There are few cities in the world that can always be relied on to provide a jolt of adrenaline to the aerial onlooker from an airplane window. There are the plastic blue rooftops of Mumbai and its thrum of human activity, or Paris’s Eiffel Tower and its cafés and artistic whimsy. And then there is New York City, whose intimidating and well-recognised skyline can give one goosebumps quicker than any other city.
The visceral thrills of New York may be lost on homebodies. For a truly riotous time, prepare to give up sleep and make your way through our 72-hour guide to this Red Bull of a city.
6:00 p.m. the Jane hotel
As you make your landing on Friday evening, do what the survivors of the Titanic did and head for a stay at this fancy nautical-themed establishment. Situated along the West Village waterfront, and known as the Seamen’s Relief Center in the earlier half of the 20th century, the hotel has small ship cabin-like rooms for the budget conscious while the affluent can splurge on the larger captain’s cabin. Come for the affordable rooms and stay for the chic Wes Anderson feel. An added bonus is the grand ballroom with views of the Hudson River and all kinds of antique knick-knacks, including a life-size portrait of Maharani Gayatri Devi (www.thejanenyc.com).
7.00 p.m. Angel’s Share
Walk or cab it to the East Village to find an unmarked door next to the Japanese restaurant, Village Yokocho, to enter this dark and hard-to-find speakeasy. Then get your evening going with Japanese-style cocktails such as the strong and delicious Flirtibird, with barley shochu and yuzu nectar, or the dramatic whiskey-based Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (nymag.com/listings/bar/angels_share).
9.00 p.m. Ippudo NY
Before you head to Angel’s Share, put your name down on the waiting list for ramen at Ippudo, a few blocks away. The menu includes some of the most flavourful fatty pork, chicken and beef broths in the city. Vegetarians too are surprisingly spoilt for choice with multiple miso and vegetable broth options. However, be prepared to share tables or sit at the bar and slurp your noodle with strangers, while watching the chefs whip up ramen and steamed buns (www.ippudony.com).
11.00 p.m. Comedy Night
Tummy now full, it’s time to satisfy your funny bone. There is the legendary Comedy Cellar basement, seen in the opening credits of the TV show Louie, where stand-up headliners such as Amy Schumer and Chris Rock sometimes show up unannounced. Or experience the best of improv at (Upright Citizen’s Brigade UCB). There are also smaller and wackier shows to be enjoyed like the New York Neo-futurists on 4th Street above KGB Bar in the East Village. For more free-flowing and ribald humour, attend a late-night stand-up show (www.comedycellar.com; ucbtheatre.com; www.nyneofuturists.org; kgbbar.com).
1.00 a.m. Dive Down
A night in the East Village is incomplete without cheap drinks served by a sassy bartender in a dimly lit dive bar with graffiti-splattered bathrooms, ripped leather seats and the air reeking of alcohol, chlorine and body fluids. Choose between the punk vibe of Manitoba’s in Alphabet City, the Double Down Saloon that has a famous shot of Ass Juice, said to be a mix of all the previous night’s leftover drinks, or the B-movies projected over the bar at The Library, near Houston Street (nymag.com/listings/bar/library; doubledownsaloon.com; www.manitobas.com).
3.00 a.m. Belgian Fries
If you have a case of the post-midnight munchies, Pommes Frites on MacDougal Street is the place for you. Choose from a list of fruity mayonnaises and curry ketchup or simply keep it simple with basic vinegar to accompany your chunky golden Belgian fries (www.pommesfritesnyc.com).
9.00 a.m. Highline Park
Build up an appetite for brunch with a walk through the elevated Highline Park, built on a disused railway track, starting at the Lower West Side through the Meatpacking District and Chelsea, all the way up to Midtown. Marvel at the city’s traffic from a higher ground and take notes on how to turn a discarded bit of urban industrial infrastructure into a much-loved public green space (www.thehighline.org).
11.00 a.m. Paowalla
The restaurant is the creation of chef Floyd Cardoz, the man behind Mumbai’s Bombay Canteen. An ode to his Goan roots, this is his second foray into the competitive NYC food scene after Tabla, which closed in 2010. Favourites on the menu include good old paav with Goan choriz bacon butter; the chef’s Top Chef Masters winning upma polenta; and Barkha’s bebinca, based on his grandmother’s layered cake recipe. There’s even a gulab nut with cashew cream on the menu for Bombay Canteen devotees (www.paowalla.com).
2.00 p.m. Give me some dim sum
From Paowalla in SoHo walk over to Chinatown’s Prosperity Dumpling on Eldridge Street for their chive and pork dumplings. The other option is to head to Lam Zhou Handmade Noodle for a bowl of noodle soup or to Vegetarian Dimsum House on Pell Street for savoury and sweet dumplings and vegetarian variations of every imaginable meat dish (prosperitydumpling.com; nymag.com/listings/restaurant/lan-zhou-handmade-noodle; vegetariandimsum.com).
