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Springtime in Manhattan

New York is a city to fall in love with any time of year but with the stifling heat of summer and severe chill of winter, spring and 'the Fall' are the best times to see it in all its glory.

I visited New York just as the polar vortex chill started to give way to a new season and discovered the city itself springing back to life.

From my base in the Hotel Metro, a chic Midtown hotel in the shadow of the Empire State Building, I set out to explore nearby Fifth Avenue. Walking along this glitzy address you can tick NYC landmarks, including St Patrick's Cathedral, Tiffany's and the New York Public Library with its marbled ceilings, off your 'must-visit' list. A Sunday morning stroll along Fifth Avenue as yellow cabs whiz by feels like you're in a movie any time of year but especially in the spring.

CENTRAL PARK

For such a compact island, Manhattan has a number of blossoming green spaces to chill out in and pretend you're a New Yorker. Just behind the library lies Bryant Park, worth checking out for its regular food markets. Despite being fringed by skyscrapers, Central Park offers a rare moment of calm away from the bustle of the city and, cheesy as it sounds, a horse-drawn carriage ride through the Park has the romance factor for couples.

Museums

From the Guggenheim to the Museum of Sex, New York has a cultural fix for all tastes. One museum to return to each time you're in town is the American Museum of Natural History, an Upper West Side mega-museum covering everything from native tribes to dinosaur bones. With so much on offer, make sure to plan what you want to see before you go or you'll easily spend all day there. For modern art, pop into the Whitney Museum of American Art for the Edward Hopper collection alone.

Midtown has restaurants for all budgets, but if you want quality, Gramercy's ABC Kitchen offers dishes you won't forget in a hurry. Skip dessert and make like Don Draper by ordering an 'Old-Fashioned' in PJ Clarke's, a famous saloon featured in Mad Men. Frank Sinatra and Buddy Holly are just some of the names who have darkened the doorway and the enormous burgers are just as legendary.

Empire State

As a regular backdrop to endless TV shows from Sex And The City to Girls, few city skylines are as instantly recognisable as Manhattan's and Midtown offers two ways to view it. Top of the Rock in the Rockefeller Building narrowly beats the Empire State Building, mostly because the breath-taking panorama includes the Empire State Building itself as well as to-die-for views across Central Park, the art deco Chrysler Building and across to Brooklyn.

Ditch the daytime queues, the best time to visit the Empire State Building is after 10pm. The twinkling lights of the city sprinkle even more magic onto the experience and for an extra $20 you can go to the intimate closed observatory and take in the lights of the Big Apple. If there's one way to fall in love with NYC, this is it.

Below 14th Street, New York is a different animal (or the "real New York", if you ask a local). Instead of the hustle of Times Square, you've got the tree-lined streets of the Village. Instead of mega-stores like Macy's, there are indie boutiques and vintage treasure troves like Beacon's Closet. Most Irish tourists stay in Midtown but to see another side of NYC, stay in Downtown even for one night.

After checking into The Jade, Greenwich Village's newest boutique hotel, my first port of call was the High Line. This disused rail line in the hip Meatpacking District is now a public park dotted with art works, flowers in bloom and, on sunny days, live music. With its views across the Hudson and the busy streets of Chelsea below, this mile-long walk feels quintessentially 'New York'.

Ask any New Yorker their number 1 tip for tourists, and chances are walking the Brooklyn Bridge ranks pretty high. The easiest way to see the historic bridge is to join the pedestrian walkway behind City Hall but, to make the most of it, hop on a subway to hipster Brooklyn and walk back across the bridge from there. Walking towards Lower Manhattan's skyline of skyscrapers is unbeatable.

Downtown also has some underrated cultural gems worth checking out. In the Financial District the National Museum of the American Indian offers a fascinating insight into America's all but forgotten past. Highlights of the 800,000-strong collection of original artefacts include a feather headdress and an American Indian wedding dress. After the museum take a left into the revamped Battery Park to see the Statue of Liberty in the distance.

Slightly off the tourist trail is the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. An alternative to NYC's glossy mammoth museums, the Tenement Museum offers tours including the 'Irish Outsiders' one about real life couple Joseph and Bridget Moore who lived in this Orchard Street building in the 1860s. Tours cost $25 and it'll be a hit with history fans.

While you're in the Lower East Side, stop off at Katz's Deli on Houston Street, the authentic American diner where Meg Ryan famously faked an orgasm in When Harry Met Sally. Film fans still flock to the deli today to quip 'I'll have what she's having' and the deli, known locally as the King of Pastrami, is a carnivore's delight.

For more stylish dining, Downtown is awash with cool restaurants but the flavour of the month is Margaux at the Marlton Hotel. Bohemian Greenwich Village's newest eatery is a place to see and be seen but, despite the fashionable reputation, you can still grab lunch for around $20.

While it doesn't have a mega park like Central Park, you can still find an urban oasis downtown to explore. Slip under the marble arch of Washington Square Park with a coffee in hand and people watch. You'll feel like a real New Yorker in no time.

Factfile

American Airlines fly direct from Dublin to New York (JFK) daily. Return flights start from €527 including taxes. Call 0818286597 or go to www.aa.com.

Midtown: Rates at the Hotel Metro start from $319 not including taxes for a Premier Queen room. Call 001-212-947-2500 or email reservations@HotelMetroNYC.com to book. Go to www.hotelmetronyc.com for more information.

Downtown: Rates at The Jade start from $280 per night. Go to www.thejadenyc.com to book.


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