Ignore the statue of liberty with massive queues in summer and go straight to ellis island. Wait for the free guided tour by uniformed park rangers. Apart from the moving stories of poor emigrants from all over the world, it provides a fascinating insight into 19th century immigration practices in USA.
The orgasm scene from "When Harry Met Sally" put this place on the map, but a feature spot in a movie with one of the best punch lines in years is not a prerequisite to this deli's fame. Katz's Deli has the goods! An army of staff slice cold cuts - the sandwiches are best described as "filling with a little bread", so jam-packed are they with one's chosen meat. The cheesecake is justifiably renowned. Once refreshments have been taken, the walls beckon. Photos of Clinton, Depp, Ed Harris, Stephanopoulos, to mention but a few, hang as proof of famous clientele, the proprietor in every one like a real-life Wally from "Where's Wally?" fame. If you want to sit where Meg Ryan ahhh'ed and table-slapped her way through her famous fake "buzz", it's marked with an arrow! (Francesca, Crete)
205 E Houston Street, (at Ludlow Street), New York City, NY 10002-1017
However cheap these may appear at the prevailing exchange rate, you should be aware that UK Customs will be expecting you to declare the item on arrival: if you do so, the additional tax and duty will most likely cancel out your "bargain". On the other hand, if you try to smuggle one in, not only will you will have to pay the tax and duty but a stiff fine as well (and you won't be getting out of Arrivals any time soon, either !).
Enjoy feeling part of the New York scene, especially early evening on a weekday, overlooking the beautifully elegant concourse of Grand Central Station and watching the world go by. Ideal for people watchers!
Grand Central Station - on the balcony. Not sure of the name - Metrazour??
A minibus service with a desk in the airport to and from central points in Manhattan and also right to your hotel as long as it is reasonably central. You pay a very reasonable fixed price and share your transport with others of course - also an interesting way of getting a little tour of the city as you drop off fellow passengers. As a lone female unaccustomed to independant travel in the US and worried about dealing with a yellow cab driver, this was a godsend for me! Ideal for individuals, but obviously not for anybody who is in a hurry!
JFK Airport Arrivals
Fantastic restaurant, where we had our best, and possibly priciest, meal ever. The highlight was the Sea Urchin Mille Feuille. Lovely, comfortable rooms with attentive but not intrusive staff. We booked by e-mail from the UK.
42 East 20th Street www.gramercytavern.com (212)477-0777
I'm here to represent the proverbial little guy among the world-renowned parks and buildings of Manhattan. A 20-block walk from Grand Central is the Gershwin Hotel, a building that whip-lashes the eye on first alight. There's nothing pedestrian about this place, so prepare for an image-overload fest of artwork and photographic portraits, harking back to Studio 54 days. With its funky front - killer red with iluminated fibre-glass and metal protrusions - it's difficult to miss. Warhol is a bit of a deity here, and his work is definitely "home" within its walls. I stayed in a 6-bunk room with shared bathroom which set me back 30 happily-spent dollars for clean, basic accommodation and genuinely-friendly service. The price range does jump considerably for private and suite accommodation, but that's what makes the place even more unique to my mind. For couples on a budget, unisex bunks are also on offer.
East 27th/7th, off 5th Avenue
Make sure you're really hungry before descending on this notable deli. Although the menu is like any other in NYC, the pastrami on rye is the thing to have, but be prepared for what looks like an Empire State Building of delectable beef arriving at your table. Sensible option is to share one, but veggies will need to look elsewhere, I'm afraid. Leo Steiner perfected the pastrami which is still made to the same recipe. Forget those measly strips you buy in UK supermarkets! If you still have room try the cheesecake.
It's a 24-hour hot dog and fruit juice joint that is something of a legend. It's cheap - the special is one juicy hot dog with a fruit drink for $1.45, or a single frank for 75 cents - and fast making it the ideal fuel during a pit stop while touring the nearby bars.
2090 Broadway at 71st Street
Watch the world go by and, if you have the courage, challenge for a game of chess. It is a chilled out park and people watching is the best pastime here. New Yorkers in a nutshell. After spending hours being nosey head down to John's Pizza on Bleeker Street (five minutes away).
When I went to NY I was visiting my partner and all his colleagues said this was the best pizza to be had. I enjoyed it (held to Sicily making the best pizzas but hey-ho) but definitely was part of the NY experience. Gets very busy so be prepared.
MacDougal Street and then a walk down Bleeker Street for dinner.
Helicopter trips. We took The Big Apple Tour a 10-12 minute one which was fantastic. It is essential to book as they were very busy and they also check ID carefully. We went down to the Statue of Liberty and back. Fantastic views. Well worth doing.
Liberty Helicopters, Downtown Manhatten Heliport, Pier 6 and the East River, New York, NY 10004 www.libertyhelicopters.com
Very good steakhouse. Bit pricey, but you get what you pay for. Very generous portions, good waiting staff. I had Steak Wollensky which comes with onions and mushrooms. Beware the size of the steak, they are large! We had the onion rings which were fab. I got my steak cooked exactly how I asked for it - very very well done. My mum had salmon which she said was beautifully cooked. The liquer coffee was not short in liquer and we had to take a cab back to the hotel as we were a bit squiffy!
49th and 3rd Avenue, New York, NY 10022 www.smithandwollensky.com
Le Parker Meridien is a hotel, Normas is where we went for breakfast. It is supposed to be one of the best places in NY to have breakfast and I would not disagree. You can have anything from Normas Eggs Benedict to the Zillion Dollar Lobster Fritatta which comes with 10oz of Sevruga caviar at a cost of $1000. Good waiting staff who refill your juice and coffee without asking, plus you normally get a 'free' taster of the smoothie of the day. Superb breakfast for a real treat. I had Eggs Benedict, it was lovely.
www.leparkermeridien.com/geats.htm 118 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019-3318
Great venue for interesting, challenging and creative music in the East Village. John Zorn, Jim O'Rourke, Thurstom Moore, Bill Frisell, Will Oldham, Peter Brotzmann, Marilyn Crispell....
107 Norfolk Street;
tel: 212 358 7501;
Really great CD store. From 60s French pop to free jazz to New York indie to hip hop to free folk to electronica to new weird americana in all its wonderful weirdness. The staff have a rep for attitude, but in many years of shopping there, I have yet to experience anything other than pleasant helpfulness. And if it's good enough for Thurston Moore... (Kims on St Marks place is worth a visit for those odd items which might be out of stock at OM (want to complete that Jandeck collection?) - OM was established by breakaway staff from Kims).
15 East 4th Street
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