When you visit the Big Apple, you’ll know why they call it the city that never sleeps. Only here can you ride the subway at 6 am and be met by a train full of bright eyed bankers with their morning coffee in tow, nurses in scrubs coming home from the late-shift, and extreme partiers stumbling home just before dawn. You can come here and check off the Trip Advisor bucket list, because why wouldn’t you want to see the Statue of Liberty or 9/11 Memorial? Or you can also come here and experience life like a local. If you give yourself at least one day to explore the city as a New Yorker would, here’s just a sampling of what you might encounter.
You wake up and grab a bagel from the corner deli, probably smothered in cream-cheese. There’s often 30 flavors to choose from, so the sweet-tooth among us will likely want to try the cinnamon raisin or strawberry variety, but if you’re craving something extra sweet, Nutella or cake batter flavored cream-cheeses are not hard to come by. Some bagel shops even make rainbow bagels these days which are really the talk of the town (confession: they taste just like any other bagel, cost way more, but make for a pretty picture to Instagram). If you’re more of a savory person, grab an egg and cheese sandwich on a roll with “SPK” (salt, pepper & ketchup).
Then it’s time to hit the town. If it’s a nice day, I always recommend touring the Highline. It’s the most touristy thing a real New Yorker actually enjoys (that, and the Brooklyn Bridge). You’ll find us sunbathing in the lounge chairs soaking up a good book, or sitting atop the Gansevoort overlook watching cars whizz by below.
Beneath the Highline, right next to the Standard Hotel, you’ll find what looks to be an ordinary Samsung store. It’s actually their flagship, Samsung 837, and a really cool immersive experience. Best of all, it’s free!
Head inside the store to experience virtual reality on a roller coaster stimulator, get your picture taken by a camera that compiles thousands of photographs from those who went before you (and puts your face up on a 2 story wall), or, especially awesome is their Instagram immersion tunnel. You walk through a tube of glass that fills up with your own pictures, words and memories. It’s a surreal experience.
If you’re feeling hungry after all that walking, you may want to grab a NY slice. There are so many delicious places to get pizza in NYC that it’s hard for us New Yorkers to agree on what’s the very best. Some say Artichoke is their favorite – you can try it if you want, especially because it’s right by the Samsung store anyhow. For me, it’s gotta be Two Bros. They’re everywhere, and only charge $1 a slice. That’s the way to go.
No trip to NYC is complete without a few iconic views of the skyline. As a Queens resident myself, I’m partial to the borough, so I recommend taking the 7 train to Vernon Boulevard/Jackson Avenue in Long Island City. Hop off and walk towards the East River. You’ll be at Gantry Park in minutes, one of my favorite hidden gems in the whole city. It’s the site of the iconic Pepsi Cola sign that can be seen from most of Manhattan’s east side, and it’s also a really great place to walk, talk and hang out with friends and family alike while gawking at our beautiful skyline.
Near Gantry is another spot I love, MOMA PS1. It’s an offset of the Museum of Modern Art, similarly to the Cloisters’ extension of the MET. It’s a great art museum even for the architecture of the site itself, not to mention that on Sundays in the summer they are often host to a fun daytime party, Sunday Sessions.
Depending on how adventurous of a foodie you are, you can head deeper into Queens to visit Jackson Heights for some of the city’s best Colombian, Mexican, Indian and Thai food, or onward to Flushing for a far less touristy version of Chinatown, complete with Vietnamese, Japanese and Korean cuisine, too.
Or maybe it’s time to check out Brooklyn?If you’re as addicted to street art as I am (seriously, what better way to get a sense of culture), Bushwick is a must. The Bushwick Collective is a group of very talented artists who have adorned the neighborhood with murals that take up city blocks, like this one just outside the Jefferson stop on the L train.
Nights in New York are like another world. You can visit a comedy club, order bottle service at a lavish dance floor, hit up a dive bar, watch a Broadway show…the options are endless. I would definitely recommend checking out a speakeasy, because there are few places in the world where you can walk into a hardware store to find that it’s actually a bar (Last Word in Astoria).
Maybe try a delicious hotdog from Criff Dogs on St. Mark’s Place. See that London phone booth in the corner? It’s not just a prop. It’s the entrance to yet another speakeasy, Please Don’t Tell, or PDT for the even more exclusive amongst us. You could spend your whole night hopping from speakeasy to speakeasy if you wanted to.
Most visitors ask me if New York is more of a bar city or club city. When they do, I always respond, “Neither. It’s a rooftop city.” At some point in the evening, you have to head to a rooftop to catch the sunset, or see the city illuminated by its nighttime glow. 230 5th is open year round, so yes, you can even sip on a fancy cocktail with the Empire State building as your backdrop when it’s snowing. They offer complimentary red robes to wear when it’s chilly and the outdoor deck is filled with heat lamps. Mr. Purple is a fan favorite downtown in the Lower East Side, as well as Loopy Doopy in the Financial District, which serves a famous cocktail with upside down popsicles. For a dancy vibe, hit Le Bain, PHD or the Gansevoort in Meatpacking District.
If $20 cocktails aren’t your thing, try the roof at Output in Brooklyn. You still get a great view of the city, but here you won’t have to dress up. Locals love Output – it’s a fun place to dance, always features prominent DJs, and not to mention the sound system is amazing. The club downstairs pulsates with the sounds of house music well into the early morning, often staying open to let the diehards trickle out after closing at 4 am. The best part is their no cell phone policy. This means everyone around you will actually be dancing instead of Snapchatting the whole night and holding sparklers in their mouths.
No matter how you choose to spend your day, week or month in NYC, I hope you come to love the city I call home, and, maybe I’m biased, but one of the best cities in the world!
About the author:
Olivia is a born and raised New Yorker with a passion for other cultures. She loves meeting new people and trying new foods, be that here in her own backyard or overseas at any number of the countries she’s visited.
She’s touched down on 5 of 7 continents so far and hopes to get to them all someday. When she’s not traveling, Olivia enjoys photography, attending concerts, painting in the park and going on a good hike with her friends.