Manhattan is well known for its towering skyscrapers and its big-city ‘wow’ factor, but many visitors forget the island’s humble origins. Before the advancement of industrialization, northern Manhattan was an idyllic area of woods and farms, far away from the hustle and bustle of Lower Manhattan. Fort Tryon Park, in the neighborhoods of Inwood and Hudson Heights, manages to maintain that environment today. Enjoy strolling the winding paths and hills as you take in views of the George Washington Bridge and medieval art repository, The Cloisters Museum. Take the A train to the 145th Street station for a modern history lesson. Tickets for Hamilton may be impossible this year, but Alexander’s Hamilton historically protected homestead in Hamilton Heights is open daily to visitors. The Hamilton Grange Memorial has seen a significant uptick in visitors since the debut of the über-popular Lin-Manuel Miranda musical. Before the museum closes its doors for the day, listen to the story of one of our nation’s founders before heading south on the A train to 125th Street.
In the past decade, Harlem has been re-introducing its legendary culture, cuisine, and nightlife to the public. Fuel your body and your soul at the Harlem waffle and fried chicken institution, Amy Ruth’s. The comfort food plates are expertly created, and a perfect prelude to sampling the area’s brews. Harlem Tavern provides an outdoor Munich-inspired biergarten environment, while Bier International draws a crowd searching for rare international craft beers.
Especially in the blissful days of spring, New Yorkers flock to their outdoor spaces and grand public parks, so pay a visit the grande dame herself, Central Park. From the North Woods to the delightful Central Park Zoo, Central Park pleases folks of any age. Start up by Central Park North on 110th Street, and take your time before arriving at the revered Plaza Hotel.
Boosted to international fame in part by spunky fictional heroine resident Eloise, The Plaza is a beacon of tradition in Manhattan. The latest addition to this 1907 landmark, The Plaza Food Hall, entices visitors with a pear and blue cheese tartine at Tartinery, fresh lobster rolls at Luke’s Lobster, and perfect gourmet banana cupcakes from Billy’s Bakery. Exit the Plaza down the legendary shopping promenade of Fifth Avenue, and admire the windows of Bergdorf Goodman before arriving at the newly refurbished St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Make your way west to Times Square, where Broadway show fans can hop in line at the Ticketmaster kiosk to see if there are tickets for a discounted performance. If you prefer city views to stage views, walk a few blocks south to the Refinery Hotel. A century ago, Refinery was home to high-end chapeau production. Today, this Garment District hotel possesses an alluring rooftop bar and restaurant. Sip a glass of Prosecco in this welcoming abode as you take in views of the surrounding metropolis.
Walk over to the West 34th Street and 10th Avenue entrance to the High Line. This former rail line’s repurposing as an elevated walkway and public art space should not be ignored. The new construction of the Hudson Yards area yields to the glassy condominiums and century-old townhomes of Chelsea. As the daylight wanes, peek at the Hudson River, Chelsea Piers, and rooftop bars (Brass Monkey is a keeper) before arriving at the end of the trail on 14th Street.
Depositing High Line walkers in the Meatpacking District can explain the crowds infiltrating the high-end designer stores and Chelsea Market. For a quieter scene, travel to the perennially charming labyrinth streets of the West Village. The West Village is full of cozy bistros. Choose to spend your evening at the chic Minetta Tavern. Its Black Label burger with caramelized onions is rightfully idolized, but its lamb tartare and pommes frites are equally heavenly.
After dinner, take the 1 train to its final Manhattan stop, South Ferry. The free ferry transports residents (and tourists jostling one another for a view of the Statue of Liberty) to Staten Island and also lies adjacent to the waterfront perch of Battery Park. Go to Pier A Harbor House. The former 19th century New York Harbor Police headquarters provides splendid views. The first-floor bar offers plenty of room for a well-deserved brew or cocktail. On warm evenings, the diverse crowd heads for the outdoor tables to relax among the stars and New York Harbor views.
Although an infinite amount of time can be spent wandering Manhattan, a trip to New York City would be simply incomplete without paying a visit to Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Bridge is an iconic symbol of New York and must be traversed early in the morning to avoid crowds of pedestrians and cyclists. Enter through the 1811 French Renaissance-style City Hall Park, and stroll the bridge to the DUMBO neighborhood. DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) remains a sought-after neighborhood with luxe lofts, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Instagram-worthy spots (Jane’s Carousel and Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory), and Manhattan skyline views.
If you’re in New York on a weekend, take part in one of the most revered New York traditions: Sunday brunch. Superfine offers fresh interpretations of brunch favorites. Try the banana blueberry bread, huevos rancheros, and ‘Super Duper Bloody Mary.’
Brooklyn is a composite of diverse neighborhoods, each with its own personality. To experience the ‘new’ Brooklyn, head to Williamsburg. This once-blighted industrial waterfront area now dominates the ‘cool’ quotient. A great afternoon can be had at Brooklyn Brewery or Brooklyn Bowl. The former offers insight into the burgeoning craft beer history of the borough, and the latter houses retro bowling and worthwhile music. For a more traditional take on Brooklyn, take the F train to Carroll Street and experience the well-preserved Brownstone Brooklyn area of Carroll Gardens, known for its Italian heritage. The mom-and-pop stores, beautiful row home architecture, and phenomenal Italian restaurants prove that an effervescent New York spirit abounds in every corner.
By Katie Shine
After years of reading about global destinations and studying abroad in Rome, Katie caught the travel bug and hasn’t stopped exploring new places since! When she is not traveling to Sonoma or Bavaria, she can be found in New York City discovering the best pommes frites, quirky bookstores, and people-watching spots.