“people going down to the ground, buildings going up to the sky.”
— Bob Dylan
I crossed a huge bucket list item off a few years ago when my husband and I moved to New York City. We had a tiny apartment with no stove or oven and our shower was in the closet, but the city was our backyard and we explored every cranny. I danced on the stage of the Apollo Theatre, watched fireworks from rooftops, spent more money on food, taxis, and clothes than I should have, and gave birth to my sweet daughter overlooking Central Park. Oh so many memories. Allow me to be a tour guide for you and share some of my favorite places in NYC! If you are planning a trip there, consider this a tiny speck-of-a-list of things to do and places to eat. And to get pumped up, listen to my NYC spotify playlist.
One of the best places to eat is Eataly at 23rd & Broadway. It is set up as an Italian marketplace with several restaurants and counters inside to find food. It certainly puts the Little Italy neighborhood to shame. You can stop in for a quick cappuccino and gelato or sit down and enjoy one of the best Italian meals you will ever experience. My favorite there is the pizza/pasta restaurant. On weekends and evenings there are extremely long waits so it might be a good idea to head over for a late lunch or early dinner. Food selection? You can't go wrong with the basic Cacio E Pepe, but I also love the Short Rib Tagliatelle. While you wait, meander around the market and see where some New Yorkers shop for fresh pasta, breads, produce, and meat. They also have a wonderful selection of upscale food items to bring back as souvenirs or gifts.
Also on 23rd street, but on the west side of the city is a tiny hole in the wall bar and greasy spoon, Trailer Park. I recommend this place not only because they sell tator tots and cheesesteaks, (which is is exactly what you need after walking all day) but also because the environment is kitsch heaven. The walls are covered with an absurd collection of photos and the ceiling with tinsel. There is an actual trailer inside and the bathroom décor is on point. Trailer Park is perfect spot to sit back and refuel.
If you are traveling with several people, it might be tricky to agree on one place to grab grub. Head over to Chelsea Market, which houses one of the best Anthropologies I've ever shopped, and also a top notch food court. Meander through the old warehouse and find a seat by the exposed brick walls. You'll find something for everyone; vegan sushi, hearty soup, grilled cheese, cupcakes, and so much more.
So you're in New York, you have to have a slice of the real stuff. Because of the amazing quality of NYC water, the flavor of the pizza dough is unparalleled. And with a pizza joint on nearly every block you'll have to indulge AT LEAST once during your visit. If you are doing the touristy thing in Times Square, eat at John's Pizza. It is a nice atmosphere and a crowd favorite. Eating on the go? Try it by the slice at Joe's Pizza on Bleecker and Carmine in Greenwich Village. It is a self-proclaimed “pizza institution” and has been named one of the best 25 pies in the world. My favorite way to eat pizza in the city is to eat it picnic style while gazing at the lower Manhattan skyline. Take the subway to Brooklyn. Head to DUMBO and either wait in line at Grimaldi's or go to Front Street Pizza and get a pie to go. Then walk the few blocks down to the DUMBO park and eat outdoors Down Under the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge Overpass. While you're there, take a ride on Jane's Antique Carousel and then explore Brooklyn Heights--one of the prettiest neighborhoods of all the boroughs. I mean one of the streets in named Pineapple Street! Waltz down the Brooklyn Promenade...another perfect spot for pictures and a for glimpse of the lovely Lady Liberty herself. Then walk the Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan for more killer views.
The Little Owl
If you're feeling fancy, head back to Greenwich Village, underneath the Friends apartment building facade for a delicious and intimate place to make a true New York memory. My husband and I ate here for Thanksgiving one year and had the best time. They serve American food for lunch and dinner. I would recommend making reservations for this one too.
I know this restaurant is super touristy, but it remains a classic place for every day New Yorkers to meet up and dine under Tiffany lamps. Located on the far Upper East Side, this iconic eatery is a full service restaurant but many come just to satisfy the sweet tooth. You can make reservations which I highly recommend. Or You can put your name in and wait the three hours at Bloomingdales or Central Park :) I go to Serendipity for the Forbidden Broadway Sundae. It is a huge piece of chocolate cake, ice cream, hot fudge, and of course whipped cream. But I'm certain the Frrrrozen Hot Chocolate is the most popular dessert item. Hey, if Serendipity was good enough for Andy Warhol, it is good enough for me.
