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Off Duty: New York

Will Hawkes
Thursday 28 February 2008 01:00 GMT
Manhattan is buzzing with sightseeing opportunities
Manhattan is buzzing with sightseeing opportunities


New York is so full of thrills and new experiences that it would be a criminal waste of a transatlantic business trip not to take a bite out of this unique city. For fashion lovers, there's the new Gucci store ( on Fifth Avenue.

In true Big Apple style, this towering glass edifice claims to be 'the biggest Gucci store in the world' and, to celebrate its opening, a host of special New York-branded apparel is on offer for those who want to take home something a little swankier than a Yankees cap. When it comes to department stores, it's hard to beat Bloomingdales ( everything from children's clothes to jewellery to shoes and homeware is here, and most of it for much cheaper than you would find in the UK.

Broadway shows have been drawing tourists to New York for decades but that changed at the end of 2007 when a strike by stagehands virtually closed the famous old thoroughfare down. Thankfully, an agreement was reached and Broadway is back in full flow again. Young Frankenstein (, Mel Brooks’ latest effort, is the pick of the productions currently playing. For tickets to all shows, go to either of the TKTS booths, located in front of the New York Marriot Marquis Hotel and at the South Street Seaport (


The jewel in the crown of the city’s museums is the Metropolitan Museum of Art ( The sheer range of art, sculpture, glasswork, historical items and decorative art on show will take your breath away, and during 2008 there’s an extra special reason to visit: ‘Jeff Koons On The Roof’. Sculptures by the American artist will be on show in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden, which offers a spectacular view of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline.

Manhattan today is incredibly rich and exclusive, but that hasn’t always been the case. The Lower East Side, for example, was once the hub of the city’s large Jewish working class community and that history – as well as the history of New York’s many other immigrant communities - is remembered at the Tenement Museum ( The museum operates on a guided-tour only basis and booking ahead is advised

For a comprehensive look at the city, get on board a Circle Line Cruise ( at Pier 83 on the Hudson River. A three-hour tour circumnavigates Manhattan and you’ll get a great view of all of New York’s most famous sites - and some of its less famous ones too.


Eating in New York is a 24-hour business: this is the city, after all, that decided breakfast and lunch just weren’t cutting it and invented brunch instead. To get a real taste of that open-all-hours flavour, head to the 2nd Avenue Deli (, which, rather confusingly, is not situated on 2nd Avenue. Why? The original venue closed in 2006 following a dispute over rent. Plenty of grown men wept salty tears over that but their pain became joy at the end of last year when this NY institution re-opened in a new venue. Try the house-cured corned beef.

Fashion dictates much of what gets eaten in New York’s more exclusive venues but some places are oblivious to that. One such venue is Brooklyn’s Peter Luger Steak House (, whose porterhouse steak is a city institution. Equally impressive if less storied is L’Ecole, the restaurant of the French Culinary Institute in New York (

American beer has a terrible reputation that it no longer merits. Head for the Blind Tiger in Greenwich Village (212-462-4682), which offers a wide variety of microbrewery beers, including some from local legends the Brooklyn Brewery. For those who fancy something a soupcon more refined, try the Sajitos (sake mojitos) at the Orchid Lounge (212-254-4090), a worryingly chic Asian-themed bar in the Lower East Side.

After that you’ll need somewhere to lay your head and the Philippe Starck-designed Hudson Hotel ( fits the bill perfectly with its small but stylish and well-stocked rooms. A more boutique option is the wildly glamorous Mercer (, the sister hotel to Los Angeles’ legendary Chateau Marmont, which occupies six floors of a Romanesque-style building in Soho.


Many visitors to New York never get leave Manhattan but the four other boroughs offer plenty for the inquisitive traveller. A good way to get a taste for the rest of the city is to jump in a cab with Famous Fat Dave (, New York’s resident food expert. He’ll take you on a culinary tour of the city’s lesser-known food highlights from Sicilian rice balls in Brooklyn to jerk chicken in the Bronx.

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