Spender Family Blog

K’s Mini-Tour Guide of NYC

Posted in Food, NYC by Andrew Spender on November 29, 2011

We’re often asked for recommendations in New York. K recently pulled together a few tips in an email, so I thought I’d share it here:

Central Park (morning and lunch)

– Enter Central Park at 60th Street and wander up iconic mall (Kramer vs Kramer!)  past the Boating lake (for row boats) and to the right for the Boathouse(model boats) and then exit the Park on East 72nd street to head to the Asia Society for lunch at East 70th street and Park Avenue  http://asiasociety.org/centers/new-york/garden-court-caf%C3%A9. reservations are recommended. You can then spend the afternoon wandering down Madison/5th Ave window shopping! Check our Sex and the City’s favourite store, Barney’s Madison Ave at 61st street.

Battery Park and Ellis Island (whole day)

is a must for first time visitors. Start or end your day at fairly nearby Bubby’s as I’m not sure of the restaurant options in the financial district. http://bubbys.com/tribecafacts.html

Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty http://www.ellisisland.org/genealogy/ellis_island_visiting.asp This is really worth the trip. You can get on a boat at Battery Park without booking in advance but you do need most of the day as it’s really interesting. Plus you get a great view of Statue of Liberty and get to look around it too. Afterwards you can walk north through Battery Park along the river and enjoy gelato at the http://www.worldfinancialcenter.com/ at Wintergarden and see the harbour. Or in the summer we sometimes grab a picnic from nearby Whole Foods http://wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/store-locations/?storeabbr=TRB which has amazing food options and eat by the river.

Sunday brunch and a museum– (1 day)

An UES institution, Sarabeth’s at 92nd street and Madison has a great brunch; over-hyped but a civilised way to start Sunday morning! delicious jams http://www.sarabethseast.com/ It’s a great location to combine with a visit to the Guggenheim at 87th St and 5th or Met at 82nd and 5th Ave. If you visit the Met make sure you go to the Roof Cafe Garden and Bar- great place for a drink combined with views and art and not well publicised. http://www.metmuseum.org/visit/dining/#RoofGardenCafe

High Line and cupcakes (afternoon)

We love the High Line http://www.thehighline.org/about/park-information and now with its new section opened a gentle stroll on a weekday morning (weekends are mad!) is quite relaxing. I like to combine this with a trip to Billy’s cupcakes http://www.billysbakerynyc.com/pages/Locations-and-Hours.html at 22nd St and 9th Avenue. Better cupcakes than Magnolia (in my vast nyc cupcakes experience) and no lines!

Nearby here is also Chelsea Market http://chelseamarket.com/ at around 16th Street and 9th Avenue (with huge Anthropologie store) and great place to browse.

Brooklyn Bridge and Pizza (afternoon and evening)

We’ve done this a few times and is a lovely way to see a little of Brooklyn and get a great view of the Manhattan skyline. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge from City Hall to Brooklyn. Once there head to Grimaldi’s pizza under the Brooklyn bridge- http://www.grimaldisnyc.com/p-i-z-z-a#!__p-i-z-z-a/vstc4=directions/vstc3=b-directions. It’s arguably the best pizza NYC pizza but this is hotly debated!! There is always a queue and no reservations so you can take it in turns whilst you check out the view. (try to go mid afternoon for a shorter line). After pizza walk up the hill directly opposite the front of Grimaldis and keep going onto Brooklyn Heights Promenade (the river should be on your right) http://nymag.com/listings/attraction/brooklyn_heights_promenade/ for an amazing view of Manhattan.  Walk along the promenade to the Montague street exit and walk all the way up Montague Street to the subway at Borough Hall to get the 4,5 train back to Manhattan (it’s really hard to find a cab in Brooklyn!)

