"Start spreading the news", ole' blue eyes crooned...
New York, New York is a city so great it says its name twice. Nicknamed "The Big Apple" in 1971, the term was originally used in the 1920s and 1930s by jazz musicians as a way of saying, "There are many apples on the success tree, but when you pick New York City, you pick the Big Apple." It came to mean "the big time". It would take a lifetime to devour the entire Big Apple. Ask any New Yorker. He's still trying.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK: A CITY SO GREAT IT SAYS ITS NAME TWICE!
In the Big Apple, there are a number of neighborhoods that you must take a bite out of. The easiest, and quickest, way to do that is by taking a GrayLine Hop-on Hop-off bus tour. I am a fan of GrayLine Hop-on Hop-offs around the world, and let me offer you a tip. Sit on the right side of the bus for your first loop around the city. For a second time around, switch to the left side to see what you missed on the other side of the street. You will begin your tour by Times Square.
FORMER CINCINNATIAN ANDREW LAZAROW ON NASDAQ SIGN AT TIMES SQUARE
When you board the bus, I recommend you have the New York Pass and/or the New York City Pass books in hand. Both will give you access to attractions at a price that is far less than paying the regular admission fees. The Museum Of Modern Art (MoMA)…a must for devotees of modern art…is included in both books.
SCULPTURE GARDEN AT MoMA
The following are a few places at which you might want to hop-on and hop-off the GrayLine bus.
LOWER EAST SIDE: At the turn-of-the-century, the Lower East Side was no more than a slum that housed impoverished Jews from the ghettos of Eastern Europe. Today, it is a popular gentrified neighborhood for people who flock there hoping to buy discounted items and devour garlic-perfumed kosher food that is high in cholesterol and relatively low in price.
UPPER EAST SIDE: Once known as the Silk Stocking District, the Upper East Side is the area of Manhattan that lies between the East River and Central Park. Its real estate is among the highest priced in the world. And so are the prices in the shops
CHINATOWN: Chinatown is the site of a rich history that not only tells the story of the Chinese-American experience, but also that of early Irish, Jewish and Italian immigrants. Today, The streets of Chinatown provide a fascinating cultural experience.
CHINATOWN IS A FASCINATING CULTURAL EXPERIENCE
LITTLE ITALY: Walking beside narrow, cobblestoned streets …strolling beneath the fire escapes of turn-of-the-century tenements… one is transported back in time to the 19th and 20th century immigration of Italians to New York's lower East Side. Little Italy is a fun food neighborhood of colorful streets and interesting people.
GREENWICH VILLAGE and SOHO are kissing cousins related by the love of the arts. The Village, with its gracious old houses, friendly restaurants and funky shops, provides an historic setting for the arts. In SoHo, handsome cast iron buildings have been transformed into a cosmopolitan collection of smart galleries, engaging restaurants and boutiques.
HARLEM is not only a famous neighborhood, but it is a state of mind. The best way to see this community is on a well-organized tour. My GrayLine bus tour captured its history and milestones of jazz, hip-hop, gospel, and the art of Harlem.
THE HISTORIC APOLLO THEATER IN HARLEM
No trip to New York would be complete without strolling the Plaza at Rockefeller Center. The recumbent golden Prometheus, who looks down on ice skaters in the winter and cafe-goers in the summer, now has Jeff Koons' colossal 37-foot "Split Rocker" looking down on him. Similar to Koons' "Puppy" at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the "Split Rocker" is covered in more than 50,000 flowers.
FLOWER-LADEN "SPLIT ROCKER" LOOKS DOWN ON GILDED PROMETHEUS
When it comes to bedding down in Manhattan, there are two main categories of hotels: basic or boutique, and plain or posh. I recently experienced one from each category and both were great in their own way.
BOUTIQUE: THE QUIN, New York City's newest luxury lifestyle, boutique hotel, provides the sophisticated traveler a refined urban sanctuary. Situated on 57th Street, a short block away from Carnegie Hall, this elegant 17-story pre-War building has a history that is fully intertwined with an entire era of world-class music. The former Buckingham Hotel, once home to icons like Paderewski and Tebaldi, has been rechristened the Quin and re-imagined as a new luxury hotel where art, design and nature blend seamlessly to create a sanctuary from the city. The Quin delivers nothing less than the essence of New York in an atmosphere of serene elegance. The Quin-tessential boutique hotel!
SERENE SLUMBER AND UNDERSTATED ELEGANCE AT THE QUIN
POSH: THE NEW YORK PALACE, the palatial hotel facing the world-renowned St. Patrick's Cathedral, is much more than just another luxury hotel. It is a bit of New York history. The hotel's public spaces are housed in the reconstructed Villard Houses, a cluster of brownstone townhouses constructed in 1882. The hotel's Courtyard was the original Madison Avenue carriage entrance of the Villard Houses. Beyond the Courtyard, and the graceful arches of the cloister facade, is the entrance to the hotel's 2-story marble lobby. This regal hotel is surrounded by Madison Avenue's fashionable boutiques, Fifth Avenue's prestigious shops, and Park Avenue's architectural gems.
PALATIAL ELEGANCE AT THE NEW YORK PALACE
Dining in New York offers food from almost every country in the world and in almost every price range in the world. From the bright red and yellow food carts of the Halal Guys offering chicken and rice dishes, to the Wayfarer Seafood Grill in the Quin Hotel where I devoured a divine Big Eye Tuna with avocado and soy lime dressing along with other goodies.
At the summit of my dining spectrum was an exquisite dinner at THE CARLYLE RESTAURANT. Nestled within the Carlyle hotel, a pinnacle of luxury on New York's Upper East Side, the gracious setting transported me to an intimate English manor House. My divine dinner transported me to heaven.
THE ELEGANT CARLYLE RESTAURANT
Dinner at the Carlyle must be preceded, or followed, with a drink at the hotel's BEMELMANS BAR. The bar is a New York classic named in honor of Ludwig Bemelmans, a successful artist and the creator of the classic Madeline children's books. In exchange for a year and a half of accommodations at The Carlyle for himself and his family, Bemelmans transformed the hotel's bar with whimsical scenes of Central Park that included picnicking rabbits and ice skating elephants.
THE WHIMSICAL BEMELMANS BAR IN THE CARLYLE HOTEL
And, of course, one must not dine in such style without a great hairdo. I'll let you in on a little secret if you promise to keep it under your hat. For a price far less than that in any salon in Midtown Manhattan, you can get a new hairdo at DRYBAR. Just wash, blow, and go!
New York, New York…why do I love thee? Simply because you are the single most interesting, most vital, and most exciting city in the world.
JANET STEINBERG is an International Travel Consultant, Travel Writer, and the winner of 40 National Travel Writer Awards.