I was fortunate enough to call NYC my home for an entire decade. In order to properly pay tribute to this incredible city, I’m launching a 3 part series sharing my favorite locations, meals, and desserts. Each part will feature (you guessed it) my top 10 – one for every year I spent (re: survived) living there 😉
So dive in with me as I head down memory lane…to kick us off, I’m beginning with my Top 10 Favorite NYC Locations…
1. Bethesda Fountain/Central Park
Cliche? Perhaps a touch.
Look, Bethesda is a popular bitch. Featured in a variety of TV shows and movies (i.e. Angels in America, Enchanted, Sex and the City, The Avengers, etc), Bethesda Fountain is a location that tourists flock to in droves.
But…can you blame them?
It never mattered the number of people gathered here, or the large amount of tacky wedding photos being taken in the area, Bethesda Fountain and The Mall leading up to it were two places I could always go in order to turn a tough day around. Just far enough away from the busy sidewalks and over powering buildings, The Mall provided a place to slow down and breathe. From time to time, I would love to secure myself a shaded bench and observe one of the many sketch artists drawing tourists patient enough to sit for a portrait. A little further up along The Mall, there were always talented roller blading or flipping acts gathering a crowd.
Then, just over the ledge….Bethesda – such a saucy minx.
Be sure to grab a spot at the lake’s edge just beyond the fountain. You’ll get to wave at all the people on row boats from The Loeb Boathouse while spotting turtles popping their heads above the water to say, “Hello.”
2. Fort Tryon
Fort Tryon (Fort Tyrion for all my fellow Game of Thrones nerds), is a place I didn’t find until my last 2 years in NYC.
When I moved uptown to Washington Heights/Inwood, I needed to find a place to decompress from my average 40 minute subway commute everyday.
Low and behold this BEAUTIFUL park. I started to go on a 20-30 minute walk every morning, and everyday I felt like I discovered something new. Thanks to just how far uptown this park resides, it never gets overly crowded. No matter the time of the year, you always feel as if you’ve found a secret spot in NYC that very few know about.
Be sure to take a day to venture all the way up to and inside the museum at The Cloisters (definitely worth the cost of admission). But as you travel back South – don’t just immediately drop back down into your nearest subway location. Instead, go get lost on the trails that slowly lower you down off the ledge and back onto Broadway. You’ll be much happier riding the MTA after seeing something like this:
3. Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge was one of my first grand adventures in NYC. When I first got to New York, and was still finding my footing around the NYU “campus,” I dared to venture down to the Brooklyn Bridge (and even across to enjoy a pizza dinner at Patsy Grimaldi’s).
Actually, the photos you are looking at in this section are from that very first adventure. It’s true – I went through my photo albums and found these dated almost exactly 10 years back. How crazy?! #timeflies
To this day, The Brooklyn Bridge remains my favorite in NYC. Why? Partly for sentimental reasons, partly due to its structure, but mostly because of this view.
Oh and if you’re curious for more info regarding the pizza I mentioned at Patsy Grimaldi‘s, well, I’ll go ahead and mention it here since it didn’t end up making my Top 10 for NYC Meals. Hey, 10 years is a long time and I ate a lot of amazing food…they couldn’t all make the list. Also, Grimaldi’s is now a chain featured in Vegas…so…trust me, they’re fine.
4. The Metropolitan Museum
Here’s another fun glimpse from the past. On the left, a photo of the Metropolitan Museum approximately 8 years ago, and on the right, just a few weeks ago in 2017.
Without a doubt, The Metropolitan Museum is my favorite museum in NYC. I’ve been to it at least a dozen times, and I know there are still dozens of rooms/works/artifacts I have yet to encounter.
It’s well worth the price of admission, but keep in mind, it is a suggested donation. That means, should you wish to enter for the price of $1 – you can. That definitely became a valuable piece of information while I was still in school. I admit there were multiple occasions when I entered for the small sum of $0.25.
Hey – I was in school and on a strict budget. I’m proud to say that, since graduating, I have HAPPILY paid the recommended price of admission during each of my subsequent visits.
Be sure to follow the exhibits through Ancient Egypt. You may just find yourself in my favorite room of the entire museum. Marvel at the ancient graffiti etched into the stones, and if you’re anything like me, recreate this iconic scene far too many times to count.
I’m not going to limit it to one show as that would be a ridiculous exercise in futility.
Let’s get serious…Broadway was 90% of the reason I moved to New York in the first place. I am thrilled with just how much theater I managed to see in the 10 years I lived there, and yet…I know my heart will always crave more. Broadway will always be the best guarantee that I return to The Big Apple for a visit 😉
Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to camp out for those “student rush” seats. Some of my best memories in NYC were spent napping on the hard sidewalks, braving all types of weather, just in the hopes of securing one discounted ticket to a show.
