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Destination New York: A Quick Guide to the Unofficial Capital of the World

The Big Apple. The City that Never Sleeps. Gotham. The City of Cities. The best cheesecake and the worst air pollution. The busiest and worst traffic. If you can make it in NYC, you’ll make it anywhere. With so much to do and see, millions are drawn to this popular and populous city every year. Digital Journal offers a quick guide to help you plan your trip to the unofficial capital of the world.


Don’t pay big to see a big play. You can usually get same-day Broadway tickets for 25 to 50 per cent off the box office price from the TKTS booth in Times Square. Be there early, and pay with cash or traveller’s cheques only.

Stay away from street meat. You’d expect such a big and busy city to have superior inferior food, but frankly these steamed dogs taste worse than dog food.

The colour-coded, number-and letter-labelled, multitrack subway system can be confusing. Bring a subway map, be patient and give yourself extra time to get lost and/or cry in a rat-infested corner of the wrong station.

When buying a watch from a guy’s coat, don’t pay the asking price. Act uninterested and offer less than you’re willing to shell out. And remember, anything sold out of a suitcase, trunk, coat or cardboard box is either fake or stolen.

New York isn’t that scary. It’s dirty and there are some areas to avoid, but as long as you don’t look like an idiot tourist with hundred-dollar bills sticking out of your back pocket you’ll be fine. Like any sensible person, be cautious in areas that look scuzzy.


Street vending is synonymous with New York City. For a comprehensive guide to street vending, the laws and various publications, check out the Street Vendor Project online at
GREENWICH VILLAGE: Browse through the bohemian stores on Bleecker Street, taste beers from around the world in a Victorian-style lounge at The Pussycat, then stop by Washington Square, where the district’s homeless sometimes gather for a bluesy jam session.

SOHO: Home to the trendiest shops in NYC. From stores that sell purses made of tin cans to soap shops where employees wash your hands, the only thing SoHo doesn’t have is a guarantee you won’t spend all your cash.

LITTLE ITALY: And to think that you saw it on Mulberry Street! Pretty much anywhere you stop to eat on this famous rue is a sure bet. The hard part will be choosing from the bounty of restaurants.

CHINATOWN: Forget about personal space on these crowded sidewalks, where people shop for bulk ginger and dried shrimp. A great place to find cheap top-level clothing and purses — if you don’t mind owning shoddy rip-offs.

FINANCIAL DISTRICT: The hub of skyscrapers, suits and cellphones. Visit the old graveyard at the top of Wall Street. Ground Zero is a stark reminder of the New York’s recent past, and city planners contend rebuilding will begin this year.


Rockefeller Center is home to gourmet restaurants and elegant outdoor cafés.

ROCKEFELLER CENTER ( Tour the Center, Radio City Music Hall or NBC studios. Or get free tickets to a taping of Late Night With Conan O’Brien or Saturday Night Live (but request them months in advance). During the cold months, skate on the famous ice rink beside the monstrous Christmas tree.

STATEN ISLAND FERRY ( Take a free 25-minute ride for a closer look at the Statue of Liberty and snap some postcard-esque shots of the New York City skyline.

TV TOURS (, Visit filming locations for movies like Ghostbusters and shows like Friends. There are also show-specific tours for Sex and the City, The Sopranos and Seinfeld, the latter guided by Kenny Kramer, the real-life inspiration for Cosmo. Giddy-up.

CENTRAL PARK ( At the zoo, see the turtle pond, Belvedere Castle, John Lennon’s Imagine mosaic, and a sea lion show. Take a rowboat ride, play tennis, ride a horse down the bridle path, fall in love, get married and have kids.

TIMES SQUARE: A must-see both during the day and at night. Crowded and touristy, but it’s a big improvement over the sleazy porn-shop nest it was a few years ago.


Brasserie is a modern French- and American-inspired restaurant known for incredible food and fantastic service. — Photo courtesy of Restaurant Associates.

BRASSERIE: Having dinner next to 60 Minutes’ Andy Rooney doesn’t happen every day. But he eats at Brasserie on East 53rd, so you know it has to be special. This modern French- and American-inspired restaurant features incredible gourmet cuisine and a friendly, knowledgeable wait staff. It’s an award-winning restaurant a cut above the rest in a city with more than 25,000 eateries. And with manager Vladimir Bellon von Alexander watching over the floor, you can expect the type of service for which New York is famous.

Cost: $40/person
Tel: (212) 751-4840
Location: 100 East 53rd Street

GRILLED CHEESE NYC: This hole-in-the-wall serves grilled cheese like you’ve never had it. Choose from various cheeses and an array of toppings such as olive pesto. Moving soon to a new location.

Cost: $10/person
Tel: (212) 982-6600
Location: Lower East Side

MESA GRILL: Chef Bobby Flay’s restaurant is classy yet wild, with oversized black-and-white photos and cowboy-print upholstery. Delicious food and the strongest margaritas you’ll ever have.

Cost: $50/person
Tel: (212) 807-7400
Location: West Village

TOM’S RESTAURANT: “Monk’s” restaurant from Seinfeld only looks the same on the outside, but go just to have a taste of their apple pie and then argue over the tip.

Cost: $7/person
Tel: (212) 864-6137
Location: Morningside Heights

NEW YORK NEW YORK CHEESECAKE: They claim to have “the best cheesecake on earth,” and they may be right. Every bite makes you feel like you’re going to die – in a nice way.

Cost: $3/slice
Tel: (212) 564-7136
Location: Chelsea


Hampton Inn on 8th Avenue features some of the largest bedrooms in New York City.

HAMPTON INN:Once a Howard Johnson, this hotel enjoyed a $20-million facelift and is now a luxurious and newly renovated place to stay. To see a more detailed review about Hampton Inn, click here.

Tel: (212) 581-4100
Location: 851 Eighth Avenue @ 51st Street
Web: Hampton Inn Website
Rating: $$$$
Hampton Inn is Digital Journal Editor’s Choice!

PARAMOUNT HOTEL: Rooms can be described as Victorian meets ’50s meets the future. Oversized Victorian-style paintings act as headboards in bright rooms filled with clean-line furniture and checkerboard floors.

Location: Near Times Square
Rating: $$$

FOUR SEASONS: Marble bathrooms, large windows and a luxury spa. For some extra dough, get a room with a terrace, a library, up to three bedrooms and/or a piano.

Location: Midtown East
Rating: $$$$$

RADIO CITY APARTMENTS: Rooms come in studio, one- and two-bedroom varieties. Each has its own kitchenette complete with fridge, stove, microwave, dinnerware and cookware. Almost like a real downtown apartment.

Location: Near Times Square
Rating: $$

ROYALTON HOTEL: Enjoy a fireplace, silk curtains and a five-foot round tub. Or just loiter in the lobby, which is decked out in designer furniture and covers an entire city block.

Location: Near Fifth Avenue
Rating: $$$$

Our rating system:
$$$$$ — Ritzy, ultra-exclusive
$$$$ — Charming and elegant
$$$ — Pleasant yet average
$$ — Clean but unimpressive
$ — Dirtbag motel

This article is part of Digital Journal’s national magazine edition. Pick up your copy of Digital Journal in bookstores across Canada and the United States! Or subscribe to Digital Journal now, and receive 8 issues for $29.95 GST ($48.95 USD)!

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