New York City is a known as the “city that never sleeps” and once you arrive it’s pretty clear how accurate that cliché actually is. This is a city that is known for being filled to the brim with so many people but also with culture, art, food, and excitement. If there’s one thing that can be said about the ‘Big Apple’ it’s that it’s quite far from boring. With so much to do, even a resident like me still finds hidden treasures all the time. You truly never know what kind of wonder will be around the corner. It’s not unheard of to stumble on an amazing musician playing on the subway platform, a surprisingly talented open mic night at a coffee shop, a pop up market in one of the many parks, a flash mob or dance routine, a celebrity walking the neighborhood, or even just an exquisite street artist. A city like this requires multiple visits to truly comprehend but if you are limited to just a long weekend, there are definitely some must see things to put on your list!
Attend a Play or Musical Concert
With so many theaters and artists congregating within this city, it only makes sense to take a visit to Broadway for a musical or play. If you go to the TKTS ticket stand in Times Square, the South Street Seaport, or Downtown Brooklyn, you can generally find rush or stand by tickets for cheap as long as you have an open mind about which play to see. The talent is unreal so no matter what play you get tickets for, it will be a truly marvelous experience. Another option would be to check Lincoln Center’s calendar of events because there is always a ballet, musical concert, orchestra performance, or play going on. If nothing else, a trip to see the architecture and area around Lincoln Center is worth a trip. Those are the two most iconic options but there are always off-Broadway shows, small scale or college theaters, and concert venue events going on. It truly is a city teeming with artistic talent and inspiration. You will never be left wanting.
See a Comedy Show
If comedy is more your style, go see a show at the UCB Theater in Chelsea. There are always improv shows or stand up events happening at a super low cost. Comedy Cellar and Gotham Comedy Club are other options to explore. Or if you are into a more unique excursion, head over to a Drunk Shakespeare show in the theater district. They put on a shortened version of Shakespearean plays with the added bonus that one cast member is drunk. It makes for an outrageously fun night.
Visit a Museum
The options are endless depending on your interest. There is the Museum of Modern Art for modern arts lovers or the Met for those with more classical preferences. Architecture lovers should be sure to visit The Skyscraper Museum. The Museum of Natural History is perfect for those with interests in science. There’s also the Guggenheim, Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Whitney, the Intrepid, and so many more!
Travel “Around the World” on a Food Adventure
Besides theater, New York is a food haven. There is no shortage of available options no matter your cuisine preference. Visit Roberta’s, Luzzo’s or Julianna’s for a higher end, thin-crust pizza experience. For classic New York Style pizza, visit Sal & Carmine’s or Joe’s Pizza-- or honestly, just any pizzeria you pass that looks inviting. Generally, it won’t disappoint. Same holds true for bagels. The popular spots are Absolute Bagels, Best Bagel, Tompkins Square Bagel, or Ess-a-Bagel. But you can easily find a high quality bagel by just stopping at one of the many street carts you pass in the morning. If you have time to spare, head to Astoria in Queens for authentic Greek food at Taverna Kylclades or Telly’s Taverna. Other hotspots would be Veselka for perogies, Tacombi for tacos, Blue Hill for true farm-to-table, Jongro BBQ for Korean BBQ, Black Tap Burgers for burgers and over-the-top milkshakes, Dominque Ansel for cronuts and other amazing pastries, Tamarind for Indian Food, Vanessa’s Dumplings for dumplings, and Parisi Bakery for great Italian sandwiches! The list can keep going on and on but if you are pressed for time I would head over to the Vanderbilt indoor food hall (at Grand Central) for a wide selection of food vendors. This is especially great if you have a large group with you because it will be easy to please all possible cravings or limitations. In the summer months, a trip Smorgasburg or LIC Flea Market is essential for any foodie adventure.
Visit One or More City Parks
The most iconic and essential, of course, would be Central Park. Its size and splendor is truly a sight to see. I have visited it multiple times and I still discover something new each time. My recommendation would be to just head up to Columbus Circle and start wandering up from there. Highlights to work into your urban hike would be The Pond, The Lake, The Ramble, Bethesda Fountain and Terrace, Strawberry Fields (John Lennon Memorial), Bow Bridge, and Belvedere Castle. A great way to end the hike would be to enjoy a picnic or people watching session at Sheep’s Meadow. Bryant Park is also a beautiful option if you need an escape from the hastiness of midtown. If downtown, Battery Park offers a lot such as boat tours, a SeaGlass Carousel and beer garden. If headed uptown, Fort Tyron Park is truly remarkable and offers natural relief from city life. Visit the Cloisters and take a hike through the trails. If headed to Brooklyn, the Dumbo and Brooklyn Bridge Park area is great with perfect city views. Grab an ice cream cone at Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory and take it all in! In the summer, keep an eye out for free events in all parks throughout the city- it is common for free concerts, workout classes, dance parties, and festivals to be going on any given day.
Take a Boat Ride in the Summer or Climb a Skyscraper in the Winter
Those on a budget should take a trip on the Staten Island Ferry which offers a free boat trip with spectacular views of Manhattan from downtown. If you want to avoid the trek to Staten Island, for a small fee, you can take the boat ride to Governor’s Island and rent bikes to explore the island. Further uptown by the Hudson River on the west side, there is the North River Lobster Company. It is free to board and ride with the added bonus of tasty seafood and drink options to buy for an amazing lunch or dinner ride. This might be the best option if you also want to check out the Highline. It is close enough to just walk down a few blocks from the pier to enter! If it’s not quite as warm during your visit, climb to the Top of the Rock and take in a totally new perspective of the city. It’s cheaper and less crowded than the popular climb to the top of the Empire State Building with the added bonus of actually being able to see the Empire Building in your sky line views!
With all that in mind, New York can absolutely be a ‘choose your own story’ depending on your interests or goals. This is just one short list but the possibilities truly are infinite. The best way to get to know this bustling, hectic, delightful city is to just get out and explore. The architecture, shops, foods, and cultures can shift right before your eyes. Just keep an open mind and heart and let this city take you on a whirlwind journey!