Experience New York City Like a Local
Whether a bucket list destination or an annual stop, the Big Apple offers so many diversions that no two visits are ever alike. With buzzy new restaurants, shows, exhibits and shops constantly cropping up, planning your stay can be head-spinning. So Travelzoo's New York staffers -- long accustomed to showing visitors around town -- want to share our favorite strategies.
But there's at least one advantage you'll have over us during your visit. If you check in at any of the area's 42 Hilton hotels, you're getting a room in a prime location for exploring the city.
So all you have to do is show up -- and follow these seven steps:
Be a smarter theatergoer
Even if we don't catch shows as often as we should, New Yorkers still like to think of ourselves as avid and savvy theatergoers. And the performers don't disagree: "I'm lucky to have worked in theater all over the world, but there's something magical about Broadway," Hugh Jackman famously noted in a Collider interview. "The audiences are smart ... they go in ready and they're up for it -- they're up for the party."
We'll assume you've got the up-for-the-party part covered. As for the savviness, three tips: 1. Rather than search through reams of reviews, use one of the aggregator sites that are vying to be the Rotten Tomatoes of the theater world: Show-Score or Did He Like it. 2. If you're looking for last-minute tickets (and you've already checked Travelzoo), lotteries are among the best ways to save serious money. 3. Check Instagram to see whether the performers do #stagedoorselfies, and if so, don't linger during the curtain call. Exit promptly and stake out the best possible real estate. Yes, we're theater geeks.
But there's also the no-brainer approach to smart theatergoing: Catch any production by Roundabout Theatre Company. One of the most beloved and influential theater institutions in town, this nonprofit is spread out over multiple venues, where you'll find Tony-nominated plays ("Travesties" is also a New York Times Critics Pick) to A-list stars (beginning in late May, for example, you can catch Idina Menzel in previews of the play "Skintight").
Where to stay: Hilton Garden Inn Times Square, steps from Broadway.
Navigate the museums like a pro
New Yorkers tend to be at least mildly allergic to waiting, so the art lovers among us buy museum memberships with express entry privileges. For the same kind of access minus the annual fees, try the New York Pass -- a credit card lookalike that grants you skip-the-line entry to the Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Cloisters Museum and Gardens -- and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among countless other city attractions. And though breezing by the waiting masses may come with twinges of guilt, it goes away fast when you enter galleries that aren't already teeming with bodies.
With or without skip-the-line privileges, you'll want to visit museums when they're least crowded: weekdays, or first or last thing on weekends. And one last insider tip: To the surprise of even members, the Members Dining Room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is now simply the Dining Room. The space is the very definition of a hidden gem: a hard-to-find, glimmeringly glassy fine dining establishment with insane views of Central Park and Cleopatra's Needle. And as of last summer, the members-only element quietly went away, so anyone can eat there now, and probably should.
Where to stay: New York Hilton Midtown, a half block from MoMA.
Don't skip the most important meal of the week
Speaking of insider foodie insights, we'd remiss if we didn't mention the sacred local ritual that is brunch. In fact, according to one University of Arizona study, New Yorkers are the most brunched-obsessed residents of the nation. From late morning to midafternoon on any given Saturday or Sunday, the city's restaurants fill with happy, cocktail-swilling schmoozers whose epic orders will soon be the stuff of #brunch, #brunchnyc and #brunchsohard photos.
A few of our favorite spots: Sadelle's, home to some of the best bagels and blintzes in town; Poco, where you'll find all the mimosas, sangrias or bloody marys you can drink in 90 minutes); and Bubby's, purveyors of legendary fried chicken pancakes.
Where to stay: Hilton Garden Inn Tribeca, where Bubby's brunches are close at hand (among endless other downtown options).
Pick and choose from boutique fitness classes
In a city so obsessed with the next big fitness thing (the flip side to our food obsession), why limit yourself to the hotel gym? Instead, make like a local and studio-hop. With FitReserve's TravelPack, you'll get a discount on up to three classes at 400 fitness studios, from yoga and Pilates to boxing and indoor cycling. And the passes are good for six months, so if you have leftovers, you have a leg up, as it were, on your next trip.
Where to stay: The London NYC, a luxury all-suite hotel in the heart of fitness studio-filled Midtown.
See what all the Brooklyn buzz is about
Since the dawn of time (or at least since we've lived here), Manhattanites often refused to cross the East River except to go to LaGuardia or JFK. Then Brooklyn suddenly seemed the height of all that was happening, whether on the culinary, theater, art or retail front, and everyone became smitten with the borough. A few neighborhoods where you'll immediately get why: DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), which is full of shops, restaurants and galleries in converted warehouses along cobblestone roads; Williamsburg, epicenter of all things hipster; and Prospect Park, the brownstone-lined enclave where you'll see why Brooklyn is also known as the Borough of Trees. Where to stay: Hilton Brooklyn. The central downtown location offers easy access to the Brooklyn Bridge, Barclays Center and 11 subway stops to get just about anywhere in Brooklyn.
Lose your voice at game
New Yorkers are passionate about our teams (with strong opinions about their rivals). So maybe this isn't the place to wear your Boston Red Sox or Philadelphia Eagles hat while taking in the sights -- unless you're up for a little good-natured ribbing. No matter the day (and your choice of apparel), you can safely bet there's a game going on -- between 10 pro sports teams and numerous college events. In the spring, basketball and hockey are winding down -- but baseball and soccer are just getting started.
Many of the arenas are landmarks in their own right -- whether it's Yankee Stadium in the Bronx or the Billie Jean National Tennis Center (home of the U.S. Open) in Queens. But the epicenter of New York sports is undoubtedly "The Garden" -- MSG -- home of the Knicks and Rangers. Madison Square Garden: All Access Tour goes behind the scenes of "The World's Most Famous Arena."
Where to stay: DoubleTree by Hilton New York City - Chelsea, long jump shot away from MSG.
Swoon over the skyline
We live in the shadows of one of world's most iconic and recognizable skylines, and even the most jaded New Yorkers can't help but go gaga for it, as our Instagram feeds routinely prove. We're always happy to have an excuse to see it from a new (or revisited) vantage point, so when guests come to town, we'll head for one of the many observation decks around town, whether Rockefeller Center, One World Trade Center or the oh-so-cinematic Empire State Building.
Of course, snacks and drinks tend to enhance skyline views, as you'll find at the High Bar & Lounge at DoubleTree Times Square West or the Attic at Hilton Garden Inn Times Square. If you're here on an early spring night, when the weather's still cold, check out the heated igloos atop 230 Fifth for one of the prettiest panoramas in town (and boozy hot chocolate). For another dramatic perspective on the skyline -- this one served up with everything from jazz brunches to DJ'd happy hours -- hop on one of many Hornblower Cruises around the island.
Where to stay: Millennium Hilton New York Downtown in Battery Park City, close to New York's tallest building and observation deck, One World Trade Center.
Ready to go? Discover the best of New York with Hilton.