By Denise Mattia
For better deals on hotels, speak to the GMs of hotels on a Sunday after 4 p.m. (a slightly quieter time) and ask for a lower rate or value-added services. Decent prices can be found at Yotel, Pod (there are three in Manhattan) and NYLO on West 77th Street.
Depending on the length of your stay purchase a CityPASS, which offers free and discounted admission to attractions (Circle Line), sights (including the Statue of Liberty (and don’t forget the world-famous fireworks cruise on New Year’s eve) and museums (including MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum). A seven-day unlimited Metro Card can be purchased for $30 in subway stations (the lit green and white globe indicates the booth below is open), vending machines at subway stations and neighborhood merchants. Whether staying for a long weekend or a week, you can use the card on public transportation, which is more convenient and cheaper than HO-HO tours. (Nine subway lines stop at the Trade Center). Taxis are expensive and, since parking is nil with steep fines for miscreants, cars are unnecessary. If you rent bicycles, watch out for maddening traffic and suggest they keep a record of their time. (The computer system isn’t always accurate.) Most of Manhattan’s streets are based on a grid system, so it’s easy to get around, but once south, southwest and southeast of 14th Street (the SOHO, Tribeca, Chinatown and Alphabet City districts) you will do well with a map, a rough itinerary and good walking shoes. You should also remember that New Yorkers are basically friendly and will help when possible with directions.
What to See
There are must-see sights for every visitor (first-timers or repeats): Macy’s (window shopping or shopping), the majestic Empire State Building (on a clear day there’s a great view at the top), Lord & Taylor’s windows, glitzy Times Square (replete with ghastly, often rude life-size Disney characters), the elegant Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Center, all of Fifth Avenue’s stores from the NY Public Library on 42nd Street to 60th Street and Central Park South. (Don’t forget Cartier’s, Tiffany’s and Bergdorf’s windows. The Plaza is sadly a condo now, but it’s stately still. Central Park is safe and no matter the weather, you should join the walkers and joggers or watch the street performers.
Museums and More
Millions passed through Ellis Island on their way to the “new world” and the Great Hall in the Immigration Museum features “Journeys: The Peopling of America 1550 to 1890.” Chances are you’ll see a relative’s name there. The ferries leave from Battery Park at the tip of Manhattan and operate seven days a week. For the way immigrants lived at the turn of the 19th century visit the little-known Tenament Museum, 103 Orchard Street. Walk around this lower east side neighborhood – there are shops still selling wholesale items – and stop at the famous Katz’s Deli for a salami or pastrami sandwich. The exhibition at the Museum of Jewish Heritage explores Jewish life a century ago, while uptown, the bedecked and bedazzled elite of New York in the late 19th and 20th centuries can be viewed at the Museum of the City of New York. While there take a look at the images of New York during Superstorm Sandy.
For a look into the city’s history, visit the New York Historical Society. On view until February 23, 2014 is “The Armory Show at 100”, the revolutionary art exhibition, which took place in New York’s Seventh’s Regiment Armory on 67th Street and Park Avenue 100 years ago. The café inside the museum serves an excellent menu.
Where to Eat
Dining out in New York is world class. MenuPages.com has a thorough list of restaurants with menus that suit your pockets and tastes. A few of my favorites on the East side are Docs, Marcony (184 Lexington Avenue), Capital Grill, Café Boulud and Girasole. Downtown and on the West side your clients can enjoy dining at Boulay Restaurant on Duane Street in SOHO, where there are more boutiques than art galleries, the Standard Grille, adjacent to the High Line (stroll on the historic freight rail line elevated above the streets of Manhattan’s West side – it’s now a public park), the quiet, intimate Grape and Vine on West 13th, Il Pesce in Eataly (a block-long store with everything edible), STK Midtown, Empellon and Roberts at the top of the Museum of Design (MAD), in addition to the restaurants (Per Se is the ultimate in dining, and Porter House is better in my book than Wollinsky’s) and bars at Columbus Circle. (The Time Warner Center houses shops too). To accommodate shoppers, Macy’s Department Store opened Stella 34 Trattoria on the 6th floor overlooking Herald Square in March 2013. To accommodate thespians, the trendy Theatre Row Diner on West 42nd Street serves a full late night menu until 1:00 am. Reservations to all restaurants are a must. and unless you’re dining at a fast-food place, do shed the jeans and sweat shirt. Women dress for dinner and theatre these days and men look stylish in a pair of slacks, a shirt (ties are optional) and a jacket in winter.
If you don’t mind waiting on a queue, the TKS Booth at Father Duffy Square on 47th Street and Times Square sells day-of-performance discount tickets ranging from 20-to 50% off the full price. TheaterMania.com has a discount ticket section. Lincoln Center is selling discounted tickets “day of” at their Atrium. Reasonably priced tickets for a range of performances can be purchased on line by joining the Theatre Development Fund (TDK.com).
After sightseeing, museum hopping, theatre and dining, if you want to go clubbing, the legendary Cielo is off Greenwich Street . Element on East Houston is a luxurious dance/lounge space, and the newly renovated Touch on West 52nd Street is both nightclub and event space. Goldbar on Broom Street is worth a visit (the doorman/bouncer is pretty nice) but unless you’re “somebody” you’ll likely be turned away from the very cool No.8 on West 16th Street.
Finally, branch out to Astoria to find culture (PS 1, Astoria Performing and Art Center) and Brooklyn (Brooklyn Academy of Music and Brooklyn Museum) in addition to local and ethnic restaurants. In no time you’ll be a New Yorker in the know.
About Denise Mattia
A writer and photographer, Denise Mattia’s works are published nationally and internationally and include all aspects of leisure travel: art , culture, resorts, spas, food and wine and sports’ activities. She's the founder of the soon to be launched Yum-Yum-Traveler, a site devoted to reviewing restaurants in addition to her travel articles from around the world. She lives and works in Manhattan, where she was born.