The Very Best of New York 2014: Play

Our choices for places to play, in the city that never sleeps!

BEST PERFORMING ARTS VENUE

Carnegie Hall 881 Seventh Ave, carnegiehall.org. Since its opening in 1891, this historic venue has been home to some of the most memorable and iconic musical performers of our time. From chamber music to orchestras to pop, world and jazz, this stately Big Apple landmark always offers something for everyone!

BEST MOVIE DATE

Nitehawk Cinema 136 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, nitehawkcinema.com. So simple, yet so brilliant. At Nitehawk, you can order delicious food and craft cocktails right from your seat, even in the middle of the movie. It rules! This Williamsburg hotspot screens weird ‘90s flicks and cult classics, as well as new releases. Also, the restaurant-quality snacks, dinner and drink specials coordinate cleverly with the films—and it’s all crazy-tasty.

BEST DATE WITH YOUR FUR BABY

New York Dog Nanny 126 Lexington Ave, newyorkdognanny.com. Is it a little upsetting that there’s a holistic clinic for dogs, complete with Reiki services, acupuncture and organic shampoos? Very, very much so. But can we resist? Nope. Our sweet babies deserve this.

BEST QUEER ART EXPERIENCE

Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art 26 Wooster St, leslielohman.org. The first dedicated LGBTQ art museum in the world, this institution offers a unique perspective into the rich artistic history of our community. We just can’t overstate the value of a visit. We won’t wax poetic, but if your Pride needs a boost, you’ll absolutely find it here.

BEST VIEW OF CENTRAL PARK

Belvedere Castle Central Park near W 81st St, centralparknyc.org. This castle’s name in Italian translates to “beautiful view,” and it is an apt title. With amazing panoramic views of the city and some of the park’s most beautiful landmarks, this 19th century castle is the spot for some truly breathtaking photography and sightseeing.

BEST REALITY CHECK

Hayden Planetarium Central Park West at 79th St, amnh.org. When you feel the weight of daily life in our fine metropolis bearing down on you, a virtual tour of the galaxy somehow puts all that stress in perspective. The Planetarium hosts an acclaimed lecture series, brilliant space shows and even the occasional telescope party. If you're still not sold, know this: the director is astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

BEST REPOSITORY OF ASIAN CULTURE

Asia Society and Museum 725 Park Ave, asiasociety.org/nyc. If there’s one thing our fair city boasts in excess, it’s culture. This institution truly is the melting pot of the world, so what better way to experience it than to visit NYC’s best collection of Asian history? Open Tuesday through Friday, this museum has everything you might want to learn about Asian art, society, history and culture.

BEST MUSEUM…PERIOD

Metropolitan Museum of Art 1000 Fifth Ave, metmuseum.org. What is there to say? The Met is the Met. Few museums in the world can compare, and with its new $65 million plaza out front, this architectural marvel is a wonder on its own. Its incredibly vast collection of priceless art and historical artifacts is just a bonus.

BEST SPORTS DATE

New York Liberty at MSG 4 Pennsylvania Plaza, wnba.com/liberty. Watching Swin, Cappie and the rest of the crew get good and sweaty ripping up the courts is probably the most underrated funtivity in the five boroughs. Tickets are a steal, and the entertaining 'Torch Patrol' will suck you right into the action.

BEST SECOND DATE SPOT

The Gutter 200 N 14th St, Brooklyn, thegutterbrooklyn.com. This old-school Williamsburg bowling alley made headlines recently when the doctor with Ebola stopped in for a few quick games on his way home. (He’s recovered now, be cool.) You won’t get Ebola here, but you will have a blast! They have pitchers on tap, fierce local bands and charming, jankety lanes that clearly haven’t changed in years.

BEST VARIETY SHOW FOR BROADWAY JUNKIES

Broadway Sessions at West Bank Café 407 W 42nd St, westbankcafe.com. Every Thursday, the intimate Laurie Beechman Theatre in the West Bank Café is home to NYC's best underground musical theater scene. With zero tourists in sight, hilarious host Ben D. asks Broadway newbies and established stars the tough questions (Bernadette or Idina? Which Golden Girl are you?) with rousing sing-alongs and surprise performances along the way.

