Is anyone here in or familiar with NYC? Going on a trip and have zero idea what to do as a non-tourist...
I'm spending 5 days in NYC starting next week. While I've traveled plenty, it's almost always been alone, frequently short term (2-3 days including flights in and out), and work related so I had people to either ask for suggestions or just went out on my own. If the trip didn't fit into the above categories it was typically to somewhere I'm relatively familiar with or had a lot of lead time to prepare my trip.
That is not the case right now. I've never had any interest in NYC so I don't have a list of places I'd like to experience in my head, I don't have a ton of time to research a plan and filter out all the "top 10 things to do in NYC" websites, I'll be with my wife so going off wandering on my own isn't an option, and this will be the first trip where I don't have a rental car to just go get lost in and see where my randomness takes me. I'm also not the tourist type so there's no interest in "the tree" or Times Square, etc.
So I beseech you fellow Tilderinos, as someone that doesn't care about being a tourist, doesn't have a social media presence to feed I'm-here-and-you're-not selfies to, and needs actual destinations to go to due to a lack of independent mobility, what should someone with pretty much 72 hours of completely free time in NYC actually do?
I'll get the big tourist things to do out of the way:
Less Times Square-sy stuff:
Neighbourhoods to check out:
Of all the things I did when I visited NYC, going up the Empire State Building was actually the most disappointing. Don't get me wrong, it's a really interesting building, historically and architecturally speaking. However, it was dwarfed by most of the surrounding skyscrapers when I was there over a decade ago, so the view wasn't actually that great even back then. And I imagine it has only gotten worse with all the new skyscrapers that have gone up since then. One World Trade Center's observatory (and eating at the restaurant there) is probably a much much cooler, more worthwhile experience.
I wholeheartedly recommend all the museums though. And even if someone thinks they're not into "modern art", the MoMA still has lots of really historic works worth seeing in person, like Van Gogh's Starry Night, Dali's Persistence of Memory, Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, and Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans. Their Pollock collection is also worth seeing too, even if you don't really appreciate or understand his work, and will likely only end up staring at them confused for a few minutes before finally scoffing at their price tags. ;)
Good notes on the building for anyone that comes across this later, but while the idea of a picturesque view from a skyscraper I'm not real interested in actually doing it and my wife doesn't like heights, so no worries there.
MoMA is likely on the list of to-dos (and checking out others to narrow the list down) and I'll just ignore the weird section where they let some kid set off fireworks in paint cans.
Thanks for the suggestions!
Does the Wall Street ferry take the reverse route from Long Island? We'll be staying on Long Island and looking to explore more than just from the back of an Uber.
Should be said upfront that Long Island City isn't that close to Long Island, it's the part of Queens very close to Manhattan, where trains going to/from Long Island would stop.
The East River ferry goes from Wall Street to Long Island City and back, every 30 minutes or so.
Depending on how you're getting from Long Island to NYC, there's interesting options that open up. If you're taking the train (LIRR instead of the subway) in to town, it'll either stop at Penn Station (in Manhattan) or Long Island City (Queens, across the river). From LIC you can take the ferry in to Manhattan at various points, or take the subway one stop over in to Manhattan.
If you're coming in to town from Long Island, you'll also pass through the heart of Queens, so you may want to stop off at Flushing Meadows, where there's a huge park with some interesting old worlds fair stuff (remember the metal globe from the end of Men in Black?), the tennis center where the US Open is held, and Citi Field where the Mets play (but not in December they don't).
Why y'all gotta make things complicated?
Checked the hotel address and officially we're staying in "Garden City", but fully intend on exploring and have no problem going as far as any Taxi/Uber/Train/Subway/feet will take us.
The top of 30 Rock (GE building / Comcast building) has a great view of the city too.
Yeah my understanding was Top of the Rock was considered the best view, in part because you can see 1 WTC, the Empire State Building, and the Chrysler Building from it.
Hm, that's not a lot to go off of. There's a lot to do and see in NYC in general, but it'll depend on your tastes. It'll be cold AF, though, if you come from a more temperate region.
If you're from the US, honestly just walking around in Manhattan and taking MTA has novelty. There's a good guide on the internet here: https://www.nycsubwayguide.com/subway/. I've lived in Beijing and Shanghai and NYC is the only place in the entirety of the US that comes anywhere close to the general atmosphere and bustle of other large cities in the World. Manhattan is always filled with people doing things, at every hour. It's also the most walkable region in the US.
