Your wanderlust has kicked in and you want to experience that magical mystery that is New York City… well here’s my advice: just do it! And yes, I know I sound like a Nike ad, but in all seriousness, there is never a time I would not suggest going to New York.
To me, New York is always a good idea. While I am not an expert on all things New York, I can say I have been there in the past five times in the past two years, and have explored much of what the gorgeous concrete jungle has to offer.
Your New York Starter’s Guide:
NYC is made up of 5 boroughs: The Bronx (home of the Yankees and J.Lo), Staten Island (a short ferry ride away from Manhattan), Queens (where the nanny named Fran was from), Brooklyn (home to the infamous Brighton Beach and some good food), and Manhattan (you know, the island that is home to the Empire State Building and Central Park). All are very accessible by public transportation (the subway goes to all of the boroughs except for Staten Island).
While planning a trip to NYC, most people spend majority of their time on Manhattan. And it’s expected… The island is just 13.4 miles long and 2.3 miles wide. (Walking from one side to other doesn’t take long, trust me, I’ve done it).
So here’s a not-so-quick breakdown of the neighborhoods featured on the map to the left (from top to bottom):
Everything north of Central Park is more or less Harlem. Unfortunately many tourists fear this area, but it is not as dangerous as it once was. Harlem is home to beautiful historic buildings (like the Dakota where John Lennon lived and was killed), churches (St. Patrick’s Cathedral), and is also home to Columbia University. If this part of the city interests you I recommend exploring during the day, or taking a Greyline New York Sightseeing Double-Decker tour. The uptown loop takes you to this area.
The upper east and west sides are mainly residential, however they feature beautiful real estate and quaint little boutiques. Near here is Columbus Circle, the busiest intersection of Manhattan. Not cool enough for you? This is also the point to which all distances from NYC are measured.
Central Park stretches across 770 acres of Manhattan. During my March 2014 trip I tried to walk my way around the entire park, I made it about halfway and was exhausted… However exploring the park is highly recommended. Visit the rocks that you can climb and overlook a portion of the pond, visit the zoo (although I have never done this) and people watch… the best part about Central Park is the people watching.
Midtown is home to many tourists attractions, mainly Time’s Square and Broadway. Time’s Square is a crowd of people during the day, but a visit at night is a totally different experience. As you walk closer to the center from surrounding streets, you be mesmerized by the feeling of time travel back into daylight. Time’s Square is home to one of New York’s useful attractions: the TKTS booth (there are actually three in all of NYC and this is the most popular). This booth offers same-day discounted tickets to Broadway and Off Broadway productions at up to 50% off. Midtown also is home to Rockerfeller Plaza: where SNL, the Today Show, and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon is filled. Tourists also love to visit the Top of Rock Observatory (I’d suggest a cool rooftop bar instead!) The world’s largest Macy’s and the Empire State Building are both located in this area, as well, and are located within a block of each other.
I haven’t had much chance to explore Murray Hill and the Garment District, however on my trek across Manhattan I have walked through many times and love to look at the unique design of the Parson’s New School of Design.
Chelsea is a very cool, young neighborhood. Highly recommended is the Chelsea Market, an indoor market of small stores, a flea market type set up for artists, and a great wine shop with a large selection.
Also near Chelsea and not pictured on this map is the Meatpacking District (home of the High Line).The High Line is an elevated park thirty feet above street level located . This unique, hidden attraction is built into an old railroad line, overlooking the Hudson River and features a beautiful view of Hoboken New Jersey. (I’ve actually never been on the [to the?] high line, but it #1 on my to-do list!) The Meatpacking District is also home to many great restaurants by famous chefs, hip bars, and some of the coolest nightclubs in all of Manhattan.
A little bit to the south east is Chinatown, SoHo, and Little Italy… food, shopping, people watching. All can be done here. Chinatown is great for souvenirs: you can bargain down prices and even if you don’t they are cheaper than at Times Square or by the Empire State Building. SoHo is great for higher end shopping, but if you’re looking for a bargain don’t get turned off. These stores are home to some great sales.
Travel a bit further South down the island and you’ll run into the area where Wall Street is located. Let’s just call this the Financial District, because that is it’s official name. But in between the men in suits (there’s some cute ones, ladies!) and all of the hustle and bustle, you can find the beautiful 9/11 memorial ponds and the 9/11 Museum. Take two hours out of your day and go. The museum is like nothing I have ever seen in my life.
Many tourists come to New York in hopes of visiting the Statue of Liberty. Others hope to just see it. If you can forego the trip to Ellis Island and the actual Statue, visit Battery Park at the southernmost tip of the island and hop on the Staten Island Ferry. A free 30-minute one-way ride will take you past the island and statue. Don’t want to hang out on Staten Island? Then hop right on the next ferry and come back to Manhattan. Within an hour you have visited another borough and seen the Statue of Liberty… all for free.
I could probably write a post just as long on food in Manhattan, but I’m afraid I’d get too big of an apple-craving (see what I did there?) and book my next trip big to the Big Apple.
The 4 Other Boroughs
Manhattan is home to most of New York’s most famous attractions, but I suggest you don’t ignore the other boroughs. Seriously… don’t ignore them!
Queens is home to the Flushing Meadows Corona Park,a beautiful landscape of grassy areas and home to the Unisphere which was built for the World’s fair. (Men in Black fans: the park served as a scene in the original movie!) Queens is also home to Astoria, a culinary heaven for the foodie in all of us. You’ll probably pass through Queens without even knowing it… 2 of NYC’s major airports (Laguardia and JFK) are nestled in this lovely borough.
Just a 20-minute walk across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan is (you guessed it!) Brooklyn! The park by the bridge features a famous ice cream shop, and delicious pizza at Grimaldi’s! Brave the line… it’s worth it. Weekends throughout the summer feature a delicious artisan food festival, Smorgasburg, in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. You can also get to Brooklyn via two other bridges, the Manhattan and the Williamsburg… and if you are confused on which one you are on, from South to North the bridges spell out BMW.
Most of the time I hear about Staten Island, its because some New Yorker is making a joke about it. The people who live on Staten Island are either Italian or they hate it there…. No, I’m kidding. Staten Island is the suburbia of NYC. I got to spend five days on Staten Island and was fond of the easily accessible beaches and suburban feel. The diners are adorable and straight out of your favorite 90s movie/sitcom. My favorite part about the island is mentioned above (the free ferry that takes you to and from Manhattan).
Last, but not least, is….The Bronx! Home of the Yankees… and Miss Jenny from the Block (J.Lo). Hop on a 6 train and head up to the original home of Hip-Hop. I’m sure the Bronx is full of beautiful places and people, I just have never had a chance to explore it.
For any additional questions on NYC, please do not hesitate to contact me.