The first time I visited New York City, the city and I didn’t really click. My visit was solely centred around the top attractions – Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, the shops along Fifth Avenue – and I just ended up feeling overwhelmed by the chaos of it all. On this second trip I wanted to do things differently; since it was Sam’s first time in the Big Apple, we still made sure to cover those iconic New York sights, but we also gave ourselves plenty of down time in the parks and some of the quieter Brooklyn neighbourhoods. Here are some of the highlights:
Walking the High Line
I love it when a city can continue to reinvent itself and repurpose structures that have become obsolete. The High Line was once a set of rail tracks that connected factories and warehouses, allowing for the easy distribution of food products. It was cleverly designed above street level, so that goods like milk, meat, and produce could be transported and unloaded without disrupting traffic below. However, over time these rail tracks lost their purpose. They lay in complete abandon until 2006, when plans were made to turn this space into an urban park. Today, there’s a wooden boardwalk where trains once ran, and the space is lined with all kinds of vegetation.
Playing Board Games at Bryant Park
During my very first trip to New York City several years ago, I felt a little claustrophobic and like there was no escape from the masses. However, during this second trip I found a lot of green spaces and quiet pockets where I could relax; Bryant Park being one of them. The thing I particularly loved about this park is that they have free board games for families and friends to enjoy. Little tables with umbrellas have been up, and you can sit down for a game of chess, scrabble, dominoes, Chinese checkers, or whatever else you can get your hands on. This is so clever for a city where people live in small apartments with relatively little outdoor space.
Stumbling upon Little Korea
Having spent a year teaching ESL in South Korea, I now crave Korean food all the time – bibimbap, kimchi bokkum bap, pajeon – you name it! That’s why I was beyond thrilled to discover that New York City has its own Little Korea. Koreatown (코리아타운) is located on West 32nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, and it really feels like you’ve set foot in Seoul. The street signs are in hangul, the bars serve soju, and there are plenty of noraebang rooms should you be in the mood for some karaoke. Sam and I found a little restaurant called Woorjip with a Korean buffet and we ended up eating there 3 times during our week in New York City. Yes, that’s how much we love our Korean food!
Getting a taste of Europe at the Cloisters
If you’re looking for some peace and solitude, then you may want to consider visiting the Cloisters in Upper Manhattan. Located in Fort Tryon Park, this place feels miles away from the bustle of the Downtown. Heavily influenced by European architecture, the building will make you feel like you’ve set foot in Spain or Italy. I particularly enjoyed the Cloisters because the place doesn’t get as many visitors as some of the other better known museums.
Spending hours walking around Central Park
There is so much to discover in Central Park! I mean, I knew it was huge before going, but I didn’t realize the scale of it until I set foot there and started walking. Central Park is more than a green space; it has numerous attractions and activities within. These include Belvedere Castle, Shakespeare Garden, Central Park Zoo, the Great Lawn, and Strawberry Fields, where people come and leave roses for John Lennon. Your best bet is to always enter from a different path so that you can see it all over time.
Eating Sylvia’s Soul Food in Harlem
Oh my goodness, the food at Sylvia’s Soul Food is mouthwatering! The restaurant was founded by Sylvia Woods, the Queen of Soul Food, and it is quite the popular establishment in Harlem. Sylvia’s clientele has included everyone from world figures like Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton, to locals who are in the mood for some hearty home-cookin’. I had the smothered chicken with yams, macaroni, and corn bread – it was heavenly! The meat was so tender and juicy that it just broke apart with my fork. Oh, and then I also had peach cobbler pie for dessert, because you don’t come to a place like this and leave without dessert! The establishment is modest and the interior looks a bit dated, but I can see why they don’t care much about the decor when they cook the way they do. Sylvia’s is located on Lenox Avenue, between 126th and 127th Streets.
People-watching at Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park is located in Greenwich Village by the NYU campus and it’s just a really nice place to hang out. You have the Memorial Arch which is a little reminiscent of the Triumphal Arch in Paris, there’s a big fountain where kids like to splash around on a hot day, and then there is always a street musician serenading people.
Taking the Roosevelt Island Tram
Do you remember that movie scene where Spider-Man is battling the Green Goblin and he has to choose between saving a tramway full of passengers or Mary Jane who is dangling in mid-air? That Spider-Man scene was filmed on New York’s Roosevelt Island Tramway! While there isn’t much to do on Roosevelt Island, it was fun riding such an iconic tram and getting to see the city from a different perspective.
Going on the rides in Coney Island
I happened to be in New York City the same weekend the Mermaid Parade was taking place, and that was enough to lure me out to Coney Island. After watching the scandalously-clad mermaids strut their stuff down the street, Sam, Jackie, and I decided to take on the rides. Unfortunately, Jackie got stuck in the middle on most of these rides, which meant she got two earfuls of screaming anytime there was a twist or a drop. Sorry Jackie!
Checking out the New York City skyline from DUMBO
DUMBO is an acronym which stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. The name alone makes this place worth a visit! This former industrial area is now home to loft apartments, design stores, art galleries, and trendy restaurants – plus you get some killer views of the Manhattan Bridge! P.S. There are some amazing pizzerias in this neighbourhood.
A little video from NYC!
Have you been to New York City?
What are your favourite spots in the Big Apple? Or what spots would you like to visit?