Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Empire State of Mind

I'm a little bit in love with New York City, so whenever someone tells me they're going (and after the jealousy subsides), I put together some sort of hotch-potch list of tips. So here's a new idea - a blog post I can share with everyone! Genius. Amirite?


Get thee a MetroCard. The subway is the easiest/cheapest way to get around the city. $29 gets you seven days of unlimited travel on trains and local buses. Buy one at any subway booth.

For the full tourist experience, you might want to try the CityPass. $89 inc Empire State Building, Natural History Museum, Guggenheim, MoMA, The Met & Circle Line Cruise. If you decide to get one, choose the Circle Line Cruise option instead of Statue of Liberty since you see it on the cruise anyway, and you'll see more of Manhattan from the water. Statue of Liberty itself is cool but the specialised tours are very busy and not worth the wait, I don’t think.


Seinfeld fans can hit up Tom's Restaurant (2880 Broadway). If coming from Brooklyn or Downtown, you'll want to take the subway to Cathedral Pkwy station, then walk North. The inside actually looks nothing like you think, but go in for the pancakes anyway.

The Guggenheim
Check out the architectural marvel that is The Guggenheim (1071 Fifth Ave), designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Dare I say the building is the main attraction? If you decide to go inside, pickup the free audio tour (and remember it's closed on Thursdays).

American Museum of Natural History
There's something magical about the American Museum of Natural History - dinosaur bones, taxidermy and beautiful, old exhibits. Open daily, and admission fee is suggested only. Go early (like 9am) to avoid long queues.

The Temple of Dendur
Another must-see museum is The Met (1000 5th Ave). Suggested admission fee, which can be interpreted as 'pay what you like' (or what you can afford). Eat something before you arrive because the cafe is crap, and you'll need at least 3-4 hours in the museum. Don't miss The Temple of Dendur, and find the Frank Lloyd Wright room too. Closed on Mondays.


MoMA (11 West 53 St) is my favourite museum in NYC. Free entry on Fridays between 4-8pm, but I'd be inclined to go some other time to avoid the crowds. Pickup a free audio tour. Allow some time to check out their design store on your way out. Closed on Tuesdays.

View of the Empire State Building from the Top of the Rock
While the Top of the Rock (30 Rockefeller Plaza) lets you actually see the Empire State Building (350 Fifth Ave), I think the view from the Empire State is better. But that's just me. You'll want to be there either first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds, or to catch the sunset so you get both the daytime and nighttime view. Get the audio tour – if you have a Citypass it’s free.

Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station (87 E 42nd St) looks just like the movies, as long as you turn away from the giant Apple store that now takes over the balcony. Try to find the secret whispering gallery.

Central Park
The best way to see Central Park is by bicycle. Hire one from these guys (Liberty Bicycles, 846 9th Ave) and spend two hours riding around the park, with stops at the Carousel and Strawberry Fields.

The High Line Park
The High Line is a park built on an elevated former freight rail trestle on the West Side of Manhattan. It runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District, through Chelsea, to 30th Street. Enter at the corner of 10th Ave and W 30th St then walk all the way to the other end.

Empire Diner
If you're hungry after walking the High Line, head back up to the Highliner Restaurant (210 10th Ave). You might recognise it from Igby Goes Down, Men in Black II, Home Alone 2, or the Woody Allen flick, Manhattan. It used to be called the Empire Diner.


Cafe Wha?
Start anywhere on Bleecker St, then wander your way through MacDougal, Sullivan, Thompson and Laguardia, with a stop at Washington Square Park. You'll probably pass Cafe Wha (115 Macdougal St), made famous by the likes of Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg as regular frequenters there in the 1960s.

If hunger strikes, go to Quantum Leap (226 Thompson St) for awesome, well-priced vego food. There's also Caffe Reggio (119 MacDougal St) if you'd rather a coffee and panini. Or walk a little further West for beer and jazz at the Fat Cat (75 Christopher St).

Astor Place
Also in the area - lookout for a black cube sculpture in the middle of the intersection at Astor Place. If you have a friend (or obliging stranger), both push in the same direction to spin it. Seriously! It moves!


See the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry
The Staten Island Ferry is free, runs 24 hours a day, and gives you a nice view of the Statue of Liberty. It takes 30 minutes to get to Staten Island, then you can stay on the same ferry to come back. I haven't taken the time to check out Staten Island itself, not really sure what's there!

The Brooklyn Bridge
The walk across the Brooklyn Bridge takes about 20 minutes, depending on how often you stop to take photos. Once you're on the Brooklyn side, head back towards the river for the Brooklyn Waterfront Park. Perfect to watch the sun go down behind the skyline.

Brooklyn Waterfront Park


Need coffee? The best is at Oslo Coffee (328 Bedford Ave).

Eggs Rothko at egg cafe
Breakfast? Find egg cafe (135 North 5th St) and order the Eggs Rothko. Amazing.

Beacon's Closet
If you're ready for a beer, go to the Brooklyn Brewery (79 North 11th St) and take the free tour. Hang around for a few bevvies in the hall afterwards, then pop across the road to Beacon's Closet (88 North 11th St) for rad vintage threads when you're done.

The Meatball Shop Menu
Lunch? Try the Meatball Shop (170 Bedford Ave) - they have meatballs to please carnivores and vegetarians alike.

Finally, the cocktail hour! I really liked Maracuja Bar (279 Grand St). The staff were friendly, and willing to recommend various beers to try. Make new friends at the pool table. Or hang out in the back courtyard with all the fairy lights.


Make a special trip to Park Slope for dinner at Bonnie's Grill (278 5th Avenue). They have the best burgers in NYC. No, seriously.


Suzie said...

yay! this is exactly what I need for my trip coming up in 5 weeks! More! And ideas for non-nyc things to do over that side of the country? I'm there for 3 weeks and probably wont spend all that time in NYC.

Thousand Threads said...

The Catskill Mountains are nice, or if you're willing to go further north-west there's always Niagara Falls.

Closer to the city, I recommend the train out to Montauk (a la Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind), and the Southhampton shops are pretty too.

Have fun!

Lizzie said...

Awesome thanks Jess! Will bookmark this. Joe and I are going to be there for a few days in September. We bought our tickets the other day! Excitement! xx

Thousand Threads said...

My pleasure darlin' :) I'll hope to live vicariously through your photos! September should be lovely xx

Lizzie said...

oh god i can't wait.

susie said...

We had meatballs at like 3am once. Um... NY is amazing

Lizzie said...

I keep meaning to ask. Did you use Airbnb? Where abouts did you stay? xx

Thousand Threads said...

I did! Airbnb was awesome, highly recommend it. We stayed with a guy in Williamsburg, who gave us some pretty great local tips etc.