I recently spent twelve days visiting New York City. It was my sixth visit to the city – my first when I was in college in 1980. Since then my visits have all been three to four days…never enough time to really feel the heart of this amazing city. Visiting for twelve days was incredible. We did not visit the top tourist attractions this time like Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island or the Empire State Building. We had done all that on previous visits. Instead we explored deeper, wandered widely and ate with gusto. It was easy to put together my favorite things in New York City. Here is our story.
Well I’m a planner, and so it’s not my style to wing it. And in New York City it helps to try to plan ahead. For example the day we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art with our pre-purchased tickets we avoided an hour and a half wait. We walked right in. I told my husband he should be happy he married a planner…:) I think he is. Try to do some planning and you will enjoy NYC with much less stress and less waiting in line.
Be sure in your planning to consider how far things are from each other. For instance group your activities in Lower Manhattan all together. Central Park and many of the Museums are also in the same area. Otherwise, you’ll waste a lot of time running from one end of the city to the other.
Where We Stayed
There are so many options to stay in NYC but we chose a small Airbnb for its location as much as anything else. This studio was on the ground floor with tons of storage, comfortable bed, small bath and even smaller kitchen. But it was in the Upper East Side, only three blocks to Central Park and two blocks to the subway. And we could afford it!
Art Museums and Tours
New York has a plethora of museums and these listed here are some of my favorite things in New York City. There are many others too…I’ll tick those off on my next visit.
Metropolitan Museum of Art – I can’t really rate all the museums but this was definitely one of my favorites. A beautiful display of timeless art and sculpture…I wish we had spent an entire day.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum – Smaller museum with changing exhibits but worth a visit to enjoy the beautiful building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Museum of Modern Art – large and sprawling museum home to everything from Monet to Warhol and everything in between.
Brooklyn Street Art Tour, The Bushwick Collective – We took a tour of the Bushwick Collective with a guide, the Brooklyn street mural art that has turned this neighborhood into an art Mecca. I highly recommend it.
The Cloisters – at the far north end of Manhattan is a small Medieval Art Museum associated with The Met. A surprisingly vast collection of Medieval Art, but for me the best part is the beautiful building. Worth a trip.
American Museum of Natural History – You can never see all of this vast museum, so before you go choose a few topics of interest to you and enjoy. Great for families. Get tickets online ahead of time.
The Tenement Museum – fascinating museum in Lower Manhattan that has put together multiple ways to learn about the tenement experience in New York City through the lives and voices of those who lived it. This is a do not miss.
The National September 11th Museum and Tour – Now one of the top tourist destinations in New York, the National September 11 Museum takes you down into the underground where the World Trade Centers used to stand. Here you explore a well thought-out and descriptive museum, all about that horrifying event. We chose to hire a guide for a two hour walk about the neighborhood before going into the museum. Our guide was able to show us many of the iconic spots where unforgettable things took place on September 11th 2001 and the days and weeks that followed. His insight as a New Yorker was so interesting. The tour was definitely worth the money.
Parks and Gardens
Central Park – One of my favorite places in the world. It is truly an incredible space, so well cared for by both the Central Park Conservancy and the local public. Adored by New Yorkers and visitors alike. Spend as much time as you can exploring all the pieces of this 1.32 square mile iconic park. It might just top my list of my favorite things in New York City.
The High Line – Stroll The Highline, a re-purposed elevated railroad track in lower Manhattan, turned into an elevated garden and walkway. Simply the best.
Bowling Green Park – if you take a boat out to the Statue of Liberty of Ellis Island you might depart form Bowling Green Park. It’s a beautiful little green space right on the Hudson River looking across to Lady Liberty.
New York Botanical Gardens – yes it’s all the way out in the Bronx but totally worth it. We really enjoyed our day here. The azaleas and lilacs were blooming and it was just incredibly beautiful, well planned and welcoming. A special orchid exhibit was on display in the Conservatory when we were there.
911 Memorial – Gorgeous and somber, the 911 Memorial recognizes each individual who died from the attacks on September 11th. It is a public space, a free park and gathering place and an absolute must when in New York City. Even if you don’t visit the The National September 11th Museum, be sure to come to the 911 Memorial Park. It is definitely one of my favorite things in New York City.
