Thank you again to Estelle from Rather Be Reading for inviting me to participate this year in the awesome BEA Part of It series!
Since I’m a librarian I decided to organize my suggested sites around three libraries that I have frequented regularly along with some things to do in the area (thanks to BFF/fellow librarian and blogger Nicole for helping me hash out the idea and some of the places!):
Jefferson Market Library – New York Public Library
425 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY, 10011: Jefferson Market Library was originally a courthouse (where Mae West was tried for obscenity charges in 1927 and the infamous Stanford White murder trial took place in 1906–partly inspiring the 1955 film The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing). A women’s house of detention previously stood on the grounds of the neighboring community garden. Inside the library boasts a welcoming children’s space, specialized New York reference materials and impressive stained glass windows. Be sure to stick around to hear the clock tower mark the hour.
Nearby spots to consider:
- Peanut Butter & Co. (240 Sullivan St, New York, NY 10012): Peanut Butter & Co. is your one stop shop for all things peanut butter. This cozy restaurant has kitschy charm and simple fare. You can build your own sandwich (complete with potato chips and carrot sticks on the side) or choose from custom menu selections that include options ranging from The Elvis (grilled peanut butter sandwich with bananas and honey–bacon optional) to Dark Chocolate Dreams (dark chocolate peanut butter and cherry jam, stuffed with coconut). The menu also includes some non-peanut butter options (tuna or chicken salad or grilled cheese for instance). Be sure to save room for dessert!
- McNally Jackson Books (52 Prince St, New York, NY 10012): This two-floor bookstore is a must-see for bibliophiles in New York. The indie bookstore boasts a great cafe (complete with books hanging from the ceiling), Print on Demand services, a respectable children’s and teen collection in the basement, not to mention a full events calendar.
- Union Square (14th-17th Street, (Broadway and Park), New York City, NY 10001): Union Square is one of Downtown Manhattan’s iconic parks not to mention a transit hub and a great shopping destination. You can explore the park and take in views and also explore the surrounding area (particularly Fourteenth Street) to find a variety of shops, restaurants and street vendors. While you’re in the area be sure to check out the enormous Barnes and Noble, Forbidden Plant, Sephora and keep your eyes peeled for the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck.
- The Strand (828 Broadway, New York, NY 10003): As one of New York’s most famous bookstores, The Strand of course gets its own mention. With used books galore, The Strand is definitely an obvious stop for any bookish tourists. Be sure to buy a signature tote as a functional souvenir!
Central Library – Brooklyn Public Library
10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY 11238: Want to see a library that’s on the National Register of Historic Places, has more than one million cataloged items (including 120,000 items for kids and teens in the Youth Wing), and boasts a beautiful Art Deco exterior? Look no further. This library is also centrally located near several places worth checking out during your trip. You can fuel up at the Four & Twenty Blackbirds Cafe in the library lobby before heading out for more adventures (I recommend the Chocolate Chess pie if it’s in stock!).
Nearby spots to consider:
- Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket (Prospect Park West & Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn): Every Saturday Grand Army Plaza (across the street from the library) hosts a greenmarket with local vendors, musicians and a variety of programs including story times and cooking demonstrations. After perusing the market you can admire the majestic fountain and arch found in Grand Army Plaza proper.
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden (150 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11215): Next to the Central library you’ll find Mount Prospect Park and just beyond that the entrance to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden which has a variety of seasonal exhibits.
- Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn, NY 11238): Because Brooklyn has so much more space, this museum is enormous with tons to see including rotating exhibits, sculpture gardens, Egyptian artifacts and more.
Muhlenberg Library – New York Public Library
209 W 23rd St, New York, NY 10011: The Muhlenberg Library is one of the original Carnegie libraries and opened to the public in 1906. Although small in size, the branch is mighty in services offered including a children’s floor and a bustling media collection.
Nearby spots to consider:
- Doughnut Plant (220 W 23rd St, New York, NY 10011): Doughnut Plant is known for their all natural doughnuts (including cake donuts and square filled donuts!!) and their seasonal specials. Doughnut Plant also has a ton of locations around New York City. I recommend their Chelsea locale because you can also check out the historic Hotel Chelsea at the same time.
- Books of Wonder (18 W 18th St, New York, NY 10011): Books of Wonder is an indie bookstore dedicated to children’s and teen books (along with a gallery of artwork by famous illustrators and a collection of rare books). As one of the places for YA and children’s events, the store always has a nice selection of signed books and fun literary window displays.
- Chelsea Market (75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011): Chelsea Market is a shopping center in Chelsea (right near the Meatpacking District) the converted warehouse features shops, eateries, and more (including an indoor pipe waterfall). Be sure to check out Fat Witch Bakery or Eleni’s Cookies for something sweet and Chelsea Market Baskets for some containers to hold all of your new purchases. Local news station NY 1 and Food Network has space on the upper floors so if you time your trip right, you might even spot a local celebrity.
- The High Line (New York, NY 10011): The High Line is an elevated park along a defunct rail line called the West Side Line. The park runs from Gansevoort in the Village up to 34th Street along the west side of Manhattan with a variety of access points. The park has great views, restaurants, art installations and viewing outlooks. Although it can get crowded in nice weather, the High Line is a great spot to end your NYC wanderings by admiring scenic views of the surrounding area.
- The Whitney (99 Gansevoort Street, New York, NY 10014): The Whitney Museum of American Art recently moved to a new (larger) building downtown near the High Line. If you plan on exploring downtown Manhattan this May you can also be among the first people to see the museum’s new digs.
Now you know three of my favorite libraries in New York City and some of my favorite places near each of them. I hope you have time to check some of them out during your next New York City adventure!