The Ultimate 10-Day NYC Itinerary
NYC is home to dazzling rooftop bars, impossibly chic restaurants, the world’s best jazz clubs, and enough cultural institutions to blow your mind. Make sure you see the best of them.
Rarely have I experienced a city that offers such stark contrast between the garish and sublime, refined and grungy, unapologetically loud and serene. For many of us, such contrast is exhausting, but for me it’s exhilarating. There’s no denying NYC is full of extremes and its energy has the power to completely transform us.
NYC is home to dazzling rooftop bars, impossibly chic restaurants, the world’s best jazz clubs, and enough cultural institutions to blow your mind. To help you navigate the city’s best, here’s the ultimate 10-day NYC itinerary.
Big Bus Tours
Three words: Big Bus Tours. Don’t be ashamed of doing touristy things when you’re a tourist. Get over it, get on a bus, and get a move on.
Big Bus New York offers Uptown, Downtown, Harlem and Brooklyn routes, each ranging from 1hr to 1.5hrs in duration, which run approximately every couple of hours. They all come with a live guide and seeing the city this way gives you the chance to take in all the main attractions before deciding on your favourites to revisit.
Barneys New York
This is on the itinerary just so you can drool over the shoes. Experiencing the flagship Barneys Madison Avenue store can be a religious experience and for good reason. The dedicated shoe floor spans 22,000 square feet and can most aptly be described as one of the most exquisite shoe galleries in the world.
8th Street Winecellar
NYC does so many things so well, including happy hour. Head to 8th Street Winecellar in Greenwich for a tipple to celebrate your first night in town. Think moody drinking den meets cosy dinner party and don’t let the name fool you either. 8th Street Winecellar’s got you covered when it comes to cocktails and specialty bourbons, scotches and ryes to keep you entertained too. Oh and the vino happy hour(s) runs from 5-7pm daily.
Put your best foot forward and walk Manhattan’s famous High Line. Elevated above the streets of West Side, the High Line’s a park built on a historic freight rail. The hybrid space – you’ll find outdoor sculpture, street art, amphitheatres, stalls and more along its course – was opened in 2009 and is one of the city’s most celebrated public spaces.
Brunch at Fairfax
Hidden among the leafy streets of Greenwich is where you’ll find Fairfax. Fuel your body with tasty breakfast options like the soft poached eggs and soldiers with herb butter and parmigiano (salt overload, be warned) or a Fairfax Burger and hydrate with some of NYC’s best drip coffee.
New York City Ballet, Lincoln Center Theatre
Seeing the New York City Ballet take the stage on home turf will set you back approximately AUD$150 for a decent ticket. If you’re a beginner, opt for a showcase performance such as the NYCB Classics to help you get acquainted with the work of Balanchine while also seeing contemporary styles coming from choreographers such as Pam Tanowitz and Justin Peck.
Dinner in Hell’s Kitchen
Walk down 8th or 9th Avenues until you hit one of Manhattan’s most bustling foodie destinations, Hell’s Kitchen. This is the area where many first-time restaurateurs try out new ideas, so there’s something for all palates. Bolivian, Uighur, American, Italian, Peruvian, Haitian, Venezuelan, Mexican, Japanese, Uzbek, Afgan, Thai and Cuban are all on offer. Want a side of live music and tasty mojitos? Try Guantanamera. Or if natural wine and classic American small plates are more your style head to Gloria.
Central Park bike ride
If you’re anything like us, you’ve timed your NYC trip to coincide with the glorious changing of the leaves. And what better way to take in the crisp Autumn air than by riding around Central Park? Sign-up to a guided tour to ensure you don’t miss the park’s hidden treasures like the Olmsted-designed waterfall and the many locations where famous movie scenes have been shot. Bike Rental Central Park run tours from AUD$40.
Joe’s Shanghai, Chinatown
Nothing can beat classic soup dumplings, wontons and pork pancakes dished up in NYC’s Chinatown. It might sound cliche, but Joe’s Shanghai is a melting pot of the diverse people and culture unified by the love of one thing: authentic Chinese food. The first Joe’s Shanghai was founded in Flushing in 1994 and their famous soup dumplings soon became the talk of NYC. Two more restaurants were set up — one in Chinatown, the other in Midtown — before the team expanded into Japan in 2008. An absolute must-visit.
