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Exploring My Own Backyard, NYC

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Indagare founder Melissa Biggs Bradley spends hundreds of days each year on the road. But during a recent break from her travels, she took the opportunity to explore closer to home. Here are her favorite finds in New York now.

As a born and bred and never-leaving New Yorker, I am tired of the fake news that New York is dead and dreary, that all of the glamour has moved south. As I predicted at the first wave of flights from the city, the restaurants and retail shop closures during Covid have made way for a renaissance to be born from the ashes.

Yes, pre-Covid sky-high rents around the city had made it impossible for young creators and innovators to open new ventures. But maybe, I thought, places like the Upper East Side and the West Village will lose some chain stores and get independent boutiques and restaurants again. Maybe artists and young entrepreneurs and a grittier urbanite will come and give us some of the edge and vitality that I remember from growing up. Well, they have.

Lots of new places are opening and bringing new energy to the city, rewarding those who stayed and those who are coming back. Now that I’ve had a break in my travels to spend some time in New York, I’m taking the opportunity to explore my revitalized backyard and share the new and classic only-in-NYC shops and activities that make living and visiting here so special–and hopefully encouraging others to come and see the brewing spirit.

Related: What’s New in New York

Exploring the Upper East Side

For Exquisite Jewelry: FD Gallery

A townhouse on the Upper East Side houses FD Gallery, the city’s most special jewelry gallery. Okay, I am biased. I truly love its owner Fiona Drunkenmiller. She has amazing taste and curates with an eye to lasting value; she was trained and thinks as an investor, and I have watched her collect exquisite rare pieces my entire life. She and her team scour the world for the very best designs from vintage Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier and Bulgari, to the best contemporary artists like Hemmerle and Sabba Jewels. And while they have plenty of showstoppers, friends and I have found amazing deals on vintage rings and watches that the FD team sourced at auctions or through private estates. Anyone who loves jewelry shouldn’t be intimidated to climb the stairs and meet their experts. 26 East 80th Street

For Much Needed Pampering: Dr. Barbara Sturm

My daughter introduced me to Dr. Barbara Sturm products a number of years ago, and I invited her on my former Indagare Global Conversations podcast in 2020, where she explained her philosophy and shared beauty tips. (You can still listen on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, if you’re curious). Now, she has opened her first permanent beauty spa in a five-story Beaux-Arts townhouse on the Upper East Side. She has had pop-ups downtown before, but after an amazing facial a few weeks ago in one of the upstairs facial suites, I couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome her and her team to the neighborhood. (Tip: ask for aesthetician Melissa.) The bottom floor sells all of Dr. Sturm’s products (and gift certificates, if you need last-minute treat for someone); and upstairs are a lounge and facial suites decorated in a more warm residential style than a clinical one. It is conveniently located on Madison Avenue between 77th and 78th, so it’s also great for out-of-towners staying at Indagare Adored properties The Mark Hotel and The Carlyle. 1006 Madison Avenue

Sturm seems to be part of a wave of new health and wellness options on the Upper East Side. Isle of Us, a delicious health food café (that delivers) connected to the new Sage + Sound spa, which offers mental fitness programming like breath work; practical mysticism and meditation classes focused on mindfulness, sleep and movement. And on the beauty front, a host of medical salons  have also come to the U.E.S. like Modern Age founded by former COO of Glossier, Melissa Eamer, and Ever Body, both of which offer a range of non-invasive beauty treatments like microneedling and NAD infusions. 

For Antiques, Art and More: KRB

KRB is a special home inspiration shop that was opened by Kate Rheinstein Brodsky on the Upper East Side a few years ago. But post-Covid the shop has moved to a bigger, more beautiful space on Lexington and 73rd Street in a wonderfully restored historic building. Kate’s goal is the same. She wanted “a place where someone can walk in and find something to fall in love with, whether it’s a piece of 19th-century pink splash luster porcelain, a lacquer side table, or a vintage chair reupholstered in a zippy way.” Not surprisingly, as the daughter of acclaimed interior designer, Suzanne Rheinstein, founder of Hollyhock in LA, Kate has an amazing eye for antiques, objects, paintings, glassware and putting color and patina together. 1024 Lexington Ave

For Italian Treasures: Achille Salvagni Atelier

A fabulous addition to the Upper East Side is Achille Salvagni Atelier. The Roman designer works with traditional Italian artisans to create bespoke furniture, lighting and objects in the “noblest materials: mahogany, rosewood, royal oak, laurel, onyx, bronze and gold,” and their gorgeous showroom brings a modern sophistication to the neighborhood. 817 Madison Avenue

