From the modest bagel to the monumental Brooklyn Bridge, New York is a city brimming with iconic sights, tastes and sounds. A trend exporter ahead of every curve, it’s also a city with a storied past that New Yorkers love to celebrate. The city’s sheer scale and intensity make it impossible to fit everything into one trip, but with a little planning and perseverance, you can cover the essentials in one action-packed weekend. Just be sure to bring your walking shoes.
9AM SULLIVAN STREET BAKERY
Since 1994, Jim Lahey has wowed New Yorkers with some the finest baked goods the city’s ever seen. Airy but dense with a crispy crust and intensely flavorful, Lahey’s breads are the basis of his reputation. But he’s moved way beyond bread, offering all kinds of French and Italian patisseries, savory tarts, delectable sandwiches and pretty much anything else that starts with dough. Just try to resist.
10AM HIGH LINE PARK
NEW YORK, NY 10011
The High Line began life in 1934 as a stretch of elevated railway running above the streets of lower Manhattan. Abandoned in 1980, today it’s one of the city’s crown jewels, equal parts green space and promenade, with a plank walkway and landscape that bursts into color in spring. Highlighted by amazing downtown and Hudson River views, the park also hosts art installations, events and plenty of snack carts. It runs from 34th Street in Chelsea to Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District, with ten stops that allow you to hop on and hope off as the wind moves you.
11AM 9/11 MUSEUM AND MEMORIAL
Understated but powerful in its simplicity, the 9/11 memorial is a can’t miss New York attraction. Some find the museum overwhelming due to its graphic depictions of the events, but the memorial itself — waterfalls spewing into sunken pools on the sites of the north and south towers bordered by granite slabs with the victims’ names — is a moving tribute to those who lost their lives on the most dramatic terrorist attack to ever happen on American soil.
1PM KATZ’S DELICATESSEN
The mother of all kosher delis, Katz’s has been hand slicing it’s unbeatable smoked and cured meats since 1888. There’s an extensive menu, but you’re here for a classic corned beef or pastrami: salty, smoky, succulent and piled to jaw-breaking heights. Sandwiched between two soft slices of rye and topped with a schmear of mustard, that and the famously grumpy service (don’t worry, it’s all in good fun) are stereotypical NYC. Order at the counter, and you’ll get a sample to fire up your taste buds while you wait.
2PM BROOKLYN BRIDGE
Walking is a New York pastime, and no walk is more quintessential than the mile-long span of the Brooklyn Bridge. Completed in 1883, the bridge is a piece of living history, evoking Old New York with its weathered stone, wood plank walkways and soaring neo-Gothic towers, while offering sweeping views of modern-day New York, Manhattan’s epic skyline, bristling with a century-plus of skyscraping architecture, from the Empire State Building to the Freedom Tower.
3PM WYTHE HOTEL
From DUMBO, head north to Williamsburg. Though some will say it’s lost its edge due to skyrocketing rents and shifting demographics, “the New Downtown” remains the heart of New York’s fashion, music and dining scenes. Chockablock with bars, boutiques and restaurants you could lose a few weekends here just kicking around and people watching. When you’re ready for a break, head to the Wythe Hotel and have a cold one at the rooftop bar where the drinks are served with spectacular views.
7PM MOMOFUKU SSÄM BAR
No chef has had more influence on New York’s restaurant scene in the past decade than David Chang. With a vivid imagination, impeccable technique and a serious disregard for convention, Chang upended notions of what a world-class dining experience should be and his second restaurant, Ssäm Bar, is the best place to experience the breadth of his vision. Asian-inspired but drawing on a range of cuisines, the seasonally rotating menu (like apple kimchi with bacon, maple labne and arugula) is both unexpected and expertly prepared. Known for it’s sharable small plates, come hungry so you can sample a swath of the menu.
10PM DEATH AND CO.
