Sure, Midtown’s Times Square beckons travelers with the bright lights of Broadway, while downtown districts boast plenty of trendy boutiques and restaurants, and uptown enclaves are chock-full of cultural offerings—but there’s a lot to be said for spending time in NYC’s other neighborhoods, namely Gramercy and the Flatiron District. Not quite downtown, and not necessarily in the thick of Midtown, Gramercy and the Flatiron District, which cover 14th St. to 34th St. and the East River to Broadway, are packed with bars, restaurants, attractions and retailers. Sanam Skelly, concierge at Gansevoort Park Avenue NYC (420 Park Ave South, 212.317.2900) should know; she’s worked as a concierge at the hotel, which is nestled in the thriving area, since 2011. Here, she recommends things to see, do and experience in her ‘hood.
“One of the neighborhood's hidden gems, Dover Street Market, offers multiple levels of designer shopping, an elevator that seems inspired by Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and a great little spot downstairs for lunch/brunch,” Skelly says. While there, fashionistas can shop cutting-edge apparel by the likes of Alexander Wang, Prada, Simone Rocha and more.
After your shopping excursion, enjoy a tranquil respite (and possibly a bite to eat) at Madison Square Park, which is the perfect place to relax and enjoy views of the nearby Flatiron Building. “It's small and charming, there are almost always events or art exhibits, and it holds the crown jewel of NYC burger society: Shake Shack,” Skelly says.
Not far from Madison Square Park is the Museum of Sex, which Skelly describes as “the crack in the mold of a fairly business-oriented neighborhood, and a welcome one at that.” She adds that once you get past the gift shop, “you'll find that it's actually quite educational in terms of wildlife habits (and fetishes). I'll tip my hat off to any museum that teaches me something and makes me giggle at the same time.” The museum is currently showing several exhibits, including FUNLAND: Pleasures & Perils of the Erotic Fairground, an art installation by London-based conceptual artist duo Bompas & Parr, which features a selection of “carnival attractions” for audiences to experience while they contemplate the sexual subtext of carnivals.
For a casual drink, Skelly suggests the unassuming sports bar Tavern 29, which she says boasts one of her favorite rooftops in the area. “Picnic bench-style seating and pitchers of beer go a long way on a warm summer’s eve,” she says. “It's cool and casual, and a great place to wind down after you've put in your 8-10 hours. Cheers!”
On the food front, café, wine bar and bakery Penelope “is one of my favorite breakfast/brunch places, and it's only a stone’s throw away from Gansevoort Park,” Skelly says—adding that the Nutella French Toast, coupled with the eatery’s charming atmosphere, is sure to please. “Wait times on the weekends tend to surpass a couple of hours...so put your name down and go for a walk,” she advises.
For fancy fare, the Italian food emporium Eataly offers everything from prepared foods and fresh truffles to gift boxes, housewares and cookbooks. “If you're a lover of cheese, wine and the finer food things in life, this is the Mecca of quality goods,” Skelly says. “Not to mention a plethora of dining options, and a great rooftop bar!”