Tag Archives: Visit NYC

Summer in the City: Festivals! Events! Happenings! Make the City Hot, Hot, Hot and Cool Man, Cool

The iconic Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the anchors of the annual Museum Mile Festival, this year, with eight major museums opening their doors for free admission and special programs, June 13 6-9 pm © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York City’s summer cultural season kicks off with the 45th Annual Museum Mile Festival – the Big Apple’s “biggest block party” –on Tuesday, June 13, from 6 to 9 pm, rain or shine. Walk the mile on Fifth Avenue between 82nd Street and 104th Street while visiting eight of New York City’s finest cultural institutions, open free during these extended hours: The Africa Center, El Museo del Barrio, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, the Jewish Museum, Neue Galerie and the Museum of the City of New York (which is celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year). It’s an electric, eclectic festive atmosphere, with live music and street performers all along the avenue, plus special exhibitions, works from permanent collections and special family-oriented activities inside.

The Museum Mile Festival is the Big Apple’s biggest block party, with street entertainment and free admissions to museums © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is also an opportunity to see the major exhibits underway throughout the summer:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Van Gogh’s Cypresses, thru August 27: Vincent van Gogh’s most famous artworks, Wheat Field with Cypresses and The Starry Night, take center stage at Van Gogh’s Cypresses, the first exhibition to focus on the trees immortalized by one of the most beloved artists of our time. Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty thru July 16, highlighting the designer’s body of work spanning from the 1950s to his final collection in 2019, the show will have approximately 150 pieces on display.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum: Sarah Sze: Timelapse  thru September 10: For this solo exhibition, Sarah Sze created a series of site-specific installations that weave a trail of discovery through multiple spaces of the Guggenheim’s iconic Frank Lloyd Wright building.

100th Anniversary of The Museum of the City of New York: The museum has amassed a collection of over 750,000 objects including photographs, prints, costumes, paintings and more to celebrate, document and interpret the City’s past, present and soon-to-be-announced future. These major exhibits are on view: This Is New York: 100 Years of the City in Art and Pop Culture exhibit explores how the City has served as a muse for storytelling over the past century; through a variety of mediums such as film, music, literature and visual arts, the exhibit presents a diverse and engaging portrayal of NYC. Food in New York: Bigger Than the Platethru September 17, highlights the City’s raucous and diverse food culture all while examining the various challenges of NYC’s food systems. From sustainability to equitable access to food, the exhibition explores the ways artists and designers are creating solutions to address the global and local challenges we face when it comes to the food system.

El Museo del Barrio: Something Beautiful: Reframing La Colección, thru March 10, 2024. One of El Museo del Barrio’s most ambitious presentations to date features a complex and culturally diverse permanent collection of 500 artworks, including artist commissions and acquisitions, focusing on the contributions of Amerindian, African and European cultures, through rotating displays over the course of a year.

The Museum Mile Festival is just the first of a whole series of festivals, special events, cultural happenings that make the city hot, hot, hot, or cool man, really cool. Here’s a roundup:

New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks: priceless music for free © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks, presented by Didi and Oscar Schafer, have become an iconic New York summer experience since they began in 1965, transforming parks throughout the city into a patchwork of picnickers enjoying friends, family, and music under the stars, for free! This summer Music Director Jaap van Zweden conducts two iconic masterpieces — Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man — plus a potpourri of overtures by Rossini and J. Strauss II, and works by NY Phil Very Young Composers. June 13, Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx; June 14, Central Park, Manhattan; June 15, Cunningham Park, Queens; June 16, Prospect Park, Brooklyn; – these concerts begin at 8 pm followed by fireworks. Also, June 18, Staten Island at 4 pm. For weather and updates, call Concert Info Hotline at 212-875-5709, https://nyphil.org/

Picnicking in Central Park, a tradition before the start of the New York Philharmonic concert © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Shakespeare in the Park presents: Hamlet by The Public Theater, Delacorte Theater, Central Park, Manhattan, June 8–August 6, 2023 directed by Tony Award–winner Kenny Leon and featuring Tony Award–nominee Ato Blankson-Wood in the title role. Same-day tickets can be obtained by lining up (early) at The Delacorte or at a borough distribution site (2 tix pp), or by  an in-person lottery in the lobby of The Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street, or through a digital lottery via the TodayTix mobile app or website. A limited number of advance reservation tickets can be had by making a contribution in support of Free Shakespeare in the Park. Info at 212-967-7555 or visit publictheater.org.

More free Shakespeare! New York Classical theater company is performing Shakespeare’s Richard III, Tuesday through Sunday, 7-9 pm (Central Park West & 103 St., June 13-25); Brooklyn Commons (Myrtle Avenue & Bridge Streets, June 27-July 2) and Carl Schurz Park (East 87th St., July 4-9).  You can also watch the rehearsals taking place in Central Park, 10 am-3:30 pm Tuesdays through Sundays until June 9. (You can also watch the rehearsals taking place in Central Park, 10 am-3:30 pm Tuesdays through Sundays until June 9.) Make a FREE reservation and receive pre-show notice of weather cancellations at https://nyclassical.org/richardiii.

Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island, NYC with Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Jazz Age Lawn Party, now celebrating its 18th year, is one of the world’s most authentic Prohibition-era-inspired gathering, taking place this year June 10-11 and August 12-13, on Governor’s Island. Hosted by Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra, one of the world’s premier Jazz Age dance orchestras, specializing in the Hot Jazz of the 1920s. Featuring Dreamland Follies, a ten-lady Art Deco dance spectacle evoking the great Ziegfeld; Queen Esther; Peter Mintun; Gelber & Manning band; Roddy Caravella and The Canarsie Wobblers, with their scandalous Charleston numbers and rebellious and exuberant spirit of Roaring ‘20s youth. Plus dance lessons, bathing beauty contest. Purchase tickets in advance. Governor’s Island (a getaway destination in itself), reached by ferry from Lower Manhattan (Battery Maritime Building located at 10 South Street, adjacent to the Staten Island Ferry)and Brooklyn. (https://jazzagelawnparty.com/)

Free Summer Programming at Little Island, Chelsea, Manhattan, June 7–September 3: The award-winning public park on the Hudson River Greenway, hosts an array of free programming including performances from Tony-, Grammy-, and Emmy Award–winners and nominees; drag bingo; DJs; dance parties; Teen Night; Broadway performances.

Free concerts and programs are underway at Little Island, the award-winning oasis off the Hudson River Greenway © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn!, Brooklyn, June 7–August 24, celebrates its 45th anniversary, with a lineup of artists from around the world honoring the diversity of Brooklyn and the broader BRIC community. This year’s lineup includes Corinne Bailey Rae, Kelela, Liv.e, Robert Glasper, NxWorries (Anderson .Paak & Knxwledge).

Bargemusic free concerts, Saturdays, 4 pm through August, Music in Motion” Series — a one hour performance (no intermission), including a Q & A session with the musicians. Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 1; close to the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn (https://www.bargemusic.org/admission-free-concerts/).

Forest Hills Stadium’s 100th Anniversary Concert Lineup, Forest Hills, Queens, thru September 30: music and comedy performances from some of the biggest names in music and entertainment, including The Strokes, Fall Out Boy, Kevin Hart, Steve Lacy, LL Cool J’s Rock The Bells Festival, Duran Duran, Maggie Rogers, Toro y Moi, Weezer, Arctic Monkeys, LCD Soundsystem, Dave Matthews Band.

Carnegie Hall Citywide, Citywide, June 9–August 4: Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the beloved free concert series highlights renowned local artists from an array of musical genres. 

SummerStage 2023, Citywide, June 3–September 30: now in its 37th season, hosting free and benefit live performances in 13 parks across the five boroughs from a range of musical genres including salsa, jazz, country, opera, Afrobeats, hip hop. The annual concert series will also celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip-hop with concerts featuring artists from NYC.

Blockbuster Exhibitions

“Invisible Worlds” at the American Museum of Natural History’s new Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation puts you inside the body’s nerve system © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation at the American Museum of Natural History: The newly opened $465 million addition to the museum has been hailed internationally as a soaring architectural achievement, and houses world-class research facilities and scientific collections and innovative exhibitions. Admission by timed entry, reserved online. Open daily, 10 am–5:30 pm. American Museum of Natural History,200 Central Park West, 212-769-5606, amnh.org. (See: AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY’S NEW GILDER CENTER IS LIGHTYEARS FORWARD IN IMMERSING, ENGAGING UNDERSTANDING OF THE SECRETS OF LIFE )

The imaginative architecture of the new Gilder Center at the American Museum of Natural History sets the tone for the experience that awaits within © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Harry Potter: The Exhibition, Herald Square, Manhattan, opened May 2023 for a limited time: Fans can celebrate Harry Potter and the entire Wizarding World with the most comprehensive touring exhibit in world. Featuring favorite moments, props, costumes, characters, and locations, the exhibition delights visitors with powerful storytelling married with interactive technology to explore iconic film scenes, creatures and characters from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films as well as the Tony Award–winning Broadway production Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Harry Potter™: Tickets (for timed entry, but you can stay as long as you want) start at $29 for adults. 50 W. 34th Street (34th Street and Broadway). www.harrypotterexhibition.com. (See: IMMERSIVE WORLD OF HARRY POTTER EXHIBITION ENCHANTS NEW YORK BUT ONLY FOR LIMITED TIME)

Fans and superfans alike will be ecstatic to be immersed in the newly opened Harry Potter: The Exhibition, the most comprehensive touring exhibition ever presented on Harry Potter and the entire Wizarding World, is on view in Herald Square in midtown Manhattan but only for a limited time © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Africa Fashion at Brooklyn Museum, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, June 23–October 22 180 works celebrating the global impact of African fashions from the 1950s to present day; 180 works are presented. 

Gardens & Works by Ebony G. Patterson at New York Botanical Garden, The Bronx, thru September 17: known for her lavishly detailed mixed media installations, this major site-specific exhibition showcases her breathtaking and provocative displays of art and nature. 

Shelley Niro: 500 Year Itch at National Museum of the American Indian, Lower Manhattan, through January 1, 2024, examines and celebrate more than 50 years of Shelley Niro’s paintings, photographs, films and more. Filled with humor and references to pop culture, the exhibition offers a glimpse into the artist’s timeless cultural knowledge and generational history of her Six Nations Kanyen’kehá:ka (Mohawk) community. 

New Photography 2023: Kelani Abass, Akinbode Akinbiyi, Yagazie Emezi, Amanda Iheme, Abraham Oghobase, Karl Ohiri, Logo Oluwamuyiw at Museum of Modern Art, Midtown Manhattan, through September 16. The return of its beloved series, New Photography for the first time since 2018, the new exhibition will explore the photographic work of seven artists united by their critical use of photography and their ties to the artistic scene in Lagos, Nigeria. This is also the museum’s first group exhibition in its history engaging in the work of living West African photographers. 

Hispanic Society of America,Washington Heights, Manhattan, reopens its Main Building June 2023 after six years of renovations and improvements. Since 1904, the museum has been the home to over 750,000 objects including rare books and masterpieces from Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries. 

Armstrong Corona Campus (formerly the Louis Armstrong House),Corona, Queens, Summer 2023, after undergoing a physical and programmatic expansion debuts a new cultural center with an interactive exhibit, archival collections, a 75-seat performance venue and store, all dedicated to celebrating and preserving the life and legacy of the legendary jazz musician Louis Armstrong.

Ukrainian Institute of America, Upper East Side, Manhattan, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the art, music and literature of Ukraine and the Ukrainian diaspora, celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2023.

Malibu Barbie Café New York, The Seaport, Manhattan, thru September 15: Barbie fans will be transported to a 1970s Malibu California café filled with the beloved doll’s signature colors and casual, family-friendly fare including Pacific Paradise Pancakes, West Coast Wedge Salad and a California Dreamin’ Club Sandwich, all made by Master Chef finalist Chef Becky Brown. The pop-up will also be complete with photo ops inspired by Malibu Barbie including a life-size doll box, exclusive merchandise and more.

New York City is the epicenter of the art world and not just the famous, prominent, important museums but a plethora of galleries tucked into neighborhoods like The Lower East Side (who would have expected such magnificent art around the corner from the Bowery Mission, where you will also find the New Museum of Contemporary Art), Tribeca, Chelsea and the Meat Packing district under the High Line, and East and West Village. You get to experience the works of artists who should be displayed in the major museums, and perhaps will be. David Barnett’s “Collectomania” is on view at Ivy Brown Gallery through June 6 (artist talk on June 6, 6-8 pm) © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Under Cover: J.C. Leyendecker and American Masculinity at New-York Historical Society Museum & Library, Upper West Side, Manhattan, thru August 13 explores the work of J.C. Leyendecker, a prominent American illustrator, and his influence on shaping ideals of masculinity in the early 20th century. Through a collection of his iconic magazine covers, the exhibit examines Leyendecker’s depictions of stylish, confident and athletic men, highlighting their impact on shaping cultural perceptions of masculinity during that time. 

Craft Front & Center: Exploring the Permanent Collection at Museum of Arts and Design, Columbus Circle, Manhattan, thru January 14, 2024, featuring a collection of over 3,500 objects, as well as a fresh installation of more than 60 historic works and new acquisitions dating from the golden age of the American Craft movement to the present day. 

Yayoi Kusama: I Spend Each Day Embracing Flowers at David Zwirner Gallery, Chelsea, Manhattan, thru July 21: In one of her largest gallery exhibitions to date, celebrated contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama features new paintings, sculptures, flowers, and an Infinity Mirrored Room. 

Collections of Culture: 50 Years of Hip Hop Inside Libraries, Museums and Archives at Queens Public Library, Flushing, Queens, thru August 21, a celebration hosting an array of in-person and lived-streamed programs.

Oceanic, Portal at Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, Soho, Manhattan, thru August 13, through various mediums and perspectives, the exhibit invites viewers to contemplate the fluidity, liberation and transformative power represented by the vastness of the ocean and its connection to LGBTQ+ identities. 

Vulnerable Landscapes at Staten Island Museum, Randall Manor, Staten Island, thru December 30, highlights the Staten Island shorelines at the forefront of climate change in NYC, examining the past while navigating the route forward. 

Darrel Ellis: Regeneration at The Bronx Museum of the Arts, South Bronx, thru September 10, the first comprehensive, scholarly survey of pioneering artist Darrel Ellis, the exhibition highlights Ellis’s body of work that combines painting, printmaking, photography and drawing before his untimely passing in 1992, co-organized by The Baltimore Museum of Art, 

Uniquely NYC Tours

Brooklyn Chocolate Tour – A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours, Brooklyn: Enjoy chocolates from some of the finest traditional and artisanal chocolates out of Brooklyn on this recently resumed tour. Guests can learn more about the history of chocolate and watch demonstrations as they explore many of the borough’s most beloved chocolate shops, including the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, The Chocolate Room, Raaka Chocolate and Li-Lac Chocolates. 

