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The New York blog

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06/12/2013

How Manhattan became a liveable city

Liesl Schillinger, born in Illinois, was first bewitched by New York when her family took a trip to Broadway to see the musical Annie. She writes for the New York Times, New Yorker and Vogue, and her new book, Wordbirds: An Irreverent Lexicon for the 21st Century, is published by Simon & Schuster

New York City has never been more interactive and user-friendly. Under the watchful eye of the last mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who served for more than a decade, Manhattan has taken on some of the crowd-friendly aspects of a European city. You will find outdoor café tables in new pedestrian zones in Columbus Circle, Times Square, the Flatiron District, the Meatpacking District, Union Square and elsewhere. Food festivals (some with hot spiced wine and beer and ale on tap) and greenmarkets pop up like crocuses in these new gathering spots, and to move among them, or move past them, you can pluck a bicycle from the rows of sheeny Citi Bike rental cycles  that now fringe the sidewalks. Biking through Manhattan allows you to criss-cross the city’s grid more speedily than can be done by bus or car. Or for a richer, slow-motion, experience, go at a leisurely pace, winding among close-knit neighbourhoods and cobbled lanes (Manhattan has those, too) that are tricky to navigate by cab but tiring to traverse on foot.

Do make the traditional stops, visiting Broadway; the Top of the RockCarnegie Hall; Central Park and the museums (don’t miss the stately Frick Collection). As a bonus, you’ll find that on two wheels you can discover the pop-up-book effect of the city’s bustling everyday life. On your steel steed you can coast past the boutiques, bookstore, cafés and taquerias in Nolita and the West Village; visit artisanal cheese shops in Gramercy Park and SoHo; sample the hidden bitters bars and cocktail lounges off Union Square and in the East Village; and take advantage of new patisseries, vinyl record shops, hatmakers, juice bars and art galleries, many offering free Wi-Fi.

You may also want to park your bike and move on to blades. There are three new ice rinks – one is beside the World Financial Center, so you can admire the Harbour and the Statue of Liberty as you skate; another is in the garden of the grand New York Public Library in Bryant Park in midtown (the park also has a carousel and an outdoor food court); and there is one beneath the High Line, outside the Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking District.

Photo by Getty Images

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