The Big Apple is chock-a-block with famous landmarks and delicious delis. Francine Wolfisz visits with her family.
New York, New York – according to the old adage, it’s the city so nice they named it twice – and this sprawling East Coast metropolis certainly lives up to its sobriquet. For no matter how many times you may have visited before, there are always new experiences to be had in the most populous city in the United States.
Touching down into Newark on a cold December afternoon, made colder still by New York’s famously icy wind factor (but by no means on the scale of the “Arctic vortex” that would begin to hit just as we were leaving), our first port of call was The Tuscany.
Situated in Murray Hill, away from the hubbub of more touristy spots nearby, this St Giles Luxury Hotel recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation and reopened at the end of 2012. It’s a sister hotel to The Court, located next door, which boasts a 24-hour fitness centre and concierge, and guests are welcome to mingle between the two.
The Tuscany has a contemporary and sophisticated feel, with an emphasis on making visitors feel right at home.
The two major bugbears of travellers to New York are not having enough space or light – something The Tuscany has put much thought into rectifying. Whereas the average New York hotel offers 200sqft, all 124 rooms in The Tuscany are at least double that – at a spacious 400sqft – and the ceilings have been lifted by 1.5ft.
Meanwhile additional designer lighting has been installed throughout the apartments. The bathrooms, kitted out with trendy Molten Brown toiletries, are also larger than average.
But the clincher for me was the fabulous view of the New York skyline that greeted us every morning, thanks to the hotel’s close location to both The Empire State Building and Chrysler Building.
In fact, the hotel is well-suited to a number of New York’s best attractions and is around a 10-minute walk from Times Square and the retail end of Fifth Avenue.
Ranked as one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world, we marvelled at the incredible luxury store fronts kitted out for the festive season, from Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co and Gucci to Prada, Cartier and Versace. But the real showstopper – or literal street-stopper – belonged to the dramatic 3D light show projected onto the façade of Saks Fifth Avenue.
Through a custom-built, six projector system, throngs of tourists looked up in amazement to see giant snowflakes, ice skaters, gifts and even a Yeti taking over this historic department store.
As we walked on, we passed the heaving crowds close to the Rockefeller Centre, where a giant Norway spruce is traditionally erected for Christmas each year, and journeyed to that other family-friendly place of pilgrimage made by many a New York tourist and just perfect for entertaining youngsters – FAO Schwarz on 58th and Fifth.
Opened more than 150 years ago, the oldest toy store in the United States gives Hamleys a serious run for its money. Packed with all the must-have cuddly toys, gadgets and a rather large (and dangerous for parents of sweet-toothed children) candy store to the rear of the ground floor, FAO Schwarz is also of course known for its giant floor piano.
My nearly three-year-old daughter had a whale of time running up and down the keyboard, made famous by the duet performed by Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia in the 1988 film, Big.
After prising our little one away from the store (where she literally could have spent the whole day), we stopped for a bite to eat at The Great American Health Bar, on nearby West 57th Street. The service was great and the menu, which is strictly kosher, is extensive, offering a wide range of salads, soups, pastas and omelettes.
In fact, there are a number of great Kosher eateries in Manhattan – not surprising given that New York is home to the largest Jewish population outside Israel. Another spot we liked was My Most Favourite Food, located just the other side of Central Park on West 72nd Street, which has a large selection of salads and pasta dishes (perfect if your little one is a fussy eater) and a nice array of patisseries and desserts.
For something a little different, we eschewed the usual bagel cafes for breakfast one morning and instead visited Ellen’s Stardust Diner on Broadway. In this retro 1950s restaurant you can (briefly) forget the diet and enjoy stacked pancakes, omelettes or eggs, any way you like, jumbo sandwiches, milkshakes and all that other good ol’ American food, whilst being entertained by the singing waitstaff.
Apparently many of these musical stars in the making have gone on to feature in major Broadway productions and instead of leaving tips, customers are asked to donate towards their singing and acting classes!
When we weren’t enjoying all the wonderful gastronomic delights New York has to offer, we continued exploring this fabulous city – and there was one place we certainly wanted to include on our itinerary before it was time to leave – One World Trade Center.
This 104-storey superstructure stands on the site of the original World Trade Center, which was demolished following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.
At 1,776 feet tall (a numerical reference to the year of the Declaration of Independence), the building is set to be the tallest building in the US and the fourth-tallest skyscraper in the world when it opens in the coming months.
During our last visit to New York in 2009, we visited Ground Zero and were appalled to see the vast scale of Ground Zero.
But our visit five years later was heart-warming, as we saw the skyscraper literally rising from the ashes, defiantly and proudly taking their place among the ever-changing New York skyline.
Francine travelled direct from London Heathrow to Newark Liberty International via United Airlines. Details: www.united.com
The Tuscany: http://tuscany.stgilesnewyork.com/