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  • The Grande Dame of New York: Grand Central Station

    More than 750,000 people step foot in Grand Central Terminal each day. Some are lured in by the shops, others by the restaurants. The train station is also a tourist magnet and attracts over 22 million visitors every year. New Yorkers, however, usually go straight to one of the 44 platforms that provide access to 67 different tracks – more than any other train station in the world.
    What is probably the world’s most famous train station and one of New York's biggest attractions is also filled with secrets and a rich history of interesting stories.
    Opened in 1913, Grand Central has become one of the most celebrated buildings in the city. However, it has been threatened with demolition several times, at first because it seemed old-fashioned, and later because people wanted to replace it with the tallest building in the world. In retrospect, it’s hard to believe that anyone would have taken these plans seriously.

    The Backwards Constellation
    The huge constellation depicted on the ceiling of the main hall (called the "Main Concourse") raises some issues. After the station opened, it took a while before someone alerted the Vanderbilt family, who built the station, that the entire ceiling had been painted from the wrong perspective. They quickly tried to come up with an explanation, saying that it was the so-called “divine” view of the stars, i.e. the impression from above. However, that only accounted for some of the zodiac signs – others weren’t backwards at all. To sum up, the painting is as much of a mess as it is a beauty.

    The Hidden Platform
    This extra train track was originally built for the transport of goods. Over time, though, it became a highly exclusive private track for those who were rich enough to commute via train between the station and the luxurious Waldorf Astoria Hotel. The most famous passenger was President Franklin D. Roosevelt. His private train wagon is still in the station today and available for viewing.

    Short Films While You Wait
    Between 1937 and 1967, there was a cinema with 242 seats right next to track 17. It showed short films, news, and cartoons. All of the productions were under 20 minutes – a perfect length for passing time between train rides.

    A Nicotine Patch on the Ceiling
    In 1998, the ceiling of the main hall was opulently restored – only a small black spot was left in its original state. Research shows that 70% of the pollution came from nicotine and tar rather than from train exhaust.

    The Jewel in the Jewel
    The clock above the information desk (also in the main hall) is said to be worth over $10 million. Each of its four faces was made from a separate piece of opal.

    The Whispering Gallery
    This special space is located next to the famous Grand Central Oyster Bar and consists of four arches connected by a curved ceiling. Its special characteristic: when a person speaks in a normal volume into one corner, the person in the opposite corner can hear the words clearly, despite the fact that the distance between them is over 15 meters. To this day, nobody is sure whether the gallery was planned this way or whether it is an architectural coincidence.
    This New York icon is far from just a train station – it has much more to offer than boarding and transferring. The Grand Central Terminal is deeply connected to New York at large and offers its own deep insight about the city. Take a look behind the scenes: LOCALIKE will help you organize an unforgettable tour of this magnificent landmark.

  • Tommy Hilfiger's penthouse overlooking Central Park

    New York's many celebrity residents tend to live a very secluded life. Just sometimes the public gets to catch a glimpse of their private quarters. Currently on sale is the designer Tommy Hilfiger's penthouse in the world-famous Plaza with stunning views of Central Park. If the reduced asking price of $50 million is a bit over your budget, the pictures of his decorating style might still be an inspiration.
    Check out the full listing here: sothebysrealty.com/eng/sales/detail/180-l-1182-3tkjnn/castle-in-the-sky-midtown-west-new-york-ny-10019

  • Lunar New Year in New York City

    The Lunar New Year takes place this Friday, and it’s a perfect opportunity to embrace New York’s vibrant Chinese culture. Check out these events taking place around this grand celebration in February:
    ∙ Starting things off is a great family-friendly event held at Brookfield Place on Feb 17 at 2:00pm with Shaolin Kung Fu demonstrations, Chinese drumming, and Chinese acrobatics!
    ∙The popular The Chinese New Year Parade follows on February 25 at 1:00pm with elaborate floats, marching bands, lion and dragon dances. For the best viewing location, head over to Allen St.

