In my previous blog post New York City sights and view points I wrote about the city’s architecture, landmarks and the best viewpoints of the city.
Now I will highlight a few of the city’s hotspots, must visit neighborhoods, and how to celebrate New Year’s Eve in NYC!
Of course it is wonderful to visit NYC in Spring time and stroll around the city and stunning Central Park, or in Autumn when the park is full of color and you get to most amazing views over the colorful city from one of the many skyscrapers. But what is even cooler, also literally, is to visit New York City for New Year’s Eve!
We were there a few years ago after Christmas and although it was freezing we loved strolling around the unique and diverse neighborhoods of the city, looking for our own hotspots, favourite restaurants and shops and of course to find the perfect place to celebrate NYE. My lovely friend Tatiana has also been to New York again just a few months ago, so here are our best finds combined per area:
Upper Manhattan (in between 59th and 110th street):
The Upper-East and West side of New York City are perfect for luxury shopping, especially on Fifth Avenue. The part of the avenue between 49th and 60th street is one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world with big department stores like Saks on Fifth and many flagship stores and brand boutiques like Tiffany & C0 and Louis Vuitton.
When in Central Park, next to strolling around the park, make sure to visit the famous Tavern on the Green. An iconic building from the 1870’s in the west part of the park, featured in many movies. After undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation it reopened as a restaurant again in 2014, where you can have lunch and dinner 7 days a week, for example in Spring or Summer on the outdoor terrace with great views over the park.
Midtown Manhattan (in between 14th and 59th street):
Rockefeller Center located exactly in the center of Manhattan is built and owned by the Rockefeller family. It was developed by them in 1930 and is the center of many activities during Christmas time, such as the huge Christmas tree, a famous symbol for the holidays in NYC since 1933, which attracts many tourists. It is put up each year immediately after Thanksgiving and is usually up to 30 meters tall!
Times Square is the heart of Broadway where you will find many ticket offices and brightly colored neon billboard advertisements all around.Definitely go there to see one of the many Broadway shows, but make sure not to have lunch or dinner here. The restaurants around Time Square are so touristic, the lines are long and the prices way too high!
The Meatpacking district is a trending area around West 14th street going on south to Gansevoort Street, and from the Hudson River east to Hudson Street. Here you will find mostly lofts and industrial buildings which were once used by meatpackers and butchers. Today these industrial buildings house many restaurants, boutiques and high-end retailers. This makes it THE place to be to do some hipster shopping, lunching and dining.
The nearby High Line, a former railroad track above the city which is made into a beautiful public city park, is one of the coolest places to go in New York City nowadays and totally free of charge. The mixture of nature, combined with modern architecture and wide city views make it a great city-nature experience!
Also located in the Meatpacking District directly facing the High Line is the luxurious Standard hotel above the High Line, a boutique hotel on 848 Washington street, which was built in 2009. Standing 17 m above street level, the 337 guest rooms with huge windows give you direct views over the Hudson river. This hotel is gaining popularity and is marveled for its modern design and architectural beauty.
You can also go there for dinner in the hotel’s award-winning restaurant the Standard Grill or for the trendy rooftop bar and discothèque Le Bain with its outdoor terrace, giving you great views over the city and Hudson river. With world famous DJ’s spinning every week and a plunge pool on the dance floor during the Summer, you will most likely spot some models and celebrities here, as it is one of the hottest clubs in the city.
For a more classy experience go for cocktails and bites with a view in the Top Of The Standard, an elegant lounge located on the 18th floor of the hotel.
Lower Manhattan (below 14th street):
SoHo is a neighborhood which is trending and well known for the many artists’ lofts and art galleries. But recently it is also popular for its many different shops from high end boutiques to big chain store outlets. The name “SoHo” refers to the area being ‘South of Houston street’.
