Empire State Building and NYC skyline

The Empire State Building is not only the heart of Midtown, but all of NYC. (©DeShaun Craddock/Flickr, Creative Commons)

How to Explore Midtown Like a Pro

By Katie Labovitz on 04/06/17
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Midtown is the heart of Manhattan and The Wolcott Hotel is right in the thick of the action, serving as a prime command center for travelers who want to explore all the area has to offer and stay close by.

This iconic Beaux Arts hotel—designed by famed architect John H. Duncan—opened in 1904 and quickly became a lodging hub for accomplished notables of the era including; Samuel Clemens (known widely by his pen name, Mark Twain), acclaimed American dancer Isadora Duncan and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Edith Wharton.

Need more star glamor? Musician Buddy Holly stayed at The Wolcott Hotel in 1958 when he was recording at the then nearby Beltone Studios.

The Wolcott Hotel lobby is elaboratley decorated in greens and golds. (Courtesy The Wolcott Hotel)

The ornately decorated lobby still has its original moldings, as do many of the rooms. Staying in this landmark hotel not only keeps guests closer to the best sights and sounds that Midtown has to offer, but also allows them to tangibly experience a bit of New York’s amazing history.

When you’re looking to stay in the heart of New York, The Wolcott Hotel is an affordable option well suited for families, groups of friends and solo travelers. The onsite amenities like laundry and valet services help distinguish the hotel’s attention to detail, but it’s the fantastic location that sets The Wolcott Hotel apart from other NYC hotels.

Though New York City has certainly evolved over the years, The Wolcott Hotel’s presence in Midtown as a great spot to stay has remained ever-present. With its convenient location at W. 31st St., between Fifth Ave. and Broadway, The Wolcott Hotel is within walking distance of many of Midtown—and New York City’s—best attractions, restaurants and shops.

Here are just some of the greatest sights to see and things to experience while staying in the heart of the Big Apple.

Things to Do and See in Midtown

Empire State Building: Though Midtown is the heart of Manhattan, this iconic skyscraper is the heart of New York City. Observatories on the world-famous building’s 86th and 102nd floors provide 360-degree views of NYC and as far as the eye can see. Even waiting in line is fun and educational—the “Sustainability” and “Dare to Dream” exhibits give guests an insider look at the building’s history and energy-saving renovations. Open daily from 8 am to 2 am. Express passes allow ticket holders to skip the lines. 350 Fifth Ave., 212.736.3100

Bryant Park during the summer in New York City

Bryant Park: This public park got its start as grounds crossed by General Washington’s troops in the Revolutionary War, then was a potter’s field and ultimately Reservoir Square—an exhibition site that was then used as a Civil War camp for the Union Army. In 1884, the site was renamed Bryant Park in honor of William Cullen Bryant, the famed Romantic poet and longtime editor of the New York Evening Post. Since the 1990s, Bryant Park has been a favorite spot for the lunch crowd when the weather is nice. The park offers lovely sites and sounds—a beautiful lawn, gardens, a carousel, food stands, game tables and events in addition to easy access to the Bryant Park Grill. During the winter, guests can ice skate and patron the pop-up shops of the Bank of American Winter Village at Bryant Park. Between W. 40th & W 42nd Sts. and Fifth & Sixth Aves., 212.768.4242

Madison Square Park: Enjoy beautiful gardens and family-friendly activities at this iconic green square in the area. There’s a popular dog park, music events in the summer (the Summer Series and Studio Series), great food (the original Shake Shack, in addition to the semi-annual Mad. Sq. Eats—pop-ups of popular restaurants—presented by UrbanSpace and the Madison Square Park Conservancy) and eye-catching public artwork. Since 2004, the park’s art program has partnered with acclaimed artists to display massive sculptures and installations that are open to the public. From the park you cab also marvel at the Flatiron Building, the triangular-shaped landmark—originally called the Fuller Building after architect George A. Fuller—that stands diagonally from the southwest corner of the park. Between E. 23rd & E. 26th Sts. and Madison & Fifth Aves., 212.520.7600

People of all ages enjoy walking along the High Line

The High Line: Starting in the 1930s, there was an above-ground train from the New York Central Railroad’s West Side Line that ran from 34th St. to St. John’s Park Terminal at Spring St. A drop in rail traffic in the 1950s was the beginning of the end of this elevated line. Though abandoned by the mid-1980s, the railway itself was still structurally sound and residents of the neighborhood proposed to preserve the space for public use. In 2009, the section of the High Line between Gansevoort Street and W. 20th Street opened, followed by another 10-block northbound section in 2011. In 2014, the third section of the High Line, curving from W. 30th St. up to W. 34th St., opened, completing this family-friendly and wheelchair accessible stretch of walkway that allows guests to take in the sights of the city as they stroll among exposed original rail tracks and pockets of greenery in this sustainable public space. The southernmost end is adjacent to the Whitney Museum of American Art. In Midtown, there is ramp access at W. 34th St. & 12th Ave., stairs and elevator access at W. 30th St & 11th Ave., 212.500.6035

