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By Hilary Sheinbaum
As someone who has lived in Manhattan for more than a decade, I’ve learned two things, if nothing else: 1) Avoid Times Square at all costs, and 2) There’s never a boring moment in the city.
Truth be told, you can live here for multiple decades and still not see every single hot spot. That said: naturally, when friends and family come to town, many ask for hotel, food, and activity recommendations. In many instances, I (gladly!) play tour guide.
However, when visitors wish to see touristy staples like the Statue of Liberty, Times Square and the Empire State Building, etc., I encourage them to do so, but politely decline personally (citing I’ve been too many times before). If my stance sounds like yours, too, here’s a short list of less crowded and (dare I say cooler?) — places to see and things to do while on vacation.
While there are tons of places to rest your head at night, your lodging choice might be best determined by where you want to spend your time in the city, or your vibe (or, transparently, the amenities that hotel provides). The Gramercy Park Hotel is a classic with an incredible restaurant (more on food soon) and key access to the ultra exclusive Gramercy Park.
If you’re looking for a view of the city, 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge offers the Manhattan skyline from your window (not to mention rooftops with the same stunning scenery).
And SOHO House members and friends can book a stay at the Meatpacking location for club and pool access, not to mention the ease of walking to Manhattan’s coveted West Village.
To be fair: whether you love food or don’t care for it so much, it’s important to know that the *best* city restaurants are often debated (especially by New Yorkers). If you’re craving a midday or after hours satisfying slice of pizza, Joe’s Pizza can be found all around the city. For finer (Italian) dining options, at CARBONE you’ll likely spot a celeb (or two), and after Don Angie, you’ll be talking about their pastas for days (Psst: make reservations for these in advance).
Other notable and iconic restaurants include Pastis, DANIEL and Per Se (all French), but if you’re looking for something a bit more chill (read: a tad more casual), try Seamore’s or Meatball Shop. Sweet tooth? Don’t miss Maman for their famous oversized cookies and Breads Bakery for the chocolate babka.
If you live on the east coast, you may already be familiar with SLT (a megaformer workout) and 305 Fitness (a fun, no-judgement dance cardio class) but if you’re in the mood to stretch from sitting on a plane and really sweat it out like a local, book a Lyons Den Power Yoga class or opt for Tracy Anderson for some high-temp sculpting action.
Runners can jog on the West Side highway or Central Park with locals. And, if you’re a true athlete (and by this I mean you really want a strength and conditioning challenge): ToneHouse is for you.
For creative cocktails (and nonalcoholic beverages, too) there are endless venues serving up the best sips. Employees Only has undoubtedly solidified itself on New York’s beverage map for its dedication and presentation to well-balanced drinks. And Dante, now with two locations in Manhattan, was ranked No. 2 of the World’s Best bars in 2020 — which is no small feat.
If trendy-sceney-ambiance is more your vibe: I suggest the rooftop views from the Lower East Side’s Mr. Purple, which has indoor and outdoor seating.
You can find spas in every city but there are a few that are exclusive to New York. Bathhouse in Williamsburg not only provides massages, scrubs and facials, but it also is home to pools, saunas and steam rooms. At THE WELL, treatment options include vibrational energy healing, physical therapy, meditation, acupuncture and more.
Speaking of acupuncture: if you aren’t needle-phobic, pop into one of WTHN’s locations for a session to optimize digestion, sore muscles, stress and anxiety, (detox via cupping) and other concerns. You’ll leave the studio (and New York) feeling like a new person.
Now that you have a loose itinerary, book that plane ticket (and reservations).