IN THE MOOD FOR - Insight Guides: Experience New York City - Insight Guides

Insight Guides: Experience New York City - Insight Guides (2016)




Joe Buglewicz/NYC & Co

As the old song says, East Side, West Side, all around the town, the sidewalks of New York are a great place to trip the light fantastic - and to watch New Yorkers, some of the most fascinating specimens of life on the planet. Some especially rewarding stretches of pavement are Union Square, just west of Gramercy Park (for more information, click here) and animated around the clock - on many days with shoppers poking through the stalls of the city’s largest greenmarket. On weekends, the streets of Soho teem with style-hunters - both locals and the Bridge and Tunnel crowd (named for out of towners’ means of egress into Manhattan), checking out high-end boutiques and each other (for more information, click here). New York goes to the dogs in enclosed runs in parks like Washington Square (for more information, click here) and Tompkins Square Park (for more information, click here), great places to observe the antics of two- and four-legged New Yorkers. To see hipsters in their natural environment, make the trek to Williamsburg (for more information, click here). On a walk down 125th Street, Harlem’s main thoroughfare, you can step into such iconic bastions of black culture as the Apollo Theater (for more information, click here) and the Studio Museum in Harlem (no.44), then sample the local culinary scene on nearby Malcolm X Boulevard (for more information, click here).



Chris Chen

You can eat well anywhere in New York, but the settings are suitably refined and the cuisine is masterfully French-influenced in such gastronomic uptown spots as Daniel, Dovetail, and Jean Georges (for more information, click here). Then again, refined French cuisine is served in sophisticated, subdued surroundings downtown, too, most notably at Bouley’s, while the mouthwatering sushi at Nobu in Tribeca (for more information, click here) is said to be the best this side of Tokyo, eliciting raves from celebrities and foodies alike. For some genuine New York buzz, pull up a chair at the bar of the elegant Gramercy Tavern in the Flatiron District (for more information, click here) or charm your way into getting a table at the celebrity magnet Waverly Inn in Greenwich Village (for more information, click here). To sample some of the most original and creative - some say bizarre - haute-cuisine in the city, head to Lowlife on the Lower East Side (for more information, click here).



Christopher Postlewaite/NYC & Co

New Yorkers fall into two camps, bargain hunters and those who consider it rather crass to look at a price tag. The former are quite willing to battle the crowds at Century 21 in Lower Manhattan or Nordstrom Rack in Chelsea (for more information, click here) in hopes of finding hidden designer originals. Shoppers with an eye for vintage clothing should head to the Lower East side and prowl The Dressing Room on Orchard Street and Assembly New York on Ludlow Street (for more information, click here). Hipsters should head to the Lower East Side for new designer co-op boutiques (for more information, click here), or to the East Village for used and new CDs, LPs and DJ equipment (for more information, click here).

Meanwhile, those who just have to have it, whatever it costs, will find plenty of temptation on Bleecker Street from Bank to 7th Avenue in the West Village (for more information, click here), where the quaint, tree-lined blocks shelter such high-end designer boutiques as Marc Jacobs, Betsey Johnson, and Cynthia Rowley, and on the cobblestones of Soho (for more information, click here). The Upper East Side’s ‘if you have to ask, you can’t afford it’ attitude comes to the fore on Madison Avenue in the 60s (for more information, click here), a little patch of designer heaven where the celestial creations of Valentino, Armani and Ralph Lauren are on offer.

Fifth Avenue around 57th Street (for more information, click here) is home to the city’s holy trinity of refined department stores (Saks, Henri Bendel, and Bergdorf Goodman) and where the shop windows of Tiffany’s, Harry Winston and Cartier are filled with glittering jewels.



The Frick Collection/Michael Bodycomb

New York is more caught up with the brash new than with the distant past, but you can get a sense of the early days of the city in such cherished landmarks as the Morris-Jumel Mansion (for more information, click here), Revolutionary War headquarters of George Washington and later home to Eliza Jumel and Aaron Burr - the vice-president who killed Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton, who lived down the road in Hamilton Grange (for more information, click here). The 19th-century Merchant’s House (for more information, click here) shows off the domestic tastes of prosperous New Yorkers of a century and half ago, while uptown the Neue Galerie (for more information, click here) and Frick Collection (for more information, click here) show off fine art as well as the lavish homes of a long vanished era.

