Book a king room at the edgy Hotel on Rivington and luxuriate in the swimming pool-like soaking tubs.
The Lower East Side:
Immigrants from around the world once descended on this bustling, off-the-grid neighborhood and crammed into its teeming tenement apartments. Today, the LES has become decidedly hip and gentrified, attracting American Apparel-clad types who seek cutting-edge restaurants and bars, eclectic shopping and glass-wrapped hotels. Happily, vestiges of the neighborhood’s past remain in holdouts such as Katz’s Deli, Russ & Daughters Appetizers and the Essex Street Market, as well as at cultural institutions such as the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and the Museum at Eldridge Street. As composer Irving Berlin once said, “Everyone ought to have a Lower East Side in their life.”
Base Camps: The Hotel on Rivington or the Thompson LES. These two slick and contemporary hostelries have changed the face of the Lower East with their sky-reaching towers offering stellar views and lounge-y vibes. Book a king room at the edgy Riv and luxuriate in the swimming pool-like soaking tubs. At the Thompson, renowned chef Susur Lee crafts inventive Pan-Asian cooking at Shang; upstairs, rooms are minimalist-chic yet supremely comfortable.
The Upper East Side:
Think glamorous, manicured streets; wide avenues with uniformed doormen manning posh prewar apartment buildings; cultural offerings aplenty and access to Central Park (as well as its stunning Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir walking path) and voilá! Welcome to the Upper East Side. But beyond the Gossip Girl glitz of Fifth, Madison and Park avenues are remnants of the neighborhood’s multi-culti past, including throwback eateries in one-time German, Hungarian and Irish stronghold Yorkville. And Carnegie Hill—named for the nearby mansion of magnate Andrew Carnegie, now the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum—offers a sleepy, leafy enclave packed with charming cafés and unique shops.
Base Camp: The Surrey. The Upper East Side sets the standard for glamour in Manhattan, so why not splurge on a decidedly chic hotel. The recently opened Surrey on East 76th Street brings a boutique experience to the Upper East Side, paired with especially attentive service. We are especially partial to the hotel’s guests-only rooftop lounge-cum-garden, its stunning spa and access to superstar chef Daniel Boulud’s Café Boulud, situated just off the lobby (and available via room service).
On weekdays, the population of Midtown Manhattan balloons from roughly 40,000 by night to 200,000 by 9 a.m., pulling in the suits from the tristate region. But beyond the glittering towers that line the Avenue of the Americas and that one-time haunt of America’s Mad Men, Mad Ave., both the east and west stretches of Midtown offer hidden gems and world-class amenities, from shopping and hotels to restaurants and cultural activities. Plus, the neighborhood houses NYC’s convention hub, the ever-expanding Javits Center; Madison Square Garden, the famed, multispace venue that hosts everyone from the Knicks and the Rangers to blockbuster concerts such as Lady Gaga and this month’s Shakira; and historic Radio City Music Hall. And then there’s the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, Grand Central Terminal, the Morgan Library & Museum, the Empire State Building, Broadway and—phew!—so much more.
Base Camps: Andaz 5th Avenue and the Ace Hotel New York. The just-opened Andaz 5th Avenue, a new concept brand from Hyatt, will put you perfectly at the crossroads of Midtown, 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue. Whether you’re in the neighborhood for business or pleasure, the location cannot be beat. The Andaz is all minimalist chic and glass, with a terrific restaurant in the form of The Shop, which highlights New York-grown ingredients. If you’re looking for edgy cool on a budget, you can’t beat the Ace Hotel New York on West 29th Street, with its old-school style and white-hot eatery, The Breslin.
This article has been adapted from the original, which appeared in the September 2010 issue of Sky.