Spectacular waterscapes, jazz, hip bars, a restaurant explosion and unique hotels – it’s all there on the eclectic patch of Manhattan called the Upper West Side. Between the Hudson River and Central Park West, you’ll find everything from solitude to cozy Amsterdam Avenue Cafés. I like to start the day with a stroll on the “Greenway” along the Hudson at the 79th Street Yacht Basin. - Jay Lloyd
WHAT YOU’LL FIND
The Boat Basin itself is where an envied group of New Yorkers live on their yachts and walk to offices in the nearby Trump Towers or beyond. A lively cafe overlooks the classic boats that fill the gated basin on a broad walkway with spectacular views that take in the George Washington Bridge to the north and the Cruise ship docks southward. The walkway is shared by strollers, cyclists, runners and nannies pushing prams. Along the way at 72nd Street, you can rent a kayak (weather permitting) for a paddle in a protected river basin, rent a bicycle or join a pick-up basketball game. Then stop for lunch or drinks at the Boat Basin Café. New Yorkers love it, but visitors rarely hear of its existence.
WHAT TO DO
Check out kayaking at Pier 40. It’s free and you get bragging rights for having paddled the famous Hudson. It makes for great cocktail conversation, too. The staff is friendly and enthusiastic. They get you on the water with life jackets secured in a jiffy.
Bike as far as you want along the Greenway, which hugs the Hudson. Bikes are available for rent at Bike and Roll on 71st Street and the Hudson. Rates are $14 an hour or $44 a day. Check first for the current season, which is rapidly coming to a close. Or you can wait for spring.
WHERE TO STAY
On the cheap: The Riverside Towers at 80th Street on Riverside Drive is in the best location with the lowest weekend rates: $129 a night for a double, $139 for a “suite.” But be prepared — rooms and suites are tiny and reminiscent of a college dorm room! If you have fond memories of dorm living, try it. It’s populated by middle income European and older American visitors.
More luxurious: The Hotel Lucerne is a class boutique hotel just a block from the Museum of Natural History. It occupies the corner of 79th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in the midst of dining and nightlife that runs the range from Peruvian-Chinese to Irish pubs. Prices here can be both salty and sweet. The rest of October sees rates between $200 and $474 a night for a double.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
Fred’s, in case you’re interested, was named for a dog. The walls are crowded with pictures of customers’ pups and the bar is just as friendly. Pro bartenders mix it up, red and white sangria is waiting in large jars and every conversation is open to everyone. In short, it’s a welcoming neighborhood bar in one of America’s most interesting neighborhoods. Fred’s is on Amsterdam Avenue at 82nd Street.
If wine is your thing and you’re looking for to decompress after a day of sightseeing, try the Tangled Vine. It’s a comfortable lounge populated by a young professional crowd and features an impressive but reasonable wine list. The Tangled Vine is located at Amsterdam Avenue and 81st.
You could also fall into an Irish Pub. The St. James Gate, also at 81st and Amsterdam, fits the bill. Since it’s named for the Dublin address of the Guinness Storehouse, the heady brew is the mainstay. Also, expect your Irish favorites on the menu, with just a touch of Italian blended in.
Our boldest find for food on this trip was a creative and extremely reasonable Peruvian – Chinese restaurant called Flor de Mayo. You read that right. Half of the menu is Latin, half is Chinese. Choose one or the other, or a bit of both. I picked a Latin-spiced, spit-roasted chicken — a local favorite — with an egg roll and fried rice. It was a fantastic combo for under $12. Check in here at 83rd and Amsterdam.
Here’s where the real fun comes in – that is, if you crave Mediterranean food and great jazz! Cleopatra’s Needle has been around forever and offers jazz trios and quartets during the evening hours. Just when you think it’s over, New York musicians who finished up other gigs stroll in, schlepping their instruments to kick off late night jam sessions. There’s no cover charge, and you can stay as late as you want. Any chicken dish on the menu is a winner. Plus, the main room and bar is small enough that no matter where you sit, you get the view and the sound. Find this spot at 92nd and Broadway.