All of my favourite things to do and places to go to in New York!
New York, New York. Where do I even begin??!!??
Seriously though, our trip to New York last year was like a dream come true for me. Growing up, the only foreign city that I had any real aspirations to visit was New York. I don’t know what prompted this crazy fascination, but it was always there at the back of my mind.
After a couple of unsuccessful tries at making it happen, we finally made it to New York last spring / summer (wait, wait, let me explain this – it was summer in India, and spring in New York, and while I was better prepared for New York spring than Paris spring, it still blows my mind how vastly different April in Bombay is different from April in New York!!!). And oh yes, it also means that these photos have been languishing for the last ten months in my hard drive. Anyhoo, better late than never, right?
We had about seven days in New York, and AT was caught up with work for a couple of days, during which time my brother joined me there. It really was the best kind of holiday – getting to explore New York with AT + catching up with my brother (who loves New York btw!) was all sorts of awesome!
A lot of the things we did were fairly tourist-y, being my first time ever in the city (and admittedly, it was AT’s second trip, but he’d only ever been there earlier for work). Read on to find out about all the places we went to, all the food we ate and the sights we saw.
ALL OF THE OBSERVATION TOWERS
After we visited our third observation tower in as many days, AT remarked that he’d had enough of these observation towers for a while! And he’s right, it did seem a bit much. We went to the top of Empire State Building, the One World Observatory, and the Top of the Rock.
In hindsight, I would totally skip going to the top of the Empire State Building (I know, I know, many guides / books / posts I read suggested the same thing, but we didn’t pay heed to it. Don’t be like me – save your dollars and skip the ESB!). The view from the Top of the Rock is that much better because you get to see the ESB, and it’s a beauty all right! The One World Observatory was also kinda cool – I loved, loved the multimedia graphic that plays on the elevator ride up to the observation deck.
FOOD, FOOD AND MORE FOOD
What’s a good holiday without good food, right? And we sure did eat our way through all sorts of price points in New York. Three meals stood out, though – dinner with AT at Per Se (oh my word, the exquisiteness of that meal!!!), a quick lunch at Vanessa’s Dumplings by myself during my walk around Chinatown, and lunch with my brother from The Halal Guys.
Per Se – It’s by far the most expensive meal I’ve ever had, but it was so worth it. I spent a lovely evening with AT there, eating our way through some seriously delicious dishes. And the setting really doesn’t get any better – overlooking a lush Central Park, the view is just gorgeous. Reservations are not easy to come by, so you’d be well advised to book well in advance.
Vanessa’s Dumplings – I came upon this place in some random blog post about food spots to hit in New York. It took a bit of walking around to finally get to the place, but the (slight) effort was rewarded handsomely. It’s a very local place, but seemed to get some share of tourist footfalls as well. The food was cheap and unbelievably delicious. I’d highly recommend the sesame pancakes if you end up going there. They were unlike anything I’ve had before, and so very tasty!
The Halal Guys – My brother insisted that we have a meal from one of the halal carts and in his opinion, The Halal Guys are as good as they come! We walked over to the original Halal Guys on West 53rd Street and feasted on some yummy gyro and chicken. The portions are extremely filling and it was fun to eat out on the streets and indulge in some people watching.
Other places we ate at: Momofuku (amazing food, but a bit of a crowded experience); Buvette (the very, very best chocolate mousse ever!); Isabella’s (awesome brunch place); Friend of a Farmer (great food + a great rustic decor to go with it); Juliana’s Pizza (the pizza was worth waiting in line for over an hour!); the bar at Ace Hotel (great drinks, but truth be told, didn’t enjoy the food all that much!); Shake Shack (the crinkle cut fries!!!); and Tsushima (amazing sushi!).
Oh, and the one thing we didn’t eat – hot dogs!!! I couldn’t find anything the least bit appetising about them, so decided to give it a miss!
WHAT ABOUT THE TYPICAL NEW YORK TOURISTY THINGS?
Oh, we did our fair share of these. I’ve already spoken about the observation towers. A few other things we did:
The High Line – My favourite “touristy” thing. It was crazy crowded, but still, a great pleasure to walk through and people watch. And it gets even better / livelier towards the Whitney end.
Liberty and Ellis Island – A great insight into the history of the city, and really, America.
Brooklyn Bridge – We were blessed with a gorgeous sunny day the day we chose to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Walk around downtown – Strolled around Battery Park and Wall Street. Didn’t take a picture with the bull though – it’s perennially crowded and we didn’t feel like waiting in line to get a picture.
China Town and Little Italy – I went exploring by myself since AT was caught up with work; it’s kinda fun to see such cultures co-exist within the city!
