Exploring NYCNew York City - An Empire State of Mind
There’s no place like home. And especially if that home is New York City, where Galavante was born. We are in an Empire State of Mind, but even so, it was a tough task to narrow down our Galavante Lists; there are so many more favorites, but alas, so little time. This is a city to savor, where everything from hopping on the subway to aimlessly galavanting through vibrant neighborhoods amounts to the New York experience. As for people-watching – well, here it’s unrivaled. New Yorkers love being from New York and after you experience the city like a local, you will too. Whether you’re an Uptown or Downtown girl or guy, we have the holiday for you. And while a weekend is nowhere near enough to experience New York, a lifetime of return trips is.
Uptown - A Gossip Girl Holiday
Your Uptown Pad
Uptown is the quintessential New York – glitzy shops, high-end restaurants, and glammed-up locals. For a grand hotel experience, the Uptown holiday begins at the St. Regis or Mandarin Oriental, both of which have connected concierges to get you past the velvet ropes and into the sceney restaurants and bars. Hotels in New York are pricey, so brace yourself. If you’ve squirreled away enough Starwood points, the St. Regis is the place to use them. For a boutique bed, try The Regent, The Carlyle, and The Mark – it’s the next best thing to having your own Uptown pad.
Be an Extra on Seinfeld
Contrary to what hardcore Upper East Siders think, there is another side to Uptown, and it’s called the Upper West Side, thank you very much. Unlike that quote from the movie “Wall Street” (the original, of course), the Upper West has much more than just Madonna and Sean Penn. Which is a good thing, since we all know what happened to that relationship. In recent years, this neighborhood has gotten fully gentrified. There are a lot more posh options than Tom’s Diner, but it’s still just as entertaining. Mr. Seinfeld himself stays true blue, making the Upper West Side his home, but in much tonier Central Park West digs than in the show.
Shopping up a Storm
Gear up for some uptown shopping and hit the 3 B’s: Barneys, Bergdorf and Bendel. Be sure to stop at Macaron Café for the best macarons outside of Paris before heading further north on Madison Avenue to take in the “ladies who lunch” scene. You’ll practically have to wear shades because of all the shiny bling in the windows. Surprisingly however, there are some diamonds in the rough: Our favorites are Kahn’s Estate Jewelers and Kwiat, both of which offer values you’d never expect on Madison Avenue. Of course, when all else fails, Fred Leighton, Graff, and the Ivanka Trump Collection provide hours of entertainment and, often, gratis champagne. To blend in with the chic locals, pop in to boutique shops Intermix, Scoop, and Edit.
Not to be forgotten, the West Side shopping scene has it going on. On Columbus Avenue, you can hit all the name shops, which are virtually free of crowds, including Rag & Bone, Burberry, Kiehl’s, andReiss, plus petite boutiques like Roslyn, Space NK, and Steven Alan’s outlet store. Nearby is the Barneys Co-op on Broadway, and Beacon Wines, where the city sommeliers shop for their vino. It has a comprehensive collection and gentler prices than Sherry-Lehmann. For more holiday cheer, head to Columbus Circle, which has one of the highest quality markets outside of Bryant Park. Check out the cashmere goods and hand-painted ornaments. If you need your shopping mall fix, or just a place to warm up, explore the Time Warner Center, with an array of shops and restaurants.
Get your fill of culture at the Met, highbrow art The Frick, modern art at the MOMA and Guggenheim, and sparkling gems at Neue Gallerie. Take any excuse, actually, to go to Neue Gallerie, for an Austrian mélange and apfel strudel at Café Sabarsky. In addition to the big names, Museum Mile on Fifth Avenues features impressive specialty museums like the Museum of the City of New York, which highlights the city itself. The current Cecil Beaton exhibit is well worth an afternoon stroll.
Stroll is exactly what you should do through Central Park, which is a destination any time of year. Take a walk to the Metropolitan Opera on the West Side, where you can admire the Chagalls and the Bellagio-style fountain. Along the way, stop by Wollman Ice Rink to show off your triple axels – or just take in the scene from the sidelines.
