Some people swear by New York and others swear at New York. Love it or hate it, this pulsating city that never sleeps consumes you with passion. Every time I visit, I fall a little more in love with this city. There’s no one way to describe New York City, it sort of lends itself differently to every person, every visit. Every neighborhood, every borough, every island is a different realm in its own right. I don’t believe anyone can do justice with a comprehensive guide so to speak, so this is just my list of favorite things to do in this city. Pick an area on the map, don’t cram your day, pick a few places and wander aimlessly with no abandon, at your own pace. It’s the best way to soak in the city.
Manhattan things to see
Walk the Highline
Climb out the chaos of NYC and into the Highline. It is a 2-mile long beautiful park built upon an abandoned railway high above the busy sidewalks. It’s dotted with a art installations, great views, amidst other things. Favorite stops include Chelsea market, once home to the National Biscuit Company and now converted into a food market and the Hudson river pier at the end. Check this for a complete guide.
Stroll through Central Park
A giant urban oasis in the middle of the city, I have loved walking through Central Park in every season. Kayaking in the lake, climbing Belvedere castle, visiting the Central Park zoo, biking through Strawberry fields, picnicking with my mom, it never gets old.
The concrete jungle from above
Concrete jungle where dreams made of, indeed. The view from above is quite stunning. Empire State Building, Top of the Rock and One World Trade Center (the Freedom Tower) are some of the best places to drink the view and the history of this metropolis.
Cross the bridges
Brooklyn Bridge gets all the love but there are actually three bridges spanning the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Manhattan, Williamsburg Bridge, and Brooklyn bridge. I especially love walk across these bridges at sunset and sunrise.
Prepare for O.W.L.s at the Rose reading room at NYPL
Bibliophile or not, the Rose Reading Room at New York Public library is a gorgeous place to read or as friend Martin said, prepare for a wizarding exam. It opened in 1911, spans the length of two blocks over holds about 52,000 books. Stunning!
ChinaTown, Lower East Side
I stayed in Chinatown in the Lower East Side for a month and it felt like I had landed in China. People spoke very little English, they practiced Taichi in the gardens in the morning, the shops were adorned with paper lanterns and they sold Chinese produce and food, and the gardens had rolling dominos. It is fascinating stepping into this land with in a land.
Float above NYC in the Roosevelt Island Tram
Nothing can beat the experience of floating above NYC in a tram and it only costs you a Subway Metrocard swipe. I simply can’t recommend the tram ride and walking around Roosevelt Island to the lighthouse and back. Best thing you’ll do in NYC for 2.75$.
Comedy Cellar and salty grub at MacDougal Street
Right in the heart of Greenwich Village, MacDougal Street is a gem. Laughter from the comedy clubs always drifts into the street and it’s hard to find a better place for salty munchies. Catch stand-up at Comedy Cellar and grab a bite at Kati Roll Company, Goa Taco, Pommes Frites, and Panzerotti both during the day and for late-night munchies.
Watch a live-audience show
SNL, The Daily Show, GMA, are all shot in NYC and the best part: you can be on the show for FREE. Go online to their websites and grab your tickets. Just make sure to do it in advance 😉
Drink the view at a rooftop bar
Go to a speakeasy
For the allure of a hidden bar and great cocktails, I love a good Prohibition-style speak-easy bar. We had the most fun time trying to locate Bathtub Gin with my SIL, and I would highly scouting the city for a good speak-easy.
I have already waxed poetic about MacDougal Street. Here’s some photos to convince you to go.
Explore Chelsea Food Market
Matcha goodness at Matcha Gracias
Knishes at the Original Yonah Schimmel
Best noods-in-town at Xian Noodles
Get your caffeine-fix at Culture-Espresso
There’s nothing I like more than to ensconce myself in a corner with a good cup of coffee and watch the world go by. NYC has a ton of great coffee suggestions, find one at my friend Tanmaye’s list or here.
Brooklyn: things to see
Soak in the views at Brooklyn Bridge Park
A once-barren stretch of shoreline, this beautifully landscaped park was once a series of abandoned piers. Go here for some jaw-dropping views of Manhattan.
Brooklyn Botanical Garden
Having being raised by a crazy-plant-lady, I’m always seeking blooms and gardens anywhere I go. Tulips, magnolias, or cherry blossoms, Brooklyn Botanical Garden is lovely any time of the year.
Free walking-tour of Bushwick Art Collection
Joseph Ficalora, a Bushwick native channeled his grief of growing up in a crime-ridden neighborhood by transforming the neighborhood and the walls of Bushwick into street art haven. He successfully procured legal permits needed to legally display hundreds of local, national and international artist’s work and it’s simply stunning. Sign up for the free walking tour here.
Brooklyn: eats & drinks
Rooftop vineyard at Rooftop Reds (WHAT now?!)
Only in Brooklyn can you find a rooftop with sweeping skyline views, a thriving vineyard, hammocks to lounge in with a glass of delicious rosé and slice of delicious Neapolitan pizza. When you punch in the address, Google Maps will tell you that you’ve reached Rooftop Reds, but you’ll look around the Brooklyn Navy Yard and find nothing but warehouses and construction sites. Look for building #275 and then climb the stairs to this unique rooftop.
Once a small and laid-back food market, people flock to Smorgasburg, for their curated choice of food vendors, where can you find anything from gourmet burgers made from fried ramen noodle buns to Cantonese noodles. It’s a hipster-food haven, vintage-goods market, a summer-time picnic spot, and an outdoor-movie all rolled into one.
The world hangriest’s line at DiFara pizza
They don’t call this the world’s hangriest line for the nothing. You can spend hours waiting in line by the street-side window at this simple-looking corner pizza shop, as an 80-year old grandpa, Italian immigrant and longtime Brooklynite rolls painstakingly rolls out the dough, layers a piquant tomato sauce and olive oil, cuts basil leaves, all ever so slowly and ever so delicately, while your stomach grumbles and you utter every expletive that comes to your mind.
The end product? Worth every painful second.
Sink into a cheese boat: Khachapuri
First time I ever tried a Khachapuri was in Brooklyn- it sounds rather Indian but it’s actually Georgian. The country, not the state. The dough is packed with cheese, baked to gooey perfection and served with generous dollop of butter and a runny egg. 💦Legend has it has that Georgian wives and moms used to bake this boat-shaped bread for their sailor-family after they returned from sailing trips on the BlackSea, fishing and fighting pirates and monsters and all that. 10/10 recommend going here if you can’t go to Georgia.
There are a lot more places to see and explore in NYC, I have many yet layers to peel and unravel. These are some of my recommendations. Hope this guide helps you scratch the surface 😉