One juicy apple

Great shopping, fantastic dining, and festive nightlife are just some of the many options New York has to offer its visitors.

ice skating ny 88 298 (photo credit: Ofer Zemach)
ice skating ny 88 298
(photo credit: Ofer Zemach)
Time after time, when boarding the plane prior to a flight, I walk through first class and business class on the way to my coach seat somewhere in the back. For a moment I imagine what it would be like to pamper myself and sit in one of those wide seats and get the personal service, amazing meals and delicious beverages handed out to first class passengers. On a recent flight to New York, I had the pleasure of being Continental Airline's guest in their BusinessFirst class, and I had the chance to experience what it is like crossing the ocean as one of the company's Elite Club members. It took only seconds after the plane left the gate for one of the stewards to ask for my choice for the main course. It was then that I realized why one would pay up to four times the fare of a regular flight to be seated up front. In fact, the fun begins long before departure, with the unique concierge services that add a personal touch to Continental's BusinessFirst service. Specially-trained representatives help customers at the gate and assist them through customs. Flying BusinessFirst gives you access to the Presidents Club lounges at the airport, complete with television rooms, family areas, a free buffet, Internet connection and showers to relax prior to your journey. Passengers also benefit from OnePass, Continental Airline's frequent flyer program, where high mileage levels enable members traveling either in BusinessFirst or in economy to earn generous travel rewards. This non-expired program is free to join and regularly updates members with news and special offers. The seats and service provided in BusinessFirst class are truly world-class. Extra-wide electronic sleeper seats featuring a 170 degree recline and 2 meters of sleeping space in the fully extended position are perfect for a transatlantic nap. The in-flight entertainment is first-rate as well. All seats have their own individual monitors and control sets, offering a selection of the latest movies, a variety of audio channels and up to 10 video games. Other features include a laptop computer power outlet, a satellite telephone and a flexible-neck reading light. The dining service for BusinessFirst passengers is also in a class by itself, offering a wide variety of delicious menu selections created by Continental's Congress of chefs. A group of chefs, who originally met in 1996 to brainstorm ways to improve Continental's first class menus, meet regularly to review Continental's International BusinessFirst markets. The culinary experts examine changing trends in food display and development and exchange ideas on how to improve Continental's food service, as well as keep updated on the ever-changing culinary world. The excellent food is complemented by premium wines and champagne, fresh cappuccino or espresso coffee made on request and a choice of delectable desserts, such as vanilla ice cream (with your choice of toppings) or with warm fruit cobbler. BusinessFirst also has a popular alternative for those who wish to sleep or work during the scheduled meal service. The "Executive Meal Option" allows you to dine at any time during the flight, and all you need to do is let a crew member know when you are ready to eat. ONCE WE landed on the ground in the city that never sleeps, things got a bit more hectic; visiting New York can be a bit overwhelming. There is so much to see and do and it's virtually impossible to include each of the city's activities in a single trip. Here are a few bites out of the Big Apple's joyful possibilities. Located on the northwest corner of Greenwich Village, Gansevoort Market - the Meatpacking District - consists of parts of a dozen city blocks that have functioned as a wholesale meat market for more than 150 years. Now home to the city's trendiest galleries and designer stores, this is one of the most fashionable neighborhoods in New York. From fine furniture to exclusive clubs and stylish restaurants, this neighborhood attracts an upscale clientele to its shops and showrooms. Walk around and you can still see some meat companies operating out of the warehouses, but the chic stores and posh eateries are the act to catch. Stella McCartney is a fashionable boutique combining sharp tailoring with humor and sexy femininity; Macelleria, ("butcher shop" in Italian) is a rustic Italian steakhouse with intact meat hooks, original refrigerator doors and an impressive wine cellar that was once housed in a 1700s fortress; Vitra is a genuine gallery where furniture and interior designers of the day are showcased; and at Abingdon 12, you can find eclectic home designs and gifts. Just a subway ride away, on the corner of Third Avenue and 60th Street, is Dylan's Candy Bar, owned by Dylan Lauren, a land of lollipop trees, candy cane columns, kosher gums, peppermint stools and bubble gum tables. You name it, they've got it in this fantastic and unusual candy store which was founded upon the principles of elevating a simple candy shop to a state-of-the-art destination. In addition to having one of the largest sweets selections in the world, Dylan's Candy Bar also showcases the latest in retail concepts and chic design. With something for everyone, this imaginative and inviting store is a virtual playground for the young and young at heart. It must be seen (and tasted) to be believed. In the winter months, ice skating at Rockefeller Center is a truly unique New York experience not to be missed, despite the small ice skating surface and the often crowded atmosphere. Unparalleled views of New York are offered to visitors at the newly renovated Observation Deck in the heart of midtown Manhattan at Rockefeller Center. Now, for the first time in 20 years, this breathtaking point is being re-introduced to the people of New York and the world. Panels of fully transparent safety glass are the only thing between visitors and the city at the 70-stories-high "Top of the Rock" observation deck. The view itself is astonishing, unobstructed for 360 degrees and stretching for miles in every direction. It includes a panorama of Central Park and the northern half of Manhattan that can't be found anywhere else. New York's other landmarks are visible as well, including the Chrysler Building, Times Square, the Hudson River, the East River, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. Visitors can walk up through the atrium to the Mezzanine exhibition space and, while waiting to board a sky shuttle elevator to the 67th floor, can enjoy a multimedia exhibition exploring the history of Rockefeller Center alongside an original basswood model of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. And if you get tired of all that running around, make your way to the 24th floor of the Empire State Building, where for $14 you can take a 20-minute "power nap" in a shell-shaped electronic chair at MetroNap. Born from the realization that many employees spend significant amounts of their day dozing at their desk, MetroNap provides a midday rest facility in a comfortable place. "A 20-minute nap is long enough to recharge your level of energy for the day without the drowsy effects of a longer sleep," explained one of the managers at MetroNap. The lights around the chair dim to initiate the nap, and when the 20 minutes are up, the back of the chair gently vibrates and the lights slowly come back on. For me, it took less than 5 minutes in that hi-tech bed to miss the comfortable wide chairs at Continental Airlines BusinessFirst class.