Travel: We’ll Take (Old) Manhattan

“I want an old-fashioned winter weekend in New York,” I tell my husband as we check into the Regency on Park Avenue, one of my favorite underrated hotels, where the service is impeccable and the guests are actually grown-ups. No restaurants so trendy we look old enough to be the parents of every Olsen twin look-alike in the place. No boutique hotel whose rooms have walls so thin that we can hear the party going on—three floors below. No navigating our way through the theme park that has (sadly) become SoHo. So we make a pact: We won’t dip below 14th Street during our entire stay.

This will be easy, I tell myself as we settle into our one-bedroom suite on the 19th floor, with a spectacular view of Park Avenue. Shopping on Fifth Avenue, a walk through Central Park, an evening with Billy Crystal at his one-man show 700 Sundays, a visit to the newly reopened Museum of Modern Art—I make the list in my head.

But first things first: a drink in the lobby bar, the Library, where people sit on comfy couches and order sidecars and play chess while snacking on M&Ms in glass bowls. It’s the perfect respite from a blustery day, and we’re hard-pressed to think of a reason ever to leave. Except that Broadway beckons—we scored tickets to Crystal’s poignantly funny play about his life growing up in New York—so we head down to the theater district.

The next morning, we check out the superstores around the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street—Gucci, Burberry, Chanel. But it’s the newly expanded Museum of Modern Art that we’re really excited about. Unfortunately, the wait to get in is over an hour (the line extends up the block!), and it’s too bitterly cold to endure. So we hail a cab to the Met and take in the “WILD: Fashion Untamed” exhibit, as well as a photography retrospective, “Few Are Chosen: Street Photography and the Book, 1936-1966,” with works by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans and Robert Frank.

That evening, we break our “14th Street” rule and head down to the West Village to eat at Blue Hill, a restaurant housed in a low-ceilinged room a few steps off Washington Square. It’s a cozy, low-lit setting, with exposed brick walls and understated chocolate-brown banquettes, that takes a backseat to superb seasonal dishes such as poached duck breast served with a stew of carrots, braised portabella mushrooms and toasted spices, and a delicate crab salad with avocado, mint and marinated citrus.
As we cut across Washington Square to catch a cab to whisk us back uptown, we only have one regret: that we didn’t have one of those perfect Manhattan snowfalls, which would have been the right ending to an old-fashioned New York weekend.

»The Regency, 540 Park Avenue, New York; 212-759-4100. Rooms from $379.
»700 Sundays, Broadhurst Theater, 235 West 44th Street, New York; 212-239-6200. Through March 5th.
»Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York; 212-879-5500. “WILD: Fashion Untamed,” through March 13th; “Few Are Chosen: Street Photography and the Book, 1936-1966,” through March 6th.
»Blue Hill, 75 Washington Place, New York; 212-539-1776. Dinner for two, with wine, from $100.