New York, NY
Travel Style/Profile in 5 Words or Less:
"Is it time to eat?"
Favourite Food Spots:
Most days in NYC are planned around food, and top-picks change monthly, but here are a few all-time favorites:
The most divine little French spot situated in an old town house in the West Village.
The best grapefruit margaritas to wash down delicious fish tacos.
Delicious rustic Italian, including freshly baked bread, at this tiny candlelit spot on the Upper East Side.
Located in main floor of the Neue Galerie, this ornate Viennese cafe is a hidden gem for a fancy breakfast, lunch or the best hot chocolate this side of Austria.
The most old-timey, chic New York bar around just happens to be in my neighborhood, so it's my personal heaven. Nurse a $20+ Old Fashioned as you listen to the most charming jazz singers do their thing at the piano nightly.
Skip the crowds at the more popular Chelsea Market and snag a seat and a snack in this pretty skylight-lit space.
I could go on for pages & I haven't even touched Brooklyn!
Favourite Non-Food City Spots:
Museums in New York are a must-see.
The Met is overwhelming but absolutely worth it, even to do an abbreviated tour. Check out the Temple of Dendur and the Egyptian wing, the Greek/Roman hall and whatever current exhibit the Costume Institute is showcasing and you'll get a good sampling of what the museum has to offer. Also be sure to head up to the roof in summer months for a refreshment and an amazing view of Central Park.
The Museum of Natural History, the Guggenheim, and the re-located soon-to-open Whitney are also popular options, depending on your interests.
Chelsea "gallery hopping" is a great pretentious-sounding way to walk-off your lunch and look at some interesting art. Wander along the blocks of the low 20's between 10th and 11th and pop into whatever galleries catch your eye. Stay a few minutes and get inspired. While you're there, head up to the elevated park known as the Highline for a lovely walk.
Neighbourhood-wise, there's nothing like the West Village for a stroll along brownstone-lined streets, with some shopping in Soho after (mind the Saturday crowds).
Favourite Places To Go With Friends:
Central Park might be obvious, but for good reason. Stay out of the overcrowded Sheep Meadow and instead go north to a nice spot around the Great Lawn. Grab a blanket, some well-concealed wine and some gourmet picnic fare (stop into Eli's or Dean & Deluca on Madison Avenue) and have yourself a perfect little afternoon. Or go high-meets lowbrow and grab some Shake Shack burgers and cheese-fries.
A Perfect Saturday Looks Like:
I wake up to the smell of brewing coffee and a Black Seed Bagel (Sesame; toasted; beet-cured lox, cream cheese and capers) eaten in bed (which someone has mysteriously fetched in Nolita for me). I give myself a few minutes to lounge luxuriously, then go for a quick run around the Central Park Reservoir (to assuage the guilt of whatever else I'm going to eat today). Then it's an easy brunch at one of my locals, followed by a museum stroll or a walk down Madison Avenue (ending with an indulgent purchase Barney's New York). I take a quick afternoon nap in the sun before a dinner with friends at Bobo (mushroom raviolini, scallops and beignets) or Sfoglia (antipasti, paparadelle bolognese and panne cotta) followed by a late nightcap at a dive bar on the Lower East Side or Williamsburg.
Any Other City Favourites or Tips for Travelers?
Maybe it's just my travel philosophy, but don't over-plan New York. There's so much to see and do that it can be utterly overwhelming to attempt it all. Plan one or two tourist attractions per day, then let yourself just walk and absorb. Wander into stores or restaurants that catch your eye and just enjoy the city like a local.
Weather here can be extreme, so dress in chic but comfortable layers during both the oppressive summer heat and the frigid winter wind. And for goddsakes, wear comfortable shoes for walking.
A Few Other Tips & Tricks:
Top of the Rock vs. Empire State building
Even though the top of the Empire State is totally iconic, and everyone wants their "An Affair to Remember"/"Sleepless in Seattle" moment, standing in line for hours around the block is a total buzzkill and a major waste of a day. Save yourself the lineup and instead buy tickets ahead of time for a designated time-slot to the 70th floor at Rockefeller Center known as "Top of the Rock." I think the views are just as spectacular and the extra personal space is totally worth it (seeing an "avoid crowds" theme here? Why do I live here again?).
Free downtown Manhattan views via the Staten Island Ferry
There's some great boat tours around the island on the Circle Line, but for a quick and free way to see downtown Manhattan hop on the Staten Island Ferry. You'll get awesome views of Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and the Freedom Tower. When you get to Staten Island, you can just board again and get another great view on your way back.
Broadway shows are always a great attraction, and day-of tickets can usually be scored at the TKTS booth in the middle of Times Square, but don't be afraid to try something else like a New York Ballet or New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center, or a dance performance at BAM--all are equally engaging.
First-time visitors may be tempted to stay in Times Square, and though it's definitely worth a walk-through just for sensory overload, think about a different neighborhood to get a more authentic feel for the city. The Upper West Side is a great first-time-stay neighborhood choice, with the rest of the city readily accessible via subway, bus, walking or taxi cab.
Follow Mary-Helen on Twitter at @mhln