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New York Botanical Garden.
New York Botanical Garden.
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Curbed New York pocket guide: spring 2017

Curbed New York's editors have chosen the 26 places that you must visit in New York right now—the new classics, old favorites, and other essential sites.

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New York Botanical Garden.
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New York City has been called many things—the city that never sleeps, the capital of the world—but it could also be called "The City With Too Many Places to See." Between NYC's many iconic landmarks and and the new classics that regularly pop up, it can be overwhelming to decide which museum to visit, or what neighborhood is worth exploring, on any given day. That's where we come in: Curbed's editors have chosen 26 sites—cultural institutions, parks, neighborhoods, even houses—that you must see right now. Some are the latest and greatest things to hit the scene, while others are always worth a look, no matter the season.

And, as always, if we missed anything—a cool new gallery, a hidden neighborhood gem, or a landmark that's just not getting its due—let us know in the comments, or hit the tipline.

[Note: Places are listed geographically, starting in Lower Manhattan and continuing north, then through the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.]

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Grand Central Terminal

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It’s impossible to create a list of must-visit NYC sites without mentioning Grand Central Terminal—particularly its astronomical ceiling in the Main Concourse, where you’ll catch many a transfixed tourist and locals alike gazing up into the sky. (It wasn't so long ago that the whole thing was covered in a layer of grime and soot, though.) There’s so much to take in at this cnetury-old gem—whether it’s the Oyster Bar covered in Guastavino tile, the adjacent Whispering Gallery, or the stunning statuary clock depicting Hercules, Minerva, and Mercury—that you’ll almost certainly need to make more than one visit to take it all in.
Courtesy Grand Central Terminal

Van Cortlandt Park

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Bask in the spring weather in one of the city's largest parks. Interesting historic fact: The park is named after the first NYC mayor to have been born in the city, Stephanus Van Cortlandt. The historic trivia doesn't end there. The park is also home to the first public golf course in the United States, and borough's oldest house.

International Center of Photography

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The International Center of Photography, founded in 1974, moved its museum downtown to a new home in Morris Adjmi’s 250 Bowery last June. The museum offers rotating exhibits that promote photography and visual culture as a means of creating social change.

Saul Metnick

Rubin Museum of Art

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This tranquil and expansive museum is focused on the art and culture of the Himalayas, particularly Tibetan art. The establishment got its start from the private art collection of Donald and Shelley Rubin, and opened in 2004 in what was once a Barneys outpost. The couple hired Beyer Blinder Belle to remodel the space, and kept the building’s spiral staircase, which now creates a great flow between the museum’s various galleries. Interactive exhibits, like the Buddhist Shrine Room, are some of the highlights of this beautiful space.
Courtesy the Rubin Museum

The Skyscraper Museum

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Chicago may be the birthplace of the skyscraper, but its New York City where the building's shape has been perfected. At the Skyscraper Museum's SOM-designed home in Battery Park City, the skyscraper's form and the forces that literally and metaphorically shaped it are explored. Admission runs just $5 for adults and $2.50 for students, a welcome break from the $20-plus admission charged at some of the city's other fine institutions.

A photo posted by Jessica (@jiskaful) on

The New York Earth Room

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This iteration of Walter De Maria's "interior earth sculpture," made up of 280,000 pounds of dirt, was first exhibited 40 years ago in 2017. It's been its current form, on the second floor of a Soho building for a little less time than that, and remains one of the city's hidden gems. Go to clear your head (much-needed in the new year), or to escape the hustle and bustle of the city—being confronted with 250 cubic yards of dirt has a way of doing that.

Second Avenue Subway

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After a century of planning, the long-awaited Second Avenue line—well, part of it, anyway—is finally open to commuters. The three stations of its first phase (at 72nd, 86th, and 96th Streets) are worth a visit for the artwork found within, commissioned as part of the MTA's Arts and Design Program. Vik Muniz contributed lively mosaics of real-life New Yorkers at 72nd Street; Chuck Close's portraits of artists like Philip Glass, Lou Reed, and Kara Walker festoon the walls of 86th Street; and Sarah Sze's abstract "Blueprint for a Landscape" covers mezzanine at 96th Street.

