New Year, New York. Sometimes I feel it’s a little futile to write a guide of New York. Obviously there’s a lot to do, see and eat, that you couldn’t possibly cover everything in 3 days or 3 weeks or even 3 years. The magic of New York is that I find something new every time I’m there, often by just wandering around aimlessly. It’s the easiest city in the world to do that, you can meander for hours and be entertained by just that simple action. That’s why I love it so, there’s so much to take in, it keeps the flight of ideas going.
Here are my must sees when I’m in New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made.
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I’ve stayed in a lot of different places over the years when in NY, but typically I like to keep localized around the Murray Hill area. It’s more residential, it’s slightly less touristy, or so I’d like to tell myself. I mainly like it because it’s close to the Upper East Side, which makes it convenient to get to the Met and the MOMA. I always try to visit one of these museums when I’m in town. Two of the best in the world, IMO.
Although, a must is a madeleine at Balthazar. Brunch is good too, but I usually land too late for that. I’m a creature of habit and I love to devour the spongy not too sweet cakes still warm from the oven as I walk around SoHo. Honestly, I love everything about the experience, from stepping off the subway at Spring Street to smelling the buttery aroma of baked sugar when I open the door and step inside. It’s imbedded in the DNA of my NY story.
Yes, you could go to Dominique Ansel a few blocks away as well, as they have madeleines, and kouign amann and cronuts, but good luck if you’re trying to get one of those (lines start hours before opening at 8 AM). I have so little time in the city that I can’t squander it on a line, although I’m sure his pastries are divine.
I’d admit, I shop a lot when I’m in New York, I’m a browser and I will walk along all the streets admiring all the wares until I reach NYU. That’s how I know it’s time for a snack. Just a block away from Washington Square Park, Pomme Frites is a shop that sells Belgian fries. Thick cut, served in paper cones with an assortment of aiolis and sauces. It’s tres magnifique. And it’s the perfect vessel to eat on the way to Washington Square Park, which is one of my favorite places to people watch.
From here I’ll head up to Broadway and 12th to the Strand. This is the bookstore of all bookstores. Stacks and stacks of books, a bibliophile’s dream. I could spend hours here, and if it weren’t already dinnertime, I would.
You are going to have to practice some serious restraint because as you walk back south (you’ve basically made a loop today), you’re going to pass an incredible number of restaurants that serve delectable baos. Baohaus, Momofoku, the Bao—just imagine the sheer amount of pork belly that’s being consumed at these restaurants. For sure this is a great option for happy hour, but I promise, we’ll get to more Asian food.
Be sure you take in the architecture all around you. There’s no place like New York, and the building makes you feel so small. From One World Trade Center to the Empire State building, there’s observatories all over the city. My absolute favorite building is the Chrysler building for its art deco style (another reason I like staying in Murray Hill).
It’s gorgeous at night too, especially if this Empire State building is lit up for the holidays. Who knows maybe you’ll meet Tom Hanks at the top?
You’ve probably built up an appetite, so tonight, mambo italiano.
One of my favorite restaurants of all time is Frank on the lower east side. I love me a rustic, peasant Italian meal, and if you squeeze me in so closely to the stranger dining next to me that I am practically eating off their plate, I somehow like the coziness even more. It’s a place that is buzzing, it’s electric, and it’s very New York. Their squid ink pasta is one of my all time favorite dishes, but plan accordingly, for it’s cash only!
Eataly is an affordable, warm meal close to Herald Square (perfect if you’re catching something at Madison Square Garden). And while you’re around, make sure you see the Flatiron Building.
Catch a show at Webster Hall or Upright Citizens Brigade East as these venues are close by. New York is the city that never sleeps, and while you’re visiting, you should take that to heart. Or just meander around. The city never sleeps, and that’s the best thing about it, you don’t need a ton of money, just be alert and let the city dazzle your senses.
Especially this time of year, the city gets gussied up, from the displays along Madison and Fifth. To the Radio City Music Hall and its Rockettes.
I love walking in Chinatown in the early morning. First of all, I like to stand at the corner of Canal and Bowery, Lumineers style and take in the Manhattan Bridge view. I like to watch the shop keepers open up the seafood markets, washing down their sidewalks and the elderly people doing Tai Chi in the parks. It’s peaceful and quiet, and it’s the best way to get a jump start on dim sum.
There are lots of opinions on dim sum, but I like Hop Shing. The reason is, it’s quick, easy and cheap. Have I had better? Sure, I’m from the West Coast, where I personally think the dim sum is more inspired. If I want fried pork buns, turnip cake or har gow, I want it now. I don’t want want to wait in line for hours for Tim Ho Wan. I might as well go to Hong Kong.
Plus this is basically a pre-breakfast for me anyway, because in a little bit, I’m going to cross Delancey like Cher and head to Katz’s Deli. I’ll have what she’s having, which is usually lox and bagel, and a Reuben to go. Yes, I am that person with the sandwich in her bag on the subway.
Be sure to take the subway everywhere when you’re in NY. Ride up to Midtown, where you can do a lot of damage to your wallet shopping. I like to eat my sandwich (sufficiently having mushed the flavors together on the ride) at Bryant Park before I head to the NY Public Library. I’ll usually just visit the grand reading room, just to feel the enormity of the room. It’s beautiful.
I will then make my trek to the Met, stopping through Central Park. Alice in Wonderland and Hans Christian Andersen statues are two notable points where you will see tons of kids and their nannies/mothers camped out.
What is there to say about the Met? You could spend a month there, and it probably still wouldn’t be enough.
If you chose the MOMA to visit, you have a huge advantage and that is the Modern, the impeccable restaurant that overlooks the sculpture garden. The Bar room allows you to chose a la carte items, while the Modern is prix-fixe. It is not cheap, but it is worth its 2 Michelin stars.
You have to catch a Broadway show while you’re in town. At least once in your life, even if you aren’t into theater, it’s a really great experience to see the work these live performers put in night after night. You can get affordable last minute tickets at the tkts.com area where the grandstand of benches are located in the middle of Times Square. This is the only time you should go to Times Square. After the show, you can go to Papaya King and give yourself heartburn for the rest of the night! It’s the best.
Chelsea is where I like to go on my last day in town, although I haven’t really quite recovered from Pastis closing a few years ago. I hear Bubby’s is nice for American fare, and if you want to spend an arm and a leg, you can always go to the Standard Hotel.
Or maybe you want to hang out with the young professionals on the Upper West Side. Make sure you catch a glimpse (or if you’re lucky, a matinee) at the Lincoln Center.
Or you can visit Hoda and Savannah at 30 Rock, and grab a banana pudding or hummingbird cake at Magnolia Bakery. If it’s winter, check out the Rockefeller Tree and the ice rink.
There’s so much to see and do, that short visits always feel rushed, like a New York minute (everything can change), so do yourself a favor and start planning your next trip.