New York - Things to do in New York

New York - “The City of a thousand stories at the planet’s urban epicentre.”

New York is everything you ever read about it – loud, energetic, sassy, glamorous – the planet’s urban epicentre, if that’s not too big a claim. The Big Apple has also shown its courageous side – fighting back from the horrors of 9/11.

Its mesmerising appeal comes in different forms from other world-class cities: the lights that hold back the night, the zany and cosmopolitan characters on the street, the tall, tall buildings and the exhilarating pace of life. It’s cinematic – the backdrop for more than 200 movies a year.

It’s musical - getting name-checked in more songs than any other place on earth. There’s top-notch art, architecture, food, shopping and entertainment. There are landmarks that could tell a thousand stories: Times Square, 42nd Street, the Empire State Building … New York is a city of sights, sounds, smells and tastes and it won’t take you long to feel the vibe.

Travelling to New York

By Air

There are direct flights to New York from most European cities, with British Airways, Virgin and most major US airlines offering fare deals in the off-season. Most US and Canadian airlines also fly direct to New York from all major cities and again, special deals are available.

Flights from abroad arrive at JFK International or at Newark International in New Jersey. La Guardia is used for domestic flights. With each, there’s a variety of options for getting into the city. From JFK, taxis are the easiest way in. The driver is required to take passengers to any destination in the five boroughs. Expect to pay around $50.

Licensed cabs are yellow with medallion shields on the hood (bonnet) and medallion numbers on the roof. Another option is the regular New York Airport Service Express Bus, which travels to mid-town Manhattan in 45-60 minutes for $15. A third option to get you into Manhattan is the AirTrain to the (A),(E),(J),(Z) Subway Lines and Long Island Railroad (LIRR). Newark is 16 miles from Manhattan across the Hudson River. If you're not intending to take a cab, the Newark Airport train is the best way to get into the city. A free monorail will take you to the airport station and then it's a 20-minute journey to Penn Station. The fare is $13.

La Guardia - the closest to Manhattan - has the New York Airport Service bus, which goes to Grand Central and Penn Station for about $12, leaving from outside all terminals every 15 minutes.

By Train

If you travel into New York by train, you’ll arrive at either Grand Central Terminal or Pennsylvania Station. Both are in the centre of town, connected to the subway and are within easy walking distance of many attractions and hotels. Amtrak now offers the 150 mph First and Business Class express Acela rail service between New York, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Boston.

By Road

Manhattan, being an island, is accessed by a series of bridges or tunnels and has two main arteries, the West Side Highway and the FDR Drive. However, driving a car into Manhattan or around New York City is probably not the best advised as the roads seem to be congested for a better part of the day and parking can be expensive.

The Port Authority Bus Terminal is the major hub for short and long-distance buses, including national Greyhound services and regional bus companies. If you want to travel to or from Philadelphia, Washington DC or Boston, consider the Chinatown bus services, whose fares start from as low as $12.

New York Travel Tips

Language

George Bernard Shaw once said that England and America were two countries separated by a common language. The language is English but delivered in a way only New Yorkers know how. On the other hand, you might hear Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese or Italian as these communities – and many more – live side by side in the Big Apple.

Currency And Tipping

The American dollar or greenback, made up of 100 cents. And just in case you need to know, a nickel is 5 cents, a dime is 10 and a quarter 25. The customary tipping rate is 15-20% for taxi drivers and waiters; bellhops are usually given $2 a bag in luxury hotels and $1 elsewhere; hotel maids should be tipped $2 a day. A doorman who hails or helps you into a cab can be tipped $1 or $2. You should also tip your hotel concierge for services rendered.

Dress Code

New York’s summer can be very hot and humid – wear light clothing, walk on the shady side of the street and try to think cool thoughts. But take an umbrella – torrential downpours can occur. Winters can be very severe. Dress in layers because stores and restaurants keep things pretty warm and you’ll need to disrobe. Many of New York City’s finer restaurants require that a jacket blazer be worn at diner, so check in advance.

Safety

New York’s reputation as a dangerous city is largely a thing of the past. However, as in any other big city, there are pickpockets in tourist areas. Keep an eye on belongings at all times and stick to streets where others are walking late at night.

Travel

Manhattan is best seen on foot. Although the city might seem enormous and intimidating, the grid system is easy to negotiate once you’ve got yourself a good map. It’s really great for walking because it can be broken down easily into manageable sections.

