Museum Mile is the name for a section of Fifth Avenue running from 82nd to 105th streets on the Upper East Side, in an area sometimes called Upper Carnegie Hill. The Mile, which contains one of the densest displays of culture in the world, obtained its ninth museum, the Museum for African Art, in 2012, which was actually the first new museum constructed on the Mile since the Guggenheim in 1959.
In addition to other programming, the museums collaborate for the annual Museum Mile Festival to promote the museums and increase visitation. The Museum Mile Festival traditionally takes place here in the evening of the second Tuesday in June. The nine museums are open free that evening to the public. Several of the participating museums offer outdoor art activities for children, live music and street performers. During the event, Fifth Avenue – a renowned shopper’s paradise – is closed to traffic.
First things first, I wanted something for breakfast. I couldn’t be walking around museums all day long on an empty stomach. If truth be told, the previous night I had enjoyed more than one burger in Times Square, so I’m sure I wouldn’t have died if I hadn’t ate brekkie. Still, a bacon and egg bagel was in order before I arrived on Museum Mile. Bagels are one of the quintessential New York foods (brought over here by Jewish immigrants) and it tasted really good!
My first museum on the mile was the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Colloquially “the Met”, it is the largest art museum in the United States and among the most visited art museums in the world. Its permanent collection contains over two million works, divided among seventeen curatorial departments. Represented in the permanent collection are works of art from classical antiquity and Ancient Egypt, paintings and sculptures from nearly all the European masters, and an extensive collection of American and modern art. The admission fee is whatever you want to pay – which theoretically means you could visit for free, although $10-$20 is a good amount to donate.
Lunchtime now, so it’s time for a traditional New York Sandwich. Back home (and, in fact, in many countries) we have something called a “New Yorker”, which is a sandwich inspired by the tastes and flavours of NYC itself. It is made of very cheap cuts of corned beef (or even pastrami) along with a bit of salad, and sometimes mustard. I don’t like them much, but I was tempted to try the real thing in a café just off Fifth Avenue for lunch. It was a good decision from me, as my beef sandwich was amazing! The beef tasted nothing like the cheap, processed stuff we get in these kind of sandwiches back home. I also had some root beer here, which is another American tradition, although I guess I was enjoying it so much I forgot to take a photo!
Now it’s time for the world-famous Guggenheim. This museum is the permanent home of a continuously expanding collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern and contemporary art and also features special exhibitions throughout the year. Its cylindrical building, wider at the top than the bottom, was conceived as a “temple of the spirit”. Its unique ramp gallery extends up from ground level in a long, continuous spiral along the outer edges of the building to end just under the ceiling skylight. The paintings inside are very impressive, even if you’re not a true fan of contemporary art.
Before heading home, I fancied my first ever try of a so-called “Cronut”, which is like a mixture of a French croissant and a classic American doughnut. If truth be told, I didn’t like this snack much. I kinda knew I wouldn’t like it, but as I always try local foods when I am travelling, it was important to see what the fuss is about regarding these ‘cronuts’. Personally, I would prefer the sugar and jam and the traditional doughnuts! Now that’s what I call “Real Americana”!
In Europe, London and Paris have amazing areas dedicated to museums, but here in New York City, the Museum Mile just takes the biscuit! You could stay here for the whole day if these kind of galleries interested you. I think, though, I picked the best two choices for a casual visitor to the area, and these are the ones I would recommend to other travellers.