Other places to check out: Laduree, Mel's Burger, Prohibition NYC, Shake Shack, Absolute Bagel, Doughnut Plant NYC
You came for the skyline. You have to see New York from up above. There are three traditional observatories to get the glimpse you came for and each is great for its own reason. You can't get anymore classic then riding up to the 86th floor for the highest outdoor observation deck in the city at The Empire State Building. It gives incredible views and the refreshing wind gives a natural tousled look for your hair. Another spot to get a bird's eye view is 30 Rock. I like this one because it is outdoor as well but the walls are glass, giving a cleaner shot... and it gives a beautiful perspective of Central Park; on the other side an incredible picture of Manhattan with the great Empire State Building in the background. However, my personal favorite is the observation room at the World Trade Center. You take a 47 second elevator ride to the 100th floor and get a history lesson at the same time. Once you are up there, they lift screens to unveil a shocking 360 degree view of the best city in the world. It is such a remarkable place because of the beauty it shows and the history it holds.
This is my place. My favorite place. It is incredible to me how you can be in the busiest city and then step into complete serenity. I love to picnic here but there is so much else to do too. There is a marionette theater, carousel, sailboat pond, ice skating, concerts, bike rentals, hiking, walking, jogging... A lot of people enter from the southeast corner by the Plaza Hotel on 5th Avenue but try to get away from the people and enter by the Met or from the West Side and you'll get out of the touristy areas and really be able to breathe it all in.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
One of the most glorious places in the entire city is the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Depending on the time of year you go, you might not want to leave the 52 acre park. In June the rose garden is in full bloom and I'm positive it is a glimpse of Heaven. Go in the Spring for the Cherry Blossom trees and let the pink petals rain down on you. In the winter, get warm in the indoor desert conservatory and fall in love with the cacti. The garden is located in a fun part of Brooklyn too and on the border of Prospect Park, Central Park's younger sister.
Depending on how long you are spending in the City, you'll want to check out a museum. There are hundreds of places you can go but I recommend The Met for several reasons. 1. You can technically pay a penny to get in. They have a recommended admission charge, but your ticket is donation based so you can give whatever you would like. 2. The architecture of The Met itself is amazing. You can sit on the steps outside and people watch, meander through the huge marble halls of the lobby, and even enjoy a cocktail on the terrace. 3. The art collection is one of the best in the world. They really have it all and bonus if you go when the fashion exhibit is on display.
Other places to check out:
Lincoln Center, Grand Central Terminal, The High Line, The Guggenheim Museum,
Lower East Side, Coney IslandWashington Square Park, Riverside Park,
SOHO means south of Houston Street and Houston is not pronounced like the city in Texas but like house + ton. It has everything from the iconic Bloomingdales and Kate Spade flagship to more common mall stores like Madewell and Nike. Enjoy going down the main drag on Broadway but also veer off down the narrow brick side streets.
For more of a boutique shopping experience head to Bleecker street in West Village. The streets are lined with shops, perfect to find a unique souvenir. I love the Goorin Bros. Hat Shop and then stopping for a treat at Magnolia Bakery.
The Chelsea garage I went to while I lived there has now closed but they have transitioned to a few new spaces that I have read good things about. It is has numerous vendors and is open every weekend. Check out their website for location and more details.
Wake up early and head to 28th Street between 6th and 7th for a gorgeous flower experience. I realize you might not be arranging flowers on vacation but it is pretty enough start to your day and it gives you a glimpse into an incredible industry in the city.
I have only window shopped at the luxury stores of 5th avenue but there is something to be said to rub elbows with the well heeled and dream. There is everything from Valentino to Bergdorf to Henri Bendel's. Of course, every girl has to make it to see the five floors of sparkling Tiffany's too.
I don't have a lot of recommendations on where to stay because I got to know the city the best when we lived there. If I were going back for an extended trip, I would definitely look for an AirBnB. For me, the best part of New York City is the day-to-day grind. You won't find that charm in a Midtown hotel. Go to the Upper West Side, Chelsea or even Park Slope in Brooklyn. Find a little nook and explore!
20 blocks = 1 mile and blocks east to west, or crossing avenues, are longer. Because most of the city is set up as a grid the city is super walkable. Once you get down into Greenwich Village and lower, the streets wind a bit more and your map app will need to be handy.
Get the NYC subway app for sure. Study it for a bit so you can get a lay of the land. Locals are helpful, but of course it is better for you to have an idea of where the heck you are and where the heck you're going. There is also subway etiqutte. Check out this link for more info.
It wouldn't be a trip to NYC without a ride in a taxi. Yes they take cards and this is a great article on hailing a cab.
I hope you are able to experience some of these things and the love of NYC!
**All the images shared are my own.