Solomon R Guggenheim Museum

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There's the obvious reason to visit the Guggenheim, of course: Frank Lloyd Wright's iconic Fifth Avenue building, which remains as stunning as it was when it first opened in 1959. But go beyond the building's exterior and explore the art within: This season, escape the sounds of New York in Doug Wheeler's "PSAD Synthetic Desert III" where patrons can bask in their own silence for 20 minutes at a time.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema - Brooklyn

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The Alamo Drafthouse opened its 25th theater in Downtown Brooklyn in October, and though it was waylaid by several setbacks—perhaps inevitably, since it's part of the City Point megaproject—the wait was worth it. The seven-screen, 800-seat theater is probably the nicest new movie theater to open in recent years, with cushy seats and a locally-focused food and drink menu. The House of Wax bar, which has a creepy cabinet-of-curiosities vibe, is a welcome addition to the neighborhood, too.

Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)

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There's always something going on at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It's extensive calendar gives a look at all of the films, galas, dance performances, conversations, and concerts patrons of the arts can expect in the coming months.

Brooklyn Museum

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The Brooklyn Museum is all about women this year: an exhibit celebrating the work of American artist Marilyn Minter is up through May 7, and a George O'Keeffe retrospective will remain open through mid-July, all part of the institution's ongoing celebration of the Sackler Center for Feminist Art. Of course, the building itself is worth a look: The enormous structure was designed by McKim, Mead & White, and its lobby got a user-friendly revamp by SITU Studios in 2015.

LeFrak Center at Lakeside

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Prospect Park's LeFrak Center, which was totally renovated as of 2013, offers public roller skating hours in the warm months, along with figure skating lessons, hockey competitions, and even curling sessions when it's colder.

Governors Island

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Governors Island isn’t the easiest place to get to—ferries depart from Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge Park selectively—but it’s worth the extra effort. The former military base has been transformed into a 172-acre green oasis that hosts a myriad of events, artworks, and attractions that are often free. The Hills opened last year providing new scenic outlooks and slides for visitors of all ages. Island Oyster, a new “picnic-style” eatery near Soissons Landing, will debut this year alongside the island’s handful of dining options. Governors Island will be open every day from May 1 through October 1, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends, Memorial Day, July 4, and Labor Day, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.

Flatiron Building

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Daniel Burnham's landmark skyscraper turns 110 this year, so what better time to revisit the building? Its unique shape—dictated by the shape of the lot that was available—and stunning Beaux Arts detailing have made it a beloved NYC icon basically since it debuted, and you'll no doubt encounter many an Instagrammer snapping a photo when you check it out.
Fans of miniatures will have tons to ogle at Gulliver’s Gate, a 50,000-square-foot display of buildings and scenery found throughout the world, all 87 times smaller than their original size. Over 600 teams from across the globe produced work for this shrine to replicas, where visitors will find everything from New York City’s Rockefeller Center and New York Public Library to international landmarks like the Taj Mahal and Arc de Triomphe. This unparalleled interactive miniature opens for previews on April 6.

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

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It’s always a great time to visit the Museum of Modern Art, but the June 12 opening of “Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive” gives a new reason to visit the cultural gem this spring. The exhibit celebrates the 150th anniversary of the prolific architect’s birth, and will put roughly 450 architectural drawings, models, photographs, and other types of rare works by Wright produced between the 1890s and 1950s on display. The exhibit will be open from June 12 to October 1.

