in on their hysteria.  No matter what you may think of the Yanks, their fans are undeniably some of the proudest (loudest?) in the world.

Once we had finally found our seats (more difficult than we’d like to admit), it was time to hit the concession stands.  No, not for a striped fan jersey, or one of those foam hands with the pointed finger.  We wanted beer and some good old-fashioned stadium food.  Surprisingly in these modern times, there’s a lot more on offer than just hot dogs, burgers and popcorn.

We settled on the line hawking steak sandwiches (Carl’s Steaks near section 107, if memory serves).  Combined with expertly seasoned fries, our sandwiches were tastier than expected, and perhaps even the night’s ultimate highlight.  The prices, however?  Not so much.  Opting against watered-down domestic brews, we chose pints of Stella Artois instead, though at a cost of $16/ cup!  Fast food prices, these are not.

Tummies sated, we eventually took to our seats to enjoy the game.  And once there, were impressed by the fact that we’d never need to leave them again (save for a trip or two to the loo).  Gruff, but charming, buskers constantly canvass aisles selling everything from pretzels to programs, ice cream to cotton candy.

Though the game itself was rather lackluster, we did enjoy the incredible people-watching.  (How did that man in the all-in-one American flag bodysuit manage to breathe through that nylon that covered his face?)  Funnily enough, on the night we visited Yankee Stadium, celeb infielder Alex Rodriguez returned home for the first time following the much-publicized reveal of his steroid use.  Each time he went up to bat, the vehement crowd erupted into jeers and jokes, providing easily the most entertainment of the evening.

With another few innings to go, and only a couple hours left in the night to meet up with old friends downtown, we decided that our Yankee game experience had been fulfilled.  Goodnight Bronx Bombers.  Thanks for the memories.  We’ll see you again someday… if only on TV.

Yankee Stadium - 1 East 161st Street, Bronx, NY  10451, (718) 293-4300


The Cloisters (Washington Heights)

If you have already visited NYC a number of times and are looking for something new and unique to catch your eye, your Set of Drifters actually recommend revisiting the past instead, say... all the way back to the Middle Ages.  W-w-w-hat?

The Cloisters, located at the northern tip of Manhattan’s Fort Tyron Park, is an amalgamation of 11th and 12th century style Romanesque buildings that have become one of New York’s best kept secrets - even to many who live there.  Constructed during the early 1930s, the multiple chapels, courtyards and cloisters enfold an impressive anthology of over 3,000 medieval art relics dating from the 9th to 16th centuries.  (The collection was eventually absorbed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art with funds provided by none other than John D. Rockefeller, Jr.)

Upon arrival to the Cloisters (via the A-train Subway live), dense vegetation and impressive Hudson River views quickly separate you from the bustle of the surrounding urban jungle.  In fact, a visit here is almost like going on a mini-vacation from your vacation.  More akin to northern Italy, the Cloisters is one of the few places within the city that feels very un-New York.  Blink your eyes long enough and you just might think you're at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles.

Once inside, visitors will be treated to a cornucopia of highlights, including the exquisite Belgian “unicorn tapestries,” a number of colorful frescoes and stained glass windows, and even a 15th century deck of playing cards that are oval in shape!  If you are a fan of all things Romanesque or Gothic, we presume you could spend the entire day here.  Of course, if you are really just looking for a peaceful escape from the city, you could do much worse than a jog around the Cloisters’ Medieval gardens, where landscape architects have worked diligently to replicate many of the horticultural climes found in the famous works on display.  Set of Drifters tip:  Don’t forget a coffee and a snack at the Trie Café.

The Cloisters is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 AM until 5:30 PM with extended hours on Friday and Saturday until 9:00 PM (closed Mondays).  Recommended admission is $25 USD for adults while children under 12 are FREE.  (Keep in mind that this includes entrance to the Main Building of the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well (see above).

The Cloisters Museum and Gardens - 99 Margaret Corbin Drive, Washington Heights, New York, NY  10040, (212) 923-3700


weekend jaunt to the Hudson Valley (Cold Spring, NY)

Manhattan is the center of the universe, right?  And no location outside its borders could ever compare with its ability to entertain and enthrall.  Sure, these may be bold statements, but they’re also what many are led to believe after residing here for some time.  To combat this fallacy, and ensure that all New Yorkers stay somewhat grounded, we recommend taking advantage of the many beautiful and peaceful destinations that are accessible to the city in little over an hour.

Heeding a friend’s suggestion one brisk November weekend, we boarded a train for Cold Spring, NY, a small community located about 50 miles north of the city.  As the train car hugged the banks of the Hudson River, we passed through a series of scenic countrified villages that easily whetted our appetite for what we would encounter at the terminus.

