New Yorkers' New York: Where to Go and What to Do

The High line, an elevated park above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side, is a nature-lover’s paradise. //Photography: Getty Images/ablokhin

What are some of the best things to do in New York? We checked in with some very local luxury travel advisors who revealed their favorite haunts in Manhattan.

Richard Beck, owner, Classic Travel Service

New York City is arguably the cultural capital of the world. As a travel advisor, like many of us, I love to discover new places and often revisit some of them. I often ask myself “Could I live here?” However, reality soon sets in and I find myself once again on an airliner bound for my home. When the flight attendant speaks the words “Ladies and gentlemen welcome on board our flight to New York,” I get chills.

One of the other things that gives me chills is when the 21 starburst crystal chandeliers rise into the ceiling signifying the start of another performance at the Metropolitan Opera House. 3,800 people may be watching an opera that’s been performed many times at many opera houses around the world, but no house is like the Met. The stage is huge and so are the productions. The greatest opera stars come to perform here and wait for reviews to follow that certainly mark their future. 

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The experience can be surprisingly affordable because even the seats high up in “heaven,” as regulars refer to them, enjoy incredible acoustics and visuals. I know this because working as an usher at the Met was one of my first jobs when I moved to Manhattan. I never forgot that first opera and neither will your client, or maybe you.  

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, founded in 1870, has a permanent collection of over two million works from around the world. Photography: Getty Images / AlexPro9500

Michael Holtz, owner, SmartFlyer

My favorite evening is to spend time in the West Village; dinner at The Left Bank Restaurant at 117 Perry Street, followed by drinks at The Otheroom, at 143 Perry Street. During the day, I love riding a Citi Bike down the Hudson River Park.

Kimberly Wilson Wetty, co-president, Valerie Wilson Travel

As much as I love the Upper East Side for art museums, shopping, great food and, of course, a run in Central Park, I also so enjoy SoHo and the Village. When I lived in the city years ago, I remember SoHo being trendy, artsy and full of amazing one-off boutiques; now it is designer row but you can still find some hidden finds, and dinner at The Dutch (131 Sullivan Street) is a must.

Jack Bloch, owner, JB’s World Travel Consultants

Being on the Upper West Side, which is a much quieter neighborhood than bustling downtown, a typical Sunday includes sleeping in late, getting the best bagels in town at Absolute Bagels (2788 Broadway) if the line is not too long, taking the bagels with a lox spread to Riverside Park and enjoying them overlooking the Hudson River.

Next step is getting a Citi Bike for a ride downtown on Riverside Drive to SoHo for some shopping. After getting back on a Citi Bike and riding back uptown, we head out for an early dinner outdoors at the cash-only Max Soha (1274 Amsterdam Avenue) for a great Italian meal. 

Roosevelt Island Tram, an aerial tramway that spans the East River, provides scenic views of Manhattan. Photography: Getty Images / MBPROJEKT Maciej Bledowski

Jack Ezon, managing partner and founder of Embark

We generally center our Funday Sundays around Mom’s (aka my wife’s) shopping. I take the four kids while she gets to shop.  She’ll meet us sometimes halfway… or not… And so, below is a summary of our favorite things to do centered around area’s Mom loves to shop.

Bloomingdales (Lexington Avenue and 59th Street): We’ll start at Serendipity 3 (225 East 60th Street) for frozen hot chocolate, then we love to take the Tramway to Roosevelt Island for a Frisbee match at the park and ice cream. Sometimes we’ll literally just take the Tramway back and forth a few times.

We usually spend at least one hour there exploring. We always end up at Dylan’s Candy Bar (1011 3rd Avenue). I give the kids a one-item limit, which causes the most anxiety (too many choices)!

Saks Fifth Avenue (Fifth Avenue and 50th Street): Rockefeller Center and NBC Studios are always a hit. There’s ice skating, of course. We love the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa; 11 West 53rd Street), especially with a great guide who brings it all to life. The Nike Store (650 Fifth Avenue) is a hit for everyone, and we love exploring the dynamic activations in Rockefeller Plaza. The kids love “tea” at the Baccarat or Palace hotel. If we want to go further afar, we may venture into Times Square and be a tourist for the day, chilling in the M&M Store, the Disney Store and taking touristy pics with the fake Mickey Mouse! 