When walking, always obey pedestrian signs! The subway is available if you need to cover a larger distance. New York’s subway system is used by five million people a day. The system can seem complicated at first but it’s logical once you get the hang of it. Letters or numbers are used to distinguish the trains, and colours are used to denote different lines, with stations named after their street location. New York’s bus system is far-reaching and allows great views of New York street life at a more leisurely pace. Have the exact change ready.

Top 10 Things to do in New York

The Empire State Building

The 1,453-ft “cathedral of the skies,” opened in 1931. How could you not take the ultimate romantic trip to the top?

The Statue of Liberty

Next to the flag, America’s most famous symbol for freedom, standing 151ft above New York harbor since 1886.

Times Square

The exciting, vibrant, historic landmark in the heart of the city. Great shopping, eating and nightlife.

Central Park

An oasis offering New Yorkers and visitors a refuge from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Ground Zero

A solemn reminder of the events of September 11 2001 – a day that will be forever remembered in the hearts of all Americans.

United Nations

When you enter its gates, you’re actually leaving New York City, as the 18-acre site is an international territory belonging to all the member countries.

Brooklyn Bridge

The iconic bridge over the East River that opened to traffic in 1883.

Chrysler Building

The elegant, art-deco edifice considered by many to be the quintessential skyscraper design with its beautiful tapered stainless steel crown.

Broadway

The Great White Way, a street synonymous with great shows and great stars.

Ellis Island

The nation’s premier federal immigration station, through which 12 million people came to start a new life. Now a museum.

Eating and Drinking in New York

New York’s restaurant scene holds on to its reputation as one of the most extensive and innovative in the world. Fashionable restaurants are the centre of the city’s social life and the selection and quality of the food is excellent. Chefs are world-renowned and service can be impeccable.

However, it’s not necessary to spend a fortune – many locals prefer the kosher diner or the hidden Italian trattoria to the glitzy highspots. Every style of cuisine can be found here … Greek and Lebanese, Japanese and Korean, Indian and Vietnamese, Ethiopian and French, Italian and Caribbean.

The Europe-based Restaurant Magazine’s Top 50 restaurants had three NY eateries in the Top 20: Per Se at Columbus Circle, Jean Georges at Central Park West and Gramercy Tavern at 42 E20th Street.

Shopping in New York

New York is material bliss, so it’s not surprising that many visitors come to the city just to max out their credit cards. New York’s shops tempt even the most budget-conscious tourist with their huge choice. (Now, with no sales-tax on clothing items less than $110, life is even better).

Uptown’s designer shops and Midtown’s department stores flash their expensive goods from swanky window displays, while Downtown has smaller boutiques, discount stores, bric-a-brac and offbeat speciality shops. New York is fashion heaven. As well as flagship stores on Madison Avenue for big international names, you’ll also find boutiques selling pieces by up-and-coming designers.

The choice of hand-made, vintage and one-off clothing is particularly abundant around Nolita, the Lower East Side, and the East Village. Unusual shoes can be found in SoHo and Nolita. The Meatpacking District, around 14th Street and Ninth Avenue, has become the City’s new boutique center, with designer shops from Jeffrey, Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen to name but a few. And don’t forget the department stores: Bloomingdales, which is big, brash and busy and Macy’s, the world’s largest.

For a fun market, try the Chelsea Flea Market on 6th Avenue at 25th and 26th St : two parking lots of what appear to be the contents of several hundred old attics. And Grand Central Market, weekdays, has a food hall stuffed with gourmet cheeses, seafood, breads, desserts, fruit and flowers.

Top Department Stores

Barneys New York

A hub for designer fashions. Watch-out for the twice yearly sale in February and August at the Chelsea Warehouse where prices are slashed by more than 50% or more.

Bergdorf Goodman

A 5th Avenue staple for the ultra luxury and plenty of disposable income. The window displays are always a curiosity.

Henri Bendel

Now part of the Limited Brands, this New York landmark provides a unique environment for the glamour crowd.

Macy’s

A Herald Square icon. This department store has everything from gourmet food and cosmetics to fashion and furniture. Venture beyond the ground floor, which is always very crowded.

Saks Fifth Avenue

A 5th Avenue classic for the well-known designers. The store has a great selection and the staff are well-trained to sell the good life.

Takashimaya

The New York branch of the quirky Japanese department store is a relative new kid on the block. Selling everything from cashmere blankets to vintage watches, Takahshimaya 5th Avenue has an entire floor devoted to Asian antiques.

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