433 E. 6TH ST. NEW YORK, NY 10009
Cap your night with an expertly made cocktail at Death and Co., a nouveau speakeasy that serves up some of the city’s best cocktails. Barely marked outside, and stylish and dimly lit inside, Death and Co. is a bar that takes drinking seriously—so seriously that there’s no standing, which makes a reservation essential if you don’t want to wait for a seat. It’s worth putting up with the fussy door policy though, because you’ll find the same attention to detail behind the bar, where the staff’s reverence for mixology is a true craft that comes through in every sip.
9AM BARNEY GREENGRASS
541 AMSTERDAM AVE. NEW YORK, NY 10024
Yes, bagels are the foundation of every essential New York breakfast, but what elevates the humble bagel to a delicacy? Two words: smoked fish. An Upper West Side institution since 1908, Barney Greengrass slices up the city’s best smoky lox, buttery sable and the house specialty, sturgeon. Whatever your pleasure, you can’t top Barney Greengrass, for it’s impeccable quality and old school deli vibe.
10AM CENTRAL PARK
Enjoy 843 acres of urban escape in New York’s fabled Central Park. Activities abound, including carriage rides, boating, ice-skating, a historic carousel, a zoo, and a full schedule of performances in summer; plus the Boathouse restaurant and famous Tavern on the Green. For a true New York experience, head to the Sheep Meadow, kick off your shoes and simply enjoy a seat on the grass with the expanse of the park before you and the skyline just beyond the trees, so close but seemingly miles from reality.
12PM PATSY’S PIZZERIA
Take the subway up to Harlem for a taste of legit New York–style pizza. A true classic, Patsy’s was founded in 1933 by Patsy Lanceri, who learned his craft under Gennaro Lombardi, founder of the nation’s first pizzeria (Lombardi’s in Little Italy). Patsy’s is also one of the last places in New York to use a real coal-fired oven, for a distinct charred-yet-not quite burnt crust. Topped with sweet, tangy marinara and creamy discs of fresh mozzarella, the plain cheese slice is the way to go for a taste of classic pizza history.
2PM METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART
After lunch, head back downtown and immerse yourself in culture at the nation’s largest art museum. The breadth of the Met’s collections is staggering, spanning thousands of years and encompassing everything from an ancient Egyptian temple, reconstructed in its entirety, to works by 20th century artists like Georgia O’Keefe, and everything in between. You could easily spend a few hours getting lost in the works of visionaries.
5PM KING COLE BAR
Tucked into a corner of the St. Regis lobby, the King Cole is one of the city’s classic hotel bars, opened way back in 1948. Reputedly the birthplace of the Bloody Mary (originally called a Red Snapper), the bar’s true mark of distinction is its namesake: a gorgeous 30-foot-wide mural of Old King Cole commissioned by painter Maxfield Parish. With a whimsical and lush color, the painting, which hangs behind the bar, imparts a stately charm you won’t find elsewhere in the Big Apple.
Another successful collaboration between Mario Batali and the Bastianichs, Esca is the perfect spot for a pre-theater dinner, offering elegant Southern Italian–style seafood that won’t sit too heavy. The wine list is stellar, naturally, and the refined but unpretentious space is easy on the eyes too.
8PM BROADWAY / TIMES SQUARE
Quite simply the pinnacle of American theater, Broadway is where the stars of the stage shine the brightest. Whether you prefer lavishly produced musicals or stirring dramas, on any given night there’s a show that will floor you at one of the three dozen beautifully appointed historic theaters. The best seats are pricey, but there are a number of online discount sellers plus TKTS, which operates booths in Times Square, South Street Seaport and Downtown Brooklyn selling same-day and next-day-matinee tickets at 20–50% off. As you’re walking over, take in the sights, sounds and bustle of Times Square, one of the world’s busiest commercial intersections often referred to as “The Crossroads of the World.”
WHERE TO STAY: NOMAD HOTEL
1170 BROADWAY NEW YORK, NY 10001
Perfectly poised between uptown and downtown, this stylish boutique hotel set in a striking early 20th century Beaux Arts building is convenient to just about everything. Boasting one of the city’s hottest restaurants, you can get room service 24/7 (and you’ll probably need it with this itinerary). Best of all, it’s relatively inexpensive, by New York standards.