Ralph's Coffee
Ralph's Coffee. Photo by Indagare founder Melissa Biggs Bradley
Maison Ullens, NYC
Maison Ullens. Photo by Indagare founder Melissa Biggs Bradley
Hermes US Flagship
Hermes US Flagship. Photo by Indagare founder Melissa Biggs Bradley
The Guggenheim, NYC
The Guggenheim. Photo by Indagare founder Melissa Biggs Bradley
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Casa Cruz New York. Photo by Indagare founder Melissa Biggs Bradley

For a Coffee Break on Madison: Ralph’s Coffee

Ralph’s Coffee now feels like a neighborhood fixture. Plus, up and down Madison Avenue are newcomers like lifestyle brand Sid Mashburn and Ann Mashburn and designer edit Kirna Zabête, which just moved uptown to open next to the The Frick Collection. 888 Madison Avenue

For Travel Uniforms: Maison Ullens

I am obsessed with travel uniforms: clothes that are versatile, comfortable and beautifully and consciously made. So one of my favorite fashion discoveries of this year was Upper East Side newcomer Maison Ullens, which I first stumbled on in Aspen and then visited in Paris. The Belgian founder, Myriam Ullens, is a passionate and stylish traveler who also loves gorgeous essentials and has now brought a boutique to Madison and 63rd Street. Every season, they make reversible cashmere travel sets that include drawstring pants, a t-shirt cut and jackets of different lengths. The pieces are entirely reversible so mine from this fall, for instance, can be all black or all beige or a mix. It is my go-to travel set this time of year; each season she adds colors and styles. 727 Madison Avenue

My Secret Fashion Weapon: Betsy Boutique

Imagine an incredibly stylish friend who has been in the fashion world for decades but was also born with a great sense of taste and a wonderfully warm way about her. After years of having a storefront on Madison Avenue, she decided to cater to a smaller, more discerning group of clients and opened a by-appointment-only salon on the Upper East Side in a charming townhouse. Here, she carries her curated selects from her frequent trips to the fashion shows in Paris and Milan (Chanel to Cucinelli) and lesser-known designers that she has discovered over the years. She helps dress power players in DC and on Wall Street as well as grand hostesses of New York and the Hamptons, whether they are looking for work clothes, weekend wear or a dress for a wedding or special event. By appointment only: 212-517-6117. 

For Luxury Accessories: Hermès U.S. Flagship

One last Upper East Side entrant to highlight is the new Hermès U.S. Flagship. The colonial landmark building on 62nd and Madison has been transformed into a gallery of French artisanship, history and the kind of luxury that is not an indulgence but an investment in excellence. This shop is a testament to the heritage house’s belief that New York will always be worth a major investment and that, in the U.S., there is still no better place to shop. 706 Madison Avenue

For an Art-Focused Warm Up: The Guggenheim

When it’s cold in New York, there is no better way to warm yourself than by taking advantage of amazing cultural activities like the incredible Alex Katz retrospective exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum. “Eternity exists in minutes of absolute awareness,” Katz stated in 1961. “Painting, when successful, seems to be a synthetic reflection of this condition.” The show is a beautiful celebration of what he has termed, “quick things passing.” 1071 Fifth Avenue

For an evening out: Casa Cruz New York

Inside a Beaux Arts townhouse on East 61st off Madison, Casa Cruz New York is the Manhattan outpost of one of London’s most storied clubs. It has multiple bars, dining areas and party spaces, and serves excellent salads, pastas and steaks. Reservations are a must—and hard to get. 36 East 61st Street

 

In Midtown, Experiencing the Power of Broadway—and the City’s Most Talked-About New Hotel

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Leopoldstadt on Broadway. Photo by Indagare Founder Melissa Biggs Bradley
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Inside Aman New York. Photo by Indagare founder Melissa Biggs Bradley

For a fabulous Broadway experience: Leopoldstadt

There may be no better illustration of the power of Broadway than this utterly brilliant, semi-autobiographical work by Tom Stoppard. “Run, don’t walk” as they say, to get tickets. It is one of the most layered and haunting plays you will ever get to see and the kind of work that makes the most of its medium. It is worth a trip to New York just to see it. As my mother who has been an avid theater attendee for decades says, “It is one of the best Broadway has ever presented.” My daughter and I preceded our matinee attendance with a visit to the Neue Galerie to see the amazing exhibit of Ronald Lauder’s collection, and the two pair beautifully. Longacre Theatre; 220 West 48th Street