A post shared by trudy chin (@trvdychn) on

Mrs. John D. Rockefeller III Guest House

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Nestled among the skyscrapers of Midtown Manhattan is this gem of a home by modern architect Philip Johnson. The only private residence designed by the architect in NYC, the house was built between 1949 and 1950 for Blanchette Ferry Hooker Rockefeller, the wife of philanthropist John D. Rockefeller III, as a guest house and space to display her vast art collection. Johnson himself lived in the space in the mid-’70s, long before the property sold at auction in 2000 to an unnamed buyer for $11.1 million. As it remains a private residence, visiting this building is merely to gawk—and Instagram—its timeless facade.

A post shared by Joan Melo (@joan_mb) on

Kips Bay Decorator Show House

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The crème de la crème of New York City interior design show houses will be held at the former China Institute headquarters on the Upper East Side. The 10,000-square-foot townhouse will open to the public on May 2 sporting rooms designed to the nines by the likes of Thom Filicia, Victoria Hagan, and Vicente Wolf. The show house is a major fundraiser for the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club, and will be open through June 1.
Max Touhey

Metropolitan Museum of Art Rooftop

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art's roof garden is perennially one of the most popular spots in New York City during the summer, in part because it's a lovely venue, but also because of its fantastic, often-immersive outdoor exhibits. Following on the heels of last year’s “PsychoBarn” by Cornelia Parker comes Adrian Villar Rojas’s “The Theater of Disappearance.” Poised to open on April 14, the installation will include banquet tables set on a larger-than-life checkerboard floor featuring sculptures that harken to the museum’s collection.
Shutterstock

New York Botanical Garden

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What better way to welcome spring than to visit the holy grail of flowering outdoor attractions, The New York Botanical Garden? NYBG in the Bronx serves up 250 acres of indoor and outdoor greenery and scenery like Daffodil Hill and walking trails through Thain Family Forest. The garden’s annual orchid show, which this year focuses on the over 1,200 native orchid species of Thailand, is on display through April 9. It’ll be followed up by an exhibit featuring works by renowned sculptor Dale Chihuly, marking the artist’s first major New York City garden show in over a decade. The exhibit, open April 22 through late October, will feature 20 installations that will take attendees through the evolution of Chihuly’s career.
Shutterstock

The Noguchi Museum

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Not only is the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum a treasure trove of artwork by the late Japanese-American sculptor, but the building itself is a delight for the eyes. Housed in a formal industrial building appended to an open-air sculpture garden, the museum is also of Noguchi’s elegant design. The institution is dedicated to extolling the artist’s vision and legacy, and is in possession of the world’s most extensive collection of Noguchi’s sculptures, architectural models, stage drawings, furniture, and more. Plan a visit to this locale but do note: The museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Curbed Flickr Pool/Harris Graber

Anish Kapoor's "Descension" at Brooklyn Bridge Park

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The sculptor behind Chicago’s "Cloud Gate" will bring his installation "Descension" to Brooklyn Bridge Park for its North American debut come May 3. The installation includes a 26-foot-wide whirl pool where water is treated with an all-natural black dye to create an opaque, seemingly endless hole. Visitors will be invited to peer into the center by way of a surrounding viewing platform.
Tadzio via the Public Art Fund

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

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After years of turbulent real estate tiffs, Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 1 hotel, 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge is finally open for business. Priding itself on maintaining the 1 Hotels’ brand commitment to creating eco-luxury lodgings, the hotel blends sustainability with an industrial-chic design. (Check out its artwork, sourced from Brooklyn-based artists.) The 194-room hotel is also home to one of the best new rooftop bars in Brooklyn with spectacular views of Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge.
Max Touhey

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

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Washington, D.C. gets national attention for its magnificent cherry blossoms, but New Yorkers don’t need to trek to America’s capital to partake in this tree’s blooming season. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has its own grove of glorious cherry blossoms—and they’re just starting to bloom for the season. The garden’s Cherrywatch map tracks exactly what stage of bloom the cherry blossom trees are at, so be sure to pay close attention if you plan to make a trip this season. Free guided walking tours throughout the garden are also on offer.
Shutterstock

