Time flies, and perhaps nowhere does it fly faster than in Manhattan, home to a thousand clichés, 1.6 million people, 13,000 taxicabs and countless things to do and places to eat, drink and sleep.
It doesn’t lend itself to a leisurely visit—I highly doubt anyone ever planned a relaxing trip to New York City. But it does promise excitement, top-of-the-line hotels and restaurants, and the chance to interact with some of the world’s best and brightest. And no matter how many times I visit, I leave with new information, insights and experiences. My stays always feel too brief, and I always start to miss the city before I’ve even left.
I recently spent a quick 48 hours in New York City (three sleeps and two full days in the city), for a mix of work and leisure. I brought my 6-year-old daughter with me, so my choices of where to stay, dine and recreate were coloured by her company. Still, with a well-located hotel, smart choices for dining and drinking, a little downtime and a willing babysitter in tow—and in spite of the jetlag—I packed it all into my New York minute.
Sleeping & Dreaming
My meetings were almost all in Midtown, so it made sense to base at the Intercontinental New York Barclay, an old guard classic near Grand Central Station. But old guard doesn’t mean out of date. Following a recent $180 million and 20-month renovation, it has emerged as a glamorous destination that embraces its past. Located in Manhattan’s East Side, it’s easy walking distance from Rockefeller Center, Times Square, and shops such as Saks Fifth Avenue. This luxury hotel is modern temple dressed in elegant 1920s, Federalist-style clothing—think more The Great Gatsby than The Great Depression. A grand, glass-ceilinged lobby gives way to side lounges and sitting areas suited to one-on-one conversations. The polished Gin Parlour bar and restaurant just off the lobby makes a good meeting place for those decisions best made over a few stiff martinis.
Standard guest rooms tend to the compact side, but are refined and well-designed, with understated décor and premium amenities. Square footage and views improve with room category, naturally, with corner 1-bedroom executive suites offering a bigger-than-your-first-apartment 1,100 square feet. Requisite tech is all there, from large flat-screen TVs to free Wi-Fi to plenty of power jacks for portable devices.
A business centre, salon and fitness room round out the amenities, and there’s 15,000 square feet of meeting space in case you plan to take conquer the world—or just Manhattan—on your next trip.
If you’re in the mood for something a little more boutiquey, you don’t have to head to Tribeca. Consider Refinery Hotel near Bryant Park, for its industrial-chic design and eternally hip bars, including Winnie’s Jazz Lounge and the buzzy Refinery Rooftop. Bright, airy guest rooms are like that New York loft apartment you always dreamed of.
Kimpton Ink48 touts its Hell’s Kitchen location and definitely plays to the millennial audience, with its clubby common areas and just-exclusive-enough rooftop bar. Even the smallest guest rooms are bright and sleek, and the skyline or river views are hard to beat.
Meeting, Eating, Greeting
Work did take me Downtown for a few hours, so I built in a lunch meeting at Del Frisco’s Grille at Brookfield Place, the newest branch of the upscale, established eatery. By day it’s a discreet setting for a meal, especially one where you’d like to impress a client or contact. A well-considered wine list and a craft cocktail menu, plus an open floorplan, lofty ceilings and ample city views make it a lively spot for happy hours and drinks-to-dinner gatherings.
I also met colleagues for dinner at The Smith Midtown, an American Brasserie with a menu of high-end comfort food, creative cocktails and of course, craft beers. It was packed and a little bit dinny, but even in the busy dining room we were able to converse without just pretending to hear what the other was saying. We’d made a reservation and had we not, we’d have joined the dozens of unlucky souls waiting on the sidewalk for a table to open up, or we could have eaten at the crowded bar.
For a quintessential New York experience, make sure one of your meals comes with a great view of the city. This time I chose Gaonnuri, the posh 39th-floor restaurant serving up traditional Korean cuisine and Empire State Building views. The chic, romantic setting and those nighttime views are enough to melt the hearts of even the most jaded of travellers—or New Yorkers.
Midtown Watering Holes
– thanks to Barbara Gillespie
Midtown isn’t exactly known for its cutting edge nightlife. But if work brings you there and you don’t feel like schlepping Downtown for happy hour or a cocktail-infused dinner, all hope is not lost. When you don’t have kids in tow, check out these Midtown drinking joints where you won’t be the youngest person at the bar.
La Biblioteca: This sexy tequila bar is proof you don’t have to go Downtown for a decent happy hour. Take your chances on one of more than 400 types of tequila and Mezcal, and temper the effects of all that booze with something from the Latin-Asian food menu.
The Campbell Bar: Catching a train from Grand Central Station? Be sure to catch a bespoke cocktail first, at this classy, classic hideaway right in the station. With an entire menu just devoted to negronis, we think we’re in love.
The Monkey Bar: Holden Caulfield, the angsty antihero of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, drank at this clubby bar attached to a discreet, old world hotel, as did Carrie Bradshaw (with Mr. Big) and Don Draper. If it was cool enough for them, it’s cool enough for you.
Jimmy’s Corner: This dive bar for cheap drinks is too cool for a website or an Instagram feed. It’s favoured by hipsters, boxing fans, hard drinkers and newspaper types and may be the only place in Midtown where you can still get a $3 beer.
The Ginger Man: There are more than 70 craft beers on tap at this old school bar, and don’t even get us started on the bottled beer list. You can order a Caesar salad or a club sandwich to wash down our brewski, but we say go traditional with a soft pretzel, a deli hot dog or a bratwurst.
Downtime & Playtime
Since my daughter was with me on the trip, some fun was in order as well. We ice-skated at Central Park’s Wollman Rink, which is well suited for little kids just learning to skate (or adults not that steady on their blades, cough-cough). Then we headed to Sugar Factory, which lived up to my expectations—over-the-top cocktails and mocktails foaming and frothing with dry ice, huge portions of mediocre mall restaurant fare, candy-covered sundaes and desserts, and everyone Instagramming everything. Still, my daughter was in heaven, and putting up with a lot of Kardashian fans was worth it to share in her joy.
And since we were in New York, after all, I came with an empty suitcase. There’s high-end shopping at Brookfield Place and not too far from there is the designer discount mecca, Century 21. With seven floors of high-quality shoes, handbags and casual, sports- and formalwear, it…overwhelms. In a good way. The discounts are always significant, whether it’s a $1500 pair of Christian Louboutin boots marked down to $599, or a $90 pair of Lucky Brand jeans reduced to $40.
If you have more time to wander than I did, head to Greenwich Village and get lost in that delightful grid of streets that is home to one-off designer shops, great vintage clothiers, and gourmet eateries. At Broadway and Broome, the downtown Bloomingdale’s offers mainstream and upmarket fashions on a much more manageable scale than the chain’s uptown branches.