Once safely planted within Cold Spring, it was a mere five minute walk down Main Street to the center of town.  With the red and orange leaves of autumn falling gently all around, we could not have picked a better weekend if we had planned the trip months in advance!

We quickly landed our bags at our hotel, then returned to Cold Spring’s main thoroughfare where a handful of cafes and restaurants compete for 19th century-era real estate with a series of collectible shops . The best of these was the massive Cold Spring Antiques Center which, although a bit disorganized, was willing to bargain on prices once we located treasured items.  Set of Drifters tip:  Most retro-hunters must come up here to buy twee items like copper pots or bone china.  And thus, if you are seeking cool items from the 1960s and 70s, we think you’ll do well in Cold Spring!  On our trip, we scored both an acrylic Lucite ball lamp and a more traditional crystal chandelier - all for under $200!

Further down Main Street features a consignment store called the “Bijou Galleries.”  Though all we can remember at this point about their offerings was a cadre of scary dolls, a stop here was requisite since Set of Drifter Brady’s nickname has been “Bijou” for well over 15 years!

After our rummaging, and a stroll through more residential areas in town, we were starving!  Luckily, depending on your appetite, the village of Cold Spring offers several good dining choices.  We ended up at a sweet spot called Brasserie Le Bouchon.  The “family style” French restaurant specializes in Lyonnaise cuisine and offers renditions of traditional staples like duck pâté and goat-cheese tartlets.  Are you ready for a big shocker?  We managed to eat up a storm (moules and frites, most likely), and ultimately really enjoyed Le Bouchon’s sumptuous red interiors... almost as much as their red wine!

Overall, Cold Spring’s picturesque setting, as it sits right on the bank of the Hudson, makes for a perfect romantic getaway.  Though we visited off-season and had no difficulty acquiring accommodation overlooking the water, we imagine the town gets pretty busy during the summer.  In other words, if you’re planning on visiting during this time, you might want to make a reservation in advance.

The quaint Hudson House Inn, in service to visitors since 1832, offered us one of their 13 charming rooms that may, or may not, have been haunted.

Cold Spring Antiques Center‎ - 77 Main Street, Cold Spring, NY  10516, (845) 265-5050, http://www.coldspringantiquescenter.com/

Bijou Galleries, Ltd. - 50 Main Street, Cold Spring, NY  10516, (845) 265-4337, http://www.bijougalleries.com/

Brasserie Le Bouchon - 76 Main Street, Cold Spring, NY  10516, (845) 265-7676, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Brasserie-Le-Bouchon-Restaurants/111607775536618

Hudson House Inn - 2 Main Street, Cold Spring, NY  10516, (845) 265-9355, http://www.hudsonhouseinn.com/

catching a movie premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater (Midtown)

While “once-in-a-lifetime” experiences like seeing Radio City Music Hall’s “Christmas Spectacular” are great, we would like to recommend another wonderful NYC theater experience that is lesser known, and considerably cheaper than theater tickets for the current Broadway hit!  We’ve shared the casual and fun experience with thousands of others over the years.  So what are we talking about?  A movie premiere at the infamous Ziegfeld Theater on West 54th!  Sure, it may take a bit of luck to get into one of the more exclusive red carpet events, yet even an opening night screening of a major film can be a total blast!

Let’s start with the theater itself, a beautiful and vast behemoth that first opened in 1969.  With 1,131 seats, it’s still the largest single-screen movie theater in all of New York, and one of the last to be built in the United States.  The interior, which underwent a spiffy renovation in the late 90s, is awash in sumptuous red velvet and carpet that feels as soothing as it does gaudy (particularly when mixed with that always pungent smell of buttered popcorn)!

Your Set of Drifters have been to official Ziegfeld premieres (or opening night screenings) of films as diverse as Moulin Rouge, Tomb Raider, Coyote Ugly and what we had assumed to be the final installment in the Star Wars saga.  Each and every event made for a memorable evening.  Of course, that’s partly due to the fact that watching a movie in NYC is an entirely different experience than visiting your local multiplex.  Here, film-goers interact with the movie and with one another by cheering on lead characters or booing villains when they come on screen.  At a Ziegfeld premiere, this can be a hilarious and exhilarating experience that quickly becomes infectious.

Currently, the Ziegfeld is operated by Clearview Cinemas.  You can check out their website for upcoming show times.  Set of Drifters tip:  With potentially over 1,000 other peeps in the theater, expect long lines at the concession stands, and at the bathrooms, particularly if you’ve happened upon the opening of a summer blockbuster... not that you would, of course!

Ziegfeld Theater - 141 West 54th Street, New York, NY  10019, (212) 765-7600


Medieval Times (Lyndhurst, NJ)

Okay, we suppose this one is a bit of a stretch.  Sure, we’ve already taken you outside of Manhattan to places as far and wide as Montauk, Long Island and Cold Spring, but at least those getaways were in New York State!  This mercurial jaunt is all the way in New Jersey!  Nevertheless, don’t let that Hudson River barrier keep you from making the trek to what is arguably one of the weirder experiences you’ll ever have... as an adult.

A heaping dose of dinner theater kitsch, Medieval Times is a chain entertainment complex originally established in Mallorca, Spain in the early 70s!  Ten years in, the franchise hopped the Atlantic and opened near Walt Disney World in Florida.  Its rousing (some might say “jousting”) success assured additional “castles” would be built in other tourist-heavy Metro areas like Dallas, Chicago and Buena Park, California.

The Lyndhurst, NJ outpost of Medieval Times is the third to promote “chivalry, rivalry - and revelry” in America, and when we visited in December of 2005, we noticed the place was starting to show its age.  (Of course, that’s the just way we like it!)

Upon entering the castle gates, serfs and peasants alike can peruse a festive “faire” vibe that is decidedly heavy on souvenirs.  (Did these people go to the Disney school of merchandising, or what?)  A parade of the evening’s “Royal court” and jousting competitors signals the crowd to their “seats,” really just tiers of bench seating housed inside a giant arena.  While the color-coding of the stadium assures you’ll meet others in your section rooting for your “home jouster,” once the show gets going, there will be little time for conversation.  (Set of Drifters tip:  This is either the best or worst place ever for a “first date.”)

Food options at Medieval Times do leave a lot to be desired.  While the “steaming pot of gruel” soups (served in individual cauldrons) and turkey legs make for a nice gimmick, once served up en masse, they hardly hit the spot.  (If I remember correctly, dessert was the best culinary aspect of the evening.  Then again, ice cream is pretty hard to mess up).  Of course, you haven’t come all the way out here for the food!  You’ve come for the kitsch!  Thankfully, Medieval Times’ scripted drama/ jousting extravaganza has got that in spades!  Expect a lot of lasers, smoke and mirrors, and some of the corniest writing/ acting you’ve ever heard!  Trust us, Middle Ages pageantry has never looked so sleek!  Who knew they had pyrotechnics back in the 10th century?

Medieval Times in Lyndhurst offers multiple shows each week.  While some days feature 11:00 AM matinees for the youngins, most performances unveil themselves in the evening at 7:00 PM or 8:00 PM.  You’ll need to check their website to book tickets in advance since the performance schedule seems to change daily!  Mind you, this is not a cheap affair.  Adult tickets cost $59.95 USD (plus tax/ processing fee), while children 12 and under get in for $35.95 USD (plus tax/ processing fee).  Of course, this also includes your din-din slop as well!

Set of Drifters tip:  Medieval Times touts itself as a “live horse show in an enclosed arena” and warns that those suffering from respiratory conditions such as allergies or asthma will attend at their own risk!  Can’t handle strobes or pyrotechnics?  Then, you may also want to sit this one out since Medieval Times features more lasers than that last Grateful Dead concert you attended!

Medieval Times - 149 Polito Avenue, Lyndhurst, NJ  07071, (866) 543-9637, http://www.medievaltimes.com/lyndhurst.aspx

We also recommend:

Central Park & Summer Stage (Manhattan) - 5 Avenue To Central Park West, 59 Street to 110 Street, Manhattan, NY, http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/centralpark, http://www.nycgovparks.org/facilities/rowboats or http://www.summerstage.org/

The High Line (Chelsea/ Meatpacking District) - located along 10th Avenue from the Meatpacking Districy to 30th Street), New York, NY  10011, (212) 500-6035,  http://www.thehighline.org/

Greenwich Village Halloween Parade (West Village) - every October 31st, Greenwich Village, New York, NY, http://www.halloween-nyc.com/

"Groovespotting" at Carl Schurz Park (Yorktown) - East End Avenue and East 86th Street, New York, NY  10028, http://www.carlschurzparknyc.org/

Brooklyn Botanic Garden (Brooklyn) - 1000 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY  11225, (718) 623-7200, http://www.bbg.org/

MoMA PS1 (Queens) - 22-25 Jackson Avenue (at the intersection of 46th Avenue), Long Island City, NY  11101, (718) 784-2084, http://momaps1.org/