And now, suddenly, it seems, Manhattan – especially around Times Square and in the neighborhoods below 42nd Street – has come alive with everything that has always attracted visitors: splashing museum exhibits , Broadway greats, restaurants everywhere. Many beloved businesses have not survived the past two years, including Lord & Taylor, Jazz Standard, Upright Citizens Brigade Theatres, “21” Club, Pegu Club, Café Boulud, La Caridad 78, Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop and Coogan’s. But hotel openings, new restaurants and bustling street life are bolstering hopes that a full recovery is within reach.

Downtown and downtown office workers are less present as remote working remains strong, but the 56.4 million visitors expected to show up in 2022 (compared to 32.9 million last year, according to the city’s tourism promotion agency, NYC & Co.) should help make up for their absence.

In and around Times Square

The sidewalk traffic jam is in full bloom in Times Square. Some people still wear face masks in the open, others as chin straps ready to pull over for taxis, subways, and city buses, where the mandate still stands (although many more flout it in addition).

Proof of vaccination and masks in cinemas and the majority of restaurants are no longer compulsory. Most Broadway theaters recently dropped the vaccine requirement, although masking will remain in effect until at least May 31, according to the Broadway League. Actors from series like “Plaza Suite” (Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick), “Macbeth” (Daniel Craig), “Company” (Patti LuPone, Katrina Lenk), “Funny Girl” (Ramin Karimloo) and “The Music Man” (Sutton Foster, Hugh Jackman) have been sidelined periodically this season by COVID-19, so the precaution makes sense.

In concert with Broadway League protocols, the Drama Book Shop also requires masking. The former location of the longtime bookstore closed in 2019, and Lin-Manuel Miranda is among the partners who relaunched it in a beautiful new space (266 West 39th St) last year. Along with every theater and show business biography imaginable, there are comfy chairs to sink into while gazing overhead at designer David Korins’ twisted bookworm sculpture of over 2,400 books and scripts arranged chronologically as a hymn to theater history.

Broadway geeks can sleep at the Civilian, a 27-story, 203-room hotel that opened in Hell’s Kitchen (305 West 48th St.) last November. David Rockwell and the Rockwell Band envisioned the design, his second-floor living room with dollhouse-sized sets for shows like “Hadestown,” “Take Me Out,” and “Moulin Rouge!” An outdoor terrace is tranquil except for the occasional siren. Sensitive sleepers might be more bothered by elevator noise; ask for a room away from them. This month, prices range from $189 to $449, according to a recent online search. The cheapest rooms are just a bed and not much else, and amenities are stripped down; it costs $20 per day to request housekeeping.

The trendiest place to eat in the Theater District is a modest Italian deli, All’antico Vinaio (729 Eighth Avenue), where lines form before opening at noon. Florence’s import is busy with upbeat guys singing along to Italian music while cutting and stuffing squares of golden schiacciata (Tuscan bread thinner than focaccia). La Favolosa is the best seller, the bread smothered in pecorino cream and artichoke cream, piled high with salame and spicy eggplant and smashed into a big delicious mess. The shop is cramped, so if the weather is nice, picnic at Bryant Park, a 10-minute walk away.

The Drama Book Shop, where David Korins’ bookworm sculpture of over 2,400 books and scripts hangs from the ceiling, in Manhattan on April 27, 2022. The New York Times

Below 42nd Street

Heading downtown, there are plenty of new cultural experiences, including Little Island, a flower-filled public park on the Hudson River that looks like something out of a fairy tale. It is so popular in the warmer months that timed entry reservations are enforced from Thursday.

Making a splash among art lovers is “Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure,” an immersive new exhibit in Chelsea’s Starrett-Lehigh Building (601 West 26th St.), where a food hall is set to open this month. Timed tickets, available through Labor Day, often sell out despite the price ($35 weekdays, $45 weekends, slightly less for seniors and children under 13).

