New York City travel guide: what's new in New York

So what's ''new'' in New York? In such a fast-paced city, it can be near impossible to keep up.

Before it was New York, it was New Orange, and before that, New Amsterdam. It has always been "new" something, a city obsessed with newness, with novelty and progress, the capital of the New World. One street in New York goes through greater transformation in a single year than some European neighbourhoods do in a decade. 

This can be bad: the furious urge to remake, like successive drafts of a work in progress, has led to the destruction of some truly stunning buildings, as well as increasing rents as affordable spaces are pulled down to satiate a voracious market addicted to luxury. But on the upside, it also means the city is never boring. Just when you think New York is getting old, it has a costume change and comes out dazzling. 

So the question is, what's next? Where is the next best hotel, the most fashionable museum? What's the latest food trend, now Dominque Ansel has given away his recipe for the infamous half-croissant half-doughnut "cronut"? People are always lining up for something in New York. Here are a few new places to start.


New York is on target to have more than 105,000 hotel rooms by the end of the year. To put that in perspective, most hotel rooms are designed for at least two occupants so, come December, the city will be capable of housing at least a quarter of a million visitors every single night – and that's not including the hundreds of apartments on Airbnb. Travellers have never had more choice when it comes to places to sleep in the city that never sleeps.

The trendiest new Manhattan option is The Ludlow, on the Lower East Side. Built in a once-derelict factory, the Ludlow attempts to mix the neighborhood's unmistakable culture – grungy yet artistic – with international trimmings such as silk floor rugs from India and Moroccan lamps. 

Balconied rooms also offer a perspective on the Manhattan skyline that is very different from the familiar silhouette of Midtown, making this a welcome alternative for anyone looking to find an offbeat experience. Not that there is anything wrong with Midtown, though. 

Indeed, the 10 blocks beneath Central Park continue to boom with some of the most coveted new addresses in the city. Chief among these is One57, a wavy glass monolith with a penthouse that recently sold for more than $US90 million. For those of us who are not Russian oligarchs or hedge-fund tycoons, the new Park Hyatt New York occupies the first 25 floors of the building and offers 210 lavish rooms. 

This is the most luxurious New York hotel to open in years: Expect miles of marble, museum-grade art work, fresh flowers in the suites, and a pool with underwater music curated by Carnegie Hall. For a slightly cheaper alternative, check out the nearby Viceroy New York or Quin Hotel, both of which opened their doors in the last year. 

Travellers wanting to stay in the centre of the action will be happy to hear that Times Square is getting a hotel upgrade too. The Knickerbocker was opened by John Jacob Astor in 1906, and became a haunt of Rockefeller and F Scott Fitzgerald; the martini is rumoured to have been invented here. After a massive multimillion-dollar renovation, the hotel will launch some time before December, at which time it will become the premier address in the "crossroads of the world" – particularly for its expansive rooftop bar. 


New York is having something of a park renaissance. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a new plaza, with bosques of trees; Governor's Island continues to expand, with new play areas, hammocks, and Little League baseball fields for the summer months; and Brooklyn Bridge Park has finally cleared construction equipment to reveal a stunning greenway with unrivalled views of Lower Manhattan.

But the standout park – and perhaps the standout attraction of 2014 – is the High Line, which opened its third and final phase in September, curving over working rail yards towards the Hudson River. While the first two sections of this elevated walkway are remarkable for their playfulness and genius design, the third section – which cost $35 million – embraces the area's industrial past rather than erasing it, with self-seeding gardens that look almost wild. 

Taken as a whole, the High Line is a remarkable achievement of imagination. Walking its full length tells a story of the city – its grunginess, innovation and gentrification – that is nothing less than inspiring. Little wonder that town planners the world over have attempted to replicate it, though they never will.

When it comes to museums and galleries, the most high-profile opening of the last year is the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Setting aside the endless controversy about the appropriateness of having a gift shop selling cheese platters and T-shirts, visiting this place is a sobering experience. 

