When September rolls around, the packs of summer touriststhin, revived celebrities return from the Hamptons, and New York is back to its normal pace of life. Thanks in part to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's art-friendly policies and green-space initiatives, New York has a host of new attractions to check out.
The latest installment in André Balazs' Standard hotel chain, The Standard New York (from $195 a night, 848 Washington St., standardhotels.com ) couldn't be hotter. From the staff of models to the video art in the elevator, the striking Polshek Partnership-designed building straddles the High Line park in the Meatpacking District. This is the place to stay right now. If you're into that kind of thing.
For a more central location, check out the recently renovated Grace . It's just off Times Square, which is now closed to traffic and outfitted with chairs for taking in this nexus of mega-advertising. With colorful wallpapered floors and an indoor pool/lounge with DJs nightly, Grace's Spanish owners are going for a fashion-crowd vibe. (from $200, 125 W. 45th St., room-matehotels.com )
Art and music lovers should check in at the legendary Hotel Chelsea , where numerous bohemians have stayed and some have died (like Dylan Thomas and Sid Vicious' girlfriend, Nancy Spungen). The landmark building has an incredible, ornate spiraling staircase and walls covered in art from past tenants. (doubles from $199, two-room suites from $429, 223 W. 23rd St., hotelchelsea.com )
No design tour of Manhattan is complete without a stop at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum . The only museum dedicated to historical and contemporary design, it's set just off Central Park in a gorgeous Georgian mansion built for Andrew Carnegie in 1901. The Design USA exhibit opening Oct. 16 and running until April will highlight the best in design innovation from the last decade. Visit Oct. 18-24 for free during National Design Week. (Regular admission $15; 91st Street and Fifth Avenue; cooperhewitt.org )
If the Cooper-Hewitt is old news to you, check out the collection of handmade art at the Museum of Arts and Design . Formerly the American Craft Museum, MAD caused a stir last year with plans to renovate the Edward Durell Stone-designed building. The host of big names leading a charge to save the building — including Richmonder Tom Wolfe — failed, and the renovation proceeded. See Madeleine Albright's jewelry collection and a paper-art exhibit this fall. ($15, 2 Columbus Circle madmuseum.org )
Downtown, the New Museum reopened in 2007 in a striking new building. Japanese architects Sejima + Nishizawa designed an off-kilter tower of stacked boxes sheathed in aluminum mesh meant to reflect the changing weather. Visitors standing behind an invisible glass-wall railing on the seventh-floor observation deck look as if they're balancing on one of the boxes. Inside, the museum has a mission to present cutting-edge art; don't be surprised to see performance art, video and sound pieces woven through the exhibits. ($12, 235 Bowery, newmuseum.org )
Stop in for a drink at the Rose Bar in the Gramercy Park Hotel. Artist/filmmaker Julian Schnabel designed the chalet-chic interior highlighted by art from Warhol, Hirst, Basquiat and others. You'll need a reservation to get into the celebrity-filled back room (cocktails $19, 2 Lexington Ave., gramercyparkhotel.com). Swing by Buddakan to witness the jaw-dropping drama of interior designer Christian Liaigre's Asian-Gothic space (entrées $23-$49, 75 Ninth Ave. at 16th Street, buddakannyc.com ).
"Farm-to-table" is so pervasive it's almost passé in New York right now. Try dinner at Cookshop for a daily menu of wood-fired and rotisserie-cooked local meats and fish in an eco-modern setting built by local craftsmen (entrées $22-$38, 156 10th Ave., cookshopnyc.com ).
Comfort food continues to be hot, and now recession-friendly, too. Just down Bowery from the New Museum, visit famed chef Daniel Boulud's new downscale eatery DBGB Kitchen & Bar for a French-American fusion such as the decadent "Frenchie" burger topped with pork belly ($17) or one of 14 house-made sausages (including a hot dog) in a cool, kitchen-supply-store inspired interior (entrées $9-$26, 299 Bowery, danielnyc.com ).
Afterward, be sure to walk west to stroll through the trendy NoHo neighborhood to see what SoHo used to be like. Hint: Locally owned boutiques and fewer tourists.
Visit some of New York's newest green spaces. The High Line park opened in June after a 10-year fight to save the elevated freight train tracks that used to ship goods from the warehouses of the Meatpacking District. Today it's planted with native wildflowers and trees, and offers views of the Hudson River and the trendy neighborhood below (Gansevoort Street to 20th Street between 10th and 11th avenues, thehighline.org ).
Take a free ferry from the Financial District over to the 172-acre uninhabited Governors Island . Just reopened this summer, the former military installation has prime views of Manhattan and is filled with art installations, interactive sculpture and events through Oct. 11. (Free, govisland.com )