Prospect Park

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Colloquially known as Brooklyn’s Backyard, Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux’s expansive Brooklyn endeavor turns 150 this year. The Prospect Park Alliance is celebrating throughout the season by hosting a series of history tours, concerts, a fundraising party, and several volunteer opportunities to get involved with the park. Meanwhile, Smorgasborg has resumed its Sunday sessions on Breeze Hill, where visitors can find dozens of vendors and food from across the world. While there, consider picking up a Long Meadow Gold by Brooklyn Brewery, brewed specifically to celebrate the park’s illustrious anniversary.
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Coney Island

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Visiting Coney Island is a must-do in the warmer months, but there’s even more reason this year to not miss out. The historic Coney Island Cyclone will celebrate its 90th birthday this summer. The wooden roller coaster first debuted on June 26, 1927, and has been serving up thrills ever since. While out and about, visit the new 5,000-seat Ford Amphitheater. If you’re looking to make this a full-blown Coney Island excursion, don’t forget about the Brooklyn Cyclones at MCU Park.

A post shared by Selin Kurun (@sssssel) on

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Grand Central Terminal

It’s impossible to create a list of must-visit NYC sites without mentioning Grand Central Terminal—particularly its astronomical ceiling in the Main Concourse, where you’ll catch many a transfixed tourist and locals alike gazing up into the sky. (It wasn't so long ago that the whole thing was covered in a layer of grime and soot, though.) There’s so much to take in at this cnetury-old gem—whether it’s the Oyster Bar covered in Guastavino tile, the adjacent Whispering Gallery, or the stunning statuary clock depicting Hercules, Minerva, and Mercury—that you’ll almost certainly need to make more than one visit to take it all in.
Courtesy Grand Central Terminal

Van Cortlandt Park

Bask in the spring weather in one of the city's largest parks. Interesting historic fact: The park is named after the first NYC mayor to have been born in the city, Stephanus Van Cortlandt. The historic trivia doesn't end there. The park is also home to the first public golf course in the United States, and borough's oldest house.

International Center of Photography

The International Center of Photography, founded in 1974, moved its museum downtown to a new home in Morris Adjmi’s 250 Bowery last June. The museum offers rotating exhibits that promote photography and visual culture as a means of creating social change.

Saul Metnick

Rubin Museum of Art

This tranquil and expansive museum is focused on the art and culture of the Himalayas, particularly Tibetan art. The establishment got its start from the private art collection of Donald and Shelley Rubin, and opened in 2004 in what was once a Barneys outpost. The couple hired Beyer Blinder Belle to remodel the space, and kept the building’s spiral staircase, which now creates a great flow between the museum’s various galleries. Interactive exhibits, like the Buddhist Shrine Room, are some of the highlights of this beautiful space.
Courtesy the Rubin Museum

The Skyscraper Museum

Chicago may be the birthplace of the skyscraper, but its New York City where the building's shape has been perfected. At the Skyscraper Museum's SOM-designed home in Battery Park City, the skyscraper's form and the forces that literally and metaphorically shaped it are explored. Admission runs just $5 for adults and $2.50 for students, a welcome break from the $20-plus admission charged at some of the city's other fine institutions.

A photo posted by Jessica (@jiskaful) on

The New York Earth Room

This iteration of Walter De Maria's "interior earth sculpture," made up of 280,000 pounds of dirt, was first exhibited 40 years ago in 2017. It's been its current form, on the second floor of a Soho building for a little less time than that, and remains one of the city's hidden gems. Go to clear your head (much-needed in the new year), or to escape the hustle and bustle of the city—being confronted with 250 cubic yards of dirt has a way of doing that.