  • New Offer: SELECTION - Night Out and Entertainment

    New York comes alive at night. Our new product SELECTION - Night Out and Entertainment is full of carefully selected insider tips for music lovers, theatergoers, and night owls: classical concerts in unexpected venues; hidden live music clubs; immersive theater; or wild nights at warehouse parties or the eclectic bar scene. Fill your nights with the Best of New York!

    Now available! Click »here.

  • Cats don’t just rule the internet: they also rule thousands of New York shops.

    It’s midnight on a Friday night in New York. An elegantly-dressed couple in a black suit and evening gown, a group of raucus students, and a cat are all in the same room. This could only be one place: a bodega. Peoples’ reasons for visiting these shops may be quite different: the elegant couple may want to buy gum; the students may want beer. And the cat? The cat just lives there. But they’re all in the bodega on purpose.

    Bodegas, also called delis or green grocers, are New York’s independent grocery stores. There are about 12,000 of them in the city, so you’ll find one (or two) on almost every street block. Most of these tiny stores are stuffed to the brim with groceries, soft drinks, beer, cigarettes, umbrellas, cleaning products, toilet paper, light bulbs, cash machines, and many other things that are often needed urgently but don’t in themselves justify a trip to the supermarket.

    Interestingly, bodegas are all comparable in appearance. The aisles are so narrow that there’s hardly room for two people to pass each other; the light flickers; the air is stuffy; the cashier yells down at you from a raised counter, surrounded by more products on display. With a little luck, he (rarely she) is the friendly or quiet type. The chances that he’s grumpy, however, are high. Bodegas have a long tradition behind them, which is probably one of the reasons that national giants like 7 Eleven have long since cleared out of New York.

    The stores, and even more their owners, are symbols of the city’s constant state of flux. Two centuries ago they were all called ‘delis’ and were mostly owned by Jewish immigrants. The word deli is still often used to describe the few of these shops that also sell prepared food. In the first half of the last century, most of them were taken over by Latin American immigrants. Accordingly, people began to call them ‘bodegas.’ A couple of decades later, the Koreans took over the shops and the term ‘Korean groceries’ became popular (though it has since been abandoned due to its inaccuracy and political incorrectness). This variety was best known for its wide selection of fresh vegetables and fruit. At a certain point, both the names of these shops and the wares they sell have been diversified to the point that easy classification is nearly impossible. Recently it’s become clear that small businesses in New York face an uphill battle. Steep rent prices and the sudden interest of international chains in New York real estate have led to a consistent decrease in the number of the city’s bodegas.

    And what do New Yorkers who are otherwise no strangers to change or gentrification think about this trend? They hate it! They notice that the new chains sell neither alcohol nor cigarettes nor lottery tickets. Or they notice that there’s no place to leave the apartment keys for a couple of hours for guests arriving from out of town. Or they miss the skinny, hungry cats that saunter around and lend many of the bodegas a distinctive atmosphere—perhaps because these cats are reminders of the charming fact that New York often sees basic rules broken in broad daylight. Or perhaps because most New Yorkers just don’t like rodents.

  • 10 Tips for a Seamless Transition into New York Life

    LOCALIKE is at home in New York. Visitors often ask us how to avoid sticking out, so we’ve written down important ten things to keep in mind. These tips will help you experience New York like a local.

    1. The sidewalk is really a highway.
    New Yorkers are high-velocity creatures. It seems like they’re always in a rush or running late. Because it’s often fastest to get from one place to another on foot, the sidewalks are sometimes comparable to highways (complete with invisible divided lanes). Accordingly, there are several unspoken traffic rules. So that the traffic flow stays consistent, New Yorkers stay to the right. If they have to stop or change pace, they move to the side and make way for the eternally frazzled ones behind them to avoid being trampled. Another unwritten rule is not to walk side by side when traveling in large groups; rather, proceed single-file. This way, the pedestrians in a hurry can still get by and everyone can get to their respective destinations at their desired tempos—and usually in a zig-zag.

    2. Choose the right shoes.
    New York women are known for their love of high-heeled shoes, but you’ll rarely see evidence of this on the street. Why? New York is a city of pedestrians and many streets are uneven or made of cobblestone. For this reason, women often hide high heels away in handbags and replace them on the sidewalk by flats or sneakers that will get them more comfortably from A to B. As soon as they’ve reached their destination, they change into high heels and restore their trademark New York look. P.S.: if your handbag is too small, we’d recommend taking a taxi or Uber. This way you’ll save yourself both blisters and a stressful trek through the city.