Wining & Dining
New York is a city of restaurants, where you can feast on international cuisine that rivals the home country. Ma Peche in the Chambers Hotel, which is the sister restaurant to David Chang’s Momofuku, has one of the best Uptown lunch deals. For $25, chow on a three-course prix fixe gourmet Asian lunch – it sure beats eating a sandwich over your keyboard at the office. Also in the Chambers is an outpost of Milk Bar with its famous compost cookie and, our favorite, the banana truffles. For some of the best soba outside of Japan, head to Soba Nippon where they grow their own organic wheat in Canada for the steaming hot soup.
Seal the deal at a Midtown power lunch. Casa Lever injects Midtown with a high dose of cool, while Milos serves some of the best seafood in the city. For excellent Greek eats, hit Avra. At Michael White’s seafood restaurant Marea, you can get started on the tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes early. If you want to hang with oh-so-chic Upper East Siders, fill up at Bilboquet or Via Quadronno, a true local experience.
Holiday tea is an institution at the St. Regis where, though they don’t advertise it, the sandwiches are unlimited. Yes, unlimited. After one bite, you’ll be thanking us for this secret tip. Or not.
For dinner, you can go for the glitz at Daniel, our favorite high-end splurge, or opt for a low-key eve at Le Charlot, which overflows with mussels and pommes frites. Somewhere in the middle is Park Avenue Autumn, with easily the best bread basket in the city. The Upper East Side is a little sleepy for the hipsters, except for Lavo, a den of debauchery, and the Rose Bar at The Plaza, the perfect spot to channel your inner Gossip Girl. Lavo does a champagne-filled boozy brunch on Saturdays, where you won’t believe the behavior of adults. New on the scene are The Crown and The Mark – on any given night you’ll likely run into one (or several) of the Real Housewives of New York.
The Upper East Side obsession with all things French is on display at the neighborhood institution Café Boulud. For casual sushi, fill up at Sasabune where the menu is “Trust Me”. Sushi of Gari’s omakase is a little more mainstream, but equally decadent and on any given night you may sit next to Jacob the Jeweler or yet another Upper East Side gazillionaire.
Ease into the night with sophisticated jazz at The Carlyle’s Bemelmans Bar, Nello, and Serafina.
On the West Side, join the locals at Celeste, where you can refuel over $9 pastas and the really good illegal cheese from Italy. Celeste isn’t known for its service but hey, the price is right.
New York is all about eating good food–-but it’s also looking good. Yoga your way to sexy curves at Exhale Spa and spin and sweat at Soul Cycle. Or, you can just get your exercise wandering up and down the four gorgeous flights at the Ralph Lauren store on Madison.
A Downtown Stroll
Downtown is almost like heading to a different country. The vibe is younger and grungier––it’s still glam but with plenty of edge. Downtown is where Tier 1 models like Gisele and Heidi hang out––but for mere mortals looking to hook up, there are Tier 3 models in abundance too. We once had a friend who got whiplash when he first moved to New York, frozen for an hour on a Nolita street corner because of all the beautiful people streaming past him.
Boutique is the only way to go downtown. Our favorites are the Greenwich Hotel, the Crosby, and Setai, hip jumping-off points for conquering Downtown. The Village in the late morning is wonderfully serene, where you can stroll along empty tree-lined streets lined with classic town homes. The ”see and be seen” scene begins over a cup of joe and an omelette at Café Cluny. Marc Jacobs dominates Bleecker and West 4th Street, along with Ralph, Brooks Brothers, and Intermix. For beauty products, look no further than the standout store The Bathroom – and hooray for the independent business owner. The beautiful French antiques and home goods at Maison will transport you to Provence. This is the place to buy a hostess gift for the busy holiday season, and it has shockingly reasonable prices.
Sex and the City
In this neighborhood, the crowds will be at Magnolia Bakery and milling in front of an unassuming brownstone that was the “Sex and the City” home of Miss Carrie Bradshaw. Follow your nose to Murray’s Cheese and sample the best cheese selection this side of the Atlantic. When it’s time for lunch, join the beautiful people at Bar Pitti and Da Silvano. Unless it’s freezing cold, enjoy your lobster gnocchi outside to scope out the scene.
