New York is the absolute definition of bright lights, big city. But there’s lots more to it than a series of iconic views, says Alex Johnson. Take the hawks for instance…
■ Top of the Rock
n a list of iconic views on the planet, the skyline of New York from the observation deck of the Rockefeller Center would certainly figure in most top tens. Fully refurbished, it looks out from the 70th floor, 360 degrees across the city that never snoozes, giving you an hawk’s eye view (more of which later) of the city’s many attractions, from the Empire
State Building to Chinatown and out across to Ellis Island. Indeed, a visit to the massive bronze Statue of Liberty – take the Circle Line ferry from Battery Park, the ticket includes a visit to Ellis Island – is another iconic trip. And when you start adding them all up, you’ll actually find dozens of iconic must-dos and must-sees. Trying to fit them all into one visit is impossible, but because it’s actually very easy to get around New York, whether The Travel & Leisure Magazine
New York State
When people think of New York what they are usually actually thinking of is Manhattan, but there’s far more to New York than just New York City.There is a whole New York State (which includes Niagra Falls). Among the attractions further afield than 42nd Street on a flydrive holiday are: ● Long Island – the second home of the stars, marvellous beaches, and great aquariums ● Finger Lakes – after California, the biggest producer of wine in the country and also boasting some of the USA’s loveliest countryside ● Hudson Valley – where the very, very rich built vast mansions (snoop around the homes of Messrs Rockefeller and Vanderbilt) or the more simple pleasures of Bear State National Park ● The Adirondacks – mountains, forests, outdoor activities wherever you look whether you want to go wild on water or land
you’re using taxis and the subway or simply exploring on foot, you’ll be surprised how much you can pack in. Of course there’s the aforementioned bright lights of the big city to enjoy and an evening visit to the now cleaned up Time Square is a great way to get a feel for the city’s energy (especially if you go on New Year’s Eve when, to put it mildly, it gets a little packed). When it comes to nightlife, there are plenty of great places to head for make sure you are dressed up to the nines and if possible book ahead - such as the Blue Note (www.bluenote.net) for great jazz and the atmospheric Buddha Lounge (www.lesoukny.com) which specialises in Moroccan music and food. And then there are the museums. While Madrid has its museum triangle, New York has a whole string of them along Fifth Avenue and while they’re all pretty vast, it’s a real experience visiting them. Here are three of the best: ● Museum of the City of New York (www.mcny.org) - an excellent introduction to the city and its life: recent exhibitions have looked at NY’s hip hop fashion revolution, the golden age of baseball and the design of the city’s homes
● Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (www.guggenheim.org) - concentrates on modern art and architecture with an excellent online gallery (and, dare we say it, an iconic building in itself with its swirly circular design) ● The Metropolitan Museum of Art (www.metmuseum.org) - one of those ‘it’s got pretty much everything’ kind of museums, again with a spectacular web
■ A street food vendor
site which you should browse before you go. If it’s all too much, it’s quite cool just to sprawl on the steps outside and have a sandwich However, while there’s plenty to see inside, New York is surprisingly green. Of course there’s Central Park, a beautiful and well looked after green lung with dozens (indeed, 60 miles) of paths crisscrossing between separate areas. Everybody has their favourite spot and you can easily just wander around – or pull on your rollerblades and blade around - to absorb the atmosphere, especially in the large Ramble wilderness area in the middle of the park where you really do leave the hubbub behind you and where nearly 300 species of bird have been spotted. One of the most famous flying residents is the wild red tail hawk Pale Male who has been living and raising little hawks here for a decade, taking advantage of the woodland environment of the Ramble to look for food. Twitchers can also expect to see downy woodpeckers, flycatchers and cedar waxwings, as well as bats. For guided walking tours, including ones which explore the wildlife, go to www.centralpark.com which is an extensive resource too on the park in general and www.birdsofcentral-
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■ Central Park
park.com if you’re really keen. In fact the city has lots of great green spots including The High Line (www.the highline.org) - a great example of community guerrilla gardening along a disused elevated railway line that runs between the Meatpacking District and Chelsea – and Green Wood cemetery in Brooklyn which was once a chi-chi picnic spot. This is especially interesting if you like a little celebrity grave spotting from the Tiffany jewellers family to musician Leonard Bernstein. And it’s also worth popping into Prospect Park if you’re in Brooklyn, designed by the same people who put Central Park together and with a similar line-up of zoos, lakes and New Yorkers relaxing. With well over 40 million visitors a year, New York naturally has a lot of hotels and caters to a lot of very different tastes. For example, bookworms should beat a path to The Library Hotel (www.libraryhotel.com) which has more than 6,000 books arranged around its guestrooms on 10 floors, each of which is devoted to one of the main 10 categories of Mr Dewey’s classification. Each of the 60 rooms has an individual collection of books focusing on a particular theme. So you could ask for the botany room on the
■ Times Square
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Even if you have almost no interest in shopping, New York is a great place to pick up, well, anything you want.There truly is something for everybody so what you really need is a specialist guide. Zagat started several decades ago as a guide to the city’s restaurants but now it has published a guide to the city’s best shops – it’s a great little tool, dividing shops by category and price, and you should get one over here before you go. As with the food guide, entries are voted for by over 7,000 shoppers so you can be fairly sure you won’t be visiting a dud. It covers nearly 2,500 shops. More details at www.zagat.com and the books from all good bookshops.
