Alternatives to NYC’s Traditional Tourist Spots

Skip the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building this time around


For many adventurous D.C. residents, New York City isn't exactly a new and exciting weekend destination -- but what if the budget and a dearth vacation days are holding you back from flying to far-flung corners of the globe this summer?

Here's how to explore a few alternatives to NYC's traditional touristy spots.

Where to Stay:

When traveling to New York, one thing to keep in mind is choosing a hotel with a centralized location. The Hotel Sofitel New York is in the heart of Midtown at 45 West 44th St. -- it's a quick one-block walk from Bryant Park and the New York Public Library, as well as the shopping of Seventh and Fifth avenues. With perfectly appointed rooms and suites, and some of the most comfortable beds around, the Sofitel New York is consistently one of the best places to drop your bags.

The Perect New York Bagels:

You won't have to go far -- enjoy breakfast at the Gaby Brasserie Francaise inside the Sofitel. Executive Chef Sylvain Harribey is a charming Frenchman (who also happened to win Food Network’s "Chopped"), but more importantly, he creates a delightful New York bagel with organic smoked salmon ($19). Sour cream, cream cheese, capers, onions, tomato and lemon come together to create the cherished construction.

What To Do:

New York might be famous for its bagels, but the culinary excellence doesn't end there. Visit Chelsea Market, located in the Meatpacking District, to try some of the city's finest fare. The market has more than 35 vendors and sells everything from wine to cheesecake. More than six million people visit the spot every year, making it one of the most-trafficked destinations in New York City.

Take advantage of NYC's ample cabs and visit the Brooklyn Brewery. The unique spot harkens back to a time when Brooklyn was a premier brewing center, and offers tastings and tours from Monday to Thursday (tours are free on weekends, but require $5 tokens for beers). You can also skip the tour and spend the day in their tasting room.

For an entirely unique experience, buy a ticket to "Sleep No More" at the McKittrick Hotel. The indoor promenade performance lasts up to three hours and ventures into the world of MacBeth. The interactive theater-thriller is silent, and guests must wear masks as they follow performers through several floors. Following the performance, guests are invited to sample interesting drinks (like absinthe!) at the Manderly Bar.

If you simply must have a museum on your to-do list, head off the beaten path to the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn. Long-term exhibits include Steel, Stone & Backbone: Building New York's Subways 1900-1925; a collection of various fare-taking devices through the decades; and a look into the history of above-ground travel (think trolleys), complete with a simulated traffic intersection. If you're visiting before July 6, check out the Grand Central Centennial Quilts exhibit, which features quilts inspired by (wait for it) Grand Central Station. The museum is closed Mondays.

Lunch and Drinks:

While on the Upper East Side, enjoy a beverage or lunch while viewing the $100 million renovation project at the Loews Regency Hotel. Al Sharpton is a regular, as well as a swath of NYC biggest power players. Order the Hendricks, tonic and St. Germain, while taking in the views at the Regency Bar & Grill.

If you skipped breakfast, then try their Class Eggs Benedict ($26) with Canadian bacon. I can say with confidence this incessantly flavorful dish is probably the best eggs Benedict I’ve ever had.

You could also try lunching in Hell’s Kitchen at Medi Wine Bar & Cellar. Their gritty yet bright patio space feels like being in a friend’s backyard, while their Grilled Merguez Sausage ($13) had me licking my fingers with joy. I voraciously downed the Moroccan spicy lamb sausage with Gruyere cheese, roasted red pepper and mustard with the accompanying side salad.

Dinner Spots:

For dinner, take the subway or cab it to Brooklyn to Almadira, one of Prospect Heights' best new restaurants. Italian cuisine provides a hearty anchor to the rustic interior. Both the earthy Ravioli Del Giorno ($18) and the mouth-watering lasagna ($18) provide some serious competition to the new, but already legendary, Carbone Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village. Sadly, Almadira’s desserts are disappointing, but the promising savory menu should soon bring the sweets up to par.

If you venture down Madison Avenue for some excellent shopping, you might want to end up at Eleven Madison Park for dinner, a snack or dessert. This is the highest-ranking U.S. restaurant in the world, according to Restaurant magazine. Diners should request a seat at the bar for a tasting, since reservations are a premium.

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