There is something enchanting about New York that attracts both first time visitors and distant dwellers alike. This travel guide is for you no matter which category you fall into. As mentioned in my last post, Off To New York, I decided to focus on something different. Rather than focusing on getting to the Statue of Liberty before the crowds, I wanted to see where real New Yorkers sent me.
Now, I have been to New York many times and never has a trip overlapped from a previous. The city boasts over 16,000 full service restaurants and over 18,000 counter service spots. That means I could do this travel guide thousands of times and continue to offer inspiring things to do. Plan your trip but be open to spontaneity. I reached out to friends and colleagues who are native New Yorkers and asked for their suggestions and even took to the suggestions of strangers passing by. I wanted to know where New Yorkers shop and how they find out what’s going on in town and what draws them to the city. I have compiled the suggestions here so you now have an excellent 4-day travel guide.
I am sure you’ve heard of Canal Street. This is your stop! All clustered into complementary yet distinct neighborhoods, you’ll find tons to do within these few blocks. Not only are there an unimaginable amount of vendors, shops, and restaurants, but there are also small fruit vendors that are worth the try. Often, you will find fruit that you may not be so inclined to try when you are home. Where to begin? Try quenepas, a Caribbean fruit that is will have you purchasing an entire bag after the first one. For first-timers: haggle your prices here. From what I have found, they always give me an inflated price for the simplest items that most of the vendors carry. Be kind, respectful and firm.
Luna Ristorante has the best Spaghetti & Meatballs for miles!
At 115 Mulberry Street in Little Italy, you will probably encounter a thick Italian accent asking you if you’d like to come in for cool air and great Italian cuisine. Accept the invitation. During lunch hours, I highly suggest Spaghetti and Meatballs with a glass of lemon water. It has never let me down. If you think you can pack down more than that single basil-filled plate has to offer, add the potato croquette.
If you’re a fan of flagship stores that you can’t find back at home, Fifth Avenue is the place to splurge. While it’s popular, it’s not to be overlooked as a heavy component in New York culture. Fashion thrives on Fifth Avenue and if you’re anything like me, you will find yourself staring at the shopping bags of others just as an excuse to go to another store. Here, you will find stores like Uniqlo, Zara, H&M, Joe Fresh, Mikimoto, Prada, LOFT, Madewell, Rain Africa, Kenneth Cole, and about one hundred others.
The High Line
The best part of The High Line is not views – it’s the greenery. It stretches 1.45 miles and is elevated above city floor. After you have been staring at concrete and skyscrapers for hours, you will find comfort in the shaded areas of The High Line. You’ll also find butterflies, unique city real estate and views, and unexpected gems of art on your walk. There are tons of places below to grab a drink of snack before you start your brief journey. It’s a fairly popular stop for locals and tourists however even at 1:30pm, you won’t experience notable traffic. Take your time here. That’s what it’s for. Matter of fact, grab a seat while you’re there.
Take a stop at Macchiato Espresso Bar on 5th Avenue. You’re going to need the fuel shuffling between hasty people on the sidewalk. Luckily, from what I have experienced, this espresso bar is airy and doesn’t get too packed during the day. If that isn’t enough, you’ll enjoy the bright aesthetic.
If the weather permits, take a stroll down to 22nd and 10th to Don Giovanni. I am fairly certain it’s a sin not to grab a slice of pizza when you’re in the city. Yes, I think I read that somewhere… or something. It’s absolutely delicious and the staff is quite accommodating. If you like outside patios, cheers to you.
People disappoint. Pizza doesn’t.
It seems all of the locals suggest going to Astoria after sun down. There’s easy and quick access to the neighborhood no matter where you are coming from and an abundance of restaurants, bars, and hookah lounges. Within a few short blocks, you will hear eastern and Mediterranean melodies pulling you into the night’s festivity. In short, this town has a young, diverse crowd who are solely looking for a good time. As for a suggestion, El Basuerero on 32-17 Steinway St is a delicious Colombian joint with a menu that will impress you.
Enjoy Broadway! Start in Soho and walk north. No, don’t stop. You can walk this street half way through Manhattan and never be short of things to do. You’ll find eclectic store selections and some of the friendliest people I have met in New York despite the stereotype. No one will be jumping up and down to shake your hand but if you ask someone what’s a good street to roam, they’re usually pretty open to share.
Night life opportunities will always vary depending on which week you visit. If you want to be a spontaneous roamer, go for a walk after sundown around the city and see what’s available for each night. If you’re good on your feet, you can take a late afternoon walk from Canal Street all the way to Central Park. It’s possible because we did it without dying. As a result, we found far more to do and had a few laughs with the locals on the way.
You can expect to find karaoke shows, food trucks, hidden market gems, and unexpected sample sales.
Eataly & Dining
Go ahead and satisfy you Italy fever by stopping at Eataly. You may think it’s just another grocery store but it’s not. Upon entering, you will find multiple large coffee bars and a gelato boutique ready to steal your heart. Take your time here. I highly recommend the Vanilla Bean gelato. Moving further, you will find Italian snacks and candies that are hard to find otherwise. Pick a restaurant here to dine at. You will find cheese and wine opportunities that are worth the extra hour. Now for Nutella fans, you’ll, too, find a surprise. There is a nutella cafe that offers everything with hazelnut and chocolate glory. You can get Nutella coffee, crepes, and desserts. Dive in!
What are your favorite spots in New York City?