If you like parks, the High Line is nice, if brief. There's always central park, which is pretty mid objectively but has a lot of history. Plenty of museums in that area as well. Museum of natural history, MOMA, that kind of thing.
Too many good food places to name, but you'll have to pay a pretty penny. Nice bars and stuff as well.
There's the usual touristy stuff - Brooklyn bridge, Manhattan bridge if Brooklyn bridge is too passe. You can see the statue of liberty on the staton island ferry but I wouldn't really recommend it, it's not that impressive.
Never been, but getting to know and trying to make sense of NYC rail system sound like a dream to me. If left to my devices I might dedicate most of my time to that.
Thanks for the suggestions. Leaving it open ended without giving a list of our interests was on purpose as I'm curious what others suggest and don't want to be boxed in by things we know we like as we're all about experimentation and trying new things.
We're from Texas, but are bringing good jackets, scarves, and headwear so we'll survive on that front. The subway, having never been on one at all, is on my list if for nothing more than to say I've done it.
My wife showed interest in Central Park, but I'll check out High Line as well if it's an overall nicer park.
Food is high on the list of things we're looking to experience if it's things that we can't already get in our already pretty eclectic city.
Central Park is one big (somewhat) forested park, with a few bodies of water, and some meadows -- very much a nature kind of deal.
High Line is an old elevated railway track cutting through a dense part of town that's now a pedestrian walkway taking you through some very expensive real estate.
Two very different kinds of parks, both worth doing in my mind. High Line is pretty short, won't take you more than an hour to see the whole thing.
Ahhhhhhh.... that is some much needed context on what one should consider a "park". Thanks!
If you enjoy musicals, I would highly recommend seeing a show on Broadway. If you're unsure which to see:
But honestly I'd just recommend listening to the recordings and picking from there.
That reminds me! I saw an improv show at Upright Citizens Brigade Theater while I was in NYC. Very cozy theater and it was a lot of fun. Ticket prices were super reasonable, too.
UCB in NYC closed down a while ago unfortunately. Closest theatres in terms of improv-itude are I believe Asylum, The Squirrel, and the Brooklyn Comedy Collective.
Well that’s a bummer. :(
I freaking love musicals! Beetlejuice is a favorite movie already, so I'll check that out as well as Hadestown. I've seen Phantom enough elsewhere that I won't dedicate time in NYC to see it when other options are available.
The Slipper Room just got blasted to the top of our list, so thank you for that. I'll look at the lineup for Comedy Cellar as well for the nights we're there as I'm also a big stand up fan.
Other current Broadway recommendations: (note: I haven't seen the shows, only listened to the soundtracks, but one of my very-into-Broadway friends has seen them and strongly recommends both)
SIX is a show about the six wives of Henry VIII making a Spice Girls-esque girl group.
& Juliet is a jukebox musical featuring the songs of Max Martin. As a more behind-the-scenes producer, his name isn't well-known, but I can assure you that you'll recognize most of the tracklist.
Reconsider the Phantom decision - come February it will no longer be on Broadway.
Make sure to wear a mask! I made the foolish choice not to while visiting last weekend, and finally got covid after years of avoiding it. Awful, even with the boosters!
@an_angry_tiger has an amazing list of things to do.
The touristy things are worthwhile doing, because it gives you a new destination to go to, and getting there is half the fun.
Going to see The Statue of Liberty involves a ferry ride on the frigid NY harbor. It's fun! With fantastic views! The actual Statue is a bit touristy, but I think they have regular ferry rides back.
Central Park is just amazing. You go from crowds of 24x7 people, to a big ass park with very few people. Not sure what it is like in winter.
Empire State also has great views. Again, a little touristy, but just getting there involves riding the subway. Riding the subway in NY is an entire thing.
New Yorkers are amazingly unique. They are more helpful than polite or friendly. If you get in their way, they will show you less than zero patience. But if you ask a random New Yorker for help, they will likely stop and help you. For a few minutes. But they aren't going to hang around and make friends. They have things to do, places to be. I didn't have much luck striking up conversations with New Yorkers while I was there. Talking to strangers is just not something they seem all that interested in. But I loved every brief interaction I had!