    3. Don’t avoid visiting museums on the basis of their entrance prices.
    Culture is a high priority in New York, and although it isn’t really publicized, the entrance prices at many of the city’s big museums are only recommendations. That means you can often decide what you’d like to pay (even if it’s only a dollar). Before you decide against visiting a museum because of its high entrance fee, it’s worth doing a little research online (or asking LOCALIKE).

    4. Don’t get into empty subway cars.
    It’s rush hour on a hot summer day and every single subway car is packed except for one…score? Afraid not! There’s probably a very good reason the car is empty. The air conditioning might have gone off (the least of all possible evils) or there may be something in there causing an ungodly stench. In any case, don’t be seduced by the generous amounts of space—your nose will thank you. Trust us. :)

    5. Ask for directions.
    New Yorkers can be brash if you get in their way (keyphrase: fast walking), but if you ask them a question they’re usually very friendly and willing to help. Sometimes they’re even proud to show off how NYC-savvy they are, so don’t be afraid to ask for directions or for the best subway connection. Sometimes locals will even come up and offer their help before you even knew you needed any.

    6. Become a master of the MetroCard.
    Visitors often struggle with the New York subway card. How should you swipe it? How fast should you pull it through? Which side should the magnetic strip be facing? We’d recommend keeping cool and getting your card out before you even enter the subway station. Make sure the magnetic strip is facing inward (or left) and pull the card through the reader at a medium, casual pace—like a local.

    7. Exit taxis on the right.
    Always exit taxis on the right-hand side, unless you’d like a bicyclist stuck to your open door.

    8. Keep your celebrity cool.
    New York hosts a high concentration of celebrities in a relatively small space, so the chances of seeing someone famous are quite high. In general, New Yorkers don’t ask for autographs or photos. Smile and walk on LOCALIKE-style. If you’re having trouble containing your excitement, you can always share it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

    9. Please wait to be seated.
    New York restaurants usually have a “please wait to be seated” policy. While in most European restaurants you can go ahead and pick out tables yourself, in New York, guests should consult the host at the entrance before sitting, regardless of how full—or empty—the restaurant is. The host’s tasks are to bring guests to their tables, to make sure that each server has a more or less equal number of tables, and to prevent general chaos. The latter rarely works ;)

    10. Don’t rent a car.
    New York is not a city for car-driving tourists, at least not when you’d like to be in Manhattan and the surrounding areas—there’s too much traffic and too little parking. What’s more, you’d be surrounded by wild, fearless drivers and unpredictable pedestrians and bike couriers. Do as the New Yorkers do: walk, use public transportation, or flag down a taxi. Finally, try not to spend too much time in Times Square. The “center of the universe” has amazing magnetism and should be a stop for anyone traveling to New York; however, the real city exists in the neighborhoods and on the streets outside of Times Square, in Downtown Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Queens, in the restaurants, bars, and parks. Allow yourself to wander away from the crowd. Want to see the real New York? LOCALIKE is a friend away from home. Its on-site experts show you sides of the city that postcards never would. Like a local. www.LOCALIKE.com

  • Subway of Superlatives

    Opened in 1904, the New York subway is today one of the oldest public rail transportation systems in the world. And New York wouldn’t be New York if there weren’t a couple more impressive facts.

    The subway runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. It is one of the most-used metro systems in the world. 5.7 million passengers use the 6,400 cars every day, which makes for 1.7 billion passengers each year.

    The 25 different lines connect 472 stations across over 236 miles (380 km) in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. No other subway system has anywhere near as many stations. A huge number of tracks converge, and if you were to extend them all into one long track, the stretch would add up to about 665 miles (1’070 km) and reach from New York to Chicago or from Italy to Denmark.

    Although the name “subway” implies that the New York system runs underground, about 40% of the tracks and 39% of the stations are above ground. Most of these are in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. The majority of the stations in Manhattan are underground.

