"I want to be a part of it, New York, New York." - Frank Sinatra
The Big Apple as New York is known, is the world's most intriguing city and certainly one of the world's best holidays. The famous sights of New York, including Times Square, Broadway and the Statue of Liberty are just great to be part of. And the shopping is superb, from the ritzy Fifth Avenue designer stores through to the affordable Greenwich Village. Since the 9/11 attack a decade ago, New Yorkers are friendlier and more thoughtful. Everywhere these days, you'll find people genuinely interested in helping you have a great holiday in the city that never sleeps. The New York mayor's crackdown on crime has resulted in a safe city where you can walk most places. This American city of 8 million on Manhattan Island runs from Harlem at the top, past the famous Central Park down through Times Square, through Soho to Wall Street. Just past the financial district, you can take a ferry to see the Statue of Liberty on nearby Staten Island. Since there are several cruises from New York, many visitors make visiting New York part of their vacation.
Times Square at night.
Central Park is a great base to see the city, with towering hotels lining the green oasis that so many New Yorkers flock to for relaxation. We found the Jumeirah Essex House Hotel to be the best value in New York City for location and luxury at a reasonable price. Right outside are horse-drawn carriages past Central Park, and inside, understated luxury in an historic hotel.
So where do you start in New York City? Allow yourself at least three days to even scratch the surface of this complex city that offers so much.
It's only a 5 minute walk from Central Park down to Times Square and Broadway, where seeing a play featuring famous actors is a must. For a great deal, go on performance day to a ticket booth for a last minute bargain. Make sure you see Times Square at night, packed with people admiring the neon high rise all around them. You can sit and have an al fresco meal or go inside one of New York's many famous diners for a uniquely New York experience.
Central Park horse-drawn carriages
You'll also find the famous Empire State Building nearby, with its rooftop viewing platform for a bird's eye view of this seductive city.
And New York boasts many of the world's finest restaurants. One of the best is on Madison Avenue called Eleven Madison Park, a Relais and Chateaux property with a Michelin-starred chef. More on that later.
To get your bearings in New York, take an open double decker bus tour past the famous New York landmarks. The Classic New York Tour on the Gray line big red bus allows you to hop on and hop off and takes at least 2 hours, $83 for adults and $60 for children. You can take the downtown loop from 7th Avenue to see Greenwich Village, Times Square, the Empire State Building, the cobblestone streets of Soho, Chinatown, Little Italy and more. The uptown loop from 8th Avenue includes Central Park, Fifth Avenue's famous shops and the Apollo Theatre.
St Patrick's Cathedral among Fifth Avenue shops.
Walking around New York City is fun. Take a walk through Central Park to see the peaceful lakes, bridges and even playgrounds in the middle of this high-rise metropolis. Or get driven around Central Park in an inexpensive horse drawn carriage or rickshaw-style bike tour.
Famous department stores including Bloomingdales and Barney's are at the bottom right hand corner of Central Park, near the always-packed Apple computer store. Across the road, take a look inside the expensive Plaza Hotel with its beautiful interior and plush new food hall.
From there you can head straight down Fifth Avenue past famous names like Tiffany's to Broadway and Times Square.
Nearby is Saks department store, while the famous Macy's is just below Times Square on Broadway. If you go to New York at the height of the summer heat on July 4th, you'll see the famous fireworks display, while Macy's also hosts the popular Thanskgiving Day street parade which started in New York back in 1924.
You'll find many electronics stores below Central Park too, but it's cheaper to go go downtown around Greenwich Village for bargains. Near Greenwich Village you'll also find Canal Street for cheap shopping bargains, but beware the quality at some places.
And the 9/11 Ground Zero site downtown is a must to remember how fragile life can be. It's remarkable to see how big an area around the demolished World Trade Centre has been affected. It's a big building site at present, with moving memorials on the outskirts but still sealed off in the middle.
Ground Zero in New York City.
The southern end of Central Park is a great place to base yourself as you head out into the adventure of New York City. Essex House is a landmark in New York, established in 1931 as a luxury hotel. In recent times it has been modernised by the Jumeirah Group which has a fine reputation for five star luxury including the Burj al Arab and Jumeirah Beach hotels in Dubai, and the Lowndes Hotel in London.
