There is no place more alive than Midtown Manhattan. It is busy, crowded, exciting and exhilarating. If this is your first trip to New York, you will probably spend most of your time here. Most of the attractions you will want to see are here and the most convenient hotels as well. The neighborhood tends to be extremely touristy, making the search for quality food and accommodations a challenge. This article will give you an idea of where to go to get the best of pretty much everything without sacrificing quality. It will let you in on the best tourist attractions, leaving out the overrated ones, and where to get the best nightcap. Read on to learn about the best of New York by neighborhood | Midtown.
What to See
Empire State Building: Need I say more? Once the tallest building in the world and certainly one of the most iconic, the Empire State building is a must see for anyone visiting New York City. The views are spectacular and the art deco details of this amazing skyscraper are awe-inspiring. Lines can be long but if you get tickets in advance or go off-peak, it’s not as bad. There is plenty to see on the way up so the time goes quickly and once you get to the top, you will know that the effort was completely worth it.
5th Avenue: Not only does 5th Avenue offer fabulous shopping (Tiffany, Bergdorf, Versace, oh, my!), but if you spend a day strolling up and down you will also take in other amazing sights. Start on 5th and 42nd Street and head North. The New York Public Library, Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral are all along the way. Stop and explore each location. Take your time and really take it all in. If shopping doesn’t interest you, you can still enjoy 5th Avenue without the crowds at night. There is a quiet calm while walking down this famous stretch after all the shops have closed. It’s truly magical.
Times Square: When you think of New York City, the first thing that comes to mind is Times Square with its chaos and excitement and oh, so much noise! It is definitely a sight to behold. A word of warning: the weirdos dressed in costume are just trying to scam you out of money. There may also be some half naked performers there (of the cowboy and dancer variety), just in case you have children in tow. Otherwise, it is worth the experience. There is a great empanada stand called Nuchas, in the middle of Times Square where you can sit and let the chaos flow around you. It is perfect for people watching and taking it all in. If you are a night owl, every night from 11:57 pm to midnight, Times Square comes alive, presenting the world’s largest digital art exhibition.
Broadway Show: There is nothing more New York than checking out a Broadway show. Try Stubhub for tickets or, if you don’t care which show you see, you can stand in line at the TKTS Booth in Times Square to buy two for one. Get there early because tickets to the more popular shows sell out quickly. The line may look painfully long, but once the booth opens up, it moves fast and there is no lack of entertainment in the middle of Times Square while you wait. The TKTS booth usually only shows a select few plays that change daily. Often times, they are not the most popular, so if you are dying to see Hamilton, you’d better get tickets well in advance.
Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum: Explore the world’s fasted jets and missile submarines at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. This massive aircraft carrier, just off the west side of Manhattan in the Hudson River, contains not only planes, but also the space shuttle Enterprise and a great NASA exhibit. Explore the the control rooms, bunks, and galleries where the crew of the Intrepid worked and slept.
Bryant Park: Bryant Park is just off of Times Square and backs up to the New York Public Library. It is a lovely oasis in the midst of massive sky scrapers, beeping horns and pushy pedestrians. Enjoy ice skating in the winter or a magical carousel ride in the summer. Depending on when you go, there are street performers, yoga or dance classes, story time for children or you can just relax on a bench with a good book.
MOMA: The MOMA, or Museum of Modern Art, is home to some of the most famous artists, photographers and installations in the world. See works by Jackson Pollock, Ansel Adams and Andy Warhol up close and in person. The special exhibitions are worth the extra ticket price and it is a great place to spend a rainy day.
42nd Street: If you walk East on 42nd Street, you will eventually come across Grand Central Terminal. Not only is this one of NYC’s most famous train stations, but it is also one of the most beautiful. It is home to Grand Central Market where you can peruse exotic and artisanal breads, meats, fruits and vegetables. There is a high-end food court when you get hungry or The Grand Central Oyster Bar is a great place to stop for nice dinner and a drink. Grand Central often has an art show or craft fair going on as well. Back on the street, if you continue on East 42nd St. for barely one block, the Chrysler Building will be on your left. The first of its kind, the Chrysler Building was the tallest building in the world for a mere 11 months, before the Empire State Building beat its record. The gargoyles, made of Chrysler car parts, loom overhead as the Chrysler building towers in its Art Deco glory. Still further East, you will eventually hit the East River and the United Nations. You can get tickets and take a tour of this fascinating international organization. Made up of 193 Member States, the UN focuses on world peace and security and human rights.
