With a cultural map in one hand and a culinary compass in the other, savor the treasured sights then seek the nearby local delectable bites.
If only for a visit, take a tip from Frank Sinatra and become part of one of the world’s greatest cities. New York serves it all—from casual to haute cuisine, eclectic to ethnic dishes, coffee to cocktails—amid magnificent museums, dazzling department stores, Broadway lights, and pretty parks.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Central Park
The Met features a stellar international array of renowned art, while Central Park is the city’s parkland oasis, with hidden treasures like fountains and fields to enjoy and explore. Both, in their own way, highlight mazes of beauty and wonder. Given the Met’s location on the east side of the park, you can begin the day outside and finish it at the museum.
Classic food option: Central Park is New York City’s beautiful backyard, with numerous nooks and crannies to discover. If you spend the morning at the Met, pop into nearby E.A.T. for hearty sandwiches, soups, salads, and desserts to enjoy on a picnic in the park. Or splurge a little at the park’s Loeb Boathouse, where you can sit at the outside bar or dine in the Lake Restaurant.
Trendy food option: Believe it or not, there are three trendy foodie opportunities right in the museum. For lunch or quaint afternoon tea, try the Petrie Court Café at the back of the first-floor European Sculpture Court. On Fridays and Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., visitors can enjoy cocktails and appetizers while listening to live classical music in the Great Hall Balcony Bar. Head to the Roof Garden Café from May to October to have a drink while taking in views of Central Park and the city skyline.
Unexpected food option: The Upper East Side is one of the ritziest parts of Manhattan. If you prefer uptown ambience without through-the-roof prices, the townhouse setting of Grazie fits the bill. Enjoy authentic Italian dishes paired with wine, before or after a museum visit or stroll in the park.
Times Square and Broadway
The lights at night shine bright at this famous Big Apple intersection buzzing with bustling crowds. Originally named for the New York Times, this part of Broadway may flash big-brand billboards, but it remains the heart of the theater district. For pre- and post-show dining, avoid the restaurant chains. Good bites are just a few steps away from the frenzy.
Classic food option: The celebrity caricatures on the wall are a sign that Sardi’s has been a toast of the theater district since 1927—and remains popular. The star menu attractions are the stuffed cannelloni or New York steak. Since 1965, Joe Allen has been a Broadway haven for actors and audiences who respect a great burger and other American classics.
Trendy food option: For a drink before or after the show, seek out The Rum House, a wood-paneled bar that’s full of swank and sway, with live piano music. Rum rules, but all cocktails rock. It’s close but oh so far away from the Times Square cacophony.
Unexpected food option: Just a few blocks away in Hell’s Kitchen, small ethnic restaurants are heavenly. The sublime choice for a meal with zing is Danji, a tiny Korean haunt. Chef Hooni Kim is no slouch, adding inventive touches to traditional dishes. Try the trio of kimchi or the scallion and pepper mini-pancakes. The menu is divided into modern and traditional fare, so patrons can mix and match.
A village within a city is the best way to describe this lively bohemian neighborhood. New York University is situated here, yet the true area stars are Bleecker Street, Houston Street, and Washington Square Park with its memorial arch. Coffee haunts, charming eateries, bars, and jazz clubs keep its shabby chic vibe alive.
Classic food option: Coffeehouses have been meet-and-greet venues since long before Starbucks came on the scene. Caffe Reggio is an original classic that has been brewing java since the 1920s. They still make a mean espresso and claim to have introduced New York City to cappuccinos, created with their eye-catching chrome and bronze machine. Breakfast, lunch, and sweets beckon. For an American classic with a nutty twist, check out the Peanut Butter and Co. sandwich shop. On offer is the standard PB&J, as well as many other unique blends such as the Elvis (banana, honey, and peanut butter). Pair a sandwich with a milkshake and peanut butter cookies for dessert. For classic jazz and supper, hit the legendary Blue Note, or enjoy steak with a side of jazz on a weekend night at the Knickerbocker Bar and Grill.
