New York: A small bite of The Big Apple

New York City is a place of urban legend, cast in celluloid and immortalized in prose. It is the center of high fashion and shrewd deals, of bright lights and big smoke.

Story by Peggy Tee

The city that never sleeps can be daunting for first-time visitors. Don’t let the lights, energy and siren calls of New York overwhelm you. Dive into the frenetic pace of the city, along with the 8 million locals living in the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island.

Some say that a lifetime in New York is not sufficient enough to discover all her secrets. Forty-eight hours? “Impossible,” they scoff. Sadly, the critics are right. However, with the right amount of planning, a little bit of luck, and the willingness to throw yourself into the melee, you can cover the greatest hits of the greatest city on earth in a weekend.

First, choose a good base. This means Manhattan, the beating heart of New York. Uptown is expensive, downtown bohemian and midtown a good mix of the two.

Heard about the lodging costs in New York? They’re true, so budget an appropriate amount of your travel expenses to cover accommodations. Choose an establishment that is close to a subway station as this will cut down on your transit time between attractions. The area around Union Square is strategic, midway between uptown and downtown, with access to eight subway lines from the 14th Street station. If you’re planning an extended stay, consider buying a MetroCard at a subway station. The cost of a single subway or bus ride is $2.75 while the cost of a seven-day unlimited MetroCard is $31.

TOP • Union Square. CENTER • A ferry ride to Liberty Island. BOTTOM • Metropolitan Museum, affectionately known as the Met.

Next, book yourself a ticket online to see the Statue of Liberty. Ferry rides to Liberty Island depart from Battery Park. To visit the museum and the observation decks, reserve a monument pass, which is included in the cost of the ferry ticket. Due to security reasons, only a limited amount of tickets are available daily, so buy well in advance.

Arrive at least 30 minutes before your time slot to catch the ferry. You will need the extra time to clear security. Don’t bring any weapons, backpacks, large suitcases or strollers. The best time to visit is just as the ferry service starts at 9 a.m., before the crowds arrive.

Back on Manhattan, head to Fifth Avenue. The blocks from 79th to 91st streets are known as the Museum Mile. The Metropolitan Museum, affectionately known as the Met, the Guggenheim, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright; the Museum of the City of New York and the Jewish Museum are all in range.

In the evening, enjoy a walk in Central Park, the 843-acre green space that’s the most visited urban park in the country. Stretching 50 blocks, the park features woodlands, lakes and gardens. During the winter, there are two ice skating rinks open to the public, or you might fancy a horse-drawn carriage ride (year-round).

For families, the Central Park Zoo is a wonderful distraction for little ones bored of the museum scene. Walk down past the glossy storefronts of Fifth Avenue and indulge in a little retail therapy.

See that long line snaking around the corner of 34th Street? That’s the line for the Empire State Building. Luckily, you’ve booked advance online tickets. Waltz past the line and enter one of the six banks of elevators waiting to whisk you up the third tallest building in New York.

If you want a great view of the Empire State Building, book a time slot ticket to Top of the Rock, the observatory on top of Rockefeller Center. Regardless of where you take in the view, New York’s skyline at night is guaranteed to impress.

The next day, catch the subway to Fulton Street and head to Pier 17 at South Street Seaport. This is the historical center of maritime New York. Pause to admire the view of the Brooklyn Bridge, and then walk up toward Bowling Green Park, where the bronze sculpture of the Charging Bull resides. You are now in the heart of the Wall Street financial district.

A short walk up Trinity Place leads to Ground Zero, the site of One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and the sixth-tallest in the world. 

From here, the neighborhoods of Tribeca, SoHo, NoLita, and the delightfully bohemian Greenwich Village are a stone’s throw away. Wander the streets filled with boutiques and cafés. Two-hour tours are available for “Sex and The City” fans in Greenwich Village, where most of the outdoor scenes were shot. When you’re ready, plunge back into the busy streets and hustle your way to the corner of Spring and Crosby streets to visit the Museum of Modern Art store.

In the evening, jump on the subway to Times Square, filled with a vibe and energy that is uniquely New York. Celebrate the culmination of your marathon weekend with a treat. TKTS, in the heart of Times Square, offers discounted tickets for a number of Broadway and off-Broadway shows.

Suggestions from a Local…

LOCAL Life asked part-time Hilton Head Island resident Larry Kramer to share a few hidden gems from the city that never sleeps. Kramer retired in 2015 as president and publisher of USA Today. He and his wife, Myla Lerner, live in Manhattan and Palmetto Dunes.

3 Things to Do

A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza tour. We always send visiting friends on this fun tour. It’s a four-hour bus tour that leaves from Manhattan and stops at the best pizza places throughout Brooklyn, including Grimaldi’s in DUMBO and the L&B Spumoni Gardens in Bensonhurst. The tour allows you to skip the ever-present long lines.

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum at 97th and 103 Orchard streets in Manhattan is a national historic site and the one place you can see what life was like for most New York immigrants. It offers tours of the neighborhood and a real understanding of the human experience of what it meant to come to America to start a new life in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The Triad is a tiny Off-Broadway second floor theater above a restaurant on West 72nd Street on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It has been the original home to some of the longest running off-Broadway shows, and many short run specials and acts.

3 Places to Eat

Cafe Luxembourg on 70th Street on the Upper West Side has been one of New York’s hidden neighborhood gems for almost 35 years. It’s got a great bar and a terrific bistro menu. Half the fun is spotting famous people who live in the neighborhood or are just visiting and don’t like being bothered. It a wonderfully noisy, friendly place where you can find yourself sitting at a table next to Tina Fey.

Bar San Miguel is a great neighborhood bar and authentic Mexican restaurant in the trendy Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn. It’s a block or so from the Carroll Gardens subway stop of the F and G trains. It has a great little garden area for outside seating in the back, and it specializes in every form of tequila drink, and serves more than 200 tequilas and mezcals.

The Little Prince is a hidden gem in Soho. Located on Prince Street, it’s another French bistro, but with a very different vibe than Cafe Lux. It often highlights unusual French beers, as well as local favorites. Tremendous place for Sunday brunch.

3 Places to Stay

Public Hotel is a new hotel from the man who invented boutique hotels,  Ian Schrager. Set in the Lower East Side (Chrystie and East Houston streets), it’s very cool with a creative vibe that attracts both young and modern. They have a great rooftop bar with terrific views. The hotel is not pricey ($300-$400), aimed at the Airbnb audience.

Nomad Hotel is a bit more luxurious but you can find favorable pricing. Located conveniently on Broadway and 28th Street, this hotel has legions of regulars who have made it their home away from home when they come to NYC. The wonderfully elegant Library Bar is a favorite meeting place in midtown, and is warm and cozy.

The Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn is a total surprise. Born from the bones of a Williamsburg waterfront factory, it’s a chic 70-room hotel with dramatic views of Manhattan from its location at Wythe and N. 11th St. The Rooftop bar is laid back. You’re in the hottest new area of Brooklyn, so don’t go here if you want to sleep a lot.

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