Jacob K. Javits Convention Center: From trade shows to auto shows—including the popular New York International Auto Show—book conventions and comic conventions, the Javits Center is one of the busiest convention centers in the U.S., let alone NYC. Check out Javits Center’s upcoming events list for the most up-to-date schedule of what’s to come. In addition to being a great gathering spot for conventions, the Javits Center is environmentally conscious. Its 6.75-acre green roof not only helps reduce energy consumption for the convention center, but it houses birds, bats and honeybees and is visited by other area wildlife. 655 W. 34th St., 212.216.2000

Get Cultured: Midtown’s Best Live Music Venues, Museums and Other Attractions

Madison Square Garden: “The World’s Most Famous Arena” is a must for sports fans. This is the home of the NBA’s New York Knicks, the WNBA’s New York Liberty and the NHL’s New York Rangers. Music lovers can catch the piano man himself, Billy Joel, who plays a concert at The Garden every month and other big names in entertainment make appearances here regularly on tour. You can also take an all-access tour of Madison Square Garden to explore exclusive VIP areas, see the Knicks and Rangers locker rooms and more. 4 Pennsylvania Plaza, 212.465.6741

Theater District: Nowhere on earth can you find such a concentration of high quality theater than New York City. With 41 Broadway theaters—40 of them in the Theater District alone and one at Lincoln Center on the Upper West Side—showcasing the most acclaimed actors of stage and screen, in addition to talented newcomers, there is something running for every taste. Plays, musicals, dramas and comedies: Take in a long-running favorite like “The Phantom of the Opera” and “The Lion King,” or catch something brand new. Between W. 40th & W. 53rd Sts. and Sixth & Ninth Aves.

The hustle and bustle of Times Square at night (©Joseph Yates/Unsplash)

Times Square: Though Times Square is most well-known for being the place to be on New Year’s Eve to watch the famous ball drop in person, it’s a happening spot every single day. See the famous red stairs, which is actually the roof of the TKTS booth—run by the Theatre Development Fund—where visitors and locals can purchase same-day, discounted theater tickets. Stroll west down 42nd Street and swing by Madame Tussauds to mix and mingle with wax figures of the biggest names in pop culture, history, sports and entertainment. A stop to "Ripley’s Believe It or Not!" allows visitors to glimpse rare artifacts and experience mind-boggling mysteries. On W. 44th St. Gulliver’s Gate is an interactive and immersive world of miniatures that lets guests to explore countries near and far. Between Seventh Ave. & Broadway and W. 42nd & W. 47th sts.

Manhattan Center: Home of the Hammerstein Ballroom and Grand Ballroom, this historic event space was originally called the Manhattan Opera House, built in 1906 as an alternative to the Metropolitan Opera. A few years later the Metropolitan Opera paid off Hammerstein to stop housing operas. Since then the Manhattan Center has been used for theater shows, galas, concerts and other special events serving as one of Midtown’s premiere performance venues. 311 W. 34th St., 212.695.6600

National Museum of Mathematics: Math is so much more than just numbers on a page—it’s in every aspect of our every day, from repeating patterns to space and change. This family friendly museum aims to make math accessible and enhance the public’s understanding and perception of the subject. Hands-on activities and exhibits like puzzle solving, strategy problems and number games—even riding a tricycle with square wheels!—allow for an interactive way to explore and experience math in an exciting and fun way. This museum is in Midtown East, and only a six-minute walk from The Wolcott Hotel. 11 E. 26th St., 212.542.0566

The Rose Main Reading Room in the Stephen A. Scharzman Building

New York Public Library: New York’s libraries aren’t just for cardholders. The NYPL’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building—the National Historic Landmark on Fifth Avenue with the two majestic stone lions called “Patience” and “Fortitude” out front—houses rare books, resources for research and free exhibitions about art and culture in addition to offers ample programs, events—talks from authors, musicians, artists and more—and docent-led tours to learn more about this iconic NYC location. 476 Fifth Ave., 917.275.6975

The Morgan Library & Museum: This Midtown East landmark started out as the private library of J.P. Morgan, a financier and collector, that was made a public institution after Morgan’s death. Rare materials, Americana, music manuscripts, early children’s books, other literature, artwork and more are among The Morgan’s collection. This space also offers permanent and traveling exhibits, concerts, lectures, gallery talks, films, public tours and family programs. 225 Madison Ave., 212.685.0008

The Best Restaurants Near The Wolcott Hotel

State Grill and Bar: Located on the ground floor of the Empire State Building, State Grill and Bar offers classic dishes prepared in a modern way. Guests visiting the building’s observatories can add on the “Dinner and a View” option to their pass purchase, allowing them to enjoy a three-course prix fixe meal Monday through Saturday evenings. The restaurant is family friendly, but its lengthy adult beverage list and diverse dinner menu make it a great spot for drinks and a meal during an Empire State Building date. 350 Fifth Ave., 212.216.9693