A note about the New York arts scene: The city’s arts institutions, from Broadway theaters to museums, were devastated by Covid. Leopoldstadt is a demonstration of why Broadway and other arts hubs are worth our support. To help the city’s arts scene thrive, you can visit or join institutions like museums as a member or consider giving tickets or memberships to art-loving family and friends. And another great current art combo is the Broadway musical Six about the wives of Henry VIII and the spectacular Tudor exhibit on at the Metropolitan Museum.

For an oasis above the city: Aman New York

Probably the most anticipated hotel opening in New York in the past few years is the Aman New York. Most of the hotel’s common spaces—except for the jazz club—are reserved only for hotel guests and Aman members (who pay a $200,000 initiation fee). I was able to get a peek at the hotel’s Japanese and Italian restaurants as well as the guest rooms and terrace. Everything feels entirely serene, with Aman’s quintessentially minimalist décor. 730 5th Avenue

Related: First Look: Aman New York

Checking In at NoMad’s New Stars

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At Nubeluz inside the Ritz-Carlton New York, NoMad. Courtesy Indagare
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The Ned NoMad. Photo by Indagare founder Melissa Biggs Bradley

For a glamorous dining destination: The Ritz-Carlton New York, NoMad

The new The Ritz-Carlton New York, NoMad is a glorious, brand-new high-rise built over an old parking lot on West 28th Street. It houses the gorgeous Zaytinya from José Andrés, as well as Nubeluz, the toughest rooftop bar reservation to get in the city. It is recommended that you book six months in advance, but the views, the scene and the cocktails are seriously memorable. This part of NoMad was the opposite of the Aman: it was packed and partying. 25 W 28th Street

For buzzy hotel, bar and club: The Ned NoMad

The Ned NoMad New York, in the former NoMad Hotel, encompasses a hotel, bar and private club as well as a Cecconi’s restaurant. Its Rotunda Suites are my favorite and available to the public (or Ned members at a special rate). Part of the Soho Houses collection, it’s the more elevated older brother brand, so to speak, with more high touch service and a slightly more established profile of member. In addition to outposts in London and Doha, more will be coming soon to Miami, D.C. and more. I’ve now enjoyed several festive evenings here, with Indagare Ambassadors as well as other Indagare staff members enjoying both the public and private spaces. 1170 Broadway

Strolling Downtown: What to See Now in SoHo, Nolita and Beyond

The Alchemist's Kitchen
The Alchemist's Kitchen. Photo by Indagare Founder Melissa Biggs Bradley
The Well, NYC
The Well. Photo by Indagare Founder Melissa Biggs Bradley
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Inside Nine Orchard’s. Courtesy Indagare

For Herbal Remedies: The Alchemist’s Kitchen

I am obsessed with The Alchemist’s Kitchen on Crosby Street. Call it a botanical pharmacy, an herbal healing den, an adventure in elixirs, the two-storefront outpost is a treasure trove of healing potions. It has an in-house herbalist, a café and education and events around everything from CBD cures and natural beauty to healthy eating and micro dosing. Walk in with whatever ails you and they will be able to offer a super informed slew of cures to consider. 119 Crosby Street

For Symbolic Jewelry: FoundRae Fine Jewelry

As someone who loves talismans and good luck symbols, I adore the NYC-based, female-led brand FoundRae, which was co-founded by Beth Hutchens. We took our Indagare ambassadors to the wonderful studio and workshop where, as Beth says, “Each symbol is a tool of self-discovery and self-expression. Each wearer’s personal compilation is a way to help communicate more openly about how each of us got here as well as what we envision our next chapter to be, in order to inspire and to help not just ourselves, but each other and the next generation to live more fulfilling lives.” It is just the kind of special brand we like to introduce to our members on trips–and at home. 52 Lispenard Street

For a Downtown Home Base: Nine Orchard

One of my favorite New York discoveries of our Indagare Ambassador retreat was the wonderful downtown hotel Nine Orchard. It was home base for our out-of-town ambassadors as well as a great spot for some of our brainstorm sessions and festive celebrations. The lobby bar has become extremely popular with New Yorkers, and the private rooftop space is perfect for a special celebration. 9 Orchard Street

City Wellness Retreat: The Well

The Well, which is directed by Dr. Frank Lipman, was founded as a private wellness club. It opened its doors to everyone after Covid and offers classes, energy work, facials and massages, along with acupuncture, functional medicine, health coaching and a delicious organic café.