Here you will find the Soho grand hotel, New York’s first luxury down town boutique hotel, which has been declared by New York magazine as the ‘top boutique hotel without attitude’. It combines the chic architecture of the 1870’s Gilded Age and the luxurious art of the 1970’s in 353 guest rooms and suites, a Grand Bar and Club Room restaurant, which uses fresh vegetables from the hotel’s rooftop garden.
Also recommended for dinner, nightlife and cocktails in the successful Summer restaurant concept of the hotel called Gilligan’s. Have some nice seafood on the outside terrace or just go for fresh cocktails in the beautiful summery surroundings, open again from May.
But in SoHo you will also find several more laidback eateries, such as the lively and trendy all day bistro called Jack’s wife Freda on 224 Lafayette street.
They are so popular that they already have a location in the wonderful West Village on 50 Carmine Street as well.
West Village is the west part of the Greenwich Village neighborhood near the Meatpacking District. Filled with quaint brownstone buildings lined by trees along historic streets with a quiet and authentic feel about them. It’s wonderful to wander around here, just enjoy the atmosphere and look for original small shops along Bleecker and Commerce Street. As a fan of the Sex and the City series I just couldn’t resist looking for the famous Magnolia Bakery here as well though.
Brooklyn and Williamsburg
Brooklyn is the highest populated neighborhood of New York City, but also one of the most unique in my opinion.
What I really liked about Brooklyn are the beautiful and original ‘brownstones’, which you will find a lot here. A ‘brownstone’ is a brown sandstone townhouse with the typical architectural detail of steep stairs from the street going up to the front door, which makes a very pretty picture. You might also know them as the house of the Cosby family in the 90’s Cosby Show.
Walking around Brooklyn looking at these historic buildings, enjoying river views towards Manhattan and passing by laid back shops and restaurants, gives off a whole other vibe than most neigborhoods in touristic and busy Manhattan. Here you will still find original café’s, restaurants and shops and not so many chain stores.
Williamsburg is a neighborhood of Brooklyn, which buzzes with creativity and contemporary music. Because of this it has a large local hipster culture, a big art community and vibrant nightlife. It is also famous for its many lunchrooms and café’s, so make sure to have the all American dish: ‘Chicken & Waffles’ when there!
New Year’s Eve on Times Square
And then it was the day before New Year! The symbolic center of the city and the global tradition for New Year’s Eve celebration in New York is of course the countdown on Times Square and waiting for The Ball to drop, so naturally that was what we were planning to do for NYE!
Unfortunately we found out that getting a spot with good views around Times Square is harder than it seems! The police closes down all streets around this area ring by ring. Starting in the morning with Times Square itself and adding a few more streets every hour. This means that you can not even get to Times Square anymore after 12 am and if you get a spot in the ring you are not even allowed to leave it to go to the toilet…Of course it makes a spectacular sight at 12 pm, but it is a long wait until then, especially when it’s raining and cold outside! The restaurants and clubs directly on Times Square do offer some NYE events, but the tickets are ridiculously expensive, so that wasn’t an option either.
As we love Italian food we had dinner a few nights before at the Trattoria dell’Arte restaurant, near Central Park and 59th Street, with direct views down the street upon Times Square. We already heard about the Times Square story and were looking for an alternative for New Year’s Eve without having to wait for hours outside. Therefore we were happy to find out the restaurant was offering a special 5 course menu for New Year’s Eve including guaranteed viewing spots in front of the restaurant, directly facing the fireworks of Times Square and Central Park.
Something like this certainly makes a more relaxing alternative for New Year’s Eve, as we could stay warm and cozy, have a nice dinner and stay inside until 11.30 pm, to go to our reservated spot outside to watch the fireworks at 12! Of course the view was not so close and impressive as you see on the Times Square pictures, but it was still worth it!
Happy New Year everybody, I wish you all a wonderful 2016, with lots of traveling and exploring ahead! Hopefully including a visit to this gorgeous metro pole, maybe even for NYE, so you can use the tips in my 2 blog posts and find out for yourself why this is one of the most famous and impressive cities in the world!
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