9 January 2014

New York Travel Guide

We're finally updating our very first 2004 travel guide, to the 2014 New York guide. It's longer than most, so if you want to download it, use this link.

New York

Getting into Town (and back again)

At JFK, ignore the taxi touts. They will lie to you and cheat you.

You could take a SuperShuttle bus, but book in advance and only talk to the uniformed guys managing the Ground Transportation Desk. They will drop you to your door for a reasonable rate, and you get an early chance to see some sights on the way. You can also book your return trip at the same time.

But why pay over the odds? It’s so easy to get to Brooklyn or Manhattan for the price of one subway ride, plus the airport train.
Get on the AirTrain at JFK Terminal 7 towards Howard Beach, this has an additional $5 fare
Buy subway ticket (or use MTA pass – see below)
Get on the back of the A train here and go through to Broadway Junction.
Get off here, go up the stairs, go up the escalator, and over to the L Platform towards Manhattan.

At the end of your holiday, you may leave your suitcase at your hotel. But what if you’re in an apartment? There’s only one solution:

Luggage Storage – Schwartz Travel
355 W 36th St, between 8th & 9th Ave. – 2nd Floor
Close to MSG, Penn Station (West Side) & Port Authority
A.C.E. Subway stop, next to the Wyndham Hotel
Open Everyday: 8am - 11pm
34 W 46th St, between 5th & 6th Ave. –  4th Floor
Close to Times Square & Grand Central Terminal
Same Building as Via Brasil & Subway
Open Everyday: 8am - 11pm

Travelling from Penn Station back to JFK:
Take LIRR train, get off at Jamaica Station, $7 – it might cost more but it’s much quicker
Take AirTrain, get off at Terminal 7, $5

Somewhere to Sleep

It used to be so easy to rent an apartment in NYC. Now the law forbids holiday lets unless the landlord is resident. Don’t take the chance – you could arrive and find that your let was illegal.
We can’t recommend particular hotels, but we can recommend where we stayed:

Conselyea Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
2 minutes walk from Lorimer St subway stop on the L train
Because Brad and Sean (both professionals, with a lovely daughter) live in one of the 4 apartments, it’s perfectly legal. We took the 1st floor apartment, but you have 3 floors to choose from. There are supermarkets nearby and the kitchen is fully equipped. Check it out!

Getting Out

MTA 7-Day Unlimited Ride Card, $30 for unlimited subway and local bus rides until midnight on the seventh day following first usage
Use the subway. Use buses. Get on a ferry. Get on the Roosevelt Island cablecar. Explore!

Eating In or Out

On the corner of Bleeker Street and Broadway is Han’s Deli (245 Broadway) which has a self-serve salad bar and a hot buffet, with vegetarian, noodles, meat, and lots beside. You’d get more organic stuff at a Whole Foods but if you’re after a quick and cheap dinner, fill up a big container! We went back several times.

Reputedly the best pizza in town ... John's of Bleecker Street, 278 Bleecker St.

Noodles as good as Wagamama and just as stylish can be found at Republic, 37 Union Square West
It gets busy but if you don’t mind a short wait it is worth it. Delicious starters, Pad Thai, and more.

When we heard about Rice to Riches we couldn't believe it. A cafe that just sells rice pudding? But dozens of flavours… even a small portion will fill you right up.
37 Spring St at Mott St

Two Boots Pizza, Grand Central Station Dining Concourse, Lower Level
Even when everything is shutting down for the night, Two Boots stay open with some of the wackiest (and drunkest) patrons around. The TV shows the sports channels (we caught another baseball game, not as much fun as being there though) and the pizzas were amazing. Adam had “The Dude” – a Cajun bacon cheeseburger pizza pie! They have other locations around town, and a concession at Citifield.

