Planning a break in New York City? Here are a few ideas of what to see, what to do, where to shop and where to stay – with a bit of help from TV and the movies…
See the sights from the heights at the GE Building, 30 Rock
30 Rockefeller Plaza, Manhattan
30 Rock, Tina Fey’s comedy about a fictional live sketch show, is named after this 70-storey building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the real-life home of US network NBC. On your way to the Top of the Rock, there’s a chance to learn about the history of the broadcaster, including the Saturday Night Live show which inspired 30 Rock and is still filmed in the studios here. You also get to recreate that iconic 1932 photo Lunch Atop a Skyscraper by posing for a shot while hanging out on a girder. On the roof, take in stunning views of New York landmarks including the Empire State Building (the one bit of the Manhattan skyline you can’t see from the Empire State Building) and the vast expanse of Central Park.
Follow Doctor Who and the Ghostbusters into Central Park
New York’s biggest landmark Central Park has featured in countless films and TV shows. That familiar group of boulders, for instance, is where Amy Pond, Rory Williams and a certain time traveller enjoy a picnic in Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill’s farewell Doctor Who episode The Angels Take Manhattan. Meanwhile, the list of romantic comedies that have used the Park as a location is as long as your arm. Along with a forest of trees, the park boasts scenic lakes and ponds, a huge reservoir encircled by a running track, two ice-skating rinks, a zoo, a wildlife sanctuary and numerous cafes and restaurants. But my favourite spot is on the grass on the west side of the park with the distinctive Art Deco “Ghostbusters building” (55 Central Park West), looming above the trees. Home to Sigourney Weaver’s Dana Barrett in the classic 80s comedy, it’s the hub of supernatural activity where Bill Murray and co have their final messy showdown with the Marshmallow Man.
Make your own movie moment at Grand Central Terminal
89 East 42nd Street, Manhattan
The cavernous main concourse with those arched windows throwing down huge shafts of light could have been designed as a movie set, and has indeed played host to several Hollywood productions. Cary Grant is a man on the run, pursued through the bustling station by police officers, in Alfred Hitchock’s thriller masterpiece North by Northwest, while Terry Gilliam transforms it into a glittering ballroom in stylish fantasy The Fisher King starring Robin Williams. Make your own movie moment by arranging to meet a lover under the famous antique clock. If they’re late, look up and enjoy the beautiful (if not completely accurate) mural of the signs of the Zodiac. Or watch for them making an entrance via the grand stone steps from the mezzanine – just try not to let the recent additions of two prominent Apple logos amongst the period architecture spoil the occasion too much.
Party like the stars at 230 Fifth
230 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan
This place is a bit special. A buzzing lounge bar is furnished with plush sofas and banquettes and offers delicious cocktails and 20th-floor views of Manhattan. It’s exactly the kind of place you can imagine Sex & the City’s Carrie Bradshaw and co coming for a few cosmos and it’s certainly been the venue for some parties they would appreciate, including The Devil Wears Prada premiere bash and a Louis Vitton launch. Meanwhile, Kevin Spacey celebrated the opening night of his Broadway play Moon for the Misbegotten here and the cast of The Sopranos took a well-earned between-season’s break here too. But it doesn’t end with the lounge. Head up a final flight of stairs and you’ll find the stunning wooden-decked rooftop garden, with a view to rival any bar in any city in the world. It’s open 4pm to 4am 365 days a year and, along with outdoor heaters, provides cosy robes to wear in less summery conditions so you can have it large (and high) any night of the year. If you’ve done enough partying, visit on Saturday or Sunday between 10am and 4pm to enjoy the fabulous buffet brunch and a restorative cocktail. Who knows, after that, you might just feel like getting started again…
Shopping worth leaving the City for at Woodbury Common Premium Outlets
Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, 498 Red Apple Court, Central Valley, New York
Talking of Sex & the City, Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda prefer not to venture outside Manhattan if they can help it but the stylish foursome should make an exception for Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, less than an hour from the City, where you can pick up quality fashion at knock-down prices. Outlets for designer labels like Prada and Armani nestle alongside hip brands like Superdry and Levi’s in this shopping village of 220 bungalows spread across an 850 acre site. Price tags show the initial savings, and stores advertise specific discounts on top of them, but they often fail to mention additional cuts, so make sure to ask. Yet further savings can be made using books of discount coupons, which are free with your ticket if you come on a ShortLine bus from the city or $10 from the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets information centre. Before you start shopping it’s important to formulate your plan of attack so grab a coffee in the food pavilion and get to work prioritising the stores you want to visit and plotting the most efficient course through Woodbury Common on your map. You may well want to dedicate two days to Woodbury, one for scouting and one for buying (or, let’s face it, just two for buying). Fans of lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) and her chic power dressing in US legal drama The Good Wife should definitely get themselves to Woodbury – stylist Dan Lawson sourced items for the character there.
Stay, eat and drink in the City
Loews Regency Hotel, 540 Park Avenue, Manhattan
Back in the day, the Loews Regency regularly welcomed Hollywood icons like Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. A $100 million makeover has brought it up to date while retaining a sense of classic style and a reputation for discreetly servicing the stars. If you’re looking to treat yourself to a touch of luxury, not to mention a swanky Park Avenue address, this could be the place, especially since celebrity hairdresser Julien Farel has taken up residence in a new salon and spa. Bedroom suites are well-appointed and generously proportioned, there’s a great cocktail bar and the restaurant deserves to be a dining destination in itself.
Rooms from £322 loewshotels.com/regency-hotel
Stay somewhere unique outside the City
Thayer Hotel, West Point, New York
If you do visit the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets shopping destination, why not make your base the historic Thayer Hotel, less than half an hour’s drive away. It’s a chance to stay in a truly unique setting, located within the grounds of the famous West Point military academy, which has been a filming location for movies and TV featuring stars ranging from James Cagney and Doris Day to Leonard Nimoy, Barbara Streisand, Walter Matthau and Samuel L Jackson. From the front of the hotel you can watch cadets playing American football on the training fields, while the back looks directly onto the Hudson. The lobby features a huge open fire and there’s a cosy bar with a river view. Rooms are modest but comfortable, and you can even arrange a tour of the academy.
Rooms from £77 thethayerhotel.com