Famous mutton chop at Keens Steakhouse in NYC

Keens Steakhouse: Established in 1885 by Albert Keen, a prominent figure in what used to be known as the Herald Square Theatre District, Keens Steakhouse is forever known as the place to get a perfectly prepared mutton chop. The historic restaurant also serves classic dry-aged steaks—all USDA prime, handpicked and dry-aged on location—and other meat and seafood dishes. There are also daily specials and a first come, first serve weekday pub room. 72 W. 36th St., 212.947.3636

Heartland Brewery: Also located at the Empire State Building, this NYC craft brewpub serves its own locally brewed beer—made with American ingredients—and cocktails alongside a menu of hearty and savory comfort food with sweet treats to round out the menu. In addition to classic beers that are offered year-round, Heartland has a rotating list of seasonal beers that are extremely popular, including Smiling Pumpkin Ale during the fall and Old Red Nose Ale in the winter months. 350 Fifth Ave., 212.563.3433

230 Fifth: With a fully enclosed penthouse lounge and an outdoor, open rooftop garden 230 Fifth’s rooftop bar and restaurant is a great place to grab an evening drink—or weekend brunch—any time of year. A seasonal cocktail menu features indulgent hot drinks for the cooler months and the generous bottle list has premium champagnes and liquors to satisfy any palate. 230 Fifth Ave., 212.725.4300

Bryant Park Grill: From al fresco dining in the summer months to the warm indoor ambiance when the weather turns colder, Bryant Park Grill offers a romantic atmosphere for a memorable Midtown meal. Indulgent desserts like chocolate peanut butter s’mores and deep-dish apple pie complement the refined menu of seafood, meats and pastas. The restaurant runs the outdoor Bryant Park Café from mid-April to November, weather permitting. 25 W. 40th St., 212.840.6500

Yo! Sushi: This Midtown South/Flatiron District sushi spot is just a 10 minute walk from The Wolcott Hotel and an adventurous way to experience affordable Japanese cuisine. Guests can either order off the menu or select dishes from a conveyor belt. The food is served on plates of varying colors that correlate with specific prices, making it easier to figure out the bill. Choose from hot or cold savory options, in addition to a variety of sweet ones. 23 W. 23rd St., 646.781.8640

The original Shake Shack in Madison Square Park

Shake Shack: What started as a seasonal hot dog cart in Madison Square Park to raise money for the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s first art installation has become one of the most popular food spots in the city. Since 2004, Shake Shack has been a permanent fixture, serving hot dogs, beef or Portobello mushroom burgers, crinkle cut fries and its famous shakes and concretes—frozen custard blended with mix-ins—among other drinks. There are even menu options for your dog. Southeast corner of Madison Square Park, Madison Ave. & E. 23rd St., 212.889.6600

Eataly NYC Flatiron: Another great Midtown South/Flatiron District dining option close to The Wolcott Hotel is Eataly—a means to discover the taste of Italy without physically being there. Sit down at one of the several authentic Italian restaurants within Eataly to enjoy pizzas, pastas, fresh seafood and more. Pick up gelato, baked goods, meats and paninis at Eataly’s counters. Stop by the Nutella Bar for some tasty sweet treats or Caffè Lavazza for traditional Italian café fare. If the weather’s nice, swing by the Eataly market and pick up fresh bread, cheeses, pastries and all-natural beverages for a picnic in nearby Madison Square Park. 200 Fifth Ave., 212.229.2560

Macy's Herald Square is the second largest department store in the world.

Where to Shop Near The Wolcott Hotel

Macy’s Herald Square: Visit the famous Macy’s flagship store that is also currently the second largest department store in the world. Peruse the nine floors of clothing, accessories, shoes and home goods from top brands like Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Estee Lauder, Clinique, Levi’s and more but don’t forget to peek at the displays, too. The holiday windows surrounding Thanksgiving and Christmas are always fun to see, as are the store’s Santa Land in the winter and Flower Show in the spring. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade passes in front of the store every year—if you’re in town for that special day, make sure to get to the parade route early to snag a good spot. 151 W. 34th St., 212.695.4400

Shops Along W. 34th Street: In addition to Macy’s, 34th Street has shopping options including apparel stores geared toward adults, teens or kids like American Eagle Outfitters, H&M, the Gap, Foot Locker Uniqlo and Zara. There are also top stops like B&H Photo & Video in addition to Sephora and Victoria’s Secret among many others. W. 34th St. between Park & Ninth Aves.

Fifth Avenue: This iconic stretch of Manhattan is known for its high fashion and decadence. Though most of the avenue’s most famous shops—Tiffany’s, Saks, Versace and Cartier—are above 42nd Street, there are some great stops within easy walking distance of The Wolcott Hotel like Lord & Taylor. This designer clothing and accessory haven is the oldest luxury department store in the U.S. and a perfect place for dress shopping for any occasion, handbags, jewelry, beauty needs and more. Lord & Taylor is not just for women: There is a generous selection of menswear and accessories at this department store, along with great looks for kids. Fifth Ave. between W. 38th & W. 39th sts.

All this and more is located in the middle of Manhattan, convenient to your stay at The Wolcott Hotel, which continues to embrace its roots over 100 years after its doors first opened. 

Interior room at The Wolcott Hotel in New York City

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