Washington Square Park
Welcome to the battleground for chess enthusiasts and people watchers. Washington Square Park is home to the famous arch welcoming George Washington and serves its people in a number of ways. It’s a playground for dogs and local kids, a meeting place for artists, an Instagrammer’s dream, and its central fountain even provides sweet relief from the summer heat if you’re visiting mid-year.
Come here to see the world’s best comedians road test new bits and tear down the house with their roasts. On any given night, NYC’s Comedy Cellar plays host to a slew of up-and-comers and late-night circuit regulars. We were lucky enough to see comedy royalty Dave Attell take the mic alongside legends Chris Gethard (HBO) and Nick Dorsey (The Tonight Show). If luck’s on your side during a late night session, you may even get a celeb drop-in. Amy Schumer, Leslie Jones, Dave Chapelle, Jerry Seinfeld, and Chris Rock are among those who’ve surprised guests in the past.
Whether or not vintage is your style, a visit to Beacon’s Closet is worth your time. The clothes mecca is famed for its ‘buy, sell, trade’ model, with its four female founders — Lily Ciccarone, Carrie Peterson, Cindy Wheeler, and Beth Moon Burgess — embracing sustainable and ethical business practices. Locals and international audiences praise the chain for its killer shoe collection, so be sure to scavenge your way through.
Top of the Rock, 30 Rockefeller Center
The quintessential selfie-with-Empire-State-in-the-background journey starts here. Ascend 70 floors into the sky to the two-storey Top of the Rock Observation Deck (AUD$50) and experience breathtaking views of Manhattan and beyond.
While you’re at it, book in for an NBC Studio Tour for a glimpse of where the late night show magic happens. You’ll get behind-the-scenes access to studios where Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night With Seth Meyers and more. Tickets start at AUD$46.
Greenwich Village’s Blue Note opened in 1981 and is hands down one of the world’s best jazz clubs. Sultry jazz and blues from the best in the biz fills the space every night of the week. A word of warning: buy tickets early and arrive with plenty of time to eat, drink, and soak up the atmosphere. Can’t make an evening show? You’re in luck – Blue Note offers jazz brunches on the weekends.
Eighty years and three generations later, Zabar’s family business is still kicking. In 1934 Louis and Lillian Zabar opened up shop, introducing New Yorkers to quality delicacies like smoked fish, caviar, gnocchi, brie and sun-dried tomatoes. Don’t leave without trying Zabar’s Original New York Toasting Bagels.
Where to even start? The MET is home to 5,000 years’ worth of art from around the world. The museum’s collections are spread across three locations — The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer, and The Met Cloisters — so you’re better off getting a three day pass and making a real go of it. Or, if you’re feeling ambitious, you can attempt to knock them over in one day – just make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes.
If you’re after the biggest hits tour, get an audio guide and peruse famous works like ‘Self Portrait With A Straw’ (1887, Vincent Van Gogh), ‘Bridge Over A Pond With Lilies‘ (1899, Claude Monet), ‘Autumn Rhythm: Number 30‘ (1950, Jackson Pollock), and ‘The Persistence Of Memory‘ (1931, Salvador Dali). Don’t forget to head up to The Met’s Rooftop for sundowners and sunset views of Upper East Side.
Offering sweeping views of downtown and uptown Manhattan, the Arlo Rooftop at A.R.T. Nomad is the quintessential NYC moment you’ve been waiting for. Once up top, indulge in hand-crafted cocktails like the Forest Hills and Washington Heights while standing on the bar’s infamous glass floor.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s landmark building is host to a roster of exhibitions. Walk around the spiralling space and be mesmerised by the seamless blending of art and architecture. Current exhibitions include ‘Mapplethorpe Now‘ and ‘Artistic License: Six Takes On The Guggenheim Collection‘ (both showing until January 2020), with future exhibition ‘Basquait’s ‘Defacement’: The Untold Story‘ set to launch in June 2020.