Jumeirah Essex House accommodation near New York's Central Park
Jumeirah Essex House accommodation near New York's Central Park
Jumeirah Essex House is nestled between the beauty of Central Park and the buzz of Broadway. It's also a New York landmark because of the famous Essex House sign on top, which can be seen from Central Park and beyond. This Manhattan landmark has just had $90 million spent on modernisation to pay homage to its classic Art Deco heritage. The classic interior features marble foyers and crystal chandeliers.
Five star dog-friendly hotel accommodation near New York's CBD
When you step into one of the gilded elevators and see the historic EH engraving on the floor, you know you're in classic company.
The views over Central Park from the rooms at Jumeirah Essex House are outstanding as you look at the peaceful green rectangle framed by high-rise hustle and bustle.
Room size is spacious, sometimes hard to find in New York. The beds are orthopaedic pillowtops for a heavenly night's sleep, while bedheads feature the latest fibre optics that change colour as you reach for the Bose entertainment system or watch the latest big flat-screen TVs. Even the lights are programmed to turn off when they detect no movement. And it's always a pleasure to find fine toiletries; the marble bathrooms here feature Cornelia signature toiletries from Fifth Avenue.
Essex House spacious accommodation with 21st century lighting.
Celebrities and world leaders stay at this exclusive hotel because of its elegance and ambience. And the staff are superb; from doormen to managers, they're friendly and eager to give you suggestions on where to go and what to see. Jumeirah Essex House recently won two awards at the World Travel Awards, as North America's leading business Hotel and the United States' leading business hotel, but its beauty lies in its ability to transform a good vacation into a great vacation.
Start at the South Gate restaurant overlooking Central Park, featuring celebrated chef Kerry Heffernan's Modern American cuisine.
The dining room at South Gate offers distinctive dishes sourced from local organic farms, fishermen and shellfish harvesters to ensure the finest and freshest ingredients for the ever-evolving menu.
Head from Central Park down 7th Avenue towards Times Square and stop at one of the many traditional New York diners with the world-weary waiters who almost have you believing you're in a New York movie. The famous Carnegie Deli is here, adorned with framed and signed photos of famous actors and world figures who've flocked there. You must try a New York pastrami sandwich here - two people will have great difficulty finishing one of them.
New York's famous Carnegie Deli.
For fine dining, head down to Madison Avenue to the famous 11 Madison Park, the Relais and Chateaux property featuring Michelin-starred chef Daniel Humm, named New York City's best chef in 2010.
For an appetiser, try the superb carrot marshmallow dusted with vinegar powder and ginger. It's accompanied by a crisp of black pepper sable, topped by foie gras torchon and a strawberry gelee, garnished with wild strawberry.
Fine dining at 11 Madison Park restaurant.
For a memorable main, try the Nova Scotia lobster lasagna with lemon verbena and heirloom squash. And you'll never forget the roasted organic chicken with farro, flavoured with cockscomb and sweet corn. For the perfect white wine pairing, try the Andre Perret 2008 from France, a blend of 85% Marsanne and 15% Rousanne.
In true French style, there's a serious Champagne trolley here, reminiscent of the world's best experience at Chateau les Crayeres in France's Champagne region.
Italians are well represented. For a good Italian restaurant in New York, go to Lattanzi Ristorante on West 46th Street. This is in a nice neighbourhood with a cheerful Italian interior. They even serve meals to cater for Jewish Italians. Tipping is a big part of the New York culture, so watch for the 20% they add to the bill for foreign tourists.
If you want a real Italian adventure, go over the bridge into the Bronx to Dominick's on Arthur Ave. This is a seriously Italian restaurant with no menus and no prices. Order whatever you want, and they can make it. If you're a nice person and you're not ostentatious, there's a good chance the bill will be cheaper than if you make a show.
New York is certainly one of the world's best holidays because of its atmosphere, its landmarks, its shopping and its people. And the food is fresh, fun and filling. Come here in summer to enjoy outdoor living at its best. Take a wander through Central Park or just walk down the famous streets including Fifth Avenue to experience New York's finest.
The photo at the top of this page is from Essex House one of the best hotels near New York's Central Park.
New York's Statue of Liberty seen from Battery Park.
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