Arguably the most exciting city in the world, New York is the ultimate year-round tourist destination. Whether you are visiting for a rapid weekend break or a leisurely week or more, New York promises to amaze, confuse, tire and inspire, all in equal measure.
Things to see and do in New York
So many things to see, so little time. Even native New Yorkers struggle to take in all that their city has to offer, so for the weekend visitor it is important to plan your trip well and prioritise those sights and activities that you feel are unmissable. The Empire State Building is a great place to start, both for its iconic status and as the perfect place to get your bearings in the city. The viewing platforms on 86th and 102nd floor provide views of up to 80 miles in the right weather conditions, reaching right out to Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
To enjoy the city from another perspective, try taking an island cruise around Manhattan. You will navigate an impressive seven bridges over three different rivers and take you out into the Hudson Bay. The full tour takes around three hours, but if time is of the essence, opt for a one-hour option incorporating Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and the southern end of Manhattan.
Manhattan is great for navigating on foot, but don’t be afraid to take to the subway and head further afield to really get a feel for life as a true New Yorker.
New York is packed full of museums, galleries and historic monuments. The Museum of Modern Art is a must for anyone with an interest in contemporary works by artists such as Van Gogh, Matisse, Cezanne, Pollock, Warhol and Magritte, while the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts is the perfect destination for opera, jazz, ballet, orchestral and theatre productions. Of course a Broadway show makes for another live entertainment option and there are plenty of tickets available, particularly if you book early or budget is no option.
Take in a Yankees game at their 50,000-seater stadium, visit Times Square, explore Chinatown, discover the Lower East Side hang out in SoHo or head for the East Village – wherever you go in New York, treats and surprises await at every turn.
Parks and leisure spaces in New York
Despite the sheer size and built-up nature of New York, it boasts a surprising amount of green space to enjoy. Parks, rivers and even beaches provide a haven away from the bustling city streets, and it is well worth exploring off the beaten track to get a flavour for the ‘real’ New York outdoors. No visit to the city would be complete without a trip to soak up the atmosphere of Central Park but there are also plenty more to choose form.
If you are travelling with children, the Bronx Zoo is great for a half or full day out. Home to some 600 animal species, it is the largest of several zoos in the city and boasts plenty of outdoor space and fun rides to complement the impressive collection of leopards, lemurs, bison, tigers, elephants, pandas and snow leopards.
Outdoor space of a different kind can be found at the New York Botanical Garden. Laid out over 250 acres of the Bronx Park, this landscaped paradise comprises lawns, lakes, glasshouses and a preserved forest dating back to the days before New York was settled.
Shopping in New York
Shopping in New York is big, brash and beautiful, with few places in the world to match.
Head to the Historic Orchard Street Shopping District on the Lower East Side to bag some decent leather goods and fabrics, and explore the surrounding areas for funky fashions and retro furniture. For original artworks, SoHo is the next stop, where works by practising artists line the side streets alongside the designer names that stretch from Broadway to Sixth Avenue and Houston Street to Canal Street. Prada’s flagship store here is well worth a stop for its décor alone, and there is a branch of Bloomingdales close by. Other key shopping areas include Nolita with its niche designer names, Greenwich Village with its burgeoning retail scene centred around Bleecker Street west of Sixth Avenue, the Meatpacking District for the Limelight Marketplace mall and big-name designers such as Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney, Madison Avenue in the Uptown district, for Barneys New York, and the Upper West Side.
Eating and drinking in New York
New York is at the forefront of international cuisine. Head to Eleven Madison Park for arguably the leading dining experience in the city with a tasting menu comprising such treats as foie gras, lobster, duck, oysters and scallops, or try any number of Michelin-starred contenders serving everything from steaks to seafood. Try the Grand Central Oyster Bar, Pizza at Lombardi’s (the first pizzeria in the city), bagels on Broadway, gourmet hot dogs at Crifs, doughnuts, cheesecake and pastrami on rye. Finish off with a bumper brunch at the Clinton Street Baking company – the number-one spot for real American pancakes with lashings of maple syrup.
New York nightlife
New York didn’t earn itself the moniker of “The City That Never Sleeps” for nothing. Bars, cafes, clubs, cabarets, musicals, theatre, film, ball games…however you prefer to enjoy your evenings New York will deliver. There are hundreds of listings magazines and websites published for New Yorkers and tourists alike, so be sure to read up before you visit and check out the latest news, events and tickets before you travel to ensure you don’t miss out.
When to visit New York
New York is perfect for a visit from January right through to December. In fact, while winter can be cold, it can also be magical, with the city swathed in snow and frequently bathed in clear blue skies. A pre-Christmas shopping trip can be the perfect tonic to brighten up a dreary November, or visit a little earlier and bask in the russet tones of the autumn leaves covering the expanse of Central Park. Spring and autumn offer pleasant weather without too much rainfall, while the summer is often the best time to visit, save for some heavy humidity during the month of August.
New York accommodation
Accommodation in New York is not cheap by any standards. In fact it is more expensive than any other city in the U.S.A. and prices continue to be fuelled by huge demand. Rates for the same accommodation can fluctuate enormously, so if you find a good deal while you are searching it is worth bagging a bargain while your luck is in.
As you would expect for a city of this size, accommodation options are as broad as one could imagine, from hostels to diamond-starred luxury. At the top end, consider options such as the Mandarin Oriental with its view over the Hudson River and Central Park, or the Quinn, close to Times Square and home to regular in-house art exhibitions and cultural events. Mid range options include the SoHo Grand, the art-deco Jade, or the retro Ace, close to Broadway and home to a Michelin-starred dining room. The bohemian Jane in the West Village is a great budget option, with rooms from around £60 per night,