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The best way to see Manhattan is to immerse yourself in the culture and explore it as though you were a native. (STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
The best way to see Manhattan is to immerse yourself in the culture and explore it as though you were a native. (STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Speakeasies, sushi and Woody Allen Add to ...

As there is a seemingly limitless number of songs written about this metropolis, there are also limitless options for fun. Stevie Wonder, in his 1973 hit Living for the City, wasn't kidding about the skyscrapers ... or the “everything.” New York really does have everything.

The best way to see Manhattan is to immerse yourself in the culture and explore it as though you were a native. So while Manhattan is home to many landmarks and tourist attractions, eschew the typical visitors' attractions in favour of a more “local” experience. One of the two evenings on offer should appeal to your sensibilities – or you can mix and match depending on your mood,

An edgy evening

Begin with Pravda located on Layfayette Street, just south of Houston. It's owned by the same people who own the ever-trendy Pastis, Balthazar and Lucky Strike. This subterranean speakeasy boasts 70 different vodkas as well as 10 house vodkas (with infused flavouring). Ask Joe the bartender to make you a martini with Jewel of Russia Ultra vodka. Yummy.

Then on to Kanoyama at 175 Second Ave. at 11th St. If you have lived in the East Village, chances are you've been here – and more than once. It will get crowded around 8 p.m. as the sushi is excellent and it's very popular with the locals. There are two small dining rooms and a sushi bar. The ambience is pleasant, but you come for the food. It's perfect for a romantic dinner but equally appropriate for a business dinner or just a group of friends. It's one of the top sushi restaurants in the city.

And finally, the Rockwood Music Hall (One and two) at 196 Allen Street. There is usually no admission to either club and artists from NYC and elsewhere use these rooms to showcase their talent. You will find anyone from Norah Jones (who turns up unannounced on a regular basis) to top session musicians and singers who need a place to share their original music when they aren't playing with other more famous artists. There is normally no cover and the beer and wine is cheap. Artists play 45-minute sets every hour.

Classic and sophisticated

If that’s not your cup of tea, try something else.

Begin with drinks at The Rose Bar, one of the bars at the renovated Gramercy Park Hotel at 2 Lexington Ave. You might have trouble getting in after 10 p.m. without reservations, especially on a Friday or Saturday night – so go early. It's a perfect pre-dinner spot. This dark, sexy space is almost as beautiful as the people who fill it. With custom furniture designed by artist Julian Schnabel, an interesting collection of art on the walls, and the roaring fireplace, the atmosphere is very intimate and inviting. Find a cozy couch or a couple of plush lounge chairs in front of a candlelit table and order one of their innovative cocktails. Or play a game of pool; there's a full-size table in the back.

Then do dinner at Il Buco at 47 Bond St. Its rustic, casual environment is very romantic but also great for groups. Considered by many clued-in regulars to be one of the best Italian restaurants in NYC, the ambience is unbeatable, but it also has an attentive staff and knowledgeable sommelier. Make a reservation.

After dinner, how about a late-night view of New York City from the top of the Empire State Building? (It's open ’til 2 a.m.) Or maybe some jazz at the Village Vanguard, 178 7th Ave. at 11th St. A jazz landmark for 70 years, it's still home to the jazz giants past, present and future. If you love jazz and blues, make the effort and experience music history. There is no better place to see jazz in this city.

If you're not in the mood for music, don't forget about the theatre. There are big Broadway shows galore surrounding Times Square and the Theater District, but get off the tourist track and go see something at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), 30 Lafayette Ave. in Brooklyn, for something smaller, edgier and hipper. Or, there’s the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., which is always running something new and interesting. If you insist on the Great White Way, try The Book of Mormon – the Tony-Award winner produced by the creators of South Park – a huge hit.

So, there you have it. New York. Everything ... and a skyscraper!

C.David Johnson is an actor from Toronto currently appearing in Priscilla, Queen of The Desert at the Palace Theater on Broadway.

Jill Dell'Abate is a music producer, singer and native New Yorker.

Plan your evening

5:15 – Drinks

Raines Law Room at 48 West 17th Street. No names or signs, and stairs that take you down to an unmarked door: This speakeasy lounge makes you feel as though you’ve stepped into The Great Gatsby. The drink list is literally a bound book. A true NYC experience.

6 p.m. – Supper club

Café Carlyle 35 E. 76th. Intimate supper club featuring incredible talents including the top cabaret and Broadway performers in NYC. Scheduled performers through 2011 include Woody Allen, John Pizzarelli and Steve Tyrell.

8 p.m. – Theatre

Fri & Sat (7 p.m. T, W, Th). Book of Mormon at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre, 230 West 49th Street. Funniest show to hit Broadway in 10 years.

11 p.m. – Martinis

Pravda, 281 Lafayette Street. Many places claim to have the best martinis in NYC. This one does.

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