New York, New York — so good they named it twice. It’s the place that’s inspired more quotes than perhaps any other in the world, and rightfully so. New York City is the cultural hub of the country — whatever your flavor, it can be found here. And, for a metropolis that’s so well established, it continues to reinvent itself and defy stereotypes — after all, how do you sum up a population of 8.6 million? More than just Manhattan, each of New York City’s five boroughs delivers a heaping helping of flavor to this vibrant melting pot. Here are some highlights.
Home to Yankee Stadium and birthplace of Jennifer Lopez, for years the Bronx has been much-maligned, playing third of fourth fiddle to its neighboring boroughs. But what it lacks in skyscraper clout it more than makes up for in its rich history and hidden gems. The site of the original Little Italy, the Bronx’s Arthur Avenue is home to countless specialty shops and legacy businesses, including some that have been open for more than a century.
A mere stroll down the street yields everything from La Casa Grande, where cigars are hand rolled in-house and in plain view; The Bronx Beer Hall, which serves New York State Craft beer and menus from Arthur Avenue neighbors, like Mike’s Deli; and Calabria Pork Store, where hundreds of sausages hang from the ceiling. Down the road is the New York Botanical Garden. Established in 1891, the 250-acre garden is the largest in any city in the United States and a National Historic Landmark. NYBG encompasses 50 distinct gardens and collections comprising more than one million plants. Annually, it boasts as many visitors and it does plants, who come to explore the grounds and enjoy the events like themed evening fetes for adults which feature various food options, DJs, dancing, and, of course, libations.
While Lena Dunham and HBO’s “Girls“ popularized Brooklyn, former borough president Marty Markowitz deserves much of the credit for putting it on the map. “One of the first things I did in office was put up signs letting people know when they were coming into and leaving Brooklyn with famous phrases relating to all the different residents — fuhgeddaboudit, Brooklyn’s in the house, oy vey — and so on,” says Markowitz. Unlike other politicians concerned with drafting legislature, Markowitz’s legacy stems from creating several free concert series, his efforts to revitalize the economy, enticing businesses and manufacturers to come over the bridge, and bringing an NBA franchise (the Nets) to Brooklyn. Barclays Center, where the Nets play, opened in late 2012 as part of the Pacific Park mixed-use commercial development in the Prospect Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, and is one of the many recent projects and renovations taking place in the area.
Down the street, the colossal New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge also had an overhaul centered on highlighting the borough. Towering at 25 floors, the hotel’s redesign includes new onsite dining at The Bar and Brooklyn Pantry, both featuring locally sourced food and drinks, as well as various upgrades to its 665 rooms and suites such as pillowtop bedding, modern workspaces, and locally made lighting. Views and contemporary amenities aside, another big draw of the property is its proximity to Manhattan.
With the sheer amount of options — dining, entertainment, transportation, shopping, and otherwise — it’s easy to get overwhelmed in Manhattan. But one-stop-shops of high caliber do exist. In New York City’s original Eataly, located in the Flatiron District, visitors can pick up artisan goods, fine groceries, gifts for friends and family, and dine at one of the many restaurants adjacent to the market. There’s Il Pastaio for the pasta-lovers, Manzo for meat-lovers, Il Pesce for seafood fans, and the list goes on.
When it comes to drinks, however, there’s no experience quite like the Rainbow Room and Bar SixtyFive. Located on the 65th floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza — looking at you “30 Rock“ — the Rainbow Room opened one year after the end of Prohibition in 1934 and has played a big role in American cocktail culture. Here guests will find perennial favorites alongside beautifully-crafted novel beverages, like the silver-flecked Silver Slipper. Bar SixtyFive at Rainbow Room is open to the public, while Rainbow Room only hosts private events and occasional brunches throughout the year.
Around the world, a lot of the present excitement surrounding New York City can be attributed to Hudson Yards, which is set to partially open March 15. Currently under construction in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, Hudson Yards is the largest private real estate development in the history of the United States. The project encompasses more than 18 million eye-popping square feet of commercial and residential space, includes more than 100 shops and restaurants, 14 acres of open space, and the world’s first Equinox Hotel. Upon its completion, 13 of the 16 planned buildings will rest on a platform built over the West Side Yard, a storage yard for Long Island Rail Road trains.
The finishing piece to an elaborate puzzle, Hudson Yards will also connect to the High Line at a point that opens up to a public square, gardens, and the Shed (set to open April 5). A first of its kind endeavor, the Shed is a dedicated arts venue featuring a 500-seat theater, two levels of exhibition space, and a flexible, retractable shell. The shell rolls forward over the adjacent plaza to create The McCourt, designed for large-scale performances, installations, and events. In the middle of the development is the Vessel, “it’s like a platform for life, a playground for humans,” says designer Thomas Heatherwick of the massive spiral staircase, which doubles as an interactive landmark meant to be climbed. Imagined by Heatherwick and his eponymous studio, the structure is made up from 154 interconnecting flights of stairs — almost 2,500 individual steps and 80 landings — with nearly one mile of vertical climb and serves as a focal point where people can view the city from a novel vantage point, and each other from different heights, angles as well.
For prospective travelers: Visit nycgo.com, the go-to New York City resource.
Upcoming events in the city to watch out for:
- Statue of Liberty Museum opening (May)
- TWA Hotel at JFK Airport opening (May 15)
- World Pride/50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising (June)
- Empire Outlets opening (in phases April through Summer)
- MoMA re-opening after 40,000 square-foot expansion (October)
This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine.