JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH ALEX RIVERA FROM MANHATTAN, NEW YORK CITY !
Alex is the Family Travel and Foodie Blogger behind On Travel Mode, a blog dedicated to helping families who visit New York City live and eat like locals. As much as he loves seeing the world with his family- and plan to see a lot more! – he believes that there’s really no place like the ‘City That Never Sleeps’. Living here with his family for over 45 years has shown him how New York City is a perfect family destination. From visiting the Empire State Building, to ferrying out to the Statue of Liberty, to finding the best places to grab a bite before or after a show on Broadway, to the best hotels for our budget, he is excited to tell us all the insider secrets. And also shares some sides of the Big Apple that we’ve never seen before.
New York City is made up of five boroughs – Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx, and Staten Island. Manhattan is the most densely populated of all of the boroughs. According to waitbutwhy website “If everyone lived as densely as in Manhattan, then human race could fit in New Zealand.”
Its iconic sites include skyscrapers such as the Empire State Building, neon-lit Times Square and the theatres of Broadway.
Compared to other NYC boroughs how different is Manhattan?
There are many stark differences between Manhattan and the 4 outer boroughs that make up NYC. I’ve mentioned many of these differences in the next question.
The biggest negative is that everything is more expensive in Manhattan. Expect to pay more at restaurants, hotels, and special events.
The biggest positive is the fast paced energy that everyone talks about. You won’t find this energy in the other boroughs or anywhere else in the world.
What is New York’s Manhattan best known for?
It is difficult to point out that one thing that Manhattan is best known for. Some things that Manhattan is best known for include its towering skyscrapers, neon lights, Wall Street, prestigious culinary establishments, Broadway shows, museums, etc. Of course, this list doesn’t begin to scratch the surface.
What are the top three must visit places in Manhattan?
This question is super tough!
The views from the Top of the Rock. If it’s your first time visiting NYC, then you have to visit the Top of the Rock. The Top of the Rock Observation Deck gives unparalleled views of the city. It is a six-level observatory atop the Art Deco 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The 850 feet high upper decks of this iconic building has amazing views of Manhattan and the Empire State Building.
Explore the Grand Central Terminal. The Grand Central Terminal is not only a transportation hub but is an iconic train station known for its grand facade & main concourse but also its shopping and dining options. It was completed in 1913 and the architecture is stunning. I can wander around for hours. The Grand Central Partnership offers free 90 minute tours of the terminal and surrounding neighborhood.
A visit to NYC should also include a walk through Times Square at night. You have to catch all the huge neon lights, digital billboards, and experience that energy we spoke of earlier. If you are into theatre I definitely believe you should visit Broadway and catch a show. Let me know if you snag extra tickets to Hamilton. I’ll meet you there!
Can you suggest the best streets of Manhattan worthy of taking a stroll on?
Brooklyn Bridge : I believe everyone has to walk the Brooklyn Bridge at least once in their lifetime. It is one of the oldest bridges in the country and a great place to take a stroll on a sunny day from Manhattan to Brooklyn.
Hudson River Greenway : In the summer months I recommend taking a walk down the Hudson River Greenway. It runs along the West Side Highway with panoramic views of New Jersey and the Statue of Liberty.
What if I told you that there’s an island 800 yards away from lower Manhattan. While on Governor’s Island you can go walking, running, or bike riding. The best part is that the entire island is car free! Visitors can also enjoy more spectacular city scape views.
Which are the best places to eat in Manhattan?
New York City is the culinary capital of the world. A foodie’s paradise. There is no shortages of great places to eat. Okay. Yes I’m biased! What else would I say? Anyway, this is a tough question to answer. If you pose the same question to 100 New Yorkers each one will give a different response. Personally, I suggest trying out food markets/halls. We have many of them throughout NYC. I love them because they offer a wide variety of dining options.
I recommend trying out the Chelsea Market if you’re in the area. At the Chelsea Market you will find eateries selling burgers, seafood, soups, salads, noodles, cheeses, chocolate, and wine. You can find Mexican, German and French foods. Many have said the best tacos in New York can be found inside the Chelsea Market at Los Tacos #1. I almost forgot to mention that it also houses several specialty shops which sell handmade jewelry, clothing, books, and artwork.
Insider Tip: Visit the Chelsea Market after you have walked the Highline and worked up an appetite. To learn more about this market click here.
No visit to New York City would be complete without eating pizza from any of these three iconic establishments in Manhattan. You get extra credit if you try all three during your visit.
#1- Lombardi’s, the first pizza shop in the United States (opened in 1905).
#2. Patsy’s Pizza in East Harlem
#3. John’s of Bleeker Street
What type of foodie would I be if I didn’t mention dessert? Did someone say cheesecake? Junior’s cheesecake? Yum! Fortunately Junior’s opened two locations in the Times Square area. No need to head down to Brooklyn to satisfy your cheesecake craving.
Where to head for shopping in Manhattan?
There’s no place like New York when it comes to shopping. You can certainly feed your fashion appetite. We have it all! From flea markets to department stores and small boutique shops to high-end designer shops. I guarantee there is something for all tastes and budgets.
The first spot I recommend visiting is the Grand Bazaar Flea Market on the Upper West Side. It’s so much fun walking through and searching for deals. They are one of the oldest and largest marketplaces in NYC with over 100 merchants. Every Sunday from 10am-5:30pm you can find deals on vintage, antiques, jewelry and more. Visit them on the web, here.
I also recommend visiting the area of SoHo. SoHo is the abbreviation of South of Houston Street (area south of Greenwich Village, Manhattan, NYC). This trendy retail district is known for designer boutiques, fancy chain stores, and high-end art galleries. Besides the shopping, I think you would also enjoy walking through its cobblestone streets and seeing the fancy storefronts. You can also shop from an array of street vendors and pop-up stores along this commercial district.
Would you suggest any popular show to music or art lovers in Manhattan?
Music : Musical stars such as Michael Jackson, the Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Billy Joel and many others have performed at legendary musical venues throughout New York City. I recommend checking out the events calendar of Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden and the Apollo Theatre prior to your visit to the Big Apple. Your favorite musical artist might be in town.
Other Popular Shows : I personally recommend checking out the Broadway shows Wicked, The Lion King, and Phantom of the Opera. You can also find good off-Broadway shows such as the Jersey Boys, Blue Man Group, and Stomp.
Insider tip: If possible purchase show tickets several months prior to your visit.
Art : There are about 100 museums throughout New York City. If you love art and history there’s definitely a museum for you. I definitely recommend the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Museum of Natural History, and Metropolitan Museum of Art. All three are located in Manhattan.
Where can one spot street art in Manhattan?
There are many spots throughout Manhattan where you can check out some of the world’s most beautiful street art. It was extremely difficult but I narrowed it down to three favorites.
First up is the Blondie Mural in the Little Italy neighborhood of Manhattan. If you are an 80s fan like us, you may be familiar with hits such as The Tide is High and Call Me. The mural was created by Graffiti Artist Shepard Fairey and curated by the non-profit Little Italy Street Art Project (L.I.S.A). It pays tribute to now closed famous music club CBGBs across the street. The mural is located on the façade of eatery Saxon + Parole at 316 Bowery New York, NY 10012. For a listing of murals by the L.I.S.A project visit them here. A little further South and West is Little Italy, with a trendier vibe and bars like Track & Field and Pray Tell. For some of the best nachos in the city, head to Sneaky Dee’s! Then, in the morning, head back to Starving Artist for brunch with epic Eggs Benedict waffles.
Next up is the Michael Jackson Mural in the East Village. Do you notice a theme here? Hmm…This tribute to the late icon is on the corner of 11th Street and 1st Avenue. Artist Eduardo Kobra depicts the “King of Pop” as a child and an adult.
Lastly, if you are near the World Trade Center you can visit the Two World Trade Center Mural Project. Nearly 60 artists were commissioned to help bring a message for a hopeful future to this solemn site.
Would you recommend any app for food, transport or hidden gem in Manhattan?
Google Maps works well if you are walking or driving around NYC, Just be sure to change your route from driving to walking.
To get around our massive transit network I suggest the CityMapper New York app. The app has maps you can use off-line, shows real-time train and bus departures, and lets you combine public transit with other modes of transit such as cabs and bike shares.
As far as food goes I highly recommend using Yelp. This app is great for food reviews, menus, maps, etc.
To stay up to date with all the latest special events, concerts, shows, exhibits be sure to download the Time Out New York app.
Lastly, I recommend social buying apps/sites such as Living Social and Groupon. Sign up for these prior to visiting New York City for great deals.
Insider Tip: Don’t forget to read the fine print and availability dates on your deal. Some deals may not be available during your visit and/or have restrictions.
Do you have any suggestion for tourists visiting Manhattan?
Avoid driving in New York City, especially in Manhattan. It’s very difficult to find a parking spot. If by a miracle you find a spot, it will undoubtedly be very expensive. Purchase a MetroCard and get around via New York City Transit instead. Then use the money saved to enjoy other things while on vacation.
The best time to visit New York City is during the shoulder seasons of April-May (spring) and September-October (fall). Not only is the weather more comfortable but flights and accommodations tend to be more budget friendly.
Lastly, New York City is way more than Manhattan. I encourage tourists to visit the other boroughs that make this city great. Balance tourist attractions with living like locals. Don’t hesitate to ask locals for suggestions on where to eat or visit during your stay. I’m confident they will steer you in the right direction.
IF YOU ARE TRAVELLING TO MANHATTAN OR WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT ALEX’S TRAVEL EXPERIENCES THEN BE SURE TO FOLLOW HIM ON
Click here to share this interview.