New York City may be known as the city that never sleeps, but unfortunately humans do not have that luxury. Since you can’t spend 96 hours straight taking in all the incredible sights, sounds and tastes of the Big Apple, it can be a challenge to decide which slice of the city to experience first.
To help you out, I talked to Lauren H., a marketing executive at Marriott Vacation Club PulseSM, New York City. She’s lived in the City for seven years and loves its energy and variety.
“I think one of the most unique things about New York is its diversity,” she told me, “the diversity of the people who live here, the cultures you can experience by going to various neighborhoods, restaurants, art, theater and music events. There is literally something for everyone, and always something new to do, learn or see.”
Check out Lauren’s recommendations for making the most of a whirlwind New York City vacation:
Dinner at Becco
This Lidia Bastianich restaurant on Restaurant Row is Lauren’s go-to choice for a pre- or post-theater meal —particularly the $24.95 unlimited tableside service of three fresh pastas. “This changes every day, but is always to die for,” Lauren gushed. “Whenever I go, my date or I order this, then we order one entrée and share everything. It’s perfect.” But make reservations early — the restaurant fills up fast.
Attending a Broadway Show
After dinner, enjoy a world-class production in New York City’s vibrant Theatre District. On any given evening you can choose from dozens of plays, musicals and unique performances. You can try for discounted seats by signing up for the ticket lottery, or buy two-for-one tickets during NYC Broadway Week, January 17 – February 5. “There’s just something special and a little magical about seeing a show on Broadway,” Lauren said. “You’ll be singing for weeks afterward!”
Drinks at Don’t Tell Mama Piano Bar
Drink a dirty martini while listening to live music at this lively watering hole in the Theatre District. All the bartenders and servers have theater credits, and after 9 p.m. they take turns singing with keyboard accompaniment — plus there’s an open mic for audience members who want to join in the fun. “I have a blast whenever I go,” Lauren told me.
Brunch at Parker and Quinn
Don’t miss weekend brunch at this 1920s’-themed eatery in the Garment District, which offers bloody Mary and mimosa boards that help you customize your brunch drink of choice. And the food’s delicious, too — Lauren suggests tucking into some cheddar bacon grits or caramelized apple French toast.
Getting a Great Skyline View
To soak up the skyline, ascend to the open-air observatory on the 86th floor of the iconic Empire State Building, or board a manual elevator up to the indoor top deck on the 102nd floor. If you’re seeking a vista that includes the Empire State Building, head to the Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center. For great views of Central Park (and fun photo ops), visit Belvedere Castle. Wherever you go, get your tickets online in advance.
Exploring the Museums
You could spend four days in New York City simple exploring its fascinating museums — from the renowned Metropolitan Museum of Art, to the Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, to the quirky Museum of Modern Art. Plus, many of the museums are located adjacent to Central Park, giving you the perfect excuse to go for a stroll. Lauren’s insider tip: Check if your museum of choice has free or suggested donation hours.
Dinner at Grand Central Oyster Bar
After delving into arts and culture, savor a meal at Grand Central Station’s oldest restaurant. This beloved seafood spot boasts an award-winning wine list, up to 30 types of oysters and 25 types of fish, and an old-school New York feel. Along with the fresh oysters, Lauren’s favorite dishes are the branzino with bacon gorgonzola butter and the pan-seared salmon with lemon wine sauce.
Breakfast at The Smith
Lauren likes to take family and friends to breakfast or brunch at the NoMad location of this local American Brasserie chain, citing its consistently good food and service. “I love the vibe here,” she said. “It’s lively and fun but classy at the same time.” The menu includes unique options like breakfast pot pie and monkey bread with toffee glaze.
Visiting the 9/11 Museum and Memorial
Lauren recommends that every visitor spend some time at the museum and memorial built on the foundation of the twin towers. Afterward, you can experience breathtaking 360-degree city views at the new One World Observatory, a 100th-floor observation deck. “This is the perfect activity to take in after visiting the 9/11 museum,” she said. “It’s very uplifting.”
Strolling along the Brooklyn Bridge
Wander along the Brooklyn Bridge for a scenic vantage point of the city. You can enter the bridge near City Hall and spend an hour or so walking across (but don’t forget to take layers, it might get chilly!). Once you reach the other side and the hip Dumbo neighborhood, why not chow down on famous Brooklyn pizza for dinner – plus you’ll find plenty of boutiques and parks to explore.
Drinks at Top of the Standard
Back in Manhattan, round out the day in the Meatpacking District with a cocktail at this penthouse lounge atop the swanky Standard Hotel. Dress to impress and enjoy creative cocktails in an elegant atmosphere with spectacular views and live jazz. It’s such a trendy place that you’ll want to make a reservation — and be prepared to wait in line to get in.
Going Ice Skating
Ice skating in New York is quintessential winter fun and an unforgettable experience. The Central Park rink is surrounded by trees and skyline views, the Brookfield Place rink is on the waterfront, and the Bryant Park and Rockefeller Center rinks are accompanied by pop-up shops and food vendors. “All these locations are unique because they’re outdoors and allow you to take in wonderful views of the city,” Lauren told me.
Lunch at Mari Vanna
Finish your fun-filled city getaway at this charming, homey Russian restaurant in the Flatiron District. At the top of Lauren’s list are the veal pelmeni (handmade dumplings), potato vereniki and blinis with caviar. The restaurant also serves up various flavors of house-made infused vodkas, as well as a fantastic Sunday brunch.
Where to Stay: