I’ve just returned from an incredible holiday in New York City and Boston. As I write this I have perhaps the worst Sunday blues in history and I think hearing the Carte Blanche theme music might actually send me over the edge tonight. Manhattan is a city that really is *that* special and unforgettable. I was inspired by my friend Angie’s recent visit to Japan; she captured it on video (check it out here) and I decided to do the same on our trip. I used an app created by Honda called RoadMovies and filmed a series of movies comprising 24 x 1 second frames that we mashed together and put to music using iMovie. I’ve never edited film before and this is my first YouTube upload, so please be kind and excuse the amateur job. Here’s our trip summarized in 4 minutes, I hope you like it…
Pretty cool, huh? I’m going to try and film more stuff from now on; 80s gnarly Betamax home-video style.
I also Instagrammed our trip along the way (you can follow my Instagram account and check out the snaps here) and a few people asked me to please share some tips and recommendations. Now, I’m by no means an expert on New York City or Manhattan, but I’ve been a couple times and have stumbled upon some pretty cool stuff along the way. Here are some favourites and tips that I hope will inspire you to buy a ticket and visit this vibrant city in all her glory. You’ll be surprised at how cheap tickets to New York can be, particularly on Emirates.
I’m going to list (in no particular order) some favourites in 10s, starting with food. Because let’s face it. If you don’t like food then New York will be wasted on you. As a caveat, I’m not going to mention Michelin Star rated restaurants and fine dining that will cost you a fortune in Rands. What I am going to list are good restaurants with great ambiance that offer a certain level of value for money (relatively speaking, I mean, there’s no such thing as value when you have to multiply Dollars by10.5).
10 Great Meals in New York City:
1. Fette Sau – offering up barbecue fare in Brooklyn. Just trust me on this one. And order the refried beans with burnt ends.
2. ABC Kitchen – the restaurant attached to probably the most incredible home-ware store I’ve ever laid eyes on. The 3-course Prix Fixe menu is worth the $32 you’ll pay and you need to have this dessert: salted caramel ice-cream with caramel corn, peanut praline and chocolate sauce. Need I say more?
3. Cafeteria – open 24 hours and serving up the best truffle mac and cheese in town
4. Rosemary’s – this delightful West Village restaurant serves up some mean poached eggs and has atmosphere for days. Apparently its roof garden is fabulous in the summertime.
5. Morandi – brunch and Bloody Marys. Do it, especially on a Sunday.
6. The Standard Biergarten – nestled neatly within one of Manhattan’s most visually arresting buildings at the end of the iconic High Line, here you’ll find great German fare, craft beer and table tennis. I’ve heard the main restaurant at The Standard is great too but I haven’t eaten there.
7. Joe’s Shanghai – this Chinatown gem will make you think you’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto. Take a number and wait for a table, it’s worth the experience. Oh, and order the soup dumplings. Thanks Stu and Ana for sharing this gem!
8. Eataly – I don’t know how to describe this place other than a grocery store on crack. Get lost in it, try the great meat, cheese, coffee, gelato and more, and leave with a basket of groceries that’ll blow your mind. It’s high-end and simply beautiful to look at.
9. Anywhere at Chelsea Market – quaint restaurants serve up pretty much everything you can imagine. What you’ll struggle to find is a seat, so order yourself a lobster roll to-go from Cull & Pistol and take it up to the High Line to enjoy in the sunshine.
10. Juliana’s – people recommend Grimaldi’s for the best pizza in town. Well, Juliana’s is next door and is owned by Patsy Grimaldi. He started Grimaldi’s and sold it to retire. Itchy feet got the better of him and as he’d sold his world-famous pizzeria’s naming rights, he decided to start afresh and open Juliana’s. We put the two to the taste test (I mean, essential for the authenticity of this blog post, right?), ordered a plain margarita at both, and Juliana’s emerged victorious. Why? Well, we were greeted at the door by Patsy Grimaldi himself, the service was fantastic, the restaurant warm and atmospheric and they have a liquor license. Grimaldi’s is big and lacks the charm Juliana’s offers. It also recently had its liquor license revoked. Either way, be prepared to wait at least 30 minutes for a table. It’s well worth the wait though, so hang in there, even if it’s raining like it was the day we visited.
One we didn’t get around to visiting but was recommended by a thousand people is Momofuku. Use it, don’t use it.
What’s a good meal without a good drink, right? Well, prepare to cough up proper Dollar for some equally proper drinks. They’re expensive, but they’re good and they’re strong. I was on a cider mission on our trip and soon realised ‘hard cider’ (as ’em Yanks call it) is impossible to find. I digress, here’s where to drink…
10 Great Bars in New York City:
1. PDT. That’s Please Don’t Tell. And I’m going to ignore that instruction and tell you to go there. If you can’t find it, it’s because the entrance is hidden behind a phone booth you’ll need to pick up and have a conversation to gain entry.
2. Employee’s Only. The barmen own the joint, hence its name, and they serve a mean cocktail.
3. Apotheke. If you think you’re lost in Chinatown you’re in the right place.
4. The Standard Biergarten. Great for beer-lovers. If you’re prepared to pay for it you’ll get beer on tap pumped to your table through the pipes in the ceiling. Awesome!
