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Manhattan's Upper West Side:
Erin Hobey

Before vacationing, one customarily gorges oneself with destination information from Fodorapostrophes and Frommerapostrophes. While I find these guidebooks helpful when planning a trip, I often find their information overwhelming. If I am traveling anywhere for a long weekend, these tomes become impractical and little more than dead weight.

If you have never been to the city, the city that exists beyond Times Square and Broadway, itapostrophes due time that you pick a neighborhood and explore its offerings. Check out the book Here is New York by E. B. White and learn more about Manhattanites before you come. Find out what he means when he describes neighborhoods and the three types of New Yorkers. Discover the gifts of loneliness and privacy that White associates so dearly with the city. Understand why people think New Yorkapostrophes a wonderful place and love to live here.

Depending on your penchant for sightseeing and your freedom to choose a destination (if youapostrophere traveling solo, you can delve into at least one neighborhood), determine what you have always wanted to visit, but never had the time to enjoy. Even though my parents visit the city often, for example, my father rarely has the chance to stroll leisurely around the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For some reason, other attractions always trump his vote. After all, he can always go to the Met, so why go now? (Next time my parents visit, I know where weapostrophell be heading.)

I urge you to make this put-off-until-next-time-we-visit-trip a reality. If you elect to visit the Met, go early to beat the lines. Even if the lines flood out the doors, the museumapostrophes galleries will seem empty. In short, itapostrophes worth the wait. And if you have time, stroll across the street to E86th and visit the Neue Galerie and stop for some exquisite pastries and coffee at its Viennese Café Sabarsky.

As an Upper Westsider, the museums most often bypassed include the American Museum of Natural History and the New-York Historical Society. These neighboring museums provide more than a monthapostrophes worth of pleasure. In short, if you opt for an Upper Westside weekend, you could not go wrong.

With the new Mandarin Hotel within the new Time Warner Building, a lavish spa, countless restaurants and luxury shops await you… and thatapostrophes without even mentioning Lincoln Center. Another luxury hotel on Central Park includes the Trump International Hotel and Towers, while The Lucerne or Excelsior provide terrific and more economical options if you would prefer to stay closer to the museums in order to experience better the Upper West Side.

After you book your hotel and pinpoint key destinations, let yourself enjoy some quality meals. For breakfast, Iapostrophed choose (as I do every Sunday) the Utopia diner on Amsterdam between W 72nd and 73rd. If you crave comfort food, a comfy atmosphere, and do not mind a wait, beloved Sarabethapostrophes offers all three on Amsterdam between W 80th and 81st. Isabellaapostrophes also remains a steadfast favorite for a more civilized brunch; but if you donapostrophet arrive by 11, expect to wait for indoor or outdoor seating.

For lunch, you wonapostrophet have much of a problem locating a tasty spot in the neighborhood; you will undoubtedly discover a place when window-shopping, people watching or just strolling. For dinner, Iapostrophem proud to report, there are now many more options for fine dining on the UWS. Reserve a table at Aix, apostropheCesca, Nice Matin, Compass, Café des Artistes, The Boathouse Cafe or Ouest for atmospheric dining. Prefer top-notch dining? Make reservations at the new restaurants in the Time Warner Center or old favorites Picholine, Tavern on the Green or Jean Georges. If youapostrophed like a view of the Hudson and New Jersey, opt for the informal Boat Basin Café on W 79th in Riverside Park (it may come as a surprise, but there is more than one park in the city). Remember this is your vacation. Take time to explore or ask the concierge where she suggests you indulge. And if you ask any person passing by, he would be happy to offer a recommendation. Believe me, once a New Yorker begins talking about the city, youapostrophell hear more than an earful.

How do you locate these hot spots? Utilize the internet and browse Zagatapostrophes Restaurant Guide for locations and contact information. Instead of lugging the five-pound travel guides, tap into their user-friendly websites and print helpful information. Lastly, with that extra room in your carry-on, I suggest buying a copy of The New Yorker and bringing along that E.B. White essay "Here Is New York."

Erin Hobey is a freelance writer who teaches literature and writing at Fordham University in New York.