How to Experience New York City Like a True Local

Travel

January 10, 2017 | BY Venus Wong

A quintessential travel guide to The City That Never Sleeps

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Photo: via Thinkstock

Gotham, Big Apple, The Big City...There's a vast array of nicknames to call New York, but the one that truly sticks is "The City That Never Sleeps". With so much to see, eat and experience in the capital of the Empire State (and unofficially, America), having 24 hours a day is not nearly enough — you'll want to spend them at insider spots and forgo the tourist traps.

From quirky museums to the latest dining hotspots, we're showing you the quintessential points-of-interest to make the most of your holiday — from uptown to downtown, in Manhattan and beyond.

Where to Stay

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Photo courtesy of The Plaza Hotel

Paris has the Ritz, London has The Savoy, and in New York City, there's only one grand dame worth mentioning: The Plaza Hotel. This iconic institution will be celebrating its 110th birthday this year, and has remained relevant as ever: it was the setting for Home Alone 2: Lost in New York,  a pivotal romantic scene in Gossip Girl, and the most climactic moment in The Great Gatsby took place at one of its suites. That's barely scratching the surface of the hotel's influence on pop culture — ever heard of Eloise?

It will be hard to refrain yourself from gawking at the grandeur of this historic hotel. After a US $400 million  renovation completed in 2008, the hotel has retained its old world charm, now incorporated with a modern take on luxury. Guests are greeted by large Baccarat chandeliers in the hotel lobby, each sporting a red ruby — a signature of the brand. Stepping into the elevators — restored from their 1910s glory — an interesting time capsule from a bygone era. The gold surfaces, grand velvet curtains and perfumed hallways reflect a grand opulence from decades past — a much welcome departure from the minimalist and contemporary aesthetic that has become the norm for hotels these days.

The Plaza Hotel, Fifth Avenue at Central Park South, New York, NY 10019; (212) 759-3000; theplazany.com

Where to Stay (Continued)

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The Deluxe Double Queen Room; Photographed by Venus Wong

It's not hard to see why The Plaza Hotel served as the main inspiration for Eloise, Kay Thompson's widely read and beloved children's book series: staying here feels like visiting a mini magical kingdom tucked within a concrete jungle. The basement of the building houses two exquisite food halls — featuring high end tea shops,  patisseries, lobster joints, caviar boutiques and more — so you'll be induged with fine foods without stepping outside the building. Even strolling along the corridors is a delightful sensory experience evocative of walking through a palace: every corner is perfumed with a rosy scent, and impeccable floral arrangements and gilded oil paintings lead you to your room.

For the standard city haven experience, book the spacious Deluxe Double Queen Room — where you'll catch a glimpse of the hustle and bustle of 58th Street outside your window. Those looking for a dose of whimsy should look no further than the all-pink Eloise Suite,  where designer Betsey Johnson expressed her wild imagination with  Eloise-approved patterns.

The Plaza Hotel, Fifth Avenue at Central Park South, New York, NY 10019; (212) 759-3000; theplazany.com

Where to Stay (Continued)

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Photographed by Venus Wong

The standard five-star hotel service means getting everything you need with a simple dial of the phone, but The Plaza takes things to the next level: an iPad is available in each room to connect you with a 24-hour personal butler. They are happy to offer their services for anything and everything — from  helping you fetch cold medicine from the pharmacy across the street to acting as a human tripod  for your Instagram shots. 

Each butler is also well-trained in the art of drawing the perfect bubble bath — a service that comes in handy given the clawfoot bathtubs available in each room. Using the Rose 31 range from Le Labo , the butler spends an upwards of half an hour to ensure that perfect water temperature and bubble thickness have been achieved. As if this isn't enough to prove their dedication to service, they will also happily arrange for freshly cut rose petals delivered from the Gramercy Park Flower Shop downstairs.

The Plaza Hotel, Fifth Avenue at Central Park South, New York, NY 10019; (212) 759-3000; theplazany.com

 For an Uptown Night Cap...

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Photo courtesy of The Penrose

Head to The Penrose if you fancy a drink after a nighttime stroll through Central Park. The gastropub is designed to look like a retro saloon, balancing an old-school ambience with a hip and sophisticated crowd. Fix yourself up with a Dirty Pickle Martini — featuring McClure's spicy pickle brine — for a classic drink with a New York twist. The restaurant is also a happening spot for brunch, offering a special cocktail menu on the weekends.

The Penrose, 1590 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10028;  (212) 203-2751; penrosebar.com

For an Unforgettable Midtown Dinner...

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Photo courtesy of ATOBOY

To many New Yorkers, Murray Hill is a sleepy neighbourhood with nary an option for dining, save for a few Indian restaurants. The arrival of ATOBOY has certainly brought some culinary buzz to the area. The restaurant serves contemporary Korean fare, with a tasting menu  of small plates only. The eatery offes a novel take on classic Korean family dishes using unexpected flavours and textures. Seafood fans shouldn't miss the "egg", a Korean-style steamed egg with sea urchin purée, a topping of  raw sea urchin from California can be  Another great delicacy would be the "squid", a riff of the traditional soondae (stuffed rolls) with shrimp, pork and salsa verde .

ATOBOY, 43 E 28th Street, New York, NY 10016;  (646) 476-7217; atoboynyc.com

For a Cosy Downtown Meal...

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Photo courtesy of Wildair

Lauded by Bon Appétit as one of America's best new restaurants, Wildair is hardly short of admirers. The cosy Lower East Side eatery does not take reservations, so brace yourself for long waits to get seated. The restaurant charms with its communal dining atmosphere, well-curated wine list and no frills menu, where the simple dishes shine the brightest. You'll want seconds and thirds of the radishes, which come soaked in seaweed butter.  The lively affair is a great alternative to the buttoned-up fine dining options in town.

Wildair, 142 Orchard Street, New York, NY 10002; wildair.nyc

For an Afternoon Tea to Remember... plazatea.jpg

Photographed by Venus Wong

The Palm Court has been the go-to venue for special occasions for many generations of New Yorkers, from birthday celebrations to surprise marriage proposals. It only takes one look to see why this place is truly unique: resting underneath a magnificent painted glass ceiling are gargantuan parlour palms and marble columns — just how everything looked a little over a century ago.  Mirror tables and leather chairs bring a casual and modern update to the stately interiors. Go for the Champagne Tea, where a lavish assortment of treats — including American Sturgeon caviar, foie gras and opéra cakes — is accompanied by a flute of Veuve Cliquot Brut Rosé.

The Palm Court at The Plaza Hotel, Fifth Avenue at Central Park South, New York, NY 10019; (212) 759-3000; theplazany.com

 A Museum Unlike Any Other

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Photo courtesy of MOFAD

The MET and the MoMA  are lovely and all, but they pale in comparison to this museum when it comes to the interactive experience: The Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) organises temporary experiential exhibitions focusing on culinary history and culture, where visitors can take a sensory journey with smelling stations and life-sized displays. The museum also offers cooking classes and tastings.

The Museum of Food and Drink, 62 Bayard Street, Brooklyn, NY 11222; (718) 387-2845; mofad.org