Wednesday, 20 November 2013

New York, New York: My 'Ultimate Guide' for things to do in The Big Apple.

Welcome to my first draft attempted ‘things to do in New York post’.

Since my latest visit to the states, I've had a couple of requests (okay more than a couple) to write a post about my favourite things to do/see/eat in New York City. Unfortunately, the more I (or others) tell myself I should do a certain task, my mind warps it from something fun and exciting that I was super psyched to to, into a homework-eqsue daunting and un-fun chore. I realise how ridiculous this mentality is but the more I try to convince myself to write a post, the less appealing it becomes.

Now I'm trying a different approach.

I'm just going to let my memory run wild and spill out any of the incredible places I like to go, things I like to eat and everything in between. Writing this will probably make me heartbreakingly nostalgic but hopefully also fondly reminisce and get excited for any future travels I or anyone reading this may take!

Okay so now that I've explained the unnecessary nonsense that had been occurring in my brain - let's begin! I’m writing this with the assumption that you know most of the the clichĂ© touristy activities (tip – the Top of the Rock has a way better view than the Empire State building) but it will be a combination of places you'll find in a guide book and those you'd happily just stumble upon. I could honestly go on forever listing the great places in this city, so this is just a very condensed, brief overview with, in my humble opinion, the ultimate NYC to-do list.


Alice’s Tea Cup – There’s a few of these around the city and they’re designed all cute and make you feel like you’re at a tea party with the mad hatter. I recommend the lentil salad, giant iced teas and any of the scones!

Juice Generation – They do 5 different kinds of acai bowls. One has peanut butter. Enough said.

S’MAC – I’ve never been here myself but I know a lot of people enjoy some mac ‘n cheese, so this place would be heaven! You can choose from their extensive menu or build your own, including vegan and lactose free options.

Shake Shack – This place is pretty popular. Actually no, this place is so popular that even though I’ve twice stayed within 100 metres of it, I’m yet to try it because there is always a line so long that it snakes all down the block. These guys are all over the city and I think a similar style to In’n’Out? They do burgers, hotdogs, fries, shakes, ice cream and something called ‘concretes’ that I think is similar to a McFlurry but more delicious. Nicole, I PROMISE you I will try their ‘shroom burger next time I’m in town.

Peanut Butter & Co. shop – You can buy their nut butters on sandwiches, with fruit or by the jar. There are a lot of flavours and they’re all delicious. Just do it.

Chobani store – This place was uber exciting for me as I’ve been a big Cho fan for years. You can either pick an option from their menu (I recommend pistachio + chocolate, blueberry + walnut or mango + avocado – yum), or create your own invention! The best part? They let  you keep the bowl.

Dylan’s Candy Bar – It’s owned by the daughter of Ralph Lauren, Mary-Kate and Ashley go there, and they sell Harry Potter Chocolate Frogs. It’s basically the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory of New York. Check out the Candy Time Capsules featuring sweets from your favourite era!

The Food Emporium – This probably isn’t that exciting to the majority of you, but it is to me – for two reasons. The first is that it’s the local deli closest to where I often stay in New York, meaning I would head there for a meal at least once a day. There’s a supermarket downstairs and upstairs is a cafĂ©, salad bar, sushi and pizza station, shelves of protein bars and pre-packaged fruit salads. The coolest part for me is the salad bar, which we’re only starting to introduce back in Australia. The second reason this is significant in my heart is that it’s mentioned in my favourite musical Rent! (Collins re-wires the ATM here with the code A-N-G-E-L to provide money for the starving and broke).

Whole Foods: I still don’t know why Australia wont open one already but if we don’t soon I may have to initiate it myself. This place is absolute heaven for health food nuts like me. They are committed to community giving, health promotion, recycling and other eco-friendly practices, organic farming, sustainability, animal welfare and a bunch of other great stuff. They have DIY nut butter churners, walls and walls of takeaway fruit (the ultimate fast food), cold pressed juices, every cereal, nut butter and protein bar you could imagine and oh my god – the salad bar. I once filled a salad box with things like quinoa, beetroot, spinach, sweet potato, felafels, hummus, pumpkin, corn, grilled eggplant and about 20 other ingredients, all for like $7.80. I could have cried. In fact it makes me tear up at the thought that we don’t have them here. Soon….. soon.


SoHo – If you only have one day and want to hit lots of cool US shops, this is the place to go. Broadway, specifically, is home to some of the greats; Urban Outfitters, Bloomingdales, Topshop, H&M, Brandy Melville, Sephora, the list goes on. Plus, if you’re a HP nerd like myself, you will love the merch at the Scholastic store.

Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market – Open every Saturday and Sunday from 9-5 year round, this was named one of the ‘Top 10 Shopping Streets in the World’ by National Geographic. The perfect place to find cool antiques, collectibles, vintage clothing, artwork, jewellery and more. Great for bargain hunters like me!

