Charlie Stong visited New York with his wife, Hayley, and ﬁve-year-old daughter, Nellie, recently. Here he tells the story of his ﬁrst two days in the Big Apple. The second part of the double-header will follow next Sunday
After a comfortable, if early, seven-hour flight from Gatwick to JFK – one of New York’s two international airports, we hopped on the AirTrain, which took us to Jamaica station, where we caught the Subway’s E Train to the centre of Manhattan.
We bought two weekly Unlimited Ride MetroCards which, for just $31 each, allow you use of the Subway and buses in the city for a week–a bargain, especially when you’re travelling with a five-year-old as we were. Incidentally kids under 44 inches tall travel free on public transport in New York if accompanied by a fare-paying adult–and despite Nellie being slightly taller this rule didn’t seem to be religiously enforced, and she travelled free for the duration of our stay.
There was a time, in the not too dim and distant past, when the New York Subway was a place to be avoided. Films such as The Incident and The Taking of Pelham One, Two Three hardly painted it in the best of lights. Now, however, it is almost entirely transformed – commuters mixing with tourists, all entertained by the odd busker or acrobatic team such as the one which kept us enthralled as we headed for Penn station, the closest stop to our first hotel, Kimpton Hotel Eventi, located slap in the middle of Manhattan where Sixth Avenue meets 30thStreet.
We exited the Subway at Penn station and were greeted by the sight of the magnificent Empire State Building – the centrepiece of Midtown, which is visible from almost everywhere you may find yourself in this part of town. After dropping our bags at the hotel there was just enough time for a stroll through Times Square – well, more of a battle than a stroll, really, but you know what you’re in for when you come to New York, and being a Londoner definitely helps you survive here.
After picking up our New York City Passes – discounted passes which allow you access to many of the city’s most popular attractions–we wandered back towards the hotel for a glass of wine on the roof terrace, provided free of charge to guests during‘wine hour’(5pm to 6pm).
After our drink we had a quick pizza in the restaurant’s beautiful L’Amico restaurant– located on the ground floor where you can eat by the sidewalk as New Yorkers pass by in their droves. After an exhausting trip we were all in bed by 8pm in preparation for Day2.
After about 11 hours’ sleep we were ready to take on the city on day two, and immediately headed for one of our favourite haunts. This was Hayley’s fourth tip to the Big Apple and my third, and one of our favourite diners is the Tick Tock Diner – named so as it’s open round the clock–located underneath the New Yorker, one of the city’s most iconic hotels.
Full up with eggs, over easy of course, waffles and pancakes, we were next off to Fifth Avenue, the main shopping street, strolling round Bryant Park, visiting the famous Macy’s store, Tiffany’s and St Patrick’s Cathedral, the Neo-Gothic style church which dominates its surroundings.
As we walked further north, we eventually reached Central Park – the lungs of New York, as it is known. The park is a huge rectangular piece of greenery located right in the middle of the island of Manhattan.
Between 1821 and 1855 New York City nearly quadrupled in population. As the city expanded northwards up Manhattan, people were drawn to the few existing open spaces– mainly cemeteries. The thirst for an urban park was quenched by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted in 1857, and at 843 acres, the park was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963.
At the south end of the park there is a terrific playground, where New York children mingle with youngsters from all parts of the globe, and after a picnic in the park we visited Central Park Zoo, which, with an admission price of $18 for adults and $13 for children, is extremely good value.
After having walked very nearly 20km we flopped onto the Subway back to our second hotel of the visit – the Yotel, based in the Hell’s Kitchen area of the island’s westside.
Once a bastion of poor and working class Irish Americans, Hell’s Kitchen’s location in Midtown has changed its personality since the 1970s. This was once considered a no-go area for not only tourists but many locals, given its tough reputation – and got its name from that very reputation.
But since the early 1990s, the area has been gentrifying, and rents have risen rapidly. Located close to both the Broadway theatres and the Actors Studio training school, it’s now home to more beards than Shoreditch.
After a quick shower and change we mingled with some of the said beards in the Yotel’s hip rooftop bar,with a young, trendy ex-pat championing the quality of life in the city over cocktails with us as he waited for the arrival of a New Yorker he had been seeing for a few weeks. When she arrived, we departed, heading for a great meal in the Yotel’s Green Fig restaurant, a bite to eat over a bottle of wine and it was soon time for bed.
The perfect haven to relax after wonderful madness of Midtown
After an exhausting 24 hours, which included a 2am start from London and a seven-hour Transatlantic ﬂight, where better to start our holiday than the fantastic Kimpton Hotel Eventi?
The four-star hotel is located in the vibrant Chelsea district just a stone’s throw from Penn Station – where our Subway E train arrived from JFK – and the highlights of Midtown such as the Empire State Building and Times Square.
After the long trip – then a couple of hours out in the wonderful madness which is Midtown – Kimpton Hotel Eventi was the perfect haven to which to return and relax to recharge our batteries for the days ahead.
Our room, a Queen room with a large double bed – and another not that much smaller for Nellie – was situated on the 20th ﬂoor, looking back towards Penn Station. Each of the 292 guest rooms and suites feature classic lines, splashes of colour and large bathrooms.
You can choose ﬂoor plans ranging from 275 to 1,685sqft of space. The staff were incredibly friendly and welcoming and made us feel at home from the moment we arrived until the moment we left.
One of the highlights of our stay was wine hour, which takes place from 5pm to 6pm every evening and offers guests a free pre-dinner drink. Our wine hour took place on Eventi’s ﬁfth-ﬂoor veranda, which provides sweeping views overlooking Sixth Avenue and the Empire State Building.
After our drink it was time for dinner. Eventi boasts two eating places. The Vine features American food with Italian inﬂuences in a relaxed atmosphere by the bar. But we opted for the L’Amico, an Italian-inﬂuenced American restaurant. Both restaurants are by Laurent Tourondel.
Inspired by the simplicity of a stroll through the countryside and a wood-ﬁred meal, it contrasts wonderfully with the hustle and bustle of the outside world. We opted for a table outside – right beside the sidewalk of Sixth Avenue as New York commuters made their way home for the day.
We went for the simple option – comfort food was required after such a long, tiring day, and Eventi’s wood oven pizzas were fantastic. All that was needed now was a great night’s sleep reinvigorating us for the rest of the trip – and we were all asleep within seconds of hitting the pillow.
A fantastic stay. The hotel provides complimentary morning tea and coffee, valet parking, laundry service and shoeshine. It can even offer travel essentials such as iPads, iPad Minis and Macbooks for guests to check out from the front desk. It also offers discounts on stays of three days or more.
For prices and availability visit http://www.hoteleventi.com 851 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10001.
See NY with New York City Passes
We wanted to see as much of New York in our four days as possible, so we picked up some New York City Passes to help us along the way.
Visitors to New York City can find it overwhelming, but not if they’re using CityPASS tickets – the very best attractions handpicked and wrapped up in an easy-to-use package that will save you money and time.
Because CityPASS tickets are valid for nine consecutive days starting with the first day of use, there’s no need to feel rushed – you can see the city that never sleeps at your own pace, and truly enjoy the experience.
Read more at https://www.citypass.com/newyork#kc1OqhODHusWm2qz.99
See www.nycgo.com for more information on the city.