Whole Foods Market
Choose from fresh salads, Asian food, sushi and curries. Put your choice in a plastic box and pay by weight.
Union Square South and other locations

Original SoupMan (aka Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi)
259A W 55th Street (between Broadway and 8th Avenue)
Fantastic fresh soup, go for the clam chowder, comes with bread and fruit and an NY attitude!

A selection of diners we have tried:

Bowery Diner
241 Bowery opposite Prince Street, just north of Bowery subway station
A bit different from the rough and ready diner, the food is little bit nouvelle though still delicious, and prices aren’t too pricey

Skylight Diner
407 W 34th Street at 9th Avenue, near Penn Station

Westway Diner
614 9th Avenue (between 43rd and 44th Streets), near the Port Authority Bus Station

Comfort Diner
214 East 45th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenue), between Grand Central Terminal and the UN

Brooklyn Diner
212 West 57th Street (between Broadway and 7th Ave), near Central Park
155 West 43rd Street and Broadway, just off Times Square

Shop Til You Drop

Big Department Stores:
Barneys New York, 660 Madison Ave at 61st St
Bloomingdale's, 1000 3rd Ave at 59th St and Lexington
Macy's, 151 W 34th St at 7th Ave
Saks Fifth Avenue
get a tourist discount card from these (showing your passport) with limited discounts

FAO Schwarz
767 5th Ave at 58th and 59th St
best toy shop in New York

Crate & Barrel
650 Madison Avenue at E 60th St
611 Broadway at Bleeker St
979 3rd Avenue at E 59th St
451 Broadway at Grand St
amazing homewares

Old Navy
503 Broadway at Broome St
144 W 34th St at 7th (Fashion) Ave
GAP-quality clothes but at much cheaper prices – stock up on tshirts, jeans, chinos and more – don’t buy all at once and you get a discount coupon on your next purchase!

Have a Rest

Bryant Park, 6th Ave between 40th and 42nd Streets. Round the back of the NY Public Library. Free wifi. Nice café.

Symphony Plaza, 8th Avenue and West 56th Street. Perfect if you are eating soup from the SoupMan – see above. Not too noisy and good seating. Watch the office workers and tourists pass you by.

Special Tips

Easter Sunday

Williamsburg Ascension Church, 127 Kent between Franklin St/Manhattan Ave
(walk or take line G to Greenpoint Avenue)
very welcoming, with post-service reception & desserts
Church of the Ascension, Fifth Ave at 10th St, Manhattan
traditional service (people dress quite smartly here) and a great welcome
Easter Parade 10am
Fifth Av from 49th to 57th Sts
bonnets optional!


Maybe like us you're a Seinfeld fan. In which case you have GOT to go on the Kramer's Reality Tour. Kenny Kramer, Larry David's ex-neighbour and the inspiration for Cosmo Kramer, runs his bus tour with all the Seinfeld sights. Book well in advance!

Baseball Game

This is unlike any other sport anywhere. Forget the game. It’s like a combination of pantomime, rounders, eating, patriotism, and more eating. Don’t worry about the scoring system. Or the fact that despite lasting for 4 hours the score is only 6-2. Just go, eat, enjoy, and eat some more!

Must-See Sights: Manhattan

Museum of City of New York
1220 Fifth Av (between 103rd-104th)
Subway 6 to 103rd St, open 10-18, $10

Grand Central Terminal
Tours: Audio Tour $7 from GCT Tour windows 9am-6pm
Municipal Art Society – tour window on Main Concourse – 12.30pm every day $20

Empire State Building
350 5th Ave at W 34th St
8am-2am $25
Whatever time of day or night you decide to go, you have got to do this once!

United Nations Building
1st Ave at 46th St
$16 for a tour, but we showed our passports and went in, saw some great exhibitions, visited the shop and café, and didn’t really need to see the General Assembly. Expect school groups aplenty.
Check http://visit.un.org/wcm/content/ as they are having building work done until 2015.

