Carrie Bradshaw informed me that after living in New York City for ten years that you can call yourself a real New Yorker. Well it’s been 9…so I’m just gonna say I am one! I mow people down on the sidewalk and think that I always know the best road to take…so voila! New York City is filled with more culture and vibrancy than anywhere else in the world (IMHO)! There is always something fabulous to do, see, eat or enjoy in the city that never sleeps. So here I go, I’m “spreading the news,” here are my top ten picks for the essential and quintessential things that you must see if you’re just in town for a short while. Then (as soon as I have time) I’m going to make a list of my top ten “off the beaten path” things to do that only New Yorkers know about–things that you should do if you’re in town for a longer time or on a second or third trip back NYC.
And if you’re in New York for Christmas be sure to check out my tips in this fabulous article about how Celebrate Christmas in Style in New York I wrote for Forbes!
1. Central Park.
Central Park is one of the most amazing and iconic spots to visit in New York City. The only problem is knowing where to start! It’s so enormous, you could conceivably spend an entire day here and not see everything it has to offer. But since most of you probably are in NYC for only a limited time some of our favorite spots are The Loeb Central Park Boathouse, where you can grab a classy meal with picturesque views of the the lake, often dotted with people in rowboats. Our other must-sees in Central Park are The Conservatory Garden, Great Lawn and Strawberry Fields. If you want refreshments, we love the lemonade at Le Pain Quotidien.
2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The MET, as New Yorkers like to call it, has one of the most expansive collections of fine art in the entire world. The museum is absolutely gigantic and you could spend an entire day here trying to see it all. Word to the wise: map out which collections you’d like to see before you come so you’re not overwhelmed. And remember that the MET admission is only a suggested donation–so you can pay what you want! A fun little fact that they don’t like to make readily apparent. Wear comfortable shoes! You may not believe how expansive the MET really is until you see it! Also check out our favorite, cheap date night at the MET! Probably the best way to see any museum in my opinion–with cocktails!
3. Cast Your Vote for NYC’s Best Pizza
Join in on the age-old debate–what restaurant in New York actually is home to the mythical “Best New York Pizza!” Real New Yorkers have their favorite spots, now it’s your turn to sample a few and find out where your favorite slice is served! Is it Grimaldi’s or Di Fara in Brooklyn? John’s or Lombardi’s in the village? I personally wouldn’t bother heading to Brooklyn and waiting on line for Grimaldi’s. Although its coal-fired pizza is pretty tasty, there are places that are equally as delicious with half the wait time. Patsy’s pizzeria serves up a solid pie and with many locales around the city, you shouldn’t have to wait longer than a few minutes. Artichoke Basille’s is also a great pizza option though it’s not classic NYC pizza. You can grab a quick slice though to see what I mean 🙂
4. Times Square.
If you ask any local what area of the city they will try their hardest to avoid, it will undoubtedly be Times Square. That said , it is iconic and even jaded New Yorkers can’t help but gaze up in amazement at the lights when they pass through. We hate it because it’s crowded with hordes of tourists, which of course slow us down, but that doesn’t mean we don’t think it’s still awesome and awe-inspiring. Come here, pop onto the TKTS line and get discount tickets for a Broadway Show. The hottest tickets right now are Wicked, Book of Mormon, Kinky Boots, and Motown. (TKTS probably won’t have these shows on sale). If you’re looking to grab a bite and possibly see a star, visit Joe Allen, Orso, or Bond 45 after the shows.
5. Observation Deck at Top of the Rock
For sweeping views of the best city in the world (yep, all New Yorkers think it!), hit up the Observation Deck at the Top of Rockefeller Center. It’s open late so you can grab impressive views of the twinkling city lights.
6. Take in the Big Landmarks.
There are so many New York City landmarks that it’s difficult to narrow down which ones are worthy if you’re here on a limited engagement. Locals start to take these icons for granted but they are truly breathtaking to me even after 9 years! My personal faves are the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building (You can reenact the final scene from Sleepless in Seattle here if you feel so inclined), and the Brooklyn Bridge. The World Trade Center Memorial is also worth visiting if you can handle the heartache. If you plan to visit a number of them check out CityPass to save some dough. (But remember when factoring in the price of what you would be spending, remember that New York public museums like the MET and the Natural History Museum are pay what you want 🙂
7. Walk through Soho and the West Village
Wandering the city streets in New York is the best way to get an authentic experience with any neighborhood. Two of our favorite places to do this in are SoHo and the West Village. There are many charming shops and also every hip store you could hope to hit up while you’re in town. A popular route to navigate SoHo is to start at Canal and Broadway and walk straight up Broadway. You’ll hit Bloomingdales, J.Crew, Topshop, Sephora and plenty of other shops. When you hit Bleecker, head left and follow it over towards Christopher street. You’ll find tons of fabulous shops and restaurants in the West Village. Some of my favorites are Intermix, Olive and Bette, Otte and Marc Jacobs. If you’re looking for a good brunch spot, Balthazar in Soho is great and Cafe Cluny, Tartine and my personal favorite, Westville.
8. Shop on Fifth Avenue
If you’ve ever dreamed of becoming a lady who lunches, Fifth Avenue would be your playground. A jaunt down this legendary shopping mecca is a must not only if you need a little retail therapy but also just to get a gander at the incredible window displays. Breakfast at Tiffany’s anyone? Stores like Saks, Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel’s, FAO Schwarz, and even the Apple store are sure to tempt you with a few splurge-worthy souvenirs.
9. Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal is an incredible and worthy stop on every trip to New York no matter how short you’re in town for. Check out the celestial ceiling mural that lives on the ceiling in the main concourse and watch all the busy (and frantic) New Yorkers rushing to their trains. We suggest you take in teh sites from the Oyster Bar or at the Campbell Apartment (legendary bar that feels like it’s from another time). This iconic landmark just celebrated its 100th birthday! Be sure to come see a piece of New York’s history. There are tons of shops and restaurants in and around Grand Central for you to enjoy (besides Oyster Bar)like Financier, Junior’s Cheesecake (a little touristy but still good) and Murray’s Cheese.
Brunch in New York City is an institution and there is nothing New Yorkers love doing more on the weekends. Indulgent egg dishes with a breakfast cocktail is as New York-y as, well…everything else on this list! Some of my favorite brunch classics are: Popover Cafe, Barney Greengrass, Sarabeth’s, ABV, and Norma’s.
For the latest and greatest restaurants, which are always changing, I always follow Eater’s recommendations. The Eater Heat Map will never steer you wrong!
Also be sure to check out our recommendations for our top holiday picks in our article about What to do in New York around Christmas. And again, the Forbes article for more great luxury travel suggestions for Christmas.