- Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty
Some tourist attractions are so good, they are worth doing even if you are not into touristy things! For me, a perfect example of this is a combined tour of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
When I first visited New York at the age of 17 while participating in the Global Young Leaders’ conference (10 years ago now!) visiting Ellis Island was the first thing I did. And how appropriate! Ellis Island was the first place that millions of immigrants set their eyes upon when arriving in America. For several decades, starting in 1892, this was the busiest immigrant inspection station. It now houses a fascinating museum about various aspects of immigration.
Liberty Island, on which the Statue of Liberty is situated, provides gorgeous panoramic views of Manhattan island, and plenty of photographic opportunities in front of the majestic monument itself.
Definitely worth the allocation of half a day, especially if the sun is shining. You can get tickets here.
- Top of the Rock
I have been to the Top of the Rock more than once; and it never gets old! I love taking in the stunning Manhattan skyline with its abundance of iconic skyscrapers, including the gorgeous Empire State Building, from the top of the Rockefeller centre. The rooftop was originally opened to the public back in 1933, and it has not lost its appeal!
It is a much better spot to get a bird’s eye view of Manhattan than the more popular observation deck of the Empire State Building: less crowded, the observation deck spans several levels, some open, some behind Plexiglas, offering sweeping views of Central Park and uptown, as well as a stunning view of the Empire Building itself.
- Helicopter flight over Manhattan
This is one of those things, where once is enough, but definitely worth doing! Hovering over massive Manhattan Island in a tiny helicopter allows for a drastically different and all-encompassing perspective of New York City.
Save taking a helicopter flight for a special occasion: perhaps as a very unusual, yet exceptionally romantic treat for Valentine’s for your special someone, or a unique birthday present for your best friend.
A must do, even for a well-seasoned New Yorker. You can fly over Manhattan with Heli NY.
- Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
I am an ardent art lover, so visiting MoMA for me is must whenever I am in New York City. In my eyes, MoMA may be the best and foremost museum of modern and contemporary art in the world.
There is so much to see that one visit will never be sufficient! If you are remotely interested in art, you would need an entire day to explore the five floors of this vast art paradise. The museum is home to some of the most important and innovative works of art from late 19th and 20th centuries, and the whole collection encompasses more than 100,000 pieces.
Here, you will find seminal works from 19th and 20th centuries, such as Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, Picasso’s Les Demoiselles D’Avignon, and countless masterpieces by other blue-chip artists, such as Henri Matisse, Paul Cezanne and Marcel DuChamp, as well as iconic works by Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. In addition, their temporary exhibitions are fantastic; currently on show is the superb exhibition Matisse: The Cutouts, which I saw a couple of times in London.
- Tango Night at Tango House
Tango is my second favourite dance form after ballet. There is something so undeniably seductive and passionate about this Argentine dance, which comes from a perfect mixture of sexual chemistry between the two dancing partners; the smooth and exceptionally skilled dancing (they make tango seem as easy as boiling eggs, and trust me, having tried it myself, it is far beyond that!); the smart suits of the men, which are perfectly complemented by gorgeous and very feminine dresses; and the retro music that takes you back in time in a blink of an eye. Tango House is the best place to see tango in Manhattan, and their wine-list consisting exclusively of top-notch Argentine wines is a perfect complement to an evening of passionate dancing. Currently under renovation, but will hopefully open soon…
- Watch Opera at the Met
As a special treat, watching opera at the Met is a must: it is such a sophisticated cultural affair! I have seen two productions in New York, Bizet’s Carmen and Verdi’s Macbeth, and both were utterly brilliant: beautifully mesmerising and powerful music, all-star cast, whose voices will blow you away, and where dazzling costumes and set designs are a delicious feast for your eyes.
- Find a Speakeasy
Speakeasies are so much cooler than normal bars, and there are plenty to go by in Manhattan, albeit not easily found! They tend to be uncrowded as there is often a stringent door-entry control. The cocktails are absolutely divine, especially my favorite, the martini.
I have found and tried a number of great speakeasies, and here are my favourites:
The Backroom Bar (East Village) – in fact this one of the only two speakeasies that were operating in NYC during the Prohibtion Era. To pay homage the bar’s past, cocktails are still served in tea cups!
Little Branch (West Village) – a charming little place known for its great mixology and live jazz sessions.
Milk & Honey (Flatiron) – Little Branch’s older sister serving tailor-made cocktails according to your likes and dislikes. There is no menu.
Death + Company (East Village) – A place difficult to get in, but definitely worth if you are after a stellar martini and very chic, yet unpretentious ambience!
Pravda (Nolita) – more of a basement cocktail bar than a speakeasy, Pravda, meaning truth in Russian, serves caviar as well.
- Eat New York Pizza
NY Pizza is an absolute MUST street food that has been around for over 100 years – the first pizzeria was founded in Little Italy in 1905. Local New York pizza is different in texture and consistency to Italian pizza, and yet it is absolutely delicious! Pizza is hand-tossed, then spread very thin, topped with a light layer of tomato sauce and lots of mozzarella cheese. NY pizza pies are very large, and individual pieces are wide, requiring to be folded in half when eaten. Joe’s Pizza by far serves the best slice of New York pizza in the city and is a well-renowned institution in the city, frequented by many famous faces. Visit the original one in Greenwich Village, and indulge in a naughty snack, a perfect thing to eat in the late afternoon, or late at night!
- Go Ice-skating
One of the best and most amusing things to do in the midst of New York winter is ice-skating, and the city offers some great spots to do so. I am an avid ice-skater, but not having had any proper training, obviously not a very good one!
My favourite place is the ice rink at Rockefeller Centre, as you can literally skate there from the break of dawn to almost midnight. I love skating most in the evenings, when the city is lit up, adding a wonderfully magical atmosphere! Other places you can lace up your skates are Central Park, which unfortunately gets too crowded with children, or the Standard Plaza just by the High Line in the Meatpacking District.
- Eat you heart out at Chelsea Market
Like I mentioned in one of my previous articles, I travel to eat. And I think Chelsea Market might be my favourite food spot in Manhattan – even Michelin-starred restaurants fail to compare!
Chelsea market is an absolute epicurean paradise: here, you will find copious food vendors and restaurants, purveying all sorts of delicious goods. When you first walk through this amazing food hall, it might seem a little overwhelming, and you will certainly not know where to start.
At the Lobster Place, a seafood lover’s paradise that can make you feel uncharacteristically gluttonous, you can start by sampling different types of American and Canadian oysters, as well as scallops and sea urchin at the raw bar, followed by a whole, fresh and meaty Maine lobster. These delicious lobsters come in varying sizes, and you can pick one depending on your hunger level; in my mind the bigger, the better!
At Dickson’s Farmstand Meats, you can get a mouth-watering free-range roast chicken accompanied by sinfully good mac’n’cheese, or a scrumptious house-made hot dog. This shop is proud to handpick best quality, sustainable meats, including beef, pork, lamb and poultry.
At Ninth Street Espresso, you can drink one of the best coffees in the city, be that either an espresso, a mocha, or a latte.
And finally, pop into Chelsea Wine Vault for their extensive selection of wines, including those made from grapes grown in NY state, or for a quick session in wine tasting.