Prince Street Pizza
Prince Street Pizza is somewhat of a NYC institution. According to many, it’s the only place to try a NYC square slice. Window-shop Prince Street’s many boutiques — think antique stores, perfumeries, bespoke jewellery stores, and beauty boutiques — before re-fuelling with a classic NYC slice. Original squares include: Prince Perfection Pie, Mercer Margherita Pie, Broadway Breadcrumb Pie, and Spicy Spring Pie (AUD$40-44 for a whole pizza). Other favourites include the Boozy Broome Pizza (vodka sauce and fresh mozzarella, AUD$4 per slice) and the Greene Machine Pizza (pesto sauce, mozzarella, ricotta and gaeta olives, AUD$5.5 per slice).
“To present extraordinary musicians, and to bring the transformative power of music to the widest possible audience,” runs the slogan. Carnegie Hall opened its doors in 1891 and has played host to some of the most spectacular performances the world over. Music greats such as Judy Garland, Duke Ellington, Bob Dylan and The Band among many others have all graced the stage, with a modern line-up sporting names like Rosanne Cash and Ry Cooder, The Cleveland Orchestra and more.
AIRE Ancient Baths
By now, you’re a week into your trip and probably in need of some R&R. Head to AIRE Ancient Baths to escape the brisk autumn air and treat yourself to the ultimate morning of relaxation. Experiences range from soaking in an ancient thermal bath followed by a massage (AUD$250-$350) to a series of high hydration and healing rituals (AUD$370-450, and wine bath experiences (AUD$820).
Tucked away in Nolita, this neighbourhood Italian will have you salivating for days. Rubirosa Ristorante is the stuff of your pizza dreams: vodka soaked bases, traditional toppings, serious cheese and a cosy, intimate vibe to top it off. Don’t go past the Rubirosa classic salad (arugula, tomato, mozzarella, pickled onion, croutons, parmigiano, AUD$23) for the perfect amount of pop and crunch.
After your lunch pitstop, head to MoMA for your fix of modern art. The highlights reel includes hero pieces from Cubism, the work of Henri Matisse and Claude Monet’s Lilies series. Don’t miss the sculpture garden as well and be sure to say hi to the Snowman for us
Chicago on Broadway
A trip to NYC wouldn’t be complete without seeing a show on Broadway. Chicago was our pick — who could look past it when Cuba Gooding Jr. was on the bill — and it didn’t disappoint. Be sure to peruse the official site for ticket options to all shows before booking.
Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is a quintessential NYC experience. The views out across the Hudson River towards Lady Liberty herself and back over lower Manhattan are breathtaking and you won’t want to miss this picture perfect opportunity.
L Train Vintage
Vintage fiends at the ready, Brooklyn’s good the goods. L Train Vintage‘s Bushwick edition is a two-storey emporium meaning you’ve got double the chance of finding vintage goodies to take home. They stock t-shirts, fur, kicks, handbags and more so there’s always plenty to sort through.
Westlight Rooftop Bar
Westlight Rooftop Bar is perched on the 22nd floor of The William Vale in Williamsburg. Here you’ll find a line-up of modern and classic cocktails on the menu alongside rare spirits, craft beer and wine. The fare? Chef Andrew Carmellini dishes up small plates inspired by global street food. But the booze and bites aren’t the star attraction; be sure to nab yourself a table on the outdoor terrace up top for prime sunset views.
Human cultures, the natural world and the universe collide at The American Museum of Natural History. Home to one of the world’s greatest exhibitions and scientific collections, the museum serves as a field guide to the entire planet. Museum highlights include the fossil halls (including two massive dinosaur halls), mammal halls, and the Irma and Paul Milstein Hall of Ocean Life.
Come here for a NYC power lunch. If you’re lucky, you might even see some celebs. Balthazar serves traditional French fare from breakfast through to supper each day, so it’s best you come hungry. Menu favourites include: macaroni au gratin (AUD$29), steak frites (AUD$57), beef stroganoff (AUD$37) and duck confit a l’orange (AUD$50). It’s a cosy hidey hole in the middle of NYC that’s reminiscent of Paris’ golden brasseries. Don’t miss it.
