What to do in New York City!
I moved to New York City from New Orleans at 24 years old having never visited before. The city immediately wrapped its high intensity arms around me and I recall very clearly my first call back to home, “Mom! I’ve finally found a place where everyone walks as fast as I do!” From then until now, even after I moved to London, back to New Orleans, back again to New York and back to New Orleans again I feel more myself in New York than anywhere on Earth.
It is almost impossible to create a guide to NYC because it changes so quickly and innovates so rapidly. Just when I make it into the best sushi restaurant in New York a new one opens. Just when I think I have the best stores mapped, I discover a fresh entry. But there are plenty of places I return to visit after visit, year after year. These are the places I am sharing with you now. I hope you love them and love her as much as I do.
Without question and without exception my very, very, very favorite place to stay is the Soho Grand hotel. It is only 25 minutes from Newark, walkable to great Soho restaurants, super quick and easy to get a taxi or an Uber and is blocks away from excellent shopping! It is walkable to West Village Soul Cycle and if you go south, then west it is pretty quick to get to the West Side Highway for a nice long run. The restaurant is good, tea in the lobby is fantastic, the rooms are clean and interesting and the staff is fantastic. Seriously, I love this place. Love.
But sometimes you need options. These are my also-rans:
Inn at Irving Place
Super sweet, charming, tiny little place in NYC. It’s probably not available when you want to go but if it is go for it. You’ll really feel like a local.
Super cool hotel with The. Best. Coffee. Downside — the location is not great for runners.
If you have to stay on the Upper East Side (C’mon! It happens), this is the place to stay. Great with kids!
Formerly known as On The Ave this is a great place with kids. It is on the Upper West Side, walkable to Fairway Market, walkable to Central Park and the UWS is kiddie heaven.
The Standard High Line
Bachelorette party? First time visitor to NYC (over 16 and under 40?) Bit of an exhibitionist? Stay here.
There aren’t really budget sleeping options in New York. I have had great luck with Air B&B when I’ve needed to keep it under $150 a night but other than that it’s not really that kind of town. Here are a few options where, if you split it with a friend, it is JUUUUUST about reasonable.
There are Holiday Inns sprinkled through the city and are usually clean, safe and under $150 a night.
And check out Pod Hotels. They have locations on 39th and 51st and they are all about affordable rooms with everything you need, nothing you don’t. I haven’t stayed there but it looks really cool!
The Steakhouse at Fairway
Ready for the best-kept-secret in New York? Above the venerable grocery store and foodie mecca, Fairway, on 74th & Broadway, there exists a Steakhouse with the fluffiest pancakes, freshest orange juice, best oatmeal and killer BLTs. You really won’t believe it until you eat it.
Bubby’s was all home-grown, farm to table, eat the whole pig waaaay before it was fashionable. Now they have locations in TriBeCa, The Meat Packing District and Japan. 今日は.
It opens at 7am Monday to Friday, 8am on Saturday and Sunday. You probably can’t get a table for dinner so satisfy your craving with breakfast. And maybe make friends who can get you a table at 8pm.
Ukranian Diner serving up perogis and pancakes in the East Village. This is one of those times when you are just going to have to trust me.
Russ & Daughters
You will have to take it to go but if you want the real NY experience look no further than Russ & Daughters for everything bagels with lox. This is a transcendental experience.
Eat After Breakfast:
Definitely “of the moment” with its industrial chic interior Marc Forgione is a former Michelin-starred restaurant with a hip vibe and a kitchen that can back it up. Great for meeting friends or first dates.
Il Mulino Prime
A genuine dry-aged-meat serving steakhouse opened by the Il Mulino Italian restaurant people. It’s very small, it’s very white (the decor) and it’s very good. Plus the Aperol Spritzers come in glasses as big as your head. Ciao.
A french classic in the Meat Packing district by restaurateur Keith McNally. Get there before noon for brunch, make reservations for dinner. Always a great atmosphere, really good classic French bistro fare.
Big brother to Pastis, Balthazar is in Soho and is open from 7am to midnight every day (1am on Friday and Saturdays). Escargots, moules frites, coq au vin…the menu looks like a final exam at a French Culinary school. It’s good. It’s consistent. It’s perfect in the winter, spring, summer or fall.
Fancy steakhouse in midtown Manhattan (on 57th between Park & Madison) Bring your American Express….the black one.
Chef Jonathan Waxman’s West Village Italian haunt. I LOVE the restaurant. I LOVE the location. I LOVE him. I LOVE when you trust me….
If you are only going to do one of those really expensive, multi-course restaurants where nothing is what it seems – and you can’t get to Copenhagen – do this one. They don’t take themselves too seriously, the wine pairings are great and the food, in addition to being really neat looking, is actually amazingly good.
