Tuesday, Sep. 30, 2008

Hudson River Park

For a thrilling view of New York City's West Side — and the New Jersey skyline across the Hudson River — get off your hotel gym's LifeCycle and get on the real thing. (Transportation Alternatives lists bike-rental shops.) Begin your journey in Battery Park, at Manhattan's southern tip, and follow the bike path north through Hudson River Park, which runs along the river's edge to West 59th Street. You'll encounter a panoply of New York City sights along the way: sunbathers sprawled across park lawns, daredevils flipping at the trapeze school at Pier 40 (go ahead, give it a shot), skateboarders soaring at the skate park. Architecture fans can admire Richard Meier's trio of glass apartment towers (Charles Street) and Julian Schnabel's Palazzo Chupi (just off the path, at West 11th Street), which looks like it was airlifted in from the Tuscan countryside. As you pedal toward the massive Chelsea Piers sports complex (West 23rd Street), keep your eye out for the frosted, white IAC building (West 18th Street), media mogul Barry Diller's international headquarters — and Frank Gehry's first New York City commission.

When the park ends, you can continue north along the trail to the Boat Basin Café (West 79th Street) in Riverside Park, where you can refuel while looking out over the Hudson. Feeling ambitious? Pedal all the way to the George Washington Bridge at West 178th Street. It may be the (11-mile) ride of your life.

Staten Island Yankees

Can't score tickets to a Yankees game? No worries. Treat yourself to an afternoon with the other Yankees: the club's Class A affiliate in Staten Island. The minor-league team has become a major attraction since debuting in 1999, often selling out games at Richmond County Bank Ballpark. The Baby Bombers' scenic stadium is nestled on the bank of Upper New York Bay in St. George, and offers stellar views of the city from every seat in the house. The best part of your outing might be the trip on the Staten Island Ferry to and from the game. The free, 25-minute ferry ride sails under the outstretched arm of the Statue of Liberty, past Ellis Island — it's truly one of NYC's cheapest thrills. Upon arrival, it's a short walk to the arena. Play ball!

Dia: Beacon and Storm King

It's hard to decide what's more spectacular: the lush surroundings of the Dia Foundation's art museum in Beacon, N.Y., or the world-class artwork inside. Perched on the bank of the Hudson River, 52 miles north of the city, the huge museum opened in 2003 in a former Nabisco box-making factory. It's home to large-scale works by Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, Louse Bourgeois, Dan Flavin, Gerhard Richter, Donald Judd...you get the idea. The top draw might be Richard Serra's monumental trio of Torqued Ellipses. Best of all, there's no need for a car: The museum is a five-minute stroll from the Beacon train station on the Metro North line, a scenic 80-minute ride from Grand Central Terminal.

If you do have a car, you might consider making it a fine-art twofer by making a pit stop at the Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, N.Y., 14 miles southwest of Beacon. The seasonal (April–November) sculpture park is set on 500 acres and includes work by Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Nam June Paik, and a 2,728-foot earthwork by Andy Goldsworthy. Both Dia and Storm King let you have your art and nature too.

New York City Beach

Surrounded by the towering skyscrapers of Manhattan it's easy to lose sight of the fact that New York City is situated on the Atlantic Ocean. Though the white-sand beaches of Eastern Long Island and the Hamptons are within reach, you can get a distinctly New York experience much closer by, in Brooklyn, along the bustling oceanfront boardwalk that links Brighton Beach and Coney Island.

Take the B or Q train down to Brighton Beach, where there's as much (if not more) Cyrillic signage as English — it's home to a recent wave of immigrants from Russia and the former Soviet republics (you might recognize it as the turf of protagonist Niko Bellic in Grand Theft Auto 4) — so you'll feel like a foreign tourist as you explore the shops and cafes of "Little Odessa." For a jaw-droppingly weird experience, check out the floor show at the National, a supper club on Brighton Beach Avenue that's half-Moscow, half-Vegas.

Farther west along the boardwalk is Coney Island, home of the legendary amusement park. A major development proposal is threatening to close parts of Astroland, but it seems the Cyclone, a popular wooden roller coaster, will survive. Coney Island is a people-watcher's paradise. On hot summer days it can still resemble Weegee's famous photograph of sunbathers packed like sardines on the beach. Down a couple red hots at Nathan's Famous hot dog stand or feed your inner aggressor at the Shoot the Freak paint-ball attraction, just around the corner from the Coney Island Freak Show. You can even catch the Mets' rival to the Staten Island Yankees: The Brooklyn Cyclones play in stunning KeySpan Park, right off the boardwalk.