A Wannabe New Yorker’s Guide to Manhattan

Everyone loves New York, right? To the point where even saying it sounds like an opportunity to roll your eyes at the obviousness of it all. Well, here’s my travel confession: I only recently fell in love with New York after visiting it for the first time a few years ago. Always the cynic, I expected it to be overrated and not to get it. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Now I read everything about NYC, I devour lifestyle blogs by uber-fashionable types about their glam lives downtown and I double-tap every single pic of New York on Instagram, even if it’s just a garbage can. You get it, I’m obsessed.

So, here’s my guide to things to do in New York that are guaranteed to make you LOVE it and dream of living there too:

EAT

Tucked away at the back of the Marlton Hotel (where Jack Kerouac wrote The Subterraneans) Margaux is a place to see and be seen and, with its easy, unassuming charm, you can see why it’s a winner with the fash pack. Go for the Farmer’s Board mix of pitta and dips.  For breakfast, Le Pain Quotidien’s the cinnamon and apple quinoa porridge ticks every box. Delish.  With Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten at the helm, it’s no surprise that ABC Kitchen’s delectable organic fare gets a thumbs up from everyone (I mean everyone). Delicious seasonal food and atmospheric chandelier lighting make this a restaurant to go back to each time you’re NYC-bound. Further downtown, rustic Italian eatery Gemma at the ultra-hip Bowery Hotel is always a winner if you like pasta (who doesn’t?) and, if a meatfeast is what you’re after, Katz’s Deli is an old school diner dating from 1888 and the undisputed King of Pastrami. It’s also the diner where Meg Ryan’s fauxgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally took place but I’m sure you knew that.

DRINK

With a skyline as enviable as Manhattan’s it’s no wonder rooftop bars are a must-do on any NYC visitor’s list worth its salt. Check out the bar at the Fashion district’s Refinery Hotel or, if you also dream of bumping into Cat Marnell (I adore Cat), Le Bain at the Standard Hotel has droolworthy city views and pretty cool DJs. For laidback brews and no frills barfood, The Leadbelly on the LES is a hit in my book and fans of oysters washed down with cocktails should hit it up. Fan of Mad Men? Make like Don Draper and order an Old-Fashioned at famed watering hole PJ Clarke’s.

SLEEP

Downtown – The Jade (full review here)

Midtown – Metro (full review here)

Uptown – The Beacon. Popular with Irish visitors, this Upper West Side stalwart offers easy access to the Natural History Museum, Central Park, Beacon Theatre and all of Midtown’s top attractions, at an affordable price tag.

Wishlist – The Bowery. New York’s hippest hideout? Maybe, just maybe.

THE VIEW

On a clear day, the view from Top of the Rock observatory atop the fabled Rockefeller Building is to die for. Think sweeping views across the park, across Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges and boroughs, the bustling city streets below and also a bird’s eye view of the city’s other instantly recognisable landmarks, the Empire State Building and, my favourite, the art deco Chrysler.

Speaking of the Empire State Building, it’s obvious but still UNMISSABLE. My advice is to get there after 10pm to ditch the crowds and to get an even more romantic experience. For around $20 extra, you can go up to the smaller conservatory on the 102nd floor and watch the glittering lights of New York. Magical.

CULTURE

With the likes of MoMA, Museum of Natural History and the Met under its belt, New York has some of the best museums in the world. But its lesser spotted museums – yes, Museum of Sex, I’m looking at you – are equally a thrill to visit.

For a masterclass in modern American art, head for the Whitney. Here you’ll find Edward Hopper’s Second Story Sunlight neighbouring Georgia O’Keeffe’s Flower Abstraction, as well as a plethora of Jasper Johns and a (much celebrated, recently vandalised) Jeff Koons retrospective on right now.

MoMA – again, obvious, but a must-do for an unbeatable art fix. Highlights include a pop art explosion of Warhol’s Marilyn and Campbell’s soup can prints, Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits and too many to choose. GO!

Follow Holden Caulfield’s hallowed footsteps with a trip to the whopper Museum of Natural History, which whizzes through everything from native tribes to T Rex bones and there’s even a planetarium. With so much to see you could easily while away a whole day so plan your trip in advance. Should be compulsory on any NYC itinerary.

Near the southernmost tip of Manhattan you’ll find another museum that doesn’t get half as much credit but you really should visit. The National Museum of the American Indian near Battery Park is an impressive collection of artefacts telling America’s all too forgotten history. Beautiful artefacts like an ornate wedding dress from the 1860s, original ponchos, a 7ft tall totem pole and feather headdress makes this Smithsonian extra impressive.

Also downtown is the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, a 5 floor authentic tenement on Orchard Street which pays homage to the lowly immigrants who shaped the New York we know and love today. I took the ‘Irish Outsiders’ tour which follows real life couple Joseph and Bridget Moore who lived here in 1869 but you can also pick from tours about the Jewish community and the days when LES was ‘Little Germany’.

SHOP

For sexy backless dresses and one-of-a-kind bridalwear to sassy streetwear all from reworked vintage threads, it’s gotta be the Reformation on Ludlow Street. Oh and it’s eco-friendly to boot.

When a brand collaborates with a style maven like Chloe Sevigny, it’s gotta be amazing, right? Well, Opening Ceremony certainly is. With a wide range of ultra hip brands offering everyday essentials up to killer dresses you can rock to any occasion, your credit card is gonna love this store.  For denim, ex-Alexa Chung collaborators Madewell’s comfy skinnies and plaid shirts are a classic. Finally, swing by the oldest apothecary in town – Bigelow’s in the Village, dating from 1838 – to pick up Orla Kiely or Le Labo candles or Bigelow’s own brand toiletries which includes a yummy lemon moisturiser I could eat. No sign of the famous cat on my visit though. Sadface.

URBAN OASIS

Speaking of retail therapy, the world famous Fifth Avenue might not be ‘hip’ but strolling this avenue of luxe brands on a Sunday morning as yellow cabs roll by feels suitably cinematic, especially if you pause at Tiffany’s. Maybe eating a doughnut and sipping coffee. On your way, take a pew in St Patrick’s Cathedral or ask for Varjak, Paul among the marbled finery of New York Public Library.

This summer the final section of the High Line was completed so you can now trek from Gansevoort Street all the way up to West 34th (stopping off at Chelsea Market along the way, obviously). This urban walkway is dotted with a community garden, random artworks and, when the weather heats up, food vans and live music. Worth it for the views across the Hudson and the busy streets of Chelsea and the Meatpacking District. Plus, it’s FREE.

New York has any number of green spaces, with Central Park being the mother of all iconic urban parks, but downtown’s Union Square (warning – you WILL spend two hours in the Whole Foods nearby) and Washington Square Park with its iconic arch are prime pit stops to sip a coffee and people watch. You’ll feel like a real New Yorker in no time, promise.

Important stuff: I flew with American Airlines from Dublin to JFK. Go to www.aa.com to find out the latest fare information and head over to www.nycgo.com for more about New York. 

Click on the slideshow below to see LOADS of photos of New York:

Important stuff: I flew with American Airlines from Dublin to JFK. Go to www.aa.com for fare info. For the latest info on visiting NYC go to www.nycgo.com.

In case you need a soundtrack…

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