It’d be remiss of us not to encourage you to double down on some of the world’s best jazz during your visit to NYC. Dizzy’s Club is the Lincoln Centre’s intimate jazz club, also home to southern-inspired American food and craft cocktails. If you’re up for it, make sure you attend one of the club’s Late Night Sessions, or for the adventurous among us, a Late Night Dance Session. The rotating roster of artists changes each month, so you’re guaranteed to catch some of the city’s best local acts and international artists.
Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem is a shrine to the history of jazz. One of NYC’s most revered live music venues, Minton’s was established in 1938 by saxophonist Henry Minton and is much-adored around the world for being the first official home of Bebop. All the Greats took the stage here; Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Charlie Christian and Kenny Clarke were all regulars, while Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughn, Lester Young, Erroll Garner and Art Blakey all took the stage during their day too.
Harlem gospel walking tour
Harlem Heritage Tours offer a range of walking tours to help you get acquainted with the area’s incredible history. For us, it was the Harlem gospel walking tour and our guide Andy — a 90-year-old Harlemite who’d lived in the area for his entire life — that offered an experience we’ll truly never forget. You’ll want to dress to the nines for this one too; Sunday mass at the First Corinthian Baptist Church (like all churches in the area) is a bone-tingling combination of prayer and music with members of the congregation immaculately dressed. Prepare to settle in and bring a donation – services generally run between 1-3 hours, during which collection plates will be passed around several times. Photos and filming are strictly prohibited.
What’ll unfold thereafter, is an incredible lesson in African American history and its many contributions to global culture from visiting the Apollo Theatre and former President Bill Clinton’s, office to walking the same streets as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr did during the American civil rights movement of the ’50s and ’60s.
You can’t go to Harlem without a visit to the famed Red Rooster. First up, prepare to put your name down on the list and wait for a table if you’re visiting on a Sunday (the wait’s worth it we promise). This neighbourhood spot celebrates the roots of American cuisine to a soundtrack of blues and jazz. It’s heaving on Sunday mornings, the atmosphere abuzz with shimmying wait staff and diners bustling to get the best vantage point to dote on impossibly talented local musicians. Chow down on chicken and waffle or Mama’s breakfast pie (korean bbq oxtail, creamy potatoes and baked eggs, both AUD$25) to feel all warm and fuzzy inside. You won’t regret it.
Momofuku Ssam Bar
Congratulations, you’ve made it to day 10 of your whirlwind tour. Close things out by dining at one of the best in David Chang’s empire, Momofuku Ssam Bar in East Village. The eatery is masterful at dishing up Michelin-quality food in a casual setting and it’s hard to find a more New York place to eat. Executive chef Max Ng serves a mix of smaller dishes and large format meals, showcasing his Singaporean background.
Menu highlights include a selection of country hams on the brunch menu (Broadbent, Benton’s, Edwards Wigwam, Edwards Surryano ranging from AUD$20-30) to sizzling flatiron with mushrooms (AUD$45) and whole roasted fish with ginger-scallion (AUD$64) on the dinner menu, and a sophisticated wine list that focuses on Riesling and Gamay. Leave room for dessert though, because just across the road you’ll find Milk Bar founded by one of Chang’s understudies, Christina Tosi (watch the Chef’s Table episode if you haven’t already to fuel your anticipation).
Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar isn’t your average bakery. Famed for its crack pie (since renamed Milk Bar Pie), an accidental recipe created by Tosi in the wee hours after not being able to sleep, it’s been serving NYC’s dessert fiends since opening its doors in the tiny former laundromat in East Village in 2008. Tosi is known for her bold flavours and dedication to the cause. Don’t leave without trying Milk Bar classics such as the Confetti Cookies and a slice of the classic Birthday Cake. This, friend, is your ticket to leaving NYC on the highest of sugar highs.
(Lead image: Michael Discenza / Unsplash)
Published 30 June, 2019