Sure, every neighborhood in Manhattan has its famous attractions and entertainment that are sure to drop your jaw, but I guarantee that a visit to the Lincoln Center is sure to put anyone’s head on a swivel. This cultural oasis is particularly rich in history, urban life, and of course, the performing arts. Centered around the intersection of Broadway and Columbus Avenue, between West 65th and West 66th streets, this premier performing arts center is home to the world’s most distinguished opera and ballet companies, musicians, theater and films! To explore this cultural oasis, I hitched a simple and direct ride on the 1-2-3 from Christopher Street to the Columbus Circle stop on 59th Street. Signs that it was Memorial Day filled the New York scene: unusually crowded streets, packed Subway trains, and of course, flashy red sales signs in every store window that always seemed to catch my eye.
Columbus Circle, the gateway to the Upper West side, is within comfortable walking distance from the Lincoln Center. Located where Broadway meets 59th Street, Eighth Avenue, Central Park South, and Central Park West, this intersection creates a large and rare rotary in a city of right angles – not to mention that it’s lavishly adorned with flowers, a gorgeous fountain, and a 700-ton statue honoring Christopher Columbus himself. Good old C-squared stands atop a seven-story granite pillar with his hand on his waist in a pose of complete confidence and achievement. To the southeast of the circle, male vendors line along the corner eager to sell the typical tourist everything from rides in bicycle carriages to single bikes to ride around Central Park. Give them a single second of eye-contact and they spit out their sales pitches again and again like broken record players. As I would expect, tourists flood this area on the weekend and holidays. They travel in small groups of four or three, clutching their Gucci and Armani shopping bags in pure death grip and snapping photographs of the remarkable architecture that overwhelm the area. The top-notch brand names only mean one thing: the Time Warner Center headquarters is nearby; right across the street in fact. The twin towers of the Time Warner Center which include a vertical shopping mall and restaurant complex, luxury apartments and the five-star Mandarin Oriental Hotel ($875 a night!) dominate the west side of the circle. The enormous upscale mall features more than 40 shops and boutiques, including Borders Books & Music, Bose, Cole Haan, Dean & DeLuca, Eileen Fisher, J. Crew, Sephora, Swarovski, Whole Foods and Williams Sonoma. On higher floors, CNN has its studios, Jazz at Lincoln Center offers performances, and Per Se, one of Manhattan’s most exclusive restaurants, charges couple $500 for a lavish and tasteful evening. The menu was extremely out of reach for my wallet’s liking, so I decided it would be best to sit and order a fruit tart from Bouchon Bakery on the third floor. The elegantly prepared, great-tasting dessert was further complemented by their extremely nice service.
If skyscrapers and luxurious hotel accommodations tickle your fancy, The Trump International Hotel and Tower is located on the North side of Columbus Circle. Bellmen, dressed in their finest suits, seem to guard every possible entrance to this 52-story building. And at $800 a night, I could understand that guests expect the sharpest looking welcoming committee.
Despite these breathtaking attractions, what makes this neighborhood truly stand out as a cultural treasure is the Lincoln Center. Nowhere in the world will you find a more thrilling collection of performing arts venues than this extraordinary complex of theaters and concert halls. With its impressive roster of resident arts organizations — among them the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet and the New York Metropolitan Opera, (which, like Cher, is known simply by one name: The Met). Throw in a year-round program of touring acts, festivals and special events, and you can easily see Lincoln Center ranks among New York City’s greatest cultural treasures. Whether it is Shakespeare or Schoenberg, Sondheim or Scorsese, Lincoln Center has something for everyone obsessed with culture. Unfortunately when I visited, the plaza was undergoing major construction on a major redevelopment plan that will modernize, renovate, and open up the Lincoln Center campus in time for its 50th anniversary celebration in 2009-2010. Although I had high hopes of seeing its iconic fountain and beautiful architectural design, I was never disappointed for a single moment. The artistic essence that makes this area so captivating still surrounded me from every angle. For any culture vultures visiting or living in Manhattan, a trip to experience the magnificence of the Lincoln Center area is a DEFINITE must.