After WOW air announced £99 flights between London and NYC, dreams of jetting off to the Big Apple for a weekend can actually become a reality. But, if you want to spend 48 hours in NYC then you’ll need to pack your schedule, and know exactly where to eat, sleep, drink and sightsee.
Where to stay?
Dark wooden floors and deep red furnishings create a deliciously private ambience at the Hotel on Rivington, and as the reception is on the second floor, you can slip in and out at ungodly hours without fear of being judged. Although saying that, you’ll want to spend most of your time in your room anyway. Floor to ceiling windows mean an eye-bogglingly near-panoramic view of NYC’s famous skyline, which you can ogle at even when you’re in the shower – thanks to a risqué window (but don’t worry, there’s strategically placed frosting).
Book a corner room and request a Japanese bath tub. It’s big enough for about four people, and you’ll be glad of it after a long day traipsing the city. After an indulgently-long soak accompanied with tea lights and mood lighting, wrap up in a robe and sink into the Tempur mattress or the armchairs draped in furry throws and watch the sun go down over the Big Apple. Or, you can camp out on the balcony – which, although small, is a delightfully unexpected treat for a hotel in Lower East Side.
If a party atmosphere is more your vibe, then check into Hotel Indigo. Mr Purple is a stunning rooftop bar which has locals flocking to it every night of the week. It’s a buzzing atmosphere and open till 4am. It can get quite noisy, so if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, as the old adage goes.
The rooms are sleek and polished, with a work station and ample space to spread out, catering to the young professional who works hard, plays hard. More floor to ceiling windows mean you won’t miss out on the iconic skyline – and if your hangover can handle it, sleep with the curtains open so you can wake up to the sun rising over the city that never sleeps. Indigo blends seamlessly into its edgy surroundings; graffiti murals, red brick interior and towering sculptures greet guests in the lobby, while a slinky rooftop pool and a laid back coffee bar on the 14th means you can enjoy the views even if you don’t stay on a high floor.
Stock up on weird and wonderful creations at milk bar, a vibey, painfully-cool bakery, to snack on during your Central Park walk. Depending how sugary you like your breakfast, you can opt for the “crack pie” – presumably named because you’re gunning for more even though you know you risk death by sugar – and slurp on a cereal milk milkshake. If you’re feeling adventurous, Compost cookie’s the one for you: chocolate chips, coffee, graham cracker crust, pretzels and potato chips all slung into cookie dough. It’s basically the sweet equivalent of bubble and squeak. And it’s weird.
After you’ve eaten yourself into a sugary food coma, it’s time to burn it all off with a stroll through Central Park. The Pond & Gapstow Bridge is a classic Instagram-worthy spot, while ambling through the wooded Ramble offers a welcome respite from the crowds. Head up to Belvedere Castle for magnificent views across the park and if you’ve got the energy (and inclination) then rent a rowing boat to take out on the Lake. Head north of the park and discover the lesser-explored sites such as North Woods and The Pool – there’s a great guide to the park’s northern delights here.
Now you’ve taken care of the breakfast calories, it’s time to stock up on lunch, this time at Amy Ruth’s in Harlem. “Rev Al Sharpton,” – i.e. chicken and waffles – is the go-to favourite at this modest, unassuming diner, named after proprietor Carl Redding’s grandmother. Pair with Kool Aid of the day and mourn the fact you don’t have a southern grandmother of your own to cook you soul food.
Hop on the subway or walk back to Fairmont Plaza, where you can wander the food halls and pretend you’re starring in Home Alone. If you’ve got space, squeeze in a gourmet cupcake from Lady M Boutique or Billy’s Bakery while you’re rubbing shoulders with the rich.
Make your way to Times Square for a mooch around and a good old gape at the lights before popping up to the Moxy Hotel rooftop for a cocktail or glass of fizz. It’s touted as New York’s biggest all-season rooftop bar – a bold a claim as any – and it does not disappoint. Epic views of the Empire State building, coupled with carousel seating, a topiary garden and a crazy golf course, means you’ll have to drag yourself back down to reality after you’ve polished off your drinks.
Screw Broadway. If you’re after something a little less touristy and a lot more intimate head to The Signature Theatre on 42nd and nab yourself tickets to the revival of Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train, written by Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Adly Guirgis. The boxy, simplistic theatre room transports the audience to Rikers Island prison, where we are no more able to escape the inmates’ four walls as they are. Featuring Sean Carvajal and Edi Gathegi in the two lead roles, the thought-provoking, engrossing play will have you glued to your seat. Gathegi is fiercely energetic as Lucius Jenkins, and it’s difficult not to be swayed by the charismatic serial killer as he cajoles his fellow inmate to sympathise with his cause and waxes lyrical about right and wrong. Carvajal delivers a powerful, guttural performance as the painfully naive, tormented Angel Cruz, while his heart-wrenching closing soliloquy will have you reaching for tissues and questioning your morals long after the cast has taken its final, bittersweet bow.
Obviously there’s no visiting NYC without an obligatory pizzeria trip, so head to Joe’s Pizza – there are numerous branches, but the closest to the theatre is on W 41st and 7th. It’s open till 3am and, although nothing fancy, it’s an institution delivering true New York pizza: thin, light, simple and flexible enough to fold. And if you don’t fold your slice, you’ll be immediately outed as a tourist. They’re not huge, so it’s best to buy two slices. And one for the road, naturally.
Rise early for a 6am session at Overthrow Boxing, a gritty, pulsating underground club which sticks to its roots by veering away from the trim, well-groomed gym model and instead is decorated with faded magazine pages pasted to the dark walls, and old-school lockers in the changing rooms. Twelve bulky bags occupy the downstairs space, and a mixed class is led by an energetic, tough as nails instructor called Queen who you’ll find yourself desperately wanting to impress as you pummel the duct-taped bags. It’s dark, sweaty, and it sure as hell ain’t pretty – making it the best boxing class around.
You will have to wait for a breakfast seat at the Butcher’s Daughter on Kenmare Street, and it will be worth it. The “vegetable slaughterhouse” attracts Nolita’s coolest crowds – and for good reason too. It’s hearty fare, and not a sausage in sight. The purple cauliflower grits topped with poached eggs and yellow beets are sublime and simply beg to be Instagrammed, while the French Toast made with almond milk batter is a crunchy, grainy plate of goodness and the juice menu is so varied it’s frankly rather intimidating.
After you’ve revived yourself with a Kale smoothie, clear out the cobwebs with a ferry trip to Staten Island. Take the 1 train to its final stop in Manhattan, South Ferry, and hop on the free ferry ride to Staten Island catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty – rather than forking out for the tourist boat. Once you’ve hopped off, walk over the Brooklyn bridge: visiting Manhattan’s cooler neighbour is now a must do on any itinerary.
A light lunch calls at Westville Dumbo where you can opt for the “market plate” and choose what you want from the market cart. The casual spot specialises in fresh vegetables and high quality beef – without being overpriced.
Once you’re back on Manhattan, head across to Albany Street and the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum. It’s a jaw dropping monument with a sobering effect – just don’t be one of *those* tourists and start taking selfies.
If you’ve still got energy, walk back up to Lower East Side and meander along Spring Street and Mulberry Street, eyeing up stores you probably can’t afford to shop in. Or, catch the subway back to your hotel and collapse into bed for a breather.
For your last supper, eat at Lucien. A buzzing, crowded French bistro where the bartenders tease their handlebar moustaches into gravity-defying curls and slyly top up your wine glass when you’re not looking. Once you’ve parted the red draped curtains and bagged yourself a table (or sit up at the bar – Lucien’s is always packed), order the slathered in garlic butter escargots and mop up with a basket of bread. Ogle at the effortlessly elegant chic staff, order another glass of red, agonise over whether having dessert is too naughty and end up ordering the tart tatin anyway, and wonder at why you’ve never eaten here before.
Finally, enjoy a tipple at The Backroom Bar, a prohibition-era speakeasy nestled behind a toy store. Sip cocktails from chintzy teacups as you recline on bordello red velvet chaise lounges.