The CityPass is a booklet of vouchers you can buy in advance of your trip to NYC which gets you into a number of tourist hot-spots for a discounted price.
To make it worth its money, you do need to try and use most of the vouchers and I would say that you need at least four days in NYC to allow yourself enough time to do so.
The vouchers get you entry to:
The top of the Rock or the Guggenheim
Empire State Building
Statue of Liberty or Cruise around NYC.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Natural History Museum
The Museum of Modern Art
I really enjoyed all the things apart from the cruise - it was utterly tedious after the first 15 minutes. I'd strongly advise anyone to go for the Statue of Liberty option instead.
The absolute best thing about the pass was that it constantly allowed us to jump the often very long queues of people and get priority access. This was absolutely fantastic and saved us so much time.
This is a great shabby chic hotel in downtown Manhattan that offers comfortable accommodation at a price you're unlikely to be able to beat in New York.
Woody Allen used the hotel in his film Manhattan Murder Mystery and the hotel claims that Madonna has stayed there at some point, though I have no idea if this latter fact is true or, indeed, if anyone could care less.
There are shared bathrooms on every floor and these are cleaned regularly and always in a decent state. The rooms, depending on size, have a wash basin and a TV.
Very comfortable all round and, although a fair way out of the centre of New York, the hotel is very close to the Union Square/14th Street subway station, which is the intersection of a number of subway lines, effectively making it very easy to reach anywhere in the city.
If you're looking for spectacular photographs of New York avoid the top of the Empire State Building and visit the Top of the Rock instead. Not only are the crowds much smaller than at the top of the ESB, the views of Central Park are far superior and, of course, in the opposite direction looking downtown the iconic ESB takes pride of place in your snaps. Having been up both the ESB and the Rock, there is simply no comparison if you want some great photographs of NY. The Rock also has an official photographer at the top if you want to buy a shot of yourself and your loved one(s) with the NY skyline in the background.
Art for art's space. Dia Art Foundation's gallery at Beacon exemplifies what New York does best - converting disused industrial space into space for art. At over 240,000 square feet this ex-box printing factory, located just over an hour's train ride away from Grand Central Station up the Hudson River, houses art on a grand scale. Each gallery is devoted to a single artist - from Beuys to Judd to Warhol (72 of them!) Including monumental holes in the ground and obligatory piles of shattered glass this is art, and as importantly a gallery, on a scale to take your breath away and make you smile. Follow with a stroll up the river and lunch in the groovy Beacon.
These walking tours of various areas in NYC (Greenwich Village, Central Park, the Financial District) teach photography while using the city as the classroom.
Tours begin with a talk on photography that features pointers on taking better pictures. At each location a bit of the history of the area is given and then people are set free to capture the area with their cameras.
During the free time to photograph, you are able to ask for feedback on your photos or for help with understanding your camera better.
It's a different way to see NYC while also learning to capture what you see in new ways.
A specialist in vintage cookbooks run by a brilliant lady named Bonnie who really knows her stuff! She will find you books based on the type of illustration you like, the nationality of food, era, illustrator, brand sponsorship. It's small and cram packed, you can easily lose a day here. Prices range from a couple of dollars to hundreds (she showed me a first edition illustrated by a Mr Andrew Warhol!).
New York City wakes to fresh snowfall, the season's first. It's a Saturday in December. You breakfast in the warmth of your hotel's restaurant watching newscasters talk excitedly about the snow as if this is the first time ever that it's fallen. "After this I'm getting my toboggan out and going to Central Park" one gleefully declares.
Outside, picture postcard families shuffle by, towing rosy cheeked children in galoshes and ear muffs carrying imperfectly formed snow balls.
Later, you wander the unusually quiet streets around Soho. There is no traffic. Warm orange light glows out of the festively decorated shops making it feel as though you've stumbled into the Christmas village on your mantel piece. Warm air and smells of cinnamon and orange hit you as you enter, along with animated welcomes "How you all doin' today? Cold isn't it"
Later still and you're in Central Park watching ice skaters glide effortlessly by, framed by New York city skyscrapers. The smell of roasting chestnuts fills the air. What sounds there are are muffled by the snow, but somehow not the echoing sounds of the tourist laden horse drawn carriages passing by and the jingle of the bells of the many jolly rotund Father Christmases collecting for charity at every street corner.
And as you pass through a snowy Washington Square on the way back to your hotel that evening, you stumble upon the local residents choir singing carols by candlelight. You can't help but join in, despite being cold and eager to get back to your hotel to sit by the cosy lobby fire with a hot coffee and warm cookie.
The perfect end to a perfect day in an unexpected winterland.
This is a very uniquely decorated 'hotel' which is more like a hostel, but is particularly cheap for New York accommodation and the artwork is like no other.
A lovely kitsch and cute classic films themed hotel with an in-house cat and lovely staff. Each room is named after a filmstar (we were in the Kim Novak suite) filled with film posters that they had starred in and even larger pictures in the lobby, halls and breakfast room. Feels like a home from home in the middle of the Big Apple - you're right on the corner of Chelsea, the meatpacking district and the west village. They post you a newsletter under the door every morning with suggestions of things to do and sights to see and they will book you tickets to anywhere you want to go. We went on honeymoon and they sent flowers to our room. Very very charming, free internet and business centre with compuetrs and printing, lovely breakfast and staff who would do anything to ensure you are happy in this lovely hotel.
Williamsburg Brooklyn is home of the hipster and has so much affordable vintage available you can even buy it off the footpath!
I recommend this because it is a cheap way to buy vintage clothes and the stuffy musky smell of Thrift Store is not an issue. Shopping en plein air!
Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, New York
Google map: bit.ly/ciUaxI
No need to extol to Guardian readers the virtues of hummus, but this small New York chain might turn it into your favourite food.
The sheer variety of cheap, nourishing and delicious meals that they make out of the gloopy stuff is incredible. Plus, the restaurants tend to be in trendy places so you won't be short of fun things to do after dinner.
Take the (free) Staten Island ferry and go to a baseball game. The Staten Island Yankees ballpark is an easy walk from the ferry terminal. For $16 you get over two hours' sport and fun - we laughed for the whole event (3rd base seating is recommended). The sight of men trying to get into frozen t-shirts between innings will stay with us.
Other top tips for NYC:
Travel from JFK - for parties of three or more take a yellow cab ($55ish to your hotel door).
Breakfast - Grand Central Station
Lunch/Dinner - Whole Foods market, excellent value and choice (avoid busy 6pm - 7pm period) 10 Columbus Circle, basement of Time Warner Center. Very convenient for Central Park.
Walk across the bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn, stay on the left path off the bridge, turn left and left again then right to get to Grimaldi's pizza place under the bridge. If you get there about 11.30, there'll be a queue, but only a shortish one. Queue, eat great pizza, pay in cash, walk to waterfront, eat ice-cream - fab way to spend a morning. Yes it's touristy but if you are a tourist in New York why not eh?
The Wonka factory for tech fans.
Sure, you can buy your camera on Amazon these days but nothing beats talking to an expert on the technology, as you raid the shop's bowls of delicious sweets and marvel at the constantly-busy conveyor belts of merchandise above your head.
While you're at it why not pick up a clapper board, or a dive light, or maybe a green screen?
The owners are very orthodox Jews, so the store (and its website) will shut on Saturdays and Jewish holidays.
Cute, family friendly retro diner with amazing sponge cakes, oozing fruit pies, yummy cupcakes and cookies. There is an extensive savoury menu, with a 'home style cooking' flavour. Get the pancakes - thick and spongy with fruit baked in the middle. Delicious!
It sounds like insanity, standing for three hours - but you get comfy armrests to lean on, your own surtitles, and a surprisingly good view at the back of the stalls. You're first out to the bar at the interval. And it's very cheap.
It's a bit redundant mentioning Yelo since it's appearing in all sorts of guides, but it really deserves the praise.
Pop in for tea, a massage, and a nap in one of their custom-made sleep pods. You'll leave feeling 10ft tall.
I went to Central Park last sunday and decided to rent a bike. This website gives up to 30% discounts on Central Park bike rental. They were not excellent but perfecly decent, and good compared to other bike rental places in New York.
Small museum that for a suggested 99 cents donation displays and contextualises wonderful remnants of Coney Island's colourful past including vintage bumper cars, funhouse mirrors and photos of the sideshow folk who once worked there. Also houses temporary exhibitions. Highly recommended to those with a taste for oddball Americana. Note that it's only open at weekends.
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