Noted on all fronts, thanks!
@an_angry_tiger covered the standard stuff, so let me add a few things:
One Vanderbilt has a cool viewing area, and is less of a wait than the Empire State Building.
Midtown restaurants aren’t very good unless you need reservations to get in.
If you drink, look into famous bars like Mace to try some insane cocktails.
Consider making reservations at a nice (but not necessarily jacket required) restaurant like Union Square Cafe if you can afford to, food in NYC is an experience worth exploring.
DM me for restaurant recommendations if you need some once you know what areas you’ll be in.
P.S. Not having a car is actually a good thing in this case.
Midtown being "Midtown Manhattan" near all the typically tourist spots (Empire State, Times Square, etc.)? If so, yeah that makes sense. No different than most of the places I've been, the touristy parts are meant for separating a person and their money with little else.
I do drink, being that I have never heard of a famous bar outside of... um... Cheers, care to provide some suggestions?
Big name bars around here are more about nightlife than good drinks, so I usually drink at home or go to my favorite comfy dive bars.
I can afford to and this will probably be the only time I'll ever plan on being in NYC, so if you want to start firing off suggestions please do! Since I had to specify further up the thread because Long Island and Long Island City are apparently two different things, the hotel we're staying in is in "Garden City", but we have zero issues traveling and plan to explore far and wide.
Death & Co is a classic (and makes some of the best versions of classic cocktails around)
I’ll be the one to say it - I don’t think they’re worth the price for what you get. They’re also first come first serve, and that’s not really ideal for a tourist who has limited time to explore. Though I’m not going to disagree that they are a classic; they definitely did a lot to popularize their style of cocktail bar.
Fair enough, I highly enjoyed my visit but in got lucky and just sorta waltzed in
As a tourist you’re advantaged at not having a set schedule so you can go at off hours. Saunter in at 3 in the afternoon on a weekday and you’ll be golden.
Lol, they open at 6:00 in the evening.
Correct, the restaurants there get enough foot traffic from tourists to survive even if they’re bad.
Mace is at the top of the list for me, even the drinks I don’t like there are incredibly designed (from the standpoint of flavor; I’m not taking into account presentation in this metric). The other Cocktail Kingdom bars are good, and The Cabinet is currently hosting their holiday themed Miracle popup. I’ll DM you some more, the places I like are already hard enough to get into…
Well, there’s always the famous ones: Per Se, Eleven Madison Park, Peter Luger, the list goes on. The Michelin guide is genuinely good for this, and since you’re only around for a few days I’d look it over and see if anything catches your eye.
Heh, LIC is fairly up and coming - the suggestions to go to Pepsi park as a tourist are good ones, you’ll get a great skyline view. From where you’re staying you’ll want to take the LIRR into the city, probably to Penn Station.
I was there for a week several years ago. I brought my bike, and I got around most places using that as my mode of transit. I also walked and took the subway a couple of times. There are a ton of museums there to explore, so I’d recommend checking those out. Also lots of really pretty parks. Plenty of good food around every corner.
NYC is a big place, too. Which part are you staying in? I was right next to Central Park, so I got to do a couple of cycling loops around there which was really pretty. Would also be nice to know what interests you have. What do you enjoy doing on vacation?
We're staying on Long Island, but intend to explore far and wide. I left it open ended without giving a list of our interests on purpose as I'm curious what others suggest and don't want to be boxed in to items we know we like as we're all about experimentation and trying new things.
Typically we're both go-with-the-flow no-itinerary social butterflies (we've often met random people in the past and just acted on their ides or even went with them when invited to join them for gatherings, parties, etc, but that was when we both were alone/single and honestly a different time and place than the world seems to be now) when on vacation, but this is the first time we've been on vacation together in a place that is completely unknown to both of us.
Driving in Manhattan is pretty stressful if you're not used to it. The highways can be confusing, there are lots of double-parked cars to dodge, and parking is hard to find and expensive. In winter it's likely worse. So I would recommend avoiding it. It's good reason to try the subway and take cabs or Uber.
Rockefeller center is somewhat interesting around Christmas time, but also very crowded. Not sure it's worth it.
Zero intent on driving. It'll be all taxi/uber/trains/subway/walking.
Rockefeller is a maybe, but doubtful for us.
You might try Curb while in the city, I think most of the yellow cabs are on it now.
