Drive time: About 3 hours.
Fall foliage colors in Central Park last for only a few short weeks, but the lights of Times Square and Broadway dazzle day and night all year long. Of New York’s five boroughs, Manhattan is the smallest, but its larger-than-life personality is what attracts visitors from around the world.
We’re assuming that you’ve been to New York City, so we’re skipping the familiar to offer a new perspective on the Big Apple. But if you still haven’t visited some of the biggies, we’ll tell you how to do it on the cheap or even free.
One of Midtown’s newest accommodations, the 21-story Strand Hotel is contemporary cool in design and amenities. Catch the skyline view from Top of the Strand lounge and the seafood risotto or truffle-crusted filet mignon at the Strand Bistro (entrées $22-$36). Fall rates begin at $339 (breakfast included); self-parking $37, valet $40. 33 W. 37th St.; (212) 448-1024, thestrandnyc.com.
Despite its unlikely location inside a home furnishings store, chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen was named “Best New Restaurant for 2011” by the James Beard Foundation. Economize by opting for a smaller portion of fancy pasta for ($15-$16) or a whole-wheat pizza ($14-$17). Entrées $22-$32. 35 E. 18th St. (between Broadway and Park Avenue); (212) 475-5829, abckitchennyc.com.
• Foods of New York Tours offer three hours of showing, telling and tasting, plus side dishes on neighborhood history, culture, architecture and entertainment. $47-$65. (917) 408-9539, foodsofny.com.
• At the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, guided apartment building and neighborhood walking tours offer a glimpse into the lives of our ancestors who came here during the 19th- and 20th-centuries to find their own American Dream. $20. 108 Orchard St.; (212) 982-8420, tenement.org.
• Head to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum for a tour of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Intrepid, a National Historic Landmark; the “top-secret” missile command center on the U.S.S. Growler; and the Concorde, the world’s fastest commercial airplane. $24. Pier 86, West 46th Street and 12th Avenue; (212) 245-0072, intrepidmuseum.org.
• Local volunteer guides from the nonprofit Big Apple Greeter organization provide free orientation tours tailored to your individual interests and preferences. (No tipping!) (212) 669-8159, bigapplegreeter.org.
• By New York City standards the century-old Hotel Walcott is a bargain. $200-$230 for a queen room; off-site parking discount. 4 W. 31st St.; (212) 268-2900, wolcott.com.
• A dynamite Upper East Side doggery, Papaya King has been around for 80 years. 179 E. 86th St. (between Third and Lexington avenues); (212) 369-0648, papayaking.com.
• At Crepes on Columbus, you can try something wild, like tiger shrimp with black-bean paste ($8.75-$12). Or build your own triple-filling chocolate ($6.75). 990 Columbus Ave. (between 108 and 109 streets); (212) 222-0259, crepesoncolumbus.com.
• ABC Carpet & Home features 10 floors filled with just about everything in creation to furnish and decorate your home. 888-881 Broadway (at East 19th Street); (212) 473-3000, abckitchennyc.com.
• Save up to 50 percent on Broadway and off-Broadway blockbusters at TKTS discount booths. tdf.org.
• Many museums and attractions offer free or pay-as-you-wish admission on specific days or evenings. The National Museum of the American Indian (a Smithsonian treasure), Forbes Galleries and a ride on the Staten Island Ferry (with views of the skyline, harbor and Statue of Liberty) are always free.