Things to do in New York

New York, New York, a place I had only ever dreamed of, a city of giant buildings and whizzing bumblebee cabs. At last I was going to see the delicious big apple and aquamarine lady with my own eyes, but first I had to get through the dauntingly long flight.

Arriving to constant rain and a shockingly harsh wind was a little disappointing, the weather was even worse than in London. We were staying in a heavenly loft apartment in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn – stylish modern decor and clean comfort made this the perfect little home for our New York adventure (website to book here). I had already planned an extensive schedule; with so many interests the opportunities were infinite. Theatre, music, art, food, fashion and the sights – I insisted on doing it all. I could ramble on forever about what an awesome time we had but instead I’ll write about some things I would recommend doing if you are taking a trip over the Atlantic.

As I spend all my time in London going to the theatre, I limited myself to one musical and one opera while in NY. It was tricky picking a Broadway show, there are so many, and every friend I asked had a different suggestion. I decided on ‘Memphis’, winner of four 2010 Tony Awards, including ‘Best Musical’. Tickets were not cheap, and no deals were to be found anywhere. The production was certainly a spectacle, and the audience were lapping up every note with satisfaction, beaming and cheering after every song. With ticket prices so high, I guess this kind of entertainment is just for special occasions, not like my daily theatre fix! I was mightily impressed with the visuals though surprised that the vocals weren’t better, and the storyline of Memphis is certainly weak.

The Metropolitan Opera is considered to be one of the most exciting and prominent opera houses in the world, hosting some sensational singers and producing elaborate and exciting productions. Coincidentically my favourite opera, Tosca by Puccini, was on while I was there, so of course I had to see it. We managed to get $40 tickets (about £25) high up in a box, with an okay view. The singers were the best in the business, big voices filled with emotional energy and power. Starting at 8 pm and with two long intervals, it lasted a little too long, and both of us began to feel sleepy way before the final curtain.

The food in New York is spectacular, every meal was delicious, and much better value than overpriced London eateries. We had a range of cuisines including cheap Mexican snacks from La Esquina and Caracas, which were fresh and yummy; on the final day we had a breathtaking lunch at ‘Jean Georges’, where extraordinary chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s astonishing creations have earned the highest restaurant accolade – three Michelin stars. This French cuisine was perfection – dazzling dishes and elegantly assembled flavours made the meal truly memorable. At $40 for three courses, this restaurant is insanely good value and we could even afford a glass of bubbly each. Spotted Pig was probably my favourite meal of the trip, a popular gastropub in the West Village. This place is full of character, with dinky anecdotes all over the walls. Spotted Pig is famous for its blue cheese burger and shoestring fries, which after trying I can confirm is fully worth the hour wait.

Shopping is endless in NY – vintage, designer, jewellery, make-up, food, anything and everything you could ever want. I knew I’d be overwhelmed, so instead of seeking out the best shops I waited to see what I came across. A few stood out as firm favourites at the end of the trip: firstly the wonderfully eclectic vintage shop near our apartment, Olive’s Very Vintage in Carroll Gardens. Here I found a retro wool Versace skirt, with a colour block design that is perfect for this season’s trends, and a brilliant patterned crop jacket from Saks, probably dating back to the wild 80s. The classic NY stores provided the expected thrill – Bloomingdales, Dylan’s Candy Store and Victoria’s Secrets, and I picked up little purchases as memorabilia from each. Greenwich Village/Soho was definitely my favourite shopping district with a jolly mix of vintage, designer and cute independent shops. I found a home at Bleeker Street in this area where we gorged on Magnolia Bakery cupcakes, and I bought some beautiful perfume from Bond & Co, a very New York company that produces scents to represent each of the districts. Stylist extraordinaire of Sex and the City, Patricia Fields, also has a shop which is well worth a visit.

Most of the museums and art galleries hover around Fifth Avenue, running alongside Central Park. Each one holds a vast collection of magical works, and requires a lot of energy, so I wouldn’t recommend visiting more than one or two in a day. The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) was by far my favourite, currently showing the most remarkable Picasso Guitar works. The Guggenheim is an architecturally awesome building, and has a good permanent collection, and the Metropolitan is of epic proportion with an equally epic shop. We also visited the decadent Neue Galerie that holds a small group of German and Austrian works. Most exhibitions cost from $10-15 entrance fee.

There are many tourist sites that define NYC, some more interesting than others. On the second day we went on an unbelievable helicopter tour and saw most of the famous buildings. The Staten Island Ferry is worth trying… this ferry is free and runs every half hour, 365 days a year, bringing thousands of travellers back and forth. It is a 25 minute trip each way and is a great way to get a closer look at the Statue of Liberty. Other sights include Wall Street, World Trade Centre, the Friends Building, Palace Hotel (Gossip Girl), all worth visits even if only fleeting. I managed to get last minute tickets to the Knicks basketball game so we also had the pleasure of visiting the world renowned Madison Square Gardens (the venue for the match). This game was a definite trip highlight for me, it was such an American experience with costumed cheerleaders, dancers, celebrity spotting and even a filmed marriage proposal; all that and the actual game of course.

My time at University was spent avidly watching Sex and the City, and that taught me that NY has the best cocktails so I wasn’t going to leave without trying at least a few. New Yorkers use different cocktail making techniques which I discovered when I was given a daiquiri served with a great deal of crushed ice… not so nice. You have to specify exactly how you want your drink. The best bar we discovered for cocktails was ‘Death & co’ a spookily realistic speakeasy, mock prohibition bar, that with no windows you barely notice from the street. Inside it is magically lit with tea light candles, and only a little electricity to reveal the spectacular bar selection. The man behind the counter made us some delicious concoctions that were authentic and interesting tasting. In Brooklyn we visited a fun bar too: Clover Club serves up classics as well as its own specialities and sells at reasonable prices.

There are so many wonderful things to do in NY, it is hard to pick. I’ve already started a list of things to do next time, I can’t wait to return.

ps. THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLY is ONE TODAY!

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