I’ve been meaning to put together a list of my favorite New York things to do for a while, and it seems like this, my last day as a resident of New York, seems like a good occasion for doing so. I’m mostly recording them for my own interest, and so if anybody ever asks me what they should do in New York, I can just point them here.
This assumes that all the normal tourist things have been done, like going to Broadway shows, visiting the standard museums (the Met, MOMA, the Whitney, the Guggenheim, not to mention the Museum of Natural History), visiting Central Park, walking around different New York neighborhoods, etc.
New York experiences
- Brooklyn Bridge – My favorite New York experience to recommend is to take the subway downtown, and then walk across the Brooklyn Bridge – I just feel the bridge is iconic, it provides great views of New York, and it’s a nice walk to boot. Plus, you can end the walk by ducking under the bridge to have pizza at Grimaldi’s.
- Ice Skating at Central Park – I only did this a couple times, but wish I had done it more. The experience of zipping around the rink with the New York skyline rising past the surrounding trees is breathtaking. Ice skating at Rockefeller Center or Bryant Park are other possibilities but those are more crowded.
- Staten Island Ferry (or really any excuse to be in a boat in the harbor) – New York is great to see from the water. The Staten Island Ferry is free and goes right by the Statue of Liberty, so it’s the easiest option, but I’ve been sailing a couple times, and went to a party out on the Manhattan Sailing Club’s barge once, as well as my Staten Island Ferry experience.
- Riding my bike – New York is surprisingly bike-friendly (despite the stupid crackdowns on Critical Mass), with lots of bike lanes and paths. I regularly enjoyed the ride up and down the Hudson River, taking the bike path from my place all the way to the north or south tip of Manhattan.
- East Village – I just love the feel of the East Village. It’s where I stayed during my three week vacation in New York in 2005, and things are _always_ happening there at any time of day or night. If I ever need to suggest an activity for friends, wandering around the East Village is always a possibility.
- Philharmonic in the Park – a picnic in Central Park with friends, followed by a concert of audience-friendly classics performed by the New York Philharmonic, followed by fireworks. What’s not to like?
- The Frick Collection – I visited the Frick again this week, for the first time since 2001. I had wondered if I would still find it as amazing as I did then, and I did. Frick custom-built this house to display his world-class art collection, and it’s just fantastic. The house is gorgeous, I spent as much time looking at the furniture as the art, and, oh yeah, the art is great too. For instance, there are around 30 known Vermeers in the world – the Frick collection has three. The Frick is lesser known than the big museums, but I think the experience is better in many ways, as one can experience the whole museum in a couple hours and enjoy the experience rather than being overwhelmed.
- Sports events – Obviously, I enjoyed the US Open this week. I’ve also gone to a couple Yankees games and the AVP Brooklyn Open. Never took in a basketball or hockey game at Madison Square Garden, which is a shame. Or made it to a football game, or watched the New York marathon. I’ll have to do those at some point.
- s’Mac – A restaurant which serves only variations on the theme of macaroni and cheese. I read that the owners were at Peanut Butter and Co and trying to determine what other types of food could support a single-food restaurant and came up with mac’n’cheese. It’s a pure burst of joy for me: every variation is yummy (I once had Thanksgiving mac’n’cheese with turkey and cranberry sauce), the decor is bright orange and yellow, and the location is a great place to start any East Village adventure.
- Burger Joint – In addition to having one of the tastiest burgers in Manhattan, this place particularly endears itself to me for its context switch. You walk into the lobby of the luxury Park Meridien hotel with 30 foot ceilings, mirrors and chandeliers, spy a small neon representation of a hamburger down a dark corridor next to the check-in desk, duck through curtains at the end of the corridor, and walk into a different world: a fake-wood-panelled dive joint with three guys making burgers over a grill. Alas, it’s too popular now, and regularly has 20 minute waits, but I still generally go when I’m up in the area.
- Pegu Club – Amazing hand-crafted cocktails, interesting decor and ambience, comfortable seating, and quiet enough to talk easily with friends (rare in New York). It’s expensive ($12 cocktails, and small plates for a similar price), but I love going there as a special occasion to spend time drinking and talking with close friends . Admittedly, I haven’t been to the other top cocktail bars in New York, other than Little Branch, but as of now, it’s my favorite bar in New York.
- Hallo Berlin – a Hell’s Kitchen beer garden with sausages and beer. I really liked it for hosting large gatherings of people (as I was introduced to it), but I’ve had a couple reports of bad service recently from friends, so it may have gone downhill.
- Ward-Nasse Gallery – an artist-owned collective. The exhibitions change monthly, but mostly I recommend it as a place where reasonably priced art can be found on a regular basis. Both pieces of art I own were bought here (see one here).
- HousingWorks bookstore – I just love this bookstore, both the space with its gorgeous sweeping staircases and comfortable chairs, and the general vibe, as it’s more personal than a place like the Strand. Plus I’m a sucker for the proposition of buying books for charity. I only gave away a bag’s worth of books before moving, but they went to HousingWorks. And I managed to restrain myself to only buying one book while there!
Things I wish I had done but will have to do on a future visit
- Shake Shack – Iconic burger place in Madison Square Park. The line is always ridiculous, but I wish I’d waited it out once just to see. It’s also a great place for mixing with the digerati – somebody even set up a Twitter channel to arrange meetups there.
- Dia:Beacon – an outdoor gallery an hour north of New York, which apparently has a great collection of big contemporary art pieces that can only be displayed in outdoor settings or large spaces.
- Visit Philadelphia – I’ve never visited Philadelphia as an adult. It’s only a two hour bus ride from New York, and somehow I never managed to squeeze in a day trip or weekend trip there.
- See more live music – I’m not that much of a music buff, but it does seem like a shame for me to have lived in New York and not taken more advantage of the fact that there are dozens of places to see great live music every single night.
And…that’s a wrap for my New York experience. To my New York friends, it’s been a pleasure, and I hope to see you on future visits. To my California friends, see you soon.