A city of firsts, a place where things begin and thrive, and then become fashionable everywhere. From arts and fashion to music and food, the world relies on New York for inspiration. With our flights to New York you can start exploring straight away.
For first timers, Manhattan will seem like the busiest and brightest place in the world, packed with things to do in New York and places to see. But once you’ve seen the iconic sights and ticked off Times Square and Central Park, perhaps venture out into Manhattan’s less iconic areas. Explore the distinct neighbourhoods of Greenwich Village or Tribeca. Browse boutiques in the Meatpacking District or rummage through flea markets in Chelsea. Then visit Harlem, home to great jazz clubs and soul food. Escape Manhattan and you’ll find other areas similarly teeming with artists, musicians and foodies. Brooklyn has many exciting restaurants and bars, especially Williamsburg’s hip pop-up bars. Coney Island’s fun fair and boardwalk cafés excite the child in all of us. And Yankee Stadium and the Bronx Zoo bring millions of visitors each month. Don’t be afraid to indulge your curiosity and head off the tourist trail, as you are sure to find something new and exciting.
Festivals in The City That Never Sleeps
New York is the most culturally diverse city on the planet, so you would expect some fantastic festivals on offer. And you will not be disappointed. Celebrating the best of the Big Apple’s multiculturalism – The Afropunk Festival brings alternative black music to Brooklyn’s streets on 27 and 28 August. Ice Cube, TV on the Radio and Janelle Monae headline the festivities. Then, from 2 to 4 September (Labor Day weekend in the USA) fans of dance music will be heading to Randall’s Island Park for the Electric Zoo Festival. Featuring some of the best names in electronic dance music, including Tiesto and Bassnectar, this is perfect for a weekend in Manhattan.
May brings the start of early summer sun so expect outdoor music festivals, lazy days in Central Park and high-brow art fairs. Don’t miss the summer’s new exhibitions, Broadway shows and concerts. And the US Navy drops anchor in the city at the end of the month, for the annual Fleet Week.
5 May brings Cinco de Mayo’s party atmosphere to NYC, so from Brooklyn to Queens you’ll be able to eat fantastic food, drink cerveza and join in the fun of Mexico’s favourite holiday. Meet new amigos and amigas for the fiesta at the Cinco de Mayo Street Fair outside Grand Central Station.
For those less interested in partying, New York’s elite will be attending Frieze New York over the weekend, 5 to 8 May. The famous arts fair will be showcasing the world’s leading galleries of contemporary art. Curated by leading artists, and with fascinating talks from artists, curators and cultural writers, all at a bespoke structure in Randall's Island Park, overlooking the East River.
Post-punk maestro Gary Numan brings his industrial-electronica stylings to New York’s Grammercy Theater on 10 to 12 May. His more recent shows have seen him move away from classic electro and darken things up a bit, so expect thundering basslines and gothic-inspired lyrics.
Taking things back a few years is the Philadelphia Orchestra playing at the world-famous Carnegie Hall. This concert on 11 May sees them performing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1 – which was composed when he was just 18-years old – in a celebrated musical journey which was forgotten for many years. It has been lovingly brought back to the forefront of the classical scene after its fall from grace.
Make your way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the fantastic Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, which explores the impact of technology in fashion and the rise of machine-made haute couture. This exhibition, which is on throughout May, distinguishes between ensembles made by hand (manus) and garments made by machines (machina) over the past 120 years.
The annual 9th Avenue Food Festival takes place on Ninth Avenue, between 42nd and 57th Street on 14 and 15 May. Making its way through Hell’s Kitchen, you’ll find some amazing stalls selling everything from American classics to Greek gyros, Venezuelan empanadas, Pad Thai and much, much more.
Those with a macabre sense of humour should visit the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre to see American Psycho: The Musical playing throughout May. Coming from a sold out run in London, this is a brilliant take on Brett Easton Ellis’s gruesome novel, with a killer cast and a terrific score.
And finally, Sailors and Marines come to town when the US Naval Fleet drops anchor for Fleet Week New York between 25 and 31 May. Now in its 28th year, it gives the public the opportunity to meet Sailors, Marines and the Coast Guard and to find out how things work in the service of a modern battleship.
Find out what's on in New York this June
The month of June is festival season, from jazz to punk and beyond, you’ll find something you like. Don’t miss Museum Mile, when fifth avenue comes alive with children’s games and exhibitions. Then at the end of the month it is Pride, with parades and parties galore. So expect a month of fun in New York.
Starting June on a musical theme is the fifth annual Blue Note Jazz Festival, which showcases the best of New York’s superb jazz scene. Taking place over different venues, including the Blue Note Jazz Club and the BB King Blues Club, you’ll see some of the finest acts in Jazz from 1 to 30 June.
