New York – Visitors Guide

I have been to New York quite a lot – I have lost count but thin it’s around 22 times since 2003! I like to think I know the place reasonably well. As a result I am often asked by people where they should go/ stay etc.

So, here’s my brief guide. By all means comment on the things in here!


Fly out in the Day – if you leave 10.00am – flight time is between 7 and 8 hours depending on headwind! So you arrive in USA at around 12 midday to 1.00pm. We used to fly back overnight – but now prefer the daytime flights back – it’s an early start and you have to add the hours back – so it sends to be 12 hours from taking off. At least you can get home and to bed; the next day is back to ‘normal’!

JFK or Newark? – JFK is busier and bigger. But the queues in immigration can be up to 3 hours – tip – dash off the plane – as 300 people on a jumbo are better to be behind you than in front! And the ‘process’ is a bit slow – they take your picture and fingerprint you! Don’t expect them to be chatty – they’re not. They lack a sense of humour (generally). Chit chat is not the order of the moment.

You can also transfer easier from JFK. The Yellow Cabs (don’t be tempted by the cheap offers of Limos!) will transfer you for a fixed price – around $52 + tolls. Allow $63-67. Even better if you are feeling brave you can get the skytrain to the subway (I think this is a $7 ride) but then the subway ride will only cost you $2.25! You need to know where you are headed though!

Newark is easier on the immigration front – as the queues have always been much shorter. But transfers are more difficult. If you don’t mind the risk of being ‘last drop’ we have used a Blue Shuttle – you do get to see the sights! If you Yellow cab it – you are on the meter and we have paid $65-$70. It is some time since we did Newark – I gather that the rail is now better – dropping you into Penn Station – near Times Square.

Airlines – Virgin Atlantic – from Heathrow – and if you can afford it pay for the upgrade to Premium Economy – especially coming back!BA is similarly priced – and the food is better!

Getting Around

We generally use the subway. Buy a $20 ticket – each fare ride is $2.25 – and you can travel the length of the network…

The subway is a confusing place. You essentially need to

a. find the stations – they are not well signposted!
b. Work out if you are going uptown or downtown (the trains don’t really go across!)
c. Then work out if your train stops at the station you intended. There are local and express trains. The map of the underground does show you.

You can cover a lot of ground walking.

Alternatively take a cab – this is an interesting experience – they frequently do not speak English and they drive at the speed of sound! They have little regard for pedestrians or other road users. And if you hesitate in NYC they simply sit on the horn until you do something!


Breakfast is usually the biggest meal of the day – and they specialize in it. Expect to pay c.$20 for cheap and cheerful – up to $50 for better.

Starbucks are everywhere! And a welcome respite! Or find Aroma on Houston (top of SoHo) – great place – cheap! There are lots of independents too – try the Blue Bottle at the side of Chelsea Flowermarket – the best coffee in Manhattan.

Brunch – Sunday Brunch at The River Cafe is superb. You have to get to Brooklyn (probably a 30 minute walk from Ground Zero) – walk across the Brooklyn Bridge (quite spectacular). You need to book but its quite ‘Sat Bains’ style.

Pizza – You need to eat at Johns Pizzeria on Bleeker Street in Greenwich Village- but you need cash – no credit cards. They don’t do puds … you go to the Ice cream store next door for that! The best Pizza in town! And the Ramones & Sinatra used to eat there. Ask them for a half and half – two different toppings!

Also look out for The Spotted Pig in Meatpacking District. Great food – Michelin starred pub! But very busy.

If you’re late – there’s an amazing 24 diner – Scottys at 39th and Lexington (near Grand Central) – food anytime of the day or night. Have been in at 3am – and was packed!

Tourist essentials stuff:

Most people go up the Empire State Building. If you do then I suggest you go in the evening – around sunset is spectacular and a bit quieter. Even late at night is good. Be warned though the queues can be long. For this reason we have preferred more recently to go to ‘Top of the Rocks’ – top of the Rockerfeller Centre. They are more organised. Whichever you do, they are worth the trip. You will see Chrysler from both – still one of the best buildings in NYC!

Nearby is Grand Central Station -which you should see. There some great restaurants in there! And the four faced clock… It’s spectacular for people watching.

I guess you will want to see the Statue of Liberty – but it is very touristy and you need to go at a quiet time – like a Friday afternoon. Ellis Island is on the same tour and is interesting – but is not top of the list. If you’re not bothered about actually wandering around either – go on the Staten Island Ferry – it’s free and you get a great view. Be warned though – there’s nothing at Staten Island.

MOMA – the Museum of Modern Art – this is worth a few hours (it is probably a days job if you want to see it all.) They had about 6 Jackson Pollacks!

This is uptown and you can tie in trips to Tiffany’s and the newest Apple store at the south east corner of Central Park – a brilliant concept! Fifth Avenue shouldn’t be missed, particularly on a first visit to NYC, as all the major designers display their wares there.

If you then walk up through Central Park towards the Guggenheim Art Museum (Frank Lloyd Wright) you can stop there…Across Central Park is Strawberry Fields and the memorial to John Lennon. This is opposite The Dakota Buildings where he was shot and Yoko Ono still lives! We enjoyed The Rose Centre for Earth – which is on the same side of Central Park…

Ground Zero is downtown and is a bit eerie, but worth a visit! The new park is amazing. The Freedom Tower is redefining the NYC skyline.

