Exquisite window displays, the Rockefeller Centre Christmas tree, Macy's Santaland; it's easy to see why anyone would opt to visit the Big Apple in December. But grey January and dreary February? Forget it.
Except.. perhaps you shouldn't. Cheaper hotels, less-crowded streets, more chance of an upgrade.. there are many reasons you should go against the grain and book after the hype of New Year's is over. So many, in fact, I've had to write a two parter on why you should visit during the winter.
Hike the High Line:
It's not hard to imagine the High Line, a 1.45 mile-long elevated walkway built on a disused railway, teeming with tourists and locals in the summer. The walk, which stands 30ft above street level, provides intimate views of Manhattan and gives you glimpses of the Hudson River as you stroll through the city. Visiting on a crisp, blue-skied January morning however, meant the linear park was almost deserted - providing ample moments for a photograph.
Slurp on ramen:
Tucked away in the corner of the bustling indoor Chelsea Market sits the modest-looking mŏkbar, a Korean-style ramen bar. The market is just moments from the high line, so it's a great excuse for a refuel and a respite from the cold.
Perch at the bar and order a steaming bowl of ramen, served with house pickles, and topped with pork belly or poached egg. The "bibimbap" classic and the "kimchijigae" kimchi are both eye-rollingly sumptuous. Creamy, rich, meaty, they're everything you've ever wished for in a ramen. The classic is a pork broth, topped with seasonal vegetables, the latter is a sumptuous, smoky kimchi bacon broth, with stewed kimchi and scallions.
Visit the iconic Madison Square Garden:
Quite possibly the most famous sports venue in the whole world, you can't go to NYC and not experience it. Pork pie from the outside, practically a sports museum on the inside thanks to the memorabilia plastered over the walls, the MSG is every sports lover's dream.
Book a ticket to the Knicks, and do some celeb-spotting, or opt to see the New York Rangers, the city's resident ice hockey team.
A brisk walk in the park on a crisp, bright morning is a fantastic tonic for any overindulgence the night before. Far from being busy, we walked stretches of the park without seeing a soul. The park's especially gorgeous under a blanket of snow, when the lakes are frozen over and the trees are covered with a dusting of white.
Dine on steak:
Visiting one of New York's steakhouses is an absolute must. In fact, it would be rude not to. The city caters for every kind of steak lover - the traditional Keens, the German-themed Peter Luger, the trendy Gallaghers, or Sparks - the infamous stage of crime boss Paul Castellano's assassination in 1985.
There's also Strip House, well known for its hefty steaks and red burlesque-style interior, which was where I decided to patronise.
The 44th St branch is plastered with black and white portraits of actresses and singers, while diners can kick back in padded red booths.
We started with the steak tartare - juicy, seasoned to perfection and served with crisp-baked ciabatta - and the special: nori gnocchi with white truffles, porcini mushrooms and smothered in porcini-infused beurre blanc.
The gnocchi, pillowy, light and somehow unbelievably fluffy, transported my tastebuds to heaven.
For the main course, I shared the Porterhouse steak; beautifully charred on the outside and served red and deliciously rare on the inside. The filet mignon was tender, and almost as smooth and buttery as the beurre blanc.
Served up with creamed spinach infused with black truffles - divine - and the Strip House potatoes - gratin, twice baked, but unfortunately slightly over-salted; the feast was pure, unadulterated hedonism.
My only regret was not leaving much room for the Bruce-from-Matilda style chocolate cake served up for dessert, which stood a whopping 24 layers tall - and yes, I did count.
After the huge success in Washington D.C., Georgetown Cupcakes decided to take its wares to New York. And boy I'm glad they did. Although you might begrudge handing over $3.25 for a single cupcake - I'd recommend going for the Cookies & Creme Cheesecake - you sure as hell won't regret it ones you sink your teeth into the fluffy, creamy icing, the moist sponge, and the rich, crumbly biscuit base.
Immerse yourself in art and stay The Quin:
Around the corner from Carnegie Hall and MoMA, it's no surprise the Quin is a thriving hub of arts. The Midtown hotel's public spaces play host to exhibitions, instalments and cultural events, thanks to its Quin Arts programme.
The staff are smiley, friendly and eager to help. So much so my room was upgraded - thanks to the city's second worst blizzard of all time preventing other guests from getting to the hotel.
The room I was upgraded to had a stunning wraparound corner terrace. Although I had to dig my way out of the snow onto it, it was well worth the effort, and I was treated to a fiery sunrise over the metropolitan sky line one way, and a dusty pink sky over Central Park the other side. I challenge you to find a better vantage point to watch the sun rise over Manhattan.
Every review I'd read about the Quin raved about the comfortable bed, and it did not disappoint. But the star of the room was the shower - made for two, it had a total of eight shower nozzles, including a rain shower, and mid and lower body-height showers, as well as a marble seat.
The rest of the bathroom had powerful underfloor heating, a bright vanity table with a lit mirror - perfect for make-up.
The Quin is so art-focused there were even Chanel books by the bed and the turn down service came complete with a daily art quote.
Breakfast at the Wayfarer - the hotel's restaurant - was a similarly luxurious experience. I fell in love with the restaurants cosy and classic bistro-style settings, with the leather booths and buzzy atmosphere. The avocado on toast with poached eggs was the best I've ever had - and I eat a lot of avocado, while the smoked chicken sausages - made in the kitchen - were delicious.
The restaurant offers bright, fresh juices, which, unlike many I've tried, taste as good as they are for you. The restaurant was full of business-people breakfasting, showing just how popular it is among locals.
Stay tuned for Part II..