Federal Reserve Bank
This is one for nerds, the exhibition is good, the tour a little slow, but you get to see the gold deposits and the history of the US banking system.
Book a tour 2 weeks in advance at http://www.newyorkfed.org/aboutthefed/visiting.html
Meet at 44 Maiden Lane with ticket and passport

High Line
Best idea ever – an elevated railway that was ready to be demolished is turned into an elevated garden walk high above the Manhattan streets. See New York from a different angle, enjoy the space, the quiet, and the plants.
The south end is near 8th Ave subway on the L line. The north end is not really near anywhere, but Penn Station is closest.
It’s also handy for Chelsea Market, which has nice shops and eateries.

MOMATH: The National Museum of Mathematics
11 East 26th Street on 5th Ave
A pricey nerd visit but if you’re reading this you might be just the type!
10am–5pm, 7 days a week, $16

New York Public Library, Schwarzman Building
5th Ave at 42nd St
10-6 Tu We 10-8, Su 1-5
Free tours at 11am and 2pm daily

9/11 Memorial
You must get tickets in advance, and you purchase them at a different place to the memorial itself:
The Preview Site is at 20 Vesey Street between Church St and Broadway, round the corner from St Peter’s Church
If you haven’t bought tickets online, you can get them here, but there’s a queue. It opens at 9am so it’s worth getting there beforehand. If you need to pick up breakfast, there is two great Pret A Mangers just round the block: 100 Church Street, or 179 Broadway.
When you have your ticket, it’s 5 minutes walk to entry at 1 Albany Street at Greenwich St.
Daily, 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
The whole place is a building site so allow time to get through the traffic, and cross safely.

Lower East Side Tenement Museum
103 Orchard St (Broome-Delancey), Lower East Side, 10-18, $22
It offers tours of an apartment building recreating the 1870s and 1930s.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Av (82nd St), Upper East Side, Tu-Su 9.5-17.5, Fr Sa 9.5-21, Subway 4,5,6 to 86th St
They claim it costs $25 but it REALLY is optional. HONESTLY. Pay what you can afford, or what you think it’s worth. If you’re only popping in for a break, don’t pay full whack. They won’t be rude to you when you say “I’d like to pay this much”.

Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Av (89th), Upper East Side, 456 to 8th St
Fri-Wed 10-18, Sa 10-20

Whitney Museum of American Art
945 Madison Ave at 75th St (take 6 train to 77th)
Wed-Sun 11-6 (Fri to 9)
$18, or pay-what-you-wish Friday 6-9pm

MOMA – Museum of Modern Art
11 W 53rd St between 5th & 6th Aves
1000-1730 and Fridays until 2000
usually $25, free Fridays 4pm to 8pm, but the queues for this are horrendous – easier to pay!
Design store across the street, and another at 81 Spring Street in Soho, which are open M-Sa 1000-2000 and  Sunday 1100-1900

Must-See Sights: Brooklyn

New York Transit Museum
Boerum Pl, Tu-Fr 10-16 Sa Su 12-17,
Subway lines A,C,F,R to Jay St/MetroTech, or subway lines 2,3,4,5 to Borough Hall, $7
The only subway museum that’s actually a whole subway station in itself – with carriages from the past centuries on the original tracks!

Brooklyn Museum of Art
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington Ave

Artists & Fleas
70 North 7th Street between Kent & Wythe Avenues, 3 blocks from the Bedford Avenue L train
Indoor market near East River State Park (see Smorgasburg below)

Brooklyn Public Library
Grand Army Plaza, corner of Flatbush Avenue and Eastern Parkway


Atlantic Terminal Shopping Mall
Atlantic Ave at Flatbush Ave (Metro 2,3,4,5 Atlantic Av at Barclays Center)
best buys: Old Navy, Target, Uniqlo

826NYC/Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co
372 5th Ave at 5th St, Brooklyn
Part of a literacy project, your kid can also buy all of their superhero needs! Seriously!

