New York’s quirkiest areas


By Zach Udko

Photography by Zsolt Hlinka / Getty Images

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Updated December 2018

If you’ve already tried and tested Midtown Manhattan or want to escape the crowds of Times Square, New York is home to plenty of other neighbourhoods that are ideal for curious minded travellers. From glamorous Meatpacking to trendsetting Brooklyn, local resident Zach Udko picks five of the city’s coolest districts.

Meatpacking District

Once a desolate set of abandoned factory buildings, the border between Downtown and Midtown on the west side of Manhattan has become the city’s most glamorous hot spot – thanks to fashion designers, trendy restaurants, and clubs surrounding the High Line

Stay

The Arlo SoHo draws a young crowd, and has delightfully modern, minimalist spaces with homely touches, like bags of coffee to buy in the store downstairs. Rooms are space efficient 'micro rooms' which feature clever design and a cosy aesthetic.

Book a stay at Arlo Soho

Eat

The city’s most Instagram-worthy milkshakes can be found at Black Tap where they consider whole caramel apples and ice cream sandwiches suitable toppings for their candy-studded and cookie-crowned masterpieces.

  • Black Tap is known for its Instagram-worthy milkshakes
  • Hang out on the Arlo Roof Top at the Arlo SoHo. © Arlo hotels.

    Up on the roof

    Where there's a roof, there's a rooftop bar: that seems to be New York's mantra – most hotels worth their salt have one. The Arlo SoHo's is relaxed, hip and serves craft beer and cocktails with equal confidence.

    Book the Arlo SoHo
  • The Renzo Piano-designed Whitney Museum of American Art has a trendy new home in the Meatpacking District © Ed Lederman

    Art attack

    Showcasing many younger and less-established artists, The Whitney’s permanent collection comprises of 21,000 artworks – many of which have never been on display before.

    Explore curious NY

Do

The Whitney Museum wows visitors with its impressive modern art collection and four outdoor spaces overlooking the Hudson River and Midtown Manhattan. Fridays between 19:00 and 21:30 is ‘pay what you wish’ – but be prepared for long wait times.

Chelsea

This charming Midtown neighbourhood is home to the gallery district, Chelsea Market, the Chelsea Piers sports complex, a significant portion of the High Line, and several LGBT establishments.

Stay

With one of the best indoor-outdoor rooftop pools in the city, Royalton Park Avenue is the perfect place to soak up a perfect view of the Empire State Building. Spacious rooms feature plush amenities such as Egyptian cotton linens and Cutler hair products infused with prosecco grapes.

Book a stay at Royalton Park Avenue

Eat

Even meat-lovers have been lining up for chef Chloe Coscarelli’s shockingly satisfying vegan eatery by Chloe, where favourites include the shitake-bacon mac and cheese, and the Bourbon-BBQ burger with grilled pineapple and sautéed kale. Save room for Chloe’s famous raspberry tiramisu cupcakes, which helped launched her career when she became the first vegan chef to win a competition on Food Network.

  • Up on the roof: Chelsea’s Royalton Park Avenue.

    To the terrace

    Yes, that's the Empire State Building you can see: Royalton Park Avenue's roof terrace also comes with a versatile heated swimming pool that has both indoor and outdoor sections. There's also a bar, so you can get drinks after a dip.

    Book flights and hotel

Do

Catch some laughs at Upright Citizens Brigade, a comedy performance space co-founded by Amy Poehler. Nightly improv and sketch comedy (never more than $10) often feature surprise guests from film and television, particularly current Saturday Night Live cast members.

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Soho and Tribeca

Cast-iron buildings, cobbled streets, and trendy boutiques abound in this pair of downtown neighbourhoods.

Stay

Formerly the Tribeca Grand, The Roxy Hotel resurrects Gotham’s 1920s Art Deco style, while its outstanding service ensures you never feel like a fish out of water; they even offer a ‘pet goldfish’ for your stay (by request). Sip a martini downstairs at The Django, a ritzy jazz club with live music every Wednesday through Sunday night.

Book a stay at The Roxy Hotel >

Eat

At Seamore’s, Michael Chernow repeats the same formula that exploded his Meatball Shop into a citywide sensation – but this time with seafood. Choose from a menu of seasonal fresh catches, pick your favourite sauce (the miso brown butter is delicious), and add three side dishes – all for $23.

  • The reel deal: Michael Chernow’s Seamore’s in Soho

    Try it for yourself…

    Seamore’s is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11:30 to midnight; and Mondays and Sundays from 11:30 to 23:00.

