It’s home to the Empire State Building, Central Park, $1 pizza slices, over 10,000 yellow taxis and 8.406 million people. It’s not surprising why New York continues its momentum for the most visited city in the world. The Empire State building, Central Park, Times Square are all great, fantastic in fact and you should definitely be sure to tick them off your bucket list but, it's when you go back for the return visits; that’s when you can discover more places that make this city great.
Being exposed to somewhere like New York is one thing that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. When you’re going back for the second, third or even fourth time, that’s when you really break through the outer ‘tourist’ shell. The trips where you don’t spend the first hour of the day studying a map and stop trying to see everything you can in only a few days and really relax and get amongst it all. It wasn’t until my third visit that I felt like I really saw New York with my eyes wide open and managed to fit in. For me it’s all about becoming a local. First of all I rented an apartment in Williamsburg which I booked through Airbnb so I could absorb the unique character of Brooklyn and be only a 20 minute walk from Manhattan. The owner was happy to give me advice and I was happy to pick his brains about where to go in the area. I was after those smaller places like a bike shop called ‘Different Spokes’ or probably the best brekkie bagel I have ever had at a little place around the corner called ‘Baguettaboutit’. These are places I would never have gone to by staying in a hotel in Manhattan.
While in Williamsburg, make sure you have a night out on Bedford Avenue. A mile-long stretch of eating, drinking and partying on one street. Start the night off with a feed at Briskettown. Vego’s beware as it’s a meat lover’s heaven, it won't disappoint and will set you up for the great night ahead. The punters out here on Bedford Avenue love a chat and just the sound of a foreign accent will have them wanting to know your story and where you’re from. It's the place to gain a new friend to show you around NYC.
Here’s a sneaky tip - the easiest way to get through the more crowded bars is to drop a big tip to the bartender early so he comes to YOU when you’re empty – you’ll thank me for that one.
New York is unique and fun and there are places that the locals try to keep hidden. On my last trip I was lucky enough to be introduced to La Esquina, a great option for a late night watering hole in the back of what looks like an old vintage diner at 114 Kenmare Street in lower Manhattan. What’s different with this city diner? You’ll find the amount of people coming in and disappearing through the back interesting. If you can call ahead and make a reservation you can follow and venture downstairs through the kitchen and into the low lit secret bar. Busy, but not overly packed, it has great relaxed music, candle lighting, Mexican street food and flowing margaritas. La Esquina is just one of many secret bars throughout New York. Head to The Blind Barber on the lower east side, Nublu in east village and without a doubt No Name Bar in Brooklyn. It’s a great bar with no advertising at all on the outside at 597 Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint. It’s frequented by waiting staff and chefs from nearby restaurants so you know it’s going to be good.
“Cocotte is one of my favourite places in New York and a real Soho gem” says Chris McCormack. Chris is one of many Australian’s now living in New York and is the Head Concierge at The Crosby Street Hotel. It’s his job to always know the best places to go in New York.
“Coccotte has a cool space and intimate yet is always energetic for dinner. The cuisine is Basque and serves tapas style food. Their wine list is small yet unique and well procured. Chef Sebastian has just opened ‘Trade Mark Burger’ next door to this venue should anyone want a bargain burger and fries for $10. Not to mention $3 Naragansett lagers or spiked shakes. Although brunch is relaxed, their menu is delish and well executed. For lunch they do a great value 3-course $22 pre fixe. Cocotte is under the radar, underrated and the antithesis of an underachiever." Not too bad for a little concierge tip.
For Rob Ashford, a very well established and successful theatre director of both Broadway and London’s West End, the High Line is one of his favourite things to do in New York City. This unusual walk has been built on a disused central railroad spur and is a definite 'must do' for any returning traveller. It's a beautiful 2.3km walk, a bit of a hidden treasure and one that may have been missed during a first trip to the city.
“I live on 28th street and there is an entrance right outside my door. Nature and architecture come together in the most profound way on the High Line. I end my walk at Cookshop, the farm-to-table restaurant where Richard, the Sommelier, always chooses a perfect bottle of red," said Ashford.
Even now with each visit I’m finding more and more places and meeting more and more locals. New York is a city that you must go back to again and again, it gets under your skin.