independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

New season, New York

Vicki Notaro discovers a brighter side to the city that never sleeps,

Enjoy the sun at Union Square, New York

I arrived in New York on the first day of summer, much to my delight and luck. After a long, wet and windy winter which began with Hurricane Sandy and continued into April, I landed in a Manhattan bathed in sunshine and smiling faces. A completely different vibe inhabits Gotham when the sun starts to shine.

The city can become oppressively muggy in the later summer months, seeing its inhabitants flee to the beach. But in June and early July, it is heavenly for strolling, eating and drinking al fresco and lounging in the park.

STAY

... at a hotel with a pool. They are few and far between on the island, and often expensive, but an option that is suitably glamorous and won't break the bank is the beautiful new Dream Downtown, nestled between glam Chelsea and the uber-hip Meatpacking District.

The hotel caters for all and is flashy without being uncomfortably modern. Its sleek silver facade, resplendent with nautical portholes, lights up 16th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues, and the dark, moody reception area contrasts nicely with the bright pool. While not huge, the pool area is luxurious, with a bar plus cabanas for rental.

At night, the hotel comes alive with the glamouratti gathering in the rooftop bar PHD, while the restaurant buzzes.

Details: From €250 per night for a double room. Tel: 001 212 229 2559; dreamhotels.com.

EAT

... in the nearby Meatpacking District, which is littered with trendy haunts, from the Mediterranean Fig & Olive (mains from €35; figandolive.com) to the more casual Mexican Dos Caminos (mains from €12; doscaminos.com). Try pizza by the slice in Chelsea Square and the famous Pastis restaurant, made popular by its French brunches and an appearance on 'Sex and the City' (brunch mains from €17; pastisny.com).

If you're around Central Park and feeling peckish, take a stroll up Central Park West until you hit 77th, and cut over on to Broadway. There, you'll find the Café Viand – a low-key lunch spot that's laid back, with everything from Greek to Irish cuisine on the dinner menu.

Union Square is another favourite summer area, and the Blue Water Grill (dinner mains from €18; bluewatergrillnyc.com) is hard to beat for sushi and seafood in the area.

The unusually named Coffee Shop across the way isn't a coffee shop at all, but a restaurant with a distinct South American flavour. It's casual and cheap but delicious, with a fully stocked bar and buzzy atmosphere.

Schillers in Soho is another haunt for when the sun goes down, serving all-American fare in a cool, urban setting. Make sure you order the shoestring fries with your dinner (mains from €12; schillersny.com).

DRINK

... up on the roof. Plunge at the Gansevoort Hotel in the Meatpacking District is hip right now, with prices to match – a place to see and be seen (hotelgansevoort.com).

However, if a daytime tipple is what you're after, head to 230 Fifth (230-fifth.com), a roofbar on the eponymous avenue that has to be seen to be believed.

I had visited it in the winter when it was so cold my hot whiskey cooled in seconds, but in summer it is a different animal, still with the same spectacular views. Its location on Fifth means the bar is surrounded by skyscrapers, including the Empire State Building.

Sipping a delicious cocktail at sunset here is an experience that's hard to beat. If it gets a little chilly up there, the staff will give you a red hooded gown to wear, which I happily donned for effect.

PLAY

New York is an outdoors sort of town with much to see and do in the fresh air, from the Shakespeare in the Park open-air theatre at the Delacorte to boating on the lake, also within the confines of Central Park.

A walk downtown through the financial district to the Brooklyn Bridge is a fantastic photo opportunity on a sunny day, and once you stroll across it into the borough, meander through Dumbo for stunning skyline views of Manhattan. Stroll up to Williamsburg, the current hipster Mecca in the city, and catch the East River Ferry back to 34th Street pier.

A slightly unorthodox pleasure for dog lovers like myself is a trip to the city's public dog runs, where New Yorkers take their canine companions for an off-the-leash adventure. NYC is doggy paradise, and the French bulldog is the breed du jour.

The High Line is another great oasis. The old subway track elevated along 10th Avenue – converted into a beautiful park – stretches along the waterline with gorgeous views and a chilled atmosphere. People-watch, drink coffee, stroll or run.

My favourite spot on a summer's day is a bench in Washington Square Park over-looking the famous arch. The Village's most beautiful spot is always packed with buskers and entertainers, as well as the beautiful people who live in New York's most bohemian enclave.

SHOP

... . downtown. Midtown is crazy enough in winter, so struggling through the shops and around Times Square isn't going to be fun when it's 30°C. Broadway below 14th Street is a more pleasant experience.

Soho has all the shops you'd get on Fifth Avenue, but in a more intimate – and cool – setting, while a trip down Bleecker Street means you'll hit every high-end boutique and cool little specialist store you can think of, including the Magnolia Bakery.

If you're into Urban Outfitters, the best one in NYC is on 73rd and Broadway, and the shops up the road at Columbus Circle are a fun mix of high-end and de rigeur. Markets pop up all over New York all summer, particularly in Bryant Park and Union Square.

DANCE

... when the sun goes down. The High Line Ballroom on 10th Avenue is a dance club with a distinctly Latin/R&B flavour – a live saxophonist plays on the bar. Full of the young and hip and open late, this is a place to dance until dawn (highlineballroom.com).

The Meatpacking District is the place to be when the sun goes down, with an abundance of clubs and bars to dance the night away in. Brass Monkey is less nightclub, more party bar with a great atmosphere and is open until late.

Cielo is one of the most famous clubs in the city, and for good reason – it's hopping until dawn and welcoming to everyone.

Need to know

Getting there

United Airlines offers a non-stop service from Dublin, Shannon and Belfast to New York-Newark Liberty International Airport.

Fares for Economy Class to Newark start from €433 including taxes and charges and subject to availability. Travel outbound between May 1 and June 24, 2013 and from August 23 to December 17, 2013.

Fares to Newark start from €639 including taxes and charges and subject to availability. Travel outbound between June 25 and August 22, 2013.

Aer Lingus (0818 365 000; aerlingus.com) flies daily to JFK.

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