Best explained on this map:


Empire State/ Rockefeller Center and Top of the Rock/ MOMA (one day)

– I prefer Top of the Rock http://www.topoftherocknyc.com/ to Empire State and it’s much easier to move around and take your time up there and take photos. Combined with the shops below Rockefeller Center this makes for a great outing. Ice skating opens again on October 8th. The Museum of Modern Art http://www.moma.org/ is near here at 50th Street and is lovely but depends how much you want to fit into one day!

Lord and Taylors is a more civilised department store is also near here on 5th Ave and 37th Street?, without the crowds of Macy’s and Bergdorff Goodman (5th avenue and 60th Street) is great for people watching and outrageous things that you pick up, look at the price and put straight back down again!

Grand Central Station and NY Public Library at Bryant Park (morning and lunch)

Catch the 4,5,6 to Grand Central enjoy the grandeur here and the Whispering Gallery underneath the station before walking West on 42nd Street to the New York Public Library and Bryant Park. The Reading Rooms are beautiful (as seen in Ghostbusters!) and it’s free to wander around. Combine with above or split into a couple of days. There’s a Le Pain Quotidien at 53rd and 5th or in Rockefeller  Center for best lunch eating options around here http://www.lepainquotidien.us/#/en_US/locations/new_york/midtown

Design Museum/ Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle and Jazz (West 60th and Central Park West) wet afternoon and evening

This is  basically a posh mall but great for a wet day. http://www.shopsatcolumbuscircle.com/info/TWC.cfm. Highly recommended is Bouchon Bakery on the top floor and also for an evening’s music with beautiful views there’s Jazz at the Lincoln Center here-http://www.jalc.org/concerts/c_calendar09.asp Opposite here is a great little Museum- The Museum of Art and Design http://www.madmuseum.org/. We’ve seen some great stuff here but check out the exhibitions before you go.

Or if the weather’s good you can hire bikes at Columbus Circle by the entrance to Central Park and explore the park.

Times Square Madness and Photographer’s Gallery (afternoon and evening)

International Center of Photography at 43rd Street and 6th Avenue has some great exhibitions and is a haven away from Times Square if you’re caught up in the crowds there. http://www.icp.org/visit. There’s a great website that we’ve used a couple of times for discounted Broadway shows at http://www.broadwaybox.com/ get the code and then turn up at the Box Office with it and buy your tickets there rather than buying them through the website- just in case! Once I did this and the theater offered us an even better deal. TKTS is the ticket booth like the one in Leicester Square but it can take hours and hours. Don’t know if it’ll still be on but Daniel Radcliffe’s been getting amazing reviews in “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.” Best Food recommendation here is to eat before you go! But if you really have to eat here then Shake Shack is OK on 8th Ave at 44th Street. http://www.shakeshack.com/.

Also The Times’ Square Exhibition Center comes recommended although we’ve not been they have touring exhibitions and the Titanic one last year got rave reviews. Now it’s Pompeii. http://www.discoverytsx.com/pompeii.

New York Botanic Gardens

http://www.nybg.org/-  beautiful and we had a lovely day here with Mum and Fred but it is a whole day as it’s a bit of a trek. It’s similar to Kew but not quite as good. It is a peaceful retreat from the City though if you want to escape for the day.

Grey Line Bus Tours

Good if the weather’s (morning) warm http://www.newyorksightseeing.com/ and a great start to someone’s visit to see the lie of the land.


A couple of great cinemas (with some history) in the city with good sight lines – Ziegfeld at West 54th street http://clearviewcinemas.com/cgi-bin/locations.cgi?id=042&flag=diplay_theatre and The Paris Theater http://theparistheatre.com/ just off 5th Avenue at West 58th Street.

