Friday, October 14, 2011

Open House NY: Ten unique destinations, no reservations

Open House New York, throwing wide the doors of dozens of previously unavailable landmarks, begins its tenth year this Saturday morning. And if you're like me, you've once again forgot to make any reservations to any of the hottest tickets. Several of them are already sold out.

But do not fret! There actually seem to be many more free, no-reservation places involved this year, so many one need only visit Open House's interactive map to plan out a day of free events.

Better still, with some creativity and possibly an unlimited Metrocard, you can observe the city as you've never seen it. Not as skyscrapers, but a city of lighthouses, country homes, and endless beautiful vistas with nary a ticketholders-only line in sight.

NOTE: While there are no 'reservations' per se, there is 'pre-registration' for some venues in order to get into them for free. Visit Open House New York's website for more information.


1 Wave Hill (Bronx)
Not the easiest place to get to, but well worth a couple subway transfers. Wave Hill in the Bronx is one of my favorite places in New York. (I don't know why, but I always feel like I'm visiting the set of an English costume drama when I'm here.) This sumptuous mid-19th century manor (a summer home for Mark Twain) has a beautiful grounds and gardens, but it's the view of the Hudson River and the Palisades that are worth the trip.
Saturday, October 15: 09:00 am - 04:30 pm
Sunday, October 16: 09:00 am - 04:30 pm
Guided tours do need a reservation. Information here.

2 TWA Flight Center, JFK Airport (Queens)
If you're willing to brave JFK Airport on a Sunday afternoon, Eero Saarinen's fanciful terminal is open for viewing. Get in touch with your inner stewardess and check out the fantastic architecture here (and lament the passing of the nearby I.M. Pei-designed terminal, soon to be demolished.)
Sunday, October 16: 01:00 pm - 04:00 pm

3 Lighthouse Tender LILAC (Manhattan)
Moored to a dock near Tribeca, this former Coast Guard steamship from 1933 is open for exploration, ready for you to pose for your newest Facebook picture, standing gallantly in its wheelhouse.
Saturday, October 15: 01:00 pm - 06:00 pm
Sunday, October 16: 01:00 pm - 04:00 pm
Information here

4 Seguine Mansion (Staten Island)
If you really want to feel like you're getting out of the city, the Seguine Mansion in southern Staten Island offers a dislocating voyage to the bucolic 19th century. There are many great old homes open for viewing this year (including previous recommends like the Morris-Jumel Mansion and the Bartel-Pell Mansion) and the Seguine, home of a former railroad baron, is among the best preserved and most secluded. They also have horses!
Saturday, October 15 : 10:00 am, 1:00 pm, 3:00 pm
Information here

5 The Arsenal (Manhattan)
I feel like the Arsenal, older than the Central Park which surrounds it, never gets its proper due. This Sunday gives you a good excuse to give this Gothic Revival castle -- and home to both New York's first menagerie and natural history museum -- a little attention.
Sunday, October 16: 10:00 am - 04:00 pm
Information here

6 Church Of St. Paul & St. Andrew (Manhattan)
There are a great many historic churches open for viewing this weekend, but if you haven't seen this building's almost whimsical Renaissance architecture (designed by R. H Robinson, early skyscraper architect), it's worthy of the stop.
Saturday, October 15: 12:30 pm - 05:00 pm
Information here

7 Henrick I. Lott House (Brooklyn)
What's the newest, oldest house in New York? Get a little sneak peek at this newly refurbished home, virtually unchanged since most of it was constructed in 1800, incorporating an even older structure from 1720. This building's been around longer than most of the stuff I write about on this blog. Take a look before it officially opens to the public.
Saturday, October 15: 11:00 am - 03:00 pm
Sunday, October 16: 11:00 am - 03:00 pm
Information here

8 Prison Ship Martyr's Monument (Brooklyn)
Sure, you can visit this memorial to the Revolutionary War anytime you like here in Fort Greene Park. But this weekend, there'll be somebody on hand to give you some insight into this Stanford White-designed marvel, honoring the American patriots who were kept, tortured and killed in decrepit prison vessels in nearby Wallabout Bay during the war.
Saturday, October 15: 11:00 am - 03:00 pm
Sunday, October 16: 11:00 am - 03:00 pm
Information here

9 Brotherhood Synagogue (Manhattan)
This beautiful building has always been a tad disorienting. Still looking as it did in the mid-19th century as a Quaker Meeting House, it's now a stunning synagogue, right off of Gramercy Park.
Sunday, October 16: 12:00 pm - 04:00 pm
Information here

10 Maple Grove Cemetery (Queens)
Just in time for Halloween, this quiet, landmarked cemetery in Kew Gardens will play host to Spirits Alive on Saturday, featuring people in period costume, depicting residents of the cemetery. People in period costume -- in a graveyard, via a self-guided tour -- is always a must-see for me. I will push you out of the way to get to this. (Just kidding. There's plenty of room at ole Maple Grove!)
Saturday afternoon  2 pm - 4 pm (other sources say it lasts until 6pm)
Also: reservations for tours on Sunday
Information here

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