My Top 10 Things To DO In NYC

When people ask me for travel advice, chances are it’s about a trip to New York.  I only took my first trip there in 2007 but since then have been back several times.  So when people ask me what they should do and see.    My answer is usually the same, it depends what you want to experience, because it really is all there for the taking… whatever you want to see, do or experience, chances are you can do it in New York. It also depends whether it’s your first trip or if you are a regular visitor and just looking to share some ideas, because my lists would be completely different for both. I’m going to offer some suggestions though from column A and from column B.
1) If this is your first trip to New York it is going to be absolutely overwelming, so my first suggestion is to take a ride on the hop  on/hop off buses. A good place to catch them is Times Square (personally one of the places I try to avoid when visiting – it is a sea of tourists all jostling along the sidewalks with their eyes focussed everywhere, except where they are walking – but you probably should visit it at least once – it’s prettier at night, but also a madhouse). The buses are lined up along 8th avenue, and are a great way to explore the city – there are two main tour bus companies, the Blue City Sights and the Gray Line Double Decker red buses (my personal favourite because of all the different places you can go). You get a guided tour of the city (from a live person), that is full of interesting tidbits you probably never knew before. Because it is a hop on/hop off bus you are able to stop where you want to explore an area or landmark a little closer.
And because this will let you see all the biggies; The Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Center, Ground Zero etc. I don’t have to use up the rest of my list on them.

2) Whether it is your first trip to NYC or your hundredth, you should always pay homage to the oasis in the city and visit Central Park. It really is something you must do everytime you visit New York. Whether it is simply a stroll along one of the footpaths to see Strawberry Fields and the tribute to John Lennon or to take a jog around the reservoir or to bring the kids to see all the turtles in the turtle pond… just do it! Oh but do the horses a favour, and don’t take a carriage ride through the park, as romantic as it may be, I’m sure they would rather be grazing in a field someplace than dodging traffic around Columbus Circle.

3) There’s another park that I usually try to visit every time I’m in midtown – Bryant Park. A lot of people just think of it as the square where they erect the tents for New York Fashion Week, or as the park behind the Library. But it’s a great place to chill. In the summer, the park is a hub of activity, and usually features musical concerts of some sort, and in the winter it is flooded and set up as an amazing outdoor skating rink. And while it is just a few blocks from Rockefeller Center, you won’t have to skate like a hockey defenceman to take a spin on the rink.  They also set up dozens of cute little shops around the skating rink selling arts and crafts that are New York focussed.

4) Restaurants… what can you say. What do you want to eat? It’s here. Now you might want to check out the window for the Zagat rating sign. But just a warning… just because it doesn’t have a Zagat rating doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be bad, just like if it has a rating, doesn’t mean it’s going to be great (but it helps). I’ve already told you about my favourite lunch place… Chelsea Market. But dinner is something else… I had a great time and a great pizza at Iron Chef Mario Battali’s OTTO Enoteca Pizzaria on 8th street. I celebrated my birthday 2 years ago at Chef Alex Guarnaschelli’s restaurant Butter on Lafayette, and it was delicious. I spent my last birthday at Chef Daniel Boulud’s DB Bistro Moderne, home of the world famous Original db BURGER – a Sirloin Burger Filled with Braised Short Ribs & Foie Gras and worth the $32 price tag. But I’ve also picked up a great French style baguette sandwich at a deli along Broadway. A delicious plate of spaghetti and meat sauce at a bar/restaurant on Columbus, that I can’t remember the name of, but it was loud and friendly and I almost ended up on the floor when the legs on my chair gave way. Funny how those are the best holiday memories.

5) And as for transportation, I wouldn’t suggest renting a car and driving yourself around. Parking is non-existent in Manhattan and unless you are a zen master you will end up going home more stressed than when you arrived. But don’t be afraid of the subway. It’s one of the most efficient ways to get around, as long as it’s running (there tend to be delays and cancellations when it rains) . Go into any subway station, and buy a Metropass from any of the automatic kiosks… load it up for as many trips as you think you will need… slide it through the turnstile and you are on your way. Get a map to find out how to get to where you want to go, or just look it up online. You can’t visit NYC without a ride in a Yellow Taxi either. Nothing spectacular, but it’s still an experience, depending on your driver.

6) Everyone who visits New York is looking for a different shopping experience. Some folks will be content to go home with their ‘I heart NY’ T-shirts… but you’re in one of the fashion capitals of the world… expand your horizons. I’m not saying you should go boutique hopping along 5th Avenue (unless that’s what you really want to do) but at least do some window shopping as you stumble from one landmark to another. My personal favourites are Macy’s – for department store shopping you can’t beat the variety, but more than that, Macy’s turns into a holiday mecca at Christmas (though some say it’s more like Christmas vomits all over Macy’s every holiday season). From the antique wooden escalators to the holiday windows reflecting ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ it’s a must see, if visiting from mid November to New Years. (don’t forget to get your visitor discount card that gives you an automatic 10% off).   For bargain shopping, you can’t beat Century 21 near Ground Zero… but make sure you are in a fighting mood, especially on weekends… it can be a madhouse. Oh and guys, you can only use the dressing room if you are trying on a suit, so do what I did and stand behind a rack trying on my clothes, that seemed to have started a trend, when others saw what I was doing, pretty soon half a dozen of us were crowded behind a rack changing clothes. Another bargain hotspot is Filenes, though not quite the same intensity of the Century 21 crowd.

But just window shopping along any of Manhattan’s main thoroughfares or tucked in among the thousands of side streets, is an adventure unto itself, that’s not to be missed.
7) Another must see in New York is The Village… well both Villages really. There’s the West Village or Greenwich Village – the more famous, trendy, gentrified neighbourhood, full of cool boutiques next to coffee houses, bookstores and bakeries. But the East Village and the Bowery are not to be missed either. It is focussed on alternative culture, with neon tattoo shops next to funky retro clothing stores, record stores and bars. A hit with the punk crowd during the 80’s, it hasn’t lost it’s allure.

8) Now you should probably be somewhat of a ‘foodie’ to appreciate my next favourite… the Chelsea Market. Dozens of shops filled with every delicacy you can imagine blended with eateries where you can sample delicious foods from around the world. Check out the Fat Witch Bakery for gooey brownies. It probably helps that Food TV is in the building… makes everyone step it up a bit.

9) If you have time, you should try to visit one of the burroughs… and my choice is Brooklyn… especially Williamsburg. A quaint little neighborhood full of unique shops and restaurants, that appeals to a young, bohemian crowd.

10) And finally, visit as many New York neighbourhoods as your legs can stand. Wander the side streets in Chinatown for an explosion of sights, sounds and flavours… if you’ve ever been to Hong Kong, New York’s Chinatown is the closest to Wanchai I’ve ever experienced. Check out Little Italy for its fragrant food shops and restaurants, Chelsea and SoHo for their funky clothing stores and galleries, the Financial District for the South Street Seaport, Battery Park, Ground Zero,  and don’t miss Greenwich Village, the East Village and Harlem. And don’t forget about the Upper East Side for Museum Mile and the most fashionable shops, most expensive hotels and apartment co-ops in all of Manhattan – it’s also the place to see New York high society in their day to day routines. Across the park on the Upper West Side, it’s more residential but a chance to immerse yourself as a real New Yorker. Wander down Broadway from Colombia University on the weekend to see the real character of the city shine.

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