Shopping (clothes mostly) and Flatiron (Day)

-Start at the Flatiron building at 23rd Street and 5th Ave/ Broadway intersection then visit Eataly (an Italian food emporium by celebrity chef Mario Batali) on the opposite corner before heading south on –5th Avenue to shop. 22nd Street to 14th Streets on 5th is where it’s considerably quieter and like a mini-highstreet you have all shops close at hand- J Crew,  Club Monaco, Gap, Banana Republic, Anthropologie, Kate Spade, Searle, Cole Haan and Sephora. City Bakery is a great stop for a coffee and famed cookie (18th Street between5th Ave and 6th Ave)

http://www.thecitybakery.com/. The Farmers Market might also be on at Union Square and also visit The Barnes and Noble bookshop on Union Square at around 18th St- for some peace and quiet and book browsing or the famous Strand Bookstore further down the Square for a bookstore that goes on forever at Broadway and East 12th Street (a favorite with Fred!). Opposite this is a great Chocolate Restaurant – a veritable haven for Chocoholics www.maxbrenner.com

-ABC Homestores at Broadway and 18th Street is my favourite store in the City. http://www.abchome.com/store/store/pc/viewCategories.asp. Mostly for browsing but always very pretty.

-Fish’s Eddy’s Almost opposite at 19th Street and Broadway is a great place to take visitors for Manhattan skyline tea towels, pots and crocks- tastefully done http://www.fishseddy.com/browse.cfm/2,102.html

And to eat brunch lunch or dinner try: http://www.acehotel.com/newyork/dining- great food and NYC hipster scene watching. The hotel itself is a also great place to grab a coffee and sit in their lobby.

East Village and Lower East Side (1 day)

There’s a ton of history here, which I find fascinating. There’s a great walking tour company called Lower Eastside History Project at http://leshp.org/walking-tours  This is great to combine with the Tenement Museum http://www.tenement.org/ but you need to book in advance as there’s a limited number of people they can take in a day. Dining options in the Lower East Side include Freeman’s (see below); Doughnut Plant at Grand Street http://www.doughnutplant.com/ ; and The Meatball Shop at 84 Stanton Street http://www.themeatballshop.com/index.php/menu#http://www.themeatballshop.com/index.php/specials  All brilliant and deliciousJ


As if I haven’t mentioned enough eateries. Here’s a few of our favourites:

-Balthazar http://www.balthazarny.com/

-Blue Ribbon- A real treat but worth the wait!  http://www.blueribbonrestaurants.com/rests_brass_man_main.htm

-The Standard Grill under the High Line -http://www.blueribbonrestaurants.com/rests_brass_man_main.htm

-Pizza to die for at Posto Pizza http://www.postothincrust.com/ at 18th and 2nd Avenue

-Breslin Bar and Dining Room at the Ace Hotel- http://www.acehotel.com/newyork/dining- great food and NYC hipster scene watching. The hotel itself is a also great place to grab a coffee and sit in their lobby.

-Freemans- http://www.freemansrestaurant.com/Restaurant.html reminds us of a pub in the Great Park! but this is in the heart of the Lower East Side. (good to combine with the Tenement Museum)

-ABC Kitchen http://www.abckitchennyc.com/- delicious, organic, local food.

-Peels for Brunch or lunch http://peelsnyc.com/ in Bowery/ Lower East Side

-Bagels- http://www.ess-a-bagel.com/ For a true, authentic NYC bagel experience. There’s one near Bryn’s school at East 21st Street and 1st Avenue boils and then bakes them fresh in the shop (don’t be put off by slightly dodgy exterior) chewy crunchy and a world away from the packaged supermarket variety. Bryn likes the veggie cream cheese, mine’s the egg salad. They’re huge so always share!

-Afternoon Tea at the Plaza, near Central Park – a treat but good! http://www.fairmont.com/theplaza/GuestServices/Restaurants/AfternoonTea.htm

-Afternoon Tea at the Crosby hotel, SoHo – more relaxed and I prefer but then no Central Park nearby- http://crosbystreethotel.com/index.php?page_id=31&sub_page_id=181

Also, I’m sure you’re aware but around the City all restaurants by law are required to display their hygiene rating on the door or front window. A is cleanest- C means avoid! Not Yet Rated means they’ve been rated and are in dispute so again best avoid!

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