The Concise and Opinionated Guide to Manhattan
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Where to enjoy an amazing holiday dinner – December 2019
We love having a meal with a festive menu at holiday time, and for a very cool one, head uptown to Harlem and savor some hearty soul food at Red Rooster (owned by celebrity chef Marcus Samuelson.) This is the perfect place to eat good food without the “stuffy” atmosphere of those expensive hotel restaurants in mid-town. Red Rooster is offering both an a la carte menu and a prix fix family-style menu on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Here’s a sampling of their prix fix dishes:
Housemade cornbread with pumpkin butter / Jerk Short Ribs or Roasted Branzino / Cheesy grits, collard greens, or garlic mashed potatoes with chives / Chocolate cake with pistachios or cranberry gateau
See the Met Museum as never before – November 2019
Our friends at Viator are now offering a fabulous “Empty Met” opportunity! You can now take a special guided tour and see its best treasures before the museum opens. No lines to get in, no crazy ticket queues, and no crowds! This is how true enthusiasts should see The Metropolitan Museum, the largest art museum in the world. Fantastic! Click here for more information.
Halloween party-time in New York City – October 2019
Our recommendations for NYC in autumn usually include gallery openings or new restaurants, but our new series of “Bored In” travel books have inspired us to go in a spookier direction this year. While the creepiest thing in Manhattan is probably just walking through the garment district late at night, there are some fun Halloween parties going on. The biggest one is held at on the west side of Manhattan in midtown. Yes, it’s the huge Monster Ball, where ghouls can dance and party until 5am. If you want to attend this costumed event, you’ll need to book your tickets as soon as possible at their official website here. You can choose either regular admission or a VIP spot that includes alcohol. (Note that the ball takes place on Saturday, October 26th this year.) Happy Halloween!
It’s the start of the social season in NYC – September 2019
There’s a lot going on in this so-called capital of the world, so if you’re planning to visit during the fall season, snag a ticket soon for the famed Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center beginning on September 23rd. Whether you’re an opera fan or not, a performance in this impressive opera house should definitely be on your bucket list, and they offer so many different performances that there’s definitely something for everyone. As of this posting there are still seats available this month and next.
In addition, legendary comedian Jerry Seinfeld will be performing stand-up at the Beacon Theatre (on the Upper West Side) on September 20, October 25, October 26 and November 22. As of this posting, tickets are still available. Check the Beacon’s website for more info.
Yes, bliss can be found for free in NYC – August 2019
NYC’s annual Yoga in Bryant Park (Sixth Avenue at 42nd Street) continues through the month of August. This is a huge free event that you can join just by showing up with your mat. The one hour classes have different instructors throughout the event which are held on Tuesday mornings at 10am on the upper terrace, and also on Thursday evenings at 6pm right on the lawn. All levels are welcome so come find your inner peace among the trees and skyscrapers!
In focus: Fraunces Tavern – July 2019
While writing about the famous Tolbooth Tavern on our City-Extras page for Edinburgh, we got to thinking about New York’s oldest: the Fraunces Tavern. It is very famous to locals but not as well known to visitors. We think it’s worth the trip downtown for its historical significance as well as just to down a few pints of lager. Ever wonder where General George Washington gave his formal farewell to the officers of the Continental Army? It was right here in 1783. There’s even a famous engraving of the event. You’ll find Fraunces Tavern where it’s been since 1719 (making it 300 years old) at 54 Pearl Street at the corner of Broad Street. It is New York’s oldest surviving building. There’s now an adjoining museum too.
Where to enjoy a picnic in Manhattan – June 2019
Now that summer has arrived you may want to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors rather than be inside a cramped restaurant. Between all the food truck, delis, and casual cafes, it’s easy to put together a finger-food feast here. We like to grab a picnic blanket and head over to Tony Dragon’s Grille (the best Mediterranean food truck in town) which is parked Monday through Saturday at Madison Avenue and East 62nd Street. It’s so good! We carry that goodness right into nearby Central Park. Conversely, if you happen to be entering the park from the west side, treat yourself to the perfect picnic (literally) at Perfect Picnic NYC. Stop by to purchase one of their many grab-and-go baskets, or have them create a custom one for you. Prices vary accordingly. They’re located at 405 Central Park West near West 100th Street. There’s a lovely green area and a pond just inside the park near Perfect Picnic’s shop. Note: Alcohol of any kind is not allowed to be consumed outdoors in this city.
