As New Yorkers, there’s no denying we love our city. (After all, living here doesn’t come cheap.) But we’ve always feared that many visitors get overwhelmed and miss out on what makes Gotham great. We want more for you: Follow our guide, and you’re sure to love it here as much as we do.
This handy map from Tom's Port Guides shows the airports and cruise ports in New York and New Jersey.
Splurge: Crosby Street Hotel – Located off a busy stretch of Broadway in SoHo on a cobblestoned side street, the splurge-worthy 86-room Crosby still feels like an insider’s secret. Here, a screening room caters to Hollywood types, and guest rooms include details — floor-to-ceiling casement windows, dramatic city views, Frette linens, crown molding — from the Manhattan pied-à-terre of your dreams. Doubles from $555.
Steal: Ace Hotel – This hotel has redefined the art of working out of a lobby. Here, tables have docking stations and coffee service, and freelancers and travelers alike set up shop for hours. But it’s also a great place to vacation: That coffee is Stumptown, one of the best roasters in the city, and the restaurants are run by April Bloomfield, the country’s hottest female chef. Her seafood spot, John Dory, will remind you that Manhattan is on the water, and her gastropub, The Breslin, has reinvigorated the category. What should you order? We suggest anything lamb, from the juicy burger to the scrumpets (picture a frite made from confit) with minty vinegar. Doubles from $280.
Tip: The key to falling in love with New York? Not staying in Midtown. Although you’ll find more hotels there than anywhere else in the city, that part of town has a corporate vibe, as does the Financial District. Instead, pick a neighborhood in Manhattan or Brooklyn that’s a shopping and dining mecca for locals.
Breakfast: Russ & Daughters – While you can pick up a hot everything bagel (crusted with sesame and poppy seeds, onion, and garlic) at any bagel shop, aficionados should also make their way to the Lower East Side. Lox and a “schmear” of cream cheese are classic, but Russ & Daughters takes the concept to new heights with its Super Heebster, a bagel topped with whitefish and salmon salad, horseradish-spiked cream cheese, and wasabi-flavored flying fish roe.
Lunch: Shake Shack – If it’s a pretty day, consider lunch at the original Madison Square Park location. The line can grow so long, the eatery installed a webcam, so check it before heading over. Then have one person wait in line while another claims a table. The burgers are that good, as are the griddled hot dogs and frozen custard in flavors like red velvet and strawberry rhubarb cobbler.
Dinner: Lombardi's – This Little Italy icon has the distinction of being the oldest pizza shop in the country, and it’s also one of the best. How do we know? The pepperoni disks curl around the edges, and the coal oven chars the crust. Just don’t think this quality comes easy: Arrive at an off time to avoid waiting, and remember, classic pizzerias sell by the pie, not the slice.
Dessert: Veniero’s – This East Village bakery will help you decide once and for all if New York-style cheesecake is your favorite. Veniero’s serves New York style (made with cream cheese), Italian style (made with ricotta) and Sicilian style (studded with candied fruit) — and it’s all fabulous. The establishment also has impeccable cannoli, and a café.
Tip: Looking for the city’s famed artisan food products? The New Amsterdam Market (Sunday 11-4 pm) and Union Square Greenmarket (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 8 am - 6 pm) offer picnic fare and souvenirs.
For everyone: Statue of Liberty – Hurricane Sandy shut down this icon in October 2012, but the National Park Service is scheduled to reopen the site on July 4, 2013. When it does, you’ll want to reserve a ticket that includes access to the crown well in advance.
For couples: High Line – This city park, crafted out of an elevated train track that was once used to transport slabs of meat to the neighborhood’s butchers, first opened in 2009 to much fanfare. Enter on 14th street and make your way north. The minute you get up there, you’ll see what the buzz is about: It’s a garden in the sky. Best of all, the sunset views are the best in town.
For families: Central Park – New Yorkers fancy Olmstead’s legacy as their own backyard, and you should, too. While we think everyone — literally, everyone — who visits the city on a pretty day should head to Central Park, it’s an even bigger magnet for those with children. You’ll find a carousel, paddleboats, a zoo … even a castle to explore. In the summer, the park hosts free concerts and plays, including Shakespeare in the Park.
For the adventurous: CitiBike – This new program, scheduled to launch in May 2013, will allow bikers to sign up for a one-day pass and borrow and return one of 20,000 bikes at any of 40,000 docking stations. The organization also provides safety tips and suggested routes. What better way to explore Gotham?
Tip: Do not — we repeat, do not — sign up for a double-decker bus tour. Instead, buy a MetroCard and use the local bus system as a way of seeing the city. If you avoid rush hour and pick a line that goes past key sights, you can pay just $2.50 and avoid looking like a tourist. One to consider: The M42 goes from the ship terminal through Times Square, past Grand Central, to the United Nations.
Sure, cabs are great. And they make a lot of sense for some routes (such as from the cruise ship terminal to, say, the East Village). But if you’re crossing Midtown during rush hour, you’re better off walking or taking a bus. Our advice: Check out HopStop.com, where you can compare options. Really in a pinch … like it’s rush hour, raining, and you have show tickets? Use Uber, a service that locates cars in the area, for a pretty penny.