Sorry, London – New York is the centre of the world. It’s the financial and cultural capital of the planet, so it’s no surprise tourists have flocked over to the City That Never Sleeps for longer than anyone can remember. The problem is, New York is so popular in TV and films, and so visited by travellers from all corners of the world, that people often flinch at the thought of squirming through its blocks and avenues with millions of other sightseers. The good news? If you swot up, you can visit New York like a pro; see the landmarks and hunt out the hidden gems, and you’ll leave having conquered the City so good they named it twice.
Times Square has to be on the list, right? The sprawling square, with its buzzing billboards, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But it’s still worth a walk over, if only to see perhaps the most photographed site in the world with your own eyes. If you like your shopping, stroll down Fifth Avenue and treat yourself to a few new garments as well – it’s a holiday, so you almost have to get some clothes, right?
But there’s plenty of less touristy areas which are definitely worth checking out too. You’ll recognise Greenwich Village, in the southern end of Manhattan, from shows like Friends. But, in real life, it’s a cool and laid-back part of the island which barely feels like it’s part of one of the world’s biggest cities.
There’s also no shortage of cheap and free activities in the city, so making the most of New York doesn’t have to stretch your purse strings too much. Of course, taking a wander through Central Park is a must – the massive block of luscious green land and picturesque lakes sit slap bang in the centre of Manhattan, and there’s no better way to spend a summer afternoon than lazing about a quiet patch of grass in the park. Plenty of museums are walking distance away, too, and you can visit most for free or for a low admission fee. MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art, houses some of the most intriguing contemporary art in the world, and visit the legendary Metropolitan Museum of Art if you’re after a more traditional collection.
There are so many activities to get involved in in the Big Apple that you’ll struggle to fit them all into your itinerary. Near the top of the bucket list should be a trip to Broadway to take in a show. The best theatre on earth is located right there on that sparkling street, and walking down the sidewalk and gazing up at the lights is almost enough of an experience in itself. Almost, but not quite – so, to make the most of your time, you should take in a show. There’s no shortage of dramas, comedies and musicals to choose from; favourites like Aladdin, Chicago and Phantom of the Opera are currently showing – and it’s worth a try seeing if you can get a ticket to Hamilton, the hottest show of the year.
‘Central Park’ – nancy smith via Flickr
For sports fans, the city also has something to offer – there’s plenty of opportunities to take in some action. If you’re over during the NFL season, jump across the Hudson River into New Jersey and enjoy a game. The area has two teams – the New York Giants and the New York Jets. They share a stadium, so see who’s playing while you’re there and pick up a ticket. The Giants are one of the league’s most famous and storied teams, with four Super Bowl wins and a hard-nosed history.
They’re about as legendary as the New York Yankees, the baseball team, which plays up in the Bronx, who are also worth a train ride over. And if basketball is your game, head over to a Knicks game. The great news is that the city is crazy for any kind of sport – so head to a sports bar and watch whatever’s going on at the time. If you’re over in the spring, put down a bet on the Grand National, the famous annual horse race, which will be shown across the city. Check out some free bets from Timeform before you go and see if you can spice up the action even more.
New York is one of the most multicultural cities in the world so it’s no surprise that you can also pick up just about every cuisine under the sun on its streets. Head over to Chinatown and see which spot takes your fancy. On another evening, hop a few blocks over to Little Italy – it’s a trendy and vibrant part of town, and it can boast some of the best Italian food this side of – well, Italy.
If you want some of the real New York taste, though, you need to find yourself a pizza joint. Lombardi’s cooks up some true New York pizza, which you’d be foolish to miss. Chicago might have something to say, but the truth is that New York is where you need to head to get the best pizza in North America. Of course, a stop in a bagel shop is a necessary lunchtime activity, as well. And while you’re at it, why not hunt down some New York cheesecake? The city has a ludicrously expansive list of food offerings, so tick off as many as you can.
There’s a reason Frank Sinatra settled on New York as the subject for one of the most stirring songs of all time – and it’s no coincidence that all of your favourite films and shows are set in the city, either. Yes, New York is swarmed by tourists every day – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t join them. It’s a remarkable, beautiful and vibrant city, and, once you’ve been, you’ll see what all the fuss was about.