The Central Park area of Manhattan is quite possibly New York City’s most desirable. It's the New York City you’ve seen on TV — a bustling metropolis full of beautiful architecture, resplendent hotels, fancy cocktail lounges, and the hustle of busy people with places to go. While Midtown is home to plenty of tourist destinations, just slightly further north is where New Yorkers themselves go to work, play, and relax. More specifically, we’re talking about the area from the southern border of Central Park down to 55th street; between 9th Avenue and Park. Some real estate agents call it the Plaza district (thanks to the location of New York's most famous hotel), though most just refer to it as Midtown.
Possibly the biggest advantage of this area is your proximity to Central Park. New York City’s most iconic stretch of green space — the crown jewel of Manhattan — is just steps from your hotel, regardless of which one you choose. While the park is home to plenty of tourist attractions (like the Alice in Wonderland statues, horse-drawn carriages, and the zoo), it’s also a place where New Yorkers go to relax. On any given day, you’ll see residents resting, reading, or having an impromptu picnic on the rocks, grass, and benches that adorn the south end of the park. It’s an ideal place to clear your head and take a break from the hustle of the city, plus it’s one of the safest areas of New York City, day or night. With a heavy NYPD presence in the area, you’ll feel perfectly safe staying out until 4 a.m. and walking back to your room by 4:30. You know, if that’s your thing.
But when you stay in the Central Park area, you’re not just close to the park. You’re also close to everything you need to make your New York trip complete. Want to see a Broadway show? The Theatre District is just a few blocks south. Want to visit a world-class museum? MoMA is mere steps away from this neighborhood’s boundaries. Feeling adventurous enough to try New York’s famous street food? The Halal Guys across the street from MoMA serve some of the best gyros and falafel plates in the city. Plus, nearly every subway line passes through midtown, so you’re never more than a quick train ride from anywhere else you may want to go.
When it comes to living here, the neighborhood itself is home to some of the most expensive real estate in the world. Walk through the tree-lined streets and you’ll find the finest restaurants, high class shopping, and best hotels in the city. New York isn’t known for being a particularly affordable town, and Midtown, being at the centre of it all, is the most expensive of all. The up side? Midtown is the ideal place to spot a celebrity. Most notably Lady Gaga, who has a penthouse apartment on 59th street, just south of Central Park. You’ll be surrounded by people with money to burn, and businesses all too happy to help them do so. If you’re staying in this area, it helps to be one of those people, though it isn't required. You’ll find no shortage of neighborhood bars and restaurants that cater to people without six-figure salaries.
The great thing about New York, and Midtown in particular, is that it’s home to people from all walks of life. Midtown is the quintessential New York City experience. It’s a hub for media and business, meaning New Yorkers come from all over the city to work here. You’ll still feel the hustle and bustle of the big city, but here it has a purpose. While there are certainly tourist attractions in the area, particularly near the entrance to Central Park, that’s not what most people actually come here for. You won’t find the slow-moving streets clogged with tourists hoping for a selfie with a superhero like you will in Times Square. Even during the busiest times, you’ll find it easy and fun to get around Midtown. Here, you’ll find the best in food, entertainment, and culture. You’ll truly feel like you’re staying in the exact epicenter of New York City: Where the best elements of its diverse neighborhoods converge and come together. Nowhere else in the city can you find such a comprehensive sampling of absolutely everything the city has to offer.
If you’re looking for upscale dining, you’ll find plenty of delectable neighborhood favorites. Per Se at Columbus Circle serves a wonderfully prepared menu of French classics and refined takes on American comfort food. There’s no shortage of steakhouses in the area, but the best is Quality Meats on 58th street at 6th Avenue. The steakhouse pairs the best cuts of beef with an expansive wine list guaranteed to satisfy any taste. If you’re looking for Italian food (and in New York, you absolutely should be), Il Gattopardo’s seasonal menu is the best Italian in the area.
Of course, if you don’t want to spend big on dinner every night, there are options for you as well. Remember, Midtown is a destination for all New Yorkers, so there are plenty of eateries for people without exorbitant incomes. Pizzarte is a fantastic place to grab a pie, and if you walk over to 9th Avenue, you’ll find delicious Mexican cuisine at El Centro and Thai specialties at Pure Thai Cookhouse. And then there are the diners. If all you want is filling breakfast food, Midtown is the place to be. Check out Brooklyn Diner for a more upscale take on traditional diner food, or the Park Café on 55th Street and 7th Avenue for a no-nonsense classic American breakfast.
You can’t talk about any New York neighborhood without mentioning the nightlife. New York City is home to some of the greatest bars in the world, and Midtown has plenty of places to enjoy a cocktail (or three). Unsurprisingly, many of the finest and most upscale bars are in hotels. Harry’s New York Bar at the Park Lane hotel has a classy vibe and a particularly inviting cocktail menu. The Champagne Bar at the Plaza Hotel offers delicious and delicate glasses of brut for a truly luxurious night out. For an unforgettable view of the New York City skyline with your cocktail, you have to visit The Roof on top of the Viceroy New York. Even if you aren’t staying in any of these three, you can still pop in to enjoy their world class lounges.
But perhaps you’re seeking more of an intimate, neighborhood bar. In that case, look no further than P.J. Carney’s. At this casual pub, you’ll find folks who’ve just gotten off work enjoying a drink with patrons of nearby Carnegie Hall. It’s a neighborhood institution that welcomes just about everybody, and judges none. One block east, you’ll find The Whiskey Trader, an underground sports bar with a surprisingly varied selection of scotch. Though much of Midtown projects a sense of opulence and wealth, these bars serve as reminders that New York has a place for everybody.
Midtown is also an entertainment and cultural mecca. You don’t have to walk down to the theatre district to see world class entertainment — take in the symphony at Carnegie Hall, or see a timely, relevant piece of theatre at the Director’s Guild of America Theatre. Walk one block south to the New York City Center and you can also catch an innovative performance of off-Broadway plays and musicals. A night at the theatre without having to put up with Times Square traffic? That alone is worth staying in Midtown.
Last but certainly not least, there’s the shopping. While SoHo is the city’s best-known shopping district, Midtown is no slouch either. The shops at the Plaza are a joy to walk through, with fine jewelry and homewares that are as fun to look at as they are to try. Tiffany and Co.’s flagship store is worth a visit even if you have one in your hometown. That’s especially if you’ve ever wondered what a $120,000 diamond necklace looks like. The king of them all is Bergdorf Goodman, which operates a massive department store on 5th Avenue. Even if you don’t intend to buy anything, you’ll want to get lost in this expansive shopping center, checking out some of the most expensive clothes, handbags and more that money can buy. The shops at Columbus Circle also make for a great destination, with a fun collection of chains and boutiques to peruse. It’s brightly lit, easy atmosphere make for a pleasant shopping experience.
Midtown may cater mostly to the very rich, but there’s something here for everyone. Other neighborhoods have their charm, but none have quite the same energy. Nowhere else will you find world class musicians having a drink with media copy editors. If New York City is the center of the universe, Midtown is the center of New York. One minute there, and you’ll know exactly what we mean.
While in New York, grab a bowl from Tacos vs Burritos.