Spoonbill & Sugartown bookstore
Bedford Avenue between N 4th and N 5th Aves

Williamsburg browsing streets:
North 6th Street
Metropolitan Avenue
Bedford Avenue
Berry Street
Wythe Avenue
Franklin Street


an open air food festival that happens each weekend from Spring to Autumn
East River State Park at N 7th St and Kent Ave
176 Lafayette Avenue (between Clermont and Vanderbilt)
80 North 5th Street at Wythe Avenue (Winter only)
Also hosts a great fleamarket, Brooklyn Flea

Corner Burger
381 5th Ave, Park Slope
10 different versions of poutine, including the classic Montreal original – chips, gravy and curds

Junior's Cheesecake
386 Flatbush Avenue Extension and DeKalb Avenue
home to the original 'New York Style' cheesecake

Kellogg’s Diner
514 Metropolitan Avenue, at Union Avenue, near Lorimer St subway
The diner near our apartment, which provided breakfast, dinner, shelter from the rain, and a great place to meet the local community. Great corned beef hash!

525 Grand Street, at Union Avenue, near Lorimer St and Metropolitan Av subways
authentic Mediterranean cuisine

Must-See Sights: The Islands


Ellis Island is more than just a stop on the Liberty Island ferry. Immigrants to America were kept here until processed, and even quarantined if necessary. It’s worth at least half a day’s visit, if you’re interested  in the history of American immigration, and you want to search for your own relatives.
Book tickets in advance at http://www.statuecruises.com/


Staten Island Ferry
Whitehall Terminal near South Ferry subway
free trip with great views of Statue of Liberty

When you arrive on the island, talk the footpath to the right of the terminal and walk up the hill turning left onto Wall Street. You will shortly reach the Island Museum on your right. This is like stepping back in time. There’s a “Wall of Weird”, a fluorescent mineral room, and some original sketches of the ferry from 100 years ago.

For details of other sights on the island, such as a fort and Historic Richmond Town, go to http://www.visitstatenisland.com/


This of course isn’t an island you get to by boat. Instead, take the F, D, N or Q lines from Manhattan or Brooklyn and get off at Coney Island Terminal, or other stops W 8th St NY Aquarium, or Brighton Beach (see below).

Damaged by storms in 2012, there is an enormous amount of heritage to visit here. We took bus 74 to the end of Mermaid Avenue, at the west end of the island, and then walked back along the (very windy) Boardwalk promenade. When you’re up to W 19th St, head inland and check out some of the more famous attractions:

Nathan’s Famous Hotdogs
1310 Surf Ave

Coney Island Museum
1208 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn, NY  at W 12st St

There are two big amusement parks, Luna Park and WonderWheel, right next door to each other. Both have lots of rides and stalls, and different pricing points. What you need to know: the free restrooms are in the Lunapark. FREE LOOS! You’ll need them. Thank us later.

If you carry on walking East past the Aquarium, or catch the subway another couple of stops, you come to Brighton Beach. This is not only chock-full of Russian émigrés, but has some amazing shops full of Russian gifts, clothing, books and DVDs. Check out St Petersburg at 230 Brighton Beach Avenue.

Must-See Sights: Queens

Queens has lots to offer, even if it seems relatively out of town.

The Queens Museum of Art has a fantastic scale model of Manhattan and the surrounding area - try to find your hotel! It also has good temporary exhibitions. Corona Park, Queens

Explore round the rest of the Park, site of the 1965 World's Fair. Marvel at the Unisphere. Flushing Meadows is nearby, where the tennis US Open happens each year.

There’s a Zoo, and also the New York Hall Of Science http://www.nysci.org/location/

Then get back on Line 7 and go to Flushing. This town has fantastic sights and shops, and one of the oldest buildings in New York, the Bowne Meeting House. http://www.bownehouse.org/

The best place to eat is Szechuan Gourmet, a really good Chinese restaurant. 135-15 37th Ave, between Main St and Princes St, 718 888 9388.
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