New Yorkers sometimes go to great lengths to avoid SoHo on the weekends, but you shouldn’t: As one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, it’s a sassy mix of art, architecture, and commerce. And by commerce, we mean the highest percentage of posh boutiques the city. For sustenance, here’s our insider tip: Pick up fresh pasta at Raffetto’s – at prices that haven’t gone up in practically 80 years. They’ll cut the pasta for you or you can go the easy route and bring home homemade ravioli filled with pumpkin, lobster, white truffle, and other seasonal goodies. For those 24-karat gold Smith & Wesson handcuffs that every boudoir must have, stop in to Kiki de Montparnasse. Afterwards, cool off with a drink at the Mercer.
Cocktails & Celebs
When it comes time for your Downtown dinner, choosing just one place is almost impossible. You’ll just have to make several return trips to sample them all. Fergie is known to frequent The Lion, dining on French comfort food along with the rest of the city’s media darlings. Graydon Carter still keeps it exclusive at The Waverly Inn, where we’ve heard you can charm your way into a reservation by stopping by in person during the day. The Darby is where hot guys like Leo, Jay-Z, and Kanye converge for much better American cuisine than you’d imagine from a place this cool. For a feast fit for an oligarch (and his entire fabulous entourage), dine at Mari Vanna, which reigns with Russian eats like blinis and caviar, and a whole lot of good vodka. Miss Lily’s has the enticing combo of Jamaican food and a foxy crowd. For highbrow Austrian, head to Wallse, which isn’t nearly as strange as it sounds. Babbo is a favorite, too, if you can score a table, and maybe even a faint smile from the maitre d’. And, you’ve got to love the background U2 music – and sometimes Bono sightings in the front room. Make dinner reservations far in advance at La Esquina, an oldie but a goodie. This also makes for a good cocktail stop on your SoHo circuit, where there’s almost always a celeb in the house. For a slightly more upscale dinner, slip in to Scarpetta – and enjoy sightings of eye-candy chef Scott Conant.
For low-key drinks, bar-hop from the Rose Bar at the Gramercy Hotel to the Spotted Pig for a pint to Turks & Frogs for a very sexy glass of wine. Bobo has some of the finest drinks in the city, ad does Apotheke,which servesbespoke cocktails. For bridge-and-tunnel partying, hit the Meatpacking District where you can dance on tables at Bagatelle, guzzle the frothy stuff at The Standard Beer Garden, or find us at our favorite lounge, the Boom Boom Room. Beauty & Essex, on the Lower East Side, has decedent finger food in a rockin’ scene (and psst! – free bubbly in the ladies’ room).
Packing Meat, not Heat
Brunch is an institution in New York, which easily extends to past 4pm at respectable places like Bubby’s, Bagatelle (where sometimes they’re still dancing on the tables from the night before), Extra Virgin, and St. Ambroeus. Afterwards,drop some serious chic coin at the Meatpacking District, including custom-made threads at Jussarra Lee, Scoop for you and everyone in your family, Earnest Sewn for our favorite jeans, and Jeffrey, with the best shoe department in the city. Adam, Catherine Malandrino, and Calypso are New York staples, and on sale, can be quite the deal. Speaking of deals, the best lunch offer in the city is at Del Posto, where your $100-plus meal at night is just $29 for the three-course, prix fixe.
A Holiday Extravaganza
Union Square is a holiday extravaganza, where you can spend the morning perusing the outdoor shops and then warm up with a piping hot apple cider. For lunch, check out food emporium Eataly, a basilica to Italian cuisine. From here, walk east through the East Village, stopping at Blue & Cream and Foley + Corinna for cool threads. For a slice of local culture, take a tour of the neighborhood with the Tenement Museum. Top off your day at Freeman’s with a stiff drink and a plate of their delicious “devils on horseback.”
Ah, New York. It’s a city that manages to seduce all who pass through. Most people who live in New York didn’t grow up here, yet we all proudly call ourselves New Yorkers. And after sampling our list of recs, you’ll understand why. As the wise man Jay-Z once sang: If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. And along the way, you’re going to have a whole lot of fun.