Let’s be honest, 48 hours in one of the biggest cities in the world is probably not enough. Life might move in a New York minute over in Manhattan, but it’s nowhere near enough time to pound the entire stretch of the stunning borough. Yes, I am aware that New York consists of five boroughs; Manhattan is by far the most metropolitan of them all and probably where you’ll want to spend most of your time. Unless you’re catching a Nets game, then you’ll need to head to Brooklyn. Or you want to explore the hipster neighbourhood of Williamsburg, made popular in 2 Broke Girl$.
When to go
I can generally withstand cold weather, but oh my goodness, I’ve never been more cold in my life traipsing around a city! New York City is bitterly cold in winter (as I experienced!) so aim for spring or summer.
We <3 HK’s MTR, inspired by the New York City subway. However, the train system is much more sophisticated here – the city is much bigger than the 852 to begin with – so definitely grab a map from wherever you’re staying and familiarise yourself with the subway network. Manhattan is a long island, so they generally run up and down the island; it depends whether you’re doing north, south, east or west.
It’s worth picking up a metro card, which is similar to the Octopus card. Get the 7-Day Unlimited Pass, which is US$30. You’ll be able to use the subway until midnight for an entire week. They can be used on local buses too, but the traffic in this city is notoriously awful so I’d recommend using the subway where possible. Metro cards are easily available at any subway station.
Where to stay
Located in Manhattan’s swanky Upper East Side, The Mark is exactly where you want to be when you’re visiting the Big Apple. When you walk in, it’s as if you’re on the set of Gossip Girl, with many well-dressed, corporate types buzzing around the reception area. It’s a 5-star luxury hotel in the heart of Manhattan right next to Central Park, so I wasn’t surprised. With a short wait before my room was ready, I headed around the corner to the The Mark Restaurant by Jean-Georges for a cup of coffee. It was packed! This spot was popular for a Saturday afternoon, and rightly so. A quick glance at the menu and there were favourites including black truffle pizza, cream of tomato soup (perfect for the winter weather!), and a grilled cheeseburger.
Once I was back at the hotel and checked in for the afternoon, I went about checking the amenities within the studio room I was staying in. From the 10th floor, I had a stunning view of Uptown New York. With a kitchenette and an ensuite bathroom, I wasn’t short on space for all my stuff – two bits of luggage and a long-haul flight and I had practically brought my own kitchen sink! Olivier Lordonnois, the general manager of the hotel, had arranged for champagne and macarons from Ladurée, which was a nice touch. If you do happen to be looking for macarons in the area, there is a Ladurée not too far from the hotel…
After a short walk down Madison Avenue ducking into a whole host of stores where I couldn’t afford anything, I organised that evening’s dinner for two through the hotel concierge. They were extremely helpful in selecting Soccarat, a tapas restaurant in Midtown, and securing a table there. The following morning, they were just as helpful directing me to 3 Guys, a diner with endless breakfast options. A hearty bite there and I was fueled for a morning out in Central Park.
In terms of the journey from the airport to the hotel and back, there’s a charge for an airport transfer, so you’re better off hopping into one of the city’s famed yellow taxis for your journey at a fraction of the cost. It was about US$40 for a one-way journey from La Guardia Airport into the city.
The whole stay at The Mark was absolutely amazing, and I simply couldn’t have been in a better location. The hotel also has a Frederic Fekkai hair salon, a state-of-the-art fitness centre, and 24/7 access to Bergdorf Goodman… perfect for a spot of pampering!
The Mark, 25 E 77th St, New York, NY 10075, United States, (212) 744-4300, www.themarkhotel.com
What to do
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
This is a must – if not walking to Brooklyn, but definitely on the way back from the borough towards Manhattan. It’s truly a thing of beauty. Be wary of the cyclists going about their day though – try and stick to your side of the path. It’s approximately 30 minutes. On the day I walked it, I was amazed to see some acrobatic artists walking the suspension cables, only to realise they were maintenance workers – my adrenaline was racing simply watching them balance carefully; I can’t even begin to think what they were feeling looking down at my tiny self!
See the Statue of Liberty
There are two ways to see it. The first is to make your way to the Staten Island Ferry pier and wait for someone from Statue Cruises to approach you and sell you all sorts of packages which include a ferry trip to Ellis Island and back and access to various levels of Lady Liberty. I was approached by many of them, but found the prices to be astronomical – US$100 and up, money I was just not willing to spend. If you’re particularly interested in it, it’s totally worth it. But if you just want to see the statue from a distance for a photo opportunity, head on the ferry to Staten Island.
The best part about this is it’s completely free. The ferry departs every 15 minutes during peak hours, and every 30 minutes during non-peak hours. The tricky part is figuring out which side of the ferry you have to be on to get a good look at Lady Liberty. If you didn’t get a good look the first time around, you’ve got a second chance when you return from Staten Island back to Manhattan!
Macy’s Herald Square
The Macy’s department store in Herald Square is seven stories… if you’re interested in indulging in some retail therapy, this is definitely the place to check out. As an international traveller, you also get an extra 10% off when you shop. Just show your passport to someone at the customer service counter for a special pass and shop ’til you drop!
Tiffany & Co. Fifth Avenue
Visiting this store – even just wandering around the street outside – held special meaning for me. It’s worth a gander inside too just to ogle the jewels and you may even be tempted by the little blue boxes – I certainly was! Head upstairs for the more affordable sterling silver stuff…
I’ve probably thrown the phrase tourist trap out there already, but Times Square is exactly this. It’s best to go at night to see all the billboards lit up for a photo op or two. Keep an eye out for people dressed up as cartoon characters. If they happily take a photo with you, it’s customary to tip them.
