Part of what I love about living in Manhattan is that it's filled with quirky little shops and hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and it's so much fun to wander around different neighborhoods. Sometimes, however, there are days when you just want to be indoors to get some shopping done. Maybe it's hot, or it's pouring rain, or you simply want to find a bunch of stores in one spot, preferably with places to eat nearby. In that case, I have a few suggestions for you, intrepid travelers:
1. Rockefeller Center. You're in Midtown, your feet are killing you, you're museumed-out, and you just want to sit down without having to hand over a mortgage payment for a deli sandwich at one of those touristy joints flanking Times Square. Here's what you do: head on over to 30 Rockefeller Center and, after hitting some shops on the concourse (The Body Shop, Anthropologie, a rad Lego shop, and loads of others), make your way down to the lower level, where you'll find shops, better-than-food-court eateries, and CHAIRS. In the winter, the seating areas offer rink-side views of ice skating, and in the summer it's nicely air-conditioned and full of people-watching possibilities. If you're feeling adequately refreshed, you can always check out the Top of the Rock afterward.
2. The Shops at Columbus Circle. The Time Warner Center is unabashedly a mall. It's on the upscale side and it doesn't have a food court, per se, but there is Bouchon Bakery for a quick bite, or you could grab something from the Whole Foods on the lower level and sink into one of the seats down there to recharge for a bit. Assuming you haven't spent all your pennies at the J Crew (which houses a Crewcuts, and there's a specialty men's shop to boot), take the elevator up to the Mandarin Oriental lobby bar and have a drink while taking in a panoramic view of Central Park. Ahhhhhh.
3. South Street Seaport. Down in the Financial District, in a historic area right on the East River, lies the Seaport. In addition to charming cobblestone streets with plenty of great shopping and dining on offer, Pier 17 houses an indoor mall. There's even a bona fide food court, as well as familiar haunts like Pizzeria Uno and Johnny Rockets, alongside plenty of independent restaurants (and, in summer, a beachside beer garden!). If you want to get some fresh air, you can take your mall delights out to the pier-front steps and watch boats cruise under the Brooklyn Bridge. And, should you decide you want to hit a Broadway show that evening, there's a lesser-known TKTS booth on Front Street, where the lines are much less treacherous than those in Midtown.
4. Grand Central Terminal. This spectacular building is a destination in itself, but did you know it's also got a ton of shops and places to eat? After star-gazing in the main hall, peruse some stores -- including a gourmet food market and, at Christmastime, seasonal stalls -- and then collapse into a seat in the food court on the lower level. It's boisterous under the arched ceilings, and has a distinctly New York feel. You may even feel moved to catch a train somewhere, just for the adventure of it.
(Photo credit: npl.org)