New York’s best places to see concerts and exhibitions, as chosen by T+L’s arts editor.

By Mario R. Mercado
November 22, 2013
Credit: VIEW Pictures Ltd / Alamy

American Museum of Natural History: Founded in 1869, the landmark institution continues to bring the natural world—and galaxies beyond ours—into sharp view. Expect wide-ranging collections, from dinosaurs to recently restored dioramas, as well as shows at the state-of-the-art Hayden Planetarium of the Rose Center for Earth and Space. A special exhibition in spring 2014 spotlights pterosaurs, winged reptiles, and the largest animals known to have flown (April 2014–January 2015).

Guggenheim Museum: Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic design allows visitors to view the museum’s exhibitions via a single, coiled ramp. The collection begins from the late 19th-century, encompassing Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, abstract, and Surrealist painting and sculpture, European and American minimalist art, as well as conceptual art. In 2014, the Guggenheim presents the first comprehensive exhibition in the United States devoted to the Italian Futurist movement (February 21–September 1).

Neue Galerie: Occupying a beautifully restored Fifth Avenue mansion, the Neue Galerie highlights German and Austrian paintings of the early 20th century—Kandinsky, Klee, Otto Dix, Schiele, Klimt. It also displays the furniture and refined sensibility of decorative objects from the Wiener Werkstätte. Pick up your own souvenir at the well-curated gift shop or a treat from the old world–style café.

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts: America’s preeminent center for the arts counts 11 resident organizations, among them, the Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, Lincoln Center Theater, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Juilliard School, and Jazz at Lincoln Center. Together, they present more than 3,000 performances and events, including the annual Lincoln Center and Mostly Mozart festivals. As part of its recent 50th anniversary, the Lincoln Center campus benefited from a triumphant makeover by Diller, Scofidio and Renfro that embraces audiences anew and includes the thorough redesign and renovation of Alice Tully Hall.

Park Avenue Armory: The historic Park Avenue Armory, a 19th-century construction, has been made over as a venue for the creation and presentation of the visual and performing arts. Of note in 2014: the New York stage debuts of Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston in Macbeth, directed by Rob Ashford and Branagh in a striking production set in the building’s 55,000-square-foot former drill hall (

New York Botanical Garden: Extending over 250 acres of parkland and forest, the New York Botanical Garden has more than a million plants and species in Victorian greenhouses and among hills and outcroppings, and includes 50 discrete gardens. A beloved and sure sign of spring in the city is the Orchid Show, an extraordinary display of thousands of blooms in its conservatories (March 1–April 21, 2014;

Joe’s Pub: This cool and intimate setting within the Public Theater is a showcase for performances by a range of artists: Leonard Cohen, Bebel Gilberto, Norah Jones, Lady Gaga, and emerging artists of every stripe, as well as the pub’s jazz-band-in-residence, The Hot Sardines.

Museum of Modern Art: The midtown institution and its outpost, P.S. 1 in Long Island City, Queens, present defining collections of modern and contemporary painting and sculpture, architecture, design, and photography, along with screenings of films. “Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938,” a survey of the Belgian artist’s Surrealist masterworks, and “American Modern,” drawn from the museum’s works of Modernist icons Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Alfred Stieglitz, are on view through January 26, 2014.

New York Public Library: With its proud lions, Patience and Fortitude, at the entrance of this Fifth Avenue landmark, the research institution remains an essential resource to New Yorkers, visitors, and scholars alike. Less well known but not to be overlooked is its robust (and free) exhibition program, which draws from its wide-ranging collections; “Why We Fight: Remembering AIDS Activism,” on view through April 4, 2014, is a tribute to the pivotal work of New Yorkers involved in the early fight to support people living with HIV.

Carnegie Hall: Carnegie Hall brings the musical world to New York City: orchestras, chamber music, and solo recitals by leading singers and instrumentalists, as well as jazz, world music, and pop performances in three auditoriums. Then there are the festivals. For three weeks in February and March 2014, the concert hall considers the artistic legacy and influence of the preeminent music capital in a wide-ranging festival: Vienna: City of Dreams, from the Imperial Baroque to the 20th century.

Additional reporting by Marguerite A. Suozzi, Peter Schlesinger, and Stephanie Sonsino

Guggenheim, New York

One of the world’s most acclaimed art museums, the Guggenheim in New York City is dedicated to modern and contemporary art from the 20th century to the present. The Guggenheim was founded by Solomon R. Guggenheim in 1937, when he created a foundation that would sustain a museum housing his personal collection of art. Throughout the years, the museum acquired other notable art collections, including those of Justin K. Thannhauser and Count Giuseppe Panza di Biumo, and these holdings combined to form the museum’s primary collection. Artists on display include Chagall, Modigliani, Picasso, Degas, Van Gogh, and Monet.

American Museum of Natural History

Carnegie Hall

Commissioned by Andrew Carnegie and designed by New York City architect William Burnet Tuthill, this famed venue opened in 1891. The Italian Renaissance concert hall features three venues: the Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage, Zankel Hall, and Weill Recital Hall. The interior famously consists of a white and gold palette set against a distinctly Florentine Renaissance design. Unlike most structures of its size in New York, Carnegie Hall is constructed entirely from masonry, with no steel supports. Each season the facility presents roughly 250 performances ranging from orchestras to soloists to artists-in-residence. Docent-led tours of the venue are available, and the Rose Museum presents a history of facility through concert programs, photographs, musical manuscripts, and video.

Lincoln Center

Located a block west of Central Park, Lincoln Center spans over 16 acres and is home to a dozen performing arts organizations, among them the Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, and New York City Ballet. All together the complex features 29 separate performance venues, where the 12 institutions present thousands of performances, programs, and events each year. Guided tours of the campus begin in the David Rubenstein Atrium and include visits to the Metropolitan Opera House, Avery Fisher Hall, David H. Koch Theater, Vivian Beaumont Theater, and Alice Tully Hall.

Neue Galerie

Besides its exemplary collection of German and Austrian fine and decorative art, the Neue Galerie has a jewel-like design shop, highlighted by reproductions of turn-of-the-century tableware by Josef Hoffman, Biedermeier wallpaper, and J&L Lobmeyr crystal.

Museum of Modern Art, New York

The hullabaloo over MoMA's $600 million makeover in 2005 (and $20 admission fee) has overshadowed how impressive its collection truly is. This smartly reimagined space offers more room for exhibitions, as well as unexpected internal vistas between floors that are better able to showcase large contemporary installations. See Warhol's Gold Marilyn, Picasso's mold-breaking Demoiselles d'Avignon, a cluster of Brancusi sculptures, plus photographs and pencil drawings by the modern master—as well as Claes Oldenburg's surprisingly creepy Giant Soft Fan, which induces the same kind of sensory schizophrenia as Meret Oppenheim's fur-covered cup. Don't neglect the outdoor treasures in the Sculpture Garden, an eclectic mix that includes works by Scott Burton, Giacometti, and even an original Guimard-designed Paris metro entrance sign.

Admission: $20 adults, $16 seniors, free for children 16 and under. Closed Tues.

Joe's Pub

One of The Big Apple’s most respected and well-attended music venues, Joe’s Pub opened at The Public Theater in 1998. The intimate space offers guests an up-close look at their favorite musical acts and creates a hip atmosphere with candlelight, lucite tables, and plush velvet couches. Throughout its history, Joe’s Pub has welcomed artists from virtually every musical genre, including Adele, Lady Antebellum, and Eartha Kitt. The venue serves a menu of Italian fare and cocktails to concertgoers enjoying their favorite artists perform.

New York Public Library and Bryant Park