If you’re a fan of live theatre, there’s no place better than this city to check out – after all, it’s here where you’ll find the original Broadway! Don’t worry about scoring tickets to this months in advance. The TKTS Booth behind the big steps in Times Square opens at 2pm every day and sells heavily discounted tickets for performances that evening.
The Flatiron Building
This is not necessarily a must-see, but it’s certainly a cool piece of architecture. And one that featured on CSI: NY…
The events of 11 September, 2001 certainly shocked the world. The site of the memorial is worth seeing simply to pay respects. There are two memorial pools surrounded by plaques with the names of people who died on that day. There is free admission to the museum on Tuesdays, or you could pay US$24 to enter on any other day.
American Museum of Natural History
The subject of the Ben Stiller movies, Night at the Museum, it’s worth having a look around here if the weather is particularly bad outside. It’s huge so you can spend an entire day going through all the exhibits and learning.
Rockefeller Center & Top of the Rock
The view from the Top of the Rock is absolutely breath taking. Pop into the NBC store in the lobby of this building to pick up some souvenirs from some of our favourite television classics… I went a bit crazy picking up t-shirts with Friends quotes on them! If you happen to get tickets to see The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon (something I tried really hard to do!), you’ll be in a studio in this building too. If you happen to go in winter (or over Christmas), you’ll also see the big tree made famous in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and the ice-skating rink.
Radio City Music Hall
This one isn’t far from Rockefeller Centre and the venue for many international performance acts – Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett are performing here later this year in support of their album Cheek to Cheek, and the Christmas Spectacular is one to check out too.
The most beautiful thing about Central Park is that it’s an expanse of open space in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world. You could spend hours getting lost here, stumbling upon some of the different landmarks within it: the Alice in Wonderland statue, the ice rink (in winter), the zoo, the turtle pond and of course Belvedere Castle.
The one thing not to miss out on is a horse and carriage ride. Prices start from US$50 and on a clear day, it’s a beautiful ride around the park.
This is a combination of a food market and hipster-tourist stores in a huge building in the Meatpacking District. Believe it or not, this didn’t exist about 15 years ago. It’s full of small restaurants and cafés serving up artisanal food and ingredients, worth popping in to grab a quick lunch.
I found no wolves, but I did find a bull at Wall Street! It’s smack in the middle of two roads, so will require some traffic-dodging, but this spot is also great for photo-taking. They say that if you rub the nose, horns or nether regions of the bronze statue, it will bring you luck… rub away!
Empire State Building
The iconic scene in Sleepless in Seattle with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan gets me Every. Single. Time. Head straight up to the observation deck for some seriously stunning views of the city. I’d go here at night on a clear day.
Where to Eat
“I’ll have what she’s having…” were the famous lines uttered in When Harry Met Sally and the ones which put this deli on the map. This spot is absolutely a tourist trap, but if you’re a huge Meg Ryan fan like I am, then you’ve got to visit for the divine pastrami sandwich. The grilled cheese was perfect too.
The Doughnut Plant
This slightly hipster coffee and doughnut café was recommended to me by our very own Sabrina. I popped in for a cup of joe in the afternoon and a sweet treat – I mean, how could I be in New York and not indulge? It had to be that good – and it was – if our stylishly Sassy Sabrina was recommending this spot to me over outlet malls and Macy’s…
Nothing beats a Brooklyn slice. The pie at Grimaldi’s is worth the approximately 30-minute walk along the Brooklyn Bridge. Alternatively, take the subway there and walk back to Manhattan so you see the iconic skyline. I digress though! The pizza here had the right balance of tomato sauce, doughy base and the yummiest mozzarella and pepperoni. Another beautiful thing about this spot is that pretty much no matter where you’re sitting, whether it’s upstairs or on the ground level, you can see the pizzaoli stretching the dough and spinning it in the air… it was certainly a fun game trying to figure out which pie was mine!
Another spot to eat at is Ellen’s Stardust Diner. Unfortunately, I didn’t eat here although I would have liked to. It’s another tourist-y spot, and all the wait staff are up-and-coming Broadway performers. I’ve heard they sing to you during the meal. Pop in if you’re looking for typical diner fare – think burgers, meatloaf, pasta alfredo, sandwiches and of course, an ice-cream sundae.
Somewhere else to grab a bite is Olive Garden. Those breadsticks were calling out my name… but be warned this place serves up large portions so you may want to share the American-Italian style food. I opted for the eggplant parm and a bowl of their steaming hot soup of the day. It was the middle of winter in New York City, after all, if I wasn’t chugging one hot cup of coffee after another, the soup did the trick.
This is a carnivore’s cave, and a great spot to grab a quick lunch. They make their own custard ice-cream here or you could have it as a milkshake… definitely a calorie bomb, but you’re on holiday, so indulge.
The 40/40 Club
I’m about to garner some cool points with this one: I hung out at Jay-Z’s joint, The 40/40 Club. No, I wasn’t dressed to the nines in my heels tipping the bouncer with 10 bucks to let me in! It was a Sunday afternoon to catch the American football game and the place was reasonably empty… but I can still say I went to Jay-Z’s club. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there. It’s suitably swanky and large with a host of private rooms. Try one of martinis, the signature drink there.
I must add that this is by no means an exhaustive list of what to do in New York. The city is on a completely different scale to the 852, but equally beautiful and I genuinely can’t wait to visit again! Let us know your fave NYC spots by emailing us at [email protected].