Upon exiting Grand Central Terminal in New York City, even the most seasoned urban traveler may face a moment of panic. A short walk to the west, flashing marquees advertise the hottest Broadway shows glare on thousands of people packing the streets. The air is choked with car exhaust. You may feel like you too should be wearing black and in a terrible hurry. Fear not! Even in this metropolitan beehive there are pocket neighborhoods for every taste and style. Here’s how to find you find your niche and navigate the streets of Manhattan like a native.
If you meet New Yorkers abroad, they are unanimous about missing one thing (though they may not admit it). More than family or friends, they long for a proper New York bagel. People claim it’s the water that gives it that perfect chewy texture. The water may also be what makes the pasta so flawless in Little Italy and the sauerkraut so spicy in Hell’s Kitchen. It’s no coincidence that foodies flock here. Whether you want to spend $5 or $100 on lunch, you’re guaranteed to find your flavor.
Wear a Yankees cap or get a Knicks tattoo, but do not wear anything from Boston unless you want to start a bar fight. Sports fans have plenty of opportunities to catch a major league baseball, soccer or football game at Madison Square Garden, Monument Park or Citi Field. No need for tickets to the New York City Marathon, however, held annually on the first Sunday in November. On that day, the city teems with tens of thousands of runners, while supporters line a course through all five boroughs and create loud finish-line fanfare in Central Park.
Broadway theatergoers pack the streets every night (except Monday) prior to curtain call. The shows dazzle with the splendor of hundred-dollar bills on fire, the usual minimum full price of a performance. Score discount Broadway tickets at www.playbill.com or using the todaytix app. Otherwise patrol the streets or visit www.timeout.com/newyork for bars, clubs, restaurants and dozens of venues featuring great shows each evening.
Bring your glasses because there is a treasure-trove of information on Museum Mile, the magnificent stretch of museums on Fifth Avenue along Central Park. The funky Guggenheim and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) could each take a full day to explore. Check out this site for when the museums offer free or discounted entry. Sit on the steps of the gorgeous main branch of The New York City Public Library and watch people pose with the famous lion statues. If you’re feeling particularly inspired, walk through Columbia University and maybe listen to a lecture.
New York City may be a concrete jungle, but you’d be surprised by how much nature permeates its walls. Jog along the Hudson River through Riverside Park or the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway and feel the wind off the water. Stroll the High Line, a 1.45 mile-long (2.33 km) linear park constructed on an old elevated railroad spur. And of course, wander for hours among the foliage of Central Park. You won’t be the only one dodging roller blades – falcons, bats and turtles also claim residence.
Prepare your credit card for the designer labels and big names on Fifth Avenue. Even if you’re not in the market for a new Mac, the stunning glass cube of the 24-hour Apple Store is worth a visit. Scavenge the free piles at Brooklyn’s hipster flea markets or sample artisan cheese from Chelsea Market’s boutique food stores. From thrift stores to pet shops, Manhattan’s streets are packed with quirky and interesting products.
New York has something for everyone, just as everyone gives New York its diversity and appeal. It’s great to surround yourself with a familiar niche, especially in a foreign environment.
But be warned: Do not forsake the tourist zones in single-minded pursuit of your area. Part of being in this world-renowned metropolis is taking a picture in front of the Statue of Liberty with an ice cream cone held high as your torch. Your trip will not be complete unless you pose alongside the Wall Street Bull. And please, for the sake of the economy and as a souvenir of your trip, buy a cheap memento from Chinatown. It’s a big city full of small neighborhoods; enjoy finding yours!
Header image by Josh Liba
Victoria Ortiz is a freelance journalist and outdoor enthusiast currently savoring all that New Zealand has to offer. In 2015 she took the plunge and quit her job in environmental communications for a couple years to indulge in cycling, backpacking, and travel adventures around the globe.
Follow the adventures at www.earthtickle.com.