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"Mamma Mia” on Broadway, the Statue of Liberty, Balthazaar Restaurant, the Sex & the City tour — been there, done that. While New York City may strike a pose with iconic attractions, going off the beaten path will lead clients to some of the Big Apple’s best gems that you won’t find in guidebooks. If your clients are looking to experience NYC like a true local (one who inherently favors the quirky, enjoys being in-the-know and avoids tourist traps), suggest that they follow this itinerary. And, if your clients do happen to bump into another tourist, you’ll know we sent them, too.
Day 1BoweryThe Bowery recently went through a major renaissance. Locals have adjusted to the neighborhood’s fast change, while tourists are still wide-eyed. The closing of the legendary CBGB club in 2006 marked a new era for what used to be a favorite street for vagabonds, punks, rebels and artists. Now, expect a completely different neighborhood with small boutiques, buzzing hotels, a new Whole Foods market and great dining.
Check into your hotelCheck into the Bowery Hotel. Opened at the peak of the neighborhood’s resurgence in early 2007, this buzzing, old-world-themed hotel features handpicked antique furnishings in 135 rooms as well as an elaborately decorated lobby that suggests a storied past. All one-bedroom suites have terraces (hard to come by in NYC). www.theboweryhotel.com
Clients can also try the Cooper Square Hotel, an all-glass, modern 21-story boutique property just three blocks from the Bowery Hotel. The staff is outfitted in Steven Alan, and all 145 guestrooms have NYC touches, such as a rotating library courtesy of Housing Works Bookstore in Soho. An interesting note is that the hotel is built around an old tenement and its residents (a harmonious relationship, believe it or not). www.coopersquarehotel.com
Explore the new BoweryJohn Varvatos opened a boutique in the former home of CBGB, but the walls are still plastered with original flyers and posters. Rogan, across the street, is one of New York City’s most acclaimed designers, while gourmands head to chef Daniel Boulud’s DBGB.
Lunch at Hecho En DumboOpened just a few months ago, this Manhattan outpost offers a contemporary perspective on Mexican cuisine (the original restaurant in DUMBO, Brooklyn, is a favorite with residents). www.hechoendumbo.com
New Museum on the BoweryExpect outside-the-box art and ideas at this hip, modern museum, which is already making a statement with the “Hell, Yes” installation on the side of the building. www.newmuseum.org
Lower East SideTen years ago, the Lower East Side was a no-man’s land, as locals would attest — now, it’s one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in Manhattan. Edgy and hip (it’s often referred to as the Williamsburg of Manhattan), it offers shops, cafes, bars and a true neighborhood sensibility, made up of hipsters, yuppies, a strong Latin community and college students — who all live harmoniously. New York magazine recently rated it the second best New York neighborhood to live in.
Explore the Lower East SideFrom Houston to Hester, Forsyth to Clinton, the Lower East Side is brimming with fashion boutiques. For more history on the neighborhood, book a tour with Lower East Side Tenement Tours. Ramiken Crucible is a new art gallery in the historic Mayflower building featuring young, emerged top artists. There’s plenty of snacks along the way, including Pickle Guys (a local favorite, featuring spiced pickles) and BabyCakes, an all-vegan bakery that’s delicious and not even bad for you. www.ramikencruicible.com; www.tenement.org
Tommy GunsHair salons have swelled on the Lower East Side. Tommy Guns, an outpost from England, embraces a vintage decor with original barber chairs from the 1930s, exposed concrete columns and stripped walls, crack tiles and mosaic marble floors. Most of the stylists have snip-snapped for local celebrities — and don’t be surprised if you see one inside getting a trim. www.tommygunsny.com
Happy Hour Bar HopThe Norry is a newish modern bar notable for its cocktails and boutique wine list, offering creative bites like numpang sandwiches and catfish crepe tacos for bar snacks. Expect locals at 200 Orchard, which has kept its Lower East Side flavor for years. Want a true watering hole? Head to Max Fish, a local haunt that has been a favorite for rock stars and indie bands for years. www.200orchard.com; www.kampucheanyc.com; www.maxfish.com
Dinner at Freeman’sIn the tradition of old-style Americana that — a trend in New York City at the moment — this saloon-style local favorite is brimming with emerging models, young families, bankers and everything in between. If clients can find it (at the end of Freeman’s Alley), suggest they try the signature hot artichoke dip with crisp bread before diving into one of their rustic American entrees, which will remind them of a fancier version of grandma’s cooking. www.freemansrestaurant.com
Nightcap at Double Crown/Madame GenevaThis is the place to be after midnight (the restaurant also serves great dishes for lunch and dinner) on the Bowery. Have British-colonial snacks while throwing back some killer signature cocktails. www.doublecrown-nyc.com
East VillageThe East Village has always been a favorite for the arsty crowd, longtime bohemian locals, the gay community and bars, bars, bars! Known also for boutique shops, small theaters and Thompson Square Park, there’s never a dull moment in the East Village.
Breakfast/brunch at The Smith RestaurantThis restaurant took over Pizzeria Uno (no one was exactly sad to see it leave), retaining the mosaic floors yet upping the design with its own burlesque theme — featuring vintage photos and an unadvertised peep hole in the wall downstairs viewing into a black-and-white burlesque show (shh ... we didn’t tell you). The breakfast is top-notch, and expect large portions of signature All-American dishes (and don’t forget the home-made spicy sauce). www.ctrnyc.com/thesmith/index.html
A quick lunch in the East VillageCheck out St Mark’s Place, known for its punk-rock allure, and the shops of the East Village.
Clients can’t come to New York City without trying some of the city’s iconic pizza. A slice of heaven can be found at Artichoke Pizza. Ever since this tiny, no-table joint was opened by an Italian family from Staten Island, the line for a slice is reminiscent to a Barney’s warehouse sale.
Or clients can try a no-frills pork sandwich at Porchetta, a food stall with only two bar stools, a bench and loads of pork spit-roasted over a wood fire. New York magazine gave the restaurant four stars, so you know they’re doing something right. www.artichokepizza.com; www.porchettanyc.com
NoMad/MidtownThe area around Madison Square Park and Gramercy Park has been destitute for years, but now that the Ace hotel has opened there’s a new buzz. In true Big Apple style, the area is being coined as “NoMad.”
Connect with contemporary design at Gansevoort ParkGansevoort made its name in the Meatpacking District but now goes over the top with New York City’s first urban resort. Take a peek at some of the design in the bar by Icrave, and the architecture/interior design team of Stephen B. Jacobs and Andi Pepper, some of Manhattan’s leading designers. www.gansevoorthotelgroup.com
Top of the Rock/30 RockWant a view of the city that’s more stunning than from the Empire State Building? Take the elevator up to the top of 30 Rockefeller for 360 panoramic views of the city (which includes views of the Empire State). www.topoftherocknyc.com
Hell’s Kitchen Hell’s Kitchen is an emerging neighborhood close to Times Square, known for its large artist/entertainment industry population. New bars and restaurants continue to pop up to serve the theater crowd (and theater workers). Drama or not, there’s much to do here.
PRESS at Ink 48 rooftopThe rooftop bar scene in New York City is buzzing, thanks to the outcrop of newer ones (Trump hotel) and renovated ones (Kimberly hotel). Kimpton Hotel’s new Ink48 hotel is becoming a favorite for celebrities for its privacy, and it raises the competition with Press, which harbors unobscured views of the Hudson River and Times Square to the east. Grab a drink and take in the sunset view. www.ink48.com
Dinner at Seasonal restaurantSeasonal Restaurant & Weinbar is quite a gem, considering its prime location (boxed in by Fifth Avenue, Central Park, Columbus Circle and Times Square). Visitors will avoid the theater crowd and tourist-trap restaurants at this Michelin-star eatery serving Austrian cuisine. www.seasonalnyc.com
Off-broadway show at Peter Jay Sharp TheaterWith only 128 seats, locals often bring visiting friends and families to this popular off-broadway theater because of its intimacy and great shows. (The current show is “This Wide Night” starring Allison Pill and Edie Falco.) www.nytheatre.com
NoLitaWhile Soho is abuzz with shops, shops and more shops, it means crowds, crowds and more crowds. A great alternative is NoLita, where the boutique shopping is just as enticing, and celebrity spotting is more frequent as the neighborhood is less of a circus.
Brunch at Public/The Monday RoomA NoLita institution since 2003, this local favorite is great for people watching, and “in-the-know” regulars order favored items not on the menu (ask the waiter). Just behind the host stand is an unmarked speakeasy-style wine bar.
Fresh facialLocals know that the cost of a spa treatment at Fresh is fully redeemable in products. For instance, pay $100 for a facial, and get $100 worth of products for free. www.fresh.com
FlatIron/Meatpacking District/West VillageThe west side is perfect for long strolls on original cobblestone streets (high heels or flats, you decide), and an area with growing attractions. It’s especially nice for people watching, as well as activities in and around the Hudson River.
Lunch at 508 Restaurant Enjoy homemade pastas, a variety of tapas and a great atmosphere at this lively local, family-owned restaurant. “Rent” fans love it, as Jonathan Larson lived and wrote the hit Broadway show in the building (his former residence). www.508nyc.com
High lineThis abandoned railroad track-turned-elevated public park is perfect for an afternoon stroll. Check out commissioned art by local artists. Also, don’t forget to visit the Standard Hotel, which looms over the Park. The buzzing hotel has had its hand slapped, thanks to the number of guests who offered “shows” from their floor-to-ceiling guestroom windows. www.standardhotels.com; www.thehighline.org
Limelight MarketplaceThis iconic, 163-year-old historic Episcopal Church that honed an unforgettable club scene is now a festival of shops. Thankfully, all the stores are non-name brands and relatively unknown (yet still high-end) boutiques in and around the New York area. www.limelightmarketplace.com
Classic Harbor Line Sunset CruiseSee major sites and the skyline from a different perspective along the Hudson River. The cruise has rotating culinary experiences. Acclaimed chef Morimoto hosts every Monday until the fall with his signature sushi and sake. www.sail-nyc.com
Dinner at Hotel GriffouIn the spirit of the speakeasy and underground-style restaurants, Hotel Griffou (which is actually not a hotel) is a favorite for high-brow locals. The space is an old and storied townhouse with an unsuspecting, no-name entrance (clients will feel like they are literally walking into someone’s townhouse). It was the place for high society at the turn of the century, and the idea that Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde both dined there in the late 1800s makes it that much more special.
Party at Santos Party HouseThis bi-level downtown dance and performance venue is owned by musician Andrew WK, noted NYC artist Spencer Sweeney and nightlife guru Larry Golden. It quite possibly has the loudest sound system in the city and many unannounced, word-of-mouth shows. Get your dance shoes on and end your NYC adventure at one of the locals’ favorite dance spots. www.santospartyhouse.com