Trendy food option: The farm-to-table movement is more popular than ever, and mouthwatering modern-American bistro Blue Hill takes it from start to finish with impeccably prepared organic ingredients presented by knowledgeable and attentive staff. At Peculier Pub, beers, brews, and ales of all kinds can be sipped until 4 a.m. on weekends.
Unexpected food option: Caribbean culture and cuisine shine inside the bright-yellow storefront of Miss Lily’s. Jamaican flavor and flair find their way into lunch or dinner specials like jerk chicken or pork, plantains, and her famous coconut-covered corn on the cob. Wash it down with Miss Lily’s potent punch. Weekend brunch highlights include feisty Jamaican rancheros or luscious coconut pancakes.
Little Italy sprouted in the 1890s, when waves of Italian immigrants clustered together in their new homeland. “Viva Italia” was certainly the motto of this Lower Manhattan neighborhood where pizza, pasta, and bakery businesses thrived. Today, parts of it may feel more past than present, but that’s part of its intrigue. Mulberry and Grand are two core streets for strolling and discovering iconic shops and restaurants. Many people flock to the area in September for the annual Feast of San Gennaro street fair.
Classic food option: Talk about a story of sweet success. Iconic Italian bakery and café Ferrara opened in 1892 and continues to serve delicious classics like biscotti, cannoli, cream puffs, and tiramisu. Newer standouts include a baba au rhum brioche and homemade gelato. For lunch or dinner try Rubirosa, a classic, trattoria-style restaurant that honors Old World dishes in a New World way. Enjoy terrific thin-crusted pizza (gluten-free options available) or pristine pasta and meatballs.
Trendy food option: Casual-hip Parm makes everything parmesan-perfect. Try the mouthwatering meatball or chicken parmesan sandwiches. The Mulberry Project, a tucked-away lounge with a “hidden” red door, serves up cool craft cocktails and a trendy scene.
Unexpected food option: Warehouse turned restaurant Public offers a delicious dining experience in a unique setting. Chef Brad Farmerie’s global menu and innovative dishes reflect his years of travel in Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. His phenomenal wild-game dishes have earned the eatery a Michelin star. Directly adjacent to Public is their separate bar, The Daily, offering small bites and daily cocktail creations.
Statue of Liberty
Dedicated in 1886, Lady Liberty stands proud and very tall, holding her torch high over New York Harbor. Take the ferry from Battery Park to Liberty Island to get personally acquainted. The statue’s pedestal features a museum and an observation deck with fantastic city views. The crown is accessed via a double-spiral staircase. Visits to both the pedestal and crown require advance reservations.
Classic food option: At Pier A Harbor House, it’s all about the views. Battery Park’s historic Pier A, a designated New York City landmark, was once a target for demolition but has since been reborn as a multilevel dining and event destination. Enjoy panoramic water views while sampling oysters, pub fare, and craft beer at the Long Hall and Oyster Bar on the lower level, or opt for fine dining and intimate cocktails on the second floor.
Trendy food option: Located on the riverbank a short walk from Battery Park, Hudson Eats makes an ideal stop before or after a Liberty Island visit. The sleek, upscale food court inside the Brookfield Place shopping center takes mall dining to the next level with fast-casual outposts of trendy chains like Num Pang and Dos Toros—all served up with Hudson views. Try Tartinery for open-faced gourmet sandwiches, Mighty Quinn’s for barbecue, and Northern Tiger for farm-to-table Chinese.
Unexpected food option: If you’re still in the mood for cultural history after your time with Lady Liberty, the Fraunces Tavern Museum on Pearl Street is the perfect spot. Sitting a few blocks from the pier, the 18th-century tavern is restored to look as it did when George Washington said goodbye to his troops there. Items from the Revolutionary War are exhibited upstairs, while lunch, dinner, and bar fare are served in its downstairs rooms. Potpie, fish and chips, and chowder are specialties. If you’re in the mood for international fare, local Swedish coffee chain FIKA has a branch just up the street. The lunch menu includes meatballs with lingonberries, smörgåstårta (a sandwich “layer cake” filled with savory spreads), and a Swedish Caesar salad with Västerbotten cheese. Or go light with Swedish cookies and FIKA’s signature coffee.