The prospect of spending just 24 hours in Manhattan may seem unworthy of a transatlantic flight for Brits – but they shouldn’t be fooled.
For starters, as everyone knows, a lot can happen in just a minute in New York, let alone a day. And now airline Norwegian has raised the bar by launching an early-morning flight across the pond. So forget Clacton-on-Sea, with a journey time of just six hours, it’s all about NYC.
To prove it, I hop on its 6.45am service from London Gatwick and, at 9.45am ET, touch-down at JFK airport for the ultimate day trip.
Fast-tracked through customs, I emerge into a welcome committee of wonderful cliches: yellow taxis, skyscrapers and hot dog stalls. In the time it takes to finish a book I’d crossed an ocean – and feel remarkably fresh.
This is largely thanks to Norwegian’s Boeing Dreamliners, which make long-haul a breeze.
Inside their roomy cabins are automatic self-shading windows, wider seat aisles for maximum leg-stretching and digital menus with instant, touchscreen ordering. Passengers can also expect a less bumpy flight, too, as on-board computers sense turbulence and kill it by manipulating wing control surfaces.
Peter hops on Norwegian’s 6.45am service from London Gatwick and, at 9.45am ET, is touching-down at JFK, pictured
Best of all, Dreamliner cabins also simulate an altitude of 1,800 metres – 600 less than conventional planes – reducing jet lag symptoms such as headaches and muscle pain. Not bad for flights that start from £249 return.
Raring to go as a result, I hail a cab and shoehorn our way onto the motorway – wait, sorry, thefreeway – and, within minutes, find ourselves detouring through Queens to avoid the city’s infamous traffic.
This deviation shaves serious minutes off our journey time, meaning I arrive early at the first stop:The Knickerbocker – which is the least I could do considering its been standing there for more than 120 years.
Located at the southeast corner of Broadway and 42nd Street, this legendary New York landmark was first built in 1901. Etched into the history books as Times Square’s very first luxury inn, it has recently been reborn thanks to a major, multi-million dollar make-over.
Now, it’s one of Midtown’s busiest spots – thanks to a sleek, sexy design and prime location, which edges the bright lights of Broadway and the calm of Bryant Park.
Nestled within the hotel’s 16-storey Beaux-Art facade, it boasts 330 stylish guestrooms, including 27 suites, decked-out in contemporary style, with custom floorplans, soaring 12-foot ceilings, six-foot windows and cloud-like beds.
But there’s no time – or desire – to sleep in a city famed for its insomnia.
At midday Peter has a power lunch at Charlie Palmer at The Knick, pictured, feasting on prime beef loin with bone marrow, red wine sauce and baby spinach, followed by booze-marinated strawberries with pineapple, mint and lime sorbet
After midday Peter is given a whistle-stop tour of works by Warhol, Rousseau and Mondrian at Moma, pictured
Instead, I head to the restaurant to sample Charlie Palmer’s power lunch menu.
I feast on prime beef loin with bone marrow, red wine sauce and baby spinach, followed by booze-marinated strawberries with pineapple, mint and lime sorbet. Both delicious and filling.
But I still have an appetite for culture, so I jump in another cab toMoma, the Museum of Modern Art, where I get (or ‘gotten’, as locals say) a whistle-stop tour of the collection, including pieces by Warhol, Rousseau and Mondrian.
Hustle and bustle: Times Square heaves with visitors, but clever city officials have recently created seated zones for respite
The former, on West 44th Street, is a massive world of miniatures – hence the name. The 49,000-square-foot diorama includes scale models of structures and landscapes from the Brooklyn Bridge and the Eiffel Tower to the pyramids of Egypt and China’s Forbidden City.
The latter is ‘an immersive entertainment experience’ that harnesses technology to plonk guests deep into the Pacific Ocean.
Gulliver’s Gate is a massive world of miniatures, covering 49,000 square feet. The diorama includes scale models of structures and landscapes from the Brooklyn Bridge and the Eiffel Tower to the pyramids of Egypt and China’s Forbidden City
National Geographic’s Ocean Odyssey is ‘an immersive entertainment experience’ that harnesses technology to plonk guests deep into the Pacific Ocean
Technologically impressive, it’ll certainly make waves with its computer-animated sea lions, Humboldt squid and great white sharks, but – with 4pm breathing down my neck – I’m more interested in splashing the cash. And, let’s face it, few places do shopping better than New York.
So I jump on the subway and head over to Soho, where I explore the boutiques: specifically, Opening Ceremony and Blue In Green (a Japanese menswear store), plus a few other personal faves such as Grenson and Aesop.
While department stores such as Bloomingdales and Macy’s are famous, this feels like civilised commerce.
The bank still standing – just about – I cross Broome Street at the intersection of Lafayette, where I’ve ambitiously planned a brief catch-up with friends in Little Italy. No wonder the city never sleeps: this neighbourhood’s coffees are ‘dope’.
Central perk-me-up: New York’s epic park is one of the city’s many world-class attractions
Man about town: A long-standing barber shop near Little Italy, left, while Soho offers boutique shopping in style
Destination point: Manhattan bridge seen from a narrow alley enclosed by two brick buildings on a sunny day in summer
Boasting a caffeinated spring in my step, I undertake a quick tour of the local Tenement Museum, then treat myself to a beard-trim at Elizabeth Street’s New York Shaving Company, which is frequented by Leonardo Dicaprio.
After all, I needed to look my best for my next stop: 7pm dinner at The Rainbow Room, which towers above the city on the Rockefeller Center’s 65th floor.
Peter’s 7pm is dinner at the stunning Rainbow Room restaurant, pictured, which towers above the city on the Rockefeller Center’s 65th floor
Cheers to that: Peter sinks a Manhattan cocktail in The Rockefeller Center’s Rainbow Lounge (left), while The Knickerbocker hotel (right) is a renewed landmark worth visiting in Midtown
Awash with stylish city-dwellers who seem numb to the skyline surrounding them, I still find it breathtaking – or at least that was my excuse for ordering a ‘perfect’ Manhattan, followed by another, in preparation for the pending Red Eye back to London.
Before I make my exit, I step outside onto the viewing deck and watch the sun set over New York. With Brooklyn’s lights beginning to flash in the distance, it becomes the perfect metaphor for the end to my trip. But, for once, this goodbye isn’t bittersweet.
After all, with NYC now a day-trip destination for £249, there’s no reason why I can’t return tomorrow. And the day after that.
After his thrillingly hectic tour of New York, Peter catches a red eye back to London
Norwegian’s Boeing Dreamliners make long-haul a breeze. Inside their roomy cabins are automatic self-shading windows, wider seat aisles for maximum leg-stretching and digital menus with instant, touchscreen ordering
Norwegian Air flies to NYC from just £150 (one way), with economy class returns from £249. One-way journeys in premium start from £419, with returns costing £759 including all taxes and charges.
To book, visit norwegian.com/uk or call 0330 828 0854.
To make the early-morning start easier, passengers can stay at London Gatwick’s Bloc Hotel, which provides rooms in the terminal building from £79 (blochotels.com/gatwick).
For more information on New York City, go to nycgo.com.