Where to Stay
The Peninsula New York: The Peninsula is a classy and luxurious hotel located in the heart of 5th Avenue. This beautiful hotel offers 5 star accommodations including a spa, indoor pool and rooftop restaurant. Rooms are spacious and opulent. The best of Manhattan is at your fingertips at this extravagant hotel fit for royalty. ($$$$)
W New York | Times Square: Situated conveniently in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, the W Hotel is as sleek and modern as Times Square itself. It boasts sweeping views of the city, a night club, two restaurants and a high-end clothing boutique. You don’t even have to leave the hotel to find entertainment! If you happen to be an SPG/ Marriott Bonvoy member, you can use points to pay for a room here, which is a huge savings. ($$$)
The Kitano New York: Tired of the hustle and bustle of Times Square? The Kitano New York is the place to stay. Situated just outside the chaos, in the quiet neighborhood of Murray Hill, this hotel is the perfect escape. It is still conveniently located to all that Midtown has to offer, but has more neighborhood charm. The Kitano offers valet parking and free WiFi, as well as three restaurants and a chocolate boutique. Relax after a long day of crowds, noise and excitement at this relaxing, Japanese inspired accommodation. ($$)
The Iroquois New York: This century old hotel has the classic elegance that you would expect, coupled with historic NYC hospitality and charm. Once the residence of prominent actors, celebrities, and artists, including James Dean, Leecy Woods, and The Clash, The Iroquois maintains the class and sophistication of times gone by while allowing for more modern conveniences. There is a lovely rooftop bar and restaurant with views of the city. ($$)
Refinery Hotel: Situated in the Garment District, just off of Times Square, Refinery Hotel is situated in the Colony Arcade—a former hat factory and Prohibition-era tea room. On display are more than 100 years of Garment District history. The rooms are high ceilings lofts with industrial details and distressed hardwood floors. The rooftop bar and restaurant is the perfect place to end the perfect day exploring this amazing city. ($$)
Casablanca Hotel by Library Hotel Collection: With its cozy wood-paneled lobby, this upscale Theater District hotel sits on a restaurant-lined side street less than a block from Times Square. Rooms are equipped with free Wi-Fi, DVD and CD players, plus flat-screen TVs and iPod docks. Suites have pull-out sofas and separate sitting areas. Soundproof windows minimize street noise and an extra $25 gets you, daily continental breakfast, all day refreshments in Rick’s Cafe, 3 hour evening wine & cheese reception, high-speed wireless internet, bottled water & evening turn down service, faxes and package service, passes to nearby New York Sports Club. ($$)
CitizenM New York Times Square: The CitizenM New York is an affordable way to get the most out of New York City. Located on the corner of Broadway and 50th Street, this vibrant, modern hotel is a short walk to Times Square and the Museum of Modern Art. The rooms may be compact, but you only need it for sleep when there is an amazing city to explore! CitizenM offers free Wi-Fi and smart TVs, plus floor-to-ceiling windows and rainfall shower heads. A trendy lobby, library, and 24-hour coffee shop gives plenty of common space to stretch out and relax. There’s also a rooftop guest-only bar and a gym with city views. ($)
Where to Eat
Little Collins: Little Collins is the perfect place to stop for a quick breakfast or lunch. Named after a street in Melbourne, Little Collins evokes the laid back Australian lifestyle. They offer tasty, no-frills drinks, “brekkies”, sandwiches and salads and the welcoming baristas will make you feel at home. ($$)
Best Bagel & Coffee: There is nothing more New York than an authentic NYC bagel. Best Bagel lives up to its name as a place to get one of the freshest and tastiest bagels around. They offer a wide variety of cream cheeses and toppings and will even make you an egg sandwich. It is the perfect place to grab breakfast on the run. ($)
The National: If you are looking for a more upscale dining experience, The National offers modern bistro cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner in a classy, yet comfortable atmosphere. Channel your inner New Yorker and treat yourself you a leisurely weekend brunch. Can you say no to blood orange ginger mimosas? I didn’t think so! ($$$)
Urbanspace Vanderbilt: Have a hard time deciding what you want to eat? Check out Urbanspace. This upscale food court features 20+ chef driven artisanal food concepts. From tacos to mac and cheese rolls, everyone in your party will find something they will rave about. ($$)
Alidoro: Alidoro offers some of the most hearty and delectable Italian sandwiches. Fresh baked bread and the finest ingredients make op 40 different mouth watering varieties. Try the Pinocchio or the Giovanni for a flavor sensation that you will not soon forget! ($$)
The Grill: Do you have a special occasion coming up and need the perfect spot to wine and dine that special someone? The Grill is just the place. It will take you back in time to when chop houses were elegant and sophisticated. Every detail is accounted for. They pride themselves on extensive table side preparation. It is glamorous, romantic and sophisticated- perfect for showing that special someone just how important they truly are. Reservations are a must so call early. ($$$$)
Bengal Tiger: Bengal Tiger serves some of the best rich and spicy Indian food in Midtown. Compact and cozy, this is the perfect place for a casual lunch or dinner. If you are exhausted from a day of walking and touring, pick some up on the way back to the hotel or even have them deliver. You will not be disappointed. ($$)
