Stay on the A train long enough and it will transport you back to the Middle Ages, which endures atop a hill in Fort Tryon Park, thanks to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Cloisters houses the art of medieval Europe in a building assembled from architectural elements dating between the 12th and 15th centuries, so the setting itself is part of the collection. “When you visit the Cloisters, you get a vivid sense of medieval European culture in a way not possible anywhere else in this country,” explains Kathryn A. Smith, an associate professor of medieval art and chair of the art history department.
Opened to the public in 1938, the Cloisters features around 2,000 works ranging from sculpture and stained glass to rare frescoes and manuscript illumination. Smith (IFA ’89, ’96) particularly loves the Treasury with its array of jewelry and precious objects in gold, silver, ivory, and silk, while the museum’s most renowned pieces are The Unicorn Tapestries, which she says are “widely considered among the most beautiful of surviving sets of medieval tapestries.” Outside, the “absolutely gorgeous” monastic cloister gardens showcase more than 250 species of plants and herbs that were cultivated in the Middle Ages. Overlooking the Hudson River, the Cloisters offers majestic views and a rare sense of serenity that make it hard to believe that you are, as Smith notes, “in the midst of one of the world’s busiest and noisiest cities.”
99 Margaret Corbin Drive, 212-923-3700; www.metmuseum.org/visit/visit-the-cloisters
The best way to feel like a kid again in a 21-and-over crowd is with a trip to Full Circle Bar, where skee-ball and craft beer go hand in hand. The Williamsburg dive features refurbished arcade machines from Coney Island and 50 varieties of canned beer that make it easy to drink and play at the same time. “Skee-ball is faster and less involved than other bar games, so you’re not stuck playing a game of pool for half an hour—the satisfaction is quicker,” says NYU Account Coordinator Katie Pulles, who trounced this magazine’s editor-in-chief during a recent match there.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays the skee-ball is free, along with jumbo pretzels and hot dogs topped with jalapeņo ketchup. Full Circle is also home to the sport’s first-ever competitive league, which the owners dubbed Brewskee-Ball upon its inception in 2005. But Pulles (CAS ’11) skips the tournament action for a more laid-back approach: “When we play we make up drinking games with rules, like you have to spin around first or stand on one foot when you throw. It makes it even more challenging to hit that 100 pocket.”
318 Grand Street in Brooklyn, 347-725-4588; www.fullcirclebar.com
Why settle for packets of powdered cocoa when there’s hot chocolate on a stick? West Village gelateria Popbar serves all its frozen treats as popsicles, but when temperatures drop, their do-it-yourself hot chocolate offers a unique way to warm up. Stir a cube of dark, milk, or white chocolate into a cup of frothy steamed milk for instant cocoa that’s never grainy or watered down. Or for a mug of something even more indulgent, chocoholic Sarah Jin (TSOA ’16) says that nothing beats City Bakery and its giant homemade marshmallows.
“It’s the most decadent hot chocolate I’ve ever had,” she attests. “It tastes like melted chocolate with a little bit of milk.” City Bakery’s annual hot chocolate festival also features a different flavor each day of the month—from chili pepper or banana peel to ginger or black rum and cinnamon. And with specialties like the Moulin Rouge (made with espresso, pomegranate, and lemon) and Sunken Treasure (with chocolate truffles and caramel coins at the bottom), its February calendar of flavors offers weary Manhattanites something to celebrate during the long winter.
Editors’ Pick: Trick and Treat
NYU Alumni Magazine Research Chief David Cohen is a theater aficionado who’s seen it all—more than 250 shows in just the past three years—but even he was amazed by the immersive world of Sleep No More. Not to be confined to a stage, this production is a spooky choose-your-own adventure game—an abstract, twisted incarnation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth performed inside a haunted house disguised as a Jazz Age hotel. Visitors are given Venetian-style masks to wear as they explore six floors of dark drama and mayhem at their own pace, voyeuristically following their favorite characters from room to room. “The desire to see it all will keep you running up and down stairs,” Cohen explains, resulting in “an experience that assaults and rewards the senses as it leaves you overwhelmed.”
Actors Neil Patrick Harris, Alan Cumming, and Evan Rachel Wood have all turned up for guest performances, none of which are ever the same. And Cohen was especially taken with the painstaking detail throughout the fictional 1930s hotel, which boasts more than 100 rooms filled with cryptic clues, trunks to rifle through, and objects that spring to life without warning. “I usually like to be left alone in a comfortable seat when I go out to the theater, but Sleep No More was quite the exception to this rule,” he says. “My adrenaline was flowing, and the three hours flew by.”
530 West 27th Street, 866-811-4111; www.sleepnomorenyc.com