Midtown is the bustling heart of Manhattan. No time to relax let alone promenade here; the endless stream of professionals and tourists will chase you under a cab in no time. With the tourist attractions come the tourist traps, which make a guide indispensable. I picked my favorite activity per neighborhood, paired with a memorable option for food or drinks.
The High Line
Chelsea is one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city; there’s a lot going on, without the craziness of central Midtown. The Chelsea Film Festival is a must if you’re around in October. A yearlong attraction is the High Line, a greenway built on a former rail track. Located at an elevated level, it holds great views of Chelsea and the Meatpacking district. Pack up a picnic from Chelsea Market and enjoy it on Chelsea’s green vain.
Fuel up: Chelsea Market is a hip food court housing over 40 bars, restaurants and shops. Lobster rolls, world-class wines, fresh pastries, design kitchen supplies – if it’s somehow related to food, Chelsea Market has it.
Flatiron & Tenderloin
Madison Square Park
Not to be confused with indoor arena Madison Square Garden, Madison Square Park is a green space in central Midtown. With a popular dog park and an army of squirrels, it’s an urban oasis in a part of town dominated by skyscrapers. You’ll find one of NYC’s most remarkable buildings in the southwest corner. As its nickname suggests, the Flatiron Building resembles a flat clothing iron.
Fuel Up: Tenderloin used be New York City’s shady red light district. That’s hard to imagine when sipping a perfectly crafted cocktail in classy NoMad bar. It made The World’s 50 Best Bars list repeatedly, and with good reason.
Grand Central Terminal
Public transport does not get more glamorous than NYC’s Grand Central Station. The majestic terminal has made an appearance in countless American movies and tv-shows, most of a romantic nature. Even if you are not commuting to the suburbs or saying an epic goodbye to your lover, Grand Central is always worth a visit.
Fuel Up: Grand Central Oyster Bar is an iconic seafood restaurant on the terminal’s lower level. It opened right after the inauguration of Grand Central Terminal, more than a 100 years ago. The oyster shots, seafood plates and caviar sandwich are close to legendary in New York.
Empire State Building
The Empire State Building might just be the most iconic building in the US. The art-deco skyscraper held the title of tallest building in the world for about 40 years, until the World Trade Center took over. The open-air observatory at the 86th floor offers spectacular views of New York City and beyond. If you can’t decide between a day- or nighttime view, opt for a CityPASS; it allows you two visits in one day.
Fuel up: Koreatown has no shortage of ramen shops, karaoke bars and Korean BBQ restaurants. 1986 Est. Wine Bar & Lounge is none of those. Somewhat hidden on the second floor of Hotel Stanford, this intimate lounge serves up a classy happy hour.
Anyone who claims that Manhattan lacks green spaces is clearly wrong. Another urban oasis in the midst of Midtown’s skyscrapers is Bryant Park. With many office buildings around, it makes up a popular lunch spot with New Yorkers.
Fuel up: Have lunch at Bryant Park and blend into Midtown’s office crowd, with the help of a classic New York bite. Best Bagel & Coffee wraps up a delicious smoked salmon bagel.
Drag Queen Show
New York City is all about theater, and that includes drag queen shows. With the Theater District as a neighbor and NYC’s gayborhood as a nickname, Hell’s Kitchen is the prime location to catch a drag queen show. The drag queens of the gay Therapy Bar perform a hilarious show. Don’t sit too close to the stage if you’re not a fan of participation.
Fuel up: The Press Lounge is Midtown’s typical obnoxious watering hole with a rooftop pool. The incredible view of the NYC skyline should make you forget about the former.
The Theater District comprises a total of 41 Broadway theaters, showing both musicals and plays. Productions vary, but classic shows like Phantom of the Opera and Chicago have been running non-stop for years. As Broadway shows are considered top level in the theatre world, they come at a price. Same-day discounted tickets are available at the TKTS booth on Times Square. Chicago could captivate every theatre virgin, with catchy songs and fabulous acting. Les Miserables calls for more dedication, especially if you don’t know the story.
Fuel up: The Times Square experience wouldn’t be complete without braving the crowds in an all-American restaurant chain. Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. meets these expectations with flying colors.
Top of the Rock
The Rockefeller Center is the Empire State’s closest competitor when it comes to spectacular views of the NYC skyline. Top of the Rock tops the view from the Empire State Building for two reasons. One, you get a birds-eye view of the city’s green heart, Central Park. Two, the most iconic NYC building appears on the skyline.
Fuel Up: Dining at Brazilian steakhouse Fogo De Chao is quite an experience. A green “Yes Please” and red “No Thank You” sign tell the waiters whether you need a break from the different cuts of delicious steak.
United Nations Headquarters
Practically my home for five months, I could not leave the United Nations Headquarters off this list. From seeing the Popemobile arrive at the SDG summit to a screening of Belief with Oprah and a handshake with Ban Ki-moon, my internship came with many memorable moments. Guided tours of the iconic building are available.
Fuel up: A throwback to my days as an unpaid intern: Calico’s Cantina has $1 beers on tap every Tuesday. Add to that NYC’s iconic $1 pizza slice for the recipe of my typical Tuesday night out.