When to go
There’s never a bad time to visit New York, but with the US now open again to visitors from the UK and Europe and Thanksgiving taking place next week, hotel prices have shot up. Luckily, The City That Never Sleeps also doesn’t hibernate. So while the warmer months are wonderful for eating al-fresco or rooftop cocktails, winter is just as lively. From ice-skating in Central Park (1) to pictures by the Rockefeller Christmas Tree (2), the festive season in the world’s most filmed city always delivers some movie magic.
The pandemic has seen the city embrace all-season outdoor dining. Each restaurant has its own take on the dining hut, with some streets bursting with diners eating below wooden cframes and plastic tarp.
Where to stay
Pendry Manhattan West (3) (pendry.com) opened in September, bringing SoCal cool to the edge of Manhattan’s luxury new riverside district, Hudson Yards. Its raison d’être as a high- end sanctuary apart from Manhattan matches that of the high-rise new development that it borders. There’s a rooftop bar, Peloton gym (guests can order the bikes to their room), Eastern Med restaurant Zou Zous, and the Garden Room – a relaxed, leafy space for light bites and evening cocktails. The building’s rippling glass façade is meant to evoke Pacific waves, while inside it’s contemporary-cool with fireplaces and an attention to the art of great lighting, especially at exclusive Bar Pendry. Doubles from $514 (£379).
Henn na Hotel (4) (hennnahotelny.com) – “Strange Hotel” in Japanese – opened its doors to families and tech-nerds in October. It’s the first US outpost of a Tokyo classic, where guests are checked in by an animatronic T-Rex. Rooms at the Midtown hotel have cupboards that will clean and steam your clothes. Japanese breakfast lunch and dinner is at onsite sushi restaurant Gosuke. Doubles from $135 (£100).
How to get around
Contactless payments are now accepted across the MTA, making bus and metro travel a breeze (just tap once on the way in). Masks are mandatory and unlike London, everyone follows the rules. Above ground, Uber and Lyft were once king but with the pandemic prompting a boom in new cycle-lanes, the Citi Bike ride share scheme is now a real alternative for tourists. Find the docked cycles on almost every block – ebikes were introduced just before the pandemic – then unlock with the Citi Bike or Lyft app (from $3.50 for the first half hour). You must show your NHS Covid Pass to enter public indoor areas, including museums, restaurants and bars.
Start the day
Grab a stool at the bar at Baz Bagel (5) (bazbagel.com) for Jewish comfort food, with retro vibes – think diner style seating and Barbara Streisand on the stereo. The Little Italy institution does one of the city’s best lox salmon and cream cheese bagels.
City Climb (edgenyc.com), New York’s stomach-dropping new attraction has just opened at the top of 30 Hudson Yards (6), the city’s 6th tallest building. For the world’s highest open air building ascent, thrill-seekers climb out onto the roof and hike 161 steps to the tip of the building. After admiring, or trying desperately to ignore, the view the final test is to dangle nearly 400 metres above the sidewalk below. Higher than the Empire State Building or The Shard, the skyscraper also has Edge, the highest observation deck in the Western Hemisphere that protrudes from the building at 100 storeys high for spectacular views over New York City and beyond from the west.
In Fort Greene, Brooklyn, the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art (7) (mocada.org) focuses primarily on social justice through its public art exhibitions, by artists such as Caribbean-American Theda Sandiford. Open Fri-Sun, $10 (£7.50).
Time for a drink
The Garret in the West Village (thegarretwest.com) is, according to owner Gavin Moseley, “the best secret everyone knows about”. A spot to impress your partner with, the secret speakeasy is above a Five Guys on Bleecker Street (8). Enter the burger chain outlet and walk past the counter to a staircase that leads up to a hidden cocktail bar.
Forget the reservation, and head out on a pizza-slice crawl of the Village. Joe’s Pizza (9), the Greenwich Village institution on the corner at Bleecker and Carmine has been serving the classic New York slice for more than 37 years. For more toppings, see Bleecker Street Pizza (10), named best pizza in New York City three years running. Its chicken, bacon and ranch contains so much caramelised meat it would keep its form without the dough.
Go for a stroll
In the 12 years since opening, The High Line (11) – a park built on a disused elevated rail line – has flourished, with tree-lined sections at their fiery best in autumn. Traverse a mile and a half of Manhattan’s west side without ever stopping at a “crosswalk”, starting at Hudson Yards and finishing at the new Little Island park (12) (littleisland.org). Built atop 132 giant flower-shaped concrete “tulips” planted in the Hudson River, the park opened in May on the site of the storm-damaged Pier 55. There are lawns, paths, plants, viewing points and a 700-odd seat amphitheatre (free bookings mandatory in Spring and Summer).
Thai Diner (13) (thaidiner.com) is the new place to be on Mott St, Chinatown’s unofficial Main Street. The menu fuses American comfort food with Thai favourites while its bamboo-panelled walls and framed pictures of the late Thai King are Bangkok kitsch. Leave room for the extensive, diner-inspired dessert menu.
Time to relax
Hop on a Citi Bike to explore the full scale of Central Park and find a quiet spot by one of its eight lakes. A six-mile cycle loop around the park gives you a feel for its scale (twice the size of London’s Regent’s Park).
Have a treat
Stop at Rice to Riches (14) (richtoriches.com) near Spring St Station for a rice pudding that’ll put nan’s Ambrosia to shame. Bowlfuls of the gloopy stuff are dished up in wacky flavours including Sex Drugs and Rocky Road, and Hazelnut Chocolate Bearhug.
Get out of town
Trains from Grand Central Station (15) to the seaside city of Milford, Connecticut take 1 hour 45. On the walk to Silver Sands State Park, pass homes on stilts built on the beach to defy the tides, then take a dip in the sea or wander the coastal park’s trails and boardwalks. Don’t miss the lobster rolls at Seven Seas or fully loaded hotdogs at Jake’s Diggity Dogs. For small town America, hop on a bus from New York Port Authority (16) to the village of New Paltz. Visitors to the Hudson Valley settlement can step back in time to America in the 1700s on Historic Huguenot Street or hike the S hawangunk Mountains.
Ask a local
Jennie Ng, Nurse
“Nitehawk Cinema (nitehawkcinema.com) in Williamsburg is my favourite. Old-ish, you can drink cocktails, order burgers and all sorts while you watch a movie. The theatre plays new, indie, and old school films. The last thing I watched there was Fear with Mark Wahlberg and Reese Witherspoon – part of the theatre’s erotic 90s thriller series.”