Second Avenue Subway

After a century of planning, the long-awaited Second Avenue line—well, part of it, anyway—is finally open to commuters. The three stations of its first phase (at 72nd, 86th, and 96th Streets) are worth a visit for the artwork found within, commissioned as part of the MTA's Arts and Design Program. Vik Muniz contributed lively mosaics of real-life New Yorkers at 72nd Street; Chuck Close's portraits of artists like Philip Glass, Lou Reed, and Kara Walker festoon the walls of 86th Street; and Sarah Sze's abstract "Blueprint for a Landscape" covers mezzanine at 96th Street.

Solomon R Guggenheim Museum

There's the obvious reason to visit the Guggenheim, of course: Frank Lloyd Wright's iconic Fifth Avenue building, which remains as stunning as it was when it first opened in 1959. But go beyond the building's exterior and explore the art within: This season, escape the sounds of New York in Doug Wheeler's "PSAD Synthetic Desert III" where patrons can bask in their own silence for 20 minutes at a time.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema - Brooklyn

The Alamo Drafthouse opened its 25th theater in Downtown Brooklyn in October, and though it was waylaid by several setbacks—perhaps inevitably, since it's part of the City Point megaproject—the wait was worth it. The seven-screen, 800-seat theater is probably the nicest new movie theater to open in recent years, with cushy seats and a locally-focused food and drink menu. The House of Wax bar, which has a creepy cabinet-of-curiosities vibe, is a welcome addition to the neighborhood, too.

Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)

There's always something going on at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It's extensive calendar gives a look at all of the films, galas, dance performances, conversations, and concerts patrons of the arts can expect in the coming months.

Brooklyn Museum

The Brooklyn Museum is all about women this year: an exhibit celebrating the work of American artist Marilyn Minter is up through May 7, and a George O'Keeffe retrospective will remain open through mid-July, all part of the institution's ongoing celebration of the Sackler Center for Feminist Art. Of course, the building itself is worth a look: The enormous structure was designed by McKim, Mead & White, and its lobby got a user-friendly revamp by SITU Studios in 2015.

LeFrak Center at Lakeside

Prospect Park's LeFrak Center, which was totally renovated as of 2013, offers public roller skating hours in the warm months, along with figure skating lessons, hockey competitions, and even curling sessions when it's colder.

Governors Island

Governors Island isn’t the easiest place to get to—ferries depart from Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge Park selectively—but it’s worth the extra effort. The former military base has been transformed into a 172-acre green oasis that hosts a myriad of events, artworks, and attractions that are often free. The Hills opened last year providing new scenic outlooks and slides for visitors of all ages. Island Oyster, a new “picnic-style” eatery near Soissons Landing, will debut this year alongside the island’s handful of dining options. Governors Island will be open every day from May 1 through October 1, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends, Memorial Day, July 4, and Labor Day, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.

Flatiron Building

Daniel Burnham's landmark skyscraper turns 110 this year, so what better time to revisit the building? Its unique shape—dictated by the shape of the lot that was available—and stunning Beaux Arts detailing have made it a beloved NYC icon basically since it debuted, and you'll no doubt encounter many an Instagrammer snapping a photo when you check it out.

Gulliver's Gate

Fans of miniatures will have tons to ogle at Gulliver’s Gate, a 50,000-square-foot display of buildings and scenery found throughout the world, all 87 times smaller than their original size. Over 600 teams from across the globe produced work for this shrine to replicas, where visitors will find everything from New York City’s Rockefeller Center and New York Public Library to international landmarks like the Taj Mahal and Arc de Triomphe. This unparalleled interactive miniature opens for previews on April 6.

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

It’s always a great time to visit the Museum of Modern Art, but the June 12 opening of “Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive” gives a new reason to visit the cultural gem this spring. The exhibit celebrates the 150th anniversary of the prolific architect’s birth, and will put roughly 450 architectural drawings, models, photographs, and other types of rare works by Wright produced between the 1890s and 1950s on display. The exhibit will be open from June 12 to October 1.

