“Could I get a knife and fork?”
“There were no utensils in medieval times, hence there are no utensils at Medieval Times. Would you like a refill on that Pepsi?”
“There were no utensils but there was Pepsi?”
– Cable Guy, 1996
Everyone’s a fan of Arthurian legend, whether you fell in love with The Sword in the Stone as a child, or with Monty Python and the Holy Grail as an adult. Your favorite Arthur might be Sean Connery, while your favorite Guinevere might be Ava Gardner. You might’ve liked Steinbeck’s traditional retelling, or Mark Twain’s humorous alternative history version. There’s just something about the warrior king, the code of chivalry, the mysticism, drama and romance of the time that intoxicates. And it’s those same magical elements you’ll find at The Cloisters. (No dinner and jousting though, sorry.)
The Cloisters is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (more casually known simply as The Met) dedicated to the art and architecture of medieval Europe. So many thoughtful aspects come together perfectly to recreate the spellbinding effect of that era: elements from actual medieval cloisters and other sites in Europe have been integrated into the structure of the building, the galleries are organized to allow chronological appreciation from the Romanesque (ca. 1000–1150) through the Gothic period (ca. 1150–1520), and even the gardens are planted according to horticultural information found in medieval texts and works of art. The magic begins as you make your way towards the museum through Fort Tryon Park, which offers beautifully sculptured grounds and amazing views of the George Washington Bridge, the Hudson River and the Palisades.
The Cloisters periodically offers specially-curated exhibitions, like a recent one featuring European Clocks and Watches. But I promise the permanent collection is sufficient to qualify many visits on its own — some favorites include the series of Unicorn Tapestries from 1495-1505 gifted by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the Crucifix from 1150–1200 which hangs in front of a half dome featuring a stunning Catalan fresco, the Altarpiece with Scenes from the Passion dating back to the second half of the 15th century and the Dragon from an unknown period after the 1200s. As you make your way through the rooms and hallways, also pay close attention to the doorways and stained glass windows, which could hail from 15th century France or a Canterbury cathedral. It’s a completely immersive experience that is well worth the trek to that northern part of Manhattan.
99 Margaret Corbin Dr
March–October: 10 am–5:15 pm
May 27–September 2, 2016: Open late on Fridays until 7:30 pm
Pair it with:
A meal at TurnStyle
We usually try to keep the food pairing within a mile of any given activity because we strive to put together fun, manageable outings that everyone can find pockets of time in their schedule for. However, we like food. We like good food. The Met Cloisters has The Trie Café onsite where you can grab a quick bite to eat, and while it’s certainly convenient it’s unlikely to give you a memorable meal. So in this situation we highly recommend you make your way to the 190th St subway station just outside the south entrance to Fort Tryon Park and hop on the A train down to Columbus Circle (a trip that should take 20 minutes) so that you can give the new underground food and shopping destination, TurnStyle, a try. There you’ll find a number of great food outlets to sample, and it should please all manner of appetites. Options include MeltKraft, which has a great selection of grilled cheese sandwiches, or Ellary’s Greens, which offers staples like egg salad sandwiches and tofu scramble wraps, or prior Vendy Award winner Doughnuttery, which offers mini-doughnuts in a variety of flavors. You can enjoy your food at one of the communal tables in the underground passage or head above-ground to Central Park and consume it there.
Columbus Circle Subway Station
Check the website for individual store hours