Brooklyn Bridge – we were blessed with a nice sunny day when we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, something I have always wanted to do. There were ALOT of people, but most people just walk about a quarter of the way out. It’s a fun and iconic thing to do with lots of photo opportunities.
New York Subway – my hubs has taught me not to fear the underground! And in NYC it’s cheap and efficient. We did not use Uber or taxis during our entire visit except to the airport…and if it wasn’t for the luggage we could have done a subway there too. I love people watching on the subway! Just keep alert and you’ll be safe.
Yankee Stadium – I’m not a huge baseball fan, but I do enjoy seeing different stadiums around the USA and I’ve been lucky to have been in some of the most iconic. The Yankee Stadium was rebuilt a decade or so ago, but it still reflects the historic old look of this iconic team. Yankees beat the Orioles 5-2.
Broadway – There is nothing like a live show on Broadway, and although the Times Square vibe to me feels like a cheaper version of the Las Vegas Strip, I do love live theater. I wish we could have seen more shows, but we saw two remarkable productions; Hamilton and Aladdin. Both amazing.
Rockefeller Center – I’ve always wanted to see the Christmas Tree and the Rockettes but I’ll have to do that in the future. But for this visit we made a quick visit to 30 Rock just to snap a few photos.
Boat Tour around Manhattan Island and the Manhattan Skyline – we hadn’t planned to do this until our friends recommended it highly. And I am so glad we did. Although the weather wasn’t the best, this tour is a wonderful way to learn history and get a real feel for the lay of the land (or island if you will). Great photos opportunities too for the beautiful and iconic Manhattan skyline.
It’s impossible to eat at all the restaurants in this city. Just look for where the locals are! On this visit we chose some hidden gems instead of the more big name spots. Here is a short list we recommend;
Spicy Village in Chinatown – hole in the wall noodle and dumplings are a must.
Williamsburg Pizza in Brooklyn – much debate goes around about where to find the best pizza is in Brooklyn. Most people wait an hour at Grimaldi’s, Juliana’s or Lombardi’s. We dashed into this little spot and were very happy with our meal. I don’t think you can go wrong with pizza anywhere in NYC. As the saying goes, pizza was invented in Italy but perfected in New York.
Kashkaval Garden in Hells Kitchen – Mediterranean spot tucked into a warm and inviting small space in Hell’s Kitchen. The hummus was exceptional.
Il Corso in Midtown – I think this may have been my favorite meal in New York. I’m still dreaming about the burrata with fried artichokes.
Crave Fish Bar Upper West Side – our first meal the night we arrived in New York was this wonderful fresh and sustainable seafood restaurant. It was really good and the service was also great. Fun space. Check it out.
Boqueria in Upper East Side – I met my friend Heather here and this joint was busy! Reservations are needed in many NYC favorites. We did the tapas tasting meal…wow…I was rolling home.
Black Star Bakery in Gramercy Park – this bright and cheery spot was a pick-me-up on a busy afternoon. I’d like to go back for something off the delicious-looking breakfast menu.
Zia Maria in Little Italy – Very authentic Italian Restaurant in the fun and colorful neighborhood of Little Italy. There are dozens of restaurants and bars to chose from here…I’m sure most are great…but this one was where we ate lasagna and Lobster Ravioli
Ramen Ishida – the day we went to the Tenement Museum we were going to go to Katz’s Deli, even though we had been there once before. But the line was around the block! Although Katz’s is good, I’m not willing to stand in line for an hour and a half. So instead we stumbled upon this incredible little hole in the wall called Ramen Ishida. It was perfect for a cold windy day. Delicious and beautiful.
My Favorite Things in New York City
Well the twelve days of New York were hectic and fun and we were able to enjoy my favorite things in New York City. We saw a lot, but still didn’t see it all. We left a few things to explore on our next visit…in fact more than a few things. I realize most people can’t stay for twelve days. But hopefully this blog post My Favorite Things in New York City will help guide you to the things YOU find most interesting, in the city that never sleeps.
Meanwhile, check back next Friday, because I’ve saved my favorite neighborhoods for an entire separate blog post….the neighborhoods and boroughs are a colorful and interesting thing about the Big Apple. So diverse, historic and delicious! Look for that blog next Friday.
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