Less-Explored New York

ABOVE Central Park on a summer’s day with skyscrapers in the distance
ABOVE Central Park on a summer’s day with skyscrapers in the distance

Scratch the surface of the world’s most iconic city and you’ll find another side to this diverse, culture-crammed metropolis – and understand why the slogan is “I ♥ New York”


LOCATION New York City is in New York State on the east coast of the USA

POPULATION Around 8.3 million people

VISITORS PER YEAR Around 40 million

DAYTIME TEMPERATURES Jan: 32°F (0°C); Apr: 54°F (12°C); Jul: 77°F (25°C); Oct: 57°F (14°C)

Even for first-time visitors, New York will seem as familiar as an old friend. It is, after all, one of the most filmed, photographed, and written-about cities in the world, and its icons have achieved something of a superstar status.

Wander the city, and celluloid images will flicker across your consciousness: Cary Grant waiting in vain for his love atop the Empire State Building in the 1957 classic An Affair to Remember; Audrey Hepburn strolling Fifth Avenue and gazing into Manhattan’s most famous jewelry store in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961); and Spiderman swooping towards the Brooklyn Bridge to save his dangling leading lady in the 2002 Hollywood blockbuster of the same name.

And Central Park? This lush swath of green could practically apply for its own Actors’ Union card, having been the verdant backdrop for lovers smooching, strolling, and ice- skating, as well as plenty of chase scenes, in films from Annie Hall (1977) to Ghostbusters (1984). Even a subway grating has received top billing – remember Marilyn Monroe with her skirt flying up?

Without doubt, New York lives up to its name, but it’s when you go from the legendary to the lesser known that the city really stirs to life. Roam the vibrant ethnic neighborhoods, from the sizzling taquerías (taco stalls) of Spanish Harlem to Italian Brooklyn, where white-haired nonnas (grandmothers) watch the world go by from their wooden chairs on shaded pavements.

And bigger isn’t always better: Fifth Avenue’s fragrant, multi- tiered department stores make for splendid window- browsing, of course, but for local designers, hit downtown’s quirky shopping district, where you can find everything from hand-sewn, sequined skinny jeans to custom cuff links and (because you know you want one) Yankees caps along Canal Street at a fraction of the uptown cost.

As for avant-garde art, with such New York names as Warhol and Basquiat for inspiration, emerging artists from around the world introduce their collections at the city’s galleries. And far from the chorus-line high kicks and feather headdresses of Broadway are the alternative theaters (or “off-off-Broadway,” as they’re called), with quirky shows from poetry slams to body-painting.

The television show Sex and the City trained a spotlight on the city’s flirty nightlife – where you can gaze at a sparkling view of Manhattan while sipping a drink of the same name. But explore the city’s crooked backstreets and you’ll come across rumpled, centuries-old bars with uneven floors, scarred wooden furniture, and ruddy-cheeked regulars who’ll fill you in on other local haunts


New York’s skyline is perhaps its most celebrated (and recognized) feature, so it’s not surprising that most of the city’s main sights are architectural, with many offering soaring views of the twinkling lights – and of each other. The Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty lead the pack, followed by the splendid span of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Then there’s the unmissable Museum Mile, which runs along Central Park, where you can peruse superb art collections and then take a breezy stroll through the world’s best-known city park.
Two words: sweaty lines. Visiting the city’s big-name sights – particularly in the heat-blasted summer months – is a practice in patience. The lines at the Empire State Building are notorious – you could spend the better part of your afternoon on the hot pavement.
Another downer about the iconic sights is that they’re, well, iconic: the hype, the crowds and the fact that you’ve probably seen them in photos and films ad nauseam can make the real thing somewhat anti-climactic.


To avoid the wait at the Empire State Building, buy your tickets online, or arrive when it opens at 8 am, or in the early evening. In general, a prompt morning arrival helps greatly in bypassing the crowds, particularly at popular museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, and the Museum of Natural History.


Getting There and Around

New York is served by three major airports: JFK and LaGuardia (both in Queens), and Newark (in New Jersey). To get from the airports to the city take the subway, a bus or a taxi.

Where to Eat

New York’s cuisine is marvelously varied, from haute French to spicy Mexican. The Balthazar serves up superb French fare, with an infectious vibe.

For juicy burgers head to Corner Bistro (tel. +1 212 242 9502) and for Italian with a twist, fill up at Babbo, a popular restaurant with super- chef Mario Batali at the helm.

Where to Stay

The Pod has simple rooms within strolling distance of Times Square and Grand Central Station. The Mayfair boasts boutique comfort in the thick of the Theater District. Head to SoHo for the 60 Thompson, an elegant, soothing antidote to the city’s accelerated pace.

When to Go

Spring and early fall usher in the finest New York weather. But for fewer crowds, aim for October and November, after the summer, but before the December rush.

Budget per Day for Two

The sky’s the limit for what you can spend in New York, but budget US$250–350 for a mid-range hotel, a meal out, and the occasional taxi.


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