New York: Juiciest bites of the Big Apple

by rchamb

Packing New York's sights into a weekend is no mean feat, but with some organisation you can sample the best the city has to offer in one fantastic break

There are few destinations on earth that boast as many breathtaking views and sights as New York. Travellers can spend weeks in the Big Apple and still leave begging for more, as there's just so much to see and do.

To stand any chance of sampling as many of these delights as possible during a short break, you'll need a centrally-located hotel. One that fits the bill is the Comfort Inn Manhattan, which is on 42 West 35th Street, basically not even a stone's throw from the Empire State Building. Pretty much all anyone could need from a city break base is inside, with en-suite bathrooms, clean rooms and a bar and restaurant right next to the lobby.

Meanwhile, just across the road is the Hotel Metro, which has the added benefit of a rooftop bar, allowing guests to enjoy some stunning views.

An alternative starting point is the Park Central New York, which, as the name suggests, is in close proximity to Central Park, on 870 Seventh Avenue at 56th Street. The hotel features well-equipped rooms, complimentary Wi-Fi in suites and monster 32-inch TVs, not that you'll have any time to watch them.

After settling into your quarters, you'll soon want to head out and embrace the feast for the eyes that is New York. A 10-minute stroll from 35th Street will take you into the heart of Times Square.

Nothing can quite prepare you for the barrage of neon on show here. All kinds of brand-named stores line the streets, from Toys R Us, which features a giant indoors ferris wheel, and M&Ms to Hard Rock Café and Planet Hollywood, with the latter two offering excellent, low-cost food, serving up starters the size of main meals found in your typical English restaurant. However, Fifth Avenue is where it's really at for shopaholics. Packed with huge department stores such as Macy's, anything and everything you could possibly desire, and a whole lot more besides, is on offer here.

Times Square is also where the best deals for Broadway shows are found. A huge ticket booth sells cut-price seats for shows, with as much as 50 per cent off for those turning up on the afternoon of the performance.

This is one area where visitors to New York really are spoilt for choice, with top shows such as Wicked, Mamma Mia! and The Lion King packing in the audiences and providing a great way to spend a first night in New York. A particular highlight is Rock of Ages at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, a journey of love, loss and hairspray set to an 80s rock soundtrack, which delivers three hours of fantastic entertainment.

With Times Square and Broadway taking up the first day, a stop-off on the way back to the hotel at the Empire State Building to enjoy the views that this world-famous landmark affords is an excellent way to finish the day. After dark is the best time to head up to its observatory deck, as you'll see the city's glittering lights, which can be enjoyed in relative peace and quiet compared to the massed crowds that flock there during the afternoon.

A trip to Central Park is the perfect way to start day two of your break, and that means it's time to get out either a subway map or your walking shoes. Subway stations are dotted all around the city, with a system similar to the London Underground in operation. Different colours and letters signify different lines, although be wary of confusion due to station and line closures that appear to be commonplace throughout weekends.

After reaching Central Park you can enjoy a relaxing morning on the lawns, engaging in some star-spotting while tucking into a well-deserved picnic. After some relaxation and recuperation, the Museum of Natural History provides an afternoon's entertainment, with all kinds of beasts that once walked the earth on show. Meanwhile, those keen to see animals that are still very much alive and well should head to Central Park Zoo.

Of course, no trip to New York is complete without a visit to the Statue of Liberty, which is the perfect sight to see on a final day in the city. A short ferry hop takes you to the great lady, although be warned that those wishing to get a close-up view will have to get there early before the day's allocation of monument passes are distributed. After a stop-off at the genuinely interesting Ellis Island immigration museum, it's time to head back to shore.

My own break in New York took this path and meant I missed out on the Rockefeller Center, Brooklyn Bridge and Grand Central Station. That means I'll have to come back next year, and that's just fine with me.