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10 Things you must do in... New York

by: Caroline Westbrook and Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2005-02-22

Times Square in New York

Times Square

Check out our essential guide to the best sights, smells, shops and scenes that New York has to offer. If you only do 10 things during your stay, make sure they include these.

1. Visit the 2nd Avenue Deli. With its overstuffed sandwiches, enormous potato knishes and oversized matzo balls, this place is a kosher institution. Worth a visit for the bustling, fast-paced atmosphere as well as the food. Don’t miss the room which pays homage to stars of Yiddish theatre.  You may have to queue to get in and share a table with complete strangers, but this is just part of the fun.

Top tip: Order corned beef on rye but make sure you have it lean. For an extra dollar, they’ll remove any fat.

Address: 156 Second Avenue New York, NY 10003 at 10th Street 
Tel: 212 677 0606

2. Take a trip on the Staten Island ferry. Don’t spend $20 or more on one of the touristy cruise trips of New York when you can do virtually the same trip for free on the Staten Island Ferry. The journey is about half an hour and takes you from Whitehall Street, Manhattan, to St George, Staten Island, and is used by around 70,000 passengers per day.

Top Tip: Wrap up warm during the winter as it can get quite breezy on the ferry.

3. Visit the Jewish Museum. One of the biggest Jewish museums in the world, this offers a full perspective of Jewish life and history, from Biblical times through to the present day, encompassing painting and sculpture, decorative and ceremonial arts among others. Although darker periods in Jewish history such as the Holocaust are covered, this is largely a celebratory look at Jewish life and the contribution Jews have made to society. The museum also features an excellent shop selling a wide selection of Judaic and books.

Top Tip: Normally adults will pay $10 and seniors and students will pay $7.50 for admission, but if you go on a Thursday between 5pm and 9pm you can pay whatever you want.

Address: 1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street New York, NY 10128 
Tel: 212 423 3200

4. Recreate film history by going down to the Lower East Side and actually Crossing Delancey - Delancey Street, to be precise.

Top Tip: Don’t forget to have your picture taken in front of the street sign.

How To Get There: Take subway line J, M or Z to Delancey Street/Essex Street

5. Go to Coney Island. For years it was in decline, but over the last decade Coney Island has reinvented itself as a place where New Yorkers go to relax and amuse themselves. Go on the rollercoasters, get great views of the city from the Astrotower and then take a stroll along the Boardwalk towards Brighton Beach, made famous in Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs. Once you get there, you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported to Russia.

Top Tip: Visit in the summer, as many of the attractions are closed in winter.

How to get there: Take subway line W to Stillwell Avenue.

6. Catch a film and a Broadway show. New York cinemas are big and comfortable, none more so than the Loews Cineplex in Lincoln Square. Plus you get unlimited refills on soft drinks. While many Broadway shows are sold out months in advance, you can always queue up for returns, or try the cheap ticket booth in Times Square - good for bargain seats if you’re not too fussy about which show you see.

Top Tip: Check out which films have just opened - many movies don’t open in the UK until several months later so you have the chance to see a blockbuster long before it’s released here.

Address: Loews Cineplex Lincoln Square, Loews Cineplex Lincoln Square 1998 Broadway, New York NY 10023

7. Visit the world’s largest department store. Macy’s on 34th Street in the Herald Square district went through a bad patch in the 90s but has since improved considerably. The store, which spans an entire block, is so huge that you’re bound to find something you like, but budget to spend at least half a day there.

Top Tip: If you’re after a major bargain, make sure you go on a day when a further 50% is taken off the already reduced sales price.

Address: 151 West 34th Street, New York, NY 10001-2101
Tel: 212 695 4400

8. Try a genuine New York bagel. While there are plenty of places to do this, the one which sets the standard is H&H Bagels. With a choice of at least a dozen flavours, including Cinnamon Raisin, Sesame, Wholewheat and Blueberry, you’re sure to find something to whet your appetite.

Top Tip: Be careful when biting into your bagel as they are so fresh that steam will actually pour from them.

Address: 2239 Broadway New York, New York 10024 
Tel: 212 595 8003

9. Go To Boro Park. Home to one of the world’s largest Jewish communities, it features Jewish shops and kosher cafes and takeaways, as well as numerous small ‘hole in the wall’ shuls every few blocks.

Top Tip: Immerse yourself in the atmosphere.

How to get there: Take subway line M to Fort Hamilton Parkway/New Utrech Avenue or 50th Street/New Utrecht Avenue.

10. Try a knish at Yonah Schimmel Knishes. A New York knish is traditionally made of mashed potato in a pastry case, but at this lower East Side institution (it’s been going since 1910), named after a Romanian rabbi, a variety of knishes are available, including spinach, mushroom and sweet potato. The décor still has that old world feel to it. A real blast from the past.

Address: 137 East Houston Street, Between 1st and 2nd, Lower East Side
Tel: 212 477 2858

Getting to New York

British Airways, United, American Airlines, Virgin, Air India and Icelandair are just a few of the airlines operating from the UK to New York’s major international airports. A return trip off-season can cost as little as £250 including taxes. 

Flights arrive at either John F Kennedy (JFK) or Newark. Expect to pay a flat fare of $45 plus toll and tips for a cab ride into Manhattan from JFK. From Newark, expect to pay a similar amount. This journey can take up to an hour depending on traffic. New York has another airport, La Guardia, which is for domestic flights.