If you travel to cities with great museums, enjoying them like a local refines the experience. On a tip from another Womantraveler, I joined the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City with a reasonably priced "National Associate" membership ($70). Then, after more research, I discovered that certain museums closer to home provide reciprocal memberships with those across the country, so, for example, my membership to San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art admits me to the new Whitney in Manhattan's Meatpacking District, the Guggenheim on the Upper East Side and more than 30 other museums the US and Canada.
The Met out-of-town membership offers free admission and discounts on merchandise and Audio Guide rentals, among other benefits, but the real "price of admission" comes with access to the Members Dining Room. A pleasant respite for a lovely light meal with friendly and attentive service is especially inviting after a morning in the sprawling museum among the myriad, stimulating, exhaustive exhibits.
In the Members Dining Room, tucked back on the 4th floor overlooking Central Park, I also found more than the "ladies who lunch" crowd, but an assortment of local and world travelers - grandparents and grandchildren, families, business professionals, couples and solo visitors like me seeking polite company and to be well cared for.
Tables are spaciously apart, the wait staff is ample and Executive Chef Fred Sabo has brought years of experience in fine dining, culinary interpretations with notes from Asia, India and the Mediterranean and locally sourced ingredients. That's why this gorgeous salad of fresh organic greens and thinly sliced rosy radishes was almost too beautiful to eat. Followed by the Japanese-themed rice-crusted cod and mushroom medley, my selections came from the two-course prix fixe menu offered at lunch (Monday-Friday) and, along with a three-course version, one that changes daily. I had a choice table at the crossroads of the room, always my favorite spot for observing and sensing the people, the animation and the rhythms.