How to visit New York without leaving home

New York City is many things to many people. A shopper’s paradise. A cultural hotspot. A star of films and literature.

But to all of us, right now, it’s also a friend in need.

Here’s how to visit the city virtually – and show it some love – from afar.

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What to do

Go for a 360-degree tour

This 360-degree helicopter tour is a real spine-tingler – especially when you flip the angle to see the cameraman dangling out of the chopper. You’ll spy a soul-stirring roll call of Big Apple stars – the Statue of Liberty, One World Trade Center, Empire State Building, et al – while the accompanying 360-degree photographs put you in Times Square, Grand Central Station, Madison Square Garden and more.

See the city close up

Via Youtube and Street View, NYC’s finer details come into focus: Central Park’s perky joggers, the High Line’s lush urban jungle, the subway’s chatter and clatter.

Meanwhile, captures the magic in the minutiae of everyday life, with 360-degree photos of vintage stores, delis, and even a laundromat – each accompanied by an immersive soundtrack.

Head to the museums and galleries

Their doors might be shut, but the likes of MoMA, The Whitney, Guggenheim and the Brooklyn Museum are well and truly open for virtual visits – all via Google Arts & Culture.

And, in a rather prescient move, The Met completed its 360-degree Project last year: you can snoop behind the scenes in The Great Hall, soar over The Cloisters, and come cheek-to-cheek with sculptures in the Charles Engelhard Court.

Local flavours

The salty, succulent pastrami from Katz’s Delicatessen, the buttery topping of a Billy’s Bakery cupcake, the oozy-cheesy joy of a dollar pizza slice – NYC is sheer foodie heaven. But can you really recreate it at home?

Well, the official Cronut recipe takes two days to cook, while a Katz-style pastrami calls for four days and a charcoal smoker – but it’s not like you’re going anywhere at the moment, is it?

For an easier project, the folks at Roberta’s – Brooklyn’s beloved pizza joint – have shared their recipe for an authentic New York-style dough. And here’s how to make Magnolia Bakery’s famous Banana Pudding. For more sweet ideas, look to Yasmin Newman’s Desserts of New York book – we’ll take a red velvet vacherin, thank you.

Heavy day of Zoom calls and home-schooling? Mix yourself a Manhattan – a triple-whammy of whiskey, bitters and vermouth – with a little help from The Rum House, one of the city’s most popular bars. Something sweeter? Try a Ready Fire Aim cocktail from speakeasy-style honeypot Employees Only.

Some tasty additions to your cookbook shelf, too: the Chelsea Market Cookbook for street food favourites; Marc Grossman’s New York Cult Recipes for hipster bites; and New York Capital of Food for a deep-dive into the city’s international influences. All are also available on Kindle, via Amazon.

Setting the scene

Watching all of New York’s screen credits could fill an entire lockdown, but boxsets – like Friends (Netflix), Mad Men (Netflix), and Sex and the City (NowTV) – are just for beginners.

Instead, line up an immersive decade-hopping film marathon to see NYC through the ages: from Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961, Amazon) and Saturday Night Fever (1977, NowTV), to the original – and best – Ghostbusters (1984, Amazon). Queens provides a gritty backdrop for Goodfellas (1990, Netflix), while Ocean’s 8 puts Manhattan in the spotlight (2018, Amazon).

Literature, too, reveals the city’s ever-changing faces: from the Roaring Twenties in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, to the ambition and excess of Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities, which brings 1980s Wall Street to life.

Of course, no trip to New York would be complete without a Broadway show – so don your gladrags for a virtual night at the theatre, via Broadway HD (which is offering a free 7-day trial). As well as the classics – like Pippin, Kiss Me Kate, and a fresh-faced Hugh Jackson in Oklahoma! – newbies Kinky Boots and Brokeback Mountain take a star turn too.

The Met Opera is also offering a free nightly screening of its archive productions – see the full programme here.

Or, crank up Spotify’s rousing playlist of New York gospel.

Bring it home

Online shopping at Macy’s isn’t quite as fun as IRL retail therapy, but it does offer international shipping.

Alas, NYC’s famous flea markets and vintage stores aren’t set up for web browsing, but you can contact many of their vendors directly – through the likes of Artists and Fleas and FAD Market.

Meanwhile, the MOMA Design Store does a fine line in arty books, jewellery and homeware; while the Met Museum Store has transformed some of its favourite masterpieces into 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles: welcome to your new lockdown hobby.

Anything else?

For all its cocktail-swigging, Broadway-bopping zest for life, New York City has suffered more hardships than most.

From the polio epidemic of 1916, to the horrors of 9/11, you can learn about the events that shaped the city via the Bowery Boys History podcast. A recent episode delves into the story of Hart Island – New York’s potter’s field, which has been the subject of media scrutiny in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, 102 Minutes That Changed America, the History Channel’s documentary about 9/11, is a heart-rending – yet essential – watch too.

You may wish to support some of the charitable efforts to help vulnerable New Yorkers.

Katz’s is donating soup to senior citizens and low-income housing residents, while Broadway Cares is matching donations to The Actors’ Fund. And nightlife favourites such as Employees Only, Dead Rabbit and the Stonewall Inn – where the Stonewall riots began in June 1969 – are raising funds for their out-of-work staff. If you’ve got a favourite Big Apple bar or restaurant, check if they’re doing the same.

As Broadway folks will tell you, the show must go on. Quite when, or how, we don’t know – but you can bet your bottom dollar it will.

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