Forever 21 – The store in Times Square is 4 levels high, stays open til 2am, and surprisingly isn’t too crowded. They are the perfect place to go for cheap and awesome activewear (think $12 sports bras with matching shorts in every possible colour), cute jewellery and just about everything in between.

Thrift Stores – Finderz Keeperz, Goodwill, Housing Works, Junk, Buffalo Exchange, Urban Jungle.

A few touristy indulgences:

Grand Central Terminal – This place is especially exciting if you’re haphazardly jumping on a last-minute super crowded train out to Long Beach to see your favourite childhood boy band play a show during a thunder storm. I’m sure it’s still cool otherwise, though.

Brooklyn Bridge – Running between Brooklyn (obviously) and Manhattan, this thing gives you one of the best views of the city, is a great mode of transportation and is generally just awesome to look at. I wouldn’t want to commute via the bridge daily (nor by bike) for the herds of people, but on a nice day - this mighty structure is the perfect place for a leisurely stroll.

The High Line – ONE OF THE COOLEST THINGS EVER CREATED. This used to be the old New York Central Railroad and was transformed into a public park above the streets. There’s plenty of green, sundecks, food vendors (think popsicles and gourmet tacos) and generally pleasant people.

The Rockerfeller Centre Christmas Tree – I’m s sucker for anything Christmas-y, and when you combine a 80-foot tree, covered in 30,000 lights and surrounded by toy soldiers, snow and merry ice-skaters – you can’t help but be happy.

Coney Island – This place will always make me think of Dakota Fanning and Brittany Murphy in Uptown Girls, and I’m okay with that. It’s weird, it’s fun, it’s very American.

The Friends Apartment - At one point, Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler and Ross all lived there. Hot cousin Cassie for a few days too, before the incest got too strange. Visit the building that served as the exterior for Apartment 20, and if you're a SATC fan you can also visit Magnolia Bakery nearby.


Central Park – It’s the heart of the city to me and there’s just so much to DO and SEE. You can check out the Alice in Wonderland sculpture, Strawberry Fields, the baseball diamonds, hire a bike and ride around, rent boats on the lake and pretend you’re in Stuart Little, perve on attractive suntanning strangers, hit the zoo, belvedere castle, bow bridge, the carousel, delacorte theatre, the pool/ice skating rink (depending on the season).

Film Forum – The only autonomous non-profit cinema in the city and has been open for over 40 years, they play a variety of international, social, political, historical and cultural films. You can watch indies, documentaries, foreign cinema and old classics. Also famous for their concession stand lemon-poppy sponge cake!

MoMA – Aka the Museum of Modern Art, this place was one of the only museums I actually liked (honourable mentions go to City Public library for their gift shop and the Met for their kick-ass cookie ice-creams in the cafeteria). Moa showcases works of architecture and design, drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, prints, books, films, pretty much every possible form of contemporary art you could imagine.

Night Yoga – Run by Laughing Lotus on Friday nights at midnight, this could be the perfect way to cleanse your thoughts from the day and get you ready for sleep. 

Union Square – I couldn’t decide what to put this under, because it can involve both food and shopping but to me always involves fun. The square itself houses some personal favourites – Whole Foods Market, Barnes and Noble, Forever 21 and like 3 Starbucks, but the best part for me is the Sunday farmer’s market. If you go, be sure to buy one of the giant vegan carrot cookies. They’re lifechanging.

Gospel Church – Oh man, this was one of my favourite memories from my 2010 New York study trip. Although we were all overwhelmed with the most powerful jet lag known to man, sitting in those pews and getting to experience an incredible gospel choir sing, praise the lord and share their joy on a Sunday morning was unforgettable.

Late Night Talk Shows – I’m pretty sure you’d have to actually sell your soul to the devil (or sleep with an NBC page) to score tickets to Saturday Night Live, but it’s definitely worth trying for The Colbert Report. Jimmy Fallon, David Letterman or even The View.

Bryant Park - One of my favourite places in the entire city. The BP hotel is just so freaking classy (it's black with gold embellishes) and the park is super pretty too. There's great events on here in the summer like movies at night, Broadway in the park (performances of current and old musical numbers with the cast) and even yoga. The perfect place to relax, grab something to eat or drink (Jamba Juice across the street next to the Asics store), catch up with a friend or read a book. 

Non-negotiable things you must do whilst in New York:
  • Ride the subway
  • Eat a slice of pizza the size of your head
  • See a Broadway show
  • Go to a sports game (baseball, basketball or hockey)
  • Visit Times Square at 3am and marvel at it's brightness
  • Picnic in Central Park on a nice day
  • Allow yourself to get lost without a map

There are so many more places and things I could mention, but those are definitely some of the best.
I hope you love the city as much as I do!