Sustainable Harlem – Like a Local Tours, Harlem, Manhattan: support hyper-local and community-based organizations in the historic neighborhood of Harlem with this socially impactful tour. Guests will learn about many of the sustainable movements within Harlem and the people behind them such as the New York Fair Trade Coalition at the Sustainable Fashion Community Center, Simone from Green and Blue Eco Care and more. 

Culinary Tour in Washington Heights – MAD Tours & Events, Washington Heights, Manhattan: Explore this culturally rich neighborhood (featured in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights”) on a special food tour. Known as one of Manhattan’s Latino hubs, Washington Heights is home to some of the City’s best Dominican, Mexican, and Cuban food. 

Food Cart Tour: Jackson Heights – Turnstile Tours, Jackson Heights, Queens: Explore many of the local flavors in one of the City’s most diverse neighborhoods right in the heart of Queens on a two-hour walking and tasting tour. Sample delicious favorites from around the world while learning more about the people and organizations helping the City’s street vendors continue to thrive. 

Retail Store Tours, Brooklyn & Manhattan: Explore the driving forces changing the retail landscape and the best of retail innovation in this two-hour tour led by industry professionals.  

The Alice Austen House,Staten Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York City Borough Pass, Citywide: a new sightseeing pass designed to showcase the beauty of the neighborhoods and cultures across all five boroughs. The pass features a diverse roster of popular attractions, museums, performing arts venues, including the Alice Austen House Museum, MoMA PS1, New York Botanical Garden, Van Cortlandt House Museum, Staten Island Children’s Museum.

The Go City Pass for New York City offers 100 different options in all five boroughs. For example, the two-day all inclusive pass, giving access to as much as you want/can do from among 105 attractions is $134 – regardless of how much the actual attractions charge (GoCity.com, 800 887 9103).


During US Open Fan Week, which takes lace the week before the US Open Tennis starts, you get to watch the qualifiers, as well as a front-row seat to watch tennis stars, like Nadel, working out  © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The grand finale to New York’s summer sensations: US Open Tennis Championships, Corona, Queens, August 28–September 10: It begins with US Open Fan Week, August 23-28, when the grounds are open to the public with free admission, so you can watch the (thrilling) US Open Qualifying Tournament, watch open practices of the tennis stars, and additional scheduled exhibitions. This year, there is the first ever US Open Food Event Thursday August 25, 2022, 7pm-9pm; special appearances by athletes like former Top 5 ATP Player James Blake, and entertainment. (https://www.usopen.org/

For more New York City visitor information, visit https://www.nycgo.com/

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© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/KarenBRubin

Immersive World of Harry Potter Exhibition Enchants New York But Only for Limited Time

Fans and superfans alike will be ecstatic to be immersed in the newly opened Harry Potter: The Exhibition, the most comprehensive touring exhibition ever presented on Harry Potter and the entire Wizarding World, is on view in Herald Square in midtown Manhattan but only for a limited time © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Fans and superfans alike will be ecstatic to be immersed in the newly opened Harry Potter: The Exhibition, the most comprehensive touring exhibition ever presented on Harry Potter and the entire Wizarding World, is on view in Herald Square in midtown Manhattan but only for a limited time.

To call it an “exhibition” is an understatement. On every level – from the actual costumes, wands, props (the Sorting Hat! The Sword of Gryffindor! The Elder Wand! The Resurrection Stone!) from all the Harry Potter plus Fantastic Beasts™ movies and Broadway’s Tony-award winning Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – to the opportunity to compete for points for your House by casting a spell, preparing a potion, trying your hand at Quidditch, summoning your Patronus– you feel you are part of this magical world. The experience is completely personalized, individualized for you as you take this journey through magnificently crafted, magical environments with the aid of remarkable design and technology. It is truly immersive, truly interactive, truly experiential, truly enchanting.

Our visit starts with choosing a Hogwarts House (a photo is snapped of you in the sorting hat), a wand, a Patronus, all encoded in an RFID wristband that you use to log in at various stations to capture interactions and deliver an absolutely personalized experience, designed to not merely put you in the story, but put you into the films’ creation.

We are ushered into the From Page to Screen Gallery where a first edition of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is ensconced in a Gringotts-inspired vault. We are surrounded by inspirational video and literary quotes and enthusiastic guides introduce us “first years” to the exhibition – we feel the same sense of wonder and being new to Hogwarts as Harry, Ron and Hermione would have felt as first years. 

Find out how the paintings that line the walls of the Great Hall Gallery were created © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We next move into the Hogwarts Castle Gallery featuring an immersive multimedia experience with the castle as a backdrop for iconic elements like the Whomping Willow and Dementors and see ourselves on the Marauder’s Map. 

Walking through the Great Hall Gallery we get to see the same paintings as the students would see going into their House, and learn that filmmakers lined the walls with more than 200 paintings, some based on real art and some on subjects that included members of the film crew and their families. Production designer Stuart Craig, producer David Heyman, and property master Barry Wilkinson all are represented on the wall. Original pieces by studio artists often painted “in the style” of famous artists, representing the history of painting from Egypt to the Renaissance to the 20th century.

Walking through the Great Hall Gallery we get to see the same paintings as the students would see going into their House, © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Hogwarts Houses gallery allows us personalized moments with the Hogwarts house we selected during our registration (I selected Gryffindor) but we still get to experience noteworthy tidbits about all the Hogwarts houses and their important characters. The celebratory hall feature an iconic Sorting Hat (perfect for photo ops) and Sword of Gryffindor, and house crests on meticulously created stained glass windows. The notes give the history of the houses and important biographical notes, and we get to see costumes and artifacts from each of the houses, with backstory about the particular film or scene they appeared. I love learning about the costume designer’s thinking, the choices that were made, and how the actors reacted to their costume.

Hogwarts’ Sorting Hat is on view in Harry Potter™: The Exhibition  © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In a room devoted to the wands (Harry’s!), we learn that in the first film, they were very basic in construction but by the third film, the art designers personalized each one to the character, choosing special woods and carvings, but then the versions used for filming were made of resin for everyday and rubber for stunts (because they would break; Harry broke 50 of his wands). About the Elder Wand, the designers had no idea how important it would be when they fashioned it, so were grateful they had designed it with a distinctive appearance.

Sit at a table in The Great Hall © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Great Hall has some tables where we can sit, with the backdrop from the movie, and learn that the set designer made the floor of York stones that lasted through 10 years of onscreen Hogwarts students walking, running, dancing; there were four 100 ft custom-made tables that were distressed to suggest their longevity and the actors were encouraged to write and draw on the tables. In the first film, real candles were suspended from the ceiling but there were safety concerns, so they switched to digital and had five sizes of CGI candles coded for six varied flames so no two were the same.

Mix your own potion in the Potions Classroom© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Hogwarts Classrooms are filled with iconic props, creatures, and costumes. We get to interact with magical lessons and games through digital touchscreens to reveal behind-the-scenes secrets about iconic classroom moments. We even get to brew potions in the Potions Classroom (there’s a recipe book), predict the future in Divination, pot a mandrake in the Herbology Greenhouse, and use their digital wand to defeat a boggart in Defense Against the Dark Arts – all earning points for our House.

Mix your own potion in the Potions Classroom© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Hagrid’s Hut and The Forbidden Forest offer an interactive Patronus charm experience (I get to conjure up mine, a terrier). We then uncover iconic creatures, such as centaurs and Acromantula, hidden in the forest. Exploring inside a re-creation of Hagrid’s Hut, I find it interesting that to film Hagrid’s Hut scenes, they made two sets – one with furniture and all the furnishings to be in scale with half the Giant’s size, but everything oversized when seeing Harry, Ron and Hermione in the shot – and filmed each scene twice.

In the Tri Wizard tournament section, we learn that 35 costumes were created just for Harry (these included the before and after and costumes for doubles and stunt doubles) – we see the costume that was distressed to look like Harry had already fought the dragon and then get to see the enormous dragon (selfie! – in fact, so many Instagrammable scenes throughout).

Try your hand at Quidditch and see Harry Potter’s uniform © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In the Quidditch section (there’s an actual Golden Snitch!), we get to throw a Quaffle through a hoop to rack up points. We learn that filming was a grueling experience for the actors who had to straddle the brooms while suspended in air. But in the “Azkaban” film, they finally put foot pedals and bicycle seats on the broom and gave the actors extra padding for their behinds that would be concealed under their uniforms. The cinematographer made an effort to film as a live sport, with multiple moving camera angles and flying camera operator. (Chris Columbus wanted Quidditch to have the same flair and excitement of Muggle sports but needed a crash course in the rules from author J.K. Rowling before filming. Screenwriter Steve Kloves also consulted her and learned Quidditch had been partially inspired by her enjoyment of American basketball. Costume designer Judianna Makovsky wanted to give the Quidditch player uniforms both familiarity and timelessness – she was inspired by 19th century sports and combined fencing, cricket and polo wear.

The Golden Snitch! © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I love learning about how the costumes, wands and such changed over the course of the different films, as the characters grew and matured, as mores changed, how the designers literally weave the character into the costume with subtle touches, textures, lines, and learning the actors’ reactions as well as their input – how Hermione loved to finally be wearing regular clothes and not only school robes by the later films, how Newt Scamander’s coat was inspired by the design for a Muggle coat but with the secret pockets common to magician’s coats, with a color palette of deep peacock, having the vibe of his creatures, in contrast to the brown and gray of the1920s outfits; 12 copies of his coat were created from material that designer Colleen Atwood had  in storage for years.

As a superfan, I am particularly enthralled by the notes that accompany each of the rooms – like chapters in the book or scenes in the movie  – that begin with putting you back into the story, but then adding on the fascinating creative backstory.

Asked by graphic designers to create Sirius Black’s family tree, JK Rowling almost immediately sent five generations of names indicating births, marriages and deaths, plus the family crest and motto for the the Noble 7 Most Ancient House of Black.© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

So we learn that when graphic designers Miraphorn Mina and Eduardo lima were tasked with creating four-walls-worth of a tapestry portraying Sirius Black’s family tree in number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, they knew the names of some of his relatives from the books, but needed many more to fill an entire room. So producer David Heyman called JK Rowling and asked if she could provide further information on the Noble 7 Most Ancient House of Black. Almost immediately, she sent back several pages with five generations of names indicating births, marriages and deaths, plus the family crest and motto.

Importantly, learning the backstory of how the effect was created doesn’t burst the bubble or the delight in the illusion that is film.

Tom Zaller, the CEO of Imagine Exhibitions that created the Harry Potter exhibition in partnership with Warner Bros. Discovery Global Themed Entertainment and EMC Presents, knows the importance of preserving the magic – his backstory includes a longtime association with the magician David Copperfield. His company, renowned for creating blockbuster exhibitions (Titanic, Jurassic World, Downtown Abbey, DaVinci), was approached by Warner Bros. to create this exhibition. (Imagine currently has 45 different exhibitions on view around the world, including a second World of Harry Potter Exhibition in Paris with different original elements, for example instead of Professor McGonagall’s robes in the Great Room, Paris has Dumbledore’s). All the original costumes, artifacts and props belong to Warner Bros. – Imagine created the sets, the immersive experiences, and the illuminating notes that explain the exhibits.

The Harry Potter:The Exhibition premiered in Philadelphia a year ago, then went to Atlanta, and has already drawn one million visitors in the two venues, and will continue to tour after leaving New York City.

Tom Zaller, Imagine Exhibitions’ CEO, sits behind Dolores Umbridge’s desk © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

After using the portkey to travel to the Ministry of Magic, I find Zaller sitting behind Dolores Umbridge’s desk. I ask how the notes were made – they have so much information yet are so concise; they put you into the story, but then give you the creative backstory. He tells me they worked closely with Warner Bros. and the people who worked on the film, the play and the themepark. “We went behind the scenes to learn why choices were made.”

Zaller, who has been producing block buster exhibitions for decades, says, “This is the biggest, baddest, most wonderful… We try to satisfy the fan and the super fan.”

The sword of Gryffindor© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I confess my thrill at seeing the actual Sorting Hat, the actual sword of Gryffindor, the actual Golden Snitch, the actual Elder Wand, the actual Resurrection Stone, mixing a potion, throwing a Quaffle, conjuring up my Patronus (10 points for Gryffindor!), and being in the places in three-dimension, that you either imagine in your mind from the books, or see on film.

The exhibit is well set up for the numbers of people who will be coming through – many stations for photos, wands, spells, divination, potions, repotting the howling mandrakes (which turns out to have been a real thing that jk Rowling incorporated, among the other real spells and magic traditions, like the Sorcerer’s stone).

Clever use of video (film), sound effects, even smells, and thank goodness the musical score of the films is so marvelous, because musical segments provide the soundtrack in each of the areas (and smartly the sound tracks do not overreach)

Tom Riddle’s diary and the Basilisk fang used to destroy it in “Chamber of Secrets” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We get to see the Voldemort’s horcruxes – Tom Riddle’s diary and the Basilisk fang used to destroy the diary in “Chamber of Secrets”, Hufflepuff’s Cup, Ravenclaw’s diadem, , the iconic Resurrection stone, …., Deatheater’s cloak, even the invisibility cloak (spoiler alert: it’s invisible), Dumbledore’s Elder Wand,

You even get to fight the final battle of Hogwarts, activating the wands held by Harry and Voldemort (choose who you want to be).

Here’s a challenge: think of something you would most like to see and see if it isn’t in the exhibit.

It is so much fun – during our press preview visit, superfans went through with their Hogwarts robes, really getting into the spirit. And so many selfie and Instagram opportunities!

At the end, you can purchase print and digital photos of your experience and visit the gift shop where you can find an exclusive collection of Harry Potter: The Exhibition merchandise – apparel, jewelry, and edible treats, including fan-favorite Chocolate Frogs and bottled Butterbeer, as well as merchandise not available at any other Wizarding World experience. 

It’s supposed to take 60 to 90 minutes to go through, but I love reading the notes and studying the objects so much, I spend over two hours.

See it here in New York, then go see it in Paris.

Harry Potter™: The Exhibition has transformed its space at 50 W. 34th Street (34th Street and Broadway), easily accessible from Penn Station, Port Authority and many subway stations. Tickets (for timed entry, but you can stay as long as you want) start at $29 for adults. The exhibition also offers a VIP ticket experiences with a flex schedule, commemorative lanyard, free access to the Harry Potter: The Exhibition Audio Guide and a $10 credit to spend in the retail store. A full schedule of dates and times to visit Harry Potter™: The Exhibition can be found at www.harrypotterexhibition.com.  Fans are encouraged to follow Harry Potter: The Exhibition on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter. #HarryPotterExhibition

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© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/KarenBRubin 

Newly Opened Museum of Broadway Celebrates Artistry, Legacy of Theater

A ticket for admission to one of George M. Cohan’s shows © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are actual top hat and dance shoes from A Chorus Line. You step into Doc’s drugstore from West Side Story. See costumes from Phantom of the Opera. There are scores of artifacts, music sheets, props, director notes, rehearsal photos. You see the original Playbills of iconic shows and theater posters going back to the very beginning of American (that is New York and ultimately Broadway) theater. And then you go “backstage” to see how all the creative and technical processes all come together, that speaks to you not so much as star-struck audience member but as a person yearning to be in theater. “Hey gang, let’s put on a show!”