The Metropolitan Opera House is the largest repertory opera house in the world with a seating capacity of approximately 3,800. Photography: Getty Images / Sean Pavone Photo

Bergdorf Goodman (Fifth Avenue and 58th Street): Central Park is just as wonderland, with new places to discover every time we go. Kids love climbing the “granite mountains,” boating, or enjoying mechanical boat races by the Conservatory. The kids love the playground by the Obelisk outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Adventure Playground by the Zoo. Then, of course, there is skating in Wollman Rink in the winter or rides in summer at the Victoria Gardens amusement park. Rent rollerblades or bike, take in a puppet show at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater and be sure to bring a picnic lunch. We always love to end the day at the flagship Apple Store (767 Fifth Avenue; the first one ever built) and the Plaza Hotel’s Todd English’s Food Hall for crepes after hanging in the Eloise store.   

Madison Avenue Shopping: This is Museum Mile for us; there are so many fun museums for kids. The Guggenheim, Cooper Hewitt, The Frick, the Jewish Museum and, of course, the Metropolitan Museum of Art are our favorites. There are so many great ways to explore New York museums with kids. The Met has four different adventures or treasure hunts or we hire some great guides to bring it alive. On a few occasions we’ve even hired artist guides who teach the kids how to imitate the artistic method of something we are seeing on the wall.  

Central Park (far right center), according to Jack Ezon, is a wonderland for families. Photography: Getty Images / travnikovstudio

The Cooper Hewitt is always buzzing with some cool new design exhibit and the Frick is just intimate and special while the Guggenheim brims with personality. 

Financial District (FiDi): The Oculus is amazing for the family. We’ve done some epic scavenger hunts there. Then there is the tremendous 9/11 Memorial, the dramatic fountains and skating or strolling by Brookfield Place. Battery Park City’s Rockefeller Park is awesome in the spring and fall, and we love taking a trip to Ellis Island or Liberty Island, even just for a great picnic lunch (Make sure to get VIP tickets to skip the line.) We love strolling down some of the cool “Old World” streets downtown, which look like they are right out of Hamilton. 

The Dutch in SoHo serves regional American fare and Kimberly Wilson Wetty says dinner here “is a must.” Photography: Getty Images / art4stock

The secret boutique Skyscraper Museum (39 Battery Place) and New York Transit Museum (2 Broadway) are great finds tucked into a small corner, while the new South Street Seaport has been rejuvenated with great life (and an amazing gourmet luxury movie theater).

Another great FiDi / Downtown Brooklyn favorite of ours is Governors Island. From April until October, this is such a thrilling city escape. We love the outdoor art and sculpture museum, the eclectic miniature golf, biking around amazing pathways, awesome playgrounds, fabulous pop-up museums and experiences every week.

The Meatpacking District: What’s a day of shopping in the Meatpacking District without a fabulous walk along the High Line, the best hot chocolate at the Standard (848 Washington Street; stuffed with candy canes and marshmallows), followed by a good hour at the Samsung Store’s Virtual Reality experience? 

The Oculus is a major attraction for families in the Financial District. Photography: Getty Images / texpan

The Whitney Museum of American Art (99 Gansevoort Street) is just fantastic for kids, and on weekends they have phenomenal hands-on art workshops, which we all adore.

The Museum of Illusions (77 8th Avenue) is a blast and we love to poke our heads into Hocus Pocus, where every afternoon on weekends they give kids free magic lessons.

On nicer days, we’ll do trapeze lessons and head to Chelsea Piers for the most ridiculous golf range you will ever see, followed by skating and galactic glow bowling.

Upper West Side: We are kind of obsessed with the American Museum of Natural History (Central Park West & 79th Street).

Governors Island, according to Jack Ezon, is a thrilling city escape from April until October. Seen in the background is the Financial District. Photography: Getty Images / IdealPhoto30

A picnic lunch under the giant whale is a must; and yes, we have annual passes. 

Next door is another amazing museum — the New-York Historical Society (170 Central Park West) is an awesome find. The Spyscape, a spy museum at 928 8th Avenue is always a great fun and thrilling experience, especially when the kids bring their friends in tow.

SoHo: What’s not to love? It is so much fun to walk around, especially with a child-friendly art guide who brings all of the art galleries to life.

Cronuts are a huge hit at the Dominique Ansel Bakery. Photography: Debbie Sheehan

There is always something amazing at the CMA (Children’s Museum of the Arts; 103 Charlton Street), which is an interactive art museum and workshop where kids will cry if they have to leave before four hours are up. The Color Factory (a pop-up interactive art exhibition, 251 Spring Street) is an awesome and yummy treat.

Oh, and stopping for Cronuts at Dominique Ansel (189 Spring Street) when the lines abate late in the afternoon is always a treat.  

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