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Great bridge for sunsets
The Brooklyn Bridge is so crammed you can barely move. Instead, walk over the Pulaski Bridge, which connects the tip of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, to Long Island City, Queens. The bridge isn’t glam but it offers the best skyline sunsets, with the Empire State and the Chrysler buildings visible just across the water. It also has a new bike path. On the Greenpoint side, is the famed Peter Pan Donuts (Tina Fey spoke of her love for them rather graphically), lots of bars, and the tiny Transmitter Park, which is also primo sunset viewing.
Cutting edge new art
The city offers loads of great smaller museums, such as the Studio in Harlem, the Lower East Side’s Tenement and the new Whitney in Chelsea. My favourite is the New Museum (at 235 Bowery), which is always packed with super-interesting contemporary art that isn’t just paintings on a wall. Past exhibits I’ve loved include one in 2014 by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson, where a dozen young men drank beers and strummed guitars to a score composed by a former member of Icelandic rock band Sigur Rós, and another in mid 2016, choreographed by British artist Cally Spooner, where dancers tackled, fought and cuddled each other in a white room while songs by Drake played. Until mid-January, the dreamy light-filled Pixel Forest created by video artist Pipilotti Rist is showing.
• Entry , students , under 18s free, newmuseum.org
Friendly dive bar
Times Square is notoriously the most hated part of the city – soulless, expensive and packed with tourists. But Broadway shows and attractions means visitors end up there, so I suggest sneaking away to Jimmy’s Corner, a much beloved Midtown dive bar, for a drink. The walls are covered in boxing posters and memorabilia from owner and former boxing trainer Jimmy Glenn, including snaps of Jimmy with Muhammad Ali. The prices are so cheap, it’s confusing ( for a Jameson on the rocks? beers?), you can usually snag a table at the back and staff are friendly.
• 140W 44th St, on Facebook
Brilliant chocolate babka
I went to a holiday party last year and someone brought chocolate babka from Oneg, a Jewish bakery in Brooklyn. Every conversation between every guest that evening began with the words “have you tried the babka?”, and this delicious folded buttery chocolatey masterpiece is a perfect holiday treat. It’s worth the trek to Oneg, in the middle of the deeply traditional Hasidic area of South Williamsburg, which will make you feel millions of miles away from the hyper-gentrified Williamsburg just next door.
• 188 Lee Ave, no website
Go to a baseball game
People often suggest tourists go to a New York Yankees game but it took me over two years of living here before I did because I thought baseball – like most sports – was deathly boring. Turns out, a game at Yankee stadium is the kind of cliched Americana dream experience I always hoped for. The cheap seats offer great views. You down expensive hot dogs and beer. Take Me Out to the Ballgame is played and Village People’s YMCA gets everyone dancing, including workers sweeping the field between innings. People propose on the scoreboard. Every player gets a personal song as they step up to the plate. Mindless yelling is encouraged. And even I can follow three-strikes-you’re-out.
Escape from New York: art and nature
Escaping the city briefly makes the crowds and concrete easier to handle, and the Storm King Art Center in New Windsor is the perfect dose of art and nature. Over 100 sculptures lie among the fields, woods and hills in the 500-acre park; my favourite is the enormous Three-Legged Buddha by Chinese artist Zhang Huan. The perfect way to take it all in is to rent one of the onsite bikes and bring a picnic. The park is about an hour and a half’s drive from Midtown Manhattan and there are train and bus options.
• Adult , seniors , child/students , stormking.org
The new Gilmore Girls reboot jokes about how much New Yorkers love to queue for the newest craze, but locals have been lining up for Di Fara pizza for years. Arguably the finest slice in town comes from a no-frills shop front in Midwood, Brooklyn, about a 40-minute subway ride from Midtown. Store owner Domenico DeMarco, who was born in Italy, is in his late 70s and insists on making every pizza himself, which explains the wait. The queues begin before the store opens at 12 (1pm on Sundays – DeMarco goes to church), and on weekends you will wait anywhere between 30 minutes to three hours. Expect an hour minimum, but it’s worth it.
• 1424 Avenue J, on Facebook
Potent fancy cocktails
’Tis the season for drinking fancy cocktails in snug settings, and nowhere seems more appropriate than the The Library at The Nomad, one of the bar spaces inside the NoMad Hotel on 28th and Broadway. French spiral staircases wind through the two-storey room full of wooden floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. A giant lit up fairytale holiday tree dominates the room. The cocktails are expensive and strong: I like the Broadway, an almost medicinal-like rye whisky drink for .
• 1170 Broadway and 28th, thenomadhotel.com
It’s not the most famous, but the Brooklyn Museum is the third largest in the city (only the Met and the Natural History Museum are bigger). Its permanent collection has some gems – the iconic, and deeply moving, feminist artwork The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago is on the fourth floor – but it really excels at exhibits, both of household names and local artists. Portrait painter Kehinde Wiley’s 2015 New Republic was the best art show I’ve ever seen (making the next door Basquiat notebooks exhibit look boring), and Chinese star Ai Weiwei and US artist Kara Walker have both had recent exhibits. Right now you can check out a collection of 53 drawings by 22 artists of a naked Iggy Pop, created from a life drawing class of the rock star led by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller.
Karaoke in K-Town
There is great live music to be found every night in New York – try Pianos in the Lower East Side, Baby’s All Right and Rough Trade in Williamsburg, C’mon Everybody in Bed-Stuy and Silvana and The Shrine in Harlem. But for guaranteed great tunes, book yourself a private karaoke room at Gagopa in Koreatown (organise it at least a week in advance, this place is popular). It’s BYOB – yes, seriously – making it like a private house party that you don’t have to clean up afterwards. Rooms start at per hour for four people and there’s tens of thousands of songs in a variety of languages available – you’ll be able to croon along with Alicia Keys and raise one hand in the air for the big city while sipping a bodega beer.
• 28 West 32nd St, gagopakaraoke.com
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