This is the Museum of Broadway, newly opened in November, 2022.

Top hat and dance shoes from A Chorus Line, on display at the Museum of Broadway © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Rather than burst any star-studied illusions or theater magic, this opportunity to go behind the curtain is tremendously exciting – you get to see (and appreciate) what goes into such show-stoppers, cultural icons as Show Boat, Oklahoma, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Company, Rent, A Chorus Line, Lion King, The Wiz, Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Hamilton, several offering immersive experiences.

In all (believe it or not), the Museum limelights more than 500 individual productions from the 1700s to what is on stage now.

And you get insights into such theater luminaries as Ziegfeld, Sondheim, Webber, Fosse. You come away even more awestruck and under theater’s spell than when you entered.

The Museum features work from Emmy Award winning illustrator I. Javier Ameijeiras (Rent Live!), neon artist Dani B, Tony Award nominated dancer Robert Fairchild (An American in Paris, former NYCB principal), Drama Desk Award winning scenic designer David Korins (Hamilton, Beetlejuice), choreographer Julio Monge (West Side Story), and dancer Tanairi Vazquez (West Side Story, Hamilton). (Find a full list of the artists featured in the Museum at https://www.themuseumofbroadway.com/artists)

A Museum of Broadway homage to “Cats,” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s landmark musical based on the 1939 poetry collection Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Museum of Broadway is an immersive and interactive theatrical experience devoted to musicals, plays, and the people who make them. Featuring the work of dozens of designers, artists, and theatre historians, you are taken on a journey along the timeline of Broadway, from its birth to present day.

You travel through a visual history of Broadway, highlighting groundbreaking moments in a series of exhibits that showcase – and show off – dazzling costumes, props, renderings, rare photos, videos, artifacts, awards. Stops along the way highlight the pivotal shows or “game changers” that transformed the landscape of Broadway – the moments that pushed creative boundaries, challenged social norms, and paved the way for those who would follow.

Your visit to the Museum of Broadway starts back stage with sound effects, photos, that show how typical it would be for the Broadway performers to use the back stairs for warm ups © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

Your visit to the Museum of Broadway starts back stage (actually on the back stairs of the building, next door to historic Lyceum theater),  with sound effects, photos, that show how typical it would be for the Broadway performers to use the back stairs for warm ups.

Walk up three flights, where you hear “warm-ups” as you climb the stairs and go past rooms to show where hair, make-up would have been (performers are taught how to apply their own); the dressing rooms (one labeled “dressing room” is actually the bathroom) and get introduced to the traditions (even superstitions) of Broadway performers. (There is an elevator for those who cannot climb the stairs.)

You are brought into a waiting room before the introductory video – showcasing the Playbills and synopsis of shows currently on Broadway (can point to a QR code and purchase tickets right there), as the music for “Company” plays.

Then you are taken into a small screening room to see a video packing 250 years of history of New York theater into just four minutes. (It is surprising to learn the first actual public performance was in 1732 at the Playhouse, way downtown.)

The history of Broadway theater, told in a four-minute video at the Museum of Broadway dates back to 1732 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York Theater at first was centered in lower Manhattan – where Financial District and Chinatown are today, then, as rents moved up, theaters moved uptown along Broadway to Union Square, Herald Square and finally to Times Square (renamed for the New York Times newspaper, which took up residence in 1904).

Oscar Hammerstein I (grandfather of lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II) was instrumental in opening a number of theater houses, beginning 1895 with the Olympia; the Schubert Brothers (Sam, Lee and JJ) soon followed, becoming a major powerhouse among theater owners.

Times Square became known as the Great White Way because of the lamps and electric white lights on marquees.

The Great Depression hit the theater industry hard – many theaters were converted to other purposes. But the end of World War II led to a Golden Age of Broadway, and Jujamcyn and Nederlander emerged as theater behemoths. Then, with the decline of New York City in the 1960s – crime, deteriorating condition – theaters were empty.

The city was desperate to revitalize the Times Square area and allowed the Marriott Marquis to build its new hotel (with a theater inside) to spur a renaissance. But that resulted in the destruction of five Broadway theaters – the so-called “Great Theater Massacre” of 1982. The outcry led to a new landmark preservation law to protect Broadway theaters.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s record-breaking, longest-running “Phantom of the Opera,” has been seen by more than 19 million people over 35 years on Broadway. It is due to close in 2023 to make room for Webber’s new musical, “Bad Cinderella” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The revitalization really was spurred in the mid-1990s, when Disney signed a 99-year lease for the New Amsterdam Theater on 42nd Street and the city cleaned up Times Square. Broadway was back and “family friendly”, to the point there was a waiting list for incoming shows.

Then COVID hit in March 2020, shutting down the theaters -“the heartbeat of the city” – for 18 months, the longest period in theater history. Since Broadway is one of the top reasons visitors come to the city, and one of its top revenue-makers as well as employers, shutting down theater took its toll on the city’s finances.

After the video (I sit through it twice), you are brought into a sequence of rooms in a Timeline, showcasing the people and key productions – plays and musicals – that shaped the past, present and point to the future of Broadway theater.

Timeline panels at the Museum of Broadway showcase the people and key productions – plays and musicals – that shaped the past, present and point to the future of Broadway theater, going back to the earliest days with historic posters and photos © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The first panels are really interesting, featuring posters of plays starring Edwin and John Wilkes Booth, and (ironically) a production of “An American Cousin,” starring Laura Keene at the New American Theater in March 3, 1859 – the play Abraham Lincoln was watching at Ford Theater in Washington DC when John Wilkes Booth assassinated him. There is also, an interesting discussion of censorship – when Olga Nethersole, who played Sapho, was arrested for corrupting public morals (indecency). The scandal, first unleashed by the producer to generate audience interest and then played up by newspapers to sell papers (Yellow Journalism), backfired on the show, which though actually quite tame, was censored, but Nethersole was ultimately acquitted.

The panels also highlight the contribution and breakthroughs of Black Americans in American theater and breakthroughs by women. But it is odd that the contribution by Jewish creators is hardly a footnote, while incorporating photos and hard-to-read photo captions of the Marx Brothers, Irving Berlin, showcasing Showboat without mentioning Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern, and Porgy and Bess without bothering to mention the Gershwins who wrote them.  

The influence of Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, George and Ira Gershwin, Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Kurt Weill, Sheldon Harnick, Jerry Bock, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz, Jule Styne is undeniable throughout the museum because of the productions that are highlighted, but unremarked. The only mention of Yiddish Theater comes in a tiny reference in a panel for a 1990 show, “Those Were the Days”) (For this part of history, see “Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy” from Great Performances on pbs.org (https://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/broadway-musicals-a-jewish-legacy-about-the-film/1476/)

There is a showcase of Ziegfeld Follies, as if you are in the (very pink and feathery) dressing room, with stunning costumes. There’s a photo but much information about Fanny Brice and a photo of Irving Berlin at the piano, but the notes emphasize how Ziegfeld reacted “when a few Follies cast members complained about sharing the stage with Black comedian Bert Williams, Ziegfeld’s reply was ‘The stage door is that way. I can do this show without any of you, but I cannot do it without Bert.’ And that was that.”

There is a whole set up for Showboat and how the musical changed the course of theater, redirecting the emphasis from the heavy operettas and the superficial music comedies which had dominated Broadway, providing complex, realistic characters, and integrating music and plot (but only passing mention of lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II and composer Jerome Kern who wrote the breakthrough musical based on Edna Ferber’s 1926 novel).

Hammerstein lambasted racial prejudice again in South Pacific:

 You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear/You’ve got to be taught from year to year/It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear/You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid/Of people whose eyes are oddly made/And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade/You’ve got to be carefully taught.

Show Boat, with music by Jerome Kern and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II based on Edna Ferber’s best-selling 1926 novel, changed the course of musical theater, redirecting the emphasis from the heavy operettas and the superficial music comedies which had dominated Broadway, providing complex, realistic characters, and integrating music and plot © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It isn’t until the 1990s panel that there is any mention of Yiddish Theater – arguably the progenitor if not the incubator of Broadway theater – when we learn that “Those Were the Days” in 1990 brought “the Shteltl” and “The Music Hall” to Broadway in an intimate two-part review performed in both English and Yiddish. “The show evokes a period,” director Eleanor Reissa explained. “Created by Zalmen Mlotek and Moishe Rosenfeld, the musical honored the legacy of a vibrant and influential Yiddish stage that flourished on New York’s Lower East Side in the late 1800s and early 1900s. One of the district’s most formidable figures was Boris Thomashefsky, who opened a Yiddish theater on Broadway in 1923.”

A room is devoted to the coveted Tony Awards and its namesake, Antoinette Perry, an actress, director, producer, and the dynamic wartime leader of the American Theatre Wing who had recently passed away when The Tony Awards made their official debut at a dinner in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria hotel on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1947.

You walk through rooms devoted to Oklahoma and a set for Doc’s drugstore in the homage to “West Side Story” (there’s a Jets jacket on display as well). A small room crams together Fiddler on the Roof, Hello Dolly, Neil Simon’s comedies before getting to the rock musicals – Jesus Christ Superstar – that led a new era on the Broadway stage.

Walk through the West Side Story set for Doc’s drugstore © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Thankfully, a major exhibit is devoted to Sondheim and you walk through what appears to be the set for Company.

The Wiz, we learn, got bad reviews, but the audience gave it a standing ovation and four curtain calls (the musical used a new marketing strategy of television commercials) – and you ease down yellow stairs.

A Chorus Line – one of the longest-running shows and the first to use computerized light board – features original costumes, marvelous 8×10 photos of the cast, plus I loved seeing original creative notes.

Notes for the opening song for A Chorus Line © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Notes for “Handful of Keys” from A Chorus Line © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

(There is so much information crammed into a small space and the captions and notes are so small and hard to read (bring glasses), but you are encouraged to download an app where you can listen or read the notes.)

Honoring Broadway’s longest-running musical, “Phantom of the Opera”: a chandelier made of 13,917 glass beads – for the number of Broadway performances – and if you look at it to an angle, the Phantom’s mask emerges © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Then you come to Phantom of the Opera – with some sensational costumes (from 1986) and artifacts from the show. Phantom is now the longest-running production in Broadway history (it was scheduled to close in 2023, when a new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, “Bad Cinderella” is due to open). Among Phantom’s plaudits: it is the largest generator of money and jobs in Broadway history and has been seen by 19.5 million people over 35 years. There is an amazing chandelier made of 13,917 glass beads – for the number of Broadway performances – and if you look at it to an angle, the Phantom’s mask emerges.

Along the way, staff people offer their own anecdotes or point you to artifacts or parts of the exhibit you might not have seen. And there are various interactive and videos, as Broadway tunes play in each exhibit.

The innovative costume/props for The Lion King on display at the Museum of Broadway © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The setting for “Rent” was designed for the museum by the original set designer. I love seeing some of the innovative props/costumes that turn human actors into animals for Lion King. You walk through the “office” for Producers” (a Tony is in the bookcase), costumes from Hamilton, and there is a whole line of costumes representing the shows currently playing.

Costumes from “Hamilton” on display at the Museum of Broadway © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

Then you go down the stairs to the first floor where you are really treated to the back-stage, “let’s put on a show” tutorial.

This part of the Museum celebrates the behind-the-scenes of this dazzling American art form with a special exhibit, “The Making of a Broadway Show,” justifiably honoring the entirety of the community of brilliantly talented professionals – both onstage and off – who bring Broadway plays and musicals to life every night.

This section features multiple videos of directors of lighting, sound, music, as well as costumers and set designers discussing their craft. (Here, they should have given way more space and separated the sections of the exhibit better because the videos and sound overlap – even three and four at once – and the room is dark.)

Hey gang! Let’s put on a show: An entire floor Museum of Broadway is devoted to how a theater production comes together. Computerized lighting board © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

But if you put in some effort – and time – you are treated to absolutely fascinating information about producing, designing the music, the lights, the sound, costumes (and tricks of “distressing” costumes), direction, choreography. This whole section – most of an entire floor – is a goldmine for anyone who harbors any interest in pursuing a career in theater production. There are even time sheets for what a costumer’s day is like, and a timeline from conception to opening night of a production.

Techniques of a costumer at the Museum of Broadway © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Want to be a costume designer? Check out what a day looks like at the Museum of Broadway © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the end, I follow an arrow and found myself in a fantastic exhibit of Al Hirschfeld – the extraordinary cartoonist/caricaturist who was synonymous with every Broadway opening. We see many of his illustrations – from newspapers, posters, the originals, and I love the display of his sketchbooks that give a glimpse into his creative process – and learn about the origin of his iconic “Nina” embedded into his illustration (that became an obsession, much like Wordle is today, for New York Times readers). There is even a photo of him with his daughter, Nina, and a caricature of Nina, herself.

The origin of the famous Nina’s in Al Hirschfeld’s caricatures that so defined Broadway productions © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Museum of Broadway is founded by entrepreneur and two-time Tony Award-winning producer Julie Boardman and founder of the award-winning experiential agency, Rubik Marketing,Diane Nicoletti. Elie Landauis the general manager.

The team of expert curators for The Museum of Broadway is headed by Ben West (Resident Historian and Curator, Timeline & Special Exhibits) and includes Jennifer Ashley Tepper (Curator, Historical Buildings), John Kenrick (Curator, Game Changer History), Faye Armon-Troncoso (Set Decorator & Props Supervisor, Making of a Broadway Show), Lisa Zinni (Costume & Props Curator) and Michael McDonald (Historical Assets Manager).

The Museum of Broadway is founded in collaboration with Playbill, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, The Billy Rose Theatre Division at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, The Al Hirschfeld Foundation, Goodspeed Musicals, Creative Goods, and Concord Theatricals.

There is so much to delight anyone who enjoys, appreciates theater – you don’t have to be an avid theatergoer or aficionado or maven.

The artifacts, costumes, inside (backstage) info, and insights throughout the Museum of Broadway are fabulous. You need at least two to three hours to go through. And bring reading eyeglasses or magnifying glass to read the tiny captions and notes. Open 7 days a week, 10 am – 10 pm.

Indeed, the Museum of Broadway seems to be very much a hit – the museum had a steady stream of visitors.

The Museum of Broadway, 145 West 45th Street, New York, NY 10036, 212-239-6200 or 800-447-7400, www.themuseumofbroadway.com, follow @museumofbroadway on social channels.