    A New Life for Old Subway Cars
    “Hundreds of cars taken out of service and submerged in the Atlantic.” Admittedly, this notice left us perplexed when we first read it. What at first sounds like a ruthless act of pollution is in fact part of a large-scale project to build artificial reefs off the coasts of Delaware and South Carolina. These subway car reefs provide food and protection for many species of fish and mussels. The pioneer project has caught on across the world.

    What's coming?

    The future is here! For a long time, there was neither telephone reception nor WiFi in the NYC subway. As of January 2017, however, all stations offer phone and WiFi reception – and that’s one year ahead of schedule.

    Also, the 2nd Avenue Subway, the result of about 100 years of planning, was inaugurated on January 1, 2017 and finally offers additional service to three stations on the Upper East Side. Further construction on the line is planned down to South Ferry in Lower Manhattan.

    And there’s even more: the MTA has ordered new subway cars. These will not only have broader doors to make entering and exiting easier; they will also replace the doors that previously separated the cars with accordion-like joints. In essence, these new subways will glide down the long tunnels like centipedes, and passengers will be able to walk all the way from the very back to the very front of the train. Aside from that, the new subway cars will of course be state-of-the-art: along with timely display systems, they’ll offer WiFi and mobile phone charging stations.

    There’s also a plan to renovate the subway stations and to allow for an easier payment system via the Metrocard. When all these things are finished, the New York subway will also finally be welcomed into the 21st century.

    Last But Not Least – NYC Subway Etiquette
    Want to move around like a New Yorker? We’d recommend observing the following dos and don’ts:

    • Each subway line is marked with a different color, but New Yorkers never refer to these colors. Instead, the lines are identified by numbers or letters – you take the “A Train” or the “6” and not the “blue” or “green line.”
    • Never eat in the subway.
    • Have lots of luggage with you? It’s best to remove your backpacks and put bags on the floor, not on the seat next to you.
    • If a car is noticeably empty, there’s usually a good (and odorous) reason for that. You’re best off not getting in.

    Finally, the most important tip for visitors: riding the subway is a must-do. This is where New York is at home, where you can breathe in its very essence, and where life takes place. This is where rich and poor, tourists and New Yorkers, bankers and artists, crazy people and geniuses all meet in the same space. And it’s not just the subways themselves that are full of life – the stations and platforms are just as vibrant, thanks to the countless street musicians, performance artists, comedians, puppeteers, dancers, etc. So it’s time to hop on the subway – the underground of Gotham City.

  • The cowardly hunter, a revolution on the toilet, and other New York stories

    What would the world be like without New York? Certainly much less interesting. It would also be lacking certain integral symbols of daily life. Did you know these things were invented in New York? We didn’t, either.

    1. The Teddy Bear – This most classic of stuffed animals was invented in Brooklyn by Morris and Rose Michtom. It was inspired by President Theodore Roosevelt, who on a 1902 hunting trip declined to shoot an injured bear. The name “Teddy” comes from “Theodore.”

    2. Air Conditioning– In 1902, Brooklyn resident Willis Carrier invented a machine designed to prevent paper in printing plants from bending in the summer humidity. The machine’s ability to cool off a room was a happy coincidence that went on to revolutionize daily life in America

    3. Toilet Paper– The first modern, commercially available toilet paper was invented in 1857 by Joseph C. Gayetty, who sold the paper in his Manhattan store. It was made of manila hemp and enriched with aloe vera extract. The best (or worst, depending on your perspective) thing about it: every individual sheet was embossed with his name.

    4. Scrabble –Alfred Mosher Butts, an unemployed architect and anagram zealot from Jackson Heights in Queens, invented this beloved board game in 1938. Fun fact: the street where Butts used to live is marked with a sign in Scrabble language: “35t1Ha1V4e1n1u1e1.” This jumble of numbers and letters includes the name of the street (35th Avenue) and the corresponding Scrabble letter values.

    5. The Remote Control– This technology was developed by the New Yorker Nikola Tesla, who invented a radio-controlled boat in 1898. What at the time was almost impossible to believe is today an integral component of daily domestic life.