Now, if you are going to do multiple of those really expensive, multi-course restaurants where nothing is what it seems, go to Per Se. Per Se is Thomas Keller’s East Coast outpost. It’s not The French Laundry, per se (yes, hence the name), and it is in the ultra modern Shops at Columbus Circle instead of a quaint little building in Yountville, and you might need to take out a second mortgage on your house but after you have the experience no one can take that away from you. They can take your car if you don’t make that month’s payment though, so keep that in mind.
I would eat at Red Farm every day for the rest of my life if I could. And when I did I’d get the shredded crispy beef and the oyster thing. It’s Farm to Table Chinese. Go early. No reservations. Great cocktails!
The Burger Joint
It’s a burger speakeasy. HAHA! Seriously. You have to walk into Le Parker Meridien like you know what you are doing, then merge left with all the other people who look super hungry and go behind a dark curtain where you can have a burger, fries and a milkshake. Yeah. Take THAT prohibition.
It took very, very good friends — whom I trust with my life — months to convince me to go to Torrisi. After all, it’s in Little Italy and NO ONE goes to Little Italy. I’m still kicking myself thinking of all the time I wasted by NOT eating there. Torrisi is a teeny tiny restaurant that does a $100 Italian tasting menu only for about 15 people at a time. It’s so neat. It’s perfect. Go. Don’t be me.
Smith & Mills
I risk hyperbole at this point but it is worth it. Smith & Mills is another teeny-tiny restaurant this time in TriBeCa. It’s in a garage that has barely been converted and it seats about 20 people at a time. The food is simple and great — and the cocktails are knock out – but you can also just sip on a bottle of rose and eat some raw oysters if that floats your boat. You have to try it.
Especially good for visitors, Chelsea Market is a chance to take in lots of NYC food at once, under one roof. It gets super crowded but if you can handle that you can have sushi, thai food, fresh steamed lobster, gourmet hot dogs, coffee, hot chocolate, gelato, cheese, wine….It’s a veritable cornucopia of food stalls. Plus there is a great restaurant supply store in the back and a big Anthropologie in the front – with cookbook stores, green grocers and a deli in between.
New York leads the trend in Speakeasy-type-drinking holes. I could tell you more here….but Anonymous would probably take over my webpage. So I’m just going to list the really, really good ones. You can do the research on your own — but listen, just because some place *says* they are a really great and top-secret drinking place, doesn’t mean they really are. This list…this is the real deal.
Sake Bar Decibel
This self-described “Japanese speak-easy” is a must. No kimonos or flapper dresses required.
240 East 9th Street
PDT (Please Don’t Tell)
Between the name and the bacon cocktails – enough said.
113 St. Marks Pl.
Raines Law Room
Want to really go back in time? Try this speak-easy ironically named for an 1896 law meant to curb New Yorkers’ liquor consumption. Arrive early to get one of the private tables hidden by a curtain and feel like you’re starring in your own Hollywood movie.
48 West 17th Street
24 E 39th Street
Ever been in the position where someone says, “wow! NYC, so you went to MoMA, right?” and then you have to sadly shake your head no and see their sympathetic and condescending look? Well, a trip to this bar/art gallery will give you the right to look at them knowingly and say “Actually, I prefer to find art before it becomes fodder for the general public. In fact there’s this fabulous up-and-coming artist [insert name you remember from the bar] whose work you’ll certainly see at MoMa soon” Then give half-smile and bask in your hung-over glory.
2nd floor, corner of 7th Ave and Barrow St
Speak-easy with a “pre-theatre” menu. Is there anything more chic in NYC than going to the theatRE? Nope.
510 Hudson St.
This place is so hipster, it doesn’t even believe in having a website. Brush your mustache and head on over.
134 Eldridge St
Look for the steel door with “AB” on it and a neon “A” in the window; then ring the buzzer for entrance.
The Back Room
One of the 2 original speakeasies in NYC that is still in operation. Imbibe from a teacup and practice your best 1920s gangster accent. The only caps popping here are the ones on the champagne.
102 Norfolk Street
Milk & Honey
Not into the 1920s scene? How about brushing elbow patches with Londoners at this reiteration of the famous SoHo bar? Pip pip cheerio! (Yes, I am aware no one actually says that but a girl can dream)
30 E 23rd St
What is the most undervalued and overlooked component of a cocktail? The ice. If you’re a crushed ice connoisseur, you know exactly what I mean. Go here to taste the difference between ice and ICE in your cocktails.
589 Vanderbilt avenue
159 Duane street
The Dead Rabbit
What better way to do your grocery shopping than with a cocktail? All the Mad Men fans will agree that everything is better with a drink so kill two rabbits with one stone and head on over. (FYI: I do not advise killing rabbits, just enjoy puns)
30 Water St.
This is not the Village People’s YMCA but a great place to take yourself or your kids for a bit of brain stimulation.
There’s so much to do here I can’t even scratch the surface in this post so I’ll let you explore and find out more on the website.
Opera in the Park
Like opera? you’ll love this. Hate opera? Go anyway so you can brag about it. No one’s taking stock of whether you actually listen or you just watch the squirrels with a glass of rosé.
