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Friday, November 28, 2014

new york, new york! my top 10 list.

Magic happens when you least expect it.


Are you hoping to visit New York City in 2015? If you haven’t thought about it, you should. I've been lucky enough to visit many interesting cities, but NYC is still one of my favourite and most-visited spots. I’ve always thought it would be fun to do a Top Ten list, so here it is.

The Top 10 things to do and see in New York City:


#10. Park parade – There are so many great parks in Manhattan, some are like hidden gems and others as obvious as the proverbial elephant in the room. There is the never-ending Central (taking up half of the island), the intimate Christopher (at Christopher & Grove St, West Village), the dog crazy Carl Schulz (East 86th St, Upper East Side), and the unique High Line (Gansevoort to West 34th St) just to name a few. In Manhattan’s concrete jungle you will be constantly surprised when you turn a corner and see a lush, leafy enclave of folks just chilling with a hot dog or a book. And the New Yorkers can get pretty creative with their green spaces. A must-see is the High Line – a converted, above-ground, abandoned railway which is now a haven of regional grasses, bushes and cornflowers. The wooden daybeds and benches, on the slatted boardwalk will tempt you to stop and smell the green.


My tip: Walk the High Line starting in the West Village all the way to the Meatpacking District. Along the way, while cabbie horns bellow below you, the Hudson River seascape will draw you out on one side, while incredible architecture will pull you back to the other. Gehry’s most striking glass-enclosed iceburg, the leaning metallic Denari-designed luxury apartment or the Standard Hotel which straddles the High Line like an open book provide just some of the great ‘starchitecture’.


#9. Shopping! – Of course you’ll walk down Fifth Avenue and wander through Greenwich Village and Soho where great shopping is as certain as finding a beer at Oktoberfest. But, what you also can’t miss is Century 21 (22 Cortlandt St) located across from the World Trade Centre site. Here, all of the top designer rags come to live out their last days, hoping finally to find a good home. Discounts!


If you love books or even just kind of like them, then you must enter the Strand Bookstore (828 Broadway Ave, south of Union Square). Wall to wall to wall books of every kind will greet you down every book-crowded aisle. Books. Everywhere. Every book. If you are one of those people (like I am) who dream of someday having your own private library then this is a must see. It’s one of my favourite places…on earth.


For some alternative shopping check out the great vintage boutiques like Screaming Mimi’s (382 Lafayette, Noho) or the funky Eye Candy (225 W 23rd St, Chelsea). One of my favourite things to do anywhere is to hit a fleamarket, and in New York, the best one I know is Hell’s Kitchen (every Saturday and Sunday, W 39th between 9th & 10th Ave). Here, over the years, I’ve picked up vintage costume jewelry, a 1940’s skirt, even a wildly weird wedding dress – think Cyndi Lauper meets Snow White. I wonder if I’ll ever wear it.


My tip: Soak up the neighbourhood experience wherever you choose to shop. Take a side road, move off the beaten path and see where the New Yorkers live, shop and coffee. The best places are just around the corner.


#8. Getting out onto the water – to Ellis Island, to Lady Liberty, under the very many bridges (Brooklyn, Queensboro, George Washington, Triborough, etc)…use the ferry to get to another point on Manhattan Island while soaking in the one-of-a-kind skyline that is NYC.


My tip: Get off the ferry in Brooklyn and walk back across the incomparable Brooklyn Bridge. It’s almost as trippy as walking across the Golden Gate, but with more cabs.

The Brooklyn Bridge
#7. Eating! New Yorkers love to eat. I’m not sure how they do it since they all seem to be super skinny. I’ve heard that no one in Manhattan actually cooks for themselves – everyone gets take-out in the evenings and they lunch and brunch on the weekend. For this reason, the many, many take-out joints and food carts dotting Manhattan like craters on the moon, are actually excellent places to eat. If you have time, then definitely experience some of the tried and true New York restaurants. To name a few great ones, not all expensive, but all delish in my opinion: Bar Pitti for pasta fantastico (268 Ave of the Americas), Carnegie Deli for a classic pre-show cornbeef on rye (854 – 7th Ave at 55th St), Waverly Inn in the West Village for its exclusivity (16 Bank St), Gemma located in the Bowery Hotel (335 Bowery) or Pastis (9 9th Ave, which is unfortunately closed until September 2015). These are some of my faves…I’m getting excited just typing.

My tip: Go for breakfast. It’s not as expensive, but just as tasty.


#6. Broadway-ing ('Broadway' really should be a verb) – It is a universe unto itself. Classic theatre, over-the-top musicals, intimate shows and huge superstar productions are all to be found in and around the blocks on and off Broadway Avenue. Times Square bookends one end of the unofficial official Broadway, where 7th Ave and Broadway Ave smash into each other in an explosion of glorious light and sound. There are billboards 7 storeys tall, millions of moving lights, bells and whistles, like being stuck in a really fun, giant pin ball machine ...with a naked cowboy walking around strumming his guitar (sorry, I've never taken his pic). After pushing your way through Times Square head to Jack’s (147 W 40th St) for a pre-show drink – where the locals hang out - or enjoy pre-theatre discounts at restaurants like Barbetta (321 W 46th St).