Basquiat died aged 27 of a heroin overdose in 1988, and his estate loaned more than 200 works of art and artifacts, most never before exhibited. His sisters helped faithfully recreate their childhood living room and dining room in Brooklyn, and in music videos they and others share fun memories of the artist. A replica of his paint-splattered studio on Great Jones Street is also here; a video projects the artist at work.

The upbeat dance music pays homage to the Michael Todd VIP room at the Palladium nightclub, where Basquiat liked to party and a mural of him dominated one wall. The intimate family element combined with the extent of Basquiat’s bright, gone-too-soon talent creates an emotional effect that is hard to shake.

In the Meatpacking District, the 2022 Whitney Biennale, “Quiet as It’s Kept,” runs through September 5 (99 Gansevoort St.; $25 for timed tickets). Postponed a year due to the pandemic, the exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art has a dark theme, but the beauty is present in haunting photos of East Los Angeles, by Guadalupe Rosales, and sculpture by Rebecca Belmore depicting a human wearing a sleeping bag and surrounded by sockets.

Several videos are fascinating, including “Extracts” from the first floor, a meditation on “Moby-Dick”, by the collective Moved by the Motion. On the sixth floor, look for the beautiful “Your Eyes Will Be an Empty Word” by Coco Fusco and “06.01.2020 18.39” by Alfredo Jaar, depicting the attack on peaceful protesters in Washington, DC, in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd. And be sure to step outside to admire the touching figurative sculptures by Charles Ray on the fifth-floor terrace.

Good places to eat near the Whitney include Pastis, Cookshop, Chelsea Market, the reborn Barbuto and the lesser-known Mary Lane (99 Bank St.), an airy West Village bistro with terrace. Owned by Blackfoot Hospitality, it’s open for lunch, brunch, happy hour, and dinner (closed Mondays). Chunks of Jonas crab drifting in a soup of mashed asparagus swirled with smoked creme fraiche. Plumping ravioli with braised chicken in a cacciatore sauce accented with olives, broccoli rabe, garlic strips and crispy slivers of chicken skin are a heartier dish on the seasonal menu.

A small but important show to catch before it closes on Sunday is “Holbein: Capturing Character,” at the Morgan Library & Museum (225 Madison Ave.; $22 for reserved tickets). Hans Holbein, in England during the reign of Henry VIII, painted courtiers, poets, scholars and merchants, some with weak chins, others with strong jaws, their mouths open in the heat or in a slowdown sullen, and some of whom lost their minds. The portraits are rendered with sharpness and vivacity, their fur collars, velvet sleeves and ornate jewels tempting.

For a meal near the Morgan, head to Cafe China in Murray Hill (59 West 37th St), which reopened in a three-story building in December. Owners Yiming Wang and Xian Zhang, whose charming Tribeca restaurant China Blue closed in 2020, favor understated decor, with fringed lamps and bright pops of jade green. Tea-smoked duck, lamb with spicy cumin and tingling lips, lush ma po tofu swimming in leeks and chili sauce are the highlights. The same goes for the delicate scallion pancakes, sautéed beans with fermented mustard green sprouts, and woven dan dan noodles with sesame paste and ground pork.

As the pandemic has seen the closure of hotels across the city, including the Roosevelt, Excelsior and Omni Berkshire Place, new accommodations in Chelsea are resuming including Hyatt Place New York (140 West 24th St), SpringHill Suites By Marriott (140 West 28th St) and the Motto by Hilton (113 West 24th St). Motto’s ground floor lobby is an active stage, and there’s a sprawling modern lounge on the second floor. Rooms are designed for efficiency and start at $300. A recent check on Trip Advisor found 163 reviews, of which 154 rated “excellent” and none “poor”.

New York can’t quite reclaim its moniker of the city that never sleeps, but what felt like a stopped clock is finally starting again. Anyone who enjoyed the ancient peace and quiet is out of luck. Those days are over.

© 2022 The New York Times Company