I thought that after a few months in New York City I’d have it all figured out—I’d have the subway lines memorized, I’d know what all the mysterious acronyms stood for (FiDi? Dumbo?), and I’d know all the best spots to eat in Manhattan.
Excuse me while I laugh at my own naivety for a moment.
7 months after moving, I still don’t fully know my way around the city and am discovering new restaurants and hangout spots every day. I still feel very much like an Indiana girl in the big city, so it made me a bit nervous last week to find out that my dad has been selling me as some big city chick to his coworkers.
You’re going to New York in a few weeks? I’ll send along some recommendations from my daughter for things to do!
You know the feeling when someone asks what your favorite movie is, and suddenly all the films you’ve binge-watched on Netflix just disappear from your brain? That was me when my dad asked for some NYC recommendations for a friend. To top that off, one of my best friends, my mom, and my aunt all visited me over the last two weeks.
Is it hot in here? Just me? Great.
When faced with the impending arrival of friends and family, I realized that I actually know a lot more about NYC than I thought. Recommendations for fun activities started popping up in my mind like mushrooms, and it was like I suddenly didn’t have enough room to contain all of them. Luckily, I have this corner of the interwebs to share it all with you!
If this will be your first time in NYC, there are a few things you have to do. Some are a bit touristy, while others are more underrated (but still just as fab!).
Eat at Shake Shack
You can’t visit New York and not try Shake Shack. If you’re a Midwesterner like me, you probably aren’t aware of the rivalry between the west coast In-N-Out and the east coast Shake Shack. Take my advice and enjoy your meal without comparing the two burger joints on social media—your friends will all have strong opinions about it, I’m sure.
Visit Chelsea Market
I think I must have been living under a rock as a child, because I hadn’t heard of Chelsea Market until moving to the city. As it turns out, it’s a major tourist destination (but not the annoying kind—the fun, has actual stores and not just touristy junk inside kind). There are tons of cute stores and restaurants inside Chelsea Market, including a German currywurst place that I’ve been dying to try.
Walk along the High Line
Located conveniently next to Chelsea Market is the High Line, an old railroad track that’s been converted into a walking path. If you’re in need of an escape from the traffic lights and busy sidewalks, the High Line is for you. There are also tons of benches along the path, so you can also come up here to relax and enjoy the view.
Oogle artwork at The Met
The Met has a little something for everyone. I personally love the furniture in the American wing (I like to pretend which room I’d live in), but the museum houses art from a plethora of time periods. It’s also “pay what you want,” meaning you could get in for free.
Explore Central Park
This one is absolutely non-negotiable. If you go to NYC and don’t see Central Park, you’re doing it all wrong. No matter the weather, Central Park is gorgeous. Pick up a map from one of the kiosks and figure out which statues you’d like to see. Balto is a classic, as is John Lennon’s memorial. And you can’t miss the Loeb boathouse; watching the boats on the lake is one of life’s simple pleasures.
Discover Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Williamsburg is a good place to start if you’ve never been to Brooklyn. Stroll down Bedford Avenue and peek into the local boutiques. Stop by Sweet Chick for some killer chicken and waffles and enjoy a slice of cake from Martha’s Country Bakery (if you still have room for dessert, that is).
For all my Indianapolis people, Williamsburg reminds me a bit of Broad Ripple. It’s very hipster and has lots of cute, but slightly run down shops. The people here are friendly though and the food is fabulous.
Pay your respects at the 9/11 memorial
I went to the 9/11 museum for the first time last week and cried my way through the second half of the exhibit. If you can make it to the museum, I highly recommend it. At the very least though, you need to visit the memorials. There are two fountains where the Twin Towers once stood, and it’s a site I firmly believe every American should visit.
Eat a cannoli in Little Italy
Little Italy is extremely overpriced, but the food here can’t be missed. I personally am a sucker for a good cannoli, but the Italian bakeries here have a little bit of everything. My advice? Eat your cannoli on the spot and grab a few butter cookies to go. You’re on vacation, after all. Live a little!
Treat yourself in SoHo
SoHo is one of those dangerous places where you tell yourself you’re “just there to look” and you end up buying half the store. Accept your fate before you emerge from the subway and come to NYC prepared to spend some of your hard earned cash. SoHo has a great mix of affordable and high-end stores, so there’s something here for every budget.
Relax in Madison Square Park
Madison Square Park is almost as iconic as its neighbor, the Flat Iron building. Come here to take a load off and cross your fingers that the squirrels don’t try and steal your snacks (the ones at this park are particularly brave around humans). There’s also a Shake Shack here, so this is a good spot to come for lunch.
Hopefully this quick and dirty guide to NYC helps you out on your next trip! This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to New York, so definitely add a few extra sites to your list. The great thing about NYC is that there’s always more things to do than you have time for.
What else would you add to this list? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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