Inspiration Destinations USA New York Melissa Leong & Ben Lawson's Guide to New York

Melissa Leong & Ben Lawson's Guide to New York

Food critic and columnist Melissa Leong and actor Ben Lawson uncover the best of New York for the all-new season of Luxury Escapes: The World’s Best Holidays.

Who better to take a bite of the Big Apple than Melissa Leong and Ben Lawson? The dream team refined the ultimate itinerary for the all-new season of Luxury Escapes: The World’s Best Holidays, exploring heritage delis, walking the High Line and soaking up the magic of The City That Never Sleeps. From chatting with the locals and fine-dining family style in Washington Place, to wandering the sprawling Central Park, here are a few of their highlights.

Read on for their unmissable moments.

Discover more about New York on the new season of Luxury Escapes: The World’s Best Holidays, airing Tuesdays 8.30pm AEDT* on Foxtel Lifestyle and on demand on Binge and Network 10. *Check your local TV listings for details.

When in New York: eat sandwiches.

LE: Name three iconic New York experiences.

ML: Just three? Impossible! But if I have to: You must eat a hotdog in the park, bonus points if that park is Central Park. You must go for a wander down the street in more than one neighbourhood to appreciate just how different they all are.  

BL: I would say that you must walk along the High Line, a 2.5km elevated park along the west side of Manhattan. It’s a beautiful way to experience the city, it’s free and it’s something done by both tourists and locals. Also, I think you need to see a Broadway show. Not the one that has the most famous actor in it but look at the reviews and see what appeals to you. And get into Central Park and allow yourself half a day. It’s enormous and amazing. 

Whatever the season, you can't beat a walk around Central Park.

LE: What advice would you give to a first-timer in the city? 

ML: I would advise you to stay in more than one location. The mood and energy changes from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, so whether it’s well-heeled uptown, or hanging in Greenwich Village, you need to explore the city to find what resonates… because something will.  

BL: The thing about New York is that it isn’t just the sights or the park or Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment. There’s a magic in the city that you can only experience in an unrushed, unplanned kind of a way. So my advice is this: walk as much as you can. The city changes from block to block. Look up. Take in the vastness of the city. New Yorkers will talk to you. Talk back! They’re some of the most interesting people in the world. Don’t always plan where you’re going to have lunch or dinner. Just wander and be open to an experience, you might end up having the most memorable day of your trip! 

 LE: What is the one thing that might surprise other travellers about New York? 

ML: That people are kind. If you really need a hand, you will find it. It feels like a city that won’t help you on your feet, but that’s completely wrong.  

BL: The people... I can’t tell you how many times (usually as I’ve emerged from the subway, looking up and downtown to get my bearings) people have stopped to ask if I’m lost or need help. They’re just good, authentic, kind people. They say what they mean and mean what they say and personally, I love that. 

A haven in the city: Thompson Central Park.

LE: Why is Thompson Central Park a great city hotel? 

ML: Thompson Central Park is superbly located at the southern end of the park, giving you access to so much of what makes this part of the island amazing. Whether it’s a fancy dinner at Per Se, seeing the American Ballet Theatre at Lincoln Centre, riding a bike around the park, or hopping on the subway downtown, everything is really accessible. Then you get to come back to a chic, well-appointed hotel that really does feel like a home away from home.  

BL: Location, location, location. It’s right by The Russian Tea Room AND Carnegie Hall AND Central Park AND MoMA. Need I say more? 

LE: What was your standout dining experience on this trip? 

ML: I love heritage. And it doesn’t get more heritage than a place like Katz’s Delicatessen, the city’s oldest continuously running deli. It is an icon of the Lower East Side and the island at large, and draws an egalitarian clientele, from tourists to locals, alike.  

BL: Chinese Tuxedo. I highly recommend going with Melissa because she knows everything about food but in the event she’s unavailable, just get the Hamachi. 

LE: Which New York restaurant is next on your wishlist? 

ML:  I will always hold a special plate for places like Balthazar, or anywhere Keith McNally has made his presence known. He set the bar for venues of their ilk around the world, for good reason: there will never be anything wrong with an ice-cold Martini, bread and oysters at the bar.  

BL: Blue Hill in Greenwich Village. It's a farm-to-table restaurant and Stone Barns Farm out in Tarrytown, NY. They do a menuless dinner 'family style' with shared plates and communal tables. With all the ingredients farmed and grown in upstate New York, you don’t get more of an authentic taste of New York than this. I can’t wait to check it out. 

LE: Walk, yellow cab, or horse and carriage? 

ML: Hey, I’m walking here! 

BL: Of these options, walk. But even better get a Citi Bike! New York is a super ridable city with plenty of bike lanes. You get to see, hear and feel the streets of New York but this way you can stop and smell the pastrami once in a while. 

Discover more about New York on the new season of Luxury Escapes: The World’s Best Holidays, airing Tuesdays 8.30pm AEDT* on Foxtel Lifestyle and on demand on Binge and Network 10. *Check your local TV listings for details.

Ready to escape? Browse our New York offers here.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out 7 of New York's Best Lookout Spots.

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