Exhibition spaces show portraits of the deceased as well as mangled artefacts – including the "survivors' stairs", which many people used to escape before the towers collapsed. Just as important to New York history is Ellis Island, an immigrant inspection station that processed millions of Europeans in the early 20th century. For the first time in 60 years, visitors can now tour the un-restored Ellis Island Hospital, a ghostly complex of 29 ramshackle buildings that have been enhanced with installations by the innovative artist JR.   

And speaking of art, the superb Sculpture Center, in Long Island City, has just overhauled its home in a former trolley repair shop, making a trip to Queens more compelling than ever. The Cooper Hewitt Design Museum is also finally preparing to reopen in December in the old Carnegie Mansion, after years of expansion.


It can be difficult to keep track of all the events and exhibitions happening in New York at any one time, which is why a copy of Time Out New York or New York Magazine is an invaluable purchase straight off the plane. Nevertheless, a few things happening over the next few months are worth pencilling into the itinerary immediately. 

The biggest show of the autumn and winter museum calendar is the cut-outs of Henri Matisse, on display at the Museum of Modern Art (until Feb 8). Promising to be "the largest and most extensive presentation of the cut-outs ever mounted," the show will draw huge crowds and sell out its timed tickets in advance.

Nearly as intriguing is Thomas Hart Benton's America Today mural, now on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (until April 19). Showing a highly stylised glimpse of America in the 1920s – milk bars, cowboys, vaudeville dancers – the vast 10-panel work is reminiscent of paintings by Diego Rivera.  

When it comes to theatre, the hot ticket to get is The River (Nov 16-Jan 25), an eerie one-act play by Jez Butterworth that is set in a forest cabin and also happens to be starring Hugh Jackman. Other major productions worth entering the lottery for include the marriage drama A Delicate Balance (Nov 20-Feb 22), starring Glenn Close; and The Elephant Man (Dec 7-Feb 15), starring Bradley Cooper, about a man with significant deformities that the actor portrays through physicality alone. 


Though brunch is a New York institution, the city fails miserably when it comes to breakfast. Cafe culture and the frenetic pace don't seem to mix particularly well here. Having said that, Australians are doing their best to shake things up: Bluestone Lane Collective Cafe in the West Village offers a menu by Melbourne-based restaurateur Sappho Hatzis, complete with vegemite, avocado smashes, and coffee that tastes like home. 

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Russ and Daughters, the legendary Jewish "appetising store" – a store that sells food usually eaten with bagels – has, after 100 years of service, opened its very own cafe on Orchard Street. Think scrambled eggs with caviar, smoked fish, and a soda fountain. It doesn't get much more New York than that – unless you count Tavern on the Green, a beloved restaurant in Central Park immortalised in dozens of movies and newly reborn after its ignominious death during the global financial crisis. 

Similarly, the Rainbow Room, a ballroom on the 65th floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, has just thrown open its doors again after a five-year makeover. Everyone from Michael Jackson to Muhammad Ali has dined in this space. Sunday brunch is a $95 prix fixe menu, though the view is worth twice that. Still, if you don't want to pay at all, drop by the cocktail lounge SixtyFive to take a glimpse from the jaw-dropping terrace. 

For something else a little brag-worthy, Minton's recently breathed life back into an old jazz institution, Minton's Playhouse, which was the birthplace of bebop in the 1940s.

Today's version offers a full lineup of performances to accompany a menu packed with southern revival cooking, including fried green tomatoes and smothered lobster casserole. Harlem is an exciting place right now, and this is a highlight. 

Oh, and the next "cronut"? Chances are you'll discover it at the Brooklyn Smorgasburg


By the time you read this, all these attractions will probably be old hat to New Yorkers. That's how it works here: something opens, and two days later people are looking to the next big thing. For many people, that would be The Whitney Museum of American Art, which will move into a spectacular new building between the High Line and the Hudson River in spring 2015. This is the biggest museum project in New York for many years. Also on the agenda in 2015 is the opening of One World Observatory – a viewing deck at the top of One World Trade Centre that will rival the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock, giving a whole new perspective over Manhattan as it continues to transform in startling and unexpected ways.