“They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway. They say there’s always magic in the air” Yea, I know the George Benson lyrics are actually depressing after the first two lines but there is still something magical about Broadway and seeing a show.
There are two ways to approach this and both are equally well regarded. The free version is just people-watching and hoping you see a marriage proposal on the ice rink and the paid version is actually buying tickets to a ballet. Nutcracker anyone?
10 Lincoln Center Plaza
Ah, MoMA, New York’s version of the Louvre. There’s even a Michelin-starred restaurant, the Modern, or a moderately-priced café if you’re hungry after interpreting all those still-life fruit baskets.
11 West 53rd St.
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
My advice: make it to the center and grab a quick selfie but try to avoid being hit by the ubiquitous over-zealous runner or biker. Usually less crowded during the day. Awesome views of the city and the Statue of Liberty.
Stroll thru SOHO
Great place to take pictures, especially if you have cool instagram filters you can apply. Also great for shopping high-end stores though there are still many local businesses and dining options scattered throughout. Don’t forget your pocketbook!
You could seriously spend all day here but if you haven’t got time for that, the Bloomingdale’s personal shopper service can help you find gifts for everyone on your list or just get your closet in order.
You’ll leave here looking like a page out of the newest Vogue.
Come on, you know you need a new handbag…
Curated collection of menswear, womenswear and home good – hip enough to make you feel good, not so much so that it is intimidating.
A native-born Louisiana boy, Billy Reid sells fashionable clothing that you certainly never saw on Duck Dynasty, thank goodness!
54 Bond St # 2
A townhouse boutique with both men’s and women’s fashions, prepare to feel fabulous when you leave here shopping bags in tow.
18 E 69th St
Modern furniture and design with free shipping on large orders. Thank goodness because stuff here is really expensive.
888 & 881 broadway
A table-top and home accessories store with sleek and vintage-inspired designs.
107 Sullivan Street
Rag & Bone
Designer clothes and accessories. And there’s a robot. Find out what I mean on your next trip.
Housing works bookstore & cafe
Want to give back? 100% of profits from this store and café go to the non-profit Housing Works.
126 Crosby St
Sign up with Racked.com for a list of sample sales and store openings.
If you know any toy store by name, it’s most likely this one. Fun for kids and adults alike. Don’t be surprised if you leave with toys for both you and all the kids on your Christmas list.
767 5th Ave
Sugar & Plumm
A boutique bistro, ice-creamery, chocolatier, bakery and candy shop rolled into one, this is one sugar overload you shouldn’t miss! Just make sure you have a kale and quinoa salad in the fridge to counteract your sugar hangover.
377 Amsterdam Avenue
Alice’s Tea Cup
For an unforgettable children’s tea party, book here. This is not your mama’s 1980s McDonald’s birthday.
102 W 73rd St.
225 East 60th Street
Children’s Museum of Manhattan. You won’t forget what it stands for after one day with your child here. “See, mom!”
212 West 83rd St.
American Museum of Natural History
Kids won’t even notice their technology withdrawal at this museum with all the fun shows and exhibits.
Central Park West at 79th St.
Sea, area and space museum. I think that about covers it, don’t you? Plus they have a real life Space Shuttle on display.
Pier 86 W 46th St and 12th Ave
Teach your kids about books…old school. Here they can go in and MAKE their own books!
3rd Avenue and 84th St
If you haven’t heard of Soul Cycle then you probably live under a rock. And you are probably a little chubby. Shake it off, put on some spandex and go do the coolest “spin class” in your life!
Kind of like Soul Cycle. I think boys like this one better.
Not everyone needs the high intensity of spin with super loud music and DJ-trainers. Some people like it ommmmmmm. For those people – check out Yoga Works. It’s perfect.
Are you getting that niggling feeling in the back of your mind that something’s not right? yoga…new yorkers…meditation…quiet…wait a new york minute! One of these things is not like the others. It may come as a shock but fast-paced New Yorkers actually enjoy a little quiet time once in a while. If you’re a tourist, a yoga studio may be your one chance at observing the natives up-close, just don’t let your observations ruin your form.
TECH TECH BOOM!
If you are going to go to NYC then you need to be plugged in. Here are a few apps you *need* before you go.
With apologies to Yogi Berra, nobody takes taxis anymore. They are too busy. Stick this app on your phone and sit back and enjoy another cocktail while you wait for your courteous and clean personal driver to come pick you up. It’s how the other half lives.
Obviously, you could use this to get news but more importantly, you could check out the who’s who of engagements and weddings or just put it on your table at the corner coffee shop and bask in the approving nods from passers-by.
Public transportation in NYC is second to none. Provided you know how to use it.
Don’t call and be turned down. Download Open Table and search by rating, neighborhood, cost and availability.
If you think the museum is cool. you should see the app.
Love / Hate / Love / Hate Either way Gwyneth knows what is happening in NYC. Download her city guide app. It’s worth it.