5. The Ava Lounge at the Dream Hotel. For its incredible rooftop views.
6. 100 Acres. For its Bloody Marys (I’m a Bloody Mary fiend, okay?) Their brunch is great too.
7. Bathtub Gin. Another speakeasy.
8. The Spotted Pig. Owned by Jay Z and next door to Annie Leibowitz’ house, this gastro-pub in Greenwich Village is cosy and cool. Oh, and it has an epic menu too.
9. Attaboy. If you like whiskey then order the Paper Plane.
Okay, so now onto the stuff you’ll need to do to walk off all the food and drink you’re going to consume…
10 Things to do in New York City:
1. Walk the High Line. This 1.6km elevated park cum promenade is unique, picturesque and architecturally arresting. A restored elevated railway that lay unused for decades, the High Line offers a surreal escape from this frenetic city. A must-do!
2. Cycle through Central Park. A two hour ride will cost you $28. The park is enormous and there’s a lot to see that you just won’t get to on foot, especially if you’re only in town for a short time. When your ride is over, grab a healthy take-away meal at Whole Foods (an experience in itself) and enjoy a Central Park picnic in all its splendour.
3. Walk. Manhattan’s grid system is logically numbered and easy to navigate. If you have the time, walk it all: Fifth, Broadway, Wall Street and the Financial District, SOHO, Greenwich Village, Chinatown, Little Italy etc. Every street has something unique to offer; discover it on foot.
4. Walk the Brooklyn bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan. That way you get to admire that iconic skyline all the way. A nice way to walk off the pizza you’ve just inhaled at Juliana’s. Explore Gumbo, Brooklyn Heights and Williamsburg too.
5. Take a helicopter flip over Manhattan. If you can afford the $250 price tag, then tick this off your bucket list. The 20 minute flip does a full loop of the island and allows you to get up close and personal with the Statue of Liberty and even offers a unique look into the Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. This is an experience you’ll never forget. We booked our flights through Liberty Helicopters.
6. Get cultural. The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA, even if only for the gift shop), the Guggenheim, the American Museum of Natural History, Grand Central Terminal, Rockefeller Centre, Carnegie Hall and the 9/11 Memorial to name a few. I’d advise booking online or using the New York Pass to gain access to discounts and avoid cues. And check opening-hours prior to embarking on your mission across the island as some are closed on Mondays etc.
7. See Manhattan from the top. If your budget is limited then I’d recommend doing Top of the Rock at sunset because it offers views of Central Park and allows you to look straight at the Empire State Building. If your budget allows for both then do, the vistas are breathtaking.
8. See the Statue of Liberty. For free. By hopping on a ferry to Staten Island and back.
9. Go watch something. The entertainment lineup in this city is jaw-dropping and there’s something for everyone; ballet, opera, Broadway, stand-up comedy, live music and more. When I was in Manhattan last I went to see Sleep No More (OMG!) and this time around we watched The Book of Mormon in Boston (from the creators of South Park, incredible, not recommended for those who take offense easily).
10. Shop. SOHO’s boutiques are my personal favourite, but almost every street in Manhattan offers something interesting. One of my favourite stores, Anthropologie, is located at Chelsea Market, and you’ll do well to explore Brooklyn and Williamsburg’s for unique finds. The great thing about shopping in the U.S. is you’ll find great sale items, so trawl those racks, it’s worth it.
10 Tips for Travelling to New York City (and the U.S, where applicable):
1. No $100 bills. You’ll be surprised at how many places won’t accept these bad boys, so get your forex in smaller denominations if you can.
2. Food and transport aren’t cheap, so budget at least $100 a day. And don’t convert. Our exchange rate is rubbish and all you’ll do is upset yourself.
3. Be prepared to wait. Whether you’re sightseeing or dining out, you’re probably going to have to wait. A while.
4. Pack light. You will shop.
5. Don’t forget to phone your bank and/or credit card provider to let them know you’ll be abroad. You don’t want to curb your shopping enthusiasm because of a blocked credit card.
6. The subway is a great and super quick way to get around at $2.50 per journey. You can share a card between travellers, so you’ll only need to buy one.
7. If you’re happy to rely on wifi you don’t need roaming or a U.S. SIM. Wifi is free and almost everywhere!
8. Tips start at 15%. 10% is frowned upon. Cough up.
9. Don’t bother packing a hairdryer or hair-straightener, they don’t work on 110 voltage U.S. plugs. South Africa works on a 220 volt system.
10. Cabs from the airport into Manhattan cost a flat $52 which is handy. At least you know you won’t be scammed and charged $100 because your driver took the long route.
And because I’m OCD and don’t want to add an 11th point to my list of 10s, I’m going to pretend this is worthy of an entire paragraph. Yes, you need a visa. But at least the Americans don’t require proof of everything (including DNA sample, like some other countries) in order for you to apply, so you don’t need to book flights and accommodation prior to your visa appointment. They’re also super generous and hand out 10 year visas willy nilly. I don’t think I’ve ever used the phrase ‘willy nilly‘ before. I don’t know where that came from.
I really hope you’ve found this post valuable. If you’ve got any other tips and tricks for fellow travellers, please do comment on this post and share the love.