The holiday season in New York is in full swing; the trees are up, the lights are on, and the store windows are full of eye-catching Christmas displays. And nobody loves New York at Christmas more than the Brits, for a little sightseeing combined with some seasonal shopping.
Plus you’ll get more bang for your buck right now. The reasonably favourable exchange rate, together with the prospect of plenty of pre-Christmas sales, means it’s possible to bag some real bargains.
* The Brooklyn Bridge. Shake off the jet-lag with an early-morning walk across John Roebling’s masterpiece, the world’s first steel wire suspension bridge, which was completed in 1893. Start on the Brooklyn side of the East River for great views of Manhattan.
* The Staten Island Ferry, which carries about 60,000 people every weekday. Take the 25-minute off-peak ride on this busy commuter route for thrifty close-up views of the Statue of Liberty.
* Times Square. The bright lights and digital billboards are a must-see midtown landmark.
* Central Park. It has 843 acres of walking and jogging trails, green fields and lakes, as well as a zoo, children’s carousel, and the ice rink on which Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal famously skated in the 1970 film Love Story.
* The Empire State Building. Take in panoramic views from New York’s tallest structure (esbnyc.com). Or, even better, use its 102 storeys as the backdrop to your holiday snaps by ascending to the neighbouring Top of the Rock (topoftherocknyc.com).
* Museum Mile. This stretch of Fifth Avenue from 82nd to 104th Streets, on the Upper East Side, numbers nine museums, including the Guggenheim and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
* Yankee Stadium. Share in America’s favourite pastime or take a guided tour of the home of baseball’s New York Yankees.
* Grand Central Station. This Beaux Arts beauty isn’t just a commuter rail hub – look up to the Main Concourse to admire the constellations on the astronomical ceiling which was painted by Paul César Helleuin in 1912 and restored in the 1990s.
Wall Street and the Financial District
It’s not just the traders who are heading to “FiDi” these days – this part of downtown is emerging as a vibrant neighbourhood in its own right, with hotel, bar, restaurant and shop openings. Andaz Wall Street (wallstreet.andaz.com), World Center Hotel (worldcenterhotel.com) and W New York – Downtown (starwood hotels.com) are all new on the block.
Try new independent Christopher Norman Chocolates (christopher normanchocolates.com) for a warming hot chocolate and take-home treats. And for more substantial sustenance, head to the eateries on buzzy, pedestrianised Stone Street – try Adrienne’s Pizza Bar (adriennes pizzabar.com) – while a good breakfast bet is the nearby Pearl Street Diner (212 Pearl Street). Two of the best stores for bargain designerwear are just around the corner, too – Century 21 (C21stores.com) and Syms (syms.com).
Take your seats for an entertainment experience that turns the streets of New York into a stage. An interactive, comedic take on the city bus tour, The Ride will have you laughing your way round the 75-minute route, featuring key central city sights accompanied by lots of facts. Watch the public’s reaction to seemingly impromptu street performances – and the gradual realisation that they are part of your entertainment.
The Plaza Athénée Spa
As part of a multimillion-dollar facelift, this classic New York hotel has transformed one floor of rooms into four sumptuous Asian themed spa suites – think grasscloth wallpaper, teak floors and ebony and bamboo accents. Each features a steam shower, dressing room and lounge chair, divided from the treatment area by floaty cream voile. You’ll find it hard not to drift off to sleep while being pampered on the silky sheets of the beds here.
The Lamb’s Club Restaurant and Bar
Treat yourself to cocktails and dinner in this elegantly executed homage to Gotham Deco. Set within the recently opened hotel The Chatwal in the theatre district, the restaurant has a red, black and chrome scheme and a glamorous ambience. Monochrome photos line the walls, recalling the Stanford White building’s previous incarnation as home of the theatre industry’s private club.
The excellent menu is a modern take on the bar and grill concept, featuring contemporary twists on classic American dishes.
Jewellery designer Erica Weiner opened her first shop in NoLita just a couple of weeks ago, a quirky showcase for her designs – necklaces, earrings and rings all for under £70. Her antique and vintage pieces from around the US include mourning lockets (with real hair), Art Deco engagement rings and Lucky Strike charms from the Depression era.
Melissa Smith, teacher
“Avoid large, touristy bars and clubs, where the cocktails are expensive. Instead, try more secret spots such as Death and Co, Little Branch and Pegu for classic, fresh-ingredient cocktails – and at half the price.”
Little Branch (001 212 929 4360); peguclub.com
How to get there
Simone Kane flew from London City to New York with British Airways (0844 493 0758; ba.com) on the business class-only service, fares from £2,185 return. BA flights from other London airports start at £347 return. She stayed with Leading Hotels of the World (00 800 2888 8882; lhw.com), whose portfolio includes The Chatwal, The Plaza Athénée and The Greenwich.
NYC & Co (nycgo.com). Hg2 New York (hg2.com).