Well we got back not long ago from a very long weekend in NYC. I read this board and Chowhound a lot before I left but I didn't ask any questions. It was my third time in New York and my girlfriend's first time.
We stayed at the BW Bowery Hanbee at Grand & Bowery. It's a fantastic, friendly and quiet hotel. Some reviews say it's noisy but being on the 8th floor, we were never bothered by the noise. We live in downtown Toronto so noise doesn't bother us anyway. We also live very close to Chinatown in Toronto so staying in this hotel felt like a home away from home for us. I would highly recommend the BW Bowery Hanbee to anyone.
- Arrived at noon at JFK. We took the Air Train to the subway and got to Bowery station easily.
- Our room wasn't ready so we checked ours bags and went to Shake Shack at Madison Square Park for lunch. We both loved it and I had the best milkshake I'd ever had in my life.
- Walked back to the hotel along Broadway through Washington Square Park and SoHo.
- Relaxed at the hotel and went to Times Square in the evening.
- Got a cupcake from Magnolia at 30 Rockefeller Center.
- Late dinner at Lombardi's, which was near our hotel. Lombardi's was good but I've had better pizza in Toronto (Pizzeria Libretto!)
- Walked down to the financial district along Canal and through TriBeCa.
- Got a cupcake from Billy's Bakery.
- Wandered around the financial district and took the Staten Island Ferry.
- Subway up to the LES and Clinton St. Baking Co. for lunch.
- Wandered up 5th Ave. shopping.
- Went to the MoMa on free Friday nights... the place was a zoo. It was too busy to enjoy...we should've just paid the $20 to go another day. (Also, what's up with people taking pictures of themselves with the art?!?)
- Subway over to Turtle Bay area for dinner at Blue Smoke.
- Ate a bagel at Russ 'n Daughters for breakfast. Amazing!
- Walked over to Alphabet City along 8th and St. Mark's Place.
- Continued through Greenwich Village into the West Village and Chelsea.
- Ate a Fat Witch Brownie at the Chelsea Market, which was our favourite place in NYC. The brownie was okay, again, I've had better in Toronto.
- Walked back down Bleecker.
- Back to the hotel to relax and change.
- Early dinner at Artisanal.
- Avenue Q, which was the second time I had seen it (first time for my girlfriend). It's still a funny show. I saw in London a couple years ago... both performances were equally great.
- Ate some cheesecake from Junior's in Times Square.
- We loved the West Village so much we went back to a place called AOC for breakfast and walked along Bleecker again.
- Shopped in SoHo.
- Walked through Central Park to Columbus Circle taking our time.
- Shopped at FAO Shwartz and Bloomingdales.
- Black and White Cookie from Crumbs on 3rd. (*note, I saved a lot of these snacks for desserts... this day was particularly snack heavy)
- Dinner at Epistophy in NoLIta.
- We couldn't really decide what to do as we needed to be at LaGuardia for 2pm, so we just wandered some more.
- Wandered around SoHo again, up Park Ave to Grand Central Stn and visited 5th Ave again.
This was the first time I had visited NYC since moving to Toronto and since I started traveling more frequently. I had a totally different impression of the city from when I visited while living in a very small town. The first time I visited in May 2000, it rained the entire time. Then when I went again in February 2004, it was cold, snowy and miserable. I had never traveled anywhere during a high season, plus during a long weekend. The crowds everywhere got be annoying. We fight crowds at the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto when we do our grocery shopping or in the Entertainment District when we go shopping so doing the same thing on vacation can wear on you quickly.
It was probably multiplied by the fact our last vacation was to Iceland in the shoulder season, so crowds were non-existent. I found myself appreciating the emptiness of Reykjavik on a cold afternoon. Though it was great to finally visit NYC when the weather was beautiful, the crowds wore on me towards the end.
Our favourite neighourhoods were the West Village and Turtle Bay. It's been interesting to watch the financial district change from 2000 to 2004 and to now. The Chelsea Market was the best place we went in the city. It would be very dangerous to have it my in neighbourhood at home... a dozen or so places to eat and every one of them more delicious than the next.
The subway and streets were very easy to figure out. I had a subway map on my iPhone and I have the new 3GS, which has a compass. The compass made things so easy when getting out of a subway station and figuring out where we were. Unlike my trip to London, it was nice to get out of a subway station and not be totally clueless as to where I am.
I had never seen so many people with maps and guide books or seen the impact guide books have on restaurants. It was crazy to walk by Lombardi's or Clinton St. Baking Co. and see 20+ people waiting for a table all leafing through a guide book. I've never seen that before in my life, especially not in Toronto. I knew Lombardi's would be busy but I found about Clinton St. from Chowhound so I figured it would be all locals. I think everyone in there had an m&m's store bag or Tenement Museum bag. Regardless, they were both great meals.
The three best things we ate...
1. Pulled pork at Blue Smoke
2. Bagel and lox at Russ n' Daughters
3. A cupcake from Billy's Bakery
Let me say that I was shocked, totally shocked, that I liked a New York bagel better than a Montreal bagel. I didn't even want a New York bagel that much because I was so convinced that it would never match a Montreal bagel... I was very wrong! Russ n' Daughters blew us both away.
We loved all the restaurants we ate at and had excellent service everywhere. I can't say I had a bad meal or a bad snack from anywhere I ate. I don't think Magnolia is as bad as the locals say... I thought it was delicious but Billy's was the best. Furthermore, it was great to get a birch beer and sarsaparilla, as those are hard to find in Toronto.
Anyway, it was amazing trip... we loved exploring the neighbourhoods and eating delicious food. Hopefully we'll be back soon. Thanks to the experts for the helpful replies to other's threads and FAQs on this forum!