6. Yankee Stadium
I know there is some controversy because relatively recent, the original Yankee Stadium was closed and a new one built in its place. I’ll also admit that I’m not even a big baseball fan – I’d be lucky to pass a multiple choice quiz on the rules of the game. However, there is something quintessential to having the full New York Experience by trekking up to the Bronx and attending a Yankees game.
I’ve always been very spoiled with how close we’ve managed to sit, but I’ve had several people tell me the best ball game experiences happen in the nosebleeds. No matter the game, the energy in that stadium is electric. Don’t let the game come to an end without enjoying a sweaty hotdog and cold beer. I’ll also mention that the crowded train ride back to Manhattan is a big part of the fun. Don’t chicken out and opt for an Uber instead – go bump elbows with your fellow baseball fans.
7. Grand Central
I remember being dragged to Grand Central Station for the first time kicking and screaming. We had been assigned a paper for the dreaded NYU Freshman course of Writing the Essay discussing various works of public art.
“What art could a train station possibly possess?”
At least I’m willing to admit when I was being a total dumbass.
One step inside, and Grand Central secured its spot on my list of favorite places in NYC forever. Whenever I found myself traveling anywhere along the East Coast, I’d book my ticket as often as possible through Grand Central Station.
The food court downstairs is delicious, the fresh market upstairs is a treat for all senses, and yes, the main concourse remains one of the most beautiful man built spaces I’ve ever stood.
Please, should you get to Grand Central Station, send it my love.
8. Coney Island
Yes, it is ALWAYS a hassle to get to, and yes, you will ALWAYS encounter an odd smattering of people from another walk of life; however, the simple fact remains that each and every time I’ve taken the Q train to the end of the line at Coney Island, I’ve made a wonderful, lasting memory.
Go visit the boardwalk and enjoy a hotdog at Nathan’s. Jump on a few of the rides in Luna Park – they are surprisingly thrilling. During the summer, plan a late night to enjoy Burlesque at the Beach while throwing back several of Coney Island’s signature brews. Find a musical performance to attend at the Ford Amphitheater (seeing Mumford and Sons perform amongst the cyclones was nothing short of life changing). Oh, and finally, don’t forget the past midnight funnel cake to see you through your long subway commute home. Be sure to get extra powdered sugar on top, because really, what’s the point of enjoying a funnel cake if it isn’t a total mess?
So what are you waiting for? Get off your Manhattan high horse and venture out to this historic treasure. It’s well worth your time, energy, and glitter – sorry, did I neglect to mention the Mermaid Parade?
Coney Island. Go now.
9. Angelika Film Society
My heart aches for the closing of the Ziegfeld Theater. Luckily, New York seems to be holding on to its other screening treasures such as Soho’s Angelika Film Society.
Angelika Film Society is always a great place to scout out the artsier, more independent films. Also…don’t tell anyone I told you this…but it secretly has the best movie theater popcorn…ever….period. I’ve never been able to figure out exactly what it is about it that makes it so good. Perhaps a lighter kernel? The oil they cook it in? Actual butter? I’ve never actually known, but the fact remains…their popcorn is awesome.
I’ve delivered this information to several friends only to have them roll their eyes and laugh at me. However, every time this has happened, said friends have always returned to apologize and confirm just how amazing the popcorn actually is.
Full disclosure: there were times during college when I would agree to see a subpar movie….JUST SO I’D BE ABLE TO GET THE POPCORN! I kid you not…it’s just that good.
10. Washington Square Park
Oh WSP…in some respects, my first home in NYC.
You see, since NYU doesn’t have an actual campus, Washington Square serves as the university’s center. Where UCLA has its football stadium, NYU has the fountain.
I remember initially being scared by Washington Square Park – “It’s safe during the day, but beware after nightfall.” All of NYU’s Welcome Week seminars would warn us of being in the park after dark. There were always horror stories of the drug dealers and muggers that would suddenly appear after sunset – not to mention the graveyard that Washington Square Park actually is.
I admit, I initially aimed to stay away from the park, but after having a number of NYU friends drag me to and through it, I’m happy to say I only have fond memories of the area (aside from that 5 year period where over half of it was closed off due to construction).
Tiny compared to Central Park, Washington Square still provides plenty of space in order to escape from the chaotic city. Surprising, given busy 5th Avenue feeds directly into the infamous arch.
I admit, even now, I wish I had found reason to spend more time in Washington Square Park. I wish I had taken greater advantage of having such a location right in my metaphorical backyard. But while I can’t change the days I didn’t spend down on “campus,” I can always be grateful that, much like one of my favorite movies (already mentioned once in this post), my New York story at least got to start there.
Thanks for tuning in to Part 1. Part 2 featuring my favorite NYC Meals will be up next week! Until then…