I go to NYC every couple of three months or so, and was just there earlier in August. It's kind've my second home these days, (ever since I discovered fares from $130 return from Buffalo!) And, as much art and culture as this megatropolis has to offer, I recommend a seasonal approach, one that goes into a relaxation mode in the summer months.
Sure, I did try MoMA on Target Friday (free from 4-8pm) and it was such a zoo I barely remember anything - impossible to actually examine anything or do any of it justice. What I do remember, and what I really wanted to see, was James Ensor's eery paintings. What was going on in his head, (or life,) I wonder? They're quite striking, and it's not only the subject matter, but his use of light and space. I'm always fascinated by what a great artist can do with paint and a canvas.
Other than that, I ventured only to the Brooklyn Museum, which you may not realize is the city's second largest. I love that ancient Egyptian stuff, they have a wonderful collection. Their summer show (ending September 20,) is Yinka Shonibare, a UK based/Nigerian born artist whose work looks at the contemporary African identity in the context of colonialism. It all sounds heavy politically and philosophically, but it's a really delightful collection of fabric based art - Western dresses made with "African" fabrics (that are actually produced in Europe...) You don't need Poly Sci 101 to appreciate the beauty and lively nature of the pieces.
What I recommend instead of a heavy duty museum tour is a museum walk instead, up (or down) Fifth Avenue. Sure, it's as hot as hell, but walking means you can make frequent little stops for coffee and retail therapy. There's a lovely little café next to the National Academy School of Arts right on Fifth, and I recommend the Kitchen Arts & Letters Book Shop, by the way, the A/C's freezing cold and the sales guy, while suspicious of my motives, tolerated my browsing for a good while as I cooled down. They have more than 12,000 cook and food books - lots to browse! For clothes, of course, if you're doing the Fifth Ave thing, Madison Avenue has lots to offer.
Let's face it, in this part of the world you don't get that many chances to enjoy the great outdoors, so why not get lost in Central Park a time or two - during the daylight hours that is. On the Upper West Side, Broadway's a good bet for eating and shopping stops (I like Marlee's for trendy items!) and it's a quick subway to Times Square or anything downtown.
When it comes to music, there's lots of free outdoor stuff going on (the Latin vibes blare seemingly every weekend in East Harlem!) My personal favourite for jazz, (in this city with sooo much jazz to offer) is St. Nick's Pub in Sugar Hill on a Saturday night. The music plays 7 nights a week, but Saturday starts with Arlene Talley and the Crew. Arlene's been in the neighbourhood for decades, and she belts out the standards with authority. At about midnight, African Night takes over with an incredibly danceable groove that starts with African polyrhythms and vocals, layered over with Western jazz instrumentation and syncopation.
That's how I did the city, anyhow - adieu New York till next time!