So you’ve landed in the world’s playground for a good time, not a long time – how do you see everything in two days? Answer: you can’t, nor do you need to. You’ll be back. Like an ex-boyfriend who swoops in when you’re almost over him, New York has a sneaky way of drawing people back in. With just 48 hours on the clock, you can live like a local while ticking off some of the compulsory cultural items. Rather than catching cabs all over the city trying to hit every hyped-up spot, the key is to tackle it in sections. You’re in the land of gloriously fast walkers, so don your sneakers and get set to explore Gotham City.
MIDTOWN & UPPER EAST SIDE
Rise and shine! Let’s get the touristy stuff out of the way, shall we? Fuel up with delightfully fluffy lemon and ricotta pancakes at Sarabeth’s, then enter the famous Central Park. It’s huge, spanning 340 hectares, 93 kilometres of walking paths, 21 playgrounds, and 7 bodies of water, and you could easily explore it all day. But we’re not going to do that. Rent a bike, and hop off to snap pics of the highlights, such as Strawberry Fields, Bow Bridge and Loeb Boathouse. When your legs are burning, flop over at Sheep’s Meadow (a la Gossip Girl) to debrief.
If you’re in a museum mood, exit on the Upper East Side, where 5th Avenue’s Museum Mile begins. The Guggenheim (88th St) is gorgeous, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (82nd St) is massive. Focus on a few rooms, like the Roman and Greek galleries.
If you’d really rather shop, head down 5th Avenue until you reach Bergdorf Goodman (58th St), a high-end department store with an all-star list of designers. Check out the sparklers at Harry Winston, then save your actual, affordable shopping for Soho tomorrow.
For the obligatory picture from an observation deck, make your way to Top of the Rock. There, you’ll score panoramic views of the city, including Central Park and the Empire State Building.
LOWER EAST SIDE
Hungry? Skip Times Square (it sucks), and do as the locals do: go to brunch! Now, this isn’t an I-slept-in-so-I’m-eating-eggs-at-11am affair. Brunch is a New York institution; it kicks off between 12-3pm, involves bottomless mimosas, and rolls into the early evening. For a party brunch to remember, book Beauty & Essex on the gritty-meets-pretty Lower East Side. There will be glowsticks and sparklers, and it’ll be amazing.
It’s time to cross the bridge to Brooklyn. If you handled the free-pour at brunch just fine, thank you, stroll the Brooklyn Bridge – and please note: the line that separates the pedestrian from the bike lane isn’t there for show. Cyclists fly down like they’re Lance Armstrong, and it’s mildly terrifying. You’ll end up in DUMBO, a neighbourhood that’s teeming with hipster hangouts. Check out Brooklyn Bridge Park, or order an Uber to Williamsburg.
When you get there, go to a rooftop bar to catch the sunset with a spritz in hand. McCarren Hotel and The Wythe overlook the Manhattan skyline in all its glory, and may just be the place where you fall in love with the city. Come dinnertime, go to Brooklyn Bowl for food, live music and bowling. Or for a sit-down scene, try Roberta’s in Bushwick for pizza among the fairy lights.
Whew! That’s day one, done. Sorry if you thought you’d be tucked in early – sleep is a foreign concept to New Yorkers, and you’re one for the weekend.
Today, you’re a downtown girl. The first stop is SoHo, a shopping mecca. With cobblestoned streets, cast-iron buildings, and sprawling lofts, it’s one of the most highly-coveted zip codes in the city. Most of the shops don’t open till 10am, so settle in for breakfast at Jack’s Wife Freda. Then, start spending! Broadway is the most commercial street (think chains and department stores), while Spring, Prince and Broome Streets have a mix of international, homegrown, big name and up-and-coming labels. Either way, pop into The Apartment by The Line, which is interior design porn. Still going strong? Continue to neighbouring Nolita, where Mott and Mulberry Street are lined with chic boutiques.
Hail a cab to Chelsea, the art and cultural capital of downtown NYC. Ask the driver to drop you off at The Whitney, on the border of Chelsea and the Meatpacking District. The glass-panelled gallery is easy to navigate even if you know absolutely nothing about art. First order of business: grab a chocolate chip cookie from Untitled, the lobby café (it’s surprisingly great), then take the lift to the top floor and work your way down.
Once you’re done getting #cultured, climb the stairs to the High Line, a beautifully landscaped park built on top of abandoned train tracks. It’s an urbanite’s retreat, with plenty of lush greenery, food stalls, and sculptures, along with views of the Hudson River (spot Lady Liberty). When you enter, you’ll be at the corner Gansevoort Street. Walk a few blocks until you reach 16th St, then go down to street level to Chelsea Market. The sample sales have designer goodies at seriously slashed prices, and the food will take your tastebuds on a RTW trip. Friedman’s is a good lunch spot: now’s your chance to try the national delicacy, chicken and waffles coated in maple syrup. #murica
To wind down your day, turn your attention to the West Village (the next suburb over). Known for its quaint – and eye-poppingly expensive – brownstones, tree-lined streets and charming storefronts, it has a very Old New York feel. Between Bleecker, Commerce and Perry Street, it’s a window-shopping, people-watching dream. Pop into Wilfie and Nell for a cider or Grom for a gelato, then enjoy it while sitting on someone’s fancy stoop.
To pass the time before dinner, go to Amelie, one of the Village’s cutest wine bars. Then, head to Palma for incredible Italian – the pappardelle with truffle oil is the best this side of the motherland. After you’ve wined and dined, catch a stand-up comedy show at the Comedy Cellar (the later the time slot, the less ‘censored’ the comedy). The club is tiny and legendary, and the Dave Chapelles, Amy Schumers and Aziz Ansaris of the world are known to drop in on a whim. It’s New York – anything could happen!
Words by Katia Iervasi.