BEST PLACE TO POLISH UP ON YOUR FIGURE DRAWING

Bat Haus 279 Starr St, Brooklyn, bathaus.com. Get your creative juices flowing every Wednesday night in Bushwick at Bat Haus' popular Drink 'n Draw! Sure, there's a cooler of PBR in the corner, but it's all about the art. Rub elbows with your talented hipster neighbors and attempt to do justice to the professional nude models.

BEST CREEPY LITERARY HAUNT

Poe Park Grand Concourse btw E 192nd St and E Kingsbridge Rd, Bronx, nycgovparks.org. Anyone who’s ever cracked a book will appreciate this slice of literary history nestled in our midst. Built in 1812, the park’s cottage belonged to American poet Edgar Allan Poe, and it was here he wrote “Annabel Lee,” “Eureka,” and “The Bells.” Read these classic verses before you go. Shivers!

BEST DINNER THEATER

Queen of the Night at the Paramount Hotel 235 W 46 St, queenofthenightnyc.com. Patrons of Queen of the Night find it hard to describe, and perhaps that’s for the best. Think hedonistic, surreal dinner party. They do say this: It’s expensive, and it’s worth it. Bring an open mind and zero inhibitions.

BEST NATURE FIX

Brooklyn Botanic Garden 990 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, bbg.org. Think winter is a strange time to visit a garden? Wrong! BBG is gorgeous on a snowy day and hosts tons of amazing, festive and underrated indoor exhibits, including a bonsai museum and four conservatories of glorious green flora thriving in different climates. So grab a cup of hot cocoa and get your nature on. Trust us—it’ll do you good.

BEST WEEKLY SERIES

Sunday Sessions at MoMA PS1 22-25 Jackson Ave, Queens, momaps1.org. PS1 remains the best experimental art space in the world, with its diverse programming and adventurous exhibitions. In short, it kicks ass! Sunday Sessions is a weekly presentation of performances, moving images, music, dance, talks and other cultural programs. Each week there are different artists, curators, intellectuals and others sharing their latest projects and ideas with the audience. Be there.

BEST PLACE TO SHOW OFF HOW UNBELIEVABLY INTELLIGENT YOU ARE

TriviaTryst NYC select bars and restaurants, triviatryst.com. Lesbians need to get into this, because trivia nights are an excellent way to meet smart women. Hosted by a rotating cast of hilarious weirdos from NYC’s comedy circuit, you can find a game going almost every night of the week. Join a team or make your own—and maybe, possibly, win some free food and the respect of random folks around you!

BEST WAY TO ROCK HER WORLD

Brooklyn Boulders, 575 Degraw St, Brooklyn, brooklynboulders.com. It’s rock climbing! Get it? Don’t be mad—this facility will really take care of you, whether you’re a full-blown adrenaline junkie or just burning off some workweek stress. If you’re not exactly Sporty Spice, relax; the ‘Learn to Boulders’ introductory course on climbing technique is actually a fun date idea.

BEST PLACE TO GET GAME

Twenty Sided Store 362 Grand St, Brooklyn, twentysidedstore.com. Once in a while, it’s important to put away all this damn technology and have fun the old-timey way. This board game store is much more than just a board game store! Check the weekly events calendar to meet up with neighbors for some cutthroat rounds of Magic the Game, Dungeons and Dragons, and all your classic favorites.

BEST PLACE TO PEE YOUR PANTS LAUGHING

Gotham Comedy Club 208 W 23rd St, gothamcomedyclub.com. Say “no” to your oncoming seasonal affective disorder with a hilarious evening at this renowned comedy club. Luck out and you might catch Judy Gold, Sherri Shepherd, Chelsea Peretti or Susie Essman, just to name a few. Don’t miss the regular queer series, Homo Comicus!

BEST INSTANT KARMA

SAGE Friendly Visiting Program 305 Seventh Ave, sageusa.org. Well, maybe not instant, but the SAGE Friendly Visiting Program is a fantastic volunteer opportunity where you can make a huge difference. In this case, it's weekly visits with an LGBT senior, who is often homebound with no family to care for her (or him) and little contact with other queer individuals.

BEST GRAZING PARADISE

Smorgasburg Brooklyn Flea Winter Market, 1000 Dean St, smorgasburg.com. Sitting down to eat is overrated, amirite? Everyone hates being jostled in a swarm, but when you have dozens of food vendors dishing out exemplary little plates of anything you might possibly crave, it’s all somehow just dandy. Runner-up: Broadway Bites at Greeley Square Park.

BEST PLACE TO WATCH THE GAME

Resorts World Casino 110-00 Rockaway Blvd, Queens, rwnewyork.com. Resorts World might be the best kept secret in Queens. Home to the biggest HDTV in the borough, it's our fave Sunday night football hangout. Really, though, you'll have a blast any night of the week! Hit those slot machines, explore top notch dining options, shake your junk in the club, and catch spot-on tribute bands—all in one place!

BEST 'TREAT YO' SELF' SPOT

Spa Castle 131-10 11th Ave, Queens, spacastleusa.com. Every girl needs a spa day. It’s science. The folks at this College Point resort respect that, and that’s why this hidden treasure has all the right moves. Spa Castle is affordable, clean, professional and serene. Choose from five different body massages and eight saunas, Korean body scrubs and rejuvenating facials. Don’t go for an hour; make a day of it.

BEST DRAG FESTIVAL

Bushwig Brooklyn (location varies), bushwig.com. As one might suspect, this crowd is a smidge heavy on our gay boy brethren. However, it’s a smash-hit annual event that absolutely celebrates drag kings, faux queens and performative gender expression of all kinds. Start planning your outfits now, people. Let’s represent!

BEST UNDERGROUND ART DATE

Pierogi 177 N 9th St, Brooklyn, pierogi2000.com. Check out the scene alone or amaze a date with a sexy cultural outing. This Williamsburg gallery features diverse artists exploring a range of media, from conceptual drawings to large-scale sculpture. Even better, catch a screening or performance at Pierogi’s huge exhibition space, The Boiler—a converted factory boiler room.

BEST DANCE DATE

Company XIV 428 Lafayette St, companyxiv.com. You could take her to Lincoln Center, sure, but XIV turns traditional ballet into stunning and deliciously scandalous entertainment. You haven’t seen a show like this before. Their current twist on a holiday classic, Nutcracker Rouge, is particularly delightful—and fortunately for us, this company works all year.

BEST WEIRD WORKOUT

Bad Prom Run location TBA, badprom.com. This delightfully freakish 5K will help work out that PTSD from your old prom experiences! You'll enjoy photo ops and light-up bad prom themes along the course, and the run benefits various charities. It might even be wacky enough to make us enjoy running. Maybe.

BEST ESCAPE FROM THE CITY

Willowbrook Park Entrance on Victory Blvd, Staten Island, nycgovparks.org/parks/willowbrook-park. This NYC park is for serious nature lovers and best reached by car, but when you’re in the “sylvan expanses” of Willowbrook, you won’t believe it’s the city. Escape the bleak urban grind for a much more serene setting. Hikers can explore the wooded landscape, while birdwatchers can scan the five-acre lake to spot native birds.

BEST LITTLE-KNOWN HISTORIC LANDMARK

Little Red Lighthouse Ft. Washington Park, Washington Heights, historichousetrust.org. Manhattan’s only remaining lighthouse, the 40-foot tower was built in 1880 and is located underneath the George Washington Bridge on the banks of the Hudson River. The juxtaposition of this tiny red lighthouse keeping watch over the boats on the water with the massive metal structure looming overhead is truly a sight to see!

BEST WATERFRONT STROLL

Pier 25 Pier 25 at N Moore St, hudsonriverpark.org. The longest pier in Hudson River Park is a happening spot in summer, but can still get pleasure from it in the winter months. Take a romantic stroll, admire the historic ships or just slurp a hot beverage and enjoy the view.