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© 2022 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Top Things to Do to Celebrate the Holidays in New York City

Rockefeller Center, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Santa has arrived on his sleigh to close out the 96th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  The tree is alight at Rockefeller Center. Saks has its sound-and-light show and decorated windows. Macy’s and Bergdorf Goodman have their windows decorated. People flock into St. Patrick’s Cathedral, stop to hear a choral concert at St. Thomas. Cartier and Tiffany’s come gift wrapped. Fifth Avenue is decked out for the holiday. It’s Christmas time in the city. Here are some of the best ways to enjoy the city:

Macy’s windows theme for Holidays 2022: Give Love © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

As one of the most iconic holiday destinations in the world, New York City once again hosts a potpourri of festive experiences, attractions and events across dining, shopping, culture and entertainment throughout the five boros.

Macy’s windows theme for Holidays 2022: Give Love © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s windows theme for Holidays 2022: Give Love © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Over the past few years, Bryant Park has emerged as the quintessential holiday destination in New York City – crammed with the most picturesque holiday market (actually marvelous items) in the city, a skating rink (free skating; skate rentals available) below a Christmas tree, an enchanting carousel, lovely eateries and snack places. It is the synthesis of the holiday.

Holidays in New York City: Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Here are more highlights of Holidays in the City:

HOLIDAY PERFORMANCES

A New York City holiday staple: Radio City Rockettes performing Christmas Spectacular Wooden Soldiers © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • DREAM BIG: Big Apple Circus Returns to Lincoln Center for 45th Anniversary, through Jan. 1. For eight weeks, Big Top at Lincoln Center will be home to astonishing wonders and daring acrobatics, setting imaginations soaring to the most astounding, awe-inspiring heights.
  • Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes, Nov. 18–Jan. 2 has dazzled audiences of all ages for nearly a century with incredible costumes, festive songs, synchronized high kicks, new acts and several shows daily.
  • A Christmas Carola one-man show on Broadway, Nov. 21–Jan. 1. In this astonishing Broadway adaptation, Tony Award–winning actor Jefferson Mays tackles more than 50 roles in this season’s limited run of A Christmas Carol at the Nederlander Theatre. The beloved Dickens story featuring notable characters—Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and the four ghosts—is making its return for the first time since 2019 and will enchant theatergoers with its redemptive story.
  • George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker Presented by New York City Ballet, Nov. 25–Dec. 31 at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center returns for its annual performance featuring exquisite costumes, magnificent sets and Tchaikovsky’s iconic score that transports audiences to a land of twirling snowflakes, leaping candy canes, waltzing flowers and more. On November 27, TDF Autism Friendly Performances will present the first-ever Autism-Friendly Performance of New York City Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker.
  • Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at New York City Center, Nov. 30–Dec. 24, returns to New York City Center for a season that has become a joyous winter tradition. Led by Artistic Director Robert Battle, Ailey’s extraordinary dancers will move audiences with world and company premieres by Kyle Abraham, Jamar Roberts, Paul Taylor, and Twyla Tharp. In addition to repertory favorites, founder Alvin Ailey’s choreography is spotlighted with a new production of Survivors and the staging of over a half dozen classic works, including the must-see American masterpiece Revelations.
  • The Magic Flute Holiday Presentation at The Met Opera, Dec. 16–Jan. 6. The Met Opera’s abridged, English-language version of Mozart’s magical fairy tale is a classic holiday treat for audiences of all ages, bringing the charming story and enchanting music to life. This year’s series features Maestro Duncan Ward, making his company debut conducting Julie Taymor’s irresistible production.

CULTURAL EVENTS

Fifth Avenue, decked out for the holidays © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: St. Patrick’s Cathedral © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

HOLIDAY LIGHTS

Amaze Light Festival is the newest holiday attraction in New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • Shine Bright Only at Hudson Yards, throughout the holidays, Hudson Yards, Manhattan. Featuring over 2 million twinkling lights, Shine Bright Only at Hudson Yards, presented by Wells Fargo, adorns the neighborhood with 115-miles of string lights, 725 evergreen trees dressed and 16-foot-tall illuminated set pieces in the shape of hot air balloons arranged through the Public Square and Gardens with a 32-foot hot air balloon centerpiece suspended in The Great Room of The Shops and Restaurants.
  • Lightscape at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Nov. 16–Jan. 8, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Explore the garden after dark at the illuminated Lightscape, celebrating the beauty of nature with an enchanting one-mile trail through BBG’s 52-acre landscape. Sold out in its first season, this year’s after-dark, illuminated spectacular features new works of art alongside returning favorites. Enjoy the Winter Cathedral tunnel, Fire Garden and Sea of Light, as well as new site-specific light works by local artists, accompanied by a curated soundtrack.
  • Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights, Nov. 18–Jan. 8, Bronx Park, The Bronx. With more than 360 lanterns representing nearly 90 animal and plant species, Bronx Zoo’s family-centric holiday lights festival will connect visitors with real wildlife and wild places. During the evenings, the park comes to life with holiday cheer as immersive light displays, custom-designed animal lanterns (with some life-size, some larger-than-life-size) and animated light shows sparkle across the zoo. The celebration is complete with seasonal treats, classic holiday music and other festive entertainment. The beloved tradition is sure to enchant visitors of all ages, making it the perfect way to kick off the holidays this year.
  • NYBG GLOW, Select dates from November 18–January 14, Bedford Park, The Bronx. Discover the beauty of New York Botanical Garden through NYBG GLOW, which will illuminate the garden’s landmark landscape and historic buildings after dark with a newly expanded 1.5-mile colorful experience. Building upon sold-out evenings the past two years, the event is expanded across more of the garden’s collections.
  • Amaze Light Festival at Citi Field, Select dates from Nov. 20–Jan. 8, Flushing, Queens. Guests are greeted by the lovable characters Zing and Sparky from the Amaze storybook, who bring the stage dancers, singers and light show to life with their magic powers. Visit the holiday market and grab a treat at Sparky’s Sweet Spot. Enjoy culinary treats, specialty drinks and cocktails. Zip down Zing’s icy Thrill Hill, take in the wonder on a train ride, and write a letter to Santa.
  • NYC Winter Lantern Festival: Journey to the East, Oct. 21–Jan. 8, St. George, Staten Island. The NYC Winter Lantern Festival is back for its fourth year to transform a new venue, SIUH Community Park in Staten Island, into an immersive world of light. Enjoy over eight acres of luminescence, live DJ, projection mapping, food vendors.
  • NYC Winter Lantern Festival: Illuminate the Farm at Queens County Farm Museum, Nov. 11–Jan. 8, Glen Oaks, Queens. Back for its second year, the NYC Winter Lantern Festival transforms Queens County Farm into an immersive and radiant oasis with festive lights and handmade lanterns in the shape of flowers, tractors, farm animals.
  • Christmas Lights Tour of Dyker Heights from A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours, Dec. 1–31 (except 24 & 25), Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. Experience the extravagant Christmas light displays in Dyker Heights, also known as “Dyker Lights.” This guided bus tour, departing from Manhattan, offers visitors a special experience to view the uniquely decorated homes, learn about the history and stories of the neighborhood tradition.
Holidays in New York City: Bergdorf Goodman’s stunning window displays © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

ICE-SKATING, OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES:

Holidays in New York City: Ice skating at Bryant Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • The Rink at Rockefeller Center, Skate under the iconic Christmas tree, a quintessential NYC experience on the world-famous rink. In collaboration with Coach, Rockefeller Center will unveil this year’s activations, including a bespoke holiday gift shop, custom hospitality cart serving special treats, and live onsite patch customization for a curated line of Coach products. Santa will join visitors on the ice in December.
  • The Rink at Bryant Park, Midtown Manhattan. Enjoy NYC’s free 17,000-square-foot outdoor ice-skating rink at Bryant Park’s Winter Village. Visitors can also enjoy the Holiday Shops, free shows, events, activities, and eats and drinks at The Lodge.
  • Wollman Rink in Central Park, Midtown Manhattan. Enjoy skating in Central Park with the picturesque Manhattan skyline in the background. This year, Wollman Rink is partnering with Culture Pass.
  •  Classic Harbor Line Holiday-Themed Cruises, Manhattan. Enjoy four-course holiday brunch cruises, a Cocoa and Carols cruise and more holiday themes, while sailing across the East and Hudson Rivers with views of the NYC skyline and Lady Liberty.
  • City Cruises Holiday-Themed Cruises, Manhattan. Enjoy a NYC dining cruise (available Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s) featuring festive decor, meals and stunning views of the City while sailing across the East and Hudson Rivers from the glass-enclosed deck.
Holidays in New York City: Watching Saks’ light show at Rockefeller Center © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

FESTIVE HOLIDAY SHOPPING

Holidays in New York City: Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park, Bryant Park, Manhattan.
  • Shop at Grand Central Terminal, through Dec. 24, Midtown Manhattan. Grand Central Terminal welcomes back its famous indoor Holiday Fair to the splendor of Vanderbilt Hall after a two-year hiatus. The Grand Central Holiday Fair is one of New York City’s most coveted attractions, welcoming thousands of locals, commuters and visitors for a curated holiday shopping and gifting experience. This year’s event features 36 vendors, including Ekologic, Garden of Silver and Rebel Designs.
  • Union Square Holiday Market, throughDec. 24, Union Square, Manhattan. Urbanspace’s longest running holiday market returns with over 160 vendors featuring unique gifts created by local craftsmen, artists and entrepreneurs.
  • Brooklyn Flea Holiday Market, Sundays, through Dec. 24, Dumbo, Brooklyn. Come to Pearl Street for Dumbo’s iconic Brooklyn Flea Holiday Market. One of the borough’s most popular attractions, shoppers support local vendors and cross off holiday shopping with vintage and antique items, crafts and gourmet food stands.
  • Columbus Circle Holiday Market, through Dec. 24, Upper West Side, Manhattan. Known as one of the most elegant places for holiday shopping, visitors will lose themselves in aisles of art, jewelry, home goods and delicious eats from local artisans and designers, with the backdrop of NYC’s iconic Central Park.
Strolling Fifth Avenue is one of the highlights of Holidays in New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Strolling Fifth Avenue is one of the highlights of Holidays in New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

NEW YEAR’S  

Gotta do it at least once in a lifetime: Watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve in Times Square © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball Drop, Times Square, Manhattan: The Waterford Crystal Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball will sparkle in Times Square all season, but watching its descent in person on New Year’s Eve is a spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime way to ring in the New Year. Guests can also stop by the New Year’s Eve Confetti Wishing Wall from December 1 on to submit (in person and online herefor nye wishing wall) a wish for the New Year on a piece of official NYE confetti that will be dropped at midnight as the ball drops. 
  •  NYRR Midnight Run in Central Park, Midtown Manhattan: Start the new year off on the right—and left—foot at the NYRR Midnight Run. Join the fun and celebrate as 2022 comes to a close; the countdown to 2023 begins at 11:59pm, and at the stroke of midnight, a fireworks display will light up the night sky and kick off the start of the 4-mile race.
  • Coney Island Polar Plunge, January 1, Coney Island, Brooklyn: Each year on January 1, members of the Polar Bear Club and anyone else brave enough to participate venture into the frigid waters at Coney Island. Watch hundreds of daring souls plunge into the Atlantic Ocean, where the temperature of the water hovers right above 40 degrees Fahrenheit and the air temperature can be well below freezing. The event is free, but in lieu of admission, participants are encouraged to donate to community organizations.

For additional holiday celebrations and itineraries, visit nycgo.com/holidays.

For the official source on all there is to see and do in New York City, go to nycgo.com

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© 2022 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

New Yorkers Cheer Playful Comeback of Village Halloween Parade- Photo Highlights

New York City’s Village Halloween Parade is famous for its giant puppets © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York City’s famed Village Halloween Parade is always thrilling and fun, but this year’s was especially joyful.

There was a special energy, sense of joy after the COVID hiatus in 2020 – with crowds returning to six and 10 deep at the barriers lining the parade route, from Spring Street to 16th Street on Sixth Avenue, many of the onlookers in costume.

Understandably, some of the marchers paid homage to COVID in their costumes, but most were throwbacks, nostalgic, playful and even innocent on this night of Devil May Care – the Wizard of Oz, Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, and impersonating games –with uncharacteristically few political statements (except for the interruption of an actual religious protest denouncing sinners, sparking “boos” from the crowd). On the other hand, many of the displays paid homage to protecting the climate and environment.

Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

To be sure, there were lots of Satan, the Devil and Malificent but despite the requisite scary monsters, vampires (flash mob dancing to “Thriller”), and ghouls and such, there was a sense of childhood innocence.

Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

That’s because the 2021 theme (“in two parts”) was “Let’s Play” and “All Together Now” – and was manifested in many of the major displays, especially the giant puppets for which the Village Halloween Parade is known.

Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

One huge group of puppets took the form of cartoon characters. And even the skeleton puppets which traditionally lead the parade seemed to have a smile on their skull.

Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There was even an entire circus, complete with tight rope walker.

Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Jeanne Fleming, Artistic and Producing Director, challenged participants to “come up with a costume  idea that engages the audience and your fellow marchers–so we can PLAY together once again! Think Wheel of Fortune, a Kissing Booth, Play Ball! A Deck of Cards!”

Jeanne Fleming, Artistic and Producing Director of the Village Halloween Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Don’t be the ONLY GAME in Town–Join with your friends and play on!” she said. “Make up your own interactive or visually enticing game! And then, join us on our Special THEME section of the Parade!”

Indeed, there was a marching Deck of Cards, Hula Hoops, a board game float, and a Slinky Lady.

Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Among the highlights: Grand Marshal Randy Rainbow performing a song for the Spectrum 1 NY1 television broadcast.

Randy Rainbow, 2021 Grand Marshal of the Village Halloween Parade, treats onlookers to a performance © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is one of the best nights for New Yorkers to show their creativity, imagination, artistry and humor. It’s the night when you can be anything you want to be, when the lines between what’s real and what’s not are obliterated – even more so than on other nights of the year.

Here are photo highlights of the Village Halloween Parade 2021:

Jeanne Fleming, Artistic and Producing Director, challenged participants in the Village Halloween Parade 2021 to “come up with a costume  idea that engages the audience and your fellow marchers–so we can PLAY together once again! Think Wheel of Fortune, a Kissing Booth, Play Ball! A Deck of Cards!” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
New York City’s Village Halloween Parade is famous for its giant puppets © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Bindlestick Family Circus performs during the Village Halloween Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Slinky Lady, Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Hula Hoops, Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Deck of Cards, Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
New York’s Gay & Lesbian marching band, Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Scary Plastic Monster, Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Climate Crisis, Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Money, money money. Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
One of the puppeteers who make the Village Halloween Parade so special © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
New Yorkers show off their artistry in the Village Halloween Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Miss New York in the Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. Village Halloween Parade, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Celebrating its 48th Anniversary, New York’s Village Halloween Parade is:

The nation’s largest public Halloween celebration

Named as The Greatest Event on Earth by Festivals International for October 31

Attended by over 2 million people, seen by over 1 million on TV

The nation’s only major night Parade

Seen LIVE on NY 1 Television

Listed as one of the 100 Things to do Before You Die

Recipient of the Municipal Arts Society of New York’s Award for making a major contribution to the cultural life of New York City

Recipient of a major grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in recognition of Longtime Artistic Achievement

Recipient of the Mayor’s Tourism Grant in recognition of the Parade’s major impact on the economic life of New York City and grants from the Manhattan Borough President’s Tourism Initiative

Picked by Events International as The Greatest Event on Earth on October 31, and ranked 3rd by Citysearch as the best event in New York City

Ranked by Biz Bash as one of the top 10 events in NYC

An event which has a positive impact on New York economic life, bringing hundreds of thousands of tourists and an estimated $90 million in tourism dollars into the city, providing Greenwich Village businesses and restaurants their best night of the year.

