New York, New York: the city known for attracting professional adventurers and persistent dream chasers. Also the city that I decided was the perfect weekend getaway for me once my brother moved there for college. Six years later and he’s made it his home…and I haven’t stopped visiting. This time it was to experience the more touristy trends, outdoor seating and rooftop bars as the city opened its sidewalks for summer.
There’s something magical about Manhattan. But come summer, it is effervescent. The sidewalks seem to blend together as one big sea of outdoor eating spaces and the locals are buzzing with unfamiliar smiles. It’s as if the blackened concrete that burns through their sandals, heats them to their core, giving no option other than to be as warm as the sun.
I arrived on a reasonably balmy Friday evening so naturally we had to take advantage of the weather by hitting a rooftop bar for a welcome cocktail and to get the night started. Above Allen is a chic bar and terrace at the top of the boutique Sixty LES hotel (190 Allen Street). The Lower East Side location offers an unbeatable view of the city, especially at sunset as the sky illuminates the Freedom Tower, Empire State and Chrysler buildings.
After the sun was long set and the night air became cool we headed to Cata (245 Bowery) because, for me, nothing screams summer more than tapas. Granted there is no outdoor seating but the indoor atmosphere is up to par with that of a tapas bar found in Madrid. Looking around, it seemed that ordering the paella was a no brainer as vats of the saffron infused rice occupied almost every table. We placed our paella order at the beginning of the meal, along with some traditional tapas to nibble on (garlic shrimp, cured meats and cheeses) while the more extravagant dish of paella was prepared. The combination of the laidback New York lifestyle and the European vibes from the restaurant kept us picking at our dishes and sipping on Malbec until closing.
After a night of food and wine, I didn’t have much time for a sit down breakfast before my day of sightseeing began. So my brother took me to a favorite morning haven, Tiny’s Giant (129 Rivington Street), an East Village bakery serving up small bites and a cappuccino so light that it took me back to Italy.
As for the day ahead of us, we stuck to quite a busy schedule:
9am 9/11 Memorial and Museum:
A personal and haunting experience for any visitor, the memorial features double fountains etched with the names of the victims from the terror attacks on September 11, 2001 and the World Trade Center bombing in February 1993. The museum is divided into three parts depending on why you have come to visit and what you are hoping to take away from your experience. The foundation hall exhibits standing infrastructure from the twin towers and the historical exhibition gives background leading up to the attacks. The memorial exhibition provides details of the victims, using the “Wall of Faces” to put the scale of the attacks into perspective as you pass by the 3,000 profiles of those who lost their lives. Entry is $24 per adult.
11am Statue of Liberty:
Standing tall in the middle of the New York Harbor, the Statue represents freedom and democracy. Not only do you get wonderful views of the city from the water, but you also get a higher vantage point of the city once you get to the top, or the Crown of the Statue. If you are up for more adventure, get back on the ferry toward Ellis Island to learn about the role this island played as an immigration station between 1892 and 1924. Entry is $28 per adult and includes both the Statue and Ellis Island.
1pm Empire State Building:
It is said that “until you see New York from the top of the Empire State Building, you haven’t seen New York.” So don’t miss your opportunity to take the elevator up 86 floors and experience the entirety of the city. The audio tour recognizes the most prominent buildings, ensuring that you won’t miss, or mistake, any of the important landmarks. Entry to the Empire State Building and Observatory is $32 per adult. (last elevator goes up at 1:15 p.m.).
2:30pm Lunch at Eataly:
Mario Batali gathered it all under one roof in this Italian hotspot. You can have a glass of wine with a charcuterie plate at the bar, grab a panini to go, or pick up your favorite ingredients for a night of cooking at home. The panini is an ideal option on a tight schedule; you get to visit the popular deli, enjoy a taste of Italy and avoid the time restrictions of a sitdown lunch. It’s okay if you get hooked on this spot because it’s coming to Boston soon, so be sure to look out for the grand opening in the Prudential Center!
4pm The High Line:
Just under a 1.5 mile long, this public park is one of the rare places in New York where you’ll feel remotely close to nature. It’s built above the West Village, following the linear path of the West Side Line railroad. It is a leisurely walking path with frequent benches, resembling wooden chaise lounges, to stop and enjoy your elevated status over the busy streets below.
6pm Times Square:
Wander through the lights and action of this famous intersection on your way to dinner. You can spend as much time here as you want but make sure to take a couple moments to stop and take in all the action before moving forward.
7pm Dinner at Serafina:
Your walking is done for the day! This Italian chain has a variety of restaurants throughout the city and even in Boston. After walking around Times Square, the most convenient location to visit is the one nestled in the Dream Hotel (210 W 55th Street), serving up all the beloved specialties of homemade gnocchi to fresh risotto. So sit back with a welldeserved glass, or bottle, of Tuscan white and cheers to a successful day of whirlwind sightseeing.
After such a hectic day, I appreciated sleeping in and grabbing a relaxed brunch at Clinton Street Baking Company (4 Clinton Street). They don’t take reservations but that’s part of the charm to this 32-seater, neighborhood favorite; waiting in line and fantasizing about all the flavor behind the smells wafting out. Pancakes, pie and chicken with waffles are just some of the delicious options to tempt you.
After eating and entering a gradual food trance, I spent the rest of my day stopping in and out of the boutique stores on Elizabeth Street, browsing the wellknown brands along Broadway, wandering around the various villages and strolling around Central Park. On the way to catch my train, I stopped at the Famous Original Ray’s Pizza (204 9th Avenue) for an extra large pizza slice. As I bit into the perfectly greasy triangle, I knew I had ended my weekend on the highest note possible. The transition to street food, after a weekend of quality, only reinforced the diversity, yet authenticity, of one of the greatest cities in the world.