Start of the ballet season – May 2019
The famed American Ballet Theatre company will once again take over the gorgeous Metropolitan Opera House with performances from May 13 to July 6. Classic favorites and new premieres will be featured and you can still snag a good seat if you book now. Never been to a real ballet performance? Give it a try; you’ll be very surprised. Visit their website for all the current offerings and seasonal calendar. Feeling fancy? Their special Gala performance is scheduled for the evening of May 20th.
Update as of April 21, 2019:
The NYC subway monthly Metrocard fee was raised from $121 to $127. Traveler/readers purchasing our Clued In New York after April 22 already have this corrected information.
Notice: One of our favorite restaurants in Manhattan, Pig Bleecker, has permanently closed. We are currently waiting to see where its chef lands!
In Focus: Where to brunch in New York City – April 2019
April and May bring better weather and moderate temperatures to the Northeast so why not make a celebration of it by enjoying a really delicious brunch… in Manhattan that means a leisurely couple of hours with friends and loved ones at the Clinton Street Baking Company. This charming cafe on the lower east side is unassuming but packs a wallop when it comes to the food! Try their spectacular blueberry pancakes or chicken with waffles and feel stuffed until dinnertime. Book ahead through their website, get your name on the waitlist, and then stroll the historic neighborhood while you wait for your table-is-ready text!
In Focus: The Frick Collection – March 2019
This month we’re featuring local sights that are lesser-known but which are a must-see in our very opinionated view. In New York, that means the The Frick. So what is this place with the strange-sounding name? It’s quite simply a beautiful, intimate art museum housed inside the former mansion of a 19th-century millionaire. We love this place as much for its works by the old masters as well as for its exquisite interiors. It boasts the private art collection of Henry Clay Frick (aristocrat enemy of Andrew Carnegie) along with additional works and visiting exhibits. What do we like best? The patio –if you can call it that. They call it the “garden court” and it’s smack-dab in the middle of the house. There’s also an incredible grand staircase with a built-in organ at the bottom of it. Trust us, one look inside this place and you’ll be ready to move in. (There are now plans to open the second floor former living quarters to visitors, perhaps as early as 2021.) Important details about a visit to The Frick Collection can be found in our Clued In New York.
In Focus: Dog Show – February 2019
For a completely different experience in New York in February, there’s nothing better (or more unusual) than an evening at the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at the famed Madison Square Garden indoor super-arena. This huge televised event is held over two consecutive nights with judging of different breed groups on each. You can buy tickets for one or both starting at $40, and can find out which breeds are scheduled at the website below. If you’ve never been in an arena with 20,000 dog enthusiasts, let us tell you it’s a trip. Held this year on February 11 & 12: See the dogs!
In Focus: Where to shop the sales – January 2019
Like many cities across the U.S., New York puts its best designer items on sale after the holidays and begins presenting its spring collections. If you’re visiting New York in January and have the urge to do some shopping (or just want to come home with one really special item) now is the time. The most famous shopping streets in New York are Fifth Avenue (between 50th and 59th Streets) and Madison Avenue (between 59th and 72nd Streets.) These two shopping avenues run north/south on the city’s East Side, not far from Central Park. For those who are unfamiliar with Manhattan, this means that the best shopping can be found right in the city center, not far from most of its famous museums. This may be helpful to know even if you don’t plan on hitting the boutiques… being aware of this type of location also tells you precisely where a city’s most desirable neighborhoods are. That’s usually where you’ll also find some of the best hotels, and some top-notch restaurants too.
In Focus: New Year’s Eve in New York City – December 2018
If you’ll be one of the thousands coming to New York for New Year’s Eve, you’ll probably end up in Times Square. This is a travel destination that many have on their bucket lists and hope to do at least once. The problem with this particular celebration is two-fold: NYC is always very cold on December 31 and has been known to hit the below zero mark; it’s also so popular, that to gain entrance to the main part of the square (which is free) you have to go there at least six hours early. No bathrooms, no heaters, no freedom to move about because all the entrances to the area are controlled by the NYPD. You can’t run in and out to get a coffee or more handwarmers. If you have this kind of perseverance than good for you– you might even be seen on TV! If something a bit calmer is needed, don’t worry. There are many places that celebrate, including top restaurants like Hakkasan which will be offering a prix fixe menu. If you want to get dressed up and spend some real money, grab a reservation for dinner and dancing at the Rainbow Room located on the 65th floor of 30 Rock. Wherever you end up, treat yourself to an award-winning brunch the next day at Norma’s on West 56th Street. Check out their incredible menu here.
In Focus: Autumn In New York – November 2018
If you’ll be one of the clever travelers coming to NYC before the onslaught of visitors who descend upon it for Christmas and New Year’s then good for you. You may not have the opportunity to spend your actual holiday in the Big Apple, but you’ll get a taste of what this incredible city is really like for its local residents. Why not try for a table at the fabulous restaurant, Buddakan or finally see the musical, The Book of Mormon? Both will make for great memories. We welcome you to our city and hope you’ll grab a copy of Clued In New York. It has info not found in other guides which is exactly why it stands apart from the rest!
In Focus: Halloween – October 2018
NYC is famous for its huge, free-participation Halloween Parade and this year promises to have temperatures that are 15 degrees warmer than usual. That’s a real plus, especially for those sexier skimpy costumes. If you plan on being in Manhattan on Wednesday, October 31, be sure to pack a costume and join the fun. This year’s theme is “I Am A Robot” but all styles of costume are welcome. (Only persons in costume may join in the parade.) Enter the procession at 6th Avenue and Canal Street between 6:30 pm and 8:30pm to show off your look to the thousands that watch from the sidewalks. You will have the time of your life!
Dining Update – September 2018
We’ve discovered another restaurant that’s worthy of our “food made with love” standard. It will be included in the soon-to-be-unveiled 2019 edition of Clued In New York but as usual we can’t wait because we’re too excited for our readers to know about it. It’s called Maison Pickle and is a kind of southern meets French-American cuisine. Whatever it is, it’s delicious! The portions are huge, the ingredients fresh, and the menu offers something for everyone in your party. Their website doesn’t do it justice but here it is anyway. Their twenty-four layer chocolate cake is our new reason for living.
In Focus: September Happenings – September 2018
We simply adore “Broadway Week.” It’s a Buy-One Get-One-Free ticket event and it’s coming up soon. If you’re heading to the Big Apple between September 3-16, go online and purchase two for one tickets to a Broadway show! Once the participating shows are announced on August 15, Ticketmaster will provide direct links to purchase some of these special tickets. Just use code BWAYWK before check-out. Shows not handled by Ticketmaster will be listed for purchase through Telecharge after the announcement at NYCgo.com.
Hint: Based on past experience, Ticketmaster will probably offer Aladdin, Frozen, Kinky Boots, The Lion King, SpongeBob SquarePants, and Wicked. The shows offered through nycgo.com will probably be A Bronx Tale, Anastasia, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Chicago, The Children, Farinelli and the King, Hello, Dolly!, John Lithgow: Stories by Heart, Latin History for Morons, Once on This Island, The Parisian Woman, Phantom of the Opera, and School of Rock.
If you’re wondering about Hamilton being a participant in Broadway Week, the answer is yes, when hell freezes over.
In Focus: Casablanca Hotel, NYC – July 2018
This summer we’re featuring some of our favorite hotels and in Manhattan that means the Casablanca Hotel. Their motto is generous hospitality but we think that’s an understatement. Not only does this charming place make you feel like you’re staying inside someone’s grand home, the complimentary offerings are many. A sumptuous breakfast, evening wine and cheese, WiFi, bottled water, concierge services, all-day coffee, cookies and fruit, comfortable beds, and in-room DVD player & library are some of what you can expect. This is a very rare thing in New York City. Once inside, the bustling city seems to simply slip away and you’ll have a hard time believing you’re just sixty feet from Times Square!
In Focus: To bike or not to bike – June 2018
Okay, you’re planning a New York visit (or are already there) and you’re curious about bike rentals. This is perfectly understandable, especially considering the crazy traffic and weaving taxis of Manhattan. We actually think it’s a super-fun thing to do and heartily recommend it. Here’s why:
You can rent a bike from the inexpensive and very reputable bike service BikeRent.NYC right at the 59th Street/ Fifth Avenue entrance of Central Park. This means that you and your loved ones don’t even have to get near the traffic. Central Park is huge and has miles of paths for you to speed along with the wind at your back. Helmets and locks come-with for free so you’ll be able to stash your bike whenever you want an take advantage of some of the beautiful things to see there. We simply love the Bathesda Fountain! Give it a try… just dress comfortably, and “work off” that glorious Red Farm dinner from the night before. (Skip the horse carriage ride because it’s boring, you can’t see the horse when you’re in the carriage, it’s too quick, it’s super expensive, and it’s cruel for the horses.) Go biking instead.
May update: Awaiting your upcoming trip
If you’re like us, you like to think about your travel almost as much as doing it! For those dreamers and planners, we thought we’d take a moment to introduce you to our favorite live viewers, Skyline Webcams. Through their terrific website, we’ve watched everything from the New Year’s celebration at Times Square to the traffic jams in midtown. You just never know what you’re going to see. You might just get inspired to travel somewhere you’ve never even considered, like Malta where Skyline actually has an underwater live cam checking out all those fish! So fun.
In Focus: Hunting for Pasticcini in NYC – April 2018
We know, we know… there are suddenly Eataly stores everywhere now, even in Florence, Italy! But at Manhattan’s downtown location something very special is happening. Head Pastry Chef Katia Delogu is creating teensy-weensy Italian pastries and desserts that are simply beautiful. Even though these “pasticcini” (as they are called) are bite-sized, no exception has been taken in regard to using only the finest Italian and American ingredients. They are simply delicious! Go and discover them yourself at the Eataly attached to the new Oculus transportation hub. (There are a few at the Flatiron location too, but not many.) Open daily from 7am to 11pm: 4 World Trade Center (101 Liberty Street) 3rd floor, Downtown Manhattan – 212-897-2895
In Focus: Cathedral of St. John the Divine – March 2018
Many visitors to New York City have no idea that on Manhattan’s upper, upper west side (at 110th St. and Amsterdam Avenue) there’s a stonemason’d Gothic/Romanesque Revival cathedral that is the second largest in the world, surpassed only by St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Needless to say, St. John the Divine is totally worth a visit and is easily accessible by subway or taxi from midtown. The immensity of its interior must be seen to be believed and is awe inspiring, especially when one considers that it has been being built stone by stone the old fashioned way and is still being built as we speak! For something different, check it out and don’t miss the huge pipe organ. Admission is free, and Marlow Bistro (just opposite) is a great place to stop for an upscale lunch while you’re in the area.
In Focus: The Chinese New Year takes Manhattan – February 2018
If you’re visiting New York City in late February this year, don’t miss the exotic and colorful Chinese New Year Parade & Festival. On February 25 from 1pm to 5pm, downtown’s Chinatown neighborhood will rock with spectacle. The parade will start on Canal Street and continue on Mott Street and then over to Broome Street. Viewing is free, as is the neighborhood festival. Meal suggestions are our specialty so here are a few for that day: Chinese Tuxedo (expensive), or 456-Shanghai (cheap). Both are delicious! Or, you could simply head up to the West Village and have an early supper at our favorite, Red Farm on Hudson Street. Gong hei fat choy and Gong she fa tsai!
In Focus: Ice Skating in NYC – January 2018
Most people know about the small ice rink at Rockefeller Center; after all, it’s world famous. But we prefer the large Wollman rink in Central Park, which is situated just off Fifth Avenue near 65th Street. It’s kind of behind the zoo so you can’t see it from the street. It is glorious somehow, with both trees and skyscrapers all around you as you skate. Just visiting and and not packing those old ice skates? Not a problem…they have a large indoor rental service right there on the property. (Their season runs from late October through the first Sunday in April.)
Announcement: Changes to Clued In New York, January 2018
New Topaz Thai (one of our feasting recommendations in Clued In New York) has recently changed its name to Topaz Thai Authentic. This change is now up on their new yellow awning over the front doorway. The owners have also opened up a new space right next door called Topaz Noodle Bar. It looks adorable and will be reviewed on this page in the near future.
There will be change in the admission policy at New York’s famed Metropolitan Museum of Art which is our #1 sight recommendation in Clued In New York. Beginning in March 2018, their forty year policy of allowing visitors to “pay what they want” for admission will be replaced with a mandatory fixed amount of $25 (except for folks with proof of local residency in NY.) The full price ticket will now be good for entry for three days in a row. Revisions to the Clued In New York ebook are underway and will be reflected in books purchased from February onward.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from New York City 2017!
Enjoy a spectacular holiday season in New York. The giant Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center is lit, the Broadway shows and the Met Opera are in full swing, New York City Ballet is presenting its delightful production of The Nutcracker with a full orchestra, and the Rockettes are kicking up their legs at the world famous Radio City Music Hall. Need some last minute gifts? The Big Apple’s huge department stores are decked out, and the city vibe is spirited everywhere you go. Want a delicious holiday meal? Our top pick, Red Farm, has two locations and you can snag a table there for a truly scrumptious meal on Christmas or New Year’s much easier than on regular days. And don’t forget to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art –it will take your breath away. If you are heading to Times Square for the New Year’s Eve celebration, be sure to get there several hours early so you’re not too far back. We like the area closest to 45th Street. Tip: Choose a hotel in the central section of Manhattan to make your visit truly special.
Your November NTK 2017:
As the holiday season approaches, so does the need for bright gift-giving ideas. We have just the thing, and are dying to tell you about it. A fabulous new candy shop called Stick With Me has opened in lower Manhattan and will solve all of your gifting challenges. (That is, unless you eat them all yourself.) Homemade “bon bons” in unexpected gourmet flavors like Bananas Foster, Black Sesame, Cassis, and Passion Fruit taste as great as they look. The candymaker was a pastry chef before turning her passion to chocolates, and none of her artistic skill has gone to waste. She also offers delicate caramels and fudge wrapped in clear twisted cellophane. Don’t miss this place!
Open daily until 8pm at 202 Mott Street, NYC – Telephone 646-918-6336 And that’s your November Need-To-Know!
In Focus: Your October NTK/ September 2017
New York’s famous costumed parade on Halloween night in Greenwich Village hardly needs to be mentioned. If you have a costume, just join in by lining up anytime between 6:30pm and 9pm at Sixth Avenue and Canal Street… if you don’t have a costume, watch others vie for attention in this fun, memorable celebration. This year’s theme is “Cabinet of Curiosities.”
For something spooky but different, stop by Central Park’s Harlem Meer pond at Fifth avenue and 110th Street after 4pm on the Sunday before Halloween. The annual Pumpkin Flotilla could make your own jack o’lantern a star! And that’s your NYC October need-to-know.
In Focus: Central Park/ August 2017
C’mon, is there any park cooler than Manhattan’s Central Park? We can’t think of any. Maybe we’re just partial to it, but whatever the case we thought we should share some of its great spots to visit before the summer has passed. This whopping 843-acre 19th-century park was once nothing more than rocks and dry brush and today can be boasted that it’s completely man made. Completely. It was designed, planted, and created by Frederick Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Here are our favorite spots to visit: romantic Belvedere Castle, the lakeside Boat House, the (Conservatory Water) remote-controlled boat pond, the fancy Conservatory Gardens, the relaxing frog pond, the C.P. Zoo, and last but definitely not least, Bethesda Fountain. We hope you’ll see them all! Print out a Central Park map and take it with you… it really helps keep you from inadvertently going in circles.
Where to have breakfast when you don’t like anything near your hotel/ July 2017
Fried chicken on pancakes? You better believe it. And Maison Pickle (conveniently located on Manhattan’s upper west side) excels at this type of cooking. The best part? You can have a brunch quality experience any day of the week. Open M-F at 10am and Sat-Sun at 9am. Say Hi for us!
In Focus: Rooftop Bars/ May 2017
It never fails. In New York City, the month of May has simply glorious weather which inevitably brings a desire for us to be out on a rooftop somewhere. NYC has many great rooftop spots, each in their own way special and unique. This is why our 2018 Clued In New York edition will have an entire section dedicated the Rooftop Bars. For now, we want to recommend the one named after its own address: 230 FIFTH. They have both an indoor penthouse restaurant with a view, as well an outdoor garden area with umbrellas and heat lamps. It’s as if they’re determined to maintain an accessible rooftop area year round–and so they do. Granted, we would not recommend it during a blizzard. Two other rooftops that we love in-season are The Refinery and the Empire Hotel.
230 FIFTH is located at 27th Street in the flatiron district and they are one of the few places we have found that offer a true Happy Hour (on drinks AND food) from 4pm to 7pm. Just go!
In Focus: Special Event/ April 2017
The annual Tribeca Film Festival takes place in lower Manhattan from April 19 to April 30 and will once again bring celebrities and movie aficionados to the Big Apple. You too can be part of this wonderful event so visit their official website for more information.
Update: January 2017
We are pleased to announce the fabulous 2017 edition of Clued In New York, available only at Amazon.com… Boqueria is a new recommendation from our Manhattan team and is definitely worth a look. We just adore their bacon-wrapped, stuffed dates. Yum!
Our other new fav is the petite Greenwich Village restaurant Quality Eats. You will have a memorable meal there for sure– if you can get in. Reserve early exclusively through their website. We just love their bacon-peanut butter-jalapeno jelly appetizer.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays from the Clued In Travel Books team!
Update: Fall 2016
Visitors to the Big Apple this fall will be among the first to discover and explore downtown’s newest spectacle: the Oculus transportation hub and shopping mall, which is just steps from the 911 Memorial and 1 World Trade Center. This enormous, winged-dove arcade is unusual to say the least, and is likely to impress even the booshiest New Yorker.