My tip: Before your trip, cruise the internet to find out what shows will be running while you’re there. Tickets are not more expensive online than at the door, but you might be able to find an online deal. Do your research, and if you don’t get around to doing that, just head to the box office, buy a ticket in your price range and enjoy the show! They’re worth it.


#5. Art hopping. Why NYC is called the ‘Big Apple’ and not the ‘Big Easel’ I don’t know. Art is superfluous here; in mesmerizing museums and every sort of gallery, in commissioned open-air spaces, and on building facades where it might creep wickedly. Pop in at the Modern Museum of Art where admission is free every Friday from 4:00-8:00pm – don’t stand in line, just show up at 4:10 when all of the tourists are already inside and walk on in (MoMA, 11 W 53rd St). Or amble through the most incredible Metropolitan Museum of Art, the outer stairs are a landmark in itself. Located on the Upper East Side, the Met lies halfway up Central Park on 5th Avenue. Take in the great view from the rooftop terrace – a Kodak moment unlike any other. (Met, 1000 5th Ave).


My tip: Browse Time Out magazine, online at http://www.timeout.com/newyork to see what exhibits are showing when you’re in town and then definitely take in that venue. You won't be able to visit all of the great art galleries and museums, so pick one or two based on exhibits that interest you. The location will be the bonus!


#4. Square squatting – Union, Washington, Times. The squares are NYC’s meeting points; hubs of activity, music and people watching. Influenced by their location, New York's squares are each a bit different. Washington Square is eclectic, young and hip where NYU students float through on their way to a lecture or some great party. Union Square has a garden fresh, healthy vibe going on, most likely due to the Green Market taking over on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. I will usually grab some take-out and perch on a bench at Union Square, giving my feet a much-needed rest.


#3. Neighbourhood-ing – West and East Village, Soho, Nolita, Upper West, Chelsea, Meatpacking. You won’t be able to explore them all, so pick 2 or 3 for this trip and get to know them the best you can. Each is like a town unto itself, with a unique energy. Wander the side streets, ask a local about their favourite cafĂ© or restaurant, duck into small shops and take a break in a neighbourhood park.


My tip: Loop. Take your city guide and make a plan for the day, hitting a few neighbourhoods on your must-see list, in a large loop. For example: Start your day with breakfast in the West Village, then wander over towards Soho and through Nolita (North of Little Italy), grab lunch then head north into Noho (North of Houston – pronounced Howsten). In the evening grab a cab and head uptown. New York City at night is spectacular.


#2. Soak up the free! Save your money for shopping (that’s what I do) because there is so much free entertainment in and around New York City. In the summer months there are free movies in Bryant Park and on the beach at Coney Island. On certain summer nights you’ll come across free salsa dancing at the Bandshell in Central Park (located between 66th & 72nd Streets), which I also stumbled across. What an experience, watching hundreds of ordinary couples shimmy and sway and groove to the Latin DJ tracks. They were having a blast, as was I just watching. Another treat is watching the Dance Skaters who rock ‘n roll throughout the park. The Skate Circle is just north of the Sheep Meadow and beginning in April roller skaters and bladers, young and old dance to boom boxes or their own tune – your time will fly watching the beauty of them (http://cpdsa.org).


Or if TV is more your thing, find a taping of a talk, late night or daytime show – New York has it all and the tickets are usually free. Do your research beforehand because the best shows (think SNL, Letterman or the Tonight Show) have pretty specific, jump-through-hoops kind of procedures in order to maybe land a ticket. If you persevere you’ll be right there laughing along with Fallon. (A great free guide of things to do is http://www.nycgo.com/free)


My tip: While not free, if it’s your first time in NYC then it’s so worth your money to buy a hop-on/hop-off sightseeing bus pass. You’ll drive through and hear about all of the great New York neighbourhoods (Harlem anyone?). Just jump off at any of the stops in an area you want to explore a bit more. For 24 or 48 hours you’ll save on subway and taxi fares while seeing and hearing about all of the intricacies of NYC from the audio guide on the bus. When your time runs out, hail a taxi whenever you need to get uptown or downtown quickly – it’s a hold-your-breath, hang-on-tight amusement-ride in itself, and not that expensive. Otherwise walk. It’s free.


#1. The very best thing in NYC is to people watch! Models, Wall-Streeters, dads pushing baby carriages, gym-goers, strugglers, celebrities (wherever one or two slimy guys are lurking, holding big-ass cameras, you know there’s a celeb around), artists, blue-collars, intellectuals, students, fashion designers, and plain old normal folks – Manhattan is like musli. There are a whole bunch of completely different things thrown together in a small space, resulting in a strange, interesting, some-hate-it, some-can’t-get-enough-of-it, got-to-try-it-once experience.

My #1 tip: Don’t plan too much. Allow time for just being…and be open to the magic that you just might see when you least expect it. And have fun!

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3 comments

  1. NYC rules, it's an almost perfect city. What's missing is palm trees. :) I agree, people watching is the best thing to do!

    ReplyDelete
  2. You're totally right, it is almost perfect! It could be warmer!

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  3. Although this place is probably not cheap, but they are centrally located, have fabulous staff and delicious food, and most importantly, the best views of the city. I would definitely recommend this venue for any kind of fancy events NYC – all my friends talked about throwing parties here only.

    ReplyDelete

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