For years I've personally abstained from travel guides in general, primarily because so many of them had outdated information, such as restaurants that had not existed for eight years (no joke), streets that had changed names years before and such. But I must admit that the Frommer's New York City 2012 appears to be a good one. Reading this one, bouncing through it to both known and unexplored locations, it appears that Frommer's has done a good job with it, and especially where they suggest itineraries for those on a very limited time schedule.
First impressions left me finding things that I like, such as the fact that it's a full-color guide, and that's throughout the book. There are plenty of localized NYC maps, and most seem to be generally up to date. As one who spends most of his time in any given month in New York City, I can attest to this. There's an excellent full-color foldout map located inside the back cover, but more on that later.
There are three authors: Brian Silverman (Senior Writer), a freelance writer with a number of respected credentials; Richard Goodman, an accomplished author who has lived in New York City for 35 years; and Kelsy Chauvin, an accomplished writer, photographer, and filmmaker. Sometimes they're identified in a particular section, and sometimes they speak as one. In any case, it works well as they have their individual specialties and combined strengths.
The format and organization of this guide are excellent, and it shows that the editors at Frommer's are responsive to the request of their readers. This guide is broken down into nine categories for quick reference:
1. The Best of the Big Apple:
For many first-time visitors, this will be the handiest section for quick reference. Worth noting here are the places to take kids (of all ages), the NYC freebies, and the best offbeat experiences. 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:
This covers the city today, along with its roots, its history. There's also a fascinating section on the impact that New York City has had on books, in film and on television. And the calendar of events is excellent... now you'll know where and when the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show takes place, along with Fleet Week and so many more.
3. New York City Neighborhoods:
There are many diverse neighborhoods here, but do you know what TriBeCa means, or where it is? How about NoHo, SoHo or Nolita? Do they pack meat in the Meatpacking District? No spoilers here, but this is a 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 there are some surprises here. As I write this review, I'm here above East Village, and near Gramercy Park and the Flatiron District. With this book you could possibly figure it out.
4. Where to Stay:
Must admit that I thought that this would be the worst section of this guide, yet was surprised on how well thought out the suggestions are, from splurge hotels to those that are moderately priced. There's even a particular suggestion for the 'Best Hotel for a Romantic Tryst' and it's a good one... trust me. And as a test on how up to date this guide is, I checked to see what they had to say about the legendary Hotel Chelsea, where playwright Arthur Miller stayed, where Arthur C. Clarke wrote '2001: A Space Odyssey' and where Leonard Cohen had his tryst with Janis Joplin, giving rise to one of his most famous songs. And the book is right, you can't stay there.
5. Where to Dine:
This could become highly-subjective, as the author has noted, 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, from the most unforgettable (such as Big Wong King), to the best new restaurants and the "best bites for all appetites," which includes Katz' Delicatessen. If you 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. You may also want to check that deli section on page 190 for an even better starred suggestion, as New York's delis are among the best there are. And on page 153 I found an old favorite, the best "real deal" diner, and I fully agree since it was a NYC favorite since childhood visits. This section is one of the most fascinating to explore, because there's something for everyone, and in all price ranges. There are some some wonderful suggestions, including some that I have yet to experience. But I will...
6. Exploring New York City:
You could live here for years and still feel like you've barely scratched the surface. As the authors noted, you can live your whole life here and still make daily discoveries. The sights and attractions are listed first by neighborhood, and with star ratings. This is followed by the top attractions, and it's very much up to date... enough so that on page 259, that very explicit museum on Fifth Avenue where no one 17 or under is admitted is discussed, photos and all. Coney Island is here, along with the New York Aquarium. The High Line, an individually preferred elevated park for photos where trains once rolled by, is noted as part of the park renaissance in Lower Manhattan. The art gallery scene is covered, along with historical buildings, places of worship, and places to play. Central Park and its own marvelous attractions are here, along with more parks that you can imagine.
There's an exceptional in-depth look at a personal favorite, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the largest museum in the Western Hemisphere. And if art is one of your primary visit objectives then you may wish to consider getting The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide, a personal favorite among guidebooks of any type. Want to see the taping of television shows? It's here in this section. And if you want to visit the Strawberry Fields commemorative to Beatle John Lennon, it's here as well, with a great color photo.
New York City is a shopper's paradise, but figuring out where to go can be overwhelming for the first-time visitor. You'll find big department stores, where to get the best and latest in fashions, souvenir trinkets, and so much more. For real shopaholics, 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 360) as I have here on Amazon. It's a true New York legend, but its 18-miles of books, not the 8-miles that the authors have noted.
8. New York City After Dark:
This is an exceptionally comprehensive section, and for the most part, quite up to date. 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. And yes, there's a dog-friendly bar, and it's listed here for those inclined to drink with dogs.
9. Planning Your Trip to New York City:
No rational 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. As the authors note, "Manhattan's transportation systems are a marvel"... and I fully agree. The section regarding MetroCards is well done, and an option that many first-time visitors overlook. This section also offers some fast facts for visitors, along with a table listing what things cost in NYC. And as far as safety goes, here's a spoiler for you: right there on page 470, you'll see it, "The FBI consistently rates New York City as one of the safest cities in the United States" along with some personal safety tips, including trusting your instincts. Read this small paragraph, follow the advice, and you won't be sorry.
The general index is first-rate, 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 guides, yet seem to be lacking. This is one extra thing that makes this guide such a good resource.
There's a full-color foldout map inside the back cover, but I was trying to figure out how to unfold it without removing it from the book itself... then I noticed the tiny perforations on the back, facing the subway map in the back cover. Gently inserting a standard dinner knife inside and carefully lifting enabled the map to be folded out without removing from the book and losing it. And the multi-colored map is quite good, complimenting the smaller maps within the book quite well.
This guide is a good one for first-time and repeat visitors to New York City, along with locals here who may have missed or overlooked something that is offered here. It's also good for those who live and work here in NYC and may have out of town visitors who want to explore on their own while the host or hostess is at work. It's an excellent resource for NYC visitors and locals alike, and highly recommended. Get it, put on your comfortable walking shoes and go explore!