New York City is where dreams come true and where moments are fleeting. New York City is where I first fell in love with John. New York City is where I cry every time I hear the opening number of a Broadway show. New York City is and will always be my favorite city. Because every time I go there I find something new. Because everyone has their version of the "best" places to go. And because it is where anyone can feel empowered and free.
Now, this guide to Manhattan may not be what you are expecting. I'm not going to tell you that if you go to Times Square, you're just another tourist. Although I avoid it like the plague when I visit the city, I think it's a place everyone should experience at least once. People from all over the world go there to see what it's all about, and for a lot of them, it's what they think America is. Go there with an open mind and know that there are going to be millions of people and there's nothing you can do to avoid it. Go there for a couple of hours and then get straight outta dodge!
Now that that's out of the way, buckle up because as Julie Andrews says.... "These are a few of my favorite things...."
[in no particular order]
High Line Park
The High Line is an elevated park that runs from the Meatpacking district and through Chelsea on the lower west side of Manhattan. It used to be home to the New York Central railroad, but was converted into a linear park just a few years ago. The landscaping here is crazy awesome for a city and it has great views uptown. One time, with my best friend Molly, I saw Justin Long sitting on a bench in the High Line. I was too chicken to say hi and I regret it to this day.
This indoor shopping and dining center is one of the places I go every time I'm in Manhattan. It's located on the Lower West Side right near the High Line. The best part about it is the Chelsea Art Market where local artists and vendors set up shop and sell the coolest handcrafted pieces. From paintings on maps to handmade jewelry, this is the best place to get a feel for all of the up and coming urban artists.
The Whitney Art Museum
This art museum features mostly American Art from the 20th and 21st centuries. When I was there last (pre-2014), it was located on the Upper East Side, but I just moved to the Meatpacking District on the Lower West Side. The new building looks amazing and I can't wait to go back! You could easily spend a rainy afternoon here and have a great time.
Flat Iron Building/Washington Square Park
The Flat Iron is so iconic that I won't allow you to miss it while you're in the city. It's so beautiful and photogenic and right across the street is the gorgeous Washington Square Park. When I was there in May with Molly, there was a sculptor installing a new piece, so if anyone goes anytime soon, take a picture and let me know how it turned out! Also, there's always some kind of live music in the park that is fun to stop and listen to.
Rockefeller Center vs. Empire State Building
Here is where we get differing opinions. Up until last May, I told everyone that going to the top of the Empire State Building was a must-do while in Manhattan. The views are amazing, the building itself is architectural genius, and it's a major part of the Manhattan Skyline. So many movies and tv shows have been filmed there, so why am I now not recommending it? Well, in May, I finally got to the "Top of the Rock" and I was blown away. I have been to NYC so many times and I had never been up there, but trust me, now that I have, my eyes have been open. Now, if you have the money to do both the ESB and RC, do both. But if you only have $40 to spend on one -- GO TO THE ROCKEFELLER CENTER and thank me later. It'll be the best view of NYC you can find.
Duh. Do I even have to explain this one? No. I'm not going to. Just go. Wander. Explore.
Oh, Broadway... You complete me. Even if you have no interest in musicals, go see a Broadway show. There is nothing in this world that compares and there are so many different shows to choose from. I bet you $100 you'll find one you like. So, the best way to get tickets on weekdays? Pick a show you want to see and find out when their lottery is. Usually they have a few lotteries -- one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one right before the show. This differs from show to show, but most days there are lotteries. You will have to wait in line, but trust me, it's worth it. I once got tickets for Pippin the morning of for $15. And they were dang good seats. If you're in the city during the week, go to a show Monday-Thursday. If you only have the weekend, the lottery may not work out, so getting tickets ahead of time may be a better option. But, if you're willing to test your luck, the lottery option is still available on the weekends.
FOOD: THE MOST IMPORTANT
Yes, they are famous for their frozen hot chocolate, but SKIP IT (what?!) and order a "Can't Say No" Sundae. You're welcome.
Also, duh. The best burgers, crinkle fries, and obviously the best shakes. The original Shake Shack is in Madison Square Park, but there are locations all over the city. Pick a shack, any shack!
Donna Bella Pizza
This corner pizza shop is located in Tribeca and is a few blocks North of the 9/11 Memorial. It is the best NY pizza you will ever eat. Cheap, just enough grease, and open late -- what more could you ask for? My brother and I stumbled upon this place when we were in the city one time and starved late at night. It's also right around the corner from one of Manhattan's fire departments so you can sit and chat with some pretty cool firemen. You may even meet one who was around during the 9/11 attacks.
Don's Bogam BBQ
Right in the heart of Korea Town, this Korean BBQ restaurant is top notch. As soon as you walk in you feel like you're in a different world. There are some regular sit-down tables, but most of the tables are close to the ground so you kneel down while eating. You may not be able to understand your server, but anything they suggest will be good. John and I love the Marinated Beef Platter. They bring you all of your meat and side dishes and you get to cook it all on your table! It's definitely an experience, but keep in mind it is a little pricey.
Jack's Wife Freda
This delicious Mediterranean restaurant is as delicious as it is adorable. It is a recent addition to my favorites list after I was introduced to it by my bff Molly. We went to the location on Lafayette in SoHo, but they also have a location on Carmin St. in the West Village. If you decide to go to either one, be prepared for a line, because this place is popular and pretty tiny. I ordered the Poached Eggs with Grilled Tomato and Haloumi and it was one of the best brunches I have ever had. I would recommend going for breakfast/brunch, but they have a ton of great lunch/dinner options as well if you get there a little later.
Another addition to my list thanks to Molly, this is a restaurant/bar on the corner of Hudson and W 10th St. in SoHo. It is a rodeo-themed joint and doesn't look like much on the outside, but you won't regret experiencing this place. The food here is Southwestern comfort and I hear they have great margaritas. The best part, though, is the dessert (can you expect anything less from me?). Order the baked potato for dessert.. that's right, a baked potato. Pictured above on the green checkered table cloth, the baked potato is ice cream formed into a potato shape, covered in cocoa powder, drizzled with chocolate sauce, and topped with pistachios (chives), whipped cream (sour cream), and banana (butter). It's definitely a shareable dessert, so order one for the table!
TRANSPORTATION: USE THE SUBWAY
Yes, public transportation is scary if you've never experienced before. But, I promise, YOU CAN DO IT. I've visited a few mass transport systems in my life, and NYC is definitely the most difficult. But, if my navigationally challenged brain can handle it, so can you. Here are two things to remember...
1. Uptown vs. Downtown -- Pay attention to what side of the street you are on. In most cases, one side of the street goes uptown and the other side of the street goes downtown, and you can't get to the opposite side underground, take note.
2. Express Trains -- Some trains are express trains, which means they don't stop at every stop. They skip stops, and if you get on one, you'll probably end up somewhere you don't want to be. So, again, pay attention to the train you are getting on.
3. If you are flying into JFK, take the express train into the city.
4. If you are flying into LaGuardia, take the bus.
5. If you are flying into Newark, take the NJ Transit to Penn Station ($5 each way).
That's all for now, but I'm sure I'll think of more things to tell you all about... WELCOME TO NEW YORK.