Mathematics and Science floor or perhaps you feel more in the mood for new media or erotic literature. Also themed, this time largely by country, but a lot more basic and bohemian though still very appealing, is the more hostel-like East Village Bed and Coffee (www.bedandcoffee.com). For something rather more stately but still not bankbreaking (especially at the current exchange rate between the dollar and the pound) go for the Algonquin where Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and a host of other heavyweight arty and literary folk regularly met to chat, argue and drink heavily as part of the Round Table club almost 100 years ago (www.algonquinhotel.com). Similiarly, try
The Sherry-Netherland which is nice and comfortable without being absurdly luxurious. And it has its own gargoyles (www.sherrynetherland.com). Rather more trendy than these is The Bowery Hotel which is Young Fogey meets American Sloane Ranger (www.theboweryhotel.com). Choosing where to go and eat in New York is a problem, not because there’s not plenty of great restaurants here, but because the best ones are, like London, hard to get reservations in at short notice. Also, new ones spring up so fast that by the time you’ve read this article, booked your holiday and turned up, there’ll literally be plenty of great new ones on the block.
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British Airwa s fly to New York such as and ☞ Most large airline .virgin-atlantic.com) ys antic (www (www.ba.com),Virgin Atl s (www.aa.com). large, American Airline easiest by subway – it’s w York’s five boroughs is imited use ☞ Getting around Ne for unl t a seven day Metro Card elievably it’s swift and it’s safe. Ge n’t use them) for an unb probably wo (including buses but you kiosk. available at any subway at various good value $25.They’re ay, the TKTS box offices a show on Broadw vily discounted ☞ If you fancy seeing sell hea ww.tdf.org for details) points around the city (w . In seats. uinely seasonal offerings York has a range of gen ☞ Like London, New ntral Park in Ce either the Wollman Rink er Center winter, try ice skating at or The Rink at Rockefell grink.com) (www.wollmanskatin at the top of ather, eRink/).Whatever the we at (www.rapatina.com/ic above with more details ntioned the Center is the view me c.com www.topoftherockny Office of New York at ation contact the Tourism ☞ For more inform www.nycvisit.com.
One way round this is to try your luck on the many stainless steel mobile kitchens – think kebab van but a whole lot nicer. If you don’t fancy this approach, you can still get excellent good value meals around town very easily and also very internationally. So while the best Japanese food in general is probably to be found at Megu (www.megunyc.com) for great value Japanese takoyaki (little battered octopus balls) try Otafuku at 236, East. 9th Street. Two possibilities which foodies are looking out for when they open at the back end of this year are Bar Breton which will be serving crêpes at 254 Fifth Ave at 28th St, and Boqueria, Spanish delicacies at 171 Spring St between West Broadway and Thompson St. This is the beauty of New York: however iconic its headline attractions might be, there’s always something new in the pipeline, a new flavour to be savoured or a new experience to be enjoyed.
Alex Johnson’s favourite comedy series set in New York is Mad About You - much funnier than Friends, more jokes than Seinfeld, now available on DVD. He grew up in old York. TL
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