F at 57th St.; N, Q, R at 57th St.-Seventh Ave.
Only a select few get to Carnegie Hall by way of "practice, practice, practice." The rest of us can take a much easier route to the hall's three magnificent stages by nabbing a seat in the audience. One of the world's most famous (and for tourists, notoriously difficult-to-find) performance venues, Carnegie Hall has welcomed elite musicians from around the globe since opening in 1891 with the American debut of Tchaikovsky. Since then, it's hosted a who's who of classical and popular artists, from Mahler to Miles Midori. The 2,804-seat Isaac Stern Auditorium's turn-of-the-last-century décor nods to a storied history, with box seats on the first two tiers equipped with old-timey coat racks and mirrors; hallways are lined with original scores and autographed photos of performers like Les Paul, Yehudi Menuhin, and Tony Bennett. Zankel Hall, the venue's second largest space, is also its most versatile. It hosts an eclectic lineup of classical, jazz, and pop, plus family concerts and educational programs; its modern design—the ceiling, loaded with lighting rigs and equipment—is a far cry from the Victorian flourishes found elsewhere in the building. In order to construct this 599-seat theater, which opened in 2003 directly beneath the Stern Auditorium, developers had to bore 22 feet into the Manhattan bedrock—a portion of which is visible in the lobby. A third, more intimate space for soloists and small groups is the 268-seat Weill Recital Hall which favors a Classical motif: white columns, a trio of chandeliers, and long curtains draped over faux windows.The Rose Museum
Free to the public during the day and to ticket-holders during Stern Auditorium events, this in-house gallery rotates exhibits and artifacts from the hall's history, such as the engraved Tiffany mason's trowel used to lay the building's cornerstone, as well as posters and images of famous performers like Leonard Bernstein, Billie Holiday, and the Beatles.
Hour-long tours are given on weekdays during the season at 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m., on Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., and on Sundays at 12:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the box office on the day of the tour, and are $10 for adults, $7 for students and seniors, and $3 for children under 12.