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USA: Top things to do in New York City

No US city does such glamorous high life and such charming street life as New York. Here are some new and old reasons to love this magnificent city.

I was relaxing with a cold beer on the Circle Line cruise around Manhattan Island when I heard the tour guide saying to the people sitting behind me: “So, I was talking to my agent.” It turns out he has a thriving sideline career in TV advertising.

Granted he is the sort of silver-haired (and silver tongued) gentleman you can imagine fronting cheesy American Colgate commercials. But for me it was just so New York, or at least the New York City of my imagination, where everyone is glamorous and famous or somehow connected with ‘show business’ a la Sex and the City.

New York City

Drifting along the Hudson River in the golden early evening sunlight, the stunning architecture of the city glinting, the city looks at its most beautiful and most elegant. There are many reasons to love New York City but I found a new one in an unusual place – where you can’t see the city at all.

After lady liberty and the famous skyline, the boat moves north around the top of Manhattan, through the Harlem River and to a place that seems a million miles away from the towers of Midtown. Trees grow down to the muddy water’s edge and a group of young boys squat around a campfire on an old wooden jetty, laughing and waving. It was the opposite of a world where the pursuit of money and fame are the dominant theme.

New York City

The day before I’d been contemplating the city, again with a drink in hand, this time from one of the latest trendy brunch spots in New York – on the rooftop of 230 Fifth. Just another way to appreciate the many architectural treasures of New York with full frontal views of the Empire State Building and the glittering gold summit of the second Madison Square Garden building.

New York City

As I sipped my Mojito Royale under a palm tree on the 14,000-square-foot deck and waited for my ‘Liquored up French Toast’ the picture was of a city full of beautiful young things enjoying the sunshine and the highlife.

New York neighbourhoods

But it’s easy to leave the thundering traffic-choked avenues and skyscrapers behind and retreat into one of New York’s many neighbourhoods. The most famous, and most charming, being Greenwich Village. In Washington Square and Commerce Street you can taste buttoned-up 19th-century New York before reaching for the heights of fashion on Bleecker Street. I was transported to another place altogether by the mountain of frosting on my Magnolia Bakery cupcake.

In Chelsea Market I indulged in another cupcake at Elenis and was forced to rethink my whole wardrobe and lifestyle at Anthropologie (perhaps in New York wardrobe and lifestyle are the same thing). This funky, arty, foodie hangout is all about enhancing community through food and I would place it on my must experience in New York list.

New York City

I seem to be talking a lot about food here but surely food and drink make travelling more intensely pleasurable and I found another example of that principle in Chinatown that night. The Peking Duck House on Mott St is possibly the best Chinese restaurant in the world. A chef grasps a crispy duck by the neck and carves away with a large knife at a table in the middle of the room.

On my last day in New York I walked from my hotel through the leafy Upper West Side past the sun-dappled frontages of Brownstones to Central Park and made a beeline for The Boathouse. Having breakfast here amongst the dog-besotted New Yorkers is a quintessential experience.

I chatted to a couple while they were waiting for their order (bagels with eggs, smoked salmon and cream cheese naturally). They come here most mornings and then head off to their “spot” in the park. I headed off to listen to a saxophonist play Michael Jackson on the Bethesda Terrace.

New York City

I took some photos of the skyscrapers behind the lake and the trees but really the most appealing sight was all the New Yorkers enjoying a sunny Sunday in the park with their picnics and icecreams.

It was the best kind of New York story, mixing sophisticated glamour with sidelines of real life NYC. From the vertical heights to street level, these contrasts are why I love New York City.

By Natasha von Geldern

I stayed at the Hotel Beacon, an elegant Upper West Side hotel that offers good value in a convenient location in New York City.

Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises departs from Pier 83 and is a relaxing and fun way to see the world’s most famous skyline. You’ll find food, drink and the city’s best tour guides on board.

Looking for more things to do? Here’s a 48-hour itinerary for NYC.

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  1. You make a visit to New York sound absolutely fabulous. All those special places to eat and enjoy a special drink with a view, how great must that be? The highlights for me 10 years ago was a ride in a yellow cab thru the streets and the steam or whatever coming out of the manholes along the street, you always see this in the movies. Not to mention the statue of Liberty, craning ones neck looking up at the skyscrapers, a stroll through Central Park and the Empire State building. A great place to visit and a very entertaining blog post.

    • Natasha von Geldern

      It’s funny how exciting it is to see the steam coming up through the vents in the street isn’t it?! I was unreasonably pleased to see that as well. Gotta love NYC!

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