The Governors Ball takes place on Randall’s Island Park, between Manhattan and Brooklyn. From 3 to 5 June you can see some amazing acts, including Kanye West, The Strokes and Beck, to name a few. Add to that some epic food stalls and plenty of craft beer, and you have a pretty good start to a summer of festivals.
Head back in time at the Jazz Age Lawn Party which takes place on Governor’s Island over the weekend of 11 and 12 June. Thousands of fans of the roaring 20s enjoy the classic age of jazz, chic speakeasies and dancing the Charleston at this exclusive weekender – so book early to avoid disappointment.
First held in 1978, the Museum Mile Festival is a night of discovery for New York’s residents and visitors alike. The nine museums on Fifth Avenue, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim, are open to the public for free on 14 June. With live bands and entertainment and activities for children, this is a wonderful evening out.
The spectacular Philharmonic in the Park sees the world-famous New York Philharmonic Orchestra play to the crowds on the Great Lawn in Central Park between 15 and 22 June. Expect big crowds, sublime music and awe-inspiring fireworks to mark the finale’s crashing crescendos.
The largest art parade in the US, the Coney Island Mermaid Parade brings thousands of artists and extroverts to Brooklyn’s famous Coney Island. A colourful celebration of the summer solstice, artists dress as mermaids and sailors to create a fun, family-friendly carnival on the 18 June.
New York is one of the most forward-thinking cities in the world, and its NYC Pride events make sure future generations do not feel the discriminations of the past. Celebrate the continuing movement 24 to 26 June starting with the parade at Pier 26 at Hudson River Park. Expect fabulous costumes and a party to remember as the festivities continue until early in the morning.
Manchester favourites The Stone Roses play Madison Square Garden in their only date in North America in 2016. Taking place on 30 June, and supported by Mexican duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, this promises to be a brilliant once-in-a-lifetime show.
Find out what's on in New York this July
New York leads the way with the Fourth of July celebrations, and the city’s summer line-up of outdoor events gets into full swing. From laid-back rock to classical crescendos, the city is pumping with music throughout July. And not to be missed are the renditions of Shakespeare’s finest works in Central Park.
Where better to celebrate Independence Day than in the Big Apple? Kick off the festivities on 4 July by hopping on a ferry to Staten Island, for the Travis Parade. Expect a sea of red, white and blue as flag-waving, costume-adorned spectators and participants fill the streets - starting from East Service Road at 12.30 pm.
The day culminates with a crescendo of exploding fireworks as the spectacular Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks display lights up the skies above Manhattan to a rousing musical score. Featuring performances from a host of star names including Kelly Clarkson and Ed Sheeran.
Hailed as ‘New York’s backyard jam’ – the Annual Pleasantville Music Festival is a laidback, family-friendly rock festival featuring top acts, as well as activities to keep little ones entertained. So bring a picnic blanket to Westchester Medical Center (accessible by train from NYC) on Saturday 9 July and settle down for a day of world-class rock.
Then tuck into a veritable feast of arts at the Lincoln Center Festival, from 13 to 31 July. Combining ballet, opera, Shakespeare and much more into one superb showcase – the festival is a must for discerning culture vultures.
Make a splash at the City of Water Day on 16 July, when the city toasts its waterfront with a day of aquatic fun on Governors Island. Boat tours, kayaking, paddle-boarding and a children’s activity fair are just some of the attractions on offer at this fantastic free event for all the family.
The top-notch complimentary events continue with Free Shakespeare in the Park from 19 July to 14 August. In the leafy setting of Central Park’s Delacorte Theater, relax and enjoy Troilus and Cressida – the Bard’s epic tale of warriors and lovers, set in ancient Greece.
For 50 years, the Lincoln Center has been paying homage to Austria’s celebrated son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with the annual Mostly Mozart Festival. This year’s extra special anniversary event features famous artists, world premieres and festival debuts – from 22 July to 27 August.
Uniting poets and poetry lovers across the city, the New York City Poetry Festival celebrates the art form with two days of readings and workshops by 250 exhibitors. For little poets, there is also a children’s festival – in the verdant setting of Governors Island from 30 to 31 July.
If New York is the Big Apple, then its core has to be Midtown, where you will find the essential city experience. Home to the iconic Empire State Building, grandiose Chrysler Building and Grand Central Station’s majestic architecture, this is Manhattan as you imagine it. Stay at the luxury InterContinental New York, with panoramic views of the bright lights of bustling Times Square. Shopping options are in great supply with Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s on the doorstep, and you can find some great bargains at Century 21. Don’t miss out on MoMA, where you can also eat fantastic gourmet cuisine at The Modern.
