A six-hour drive southeast to New York City’s northernmost borough
Perhaps the most underrated NYC borough, the Bronx encapsulates real-deal New York—in its diversity of residents, hidden treasures and solid bargains. Savvy travelers know, for instance, that although you could pay high prices for Italian cuisine and ambiance in Manhattan’s heavily touristed Little Italy, an even more authentic Italian neighborhood stands along Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, featuring stellar food and atmosphere for much less. That’s not to mention the Puerto Rican, Guyanese, Ghanian, Cambodian, Trinidadian, Salvadoran, Bangladeshi and more immigrant communities—and corresponding restaurants and markets—the borough has to offer.
And sure, everybody goes to Central Park, but how about the plant wonderland that is the New York Botanical Garden? Its 250 acres are worth a ramble even in winter, when evergreens take their star turn. In summer, Yankees games are a major draw to the Bronx, but outside of baseball season there’s a unique sporting experience to be had in Fordham University’s historic Rose Hill Gymnasium, the oldest NCAA Division 1 basketball arena still in use—and with 3,500 seats, not a bad one in the house. As more boutique hotels crop up, the Bronx offers more and more reasons to ditch the hassles of Manhattan and stick around.
Where to stay
Opera House Hotel — The elegant Bronx Opera House, where greats like Harry Houdini, the Marx Brothers and John and Lionel Barrymore once performed, was transformed into this stylish boutique hotel within the past few years. Perks include a complimentary cookie hour.
Morris Guest House — A classic New York City brownstone with a 19th-century Renaissance Revival facade now makes a homey, welcoming and well-priced alternative to matchbox Manhattan hotel rooms that cost a fortune.
Where to eat
Trattoria Zero Otto Nove — This atmospheric Italian trattoria makes pizza so superlative that influential food bloggers have debated whether it’s the best in New York, one even calling it the best pizza he’d ever had outside of Naples.
The Eating Tree — Alongside Yankee Stadium is a broad range of ethnic eateries, including this Jamaican standout. Between its lime-green walls, spicy jerk shrimp, and fresh tropical juices, you’ll feel transported to the Caribbean no matter how cold it gets outside.
New York Botanical Garden — A warm holiday afterglow continues through January at the 250-acre botanical garden, where hiking trails are open, take-home evergreen swag bundles can be made, and the famous Holiday Train Show continues through Jan. 20.
Fordham University’s Rose Hill Gymnasium — Fordham, a midsize Catholic university whose manicured campus is already a Bronx gemstone, holds a snug stone-and-exposed brick basketball arena dating to 1925. Its small size and loud cheering make for a fan’s dream—and an opponent’s nightmare.
Where to shop
Arthur Avenue Market — Under powerful New York City mayor Fiorello La Guardia, Italian pushcart vendors were given permanent space to sell their delicacies. Pack a cooler—even if the elaborate Italian holiday gift baskets are gone, you’ll still want to stock up on fresh pasta, baked goods, cheeses, Italian imports and more, including from the famous Arthur Avenue Deli.
The Lit. Bar — The borough’s only independent bookstore, this fresh South Bronx community hub (crowdfunded after the Bronx’s only Barnes & Noble closed in 2017) stocks 5,000 titles, with special emphasis on local authors. Bonus: It’s also a happening wine bar that hosts events like readings, wine tastings, poetry slams and children’s storytime.