As to our favourite parts – we tend to stay in Soho / Tribeca. If you find Bleecker Street this runs east west and at its westerly part it turns north. At the latter end it is very London sized and styled (in the ‘Village’). Johns Pizzeria is here! Alternatively keep walking west and you will come across a queue outside the Magnolia Bakery (Sex in the City). The cup cakes are great for the figure – if you are a sumo wrestler. They queue all day and all night!

In the area there are some great record shops and gift shops. Nearby try to find Flight 100 on Greenwich Street. There are also some interesting other shops. We had good coffee at a grungy bar ‘Grounded’ at 28 Jane Street – in a garage.

The other side of Manhattan – at Midtown I can recommend Teany on Rivington Street – once owned by Moby and still run by his ex-girlfriend. They sell every kind of tea you can imagine and their teatime cake-stands, with sandwiches and cakes are to be savoured. Whilst you are there try to find Alife Rivington Club – the trendiest Nike shop you will ever find – it is east of Teany and is not clearly marked. You press a doorbell to enter…Nike release shoes there to see how they sell! It is weird – they have a tee shirt shop next door.

The world famous CBGB’s and OMFUG (It stands for : COUNTRY BLUEGRASS BLUES.” And OMFUG -means OTHER MUSIC FOR UPLIFTING GORMANDIZERS.” gormandizer? It’s a voracious eater of, in this case) MUSIC club is sadly closed – this was the starting place for the Punk / New Wave movement (Blondie / Ramones / Joe Jackson et al). It is now a fashion shop – John Varvatos. Very expensive! But the shop is brilliant!

If you then meander back to Broadway – one of the best delis to see is Dean and Deluca. Often the paparazzi are hanging around ‘papping’ famous celebrity shoppers. South of there (opposite side of the Road) go and see the punk tee shirt shop ‘Yellow Rat Bastard’. If you like make-up/beauty shopping, Sephora and Bloomingdales are well worth a visit. But be wary of pushy shop-assistants. Don’t be bullied! This part of town is really interesting – the shops west of Broadway are really interesting – Paul Smith (and the copy of the Low Pavement Nottingham doorway!), Allessi, Samsung experience ‘shop’, Tumi, Monclere, the original Apple Store etc. Here, I suggest you eat at The Kitchen – part of the Mercer Hotel. Have stayed there and it is full of stars!

On the eastern side of Broadway the shops are more independent – and quirky. They tend to be smaller scale and you will find lots of interesting places. Try a raspberry drink in McNally Jackson bookshop – and even have your own book printed.

We usually go to a show – I have seen Stomp (twice), Mama Mia, Rent and The Jersey Boys. Stomp is brilliant – but it is off Broadway. You need to book online before you go! They will hold the tickets for you at the Box Office. we have seen lots of live music too – it’s worth seeing who is playing.

We don’t like Times Square (all those bloody tourists!). But worth seeing for the first time visitor. Beware of the ‘cheap’ electronic shops- they are not that great! Also hang on to your handbags and wallets as it is notorious of pick-pockets!

South Street Seaport – on the east side and across from Ground Zero. Quirky place very ‘English’ in style. If you like fashion (and loud dark shops) go to Abercrombie and Fitch! There is a good restaurant opposite – Il Porto. Stroll towards of the river and you will get a great view of the Brooklyn Bridge.Seaport was vitally decimated by Storm Sandy and is only just recovering.

For architecture you might enjoy The Meatpacking District which is midtown on the west (Hudson River side). Frank Gherys IAC building is there (near the golf driving range). There are some great restaurants in this area. Also look up the High Line – which has been opened for 5 years – it is constantly extending – the latest extension is at The Hudson Yards – which is undergoing a massive regeneration project.


The world is your Oyster! We personally prefer to stay downtown but others prefer to be midtown- around Times Square or the theatre district.

We have stayed in the hotels below (some a few times!!).


Soho House Hotel – eye wateringly expensive and a celeb haunt.

Gansevoort – across the Road from Soho House in Meatpacking District – very cool pool on the roof!

Mercer Hotel – where Russell Crowe smashed a phone into the receptionists face – and when we stayed here Ricky Gervais was there

Soho Grand + Tribeca Grand (both in Tribeca) – probably high on our list. Views (if you pay !) from Soho are superb; Tribeca much smaller and more personal. The bar is friendly and the food is good – a nice relaxed atmosphere at the end of a long day’s shopping.

Also stayed in Smyth Tribeca – very good – and their sister hotel is 60 Thompson – also great.

Cheap and cheerful:

Try The Pod Hotel (the one at 39th is better located)– which is further uptown – tiny rooms but quite cool and cheap. Also The Gem Hotel – which is mid-town on Houston.

Have stayed in Times Square – but can’t remember where. Hotels are very big and faceless, but you can get a deal. Also stayed on upper-east side (opposite Opus Dei!) in The Dumont Hotel – big rooms and a good deal! Some friends recommended the Embassy Suites, which if you are lucky have a good view of the ferry and the Statue of Liberty. They might be suitable if you fancy staying downtown and are also more spacious and more reasonably priced than most hotels.

Out of Manhattan

Brooklyn is worth a trip -it is a huge place. But worth seeing Brooklyn Bridge Park and looking up Industry City – to see if they have events on. We have always found it quite hard to ‘find’ the real Brooklyn – but if you get to Clark Street – the are some interesting places around – and down to Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The Bronx is an interesting experience – not entirely sure I’d recommend it. If you do leave the bling and camera out of view – the rule of thumb is don’t go much higher then 100th…

Above all … enjoy. If you’re going I’m jealous!!