Downtown AKA Lower Manhattan is a melting pot of culture, cutting-edge style and multicultural indulgences. Visit the East Village, where student-friendly cafés and elegant cocktail lounges co-exist peacefully. West Village is a great area for bars, as it surrounds the NYU campus – have a beer in a dive bar along McDougal Street. Go further west to Greenwich Village where cool bookshops and laidback restaurants await the more relaxed crowd. Or enjoy the urgent vibrancy and fantastic food of Chinatown, and browse the imitation-designer goods on sale. Eat traditional pizza or meatballs in Little Italy, before going south toward the Financial District’s flashy bars.
Whilst technically Lower Manhattan, these areas are at the bottom of the island and deserve more explanation. The Lower East Side is a chic and fashionable area with a long history. You can find the legendary Katz’s Delicatessen here, a classic Jewish deli offering towering pastrami sandwiches. A welcome newcomer to the neighbourhood is The Ludlow, a charmingly original boutique hotel. Then, head east toward the recently-developed cultural hub of the Seaport District, where red brick warehouses house enlightening museums and historic artefacts. Once in the Financial District, make time to gaze in awe at the One World Trade Centre. It is a fitting tribute to the pride and resilience of New York.
The perfect spot for a luxury break in NYC. Known from the 60s to the 80s as artistic havens, Soho and Tribeca are now stylish, up-market districts showcasing haute couture brands such as Chanel and Prada. Soho’s cast iron industrial façades have become iconic, with many bars and chic restaurants taking the place of artist galleries long since moved to Chelsea. Tribeca is currently home to New York’s rich and famous, such as Robert De Niro – who also founded the area’s eponymous film festival. The luxurious Trump Soho is ideally placed for exploring the area, with a chance for some celeb spotting too.
Cobblestone streets, converted brick warehouses and a colourful, eclectic atmosphere is what to expect in the Meatpacking District – a centre of New York nightlife. On the west side of Manhattan, the district has been a hub of fashion and culture since the deluxe Gansevoort Hotel took root in 2004. More recently, creative trendsetters live and work alongside the admittedly diminished market businesses, creating a buzzing, friendly community. Visitors to the area will enjoy the wide variety of quality bars and cafés, and the High Line Park (formally an elevated train line) is a definite must-see.
Uptown Manhattan consists of the beautiful Central Park, Upper East Side and Upper West Side, with stark contrasts between the two sides. Central Park may be the most celebrated park in the world, with iconic ice skating in the winter months. The Upper East Side is full of great museums and galleries, like the Guggenheim, and of course Fifth Avenue. But for a quintessential Manhattan experience, head over to the Upper West Side. The Natural History Museum, the Theater District, and iconic brownstone architecture can be found here. For a cheaper option, Days Inn Hotel, on Broadway, is only a few minutes’ walk away from Central Park.
Harlem begins with the student area of Columbia University, where Ivy leaguers while away their time in the cool bars and cafés. Then onto Harlem proper, whose streets were made famous by the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Slowly becoming gentrified, the bars, restaurants and shops are definitely changing with the times. For example, the Red Rooster Harlem is a perennially packed soul food joint, where chef Marcus Samuelsson focusses on contemporary comfort food. And don’t miss out on a trip to the Apollo Theater. This 80-year old concert hall has roots deep in jazz and soul music, and where Ella Fitzgerald serenaded crowds in the 30s.
Brooklyn is the new fashionable place to go out and be seen, but be aware it is a very large borough, city-size in itself. Hang out with the hipsters in Williamsburg and Prospect Park, or go to Coney Island to try out the gritty funfair. Marvel at the Brooklyn Bridge and the alluring Manhattan skyline in Downtown, or be amongst the art crowd in Red Hook. For a great night out, head to Radegast Hall & Biergarten in Williamsburg, an Austrian-inspired raucous venue with plenty of beer and cool people. Afterwards, saunter back to Downtown’s stylish boutique Aloft Brooklyn to sleep it off.
The sprawling, suburban area north of Harlem known as The Bronx is the only borough of New York on the US mainland. The Grand Concourse in the South Bronx is home to Yankee Stadium and is where hip hop music was born. In season, take in a game of baseball and afterwards relax in a homey restaurant, which sells delicious soul food. North of Grand Concourse in Fordham, you can find the world-famous Bronx Zoo, which is a great trip for all the family, and over the road, the New York Botanical Gardens. The Bronx is a great place to visit in the autumn, with the leafy parks undergoing a colourful foliage change.
Six useful apps for visiting New York
High Life Magazine
From tracking down sample sales to suggestions for activities based on the weather, make the most of your time in NYC with these must-have apps.