How does one make a really good travel guide even better than its previous edition? Ask authors Brian Silverman and Kelsy Chauvin, as they've done with Frommer's New York City 2013, the latest edition in this popular series. As the 'Frommer's Color Complete' subtitle indicates, it's a full-color guide, and that's throughout the 496 pages of the book. But is it any better than the 2012 edition? Just read on...
The all-important maps are plentiful and sprinkled strategically where they belong throughout this guide, and they seem quite up to date. Bouncing through pages to both known and unexplored locations, I can attest to this, considering the amount of time in any given month in spent in New York City. The authors have done a respectable job with this new edition, especially where they suggesting itineraries for travelers and visitors on a limited time schedule.
The overall format and organization of this guide are first-rate, and it shows that the editors at Frommer's are responsive to the needs of their readers. This guide is broken down into separate classifications for quick reference:
◆ List of Maps:
This little one-page section with the all-important maps will become invaluable once you learn the names of the various areas of the city's five boroughs.
1. The Best Of The Big Apple:
Things to do, best food & drink, best free & dirt-cheap NY, best museums, best offbeat experiences... for many first-timers, this will be the handiest section for quick reference. Worth noting here are the most unforgettable NYC experiences, the NYC freebies, and the best culture and nightlife. The landmark buildings are there, and the best of the museums are covered, including the amazing Museum of Natural History and the world-famous Metropolitan Museum of Art.
2. New York City In Depth:
Starting with NYC today, this chapter covers the city's history, along with its roots, its architecture. There's also an interesting section on the impact that New York City has had on books, in film and on television. The calendar of events is as thorough as one can find in a book... now you'll know where and when the TriBeCa Film Festival takes place, along with the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Fleet Week and many more.
3. New York City Neighborhoods & Suggested Itineraries:
Covering Downtown, Midtown, Uptown, and the Outer Boroughs, there are many diverse neighborhoods here, and this is where you'll find a good overview of each. Do you know what NoHo, SoHo or Nolita mean, or where they are? How about TriBeCa, and do they still pack meat in the Meatpacking District? This is a concise and fascinating tour of the city, and with so many of the highlights and landmarks noted. Highly recommended are the well thought out suggestions for suggested NYC itineraries in one, two or three days. There are suggestions on what not to do in NYC, and with this book you'll know. Don't miss the Essential NYC Eating Itinerary here with its map of where to find the places.
4. Exploring New York City:
This is a big city, and you could live here for years and still make daily discoveries. The sights and attractions to be found are listed first by neighborhood, and with star ratings, and there are excellent location maps for finding your way around. This is followed by the top attractions, and it's very much up to date... enough so that on page 115, that very explicit museum on Fifth Avenue where no one 17 or under is admitted is discussed, photos and all. The High Line, an individually preferred elevated park for photos where trains once rolled by is noted, as is the 9/11 Memorial Plaza in a special section. You'll find the art gallery scene covered, along with historical buildings, places of worship, and places to play. Central Park and its own set of marvelous attractions are here, along with more parks that you can imagine.
There's an excellent in-depth look at a personal favorite, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the largest museum in the Western Hemisphere. If art is one of your primary reasons for visiting here, then you may wish to consider getting The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. This is a personal favorite among museum guidebooks of any type. Should you want to visit the Strawberry Fields commemorative to Beatle John Lennon, it's here as well, with a great color photo.
5. Where To Eat:
This section starts off with the best restaurant bets, and that could be highly subjective. But as noted in the beginning, there's "one thing you will not do in New York: go hungry." There are so many good suggestions here, and there are plenty of location maps. Don't miss the "Hello, Old Friends!" section where the authors list some favorites, including one of mine, the best "real deal" diner, and I fully agree since it was a NYC favorite since childhood visits. There's Katz's Delicatessen. If you choose to visit here, just think of that classic line from the film 'When Harry Met Sally': "I'll have what she's having," but don't say it, as the servers hear it 23 times a day.
Katz's also appears in a special deli section on page 242, but if you want (subjectively) the best pastrami on rye in the city, you find the 2nd Avenue Deli there, though not mentioned are their superb onion rings. It's where I take visitors from out of town that want indulge in the classic NYC deli experience. This section is one of the most fascinating to explore, as every type of food you can imagine is here, and there's something for every budget. It has some brilliant suggestions, including so many that I have yet to experience. It takes time...
It's the abundance of locally owned shops that makes New York City stand apart from other large cities, and here you'll find the best places broken down by area first. If you're into electronics, the authors are right: avoid the "going-out-of-business" places in Midtown. Browse through this section and you'll find big department stores, where to get the best and latest in fashions, souvenir trinkets, and so much more. For the real shopaholic, this book may be the best bargain and resource that you can imagine, and you'll end up with a lot of post-its in this section. NYC is also an amazing place to find books, and this bookstore junkie will admit to have bought as many hardbacks and paperbacks at The Strand (page 301) as I have here on Amazon. It's a New York legend, but it has 18 miles of books, not the 8 miles that the authors have noted. Look for the dollar carts outside the store, as you'll find some real gems there.
7. New York City Entertainment & Nightlife:
This section is quite comprehensive section, and it's surprising how up to date it is considering the constantly changing scene here. If you're into theater, Broadway shows and off-Broadway as well, this may be a perfect resource, with ticket-buying tips, a Theater District map, web links, phone numbers and all. Are you into opera or classical music? NYC has it all, and the venues are listed and they're quite up to date, as are the listings for the major (and minor) concert halls. There are venues listed for rock, jazz, blues and even stand-up comedy, and all of these are described, and there are star ratings for the best. The best of the bars and cocktail lounges that are all over the city are here, including some of the real dives if you're so inclined.
8. Where To Stay:
What could have been the worst section of the book turned out to be very well done. Hotels and places to stay are organized by neighborhood and price, from the true splurge hotels to those that are moderately priced. You'll find the best hotels for families and the ones that are the most romantic, and again with maps so you can see what's nearby. But if you're visiting for the first time, don't miss the section beginning on page 442 regarding how to get the best deal. Those tips alone are worth the cost of this book.
9. Planning Your Trip To New York City:
No decent guide would be complete without offering suggestions and advice for travelers on how to get into and out of NYC, and the info offered here is quite solid, including some of the very good and the not so good. My personal suggestion for first time visitors would be to read this section completely. The section regarding MetroCards is well done, and has options that many first-time visitors overlook. There are a number of good online links here for further information that shouldn't be overlooked.
The general index is quite good, as are the ones on accommodations and restaurants that follow. These indices are the type that one would wish for in so many similar books and travel guides yet seem to be lacking. This is one extra thing that makes this guide such a good resource.
Of particular note is the full-color foldout map inside the back cover. Don't just tear it out. There are tiny perforations on the back, facing the subway map in the back cover. Gently insert a standard dinner knife inside and carefully lift it so that the map can be folded out without removing from the book and losing it. The multi-colored map is quite good, complimenting the smaller maps within the book quite well.
Regarding the editions available here, I had previously reviewed the earlier Frommer's New York City 2012. As good as I found that one, this is even better and more complete, and it's surprising how much new info is here between the covers. I like this new one well enough to also buy Frommer's New York City 2013 (Kindle Edition), as it's an excellent portable guide when one is out and about in the city and doesn't want to be carrying a heavy 496-page book.
Frommer's New York City 2013 is a good one for first-time and repeat visitors to New York City, along for those locals here who may have missed or overlooked something that is offered here. Whether you get the paper version or the Kindle edition, it's an excellent resource for NYC visitors and locals alike, and highly recommended. So get it, put on your most comfortable walking shoes and go explore!