New York is perhaps the greatest city in the world. It has something to offer to everyone, regardless of where you come from and what you like. Truly the land of opportunities, dreams, love, skyscrapers, great food, great cinema, great art… you name it. So when someone asks what should one do in New York, my first answer is, “live there”. At least for a year or so. The city has so much to offer, it will take a long long time to get to know it well.
We weren’t so lucky to spend so much time in NYC. We only had a few days each on a couple of trips. But it has definitely made us want to go back for more.
For starters you need to stay in the thick of New York so you waste minimum time commuting to the city. We had found a great stay once at Hotel Hudson on the W58th Street, a small walk from Central Park and Columbus Square. Another time we stayed at the Four Points By Sheraton, in the heart of the Financial District, Manhattan. We loved both the stays. One of the benefits of staying right in the middle of the city is you get to walk more. Nothing makes you experience a place like walking through it.
New York, with its vibrant life, fantastic architecture and many cafes and galleries is best explored on foot. You fancy a cafe, sit down for a coffee. Like a gallery, enter to see what’s exhibiting. Or just keep walking looking at all those gorgeous buildings.
Visiting Museums should also be on top of your list. And do keep a large chunk of your day for the museum as it does take time. Almost all museums have a fantastic cafe inside so don’t worry about getting hungry. Some kind soul has created this list of free museum days in NYC. A lot of the museums are free, in the sense they expect you to pay what you can, much like a donation. They will not stop you for not buying a ticket, but since running a museum is expensive we always pay what we can. We did have time for only three museums. The American Museum of Natural History should be top of your list. A vast collection, this museum needs at least one full day to explore peacefully. Then, on a different day, head over to the Museum of the City of New York. It covers the history and culture of this vibrant city. A must visit. When in New York,. i was very keep to know more about and experience Native American Culture and cuisine. We couldn’t find any place which served traditional Native American food (though it has permeated into mainstream American food ; corn, turkey, blueberries, maple syrup, squash etc). But we did find and visit the National Museum of The American Indian. When we visited, the museum was still being put together, so a lot of the exhibits weren’t there. But it was an extremely valuable insight into the rich culture, history and legacy of the Native American people. The fabrics and decorative ornaments often reminded me of similar stuff from the North East of India. Now the musuem also has a cafe called ‘Mili Kapi Cafe’, which means ‘Give me some coffee’ in the native language of the Lenape people, the original inhabitants of New York City.
New Yorkers are also lucky to have open public spaces like Central Park. Visiting the public open spaces and parks of New York should also be on your list. Right in the middle of New York City, Central Park is spread over 843 acres. It is so big, exploring the park in one day can be very exhausting, and perhaps not feasible. Come here for a jog, lie down in the meadows, meet your friends, walk, or just sit in one of the corner juice and coffee shops and write your blog. Bryant Park, a 9.6 acre privately managed park is open to the public and is next to the New York Public Library. It too has enough space to lie in the sun, walk or jog around and some excellent cafes. if you head over to Brooklyn, you have Prospect Park, another fantastic 526 acres of gorgeous parkland. On the West Side of Manhattan, an abandoned elevated rail line has been converted into an excellent park. High Line Park, as it is called, is a 1.45 mile park, open to the public and run purely on donations.
Walking the streets and neighborhoods is another way to get know the soul of a city. Walk through Greenwich Village and the historic Bleecker Street. Or walk across the Brooklyn Bridge into Brooklyn and then Brooklyn Park. Walk through West Village, its gorgeous tree lined streets and beautiful homes. Stop for a juice or salad at one of the cafes in West Village or even in East Village, especially St Mark’s Place, famous for its history in the Punk Rock movement. Walk the Hudson River Greenway where you can catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. Walk through the side streets of Soho, into the art district, catching a gallery here and an exhibition there. Walk Madison Avenue to get an idea of Big Apple NYC and its line of designer stores. The Malcolm X Boulevard is another beautiful walk with tree lined roads and plenty of eating options. The Coney Island Park is another place worth walking. Not as famous as Brookly Bridget, but perhaps equally beautiful is the Williamsburg Bridge. Completed in 1903 it is a beautiful suspension bridge, and at its foot in Brooklyn are three public places that together form the Williamsburg Plaza or the Washington Plaza or the George Washington Monument Park. With open spaces to walk, cafes and restaurants, this is another great place to hang around in NYC.
In the evening, there is plenty of live music scene happening in New York. Our favourite was Smalls in West Village. A small place, dedicated to some of the coolest live Jazz acts. And one ticket gave us access to Smalls as well as Mezzrow Jaz Club. Then there are other places like Blue Note, Fat Cat, 55 Bar etc. In short, plenty of options.
Brooklyn has its own share of eatout places, music venues, galleries etc. We didn’t have enough time to explore it properly. But we did visit Mango Seed a highly rated joint for Jamaican food and loved it.
As you can see there’s a lot to experience in New York. And you need many many days to let it all soak in.