Thousands of enslaved men, women, and children who helped build New York from the time of the city’s 17th-century Dutch days to the abolition of slavery in the US in 1865 are buried at what is now the African Burial Ground National Memorial (for more information, click here). Many literary giants called Greenwich Village home, and you can walk the streets once trod by T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Edward Albee and Henry James (for more information, click here).



Jen Davis/NYC & Co

A fleet of historic vessels docked at the South Street Seaport Museum (for more information, click here) are fascinating to board, and you can set sail across New York Harbor on several of them. The American Museum of Natural History (for more information, click here) knows just how to make kids happy and just across the street is Central Park (for more information, click here), with its lawns, ponds, zoo, carousel and other delights. For impossible-to-please teenagers, TV comes to the rescue: a tour of the NBC Studios (for more information, click here) - where Saturday Night Live and The Voice are shot - will impress even the most blasé young sightseers.



Nowitz Photography/Apa Publications

You can eat your way through almost any New York neighborhood, but two especially rewarding foodie strips are Ninth Avenue (for more information, click here), lined with ethnic restaurants and markets from 59th Street to 34th Street, and Broadway on the Upper West Side, a parade of distinguished markets and delis that include Fairway, Zabar’s, and H&H Bagels (for more information, click here). Mandatory stops on a downtown gourmet tour are Chelsea Market (for more information, click here), a former cookie factory now filled with fine food outlets, and Union Square, host to the city’s largest greenmarket.




Busy and brash, New York can also be one of the most romantic places on earth. You needn’t spend a fortune to engage in such heartwarming follies as watching day turn to night over the Manhattan skyline from the deck of the Staten Island Ferry (for more information, click here) or sauntering through Central Park and into the galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (followed by a drink on the museum’s rooftop sculpture garden; for more information, click here). Romance is in the air even in such prosaic places as Grand Central Terminal, where you can share a Martini or two and a giant plate of oysters in the Oyster Bar or in the clubby confines of the Campbell Apartment (for more information, click here). City lights provide a romance-inducing spectacle from such hideaways in the sky as The Roof (for more information, click here), while back on terra firma, the King Cole Bar (for more information, click here) is one of the those plush lairs bound to sweep just about anyone off of his or her feet. Should you lose control and make a long-term commitment, the stretch of Fifth Avenue (for more information, click here) just outside the door is lined with the world’s most famous purveyors of engagement rings and other jewelry - and the Diamond District (for more information, click here) is just down the avenue on 47th Street.



Marley White/NYC & Co

New York’s landmarks never disappoint, and seeing them - even doing something as everyday as walking beneath the Empire State Building and other Midtown towers (for more information, click here) - is one of the city’s greatest thrills, even for New Yorkers. The Statue of Liberty always puts on a good show, and to an urbanite the skyline can be as soothing as a mountain range. You can get an eyeful of both on a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge or a ride across New York Harbor on the Staten Island Ferry (for more information, click here), New York icons themselves.

New York puts an innovative spin on just about everything. The High Line (for more information, click here), a disused railway trestle-turned-aerial park that cuts a green swath through industrial Chelsea, creates an only-in-New York twist on the great outdoors. Opera is, of course, performed in other cities, but in few places do the fat ladies sing with more finesse or are classics staged with more flair than at the Metropolitan Opera (for more information, click here), making a night at the opera one of the city’s grandest experiences.



Fred George/Chelsea Piers

The Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment Complex (for more information, click here) is New York’s jock nirvana − a sprawling 30-acre sports village on the Hudson River where you can rock climb, skate, golf, bowl, swim, or just work out. And after all that calorie-burning you can treat yourself to one of Artichoke Baselli’s famous pizzas.

While New Jersey is not usually associated with the word ‘thrilling,’ the walk there across the George Washington Bridge (for more information, click here) certainly is, along a walkway suspended between the river and the sky. A walk across the Brooklyn Bridge (for more information, click here) provides the same breezy experience, with a downtown perspective.

Governors Island (for more information, click here) is an urban getaway where you can bike or walk along a 2-mile long waterfront promenade while absorbing views of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline; you get one hour’s free bike rental on Fridays. Swimmers can plunge into two large and stylish pools (for more information, click here) surrounded by beautiful hand-decorated Italian tiles at the West Side YMCA or the longest pool in Manhattan, a full Olympic-length 50 meters, at Asphalt Green.



Joi Ito

An easygoing day, a rare occurrence in the lives of most New Yorkers, often transpires on the tree-lined streets of Greenwich Village. The morning begins with a read through the papers in a laid-back coffee house over a latte and a croissant (for more information, click here). Then stroll over to the Film Forum for the latest foreign-language offerings, adjourn to the Ear Inn (for more information, click here) to discuss what it all meant over a pint, and, thus mellowed, follow the picturesque streets to St Luke’s Gardens (for more information, click here) to take in some fresh air amid a beautiful botanic display.



The Metropolitan Museum of Art

No man is an island, it’s said, but the notion can become rather overbearing on Manhattan Island, where even a park bench can be a welcome retreat. Two especially pleasing places to sit quietly as the city swirls nearby are Bryant Park (for more information, click here), a tidy patch of greenery behind the New York Public Library, and the tree-shaded close of the General Theological Seminary (for more information, click here) in West Chelsea. The Cloisters (for more information, click here), way uptown, provides a step back in time, to the Middle Ages, in five reconstructed cloisters where monks once found peace and you will, too.



Marley White/NYC & Co

Steep admission costs to New York City museums shouldn’t keep you from enjoying some of the world’s finest collections. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art (for more information, click here) and American Museum of Natural History (for more information, click here), you may forgo the suggested donation and pay what you wish at any time, and you can see the Frick Collection (for more information, click here)for the donation of your choice on Sundays from 11am-1pm. Among the many museums that offer free Friday evening admissions are MoMA (for more information, click here), the New-York Historical Society (for more information, click here), and the Morgan Library (for more information, click here). The Brooklyn Botanical Garden (for more information, click here) and the New York Botanical Garden (for more information, click here) are both free on Saturday mornings, the Jewish Museum (for more information, click here) is free all day Saturday, and the Brooklyn Museum (for more information, click here) is free the first Saturday of every month from 5-11pm. And for absolutely nothing, you can walk the New York Earth Room (for more information, click here) and see a huge pile of earth covering the floor of a Soho loft - now that’s something to tell the folks back home about.



Joe Buglewicz/NYC & Co

So many choices, so little time… The fashion crowd gravitates to the Meatpacking District, for drinks and dinner at the Standard Hotel, a Parisian experience at Pastis (for more information, click here) or, in warm weather, a drink on the outdoor terrace of the Maritime Hotel. The ultimate in downtown sophistication, for the moment at least, is a cocktail in the lounge of the Gramercy Park Hotel followed by dinner at the refined and relaxed Gramercy Tavern (for more information, click here). The Lower East Side is the place for an evening of indie-rock, folk, or American roots music, and top venues are the Bowery Ballroom and the Living Room, where singer Norah Jones got her start (for more information, click here).

Theatergoers who would like to see a work a little more stimulating than the latest blockbuster musical should step off Broadway to Theatre Row (for more information, click here), home to a dozen or so small stages hosting some especially innovative drama on 42nd Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues. Three Lower Manhattan theaters are also noted for ground-breaking work: the Public Theater, LaMaMa, and the Wooster Group (for more information, click here). Across the East River, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (for more information, click here) and St Ann’s Warehouse (for more information, click here) are standard bearers of creative originality.



Joe Buglewicz/NYC & Co

Washington Irving, the famous author of Rip Van Winkle and other magic-infused fables of early America, lent his name to Irving Place, one of the most enchanting bastions of old New York. O. Henry merely drank on the street, penning some of America’s favorite short stories in the dark, woody confines of Pete’s Tavern (for more information, click here). Greenwich Village was once the city’s literary Petri dish, and literary tours (for more information, click here) show off the places where such masters of American letters as Louisa May Alcott, Edgar Allen Poe and e. e. cummings lived and wrote, and where Dylan Thomas went on his final drinking binge. You can also pay homage to the city’s literary traditions in the marble hallways and Main Reading Room of the New York Public Library (for more information, click here) - or for that matter, in the Hotel Chelsea (for more information, click here). Leonard Cohen found inspiration for his song ‘Chelsea Hotel,’ Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey, and legions of other artists have found their muses or slipped into creative dissipation in this beloved monument to creativity and bohemia. The Nuyorican Poets Café and the Bowery Poetry Club (for more information, click here) foster today’s literary aspirants.