After a $69 million upgrade, the Queens Museum opened in 2012 with new exhibition halls, though the jaw-dropping diorama of the city remains untouched. The museum makes Flushing Meadows Corona Park a worthy destination for the first time in nearly 50 years. See


What makes the High Line Hotel most remarkable is not its superb Chelsea location, but the building, which was once a General Theological Seminary. This is a hotel for people looking for a tranquil escape in the middle of Manhattan. See


Perhaps the most under-appreciated recent park to arrive in the city is the Franklin D Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, built at the bottom of Roosevelt Island. The last work of legendary architect Louis I Kahn, the triangular greenway takes visitors past the old smallpox museum. Take the tramway from Manhattan for added views. See


As critics bemoan the death of the music industry, Rough Trade NYC opens a 15,000 square foot record store in a repurposed film prop warehouse in Brooklyn. The store doubles as a performance venue. 


Also in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Night Bazaar is a night market that unites independent vendors with chefs and musicians for a giant hipster party, complete with blacklight minigolf and table tennis. See;



One of the city's most sublime dining experiences is tucked away inside the Neue Galerie, which is dedicated to Austrian and German Art. Cafe Sabrasky draws inspiration from the great Viennese cafes, and offers goulash, Sacher torte, and coffee imported from Meinl's in Vienna. The dining room is exquisite. See


Every traveller visits MoMA in Manhattan, but, in truth, it increasingly resembles an Apple store and a new renovation, begun this year, promises to push things further in that direction. Better is its sister property in Queens, MoMA PS1. Built in a converted elementary school, it shows massive exhibitions on a rotating basis. See


Fort Tryon Park, in the upper reaches of Manhattan, offers soaring views across the Hudson River, beautiful gardens and 5000 medieval works in a reconstructed monastery called The Cloisters. See


The best and most evocative New York market, featured in many movies and Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, remains Zabar's on the Upper West Side. Come to admire the cheese counter, leave with smoked lox and some chocolatebabka. See


At the start of the 20th century, financier Pierpont Morgan constructed an astonishing library of illuminated manuscripts and old drawings; in 1924, his son, JP Morgan, gifted this library to the public. The Morgan Library is now one of the most charming museums in New York, and features rotating exhibitions alongside the stunning reading room. See


1. Avoid, if you can, the tourist vortex that is Times Square. Almost everything interesting and beautiful about the city is elsewhere. The further afield you roam – Brooklyn, Queens – the more memorable your visit will be. Make it all the way to Coney Island for a gold star.  

2. Do not dawdle on the sidewalk. You will make people furious. Want to look like a local? Walk like you're on a mission, even if you're only out for an afternoon stroll around the neighbourhood. Exuding ambition gains respect, regardless of the context. 

3. Want access to New York's most exclusive, stunning garden? Stay at the Gramercy Park Hotel and ask to borrow the key. 

4. Cabs in New York are much cheaper than they are in Australia. They're also a terrific way of getting short distances fast. Paradoxically, it's often faster to get long distances using the subway, especially in rush hour and around lunch time. 

5. If you're in the city for more than a few days and want to stay connected on an iPhone without exorbitant roaming charges, drop into T-Mobile for a temporary sim card. Don't forget to unlock your phone before you get on the plane. 



Multiple airlines fly from Australia with connections to New York. The most direct is offered by Qantas, whose A380 flight between Sydney and Dallas/Fort Worth is the longest commercial flight in the world.


The most efficient way to tackle the major sites of the city remains the New York CityPass.

When it comes to getting around, a seven-day Metro card remains the most economical option, at $US30. Uber continues to boom in popularity in New York, and in many cases is a cheaper option than yellow cabs.



Lance Richardson is an Australian writer and frequent contributor to Traveller. He lives in New York, and heartily encourages the infiltration of Australian-style cafes throughout Manhattan.