The City That Sometimes Sleeps

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New guide reveals early morning treasures for Manhattanites up with the sun

There are countless guides to nightlife downtown, but not too many places to find information on the city before sunrise. Local author Cameron Gidari decided he would pen his own version for the early birds on the island. We talked to Gidari about his new book, "Manhattan Before8," which reveals a side to the Big Apple most people don't see; a lack of crowds. Gidari's book is a guide for morning people in New York City, highlighting the best sights, sounds and experiences in Manhattan before 8 a.m.

Gidari's book, "Manhattan Before8," is available through his website,, and on Amazon. Gidari is also the author of "Seattle Before8."

Our Town Downtown: So what are some of the best sights, sounds and experiences to see in downtown Manhattan before 8 a.m.?

Cameron Gidari: The High Line - There is a reason that the High Line has become Manhattan's newest can't-miss tourist attraction - it is absolutely stunning. The combination of nature with modern design and art makes for one of the most unique experiences in the city, and the views of Manhattan and the Hudson River are tremendous. There is a ton of detail packed into this mile-and-a-half stretch, but it gets so crowded during the day that most of those details can be easily missed. Fortunately, the High Line is empty when it opens at 7 a.m., leaving you free to explore at your own pace.

Hu Kitchen - Healthy restaurants have become something of a trend over the last couple of years, but most of them are far less healthy than they'd like you to believe. Hu Kitchen is the real deal, and their food is some of the best in Manhattan. Hu's goal is to provide delicious food with natural, unprocessed ingredients, and the result is a breakfast that leaves you satisfied and full without making you feel weighed down. The bacon, egg, and kale sandwich is my favorite item on the menu, with 'bread' made from ground veggie seeds and organic egg. Like Hu says on their website, "We are going to give you something awesome to eat, and then we're going to blow your mind when you look at the ingredients."

Dominique Ansel Bakery - Have you ever talked to someone who has eaten one of Dominique Ansel's croissant-doughnut hybrids known as the cronut? Their voice gets hushed, their eyes grow wide, and they talk in a tone usually reserved for recounting a life-altering experience. Only 300 cronuts are made each day, and people start lining up before 5 a.m. for the chance to buy one. Few pastries are worth getting up at the crack of down for; the cronut is one of them.

Our Town Downtown: How long have you lived in Manhattan?

Cameron Gidari: I moved to Manhattan in April after spending the last seven years in Phoenix, Arizona. The last few months have been a whirlwind, and I've actually explored more of Manhattan in four months than I did of Phoenix in seven years.

Our Town Downtown: Why did you decide to write "Manhattan Before8"?

Cameron Gidari: I published "Seattle Before8" in March and was doing preliminary research into which city to cover next. My fiancee received a job offer in Manhattan, and I realized that writing "Manhattan Before8" would be the perfect way to explore my new city at a time when most of the tourists and crowds are still asleep. Most people think that New York City is always noisy and crowded, but the more I researched and started exploring, the more I saw a different side to Manhattan. I wanted to share that side with locals and visitors alike.

Our Town Downtown: When did you first realize a book like this was possible?

Cameron Gidari: The concept of Before8 - travel guides for morning people - came about a year ago. I was talking about travel with my father, an avid morning person himself, and we were lamenting how difficult it was to find travel information for when we wanted to explore cities - before 8 a.m. I started researching morning experiences in my hometown of Seattle, and discovered an entire morning culture that I knew nothing about despite growing up there. Writing "Seattle Before8" and seeing the positive reception it got told me that there was an audience hungry for morning adventures.

My first week in Manhattan, I walked through Times Square at 6 a.m. and was shocked to find it completely empty. This was the most-visited tourist attraction in the world, and I had it all to myself. That was the moment I fell in love with Manhattan mornings and knew that there was an entirely different city to reveal to travelers.

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