Rockefeller Center’s Rainbow Room first opened its doors in 1934 on the heels of Prohibition’s repeal. Its proprietor (J.D. Rockefeller, Jr) was famously dedicated to temperance and the country was in the midst of the Great Depression, all of which formed an improbable backdrop for the premiere of a glitzy nightclub catering to the city’s elite. Nevertheless, the Rainbow Room prevailed, with its sparkling Art Deco design and grand windows. Becoming a haunt for New York socialites and a wide swath of celebrities over the years, from Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich, and Sir Laurence Olivier to Tony Bennett, Louis Armstrong and Rosemary Clooney, the officially designated landmark has weathered many challenges along the way.
It seems fitting then, as New York emerges from the pandemic and worries about inflation persist, that Rockefeller Center, often dismissed as an area for tourists, would once again rise as a glittering destination for the city’s well-heeled. New York being a city forever in flux, it’s also one that will continue to surprise you.
New York is not without exceptional hotels—see the Mark, the Carlyle and the Beekman, to name just a few—but the most hyped of the new crop prioritize rest and relaxation in equal measure with over-the-top luxury settings, plus equally sumptuous on-site spas. Aman’s first East Coast hotel has taken up residence in the famed Crown Building on Fifth Avenue, transformed by Jean-Michel Gathy into a modern sanctuary. Stretched out in front of your fireplace, you’ll have views of Fifth Avenue but hear none of the bustle below from a sprawling 2,000-square-foot Corner Suite. Fireplaces also line the pool in what could be considered the hotel’s crown jewel: a three-floor wellness and medical spa (accessible only to guests and Aman members) where you can get everything from a Thai hot oil massage to an IV infusion to a half- or full-day banya treatment.
The spa at Ritz-Carlton NoMad is a draw to the sleek Rafael Viñoly designed tower (its signature treatment, the Method, is a bespoke rejuvenating facial using Augustinus Bader products), but so too are new outposts of José Andrés’s Zaytinya and the Bazaar restaurants and buzzy rooftop bar Nubeluz. A perfect companion for the vista: the Foggy Hill, a mezcal, vermouth and Cynar concoction that arrives cloaked in a dramatic orange-thyme cloud. The most desirable rooms at the new Casa Cipriani, in the Beaux-Arts beauty Battery Maritime Building downtown, are those with private balconies offering views of the Statue of Liberty. In the serene spa, guests can follow their lymphatic drainage massage and buccal facial with a stint in the cryotherapy chamber.
A wave of exclusive and exquisitely conceived omakase restaurants are, for those who like their meals hushed and ceremonial, a welcome addition to the city’s dining scene. Omakase—which translates as “I’ll leave it up to you”—is a traditional Japanese dining style where the meal is tailored to each individual’s taste. Only 120 people a week can dine at Yoshino and experience Tokyo chef Tadashi Yoshida’s exacting approach; Yakisaba sushi, a trademark of his, pairs charcoal-charred mackerel with pickled ginger and shiso. His efforts recently earned him a Michelin star and a four-star review in The New York Times.
Daniel Boulud enters the omakase game with Jōji, which has a discreet speakeasy-like location below One Vanderbilt in Grand Central. The artistry of sushi master chef George Ruan and two other vets of Masa shines on dishes that look beyond traditional Japanese ingredients—like the karaage-style tilefish with caviar, shiso flower, and, surprisingly, white onion purée. Unlike the rest of the omakase cohort, it cultivates a less hushed atmosphere (you may even hear a rap soundtrack). And at Noz 17 in Chelsea, Junichi Matsuzaki really plays with the form, creating an unconventional omakase that might even include a vegan mushroom nigiri.
Just as hard to reserve at, but significantly more lively, is glossy brasserie Le Rock, the buzziest among the Rockefeller Center dining options from the team behind Frenchette; here you’ll find modern takes on leeks vinaigrette and escargots bourguignons. Meanwhile, upscale Italian Al Coro pairs an elegant multicourse menu (including standout pastas like mascarpone and fontina-filled culurgiones topped with caviar) with live music in the former Del Posto space. Or slip into one of the crushed velvet booths at the newly opened Torrisi in the Puck Building, where the menu recasts Italian food through a distinctly New York lens; you’ll find linguini in a pink Manhattan clam sauce, and chopped liver with Manischewitz. It was brought to life by the Major Food Group, who recently announced they will open a members-only, invite-only branch of ZZ’s Club with a private Carbone restaurant in Hudson Yards.
The trend of caviar “bumps” is still going strong at Temple Bar in NoHo and at Nubeluz, where a three-gram bump of Kaviari Ossetra is on the menu. Grandiose raw shellfish plates are the drink accompaniment of the moment at Corner Bar, chef Ignacio Mattos’s latest restaurant at Nine Orchard in Chinatown, and Holywater, the New Orleans-style bar in TriBeCa, where the Celebration platter feels like exactly that. The popular 26-seat bar Overstory is located on the 64th floor of a landmark Art Deco building in the Financial District so you can sip your Earl Grey-infused In the Clouds cocktail while taking in the sweeping city views. Cocktail acolytes are converging on a three-story carriage house in Gramercy, transformed by former Angel’s Share bartender Takuma Watanabe into Martiny’s, a Japanese den of drinking with meticulous craft cocktails and an extensive collection of rare Japanese whiskies (regular patrons will be able to buy and store their preferred bottles on site). If a martini and French fries enjoyed in a plush booth is your weekend ideal there is the Nines, a dimly lit supper club in SoHo, or the newly refashioned Monkey Bar in Midtown.
In Midtown Manhattan a new arts scene has been brewing with the development of the Shed, a multi-use cultural space hosting works from creators across various disciplines and backgrounds. Of particular note is the structure’s transformative architecture: Among other features, a movable outer shell creates a 17,000-square-foot covered pavilion on the adjoining plaza for large scale performances, installations or events. In past seasons, the Shed has brought talents such as Björk to the stage, offering visitors an acoustically superior concert experience. The much-anticipated opening this year of the Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center will bring another venue for on-the-pulse programming in opera, film, theater, dance and music. Visual art havens abound in New York but if growing a collection of your own is the goal, set a course for downtown galleries like Perrotin, Fortnight Institute, Karma, Sargent’s Daughters and Gordon Robichaux (where Tabboo! is on the talent roster).
Online shopping be damned, New York’s post-pandemic renaissance has come with a number of exciting store openings, the most iconic of which is Hermès. The French heritage brand already had a flagship in the city but decided to significantly up the ante: The new flagship, which opened its doors in October on Madison Avenue, dwarfs its former store at a whopping 45,000 square feet and features special items, Kelly bags among them, made exclusively for this store. After gathering your orange boxes, head to SoHo where you’ll find new boutiques from Courrèges, Byredo, Mulberry, Jennifer Fisher, Givenchy, cult favorite vintage designer purveyor Desert Vintage, and Swedish label Toteme, where the interiors—including Josef Frank sofas and a Marc Newson table—were conjured by the founders (Elin Kling and Karl Lindman) with architecture studio Halleroed, and are as covetable as the minimalist styles on the racks.
When it comes to luxury facials, New York spares no effort. At his first New York outpost, Italian-born skincare specialist Pietro Simone takes a personalized approach to facials, tailoring a treatment that may include LED, meso-microneedling, V-IPL, or cotton thread exfoliation. Uptown at the Carlyle, beloved Swiss skincare brand Valmont has both a flagship boutique and a branded spa where the most indulgent treatment on the facial menu, Only at the Carlyle, has two therapists performing a massage and OxyLight facial with gua sha. And Dr. Barbara Sturm’s frequently namechecked skincare products figure prominently in the SturmGlow and Non-Surgical Facelift facials at her newly opened SoHo spa. The promise they deliver on: to restore an innate glow that had, perhaps, faded. Right now, New York delivers on that same promise.