Central Park – Or rather, parts of it – the weather wasn’t really all that conducive most days, but I did manage to take a quick walk around the Jacqueline Onassis reservoir.
WTC Memorial – Poignant and thoughtful.
Chrysler Building – We had a direct view from our hotel room (we were staying at the Westin), and it’s a gorgeous piece of architecture for sure!
Flatiron – Admired the architecture, took a photo, and then ventured into Eataly. Perfect place to enjoy a quick bite.
Grand Central Station – Quick visit; gorgeous architecture on the inside.
WHERE TO SHOP
I definitely came back with a much lighter wallet from New York! There is seriously so much to shop for and so many options. These were some of my favourite stores:
& Other Stories – I’m a sucker for the brand and love everything about it. Their clothes, their jewellery, their cosmetics – I’m a huge fan of it all!
Madewell – I picked up the Transport Tote for my sister-in-law and she’s getting good wear out of it. I also loved their collection of home accessories and picked up a candle too many from the store.
Loft – Quality, affordable clothing. Trendy enough without being fast-fashion trendy.
Ann Taylor – What an amazing collection of quality workwear.
The drugstores (CVS and Duane Reade) – Seriously though, how are they even called drugstores!!! These guys are like department stores in themselves, and I picked up so many knick-knacks from these stores.
Sephora – Make-up heaven! But of course!
Museum Gift Shops – I’ll talk about the museums in some detail in another post, but as far as shopping for souvenirs or quirky things go, these museum gift shops are absolutely amazing, and the one at MoMA is just kick-ass!
Rituals – A chance discovery as I was walking around SoHo. Every product I picked up from the store turned out to be highly effective and I’m now waiting for an opportunity to restock.
Urban Outfitters – Coolness personified!
Anthropologie – One of my favourite stores ever!
WAIT, NO BOOKSTORES???
You should know me well enough by now to know that these would obviously get some special mention. I mean, what do I even say about the Strand that hasn’t been said before? It’s my kind of heaven and every time I shop at the physical book store, my heart jumps with unbridled joy! All the convenience of Kindle and e-readers aside, there is just something so tactile and smelly (in a good way) and romantic about a physical book store, that I don’t think these brick and mortar book stores are going away any time soon. Or at least I hope they don’t.
The other amazing book store that I visited was McNally Jackson and I absolutely fell in love. The small little cafe inside the store, the well-curated collection of cards and stationery, the amazing collection of magazines and of course, all the books! It’s a delightful bookstore and I would happily spend a few hours there!
We couldn’t leave New York without watching a Broadway show. Hamilton had just released a few weeks ago, and after all the hype it had garnered, I would have loved to watch the show, but given that tickets were all sold out (and were being sold for upwards of US$600 and that too for really terrible seats), we decided to give it a miss. We did get tickets to The Book of Mormon show and it was a real hoot, I must say! Broadway is definitely an experience, and I’d put this high up on the list of best things to do in New York.
NEIGHBOURHOODS WORTH EXPLORING
West Village and Greenwich Village – I spent the better part of an afternoon walking through those streets with my brother and I fell in love with the charming brownstones and the residential-ness of it all. Bleecker Street was full of boutique-y goodness and the next time I visit New York, I’ll definitely spend more time exploring this neighbourhood.
Brooklyn – We hardly spent any time there, but I’d love to eat at Smorgasburg and explore Williamsburg as well.
ANY QUIRKY/FUN THINGS OF NOTE?
A few, in fact.
CW Pencil Enterprises – A quirky, novelty store selling guess what, pencils!
Street art – It was amazing all the kinds of street art that I saw in New York. On the footpaths, on the walls by the sides of buildings.
Chelsea Market – Adorable times 1,000!
Macdougal Street – We were in this part of town to catch a comedy show. The Comedy Cellar was unfortunately sold out, so we got tickets for another comedy club nearby. While the show itself was a lot of fun (and lots of jokes on Trump – obviously, he was not the President then!), what floored me was really the street outside. So many cool places to eat and hang out at. Cosmopolitan NY at its best!
The Earth Room – I am probably thick in the head, but I don’t get the point of this. Seriously. A room filled with mud. That’s all it was. What do you do there? What are you supposed to appreciate? No really, I probably don’t get this kind of “art”, but it was just way too highbrow for me.
Photo booth at the Ace Hotel – I have the cutest photo strip of AT and I from there. Would highly, highly recommend it!
SOME QUINTESSENTIAL NEW YORK SCENES
Statue of Liberty (duh!)
The trademark yellow cabs
New York fire escapes
Pizza place by the alley
Our trip to New York couldn’t have been any better even if we’d tried. I’d love to go back there and explore some more (something which I say for probably every city that I’ve visited!).
Tell me, what’s your favourite thing to do in New York? What else would you add to the list?