NYC is one of the world’s great cities. You’ll be able to find a spot no matter what you’re into so you will probably want to narrow down what your interests are. Art? Food? Shopping? Drinking? I think it’s probably second only to Rome or Paris for aimless flanerie.
Some random things that may be worth visiting. Greenwich village is a nice neighborhood for strolling around in. There’s a lot of little antique shops and independent bookstores there that you can drop into.
The Strand bookstore has a massive collection of random stuff. It’s near Washington Square Park where NYU is. It’s also near Big Planet Comics if you’re into comics.
Canal Street in the morning is an interest place to hang out. It’s Chinatown so you can look at some bootleg hawkers on your way to Dim Sum.
For art I actually think the Hirschorn is worth seeing. Beyond just the collection there, the building is really interesting and makes for a unique way to explore said art. It’s pretty quick too so it’s not a museum you’ll spend all day in like the Met would be. Though the Met is also worth seeing.
Speaking of books, IIRC there’s a Taschen showroom somewhere around there that’s basically a museum for those really nice Taschen press coffee table books.
Dim sum you say? Color me interested as there are a couple of dim sum restaurants here, but I've found them largely lacking.
Added the Strand, I don't see any Big Planet in NY, but a Forbidden Planet that looks to be the same sort of spot. We have a Taschen here in Dallas.
Yes I meant Forbidden Planet. Sorry Big Planet is the one where I live and I got my wires crossed.
No worries, there are other things in here that have closed since people have last been. World moves quick, just wanted to be sure I didn't look at something that was different than what you suggested.
A relatively small neighborhood of Brooklyn, set under two bridges: Brooklyn and Manhattan. Full of historic buildings, including the Empire Stores: previously a warehouse for the massive industry of Brooklyn, now – a trendy community center, with shopping, entertainment, office spaces, the museum of the surrounding area, and a massive food court dedicated to the craftsmen of the food industry in New York (aka the Time Out Market).
It's a very gentrified area where most of the real estate is owned by a single company, Two Trees Management. Lots of casual stores were priced out, lots of luxury brands were welcomed in. One such luxury brand is Jacques Torres, the chocolatier, who's had a store in DUMBO right when the area was starting its rejuvenation.
Speaking of rejuvenation: the riverside area has seen drastic changes in DUMBO, from abandoned trading piers to well-kept parks. (Residents of the DUMBO area pay the upkeep on those.) One of those would be the Brooklyn Bridge Park. (One guess as to where it's located.) The piers have been converted into entertainment spots, with sports and play areas, eateries, and children attractions. (Most of them would be closed in December.) Besides, it's a sprawling park right on the edge of East River, with exceptional views on Lower Manhattan and the two bridges.
(The park also encompasses the Fulton Ferry area, which was the first ferry to connect Manhattan with small settlements on Long Island. There you can find plaques, each signifying a historical moment in the development of New York. Near that area is Grimaldi's, one of the pizzerias of New York.)
All in all, it's a busy neighborhood when it comes to happenings and events. The Brooklyn Flea is a sprawling flea market, currently being hosted in DUMBO on Saturdays and Sundays. (Bonus points for being hosted under the Manhattan Bridge, in the Archway, where events – including musical events – constantly take place.) There are galleries – like the AIR Gallery – and even a popular theater, St. Ann's Warehouse (formerly a tobacco warehouse, though not in that same building), adjacent to the Empire Stores.
Best advice? Pick an hour where it's dark, and see if you can go to the rooftop of the Empire Stores. It's generally a lounge area permitted to the public. The views are magnificent: Lower Manhattan, Midtown, Brooklyn Bridge... I'd like a photo – there are well a few – but I wouldn't want to spoil it for you.
Oh, and oh, and oh:
Thea from Urban Caffeine has recently published this little video:
6 FREE things to do in NYC – December 2022 Edition
If case you find yourself lost in New York in one aspect or another, see if she has a video on the matter. So far, she's covered the basics of transportation (subway, taxi, bus, trans-New York trains like the PATH to New Jersey...), choosing a hotel, visiting Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island...
Also, New York pizza, Hudson Yards, Hell's Kitchen etc..
Thanks! Added these to the list we're curating down that'll fit into our schedule and will check out those videos as well.
Some of the highlights from my trip in 2018: