- Upper East Side
New York has it all—world-class art, incredible performances, Michelin-starred restaurants, swanky cocktail bars, trend-setting fashion, soaring skyscrapers, verdant parks, and luxurious hotels. And yet, all that glamor wouldn't be without a bit of the city's loveable grit: a coexistence that strikes a uniquely delicate balance that defines the city as the vibrant, ever-changing hot spot it always has been. From Harlem to Wall Street, Manhattan is home to a diverse set of neighborhoods, each with its own heart and soul. But buzzy new must-visit places are always cropping up around town—and that’s to say nothing of the long list of classics that keeps on growing.
Every season has its draws, but summers can be sweltering (though quieter as locals flee the city on weekends) and winters unbearably cold. For the best weather, visit in fall or spring, when the cultural calendar is flush with new opportunities, and the anticipation of warmer weather brings an excitement to the air.
JFK, which serves domestic and international flights, is the most easily accessible airport. LaGuardia, which only serves domestic flights, is smaller and less up-to-date, but tends to have shorter lines. There is also a Centurion Lounge here, located before security, on the third floor between Concourses B and C. Newark International Airport, in New Jersey, is another option for both local and international flights. Private cars will take you to and from, but using public transportation is a breeze for those with a little extra time.
The NYC subway runs 24 hours a day and the extensive—if somewhat overwhelming—network of train lines makes the entire city (and beyond) accessible. (If you’re staying a while and plan to take multiple trips per day, it pays to buy a seven-day unlimited MetroCard). Otherwise, services like Uber, Lyft, and Gett, not to mention green and yellow cabs, are easy to hail. (Avoid black cars hired without use of these apps—they may try to gouge you.)
1) Get a bird's eye view with Manhattan Helicopters, one of the city's top helicopter operators with classic and VIP tours. (888-376-8935; manhattanhelicopters.com)
2) Sail around the island of Manhattan by way of Sail's Shearwater schooner, a restored Gatsby-era yacht and one of New York City's only floating designated landmarks (April – October). (From $45; private charters, from $1,000; manhattanbysail.com)
3) Back on land, explore the city's hidden gems, like the members-only Players Club on Gramercy Park, with Untapped Cities walking tours led by expert guides. (Private tours, from $300; untappedcities.com)
A leisurely stroll, boat ride, or lunch in Central Park is never overrated.
There's nothing that satisfies quite like a New York City bagel. While many a bodega has mastered the take-anywhere, eat any-time sandwich, the most decadent of them all can be found at two of the city's luxe new-wave Jewish delis Sadelle's (463 W. Broadway; 212-776-4926; sadelles.com) and Russ & Daughters Cafe (127 Orchard St.; 212-475-4880; russanddaughterscafe.com). At the former, select from an array of fish (Scottish salmon, sable, white fish, or sturgeon) piled high with the classic fixings (capers, red onion, tomato); and at the latter, choose among an assortment of creative combinations (think: smoked tuna with horseradish dill cream cheese and wasabi flying fish roe).
A Manhattan, of course. Born in the borough of the same name, this blend of whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters is one of the world’s most foundational—and riffed-upon—cocktails. Have the classic version at the bar at Keens Steakhouse (72 W. 36th St.; 212-947-3636; keens.com), one of the city’s oldest steakhouses, dating back to 1885, or at the Flatiron Room (37 W. 26th St.; 212-725-3860; theflatironroom.com), a modern spot with a pre-Prohibition feel and over 1,000 variants of whiskey. Or head to the Dead Rabbit (30 Water St.; 646-422-7906; deadrabbitnyc.com), the Financial District watering hole that’s regularly lauded on “world’s best” lists for its innovative drinks, to experience firsthand the way the cocktail lends itself to innumerable variations.
WINTER: Do your holiday shopping at Bergdorf Goodman's and have a consultation with Betty Halbreich, New York's most famous personal shopper.
SPRING: The city's parks and gardens come to life after a long winter—take advantage of the season and see rare orchids at the New York Botanical Garden's annual orchid show or cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.
SUMMER: Join the locals at the city's top rooftop bars. SixtyFive, the lounge atop Rockefeller Center, has Manhattan's best views, and the Metropolitan Museum's roof hosts a new must-see art installation every summer and serves wine, beer, and cocktails.
FALL: The season brings exciting new cultural programming. Go see an exhibit at the Whitney, Met Breuer, or one of the city’s other top museums, take in a concert by the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center, or get tickets to one of Broadway's top shows.