Frank’s philosophy: “I believe that we all have the ability to live a healthy and vital life. As a leader in Functional Medicine, I practice what I call Good Medicine; an appropriate blend of cutting-edge, modern medicine with age-old healing techniques from the East so that together we can create your own personal health care plan. My method is simple—remove what is harmful and add what is beneficial. This integrative approach takes into account your physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social wellbeing. For almost 40 years, I have guided and helped thousands of patients feel healthier, look great, and increase energy and resiliency to better deal with life’s stresses. Passionate about helping others, my mission is to provide trusted guidance and information to make Good Medicine more accessible and attainable to all.” 2 East 15th Street

For those who want more than a city break, The Well is also at Mayflower Inn, An Auberge Resort and Hacienda Altagracia

For Custom Beauty Products: Lip Lab

I love this street art, which is just around the corner from Lip Lab, where you can customize your lipstick. On my recent visit to the area, it was packed with mothers and daughters creating lip colors together. 174 Prince Street

For Croissant Lovers: Coming Soon Classes at Dominique Ansel Workshop

The inventor of the cronut, Dominique Ansel has added a special workshop to his commercial kitchens on East 27th Street. You can already stroll in to buy fresh from the oven creations but coming soon you will be able to take croissant making classes in the lovely new teaching kitchen. Seems like a perfect mother daughter activity. 17 East 27th Street  

For a Sustainable Boutique: VOZ

This special boutique is a great expression of how you travel—and how you dress—matters. It was founded to support indigenous weavers of Chile. As its founders explain: “VOZ means “voice.” We are a design company that provides sustainable livelihoods to Mapuche communities of Southern Chile through collaborative creativity and fair compensation for handmade products. Over 100 artisans are employed through VO’s supply chain, which offers artisans three times the local average wage, and a healthy working environment tailored to the needs of rural-dwelling mothers. VOZ weavers benefit from free ongoing professional training programs, fair trade wages, assistance integrating into the formal economy, and free artisan-tailored healthcare programs, lamps, and eyeglasses.” 178 Prince Street

Sabyasachi, NYC
Sabyasachi. Photo by Indagare Founder Melissa Biggs Bradley
The Hat Shop, NYC
The Hat Shop. Photo by Indagare Founder Melissa Biggs Bradley

For All Things Hats: The Hat Shop

Another only-in-downtown-New-York shop: The Hat Shop on Thompson Street. It is a true passion project, with hats made by hand in New York or from specialist milliners. You can find everything from fedoras and berets to boaters, cloches and fascinators. A visit will always be a tutorial as well. On my most recent visit, I learned how to properly position a beret and that oval-headed people (as opposed to rounds) were known to be intelligent, which is where the term egghead came from. 148 Sullivan Street

For a Detour in the West Village: Sabyasachi

A new true NYC retail showstopper is the Sabyasachi U.S. flagship, which opened this fall on Christopher Street. The luxury Indian jewelry and fashion brand has created an exquisite universe of eye-popping treasures. It is as anti-minimalist as you can imagine with layers of intricate design from floor to ceiling, but if you are craving a dose of India’s exotic beauty and craftsmanship without the flight to Mumbai or Delhi, a visit here feels like falling into a Mughal looking glass. I only wish that the winding corridors that led to the jewelry and bridal and fashion rooms had also led to a great Indian restaurant so I had even more reason to linger in the spectacular setting. 160 Christopher Street

For Lovers of Ice Skating and of Heights: Words of Warning

Despite lots of buzz about the highest ice skating rink in the city opening in Hudson Yards at the Edge, the best spots remain Wollman Rink in Central Park and the one at Rockefeller Center. The one at the Edge is indoors and tiny. If you do like heights, though, the views of the city from the outdoor deck are amazing. And for thrill seekers, there is The Climb, the opportunity to scale the skyscraper—in a harness, of course. I didn’t try it, but it reminded me of the Sydney Bridge Climb and looks like it could be a great activity for families or for Insta photos! 30 Hudson Yards

Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer to start planning your next New York getaway.

– Melissa Biggs Bradley on January 20, 2023

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