Sometimes we forget to enjoy what is right on our doorstep. I spend so much time traveling that I often don’t appreciate the greatest city in the world, which I am lucky enough to call home, New York, New York, the city so nice they named it twice.
New York can be chaotic for the first-timer but it is the most exciting, enlightening, awesome place to live or visit and a short City Guide can only hope to scratch the surface. Yet, in keeping with our City Guide format here at WWT, I hope to give you a brief taste of the Big Apple.
1. The Empire State Building – This is the iconic symbol of the Empire State. It is an elegant art deco skyscraper and offers stunning panoramic views, whether by day or night. It is also one of the most romantic spots to grab a midnight kiss. It stays open most nights until 2am.
2. The Museum of Natural History and Hayden Planetarium – This is a building of wondrous delights for visitors of any age. You can see the evolution of man and animals in one building and explore space with an incredible star show in the next.
3. Yankee Stadium – no visit to New York would be complete without a visit to the home of the Bronx Bombers. On game days you can grab a direct train from midtown at Grand Central Station. It is an amazing sporting venue and its spirit and surrounding neighborhood offer a glimpse of the heart and soul of New Yorkers. Catching a game is always an added bonus.
It is quite impossible to cover the most unique or best restaurants in New York, as they number in the thousands. The City used to have more ethnic neighborhoods in the past but some still exist today such as Little Italy, Chinatown and Little India on East 6th Street, which most tourists fail to discover. So, here are my Top 3 in midtown just to give you a small sample:
1. Alice’s Tea Cup – This is definitely one of the best breakfast spots in all of Manhattan. There are three of them throughout the city. The closet to midtown is located at 156 East 64th Street. While the decor is fairytale themed, adults will savor the grown-ups’ hot chocolate and Alice’s Curious French Toast Bites.
2. Sea Grill (19 West 49th Street) – This restaurant is located on the ice rink at Rockefeller Center and no matter the time of year that you visit, it is always picture perfect. The meal is on the pricey side but the food is delicious.
3. Barbetta on Restaurant Row (321 West 46th Street) is an institution. This charming Italian restaurant has been owned by the same family for 106 years and is the oldest Italian restaurant in New York. The menu is exquisite and in the nicer weather there is a lovely garden in the rear of this brownstone eatery.
The nightlife in New York is as varied as the millions of visitors who look to inhale this city’s energy on a daily basis. Hot dance clubs change as frequently as you breathe so it’s hard to pinpoint or suggest just one. Some off the beaten path type things to do in New York are to attend a drag show at Lips (227 East 56th Street). The “ladies” put on a great show and the food is tasty. Catching a Broadway show is also a must for anyone.
Editor’s Choice – Hop on the Staten Island Ferry at midnight. It’s truly romantic to cruise and see the city’s skyline long after the tourists have returned to their hotels and it’s free and runs all night.
New York City can be very expensive for shoppers, yet bargains can be had if you know where to look. Depending on your budget, Fifth Avenue is mainly for window shopping at the likes of Saks, Cartier and Tiffany, although a great H & M now sits at the corner of Fifth and East 51st Street. Further down Fifth, in the 30s, you will notice cheap “I Love NY” T-Shirts. Before jumping on the cheap souvenir bandwagon, unfold each shirt you intend to buy. These are irregulars and often have holes in the back or ink designs slightly askew. Also be aware that NYC has “districts” – there is the Garment Center (West 42nd to 34th Streets, btwn 6th & 9th Avenues); the Fabric Center (West 40th to 36th Streets, btwn 7th & 8th Avenues); the Perfume District (West 34th to 28th Streets, btwn 5th Avenue & Broadway); even the Plant District (West 28th St btwn 6th & 7th Avenues). Like I said, if it’s out there, then it’s in NY.
Cheap hotels don’t exist in New York and those that do I would not recommend. The best advice is to plan ahead and know your budget. Using the “name your price” feature on Priceline is a great tool to get a good deal at a four-star hotel. Also, if you can travel during the off-season, not at the height of summer or during Christmas week, then you should find better rates to get a great New York hotel deal.
New York is the largest city in America and any large city has crime. It is knowing how to deal with big city life that keeps you safe and secure. Do not visit New York flashing gold and diamonds or flying solo down dark, deserted streets. You are a moving target for thieves with well-honed skills. Carry your belongings close and keep alert on public transportation and you will do just fine. If you are planning to visit a neighborhood you are unsure of, check with your hotel concierge or even the local police precinct as to whether or not you should venture out. New York is a safe city if you are aware of life in the 21st century.
TOURIST TIP – There are many hop-on, hop-off bus tours around Manhattan and this is always the best way to get an overview of the city and then go explore on your own. Any one of the East or Hudson River boat cruises will also provide you with amazing views of our city’s skyline.
New York City will be just like you pictured but it will be unlike anything you have ever experienced. Just go with the flow and enjoy!