A post shared by trudy chin (@trvdychn) on

Mrs. John D. Rockefeller III Guest House

Nestled among the skyscrapers of Midtown Manhattan is this gem of a home by modern architect Philip Johnson. The only private residence designed by the architect in NYC, the house was built between 1949 and 1950 for Blanchette Ferry Hooker Rockefeller, the wife of philanthropist John D. Rockefeller III, as a guest house and space to display her vast art collection. Johnson himself lived in the space in the mid-’70s, long before the property sold at auction in 2000 to an unnamed buyer for $11.1 million. As it remains a private residence, visiting this building is merely to gawk—and Instagram—its timeless facade.

A post shared by Joan Melo (@joan_mb) on

Kips Bay Decorator Show House

The crème de la crème of New York City interior design show houses will be held at the former China Institute headquarters on the Upper East Side. The 10,000-square-foot townhouse will open to the public on May 2 sporting rooms designed to the nines by the likes of Thom Filicia, Victoria Hagan, and Vicente Wolf. The show house is a major fundraiser for the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club, and will be open through June 1.
Max Touhey

Metropolitan Museum of Art Rooftop

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's roof garden is perennially one of the most popular spots in New York City during the summer, in part because it's a lovely venue, but also because of its fantastic, often-immersive outdoor exhibits. Following on the heels of last year’s “PsychoBarn” by Cornelia Parker comes Adrian Villar Rojas’s “The Theater of Disappearance.” Poised to open on April 14, the installation will include banquet tables set on a larger-than-life checkerboard floor featuring sculptures that harken to the museum’s collection.
Shutterstock

New York Botanical Garden

What better way to welcome spring than to visit the holy grail of flowering outdoor attractions, The New York Botanical Garden? NYBG in the Bronx serves up 250 acres of indoor and outdoor greenery and scenery like Daffodil Hill and walking trails through Thain Family Forest. The garden’s annual orchid show, which this year focuses on the over 1,200 native orchid species of Thailand, is on display through April 9. It’ll be followed up by an exhibit featuring works by renowned sculptor Dale Chihuly, marking the artist’s first major New York City garden show in over a decade. The exhibit, open April 22 through late October, will feature 20 installations that will take attendees through the evolution of Chihuly’s career.
Shutterstock

The Noguchi Museum

Not only is the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum a treasure trove of artwork by the late Japanese-American sculptor, but the building itself is a delight for the eyes. Housed in a formal industrial building appended to an open-air sculpture garden, the museum is also of Noguchi’s elegant design. The institution is dedicated to extolling the artist’s vision and legacy, and is in possession of the world’s most extensive collection of Noguchi’s sculptures, architectural models, stage drawings, furniture, and more. Plan a visit to this locale but do note: The museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Curbed Flickr Pool/Harris Graber

Anish Kapoor's "Descension" at Brooklyn Bridge Park

The sculptor behind Chicago’s "Cloud Gate" will bring his installation "Descension" to Brooklyn Bridge Park for its North American debut come May 3. The installation includes a 26-foot-wide whirl pool where water is treated with an all-natural black dye to create an opaque, seemingly endless hole. Visitors will be invited to peer into the center by way of a surrounding viewing platform.
Tadzio via the Public Art Fund

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

After years of turbulent real estate tiffs, Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 1 hotel, 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge is finally open for business. Priding itself on maintaining the 1 Hotels’ brand commitment to creating eco-luxury lodgings, the hotel blends sustainability with an industrial-chic design. (Check out its artwork, sourced from Brooklyn-based artists.) The 194-room hotel is also home to one of the best new rooftop bars in Brooklyn with spectacular views of Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge.
Max Touhey

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Washington, D.C. gets national attention for its magnificent cherry blossoms, but New Yorkers don’t need to trek to America’s capital to partake in this tree’s blooming season. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has its own grove of glorious cherry blossoms—and they’re just starting to bloom for the season. The garden’s Cherrywatch map tracks exactly what stage of bloom the cherry blossom trees are at, so be sure to pay close attention if you plan to make a trip this season. Free guided walking tours throughout the garden are also on offer.