4.00 p.m. Museum of the City of New York
Skip the usual MOMA and MET tour, get on an MTA city bus from Chinatown to this lesser-known museum on 103rd Street in the Upper East Side. An excellent place to learn about the history of New York’s buildings, people, political movements and countercultures, you will come out of here knowing a thing or two. For instance, the word ‘Manhattan’ comes from the Native American Lenape word ‘Manna-hata’ meaning ‘island of many hills’ (www.mcny.org).
6.30 p.m. Cantor Roof Garden Bar
If you are visiting between May and November, walk a few blocks down 5th Avenue to the Metropolitan Museum. Head straight to the seasonal rooftop bar overlooking Central Park as it’s only open until 8.15 p.m. on Saturdays. Sip your martini, take in the view of Central Park and behind it, the sun setting on the skyline, and now think about how you are generally #winningatlife (www.metmuseum.org).
9.00 p.m. Carmine’s
If there is one touristy thing you allow yourself to do, let it be a trip to Carmine’s near Times Square. Leave the photo ops to first-timers and settle down into the loud and noisy dining room at this Italian restaurant with massive portions. Try the lobster with penne or basic spaghetti with marinara sauce. Order extra calamari and bread and don’t worry about getting your hands dirty (www.carminesnyc.com).
11.00 p.m. Jazz Fest
While at this point, most tourists will make a beeline for a Broadway show, be a rule-breaker and head to one of the city’s legendary jazz bars instead. You could pick the hole-in-the-wall vibe of the underground Smalls Jazz Club in Greenwich Village or, if you are early, the slightly more upscale Iridium, in Midtown West, where legends such as guitar virtuoso Les Paul and fusion maestro R. Prasanna have played (www.smallslive.com; theiridium.com).
9.00 a.m. Bagel Bite
What could be better than contemplating life while chewing on a fresh sesame bagel with scallion cream cheese, in between sips of an Americano, while alternating between people-watching and reading the Sunday NYT, in Washington Square Park. To kick off your weekend morning joy, pick the bagel wisely—either from Murray’s on 8th Avenue in Chelsea and their selection of extra giant bagels. My favourite is Brooklyn Bagel, one block up the same neighbourhood, with cream cheese flavours like honey bacon sriracha, diavolo chipotle and birthday cake cream cheese (www.murraysbagels.com; bkbagel.com).
11.00 a.m. Brooklyn Bridge
Once you are done lingering and relishing your bagel, jump on the A, C or N, R trains to Brooklyn Bridge City Hall Station. The pictures and the views are worth it. Start from the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge and walk towards Brooklyn, while looking up from under the bridge’s magnificent arches, and all around to the strength of the steel cables holding up this suspension bridge, and the glorious skyline behind you.
3.00 p.m. Museum of the Moving Image
From Brooklyn make your way to Queens for a visit to this fun museum archiving almost everything we know today as entertainment. Film and television fans hold steady thy heart, there are iconic pop-culture artefacts including Robert De Niro’s Mohawk wig from the Taxi Driver and Star Ship Enterprise jerseys with the gold insignia from the original Star Trek. The exhibitions include a permanent Jim Henson exhibit to please the Sesame Street loving muppethead, as well as a temporary video arcade exhibit where you can play games such as Pacman and Donkey Kong (www.movingimage.us).
6.00 p.m. Jackson Heights, Queens
Switch to the 7 train at Queensboro Plaza to make your way to Jackson Heights, the headquarters of all things desi in Amreeka, before the move to New Jersey and beyond. Visit Raja Sweets for the best aloo parathas outside of my mom’s kitchen. Then head beyond the grocery stores and over to the Pakistani joint, Dera, for the best kulfi falooda with a side of rabri. For authentic Nepali goat, step into Thakali Kitchen or Hamro Bhim’s Cafe. And for rasgullas pick from a host of Bangladeshi sweet shops. Welcome to all of South Asia crammed into a few New York blocks (www.yelp.com/biz/raja-sweets-and-fast-food-jackson-heights; www.yelp.com/biz/dera-restaurant-jackson-heights; www.yelp.com/biz/hamro-bhims-cafe-jackson-heights).
9.00 p.m. Lips NYC
Once Queens is on the itinerary, can a drag show be far behind? Head to Lips NYC in Midtown East for lip-sync performance combined with good-natured vulgar comedy and over-the-top costumes. In your last few hours in the city, raise a toast and get roasted by a drag queen on stage (www.nycdragshow.com).
12.00 a.m. Final Hurrah
For last-minute cravings, run to the Katz’s Delicatessen in the Lower East Side or Joe’s Pizza in the West Village. If you are homesick, there’s kadhi chawal to be had at Punjabi Deli across from Katz’s. End with one final drink at Jane NYC. Raise a toast to this alpha city with the soul of a hustling artist (www.katzsdelicatessen.com; www.joespizzanyc.com; nymag.com/listings/restaurant/punjabi-deli).