An event which has a tremendously positive impact on how people who live in or come to visit New York see and feel about this community. The excitement and goodwill that it generates is lasting.

In effect, by turning a large and complex city into a small town for just one night, the Parade has been a pioneer in the critical movement toward the resurrection and rejuvenation of the City.

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© 2021 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Holidays in NYC in Photos: Glad Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Holidays in New York City: Saks windows (c) Karen Rubin

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Take  a winter holiday stroll through mid-town Manhattan. There are many changes this year – mostly the absence of thick crowds, circles delineating social distancing for queues into shops, outdoor dining constructions bathed in warm light. The animated shop windows New York is so famous for – Macy’s, Saks (masks on the figures), Bergdorf Goodman– are more low key this year, themed around thanking all those who are getting us through this darkness and cheering on New Yorkers. Bergdorf Goodman, for many years in a row, getting my award for best, wins again this year with its stunning windows with dramatic messages of  Love, Hope, Goodness, Joy and Gratitude. And there are clever innovations to spread cheer: New York’s iconic symbols illuminated on the sidewalks, like a yellow cab. Saks still has its marvelous sound-and-light show illuminating its entire façade, just across the street from the Rockefeller Center tree, but it is pared down to just a few minutes so people don’t stand around too long. And there are security controls to minimize crowding and direct people to the entrance for ice skating or tree viewing. Even Atlas, the mighty ancient Greek Titan holding the heavens on his shoulders, is wearing a mask.

Come, walk with me:

Holidays in New York City: Macy’s famous windows with a simple universal message, “Thank You” (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Macy’s famous windows with a simple universal message, “Thank You” (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Sound and light show at Saks (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in NYC: Sound and light show at Saks (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Bergdorf Goodman (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Bergdorf Goodman (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Bergdorf Goodman (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Bergdorf Goodman (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Bergdorf Goodman (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City. Even Atlas, the mighty ancient Greek Titan holding the heavens on his shoulders, is wearing a mask. (The bronze statue, the largest at Rockefeller Center, was created by sculptor Lee Lawrie and Rene Paul Chambellan and installed in 1937. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in NYC: Rockefeller Center (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in NYC: Rockefeller Center (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

See also:

WHERE TO GO FOR HOLIDAY CHEER: NOTHING STOPS NYC’S TRADITIONS, ICONIC EVENTS

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Staycation? New York City’s Museums Transport in Time, Place and Space

Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of NYC’s premier museums. Be sure to take one of the Highlights Tours © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Be transported in time, place and even space. Immerse yourself into the realm of ideas and imagination. Come in from the heat or whatever the weather is doing outside by taking in one of New York City’s museums. Here are just a few highlights of summer’s blockbuster attractions:

Metropolitan Museum of Art is like a time travel chamber that can bring you to any era, any place in the world in one quick visit. The museum is welcoming an important summer visitor of its own, Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Saint Jerome.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Met Museum Welcomes ‘Saint Jerome’

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is about to welcome a very special visitor: Leonardo da Vinci’s Saint Jerome. To commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), The Met is presenting the artist’s painting Saint Jerome Praying in the Wilderness (begun around 1483), a special loan from the Vatican Museums. The exquisitely rendered work represents Jerome (A.D. 347–420), a major saint and theologian of the Christian Church. The scene is based on the story of his later life, which he spent as a hermit in the desert, according to the 13th–century Golden Legend. The unfinished painting provides viewers with an extraordinary glimpse into Leonardo’s creative process; a close examination of the paint surface even reveals the presence of his fingerprints. The display of this monumental masterpiece pays homage to one of the most renowned geniuses of all time. Opening July 15, the painting is on view through Oct. 6, 2019.

From the oldest works of art to the first forays of civilization into outer space, , the Met Museum is marking the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission with Apollo’s Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography, on view through September 22, 2019. Apollo’s Muse traces the progress of astronomical photography and attempts to produce ever-sharper images of the moon, particularly during the 130-year period between the invention of photography in 1839 and the moon landing in 1969 as astronomers and artists capitalized on technological improvements to cameras and telescopes to create ever more accurate visual records of the lunar surface. Exhibition highlights include two newly discovered lunar daguerreotypes from the 1840s, believed to be the earliest existing photographs of the moon, and works by such pioneers of lunar photography as Warren De La Rue (1815–1889), Lewis Morris Rutherfurd (1816–1892), and John Adams Whipple (1822–1891). A stunning photographic atlas of the moon, produced at the Paris Observatory between 1894 and 1908 by the astronomers Maurice Loewy (1833–1907) and Pierre Puiseux (1855–1928), will be displayed for the first time in its entirety.

Alongside these scientific achievements, the show explores the use of the camera to create fanciful depictions of space travel and life on the moon, including George Méliès’s (1861–1938) original drawings for his film A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la lune, 1902) and a large selection of “paper moon” studio portraits from the early 20th century. Also featured will be artists’ evocations of the otherworldly effects of moonlight, including major works by German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) and American Pictorialist photographer Edward Steichen (1879-1973).

“Separated” by Norma Pace, a 7th grader at Lower Manhattan Community Middle School, is on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s P.S. Art exhibit:  “I was inspired by our social studies unit on Native Americans. I wanted to bring the untold story of Native Americans’ past into the light, as it’s sometimes ignored.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The night of the Museum Mile Festival, I popped into the opening of this year’s P.S. Art exhibit,  an annual celebration of achievement in the arts in New York City public schools. This juried exhibition of the work of talented young artists showcases the creativity of 122 prekindergarten through twelfth grade students from all five boroughs, including students from District 75, a citywide district serving students with disabilities. The exhibition consists of paintings, prints, sculptures, photographs, mixed-media works, collages, drawings, and video. Each work of art demonstrates personal expression, imaginative use of media, the results of close observation, and an understanding of artistic processes. Some of the works on display are completely astonishing

The Met is three museums.

At the Cloisters, “The Colmar Treasure: A Medieval Jewish Legacy,” is on view July 22-January 12, 2020. A cache of jeweled rings, brooches, and coins—the precious possessions of a Jewish family of medieval Alsace—was hidden in the fourteenth century in the wall of a house in Colmar, France. Discovered in 1863 and on view in an upcoming exhibition at The Met Cloisters, the Colmar Treasure revives the memory of a once–thriving Jewish community that was scapegoated and put to death when the Plague struck the region with devastating ferocity in 1348–49. A generous loan of the Musée de Cluny, Paris, the Colmar Treasure will be displayed alongside select works from The Met Cloisters and little–known Judaica from collections in the United States and France. Although the objects on view are small in scale and relatively few in number, the ensemble overturns conventional notions of medieval Europe as a monolithic Christian society. The exhibition will point to both legacy and loss, underscoring the prominence of the Jewish minority community in the tumultuous fourteenth century and the perils it faced.

At the Met Breuer, “Home is a Foreign Place: Recent Aquisitions in Context,” through June 21, 2020.

(NYS residents still can pay what they wish, by presenting proof of residence; out-of-towners need to pay the regular admission).

The iconic Metropolitan Museum of Art is at 1000 Fifth Avenue, on Central Park, (definitely take a Highlights tour when you visit), The Met Breuer (945 Madison Avenue) and The Met Cloisters (99 Margaret Corbin Drive, Fort Tryon Park). Visit metmuseum.org to plan your visit.

Jewish Museum Pays Homage to Leonard Cohen With Multi-Media Exhibition

“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” from Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem” from the album The Future (1992), provides the title for the special exhibit at the Jewish Museum,

“Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything”. The contemporary multi-media exhibition devoted to the imagination and legacy of the influential singer/songwriter, man of letters, and global icon from Montreal, Canada can be experienced through September 8, 2019.

Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything includes commissioned works by a range of international artists who have been inspired by Cohen’s life, work and legacy. A world-renowned novelist, poet  and singer/songwriter who inspired generations of writers, musicians, and artists, Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)  supplied the world with melancholy and urgent observations on the state of the human heart. In songs such as “Suzanne,” “Bird on the Wire,” and “Hallelujah,” he interwove the sacred and the profane,  mystery and accessibility. Collectively, it is the oddest, most creative biographical tribute. Featured works include:

I’m Your Man (A Portrait of Leonard Cohen) (2017), a multi-channel video installation by Candice Breitz, brings together a community of ardent Cohen fans who pay tribute to the late legend, is part of the multi-media homage to Leonard Cohen at the Jewish Museum this summer. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I’m Your Man (A Portrait of Leonard Cohen) (2017)a multi-channel video installation by Candice Breitz, brings together a community of ardent Cohen fans who pay tribute to the late legend. Each of the 18 participants was offered the opportunity to perform and record his own version of Cohen’s comeback album I’m Your Man (1988) in a professional recording studio. At Breitz’s invitation, the album’s backing vocals were reinterpreted by the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue Choir, an all-male choir representing the congregation in Montreal, Canada, that Cohen belonged to all his life.

Ari Folman’s Depression Chamber (2017) allows one visitor at a time into a darkened room, where they are confronted by the demons of depression, a theme that can be traced throughout Cohen’s body of work. After the visitor lies down, Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat” plays while the song’s lyrics are projected on the walls, slowly morphing into letters and icons that symbolize Cohen’s multifaceted thematic universe.

Heard There Was a Secret Chord (after the 2017 work of the same title, 2018)  is a participatory humming experience by the art and design studio Daily tous les jours that reveals an invisible vibration uniting people around the world currently listening to Cohen’s Hallelujah. The work is an exploration of the metaphysical connection between people on a common wavelength. At the Museum, real-time online listener data is transformed into a virtual choir of humming voices. The number of voices played back in the gallery corresponds to the current online listener count, which is visible on the hanging numerical display. Participants can sit or lie down on the octagonal structure, and by humming along with the choir into the microphones, low-frequency vibrations are generated, closing the circuit of collective resonance with their bodies.

The Jewish Museum’s multi-media  homage to Leonard Cohen. Heard There Was a Secret Chord (after the 2017 work of the same title, 2018)  is a participatory humming experience by the art and design studio Daily tous les jours that reveals an invisible vibration uniting people around the world currently listening to Cohen’s Hallelujah. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Organized by the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC), the exhibition is curated by John Zeppetelli, Director and Chief Curator at the MAC, and Victor Shiffman, Co-Curator. Following its New York showing, the exhibition will tour to Kunstforeningen GL STRAND and Nikolaj Kunsthal, Copenhagen, Denmark (October 23, 2019 – March 8, 2020) and the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco (September 17, 2020 – January 3, 2021).

During the run of Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything, the Jewish Museum will open one hour earlier than usual on Saturdays and Sundays, from 10 am to 5:45pm. Advance tickets are available online at thejewishmuseum.org/buy/general-admission. For questions about ticket sales, email [email protected] or call 866.205.1322.

Founded in 1904, the Museum, on Fifth Avenue’s fabled Museum Mile, was the first institution of its kind in the United States and is one of the oldest Jewish museums in the world. Devoted to exploring art and Jewish culture from ancient to contemporary, the Museum offers diverse exhibitions and programs, and maintains a unique collection of nearly 30,000 works of art, ceremonial objects, and media reflecting the global Jewish experience over more than 4,000 years.

Admission: $18 for adults, $12  for seniors, $8 students, free for visitors 18 and under and Jewish Museum members. Free on Saturdays and select Jewish holidays. 1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street, New York City, 212.423,3200, [email protected]  TheJewishMuseum.org.

Museum of the City of New York: New York at Its Core

I make it a ritual to visit the Museum of the City of New York during each year’s Museum Mile Festival. I never cease to be fascinated and intrigued by the exhibits:

New York at Its Core is the first-ever museum show to comprehensively interpret and present the compelling story of New York’s rise from a striving Dutch village to today’s “Capital of the World,” a preeminent global city now facing the future in a changing world. There are different galleries that tell the story, but most fascinating is The Future City Lab, where you get to design the city of the future, tackling the most pressing problems like housing, public spaces, water supply. You even get to put yourself in the picture.

Put yourself in the picture of the City of the Future in the Museum of the City of New York’s Future City Lab (I’m the one in red). © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Not to be missed: Timescapes, the museum’s popular and critically-acclaimed multimedia experience, brings the sweeping narrative of New York City from the early 1600s to the present day. The 28-minute, award-winning documentary explores how NYC grew from a settlement of a few hundred Europeans, Africans and Native Americans into the multinational metropolis of today, re-inventing itself multiple times along the way.

Activist New York, an ongoing exhibit, examines the ways in which ordinary New Yorkers have advocated, agitated, and exercised their power to shape the city’s—and the nation’s—future, from the 17th century to the present.

City of Workers, City of Struggle: How Labor Movements Changed New York, traces how New York became the most unionized large city in the United States.

Cycling in the City: A 200–Year History, on view through October 6, 2019, tracex how the bicycle transformed urban transportation and leisure in New York City and explores the extraordinary diversity of cycling cultures, past and present.

In the Dugout with Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait of a Baseball Legend, which opened on January 31, Robinson’s 100th birthday, features 32 photographs (most of them never published); rare home movies of the Robinson family; and memorabilia related to Robinson’s career.

Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Ave., Manhattan, NY 10029, 212-534-1672, mcny.org.

Guggenheim: Summer of Know

The famous Guggenheim Museum is housed in the Frank Lloyd Wright building, a major attraction in itself, celebrating its 60th anniversary as an architectural icon. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Housed in the Frank Lloyd Wright building, a major attraction in itself (just walking through the spiral is an experience),from June 18 through September 3, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is open until 9 pm for Summer Tuesdays, offering music and refreshments in the museum rotunda in addition to exhibitions on view in the galleries. Films, conversations, and performances enhance opportunities for visitors to engage with the museum and the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed building that celebrates 60 years as an architectural icon in 2019. Also starting in June, Summer of Know, a conversation series addressing urgent issues through the generative lens of art, returns to the Guggenheim, featuring artists, activists, and other professionals discussing topics such as LGBTQIA+ rights in a global context, environmental activism, and housing rights. Details are available at guggenheim.org/calendar.

Visiting the Guggenheim is the closest an art museum can feel like being in a themepark ride. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Summer exhibitions at the Guggenheim include the first artist-curated exhibition at the museum, Artistic License: Six Takes on the Guggenheim Collection, as well as The Hugo Boss Prize 2018: Simone Leigh, Loophole of RetreatBasquiat’s “Defacement”: The Untold Story, and Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now.

Actually, you can travel and visit Guggenheim museums in Venice, Bilbao, and Abu Dhabi.

Solomon R., Guggenheim Museum, 1071 5th Avenue, New York (betw. 8i8-89th St), 212-423-3500, [email protected], Guggenheim.org.

The Whitney Museum Biennial

The Whitney Biennial has long been one of America’s foremost showcases of emerging artists. Every two years, the exhibition serves as a bellwether for the culture, both reflecting on and mirroring the country’s political and social moods. No surprise, then, to see that this year’s work—on view now at the Whitney Museum of American Art—offers plenty of tension, with pieces that focus on gender identity and race, among other issues. Curators chose the works because they represent “a snapshot of contemporary art making”; read on for more about a few of our favorites. (See: https://www.nycgo.com/articles/whitney-biennial-2019) (99 Gansvoort St., Meatpacking district).

Museum of Natural History Presents T.rex, The Ultimate Predator

At the American Museum of Natural History’s blockbuster exhibit, T. rex: The Ultimate Predator, you encounter a massive life-sized model of a T. rex with patches of feathers—the definitive representation of this prehistoric predator,  T. rex hatchlings and a four-year-old juvenile T.rex; a “roar mixer” where you can imagine what T. rex may have sounded like; a shadow theater where a floor projection of an adult T. rex skeleton seems to come to life. At a tabletop “Investigation Station,” you can explore a variety of fossil casts with virtual tools including a CT scanner, measuring tape, and a microscope to learn more about what such specimens reveal about the biology and behavior of T.rex. Finally, you encounter a massive animated projection of a T. rex and its offspring in a Cretaceous-age setting. which reacts to visitors, leaving you to wonder, “Did that T. rex really see me?”

See the most accurate, life-size representation of T. rex, feathers and all, at the American Museum of Natural History © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

T. rex: The Ultimate Predator is the first major exhibition of the American Museum of Natural History’s 150th anniversary celebration. Plan your visit (you could spend weeks in the museum), check out the special programming and events, and pre-purchase timed tickets at amnh.org.

At Hayden Planetarium Space Theater, see “Dark Universe” (through December 31, 2019)

Open daily from 10 am – 5:45 pm. American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY 10024-5192, 212-769-5100, amnh.org.

Revolutionary Summer at New-York Historical Society

The New-York Historical Society, the oldest museum in New York (and directly across the street from the American Museum of Natural History on Central Park West), is presenting a Revolutionary Summer. A Museum-wide exploration of Revolutionary War times, Revolutionary Summer presents outdoor events every weekend featuring characters from the era; 18th-century art and artifacts; a diorama of the Continental Army and a host of programs for all ages, including trivia nights, DJ evening, and Revolutionary Drag Tea Party. On select weekends, visitors can explore a replica of George Washington’s Headquarters Tent at an outdoor Continental Army encampment, meet Living Historians portraying soldiers and spies, and learn about the many facets of camp life during the War for Independence. (Through September 15, 2019)

Martha Holmes’ 1949  image of singer Billy Eckstine being embraced by a white  female fan, surrounded by other gleeful white teenagers proved extremely controversial for LIFE Magazine. She is one of six women photographers featured in an exhibit at the New-York Historical Society© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Also on view: LIFE: Six Women Photographers showcases the extraordinary work created by Margaret Bourke-White, Hansel Mieth, Marie Hansen, Martha Holmes, Nina Leen, and Lisa Larsen. (through  October 6, 2019); Stonewall 50 at New-York Historical Society, through September 22, 2019, commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising and the dawn of the gay liberation movement; Hudson Rising explores 200 years of ecological change and environmental activism along “the most interesting river in America” (through August 4).

Panoramas: The Big Picture, opening August 23 through December 8, 2019, explores wide-angle, bird’s-eye imagery from the 17th to the 20th century, revealing the influence that panoramas had on everything from mass entertainment to nationalism to imperial expansion. Through more than 20 panoramas, the exhibition presents the history of the all-encompassing medium in New York City, San Francisco and beyond.

New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West (77th Street), New York, NY 10024, 212-873-3400, nyhistory.org.

Spy v. Spy

The most chilling part of Spyscape, New York’s new spy experience, is the up-to-the-minute, torn from the headlines stuff: Here, Anonymous, as seen from two sides © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Want a real escape? Visit Spyscape, which offers a different twist on spy museums, and is more of an experiential attraction, immersing you into the psychology and ubiquity of surveillance and espionage, and literally, with the ending “profile” (developed with the a former head of training at British Intelligence) showing you where you might fit into this world (I’m an analyst). SPYSCAPE, which opened in 2018, illuminates secret intelligence, from espionage to hacking, and investigative journalism. It offers a balanced perspective on big issues – privacy, security, surveillance. You get to engage in real spy challenges, including lie-detection in interrogation booths, surveillance in a 360 degree environment and test strategy and agility in special ops laser tunnels. The museum also features quite a good Spy Shop, a Book Shop, Café and multiple Event Spaces. (928 8th Avenue, entrance on SE corner of 55th Street, spyscape.com).

Sergey, a KGB Spy Museum guide, describes the conditions that political prisoners would have suffered in a society where opposition was suppressed by fear © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

And in a very real Spy v. Spy scenario, a very different experience awaits at another new entry to New York City’s museum scene: the KGB Museum. This place presents the artifacts and history of the KGB in a kind of antique-shop setting but the items are chilling. You realize that the spy movies, even the satirical “Get Smart,” didn’t so much fabricate as reveal the tools and techniques and paranoia of Cold War spying. (KGB Spy Museum tickets are available online or in the museum. (245 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10011, 10 am -8 Mon-Sun).

Museum of Illusions

One of the fun, interactive exhibits at the Museum of Illusions is where a visitor pokes her head out of the middle of the table, but all you see is a head with no body on top of a table  Laurie Millman/goingplacesfarandnear.com)

The Museum of Illusions, which opened September 2018 in New York City’s West Village, contains three-dimensional illusions on the walls and floors which will mesmerize visitors of all ages. You might assume by its name that it is a children’s museum or about magic which depends so much on illusion. Nor can it be considered an “attraction” although many of the exhibits are interactive and you get to help create the illusions. It is really about educating about the physical and psychological science behind illusion – placards posted near each exhibit provide the explanations for what you sense. And while the museum does not explicitly delve into magic, when you leave, you will have a better understanding of how some magic tricks work. (77th 8th Ave, New York, NY; newyork.museumofillusions.us)

Cradle of Aviation Museum: Countdown to Apollo at 50

Cradle of Aviation Museum, Uniondale, Long Island, has one of only three actual lunar modules on display. Built by Grumman, in Bethpage, Long Island, the other three were left on the moon ©Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Travel out of this world, beyond the city limits, to Long Island: The Cradle of Aviation Museum and Education Center is one of the great space and aviation museums, home to over 75 planes and spacecraft representing over 100 years of aviation history and Long Island’s only Giant Screen Dome Theater.  Currently, the museum is celebrating  “Countdown to Apollo at 50” sponsored by the Robert D.L. Gardiner Foundation, showcasing Long Island and Grumman’s significant role in the Apollo program. The Museum was recently recognized and listed on New York State’s National Register of Historic Places as a significant part of American history. The museum is located on Museum Row, Charles Lindbergh Blvd., in East Garden City.  For more information call (516) 572-4111 or visit www.cradleofaviation.org.

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© 2019 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Global Scavenger Hunt: ‘World’s Greatest Travelers’ Winners Crowned in New York

The Three Graces, a Roman marble statue from 2nd C AD copying a Greek theme from the 2nd C BC, is repeated throughout Western civilization, on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Global Scavenger Hunt teams arrive in New York City for the last leg of the Global Scavenger Hunt that has taken us to 10 countries in 23 days. Bill Chalmers, the ringmaster and Chief Experience Officer of this around-the-world mystery tour, in which the challenges and scavenges are designed to get us out of our comfort zone and immerse us in a culture, fine-tune our skills as world travelers, and most significantly, “trust in the kindness of strangers.” Back in New York, he is delighted all 10 teams circumnavigated the world “in one piece” without dramatic incident, in this, the 15th annual Global Scavenger Hunt competition.

The leading teams vying for the title of “World’s Greatest Travelers” as we enter this final leg of the contest in 4th place, SLO Folks from California with 96 points (where the low-score wins); in 3rd, Order & Chaos, doctors from San Francisco with 81 points; in 2nd place, Lazy Monday, computer networking consultant and think tank professional from California with 46 points, and Lawyers Without Borders, from Houston, with 33 points, five-time winners who are competing in the Global Scavenger Hunt for the 12th time.

There is one more challenge in New York (an easy urban Par 1), and even though, based on points and placement, the winners of the 15th annual, 2019 edition of the Global Scavenger Hunt have been determined, still the teams go out and give it their all. Those in contention must complete at least one of the scavenges in New York, and complete their time sheet and hand in by the 4 pm deadline.

Examples of the scavenges: take in a Yankees game or a Broadway show; have one of each of following: a New York bagel, a New York hot dog, a New York deli sandwich, a slice of New York pizza, New York cheesecake, a New York egg cream, or an old-fashion Manhattan; -locate five pieces from five of the nations you just visited in the Met; visit Strawberry Fields, pay John Lennon tribute; do one scavenge in each of the five boroughs of New York City.

A native New Yorker, this is really my turf (though there is the oddest sensation of feeling like I am in a foreign place, reminding myself of what is familiar like language, money, streets, drink water, eat salad), and I delight in walking up Madison Avenue to 82nd Street to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue.

Hunting for an object from Morocco, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I elect to take up the challenge of going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to seek out objects from five of the countries we visited (Canada, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Abu Dhabi, Jordan, Greece, Morocco, Gibraltar, Portugal, Spain). Greece will be easy, of course, but Morocco and Jordan (Petra), Vietnam and Myanmar (Burma) are just a bit trickier. It is Chalmers’ way of making us experience things on a different level, and for me, it brings together so much of what we’ve seen, learned and experienced along the way.

An object from Thailand, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I first join a docent-led Highlights Tour, knowing from past experience that these always lead me to parts of the museum I am unfamiliar with, and enlighten about aspects of art and culture with the in-depth discussion of the pieces the docents select to discuss.

Not easy to find to complete the Global Scavenger Hunt: an object from Vietnam, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The docent, Alan, begins in the Greco-Roman exhibit with a stunning marble sculpture of the Three Graces, showing how this theme – essentially copied from the Greek bronzes (which no longer exist because the bronze was valuable and melted down for military use) – was repeated over the eons, into the Renaissance and even beyond.

The Magdala Stone, 1st Century, Migdal, Synagogue, on the Sea of Galilee. The stone, whose exact function is uncertain, dates to a time when the temple in Jerusalem still stood. One short side features a 7-branched menorah – the earliest such image known in a synagogue – flanked by amphorae and columns. The Migdal synagogue would have been in use during the lifetime of Jesus, whom the Gospels describe as preaching in synagogues throughout Galilee © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Obviously, finding an object from Greece is going to be easy, and I hope to find objects from Vietnam, Myanmar (Burma), and Thailand in the Asia wing where there is a massive collection of Buddhist art (it proves just a tad more difficult, but I succeed). Morocco and Jordan (Petra) proved trickier than I expected, but brought me to an astonishing exhibit, “The World Between Empires: Art and Identity in the Ancient Middle East,” with an extraordinary focus on the territories and trading networks of the Middle East that were contested between the Roman and Parthian Empires (ca. 100 BC and AD 250). “yet across the region life was not defined by these two superpowers alone. Local cultural and religious traditions flourished and sculptures, wall paintings, jewelry and other objects reveal how ancient identities were expressed through art.”

The Greek sun god Helios, from Petra, 1st C BC – 1st C AD, found at Qint al-Bint temple in Petra, visited on the Global Scavenger Hunt © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The exhibit features 190 works from museums in the Middle East, Europe and the United States in an exhibition that follows the great incense and silk routes that connected cities in southwestern Arabia, Nabataea, Judea, Syria and Mesopotamia, that made the region a center of global trade along with spreading ideas, spurring innovations (such as in water control), and spawning art and culture.

It was the most incredible feeling to come upon the objects from Petra, having visited the site (was it only 10 days ago?) and having a context for seeing these isolated objects on display.

The World between Empires

The landmark exhibition The World between Empires: Art and Identity in the Ancient Middle East, which is on view through June 23, 2019, focuses on the remarkable cultural, religious and commercial exchange that took place in cities including Petra, Baalbek, Palmyra and Hatra between 100 B.C. and A.D. 250. “During this transformative period, the Middle East was the center of global commerce and the meeting point of two powerful empires—Parthian Iran in the east and Rome in the west—that struggled for regional control.”

The exhibition focuses on the diverse and distinctive cities and people that flourished in this environment by featuring 190 outstanding examples of stone and bronze sculpture, wall paintings, jewelry, and other objects from museums in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.

Wall Painting of Christ Healing the Paralytic/Wall Painting of Christ Walking on Water, ca 232, Dura-Europos, Christian building, considered the world’s oldest surviving church. The paintings include images of Jesus Christ performing miracles, and are the earliest securely dated representations of him © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Among the highlights is a Nabataean religious shrine, reconstructed from architectural elements in collections in the United States and Jordan; the unique Magdala Stone, discovered in a first-century synagogue at Migdal (ancient Magdala) and whose imagery refers to the Temple in Jerusalem; and wall paintings from a church in Dura-Europos that are the earliest securely dated images of Jesus. Sculptures from Baalbek illuminate religious traditions at one of the greatest sanctuaries in the ancient Middle East, and funerary portraits from Palmyra bring visitors face to face with ancient people. The exhibition also examines important contemporary issues—above all, the deliberate destruction and looting of sites including Palmyra, Dura-Europos, and Hatra.

Ossuaries, Israel, excavated at Azor, Chalcolithic period, early 4th millennium BC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“The compelling works of art in this exhibition offer a view into how people in the ancient Middle East sought to define themselves during a time of tremendous religious, creative, and political activity, revealing aspects of their lives and communities that resonate some two millennia later,” said Max Hollein, Director, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  “Further, in focusing on an area of the world that has been deeply affected by recent conflicts and the destruction of sites, monuments, and objects, this show also engages with complex questions about the preservation of cultural heritage.”

