WE STILL ❤ NY
The new and neverending thrills of the big city
New York City should come with a warning: once bitten, forever smitten. This is not a holiday destination you can visit once and tick off your “to do” list as done. There’s an energy of possibility, an irresistible vibe and pace that will get in your veins and make you fall in love so hard that you’ll be booking a return trip before you’ve even flown out of JFK.
I should know. A decade ago, I sublet an apartment on the Upper East Side for the summer to immerse myself in all Manhattan had to offer. I couldn’t have imagined that three months would turn into 10 years, that NYC would become my second home, a place where I’ve put down roots and made lifelong friends.
If your first visit left you craving more, you’re not alone. Statistics from Visit USA reveal that of the hundreds of thousands of Aussies who visit NYC each year, almost three-quarters of them are repeat visitors. Going back for a second or third bite of the Big Apple is a great chance to experience different seasons, see what’s new, or discover another borough.
Here’s a local’s take on where to go on your next trip, plus a few insider tips on getting the most from the city.
WHERE TO STAY NOW
Try a new hotel. The latest openings the locals are talking about include Mr C Seaport by Cipriani (mrcseaport.com) with knockout views of Brooklyn Bridge and onpoint Bellinis, and Ian Schrager’s stylish Times Square EDITION (marriott.com).
All eyes are on the mammoth Hudson Yards development, where the city’s first fitness-themed Equinox hotel is set to open. And the most hotly anticipated hotel opening of 2019 would have to be the TWA Hotel at JFK Airport (twahotel.com), which promises to transport us all back to the golden age of flying.
Low-cost hotels do exist in Manhattan, though you need to book well in advance to get the best rates. The Pod Hotel (thepodhotel.com), The Freehand (freehandhotels.com) and The Jane (thejanenyc.com) regularly offer well-priced deals.
Consider a stay off the island of Manhattan and save on hotels such as Z NYC Hotel and Paper Factory Hotel in Queens and Aloft in Brooklyn. Connected to the city by subway, the boroughs offer some of the best accommodation discounts.
If you’re travelling in early January, take advantage of Hotel Week NYC (hotelweeknyc.com); rates are slashed to $US100, $US200 or $US300 at more than a dozen New York City hotels which typically charge upwards of $US500 a night.
IT’S IN THE BAG
Real talk: the Aussie dollar has lost some mojo this year, so bargain shopping has become even more attractive. In NYC that means trawling the discount designer racks at Century 21 (c21stores.com), near Wall St and at the new location on the Upper West Side. Follow the locals to other money-saving stores such as TJ Maxx (tjmaxx.com), Designer Shoe Warehouse (dsw.com) and Bloomingdale’s Upper West Side Outlet (bloomingdales.com).
Serious shoppers can head out of town for a day trip to Woodbury Common Premium Outlets (premiumoutlets.com). The trip takes about 90 minutes; buses depart regularly from Port Authority Terminal in Manhattan’s Midtown. Woodbury Common’s 220 outlets offer pulse-quickening savings, often up to 80 per cent off.
Soon, they won’t need to leave the city for these kinds of bargains. Any day now, Empire Outlets is set to open on Staten Island. NYC’s first outlet destination will have 125 designer shops, restaurants and gobsmacking views of Manhattan.
If you want to shop for local brands, explore Soho, Williamsburg and trendy Dumbo, all neighbourhoods where you’ll find independent fashion boutiques, art galleries and vintage stores full of one-of-a-kind treasures.
Also worth checking out: the gift shops at many of the city’s museums and galleries. Stocked with fabulous books on NYC’s history and culture, as well as cool gifts and city-branded souvenirs, they should be on every shopper’s go-to list. Three of the best are: Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of the City of New York.
TAKE A BITE
New restaurants and bars open in NYC at such a rapid pace, it can be a delicious challenge to keep up. The latest buzzy openings include The Blue Box Cafe at Tiffany (tiffany.com) on Fifth Ave and Frenchette (frenchettenyc.com) in Tribeca. If you can’t get a reservation, try your luck as a walk-in.
At lunchtime, the views are better and the reservations more easy to come by at the latest offering from
Danny Meyer, Manhatta (manhattarestaurant.com). The FiDi restaurant serves a three-course prix fixe menu at $US78 (about $110), including tip, in line with Meyer’s policy to stamp out the awkward practice of adding gratuities to bills – a policy Aussies will no doubt applaud.
The best money-saving tip for foodies is to forget the dinner menu and opt for lunch instead. Many fivestar restaurants offer a wallet-pleasing three-course lunch prix fixe for less than $US50. Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten is a crowd-pleaser, serving great food at a great price in his restaurants including Nougatine, Perry St and ABC Kitchen.
If you’re saving your money to spend on shoes but you still need to eat, food trucks are your friend. Popular in NYC, they serve waffles, dumplings, fried chicken and more. Follow the tweets of the Big Gay Ice Cream truck to find its location, and look out for the Red Hook Lobster Pound’s roving van.
Queues wrap around the block for the $US6 lamb and chicken plates from The Halal Guys food truck on the corner of 53rd St and 6th Ave.
LOVE YOUR SELFIE
Obsessed with getting the right shot on your Insta feed? For that “hey, here I am on top of the city” pic, you’ll need to get high.
Empire State Building is iconic, but locals know Top of the Rock (topoftherocknyc.com) is also a must. The sweeping views from its 70thfloor Observation Deck at Rockefeller Center include a bird’s-eye look at Empire State Building. Go during Golden Hour – the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset – for the most flattering natural lighting.
For fabulous views from a downtown vantage point, take the super-fast elevator to the top of One World Observatory (oneworld observatory.com). Moving and iconic, the observatory is at the top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, One World Trade Center. Rebuilt as a symbol of New York City’s resilience, a visit here is unforgettable, with views that stretch out to Brooklyn, Staten Island and beyond.
Who doesn’t love a selfie in one of the city’s coolest bars? Raise a cocktail glass to the view from a well-placed rooftop or terrace bar. Bar SixtyFive, at Rainbow Room (barsixtyfive.com) on the 65th floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, is NYC’s highest terrace bar and a thoroughly glam check-in. Expect to capture some great pics through the 3m-high windows.
Further downtown, Top of the Standard at The Standard, High Line (standardhotels.com) is a celeb magnet bar with stunning water views. Tip well or ask very nicely if you hope to nab a window seat.
Every aspiring Insta influencer in New York counts down the days until cherry blossom season, that all-toobrief but oh-so-lovely pink haze in April that signals spring has finally sprung. There’s even a Bloom Watch app for Brooklyn Botanic Garden (bbg.org), updating in real time the days until peak pink bloom. Time it right and you will be rewarded with a gorgeous selfie backdrop.
Don some white shoes (never after Labour Day) and a cute sailor’s cap and hop aboard one of Classic Harbor Line’s yachts (sail-nyc.com) for a sunset sail/selfie-taking jackpot. You’re on a boat. There’s champagne. Lady Liberty is your co-star.
Tick, tick, tick.
DISCOVER THE BOROUGHS
When I first visited NYC, I thought it began and ended with Manhattan. So wrong. There are five boroughs, and you can’t call yourself an aspiring New Yorker until you get out there and explore Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island.
Of course you’ll want to ride a bike in Central Park and walk the High Line. But after you’ve done that, try Brooklyn Bridge Park and Prospect Park. If you’ve been to Chinatown and Little Italy, go see the “real” Chinatown in Flushing or Sunset Park; and the “real” Little Italy in the Bronx.
Eat your way around Brooklyn’s hottest new spot, Domino Park, follow the hip-hop history trail in the Bronx and discover the best pizza in Staten Island. Take the 7 subway train to Queens – dubbed the International Express – and you’ll pass through Mexican, Indian, Chinese and Colombian neighbourhoods where the restaurants are as authentic as the residents.
In Manhattan, downtown is what’s up. From the elegance of Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown (fourseasons.com) to shopping and dining at Brookfield Place, this is a ’hood everyone is talking about.
NYC & Company has developed detailed guides and you can access them at nycgo.com/neighborhoods.
You can never visit the Met too many times. Next time, see if the rooftop bar is open. It’s a great spot for sundowners with a view of Central Park. To see more of the vast art collection, head uptown to The Met Cloisters, or over to The Met Breuer, where you’ll find modern art.
MoMA and the Whitney Museum of American Art are great – a new Andy Warhol exhibit opens at the Whitney in November – but make time to check out one of New York’s other great museums. The Tenement Museum (tenement.org) brings to life the true stories of immigrant families – often heartbreaking, always backbreaking – through visits to authentically restored apartments of former residents from the 1870s to the 1970s.
Fascinated by the intrigue of espionage? Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to visit SPYSCAPE (spyscape.com). This new high-tech museum and immersive experience is all about spying, with interactive displays that really capture the imagination.
Built in 1906 to house J.P. Morgan’s private library, The Morgan Library & Museum (themorgan.org) now hosts compelling exhibitions, an elegant dining room and Friday night recitals in an atrium designed by architect Renzo Piano.
Blockbuster exhibits are par for the course at the Brooklyn Museum (brooklynmuseum.org) and Museum of the Moving Image (movingimage.us), so be sure to check out what’s on. For the ultimate theatre fix, keep on entering that online lottery for $US10 Hamilton tickets. Somebody has to win, right? But in the meantime, nab hot Broadway tickets to Dear Evan Hansen, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical and My Fair Lady.
Do venture further than Times Square though, and you’ll be rewarded with magnificent ballet, opera, theatre and orchestral performances at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (lincolncenter.org), live jazz in an intimate setting at Blue Note Jazz Club (bluenote.net) and instantly recognisable comedians at Gotham Comedy Club (gothamcomedyclub.com).
’TIS THE SEASON
NYC is blessed with four very distinct seasons and each one is worth a visit. Springtime is for tulips and magnolias blooming in Central Park, the great Easter hat parade on Fifth Ave and the opening pitch of the season at Yankee Stadium. The long, hot summer days bring outdoor music festivals, glamping on Governors Island, trips to Rockaway Beach and the US Open tennis championships in Flushing.
By autumn, it’s leaf-peeping prime time, as the foliage changes to beautiful hues of gold, orange and red. It’s also spooky-tastic Halloween, and the opportunity to join in the grand West Village parade.
The winter chill months are the season of outdoor ice-skating, gorgeous Fifth Ave holiday window displays and a white Christmas, if you’re lucky. Plan to tick all four seasons off your NYC bucket list.
Next year promises to be a monumental time to visit, with the Statue of Liberty Museum opening, Hudson Yards development taking shape, and the city set to host WorldPride. What are you waiting for?
YOU’RE ON A BOAT. THERE’S CHAMPAGNE. LADY LIBERTY IS YOUR CO-STAR. TICK, TICK, TICK
Locals know Top of the Rock views are a must; TWA Hotel’s opening is hotly anticipated; blue’s in vogue for breakfast at Tiffany’s; and lunchtime is a good time to make a reservation at Manhatta.
Cherry blossom season is keenly anticipated – there’s even a Bloom Watch app for Brooklyn Botanic Garden.