    New York’s cheap eats
  • You can ‘adopt’ a pet goldfish for your stay at Tribeca’s The Roxy

    Love film

    The Roxy Hotel has its own 99-seat movie theatre, complete with leather seats, surround sound, and a state-of-the-art projection. Look out for the weekly Monday film series curated by Submarine Films; plus the complimentary public screenings at the weekend.

    Book a stay
  • Online beauty and grooming service Birchbox chose Soho for its first flagship store

Do

The popular subscription beauty and grooming service Birchbox recently opened up its first bricks-and-mortar store in Soho. Fittingly located in NYC’s hippest shopping district, customers can buy full-sized versions of their favourite samples, as well as customize their own boxes for $15 to $25.

Lower East Side

Once a working-class, immigrant neighbourhood, LES is now filled with luxury boutique hotels, galleries, haute cuisine, and an endless party scene that caters to artists, misfits, and fashion-forward night owls.

Stay

Hotel Indigo is a new player in New York's swaggy hotel scene. Boutique and boujis, it has its own pop-up gallery and is topped by a heated rooftop plunge pool and restaurant. Mr Purple is designed to look like an artist's loft and serves an attractive menu of cold-pressed juices, crudites... and frozen hot chocolate.

Book a stay at Hotel Indigo NYC

Eat

"I'll have what she's having!": you won't be the only person quoting When Harry Met Sally when you go to Katz Deli. Since this is where the famous scene from the film was shot, it's a joke that the ever-patient staff must hear multiple times an hour. This Kosher-style delicatessan is a New York stalwart, and has sat in the Lower East Side since 1888. It's literally one minute from Hotel Indigo. The pastrami is a local favourite.

  • Guest room at the Hotel Indigo Lower East Side New York. © IHG.

    Don't fret

    Relax: the trendy rooms at Hotel Indigo aren't style over substance: enjoy luxurious linens by Frette and, in your bathroom, a spa-inspired shower.

    Book the Hotel Indigo

Do

At the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, you can step into recreations of 19th and 20th apartments and ‘meet the residents’ (aka costumed performers) who lived at 97 Orchard Street.

Brooklyn

Once dwarfed by the allure of Manhattan, Brooklyn has earned the respect of all New Yorkers for its cool nightlife, cutting-edge cuisine, cultural events, parks, flea markets, museums… the list goes on…

Stay

A great-value way to stay in New York, the Holiday Inn Express in Brooklyn is well-placed for exploring the city's quirkier areas. Before you head out, breakfast in the hotel, and grab yourself one of their signature cinnamon buns.

Book Holiday Inn Express

Eat

Brooklyn is a great place to get pizza, and you can easily find great vegan options there, too. At Paulie Gee’s pizzeria in Greenway try the Sake Mountain Way, which serves a Margherita with a kick, thanks to the addition of a sake reduction. The restaurant's expansive vegan menu uses great ingredients like cashew ricotta cheese, pickled grapes, and ‘meatballs’ made from green jackfruit to top its large selection of plant-based pizzas.

Do

After exploring the eclectic collection of African, European and contemporary art at the Brooklyn Museum, stroll through the tranquil Japanese hill-and-pond section of the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Located next door to one another in the Prospect Park neighbourhood, both attractions offer a combo reduced rate ticket offer.

The best of the rest

Seaport District

On the Manhattan end of Brooklyn Bridge, the Seaport District has rapidly regenerated in recent years. The wonderful rooftop at Pier 17 draws the crowds, whether for ice skating, gigs or great big glasses of Heineken. There are concept stores and the promise of new restaurants in the area, so you’re bound to find a hip crowd. Look out for music performances – with plenty of concert spaces, Seaport District gets more upbeat by the minute.

Long Island City

Parallel with midtown, this neighbourhood is a great place to stay close to Manhattan, whilst ducking Manhattan prices, but book soon – it’s about to get big. Since the site was proposed as Amazon’s new HQ, it’s become realtor heaven. This formerly industrial area of Queens still has its name painted on disused gantry cranes, but a growing restaurant scene (try the Corner Bistro) and an influx of residents has made it the hot new district in New York.

Hudson Yards

Hudson Yards is a new development in Chelsea, West Manhattan that’s of truly epic proportions. Skyscrapers are sprouting like beanstalks, and there’s a planned shopping mall and public plaza. A large station makes it easy to make your way around the rest of the city.

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