Gentlemen, this is the big one. Unlike Paris or Rome, the flight alone takes some commitment so if you’re planning a trip to New York with your lady-friend there’s a good chance that you’ve reached the stage in your relationship where she no longer feels guilty dragging you around shops. If so, be prepared – New York is most definitely a ‘shopping’ occasion. That being a given, you’re probably considering a cheeky trip south to Atlantic City as a compromise. Don’t. It’s a hole. Focus your efforts on finding salvation on Manhattan and you’ll be rewarded in droves.
The best thing about Manhattan is that, providing you’re north of Ninth Street, you have to be a map-reading troglodyte to get lost. The island is divided into the simplest grid system imaginable. It was as if the New York Legislature predicted in 1811 the opening of Macy’s in 42 years time and the subsequent feuding couples searching for it in 200 years. Clever fellers. The result: Avenues go up, Streets go across; if you’re looking for 42nd Street going up and you reach 43rd, you’ve gone too far. Got it? Good! Then let’s begin.
The Chrysler Building & Grand Central Terminal
There are plenty of jokes to be made about US “History” most of which are seconded by level headed Americans themselves. However each of these is a spectacular example of early twentieth century architecture and rightfully belongs this first Getaway Guide category.
Most of you won’t have seen the Rom-Com Two Week’s Notice where this little anecdote is expounded by (who else?) Hugh Grant so it will be repeated here. Designed by architect William Van Alen the Chrysler Building was in direct competition with H. Craig Severance’s ‘40 Wall Street’ for the coveted title of ‘Tallest Building in the World.’ Prior to completion, both buildings stood about equal in height so Severance secretly increased the height of his building and announced completion as the tallest building in the world. Van Alen, upon hearing of this deception, honourably conspired to make a deception of his own machination. He gained permission to construct a 38 metre spire which he, then, put together inside the building and hoisted the whole thing up in 90minutes on 23RD October 1929, making it the new Tallest Building in the World. It kept this title for less than a year, sadly, when it was overtaken by the Empire State building but it still retains the title of ‘Tallest Steel Supported Brick Building in the World’ and every centimetre of its inimitable charm.
Grand Central Terminal is of equal merit and, if you’re itinerary doesn’t place you inside for transportation reasons, you should definitely visit for aesthetic reasons anyway. Built in 1913 it remains the largest train station in the world with 44 platforms and plans to become even bigger in 2016! Typically American already then! Inside is a stunning domed ceiling with the constellations of the zodiac as seen from above the earth rather than from it. The reason for this was because its designer, Paul Helleu, was actually following medieval manuscripts for his ‘modern’ artistry. The most inspiring aspect of this station, however, has to be the dedication at one of the south entrances to the main concourse. Reading: “To all those who with head, heart and hand toiled in the construction of this monument to the public service this is inscribed” singular in its secularism and lack of ‘Wartime’ connotation it reminds the visitor of what the Founding Father’s original hopes were for the ‘American Experiment.’
Now gentlemen, the first four categories of these guides will always be’ compromise-fodder’ for the modern man and this category for New York will be the most trying test of all. If you’re unfortunate enough to be enamoured with a ‘sports loather’ then the following justifications may aid your chances of watching some iconic events.
Firstly, the leviathans that house them. Metlife stadium, for example, is home to both the New York Giants and New York Jets and is a true testament to the American maxim “Bigger is Better!” Capable of housing 82, 566 fans but the seating is not what makes American sports so enormous! The stadia are veritable enclosed cities! There is so much to do away from the field/court/rink – by way of restaurants, bars and shops – you’ll begin to understand why the games go on so bally long but, never fear, with more LED T.V.’s than a pervert’s paradise, you’re unlikely to miss any of the action while wandering around.
Secondly, icons beget icons. Madison Square Garden is famous for showcasing the entertainment elite and most of them come back at a later date to watch the Knicks play basketball! Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Lindsay Lohan are all regulars at ‘The Garden’ and it’s unlikely you’ll be at a game which Spike Lee isn’t!
Finally, going to watch any sports in New York is part of the wholly ‘American’ experience. Nowhere do they live up to expectations more than ‘at a game.’ Loud, “high-five-y” and unerring, blusterous patriotism are all characteristics of ‘the American ethos’ and going to a sports event encapsulates this perfectly. Expect to leave a baseball game 90 minutes early but that’s ok! You’ll have put your girlfriend through 90minutes already and you’ll still beat the hoards leaving Yankee Stadium!
NFL Season: September to February
NBA Season: October to April
NHL Season: October to June
MLB Season: April to October
On 6th Avenue between 12th and 13th Street (see how easy that was to find?) Murray’s Bagels seems a little out of the way if you’re planning on staying around the main tourist traps but, if you want to try something more ‘authentic’ in New York then here’s an idea. New Yorkers love their bagels and, when you see the expansive selection, you’ll begin to get an idea of what all the fuss was about. More than for just a snack, however, the area where Murray’s Bagels resides is worth a visit. Greenwich Village is renowned for being the jump-off point for a number of famous actors and songwriters including the inimitable Bob Dylan. Murray’s Bagels is a great excuse to visit Greenwich Village or vice versa depending on your taste.
Meat Packing District
Yes, this definitely sounds like a euphemism but, if you can get past that, this could be a different take on your NYC experience. Those of you who read Condé Nast Traveller’s excellent article, on the penny-saving benefits of renting an apartment in NYC instead of a hotel, will have seen that this area on the West Side of Manhattan has some of the best offers for accommodation. Being New York, it’s got easy access to everything, but the Meat Packing District itself has a buzzing array of nightlife. Whether it’s a genuine New York bar kitted out with 3 T.V. screens per square metre, or cocktail bars that look like the bridge of the USS Enterprise, this area has the lot within walking distance. The clientele are equally varied; you can gawk at Yankee hats and severely underweight models you see walking around and thank your lucky stars your girlfriend doesn’t look like them … and, if she does, most of the places serve bulky American food too!
DON’T CLICK AWAY!! It’s almost certain that, as soon as you saw the word ‘Broadway’ you pictured Elton John prancing in lederhosen down a yellow brick road. But the fact remains that Broadway can be more than just a scene from the IT Crowd. Al Pacino, Denzel Washington and Chris Rock have all starred in a Broadway show in the past three years alone. And with shows like Will Ferrell’s You’re Welcome America, Parker & Stones The Book of Mormon and, of course, Spamalot it’s become infinitely more acceptable for blokes to ‘go to shows.’ Also it’s likely that, for your better half, ‘going to a Broadway show’ has been a lifelong ambition. Take your time, think about what you book and you’ll get major brownie points at the same time as watching something you’ll both enjoy!
New York, with its mixture of iconic places, things to do and romance, is undoubtedly a winning combination for any couple’s getaway. But it can be so much more than just frog-leaping shops up and down 5th Avenue and getting fleeced at restaurants in Times Square. These are things for sappy tourists, not savvy travellers. Man up, take this advice and make NYC your own!