New York City: An Insider’s Guide

By: Maxine Sheppard

July 9, 2010

Last week our ash-disrupted press trip to New York finally took place, and we were able to whisk our winning blogger away to the Big Apple. We’ll get to read James’ unique take on the city very soon, but in the meantime carry on reading for some up-to-the-minute advice on the best places to eat, drink, romance, relax, and even find solitude in New York City.


Our Insider

Royalton Lobby

Royalton Lobby


We stayed smack bang in the heart of Manhattan at the stylishly low-lit and seductive Royalton on West 44th Street, a member of the exclusive Morgans Hotel Group. Our first evening was spent at its sister hotel, Hudson, where the brand new college campus dinner hall-inspired eaterie Hudson Hall had us lining up to fill our trays with delectable small plates (seared tuna, dry aged beef, margherita flat bread, toe crab salad sandwiches – nothing like your average school dinner). As we sat down to eat at at long canteen-style refectory tables, flamboyant peacock feather-bedecked servers kept ample pitchers of Lemon Drop and Woo Woo cocktails permanently topped up – only in New York!

While we were there, we put the Hudson’s very own expert concierge Anastasia Douglas on the spot, and asked her some quickfire questions about where to go and what to see, right now.


Hudson Hall

Hudson Hall


Anastasia, where’s a really good, authentic New York diner?

In my opinion, authentic NY diners are the ones that stay open 24 hours. The Flame on 58th and 9th Ave is a very typical diner for NYC. My other favourites are Tom’s Diner on the Upper West Side (known as the Seinfeld Diner) and Tick Tock Diner on 34th and 8th ave. Tick Tock’s slogan is “Eat Heavy”.


Tick Tock Diner by Paul Lowry on Flickr

Tick Tock Diner by Paul Lowry on Flickr


Do you have a favourite place for Sunday morning brunch?

Oh yes. Brunch at Prune in the East Village could possibly be my favourite because they have a separate menu for all of their Bloody Marys. I also love Good Enough to Eat on Amsterdam and 83rd Street for their amazing variety of pancakes. It’s a great spot for kids too.


Pancakes at Good Enough to Eat by Josh Staiger on Flickr

Pancakes at Good Enough to Eat by Josh Staiger on Flickr


Lastly, Morandi offers a beautiful brunch in a warm rustic atmosphere. It’s owned and operated by restaurateur Keith McNally (of Balthazar and Pastis) so the atmosphere is always fun and buzzy.

In your opinion, where are the best coffee shops in the city?

Joe the Art of Coffee on the Upper West Side and in the West Village. I also love McNulty’s Tea and Coffee Co on Christopher St. I always go to AQ Kafe in Columbus Circle when I’m at Hudson.

And the best place for a cocktail with a view?

My #1 choice would have to be the Sky Terrace at Hudson!


Sky Terrace at Hudson

Sky Terrace at Hudson


Also, the Central Park Boat House has views of the park and the gorgeous buildings of the Upper West Side, such as the Dakota Building. 230 Fifth rooftop bar is a great daytime or nighttime hangout. The Water Taxi Beach at the South Street Seaport has a much more casual (beachy) feel, but they have great views of the Brooklyn Bridge. There are also Water Taxi Beaches on Governor’s Island and Queens reachable by”¦Water Taxi.

How about the best place for a romantic meal – for all kinds of budgets?

People have different ideas of what “romantic” is. Casa La Femme is a gorgeous Egyptian restaurant and lounge with a very sexy atmosphere. Belly dancers make their way around the lounge as guests partake in the many flavored hookahs. Lavagna is a charming rustic Italian Trattoria tucked away in a corner of the East Village. The menu uses fresh and seasonal ingredients and traditional Italian preparations.

For something a bit more upscale, of course the River Café is the best place for romance with a view. The restaurant is located just underneath the Brooklyn Bridge across the East River.


View from the River Café by laverrue on Flickr

View from the River Café by laverrue on Flickr


If someone wants to really impress their date, take them to Per Se, Thomas Keller’s restaurant in the Shops at Columbus Circle. The tasting menu runs at over $300 per person, but it will be an unforgettable meal.

We recently published a post about places to escape the heat in the city. Do you have any others to add to the list?

You can catch the breeze off the Hudson River at the Boat Basin on W 79th Street. The bar and restaurant are pet friendly and it’s a great place for family, couples”¦everyone. The Museum of Art and Design has an open studio on the 6th floor where you can watch artists at work while you bask in the cool AC.

Take a Classic Harbor Line from Chelsea Piers and enjoy views of NYC from one of their schooners or yachts. Brunch and Sunset Tours are extremely popular and a little classier than the typical tourist harbour cruise.

Other than all the traditional attractions, is there anything or any experience a first time visitor to New York should absolutely not miss?

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum offers a look into the lives of immigrants living on Orchard Street in 1863. There are different tours telling a variety of stories of life in early NYC. All of the tours and stories are extremely interesting, although a few of them may not be suitable for young children.

The Highline is an old elevated train line dating back to the 1930s. It reopened to the public as a very unique park in 2009. The Highline is located within the Meatpacking District and runs from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street along 10th Avenue. The park offers beautiful views of NYC, the Hudson River and parts of New Jersey as well as landscapes designed by architects from James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

And finally, what would you recommend as the best things to see and do outside Manhattan?

Beaches. If guests can get away, I send them to Robert Moses or Jones Beach on Long Island. If they have more than one day, I definitely send them out to Westhampton Beach. The town has beautiful public beaches (Cupsogue Beach) so you don’t need to be a resident.

In the fall and winter, a trip up the Hudson Valley is ideal. Towns like Sleepy Hollow and Cortland Manor are great for antiquing. Skiing at Hunter or Windham Mountains is also a lot of fun.


Westhampton dunes by Joe Shlabotnik on Flickr

Westhampton dunes by Joe Shlabotnik on Flickr


Virgin Atlantic fly to New York City five times daily from London Heathrow. Check out the website for the best deal on fares.

The Royalton and Hudson hotels are part of the Morgans Hotel Group, one of Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club partners. Flying Club members can earn miles with every stay. For more information on Flying Club, visit the website to learn more about our seriously rewarding loyalty programme.

Thanks to Flickr photographers Joe Shlabotnik, laverrue, Josh Staiger, Paul Lowry and for the header picture of the Statue of Liberty, S J Pinkney.


Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the co-editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.

Categories: Our Places