48 hours in… New York

48 hours in… New York

Daniela Soave shares her favourite insights and tips for a weekend in the Big Apple – and as it’s the city that never sleeps, you should be able to squeeze it all in.

While a strong dollar makes New York less of a bargain than it used to be, by being savvy you can still enjoy a weekend to remember without breaking the bank.

Why New York?

It’s one of my favourite short-break destinations: vibrant and optimistic in mood with elegant Art Deco architecture and numerous parks and open spaces; simple to navigate with its grid street plans and even easier to get around whether on foot or via the subway and its famous yellow cabs.

How to make 48 hours go further

  • Book flights that leave the UK late afternoon so you’ll land in time to enjoy Friday night. By choosing a return evening flight you’ll get two full days to spend in Manhattan.
  • Make plans. Is this a cultural feast of museums and galleries? A tour of historic sites and attractions? A shopping spree, a foodie indulgence, an opportunity to enjoy a Broadway show or a bit of everything? Knowing what you’d like to do allows you to make an itinerary and book ahead.
  • Don’t attempt to cram too much in tempting though it may be. Better to properly enjoy three or four things a day than scurry from pillar to post barely registering what’s in front of you. There’s nothing to stop you coming back next year to pick up where you leave off…

Shopping

Even with a strong dollar, NY offers great value, especially for jeans and cosmetics (bring a spare suitcase). Remember that the price you see on the ticket is not the final amount: sales tax is added at the till.

If you shop till you drop, the six big departments stores will be on your list: Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman, Barney’s, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus. I’d also recommend you take a tour around Tiffany’s on Fifth Avenue even if you don’t intend to spend a cent – it’s another NY institution.

For me, shopping in NYC is all about the markets and thrift stores, mainly because most of the big chains (Banana Republic, J Crew, Anthropology, etc) are available in the UK.

If you’re a fan of vintage, you’ll love:

NYC on a budget

Manhattan is the most expensive city in the US and nowhere is this more evident than the cost of accommodation. If you’d like to conserve cash, consider Airbnb or a house swap (though both require planning months in advance).

Alternatively, if you don’t mind a 40-minute ride into Manhattan, consider New Jersey. Larger rooms, much smaller rates and a wonderful vista of the NY skyline to boot. Check out NewYork.com for more inspiration.

There are plenty of ways to enjoy NYC for less. The Staten Island Ferry is free, and offers a fantastic view of the NY skyline as well as the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Many neighbourhoods hold annual cultural events that are fun to watch. In September, for instance, you can enjoy a feast of eating, drinking and merry-making at Little Italy’s San Gennaro Festival, nip over to Brooklyn for the Caribbean Carnival or head to Washington Square for the Outdoor Art Show.

Exploring

New York is one of those rare cities where you spend as much time looking up as around. Those magnificent Art Deco edifices! It’s a fantastic city to explore on foot, which is why I recommend this walking website that offers free printable guides to architecture, literature and local history.

Another way to get a different view of the city is the High Line, a public park built on a historic elevated freight line on the West Side. Volunteers run free public tours but you can also pay for more specialised guided walks.

It’s also fun to take the Circle Line Cruise, a guided circumnavigation of Manhattan by boat. Allow two and a half hours for the journey.

Culture

If your NY weekend is mainly cultural, consider investing in the New York Pass which offers free entry to more than 80 different venues. A two-day adult pass costs $189.

To get the most out of your pass you’d need to visit at least four venues a day, though it also includes attractions such as the Circle Line, The Empire State Building and a tour of Ellis and Liberty Islands including the famous Statue Of Liberty itself. A bonus of the pass is it includes Fast Track entry to many attractions. Who wants to waste any of their 48 hours in a queue?

If you’re planning to take in only one or two attractions, choose from my must-see recommendations:

  • Empire State Building The view from the top deck is unsurpassed.
  • Guggenheim Museum Home to an amazing collection of modern and contemporary art, it’s also a building of beauty, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
  • American Museum of Natural History Head for the world-famous dinosaur collection, which is truly jaw-dropping. That alone would take you two hours, and it’s absolutely worth it.
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art Five thousand years of art, history and culture in another inspiring setting. Where else could you see an ancient Egyptian temple outside of Egypt itself?

Eating

Whether it’s fine dining, the corner diner or enticing street food, New York has it all. As with all metropolitan cities, you can spend an absolute fortune and if that’s how you’d like to blow a considerable portion of your budget, NY is the place to do it. But you can also eat well for considerably less. Look for local delis, restaurants and small, privately owned chains such as The Meatball Shop for good food and value for money.

I particularly like:

  • The Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station. This marvellous marble subterranean palace has been going since 1913, a proper NY landmark. Don’t be fooled by the name – think continental cuisine rather than simply seafood
  • Katz’s Delicatessen Made famous by Meg Ryan in ‘When Harry Met Sally’, this lower East Side institution opened in 1888 and is THE place to go for salt beef, lox, bagels and corned beef
  • The Wright This is the restaurant at the Guggenheim, so you can kill two birds with one stone. Fabulous for lunch and brunch, it has won several awards
  • The Gramercy Tavern Be prepared to spend but I promise you are in for a treat. Contemporary American cuisine in an elegant setting.

 

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