    6. Eggs Benedict – In 1894, upon returning to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel after a night on the town, the stockbroker and bonvivant Lemuel Benedikt ordered poached eggs, crispy bacon, toast, and hollandaise sauce. The legendary maître d'hôtel, Oscar Tschirky, found this combination so interesting that he added it to the menu and named it after its inventor.

    7. The Hot Dog – The idea of serving a hot sausage in a bun came from the baker and Coney Island, Brooklyn resident Charles Feltman. Feltman sold his hot dogs at the unbeatable price of a dime ($0.10). The invention was a huge hit and made Feltman into an influential investor in Coney Island—at least until his former employee, Nathan Handwerker, opened a shop of his own and began selling hot dogs for a mere nickel ($0.05).

    8. The ATM (cash machine)– The first prototype for a cash machine was designed by Luther George Simjiam in 1939. Citibank was the first bank that volunteered to test the invention over a 6-month trial period. The test was unsuccessful: too few people used the machine, and those that did were mostly prostitutes and casino visitors. 

    The next time you take out money, eat a hot dog, play Scrabble, or change the TV channel, think of New York. 

  • Hudson Yards: New York’s Newest Neighborhood

    A City in a City
    New York is a pulsating city in constant flux. Some things change subtly and invisibly; others take years to develop and alter the city irrevocably. An example of the latter is the megaproject Hudson Yards in Western Manhattan. Between 8th and 10th Avenues and 30th and 42nd St., that is, where Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, and Midtown West intersect, a new city district has emerged. It is the largest private construction project since Rockefeller Center was finished in 1939 and the largest in American history. By 2025, 15 skyscrapers will be built over a space of 395 acres (1,6 million m2). Once the construction is completed, the area, which encompasses 45 city blocks, will house 4,000 apartments. On top of that, 100 stores, a public school, a luxury hotel, several restaurants, and a center for modern art will also open their doors. Altogether over 125,000 people will live and work in the skyscrapers.

    How is a project like this possible in a city as densely populated as New York? The Hudson Yards are in a post-industrial section of Manhattan that was long neglected and unattractive. The Long Island Railroad parks its commuter trains here, and there’s also a railway tunnel to New Jersey. Because both the train station and the tunnel must remain in operation, the neighborhood will be built on top of the train tracks thanks to a 10-acre (four-hectare) platform. The construction will be supported by 300 pillars drilled 79 ft (24 m) deep into massive rock. When the Hudson Yards are completed, a mountain of new skyscrapers will leave Manhattan’s skyline forever changed. The project has been the talk of the town for years. There are three particular topics on peoples’ minds: 

    30 Hudson Yards
    When it is completed, the skyscraper 30 Hudson Yards will be the tallest building in the new district and the second-tallest in New York. At a towering 1296 ft (395 m), it will surpass the Empire State Building by 46 ft (14 m). Among the highlights is the highest outdoor viewing platform in the city. The building is scheduled to open in 2019.

    The Vessel
    A public park stretching across five acres (20’000 m2) will be home to 28,000 plants and 200 different tree species. In the middle of the garden, a sculpture called “The Vessel” will act as the heart of the new city district. The main component of the accessible structure, which is reminiscent of a beehive, is 154 interlocking stairways consisting of a total of 2,500 steps. While the diameter of the building is about 50 ft (15 m) on the ground, up on the 15th floor it’s a whopping 148 ft (45 m). The steps of the walk-in sculpture lead to 80 balconies, all of which serve as viewing platforms. The monument was developed by the British star architect, artist, and designer Thomas Heatherwick.

    The Shed
    The Shed will be New York’s most up-and-coming cultural center. The six-floor building was designed by the award-winning architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro. It’s already clear that the building will be an architectural highlight when it opens. One section of the building can be extended and drawn back in to adapt to cultural events of all kinds. In summer, there’s enough room for large outdoor events, and in the colder months the indoor halls can be used for concerts or other large events. The Shed will host music, art exhibitions, installations, dance performances, etc., and thereby become a new cultural hot spot in New York. New York Fashion Week is already in conversation with the building and plans to move in after the latter opens in 2019.

    This gigantic project will allow for an enriching new attraction in New York City.

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