Empellon: Empellon is upscale Mexican with New York flair. The menu is ever-changing and focuses on seasonal fair. They offer a unique wine list of small production labels. The artisanal cocktails have been designed to pair specifically with the cuisine. Empellon is great for group dining but be sure to make reservations in advance. ($$$)
La Grenouille: Established in 1962, La Grenouille is a NYC staple serving authentic French cuisine. Celebrities such as Sir Laurence Olivier, Paul Newman, John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Mick Jagger, Madonna, Elton John, and Salvador Dali have dined here. Sit where the legends sat while sipping cocktails and sampling delectable French fair. Be sure to make a reservation. ($$$$)
Hudson Malone: Looking for something a little more low key? Hudson Malone is an old world saloon featuring upscale pub grub, beer and cocktails. Rustic interiors make you feel at home and only the best comfort food is served. Try the award-winning 3rd avenue “el” burger or a hearty salad. After a day of walking and touring, this will definitely hit the spot. ($$)
Totto Ramen Midtown East: There is nothing better than a bowl of piping hot ramen after a long, exhausting day. Quaint and casual, this place is perfect for a quick dinner or take out. Customize your ramen with numerous fresh toppings and ingredients. Vegetarian options are available. ($$)
Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant: Grand Central Oyster Bar is a New York institution. It is located in Grand Central Station, encased in the train station’s beautiful architecture. For over 100 years it has been serving the freshest oysters and seafood in New York City. It is a regular spot for daily commuters and NYC residents alike. Grand Central Oyster Bar is the perfect place to have a drink before taking the train home for the day or enjoy an elegant dinner with that special someone. Dinner reservations are required. ($$$)
Tony’s Di Napoli: Craving great Italian? Look no further than Tony’s Di Napoli. Serving up family style portions of all of your old world Italian favorites, this restaurant is perfect for large, hungry groups. Be aware that family style means massive plates of each entree that the entire table shares. It is easy to over order, so check out the surrounding tables to see how big the portions are before you make your final decision. Don’t forget to make advanced reservations. ($$)
Where to Drink
The Rum House: Looking for a little late night entertainment? The Rum House is a dimly lit piano bar where they play live jazz and pour tasty drinks. The burgundy leather clad booths, dark wood paneling and candle light make it the perfect atmosphere to sit back, relax and enjoy live music with a rum cocktail. ($$)
Pocketbar NYC: This intimate little bar (hence the name) offers beer and wine as well as sangria. The staff is friendly and accommodating and it is a regular watering hole for locals and the after work crowd. ($$)
Valhalla: Fancy cocktails not your thing? This low-key, rustic tavern offers a wide variety microbrews on tap and by the bottle. They offer 48 craft beers and over 40 varieties of foreign and domestic beer, as well as a full-service bar. There is also an appetizing bar menu if you get those late night cravings. ($$)
On the Rocks: On the Rocks serves and extensive menu of top shelf whiskey and bottled beer. Can’t decide what you want? Get a flight of whiskey or ask a member of the knowledgeable staff. Try to arrive a bit early because the bar is small and fills up quickly. ($$$) 696 10th Ave, New York, NY 10019
Bar Centrale: Located in a converted brownstone, Bar Centrale is a hidden gem in the Theater District. There is no sign so it is easy to miss. The venue is a cozy spot to grab a drink and has an extensive dinner menu. If you are lucky, you may run into some of Broadway’s biggest stars who tend to frequent this discreet hot spot. It is located at 324 W 46th St between 8th Ave & 9th Ave. ($$$)
Castell Rooftop Lounge: Castell Rooftop Lounge at the top of AC Hotel New York Times Square, offers potent, yet pricey drinks and amazing views of New York City. It is worth the expense of even one cocktail for the chance to take in the beauty of the city from this swanky, yet comfortable lounge. There is a cozy fireplace and overstuffed sofas for your relaxation and the open air terrace is adorned with plants and potted trees giving it a garden-like atmosphere. ($$$)
St. Cloud Social: Perched high atop the Knickerbocker Hotel, The St. Cloud Social offers indoor and outdoor seating options overlooking Times Square and amazing views of the Empire State Building. Enjoy dinner or just have a cocktail or craft beer while surrounded by greenery and the New York City skyline. ($$$)
Midtown Manhattan Through Time (America Through Time) By: Richard R. Panchyk
Reservations: If there is an opportunity to reserve a table in advance, do so. New York City is overpopulated and things fill up quickly. Don’t miss out!
Walk: Put on your walking shoes and explore on foot, take in the chaos, the melting pot of people living and working together, the noise and the smell. This is New York City, this is what makes it great! It’s pure and real!
Avoid Chains: New York has some of the best food in the world. Never had Indian? This is the place to try it. Experiment! Take risks! Try something new! You can go to Olive Garden when you get home.
CityPass: CityPass will get you into the top tourist attractions for a lower, group price. Check out their packages for great deals instead of buying attraction tickets a la carte.
Summing It Up
New York City can be overwhelming, exciting and exhausting, especially for a first timer. It is impossible to do everything, but you can hit the most important attractions, find the best food and party the night away without wasting any precious time, by using this list.
For more New York City inside tips, check out the other articles in this series: