NEW YORK CITY – You know what they say about siblings: They only fight so much because they're so similar. You could say the same about neighborhoods and the rivalries they inspire.
New York's legendary 42nd Street is the strip that slices Manhattan down the middle. And although the west side of 42nd Street differs from the east side, they have to big things in common: They're both energy centers for the entire city. And they're both amusement parks in unconventional ways. Let's break it down.
East Side: The symbol of the east side is Grand Central, a gorgeous, vibrant train station and shopping center. There are chain stores (Apple), charming indie boutiques (Cursive), a food market that looks like a farm stand, and a regular schedule of interactive exhibitions. The building itself is an amusement, from the zodiac constellations painted on the ceiling to the former private salon that's now a grand bar (The Campbell Apartment) to the whispering wall made by arches on the lower concourse.
West Side: Hello, Times Square. It's a neighborhood. A myth. A landmark. A pulsing, jam-packed, touristy, jumbotron-laden, multi-block span along Broadway and 42nd Street. Every new year symbolically begins and ends here with the lowering of the ball. Millions of Americans start their days with Good Morning America, whose studio overlooks the area. This area is an amusement park if you consider that Spiderman, Dave and Busters, Madame Tussaud's, and Ripley's Believe It or Not are neighbors. (Take that, Orlando.)
East Side: Take a look at the Chrysler Building. The 1,047 feet Art Deco skyscraper gleams with white marble from Georgia and black sandstone granite from Sweden. Has anyone ever built anything more elegant?
West Side: Take a look at all. those. billboards. About 35 million tourists look at them annualy. Has anyone ever built anything flashier?
East Side: The Westin New York Grand Central is located a block east of the Chrysler Building. Their special amenities are designed to give travelers a restful stay in a crazy town: RunWESTIN is a guided, three-mile group run that happens every Thursday morning at 6:30. Self-guided running maps and in-room workout videos are also available. Those who don't want to pack workout gear can rent New Balance clothing and shoes for $5. The LCL Bar and Kitchen stocks Organic Avenue juices for smart energy boosts.
West Side: The Westin New York at Times Square on 43rd Street and Eighth Avenue is a more bustling option. There's a big, social lobby for gathering, a theater and tour desk to arrange for seats at nearby shows, and a special food and drinks happy hour called Unwind most nights from 5-7 p.m. at Bar10.
East Side: Oyster Bar on the lower level of Grand Central is one of the city's most classic eateries. It's like something from a 1950s movie. Order the pan roast and the Manhattan clam chowder. Another culinary throwback is Smith & Wollensky, a steak house like steak houses should be done. Naples45 serves surprisingly terrific Italian pizzas in an unexpected location: the ground floor of the Met Life Building. Sushi Yasuda is the serene, very Japanese restaurant that is a favorite of every food critic who ever walked through its doors.
West Side: Esca serves Italian seafood prepared by chef Dave Pasternack, a local guy who catches a lot of it himself. The Lamb's Club is a clubby restaurant as good for power lunches as fancy, pre-theater burgers. Chances are you'll spot Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian walking through the dining room on his way to his kitchen. Lively, boisterous Virgil's Real BBQ proves that, yes, you can get great barbecue in the heart of New York City.
THE MIDDLE GROUND
If Grand Central and Times Square are siblings, then Bryant Park is the middle child. It's only a block away from Times Square, but its New York Public Library looks like Grand Central's architectural twin. Bryant Park is where New York City comes to chill out. At lunchtime, people eat at tables and chairs scattered along the park, little kids learn to juggle from guys wearing blazers, and men and women battle it out at ping pong. In the warmer months, there's a carousel and movies on the lawn every week. In the winter, there's an ice-skating rink in the middle of it all. But there's no need for rivalry. Everyone gets to claim this 42nd Street gem.