Last week, I posted the first half of my list of best things to do in New York City. I figured that since I’m about to move out of the city, it’s time to share my secret favorite places and adventures. Starting with last week’s post (which began with my favorite coffee shop), I’ve structured the list in rough chronological order so theoretically, you could do all these things in one day — although it would involve many subway rides up, down and across Manhattan. Let me know if you’ve tried any of these places or plan to. Today we begin with my favorite parks for a post-lunch afternoon stroll and we conclude with the #1 best thing to do in New York City.
Best Park: Tie between Riverside Park and Central Park (pictured above)
Don’t make me choose! I’ve spent too many glorious afternoons in New York’s parks to pick just one favorite. Riverside is the park has been most significant and valuable to me during my year in New York because it’s two blocks from my house and has a wonderful running trail that I use multiple times a week. Read more about it here. Central Park, the New York City park, is surprisingly not overrated. Rather, it is 100% fantastic, expansive and full of hidden delights. You can wander there for hours, take a nap in one of its grassy meadows or admire one of the many statues, ponds and gardens it has to offer.
Best Afternoon Activity Combo: Chelsea Market and the High Line (pictured above)
If you have a few hours to kill and you want an eating/walking combo (two of the best things to do in New York City) this is just the ticket. Take the train to Penn Station, then walk west to 10th Avenue and turn south until you see the High Line Park. It’s a gorgeous raised-railroad that has been converted into a park, planted with flowers, scattered with benches, and chock full of gorgeous views of the city. It only takes about twenty leisurely minutes to walk the whole thing and if you exit at 16th street, you’ll find yourself at a delightful indoor marketplace. I’ve spent many a joyous afternoon perusing the numerous stalls in Chelsea Market for spices, chocolates, cooking utensils, jewelry and much more. When you start getting peckish, grab an ice cream at Ronnybrook Dairy, a taco at Los Tacos No. 1, or, if you’re feeling famished and decadent, go for a lobster at the popular, Lobster Shop. The choices abound.
Best Museum: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
I first came to the Met a few weeks after my move to New York, almost twelve months ago, and I remember quite distinctly the first thing that struck me about this museum after so many days of nonstop New York traffic, noise, garbage, language, smells and crowds of people: how quiet and empty the Met can be. You won’t discover this right upon walking in, but as you wander deeper inside the hull of the museum, up through wings that feel as though they have not been traversed in decades, centuries even, you will feel the quiet and the calm. Of course, you will also find yourself immersed in one of the most fantastic and expansive art collections in the world, and that is an incomparable gift. Rooms and rooms full of paintings, sculptures, rugs, armor and artifacts from every corner of the globe, from world-renowned artists to creators quite unknown to anyone but for the small etching they left on a pot buried in some ancient house in Sri Lanka. What masterpieces.
Best Restaurant for a Night Out: The Ellington
I love this Upper West Side spot. It’s not even so much the food as the atmosphere (although the food is excellent). Named after the jazz legend who lived in the neighborhood, the Ellington plays tribute in its architecture, cocktail names and music. It’s classy enough to feel special, but casual enough that you won’t feel out of place.
Best Bar: 67 Orange Street
This one has a story: Months ago, in the dead of winter, my boyfriend came to visit me for a weekend and on the Sunday evening before he left, we went for dinner at the Ellington. After we’d finished, we felt it wasn’t time to turn in just yet and my boyfriend starts telling me that he might know somewhere to go. It turns out that a few weeks prior to that, a gentleman had stopped by for a drink at my boyfriend’s bar, all the way in Wisconsin, and this man explained that he himself was a bartender at a little place in Harlem called 67 Orange Street. So we ventured out in search of this mysterious place. We had to walk by the storefront three times before noticing the tiny numbers “67” above the door, accompanied by heavily curtained windows. Stepping inside, we were greeted by warmth, leather stools, a friendly and winding-down Sunday evening crowd. The bartender brought us cocktail menus printed inside children’s story books, a different page for each spirit (gin, whiskey, vodka, etc.). Each drink that came to us was perfectly executed. Suffice it to say, we felt that we had discovered a mythical land, that it might melt into the buildings on either side, Harry Potter-style, the moment we left.
#1 Best Thing to do in New York City: A Concert at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola
If you only have one free evening in the Big Apple, this activity is guaranteed to give you the complete New York experience with the maximum bang for your buck. Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola (i.e. Jazz at Lincoln Center) is a majestic jazz club on the top floor of the Shops at Columbus Circle. Its wraparound wood bar, intimate candle-lit tables, generous service, and hand-crafted soul food and cocktails set the scene for an unforgettable night. But what you’re really coming for is the view—the wall-to-wall windows provide a perfect look at the New York skyline at night. You have to see it for yourself. And then of course, there’s the music. Unless you absolutely despise jazz, you’ll find yourself captivated by award-winning ensembles and up-and-coming artists performing everything from blues to big band to klezmer. Each night is something different. More importantly, most nights offer student discounts, sometimes for as low as $5 a ticket. So what are you waiting for?