Dead Sea Scroll Jar and Lid, ca 2nd Century BC, found in the Qumran caves, the documents now known as the Dead Sea Scrolls represent biblical texts and Jewish religious practices in the last centuries BC and first century AD. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The exhibition evokes a journey along ancient trade routes, beginning in the southwestern Arabian kingdoms that grew rich from the caravan trade in frankincense and myrrh harvested there and used throughout the ancient world. Camel caravans crossed the desert to the Nabataean kingdom, with its spectacular capital city of Petra, which I had just visited, walking through very much as the caravan travelers would have.

Statuette of nude goddess, 2nd C BC-2nd C AD, Ctesiphon © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

From here, goods traveled west to the Mediterranean and north and east through regions including Judaea and the Phoenician coast and across the Syrian desert, where the oasis city of Palmyra controlled trade routes that connected the Mediterranean world to Mesopotamia and Iran and ultimately China. In Mesopotamia, merchants transported cargoes down the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to the Persian Gulf, where they joined maritime trade routes to India. These connections transcended the borders of empires, forming networks that linked cities and individuals over vast distances.

3rd C biblical wall paintings discovered in the Dura-Europos synagogue were exceptional because they demonstrated that early Jewish art included figural scenes. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandne

Across the entire region, diverse local political and religious identities were expressed in art. Artifacts from Judaea give a powerful sense of ancient Jewish identity during a critical period of struggle with Roman rule. Architectural sculptures from the colossal sanctuary at Baalbek and statuettes of its deities reveal the intertwined nature of Roman and ancient Middle Eastern religious practices. Funerary portraits from Palmyra represent the elite of an important hub of global trade. Wall paintings and sculptures from Dura-Europos on the River Euphrates illustrate the striking religious diversity of a settlement at the imperial frontier. And in Mesopotamia, texts from the last Babylonian cuneiform libraries show how ancient temple institutions waned and finally disappeared during this transformative period.

In Athens and Petra, particularly, you appreciate this synergy between trade, migration, environmental sustainability and technology (in Petra, the ability to control water supply was key), economic prosperity and political power, and the rise of art, culture, and community.

Bearded God, ca 1st C, Dura-Europos © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is rare (if ever ) for the Metropolitan Museum to venture into the political, but a key topic within the exhibition is the impact of recent armed conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen on archaeological sites, monuments, and museums, including deliberate destruction and looting. Some of the most iconic sites affected—Palmyra, Hatra, and Dura-Europos—are featured in the exhibition, which discusses this damage and raises questions regarding current and future responses to the destruction of heritage. Should the sites be restored or will they now only exist “on paper”? How much money and resources should go to restoring or excavation when villages and homes for people to live in also need to be rebuilt?

There is a fascinating, if frantic, presentation of three archaeologist/historians speaking about what the destruction by ISIS and Islamic fundamentalists of Palmyra, Eura-Europos and Hatra – what it means to destroy a people’s heritage, their cultural identity. “It may seem frivolous to focus on [archaeological sites] when people are enslaved, killed…but to wipe out, destroy culture is a way of destroying people.”

Happening upon this exhibit made the travel experiences we had to these extraordinary places all the more precious.

It is a humbling experience, to be sure, to go to the origins of the great civilizations, fast forward to today. How did they become great? How did they fall? Greatness is not inevitable or forever.  Empires rise and fall. Rulers use religion, art and monuments to establish their credibility and credentials to rule; successors blot out the culture and re-write history.

(“The World Between Empires” is featured on The Met website as well as on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter using the hashtag #WorldBetweenEmpires.)

I peek out from the American Café windows to Central Park and see sun and the early spring blossoms on the trees, and dash out to walk through my other favorite New York City place. There is nothing more beautiful than New York City in the spring – brides are out in force taking photos; there are musicians and entertainers. There is a festive atmosphere as I walk through the park toward the Palace Hotel in time for our 4:30 pm meeting.

Spring in Central Park, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

15th Annual Global Scavenger Hunt Winners Crowned

At the end of the New York City leg:

1st Lazy Monday, completed 10 scavenges earning 385 points

2nd SLO Folks with 6 scavenges, 250 pts

3rd Lawyers, with 150 pts

4th Order & Chaos

And now, drumroll please, Chalmers announces the winner of the 2019 Global Scavenger Hunt: “Only one team wins. The competition was fierce.”

3rd – Order & Chaos, Sal  Iaquinta & Vivian Reyes, doctors from San Francisco

2nd – Lazy Monday, Eric & Kathryn Verwillow, computer networking and think tank professional of Palo Alto, California (“I am in awe of how hard worked beginning to end – embraced the spirit,” Chalmers says.

1st Lawyers Without Borders, Rainey Booth and Zoe Littlepage of Houston, who have competed in the Global Scavenger Hunt 12 times, and won it for the 6th time. “You embody the spirit of the event, to go out of your comfort zone.” (You can follow Zoe’s blog of her experience to get a sense of how strenuous, outrageous, and determined the team was in accumulating their points: https://zoeandraineygreatescape.blogspot.com/2019/05/gsh-2019)

We celebrate at a final bon voyage dinner.

The Global Scavenger Hunt is the brainchild of Bill and Pamela Chalmers, who in addition to forging understanding and bonds among travelers and the people in the destinations visited, use the program to promote voluntourism (one of the scavenges is to volunteer at an orphanage or school during our stay in Yangon, Myanmar, and in the past travelers visited & helped out at: Tibetan refugee camps in Nepal, orphanages in Laos, hospitals in Cambodia, homeless schools in India, hospices in Manila, disabled facilities in Sri Lanka, Ethiopian schools, the slums of Nairobi) and raised money for the GreatEscape Foundation.

“The foundation is one of main reasons we do the event,” Chalmers says. The foundation has raised money to build 12 schools (1 each in Niger, Haiti, Ecuador, India & Ethiopia; 2 each in Sri Lanka & Sierra Leone, and 3 in Kenya), helped build the Tamensa Medical Clinic in Niger for migrating Tuareg nomads which serves as a midwives & nurse training center too. “We know that we saved lives and bettered the lives of hundreds. We have helped over 2400 families in more than 60 countries (mostly women entrepreneurs) with our interest and fee free micro-loans (96% of which have gone to women with a 99% repayment).”

 Through the event this and last year, the foundation will build 2 more co-ed elementary schools , in Ethiopia and Haiti.

TheGlobal Scavenger Hunt travel adventure competition is aimed at returning the romance of travel while testing the travel IQ of the most travel savvy of globetrotters. The travelers (who must apply and be accepted to compete) completed a series of highly participatory, authentic and challenging cultural site-doing scavenges in ten secret countries over a 23-day circumnavigation between April 12 and May 4, 2019 designed to bring people out of their comfort zone and trust strangers in strange lands.

 “The Global Scavenger Hunt covers a lot of extraordinary travel bases,” says Chalmers, who dubs his mystery tour, “A blind date with the world.”

For more information, contact GreatEscape Adventures at 310-281-7809, or visit GlobalScavengerHunt.com.

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© 2019 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Spy v Spy in New York City: New KGB Spy Museum is Window into How Spies Impact World Affairs

 

Sergey, a KGB Spy Museum guide, describes the conditions that political prisoners would have suffered in a society where opposition was suppressed by fear © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

If you really want to be freaked out by the KGB Spy Museum that opened just a few months ago in Manhattan, do what I did: come directly from Spyscape, where you learn about the whole business of being a spy, and be in the middle of reading a book like “The Plot to Destroy Democracy: How Putin and His Spies Are Undermining America and Dismantling the West,” by Malcolm Vance.

The KGB Museum would be scarier if it were not laid out somewhat like an antique shop (but aren’t all spy centers sequestered behind something innocuous like a tailor shop?). Row by row, there are some 3500 artifacts, all of them real, many on view publicly for the first time. They date from 1910 until 1991, the collapse of the Soviet Union when the KGB was replaced by the FSB. But these mundane objects – a lipstick, an umbrella, a pen – were lethal weapons; a tie pin and belt buckle were cameras; a heart reader could seek out a live person hiding even in a refrigerator. Another important tool? A thermometer to determine if a person were truly dead. And if a master key couldn’t unlock an apartment to install a bug? No matter, a transmitter could be aimed at the window from a huge distance to decipher the sound vibrations and eavesdrop anyway. There is even a letter remover which could take out a letter from its envelope, read its contents and replace it back in the envelope, without leaving a mark.

The Patient Chair, used for interrogation, one of some 3500 artifacts on view at the KGB Spy Museum © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

And then there is the “patient chair,” used in a psychiatric hospital, with scary restraints, that were used for interrogations under truth serum or other means.

It turns out that those fantastical gadgets from the James Bond movies, and even the Get Smart spy spoof, were actually based on the real thing. It seems that there is nothing too absurd in the spy world.

The KGB story is really scary though. KGB (КГБ in Cyrillic) stands for “Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti,” which can be translated as the Committee for State Security. The KGB was the main security agency for the Soviet Union, and during the Cold War the KGB was in direct competition with the CIA and other state security agencies around the world for cultural, economic, and military dominance.

Some 3,500 artifacts from the KGB, from 1910 to 1991, many seen publicly for the first time, are on view at the newly opened KGB Spy Museum in Manhattan © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The KGB was born in the Russian Revolution – one of the artifacts is the carpet memorializing Lenin (not his real last name, it turns out) and the beginning of the Revolution in 1917 – and was initially designed to ferret out counter-revolutionaries, or enemies of the Communist state.

One of the world’s largest and most sophisticated intelligence operations, the KGB served a multifaceted role as both a spy agency outside of Soviet Union and a force of secret police within it.

You realize how pervasive and ruthless the KGB was (is), and sense the constant terror that the people must have lived under, as that term “enemies of the state” was broadened to mean any one who criticized or opposed the ruling party, the leadership or policies.

There are real doors from jail cells, and you look through at real video of real prisoners. Those who were placed in solitary were allowed nothing to wear but their underwear; they could sleep only four hours, when the bed would be closed up, and fed only bread and water for 5 to 15 days.

Sergey demonstrates robot hands used to handle dangerousmaterials in a lab © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

One of the world’s largest and most sophisticated intelligence operations, the KGB served a multifaceted role as both a spy agency outside of Soviet Union and a force of secret police within it.

Some of the best engineering and scientific minds were employed to devise gadgets and gizmos – miniaturizing cameras, maximizing surveillance and detection, inventing new ways of transmitting.

“Virtually undetectable, the agency used its state-of-the-art tools and ruthless methods to seamlessly monitor the citizens’ lives and keep them in constant fear of repercussions for any subversive behavior. The investment in the spy technology had a devastating toll on the country’s economy yet it was deemed the most effective and necessary way to keep the state isolated from the rest of the world and keep the Western world out.”

With spies operating in countries all over the world, the KGB had a vast influence on world affairs, which reached its peak during the Cold War. KGB Spy Museum presents a never-before-seen collection of items used in the missions of prominent KGB agents, illuminating the strategies and methods that underlay many of history’s top-secret espionage operations.

In addition to perusing artifacts and learning about the history of the notorious agency, you can read and listen to real stories from spies, witnesses and journalists as well as explore and interact with authentic objects, such as telephone switchboards (most of the operators who connected the calls and then listened in on conversations were KGB), encryption machines, an interrogation chair, designed to extract information from suspects and enemies.

he KGB managed to hide a listening device in this wooden replica of the Great Seal, which hung over the US Ambassador’s desk in Moscow for 7 years before being detected. It took another 1 ½ years to figure out how it worked. The inventor won a Stalin Prize. © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

One of the most interesting stories surrounds a wooden Great Seal in one of the cabinets, that was also one of the KGB’s greatest triumphs, that arose out of the famous summit in the Crimea of Stalin, Churchill and FDR. The head of the KGB, Lavrenty Beria, had a replica of the Great Seal made as a gift for Ambassador Averell Harriman, presented most charmingly by cherubic Young Pioneers (like boy scouts) as a “gesture of friendship.” But inside was an ingenious bug that used electromagnetic energy instead of an external power supply. It hung above the Ambassador’s desk in Moscow for seven years before it was exposed in 1952. “The Americans couldn’t figure out how it worked for a year and a half,” my guide, Sergey, says. (The original is in the NSA’s Cryptology Museum in Washington.)

The inventor of the Zlatoust/Receiver LOSS, Lev Sergeyevich Termen, was a physicist and a musician, who began his career by developing previously unseen electronic musical instruments. In 1947 he won the Stalin Prize for Inventions of Listening Devices.

One of the objects that is literally one-of-a-kind, is a record player made expressly for Stalin; there is also a safe, made by the Bernstein company in Berlin, that came from KGB HQ, still containing the currency that would have been enough to buy 30 cars. Both indications of the privilege along with the power amassed by the Communist leadership despite their calls for a equal society.

The one-of-a-kind record player made especially for Stalin © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Among the rarest objects, which are a point of pride, also seem mundane but were “mechanical masterpieces”:

Tool set КАРОЕД/KAROED (Bark beetle): This is a manual set of special drills and instruments for drilling very narrow holes less than 0.04 inches without any sound in the tree or plastic. Holes were needed to listen to secret conversations with a help of secret microphones. These sharp and pointed drills are specially machined from the very hard metal. The set includes drill extensions, which can be used to drill holes in 3.3 ft and even thicker walls or wooden floors. A special hand-held drill holder had a stopper to drill holes of a certain depth to protect the drill from coming out across the wall by making only a small, hardly visible hole. A special container collects shavings in order not to leave any suspicious marks.

Also very rare: KGB secret drill ИГЛА/IGLA (needle): “It is a unique mechanical masterpiece – the drill IGLA. This very complicated drill reflects the name ‘needle’, because it drills a very thin hole through the concrete. It drills with the help of air compressor with abrasive dust to avoid the sound and vibration. Even the drilling sound was designed by the constructors to simulate that era washing machine Малютка/Maliutka. The person at home thought that a neighbor was probably doing the laundry. The Igla drill had a hole through which the air pressure was inflated according to the manometer readings, and when the drill approached the outside of concrete wall, the air pressure dropped in the drill as the air went out and the drill automatically shut off. The hole was 0.04 inches in size. If the walls were painted or lined with ceramic tiles, the eye did not even see the hole or dust outside. With this drill, the abrasive powder and concrete dust were absorbed by air. Agents who were very patient, slow and responsible were chosen to drill such a hole. In order to drill a 4 inches concrete wall took about 4 hours, and with the preparation – the whole day. Agents, through drilled miniature holes, installed listening or photo devices. After the operation, they applied a hole with the cement mixture and no suspicious marks were left.”

Mundane objects like a belt buckle hid miniature cameras © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

There’s an old fashioned phone where you can “dial” a selection of officials. My guide, Sergey, dials Putin and hands me the phone so I can hear Putin talking (it’s like listening to the LBJ telephone tapes at the LBJ Presidential Museum in Austin). There are also actual phones on display from KGB offices that would have features to disguise the voice at the push of a button.

The two spy experiences – Spyscape and the KGB Museum – have completely different approaches and perspectives, but they complement each other so well, especially when visited one after the other.

Spyscape is modern, state of the art, interactive, pulse-pounding, engaging, immersive experience. KGB is old-school but so relevant today, with the Russian actively hacking elections and using social media to impact US and other elections, policy, and political discourse.

“The KGB Spy Museum aims to present espionage and intelligence operations in an educational and interesting way, emphasizing the importance of human intelligence and setting out a frame of reference for the public to appreciate the great extent to which spies have always influenced world events. The Museum has a policy of presenting the history of espionage without political bias, thus offering visitors a factual and balanced view of the subject. “

The Museum is open daily 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets are available online or in the museum. You need about 1 ½ hours to visit. Tickets are adults (18-64)/$25; Children 7-17, seniors, students, $20; a guided visit, minimum 3 people is $43.99.

KGB Museum, 245 W 14th Street, NY 10011, kgbespionagemuseum.org.

See also: Spy v Spy Has New Addresses in NYC: At Spyscape Find Your Place in World of Espionage

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© 2019 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

‘Hudson Rising’ Exhibit at New-York Historical Society Shows River Was Incubator for America’s Environmental Movement

“Hudson Rising” at the New-York Historical Society: Legendary folk singer Pete Seeger, with a model of the Clearwater, led a movement to reclaim the Hudson River from industrial destruction and overdevelopment © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

This spring, the New-York Historical Society presents Hudson Rising, a unique exhibition that explores 200 years of ecological change and environmental activism along “the most interesting river in America” through artifacts, media, and celebrated Hudson River School paintings.

On view March 1 – August 4, Hudson Rising reflects on how human activity has impacted the river and, in turn, how the river environment has shaped industrial development, commerce, tourism, and environmental awareness. The exhibition also explores how experts in various fields are currently creating ways to restore and re-engineer areas of the river in response to climate change.

Indeed, we tend to think of the environmental movement as originating with Yellowstone and the national parks, but it is fascinating to realize that the beginning of environmental activism – and the techniques – began here. Citizens rallied to oppose the construction of a Con Ed plant on Storm King Mountain; one of the new organizations, Scenic Hudson, sued; the case, in 1965 set a precedent beyond the Hudson, establishing that citizens have standing to sue on behalf of conservation, even when they do not have a direct economic interest,  that beauty and history also merit protection – the forerunner of the Environmental Protection Act. Later, a “viewshed,” modeled on the concept of a watershed, in connection with landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church’s Olana, also warranted preservation.

Curated by Marci Reaven, New-York Historical’s vice president of history exhibitions, “Hudson Rising” begins where environmental consciousness of the Hudson River began, with the landscape artist Thomas Cole © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Hudson River raised consciousness of the importance of environmental protection. the exhibit opens with paintings from Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School art movement (America’s first native-grown art movement), who worried even then about the encroachment of development. His paintings depict an idyllic landscape, but also the destruction of the forest to lumbering.

Much more than a body of water, the Hudson and its surroundings have been the home for humans and hundreds of species of fish, birds, and plants; offered an escape for city-dwellers; and witnessed battles over the uses of the river valley and its resources. For over 200 years, writers and artists have captured the river in paintings, drawings, literature, and photographs, and surveyors and scientists have mapped and measured its every parcel.

The Hudson has always encapsulated the tension between development and conservation. But it was more than about aesthetics, and the need for urbanites to be able to seek respite in the countryside: an early environmental scientist realized that logging in the Adirondacks, which was discovered to be the source of the Hudson, was jeopardizing the watershed supplying New York City.

Scientists at the same time discovered the critical link between forests and the health of rivers. They realized the Adirondack forest supported the Hudson River and aquatic animals. That begins the movement to save the Adirondacks, including the forests. Ultimately, it leads to New York State’s “Forever Wild” amendment to the state constitution, in 1894.

“This path-breaking exhibition explores ideas about the environment that developed in the context of the Hudson, examining how we became aware, as New Yorkers and as Americans, of the role that humans played in the river’s ecological degradation,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical. “The exhibit also looks at the strategies we devised to address it. Spanning the entire industrial era, Hudson Rising presents a compelling account of how the Hudson has been an incubator for our ideas about the environment and our relationships to the natural world for two centuries-plus.”

Indeed, we learn that Theodore Roosevelt, before creating the first national park as president, innovated environmental protection as Governor of New York State, working with New Jersey, to protect the Palisades as a “park for the people” (hugely popular with immigrants who crammed into cities, the park had 2 million visitors in 1920, many who came by a free ferry); similarly Franklin Roosevelt, when he was New York State governor, created what would become the New Deal Civilian Conservation Corps when he was president.

Curated by Marci Reaven, New-York Historical’s vice president of history exhibitions, and Jeanne Haffner, associate curator, Hudson Rising begins with a prelude featuring artist Thomas Cole’s panoramic five-part Course of Empire series (1834-36), a treasure of New-York Historical’s collection that depicts the transformation of a pristine landscape into a thriving city, then its dramatic decline, and the fall of civilization.

Thomas Cole’s painting, Catskill Mountain House © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Cole railed against “human hubris” and the exploitation of nature. “The ranges of the ax are daily and increasing,” Cole said. “Nature has spread for us a rich and delightful banquet. Shall we turn from it?” he wrote in his “Essay on American Scenery” (1836). Cole’s poetic questioning of the social costs of what was seen in his time as progress, serves as a prelude to the exhibition narrative, which begins with the industrial age and continues into the present day. The Hudson River, we learn, was the incubator for the environmental movement.

The exhibition is organized chronologically and geographically into five sections that highlight significant places and events in the environmental history of the river: Journeys Upriver: The 1800s, The Adirondacks: 1870s-1890s, The Palisades: 1890s-1950s, The Hudson Highlands: 1960s-1980s, and A Rising Tide: Today.

The exhibit is designed to meander, like the river itself, and uses actual artifacts – there is even the smell of freshly cut wood from the Adirondacks – that bring you, as much as possible to the Hudson: bricks from Haberstraw; rocks from the Palisades; iron from Cold Spring Foundry across from West Point; wood from Catskills; hemlock (used for tanning), even a fish tank with striped bath (blue eels will be added later). “The layout is a metaphor for the river,” said Ken Nintzel, the designer.

A cherished tourist panorama of the Hudson River from 1847, that was so big, it was accordioned into a book © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are historical maps – one of the most impressive is a panorama map from 1847 that stretches the length of a wall, that tourists would use, “one of the great maps of American history”- photos, paintings, news clips that trace the battle to reclaim the Hudson from industrial pollution. A map from 1890s shows how the Hudson was “redesigned” to make it more navigable for shipping, changing the way the river ran, but in the process, did away with the shallows that hosted aquatic life and mitigated flooding. Another map documents how plentiful oysters used to be – New York city used to be the primary exporter of oysters and clams – until sewage in the Hudson killed off the oysters.

The painting by Thomas Cole of the Catskill Mountain House reminds that American tourism began here in the Hudson – today, you can hike up to where the hotel used to be and gaze out over the Hudson.

The exhibits surround you, and there are various interactive elements. 

“Hudson Rising” features a combination of paintings, artifacts, maps, photos, videos to tell the story of the development of the river and its preservation © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Journeys Upriver: The 1800s starts with a steamboat journey up the Hudson River from the New York City harbor to Albany, inspired by one of the great tourist guides of Hudson River history, the Panorama of the Hudson (1847). The detailed rendering of the river landscape led steamboat and armchair travelers from New York City to the last navigable point of the river near Troy, pointing out natural wonders, Hudson Valley industries, notable individuals, and Revolutionary War sites along the way. Also on view are paintings, industrial objects, and an important Army Corps of Engineers map that shows how the Corps engineered the river to be a more navigable and predictable shipping channel. Hudson River School art on display include Robert Havell Jr.’s View of Hudson River from near Sing Sing, New York (ca. 1850) and George Henry Boughton’s Hudson River Valley from Fort Putnam, West Point (1855), both depicting tourists enjoying the landscape.

The Adirondacks: 1870s-1890s examines the creation of Adirondack Park, established to save the source of the river and combat deforestation in order to protect the viability of the entire Hudson watershed. Advocates for the area included surveyor Verplanck Colvin, who mapped the area’s peaks and lakes as superintendent of the State Adirondack Survey and identified the source of the river at Lake Tear of the Clouds, and Seneca Ray Stoddard, a photographer whose images of deforestation made a case for forest conservation. On view in this section is one of Asher B. Durand’s majestic depictions of the Adirondack wilderness, Adirondack Mountains, New York (ca. 1870).

The Palisades: 1890s-1950s traces the protection of the forests and cliffs of the Palisades to maintain the health of the river and preserve a place for beauty and nature. In the late 1800s, the Palisades cliffs were being blasted to bits by road builders who prized their rock. Citizen activists, such as the New Jersey chapter of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs and the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society, fought back and helped create Palisades Park in 1909. Residents of New York and New Jersey thronged to the park, arriving by foot, ferry, train, and car, with over two million people visiting in 1920 alone, most of them from Manhattan. The exhibition features a selection of tourist brochures from that era, including one with a trio of women posed on the cliff edge, above the river.

The Hudson Highlands: 1960s-1980s explores how activism along the river helped spark the modern American environmental movement. By the early 1960s, untreated sewage and industrial pollutants were poisoning the river. Increasing numbers of power plants were also rising along the Hudson, whose operations were killing millions of fish, and whose monumental structures were intruding upon the most treasured vistas. When Con Edison announced plans to build a plant on Storm King Mountain, citizen activists fought back and prevented its construction. By the 1980s, citizens could legally intervene to stop development that put treasured natural resources at risk. On view is an aquarium featuring striped bass and other fish native to the Hudson River, which now thrive due to activists’ efforts to save them.  Displays of artifacts, images, and media from the environmental campaigns of the era include a 1983 photograph featuring John Cronin, river patroller for the Hudson River Fisherman’s Association (now called Riverkeeper) on his first day on the job, confronting an Exxon tanker discharging polluted water into the river.

The final section, A Rising Tide: Today, discusses the process of reimagining and reclaiming the Hudson River in the 21st century, as experts in many fields explore ways to restore and re-engineer areas of the river in response to climate change. The exhibition showcases innovative projects addressing these concerns, such as a system of “living breakwaters,” reef-like structures designed to restore diverse aquatic habitats, lessen wave impacts, and restore the shoreline, implemented by the New York Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery and landscape architecture firm SCAPE.

“We hope Hudson Rising will inspire visitors to see the river differently, and how movements like environmental activism get born,” Dr. Mirrer said.

“It’s not a new story, but this is the first exhibit that presents such a comprehensive look at the Hudson River as an incubator of the environmental movement.”

Programming

As part of New-York Historical’s What the History programs, a suite of interactive talks, history classes, art-making workshops, and social evenings for a young professional audience illuminates the environmental history of New York, the lasting impact of the Hudson River School painters on the American imagination, and how contemporary design and ideas are engaging with the threats climate change pose to the city.

Visiting families can enjoy a special guide featuring suggested exhibition highlights to view as a family, discussion questions, and gallery-based activities. During the April School Vacation Week (April 19-28), Museum’s family programs explore environmental activism, including art making using recycled materials in Museum galleries. On the weekends (April 20-21 and April 27-28) visiting families can interact with Living Historians portraying famous and unsung activists of American history.

On April 16, architectural historian Barry Lewis discusses how the Victorians “greened” their homes and cities, bringing nature into city greenbelts and private home design. On May 22, Douglas Brinkley, New-York Historical’s presidential historian, explores how presidents like Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt championed the protection of the nation’s natural treasures and established a sprawling network of state parks and scenic roadways, respectively. On June 9, author Leslie Day leads a tour along the Hudson River exploring its rich geological and human history and its diverse ecosystems.

Present Day Relevance

The exhibit is particularly timely: years of exploitation and pollution have resulted in the entire Hudson River, from the Battery to Hudson Falls, some 200 miles, designated a superfund site by EPA. Mandated clean-up by industrial polluters including General Electric, have significantly improved conditions. But the Trump Administration’s EPA is moving to issue a Certificate of Completion which would end GE’s responsibility for cleaning up the Superfund site, despite the state’s research that shows high levels of PCBs remaining in the river.

Governor Cuomo issued a statement ahead of Administrator Wheeler’s visit to New York:

“In New York, we are leading the fight to protect our environment with the most ambitious environmental agenda in the nation. Administrator Wheeler, while you are in New York, I urge you to visit the Hudson River, one of this country’s natural treasures that is also one of the most pressing Superfund sites in the country. New York has fought to restore this vital resource but the ball is now in the EPA’s court. The EPA can either do the right thing and continue to hold GE accountable for continued clean up, or they can side with big polluters and let GE off the hook for its responsibility to clean up PCBs in the river.

 “We refused to allow PCB contamination to continue to jeopardize the health and safety of our communities for generations to come. We hope and expect that the EPA will join us in ensuring the full completion of the cleanup.”

I suggested Wheeler visit “Hudson Rising”.

The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s preeminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research and presenting history and art exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical’s mission is to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history. New-York Historical is also home to the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library, one of the oldest, most distinguished libraries in the nation—and one of only 20 in the United States qualified to be a member of the Independent Research Libraries Association—which contains more than three million books, pamphlets, maps, newspapers, manuscripts, prints, photographs, and architectural drawings.

New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West (at 77th Street), www.nyhistory.org.

See for Yourself: Hike the Hudson River School Art Trail

Walk in the footsteps of the Hudson River School artists Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, Asher B. Durand, Jasper Cropsey, Sanford Gifford and other pioneering American landscape artists, literally walking into their paintings, and appreciating their work in an entirely new way.

New York State created the first “viewshed” – a protected view – at Frederic Church’s Olana, Hudson NY © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

See what inspired Thomas Cole, his art and his passion to save the Hudson Valley environment, when you visit his home and art studio. Visit Frederic Edwin Church’s magnificent Olana,  walk the gorgeous trails and see the very first protected “viewshed”  (Olana State Historic Site, 5720 State Route 9G, Hudson, NY 12534, 518-828-0135, olana.org.) Hike the trails that take you up to where the Catskill Mountain House would have stood, to Sunset Rock, to Kaaterskill Falls, North-South Lake, just as the Hudson River School painters did, often with markers that show the paintings that were created from that very same vantage point.

The view from Sunset Rock in the Catskill Preserve, one of the hikes on the Hudson River School Art Trail, the same view as Thomas Cole painted © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

“The Hudson River School painters believed art to be an agent of moral and spiritual transformation. In large-scale canvases of dramatic vistas with atmospheric lighting, they sought to capture a sense of the divine, envisioning the pristine American landscape as a new Garden of Eden. Their work created not only an American art genre but also a deeper appreciation for the nation’s natural wonders, laying the groundwork for the environmental conservation movement and National Park System.”

Most of the stops on the trail are within 15 miles of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, in Catskill. (Thomas Cole National Historic Site, 218 Spring Street, Catskill, NY 12414, 518-943-7465, thomascole.org)

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© 2019 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures