Big Apple bites

By | Category: Travel destinations

New York has been dazzling visitors for years. Its pleasures are eternal but the particulars of where to stay, eat and play are ever in flux. Kaye Holland has the low-down on the hangouts that are creating the biggest buzz right now

 

Why go
A visit to the Big Apple is like walking through a film set: yellow taxis, Bloomingdales, the Empire State Building, Tiffany’s, Fifth Avenue, Times Square, Central Park, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Furthermore there’s no bad time to visit: New York shines in all seasons.

Culture vulture
Leave the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock to the first timers and wander to the Whitney Museum of American Art – aka New York’s newest masterpiece. The much revered museum moved from Madison Avenue and 75th Street to an exciting new home earlier this year. Located between the Hudson River and the High Line, the $422-million stately steel-and-glass structure – the brain child of Italian architect Renzo Piano – boasts 50,000 square feet of gallery space meaning the museum can showcase more modern American art than ever. Expect to see works from the likes of  Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Jackson Pollock and Georgia O’Keeffe among others. You’ll also find two fine restaurants where you can refuel in between bouts of browsing.

Best building
In the aftermath of the 14th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks by al-Qaeda militants, a trip to the One World Observatory, which opened to the public back in May, is a must. Housed on floors 100, 101 and 102 of One World Trade Center — America’s tallest skyscraper — the observatory deck serves as tribute to the fallen Twin Towers symbolising resilience and defiance. As well as agonising memories, the site also offers spectacular vistas of the city, the Bronx and beyond, and is home to the National September 11 Museum. The building is open from 9am-8pm with the last ticket sold 45 minutes before closing.

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Show time
Tickets aren’t cheap (they can easily cost upwards of US$100) but no New York experience is complete without seeing a show on Broadway. Wondering which play or musical to catch this autumn? Classicists could plump for The Phantom of the Opera – Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sweeping love story is marking its 30th anniversary on Broadway. Alternatively look to the Jersey Boys – which tells the story of the rags to riches rise of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons – and will be celebrating a decade on Broadway (no small feat) in November. However if you’re looking for a new show to see, may we recommend An American In Paris, a musical adaptation of the beloved Oscar-winning film which revolves around the romantic story of a young American soldier, a beautiful French girl and an indomitable European city, each yearning for a new beginning after the end of World War 11. Expect dexterous dancing, great Gershwin songs and two appealing Tony nominated leads in Robbie Fairchild & Leanne Cope – both professional ballet dancers making their Broadway debuts.

Best bites
The  NY food scene – very different from other areas of America – is sure to put a smile on the face of any gourmand. Think pizza (introduced by Italian immigrants in the 1900s), cheesecake (immortalised by Lindy’s restaurant in Midtown in the 1920s), Pastrami on Rye aka the New York sandwich, warm pretzels with Dijon mustard, designer cupcakes (blame SATC’s Carrie Bradshaw if you will) and cocktails (the Tom Collins and Manhattan were invented in NY in 1874 and flourished during the prohibition era in the speakeasy bars that sprung up all over the city). For something more formal, make a reservation at The Carlyle Restaurant. Situated inside the Carlyle Hotel – an Upper East Side landmark featured heavily in shows such as SATC and Gossip Girl – the restaurant is one of the most elegant not only on the Upper East Side, but in the whole of New York. Dine on dishes such as Sautéed Dover sole and Lobster Thermidor in English manor style decor, among the grand dame’s cashed up clientele.

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Top shop
The mammoth four store department store that is Century 21 sells deeply discounted designer clothes, accessories and shoes and was once the Big Apple’s best kept secret. Fast forward to 2015 and the secret is out: every New Yorker knows about this Cortland Street gem. It’s still the place to pick up a bargain but be prepared to trawl the avenues and aisles with tonnes of other tourists. To beat the crowds (and get the best deals) forgo the lie-in and arrive early – the store usually opens around 8am.

Best burb
Right now, Brooklyn is where New York’s at. Younger and edgier than Manhattan, this once down at the heel neighbourhood has undergone an impressive renaissance and its superb shopping (wander to Williamsburg and Atlantic Avenue), galleries (the Brooklyn Museum has the best collection of ancient Egyptian art in the US) and gorgeous Prospect Park make it more than a match for Manhattan. Don’t believe us? Just ask actors Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer and Maggie Gyllenhaal – all of whom have upped sticks and moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn in recent years. Clearly there’s more to Brooklyn than the bridge…Alternatively, given that 2015 marks the 100th Anniversary year of Frank Sinatra’s birth, why not make a pilgrimage to the birth place of Ol Blue Eyes: take a bow New Jersey. Need an extra incentive? You’ll enjoy bigger, better views of Brooklyn Bridge, The Empire State Building et al in Joisey -and cheaper prices too.

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Park life
When the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple gets too much, the FDR Four Freedoms Park acts as oasis. As well as being a lovely, leafy green space, the enclave – the last work of the late Louis I. Kahn, an iconic architect of the 20th century – serves as a memorial to the former President in his home state of New York. Located on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island, the Park celebrates the Four Freedoms, as outlined in FDR’s famous 6 January  1941 State of the Union speech in which Roosevelt revealed that the way to justify the sacrifice of war was to create a world centred on freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. The park honouring the president who made America a super power, opened  to the public on 24 October 2012.

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Sleepover
Wondering where to stay in the Big Apple? Most people will tell you to stay in a hotel in Soho but personalIy I’d advise avoiding the pre packaged path and checking into Airbnb abode, where you’ll get character and local charm rather than inflated prices.
I stayed with Shane and Jo – a friendly couple in their thirties – in the TriBeCa (which stands for ‘Triangle Below Canal’)  district. In doing so, I  managed to escape New York’s exorbitantly priced hotels and hostels (with their inconvenient check in/out times, dull rooms and ridiculous mini bar fees) but more than that: I got to live their immaculate Tribecca life. Every morning I opened my eyes to breathtaking views of the Hudson River before venturing up to their rooftop for my morning coffee and bagel. And as a base, Tribecca was ideal enabling me to hastily tick off the sights and then lose myself in the street life.

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Getting around
Most of the city is compact enough to walk around and the easy to navigate grid system means that New York novices can find their bearings in just a few days. Don’t fancy pounding the pavements? New York’s subway system is the fastest and safest way to get around the city. It’s dirt cheap too, at only US$2 per ride. That said, it’s worth splashing the cash and climbing into the back of a Yellow cab – a NYC rite of passage  – at least once during your stay. However for days when you can’t face public transport or coughing up for a cab, make like the taxi loving New Yorkers and turn to Uber – an affordable ride-sharing app that’s crushing the  taxi industry that has dominated NYC for decades.

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