If you follow me on Instagram, you know what today is (mostly because I won’t shut up about it!). I’m headed to Maine, y’all! We are packed into a station wagon and headed north with big plans to do as little as possible.
After living in NYC for almost twelve years, I love getting out of town, but I know plenty of you can’t wait to visit this incredible city. Today, I’ve made a list of my favorite places in NYC (mostly Manhattan and Brooklyn), just in case you ever wanted to know what I love about this place and what we’d do if you came to visit me.
Museums & Popular Attractions
Cooper Hewitt (Upper East Side)
Inside a beautiful old mansion on Fifth Avenue is this incredible museum dedicated to innovative design & sustainability. Nearly everything there is interactive in some way, and all of it can be “bookmarked” for further investigation by renting a special electronic pen at the front desk. I’d try to explain it, but I’m not that smart.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Upper East Side)
A NYC classic! Go for the permanent collection, or to see Camp before it closes. I’ve also been to the Met Breuer, which is located in the Whitney’s old space. Definitely worth a look.
The Frick Collection (Upper East Side)
Go for the art, go for the stunning mansion it’s housed in.
American Museum of Natural History (Upper West Side)
Another must-see! My beloved Hall of Gems & Minerals is closed, but there are dinosaur bones, a whale, a planetarium, and plenty more things to see.
The Brooklyn Museum (Crown Heights, Brooklyn)
This one is definitely worth the trip across the bridge! This is a beautiful building in a stunning Brooklyn setting, and has recently hosted exhibitions on David Bowie, Frida Kahlo, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Kehinde Wiley.
One World Observatory (Financial District)
I don’t usually recommend paying a bunch of money to take an elevator, but the 360 view and the knowledge of the staff are well worth the cost of admission.
Beaches & Waterside Communities
Red Hook Waterfront (Brooklyn)
Red Hook is probably my favorite neighborhood in Brooklyn. This waterside community has cute shops, excellent restaurants (looking at you, Hometown Barbecue), and an incredible waterfront park. It also happens to be home to the best grocery store in Brooklyn, if not all of NYC. This neighborhood is not convenient to the subway; it’s accessible only by bus, car or ferry (or your own two feet), but it’s worth the minimal effort. I took my parents down there for a lobster roll and an ice cream cone a few weeks ago (more on those below), and I think they’d agree that it’s worth the trip.
Coney Island (Brooklyn)
This neighborhood is home to the famous Luna Park theme park, beach and boardwalk. My favorite thing to do down there is to catch a Brooklyn Cyclones baseball game.
The Rockaways (Queens)
I’ll admit that I’m not much of a city beach person, but I finally made it out to The Rockaways earlier this summer to see what all the hype is about. I ate an arepa, walked the boardwalk, and got my toes in the surf—no complaints. I highly recommend taking public transit (subway or ferry) to get out there. Don’t drive—parking is a nightmare.
Sole Di Capri (TriBeCa)
This small Italian restaurant is one of my favorites in all of NYC. They have a regular menu, but their specials are plentiful and change constantly. I’ve never has anything that was less than spectacular. My only real recommendation is to get whatever salad has the house-made mozzarella on it. So, so good.
Hot Kitchen (East Village)
My friend, David, introduced me to this Sichuan restaurant and it’s seriously fantastic. Get the cumin lamb!Katz’s Delicatessen and Russ & Daughters (both East Village)
These institutions don’t need my endorsement, but I’m just here to confirm that getting a Katz’s 1/2 pastrami sandwich + matzo ball soup and following it up with a Russ & Daughters raspberry hamantaschen is always a good idea.
This is Masaharu Morimoto’s ramen bar. I went with my best friend, Emily, a few weeks ago and we both loved it! Get the tsukemen and the Peking duck tacos.
The Plaza Food Hall (Central Park South)
This is a high-end food court located immediately below the Plaza Hotel. There are many options and all of them are fantastic. Plus, you get to say fancy things like “I’m going to lunch at the Plaza.”
Capizzi (Theatre District/Times Square)
This pizzeria is located just below Times Square near Port Authority. If I am going to the theatre with company, this is almost always my pick. The pizza is good, as is the service, and I’ve never had a problem getting a table.
5 Napkin Burger (Restaurant Row/Times Square + 2 more)
Another theatre district favorite! This is a great place to get a burger, fries, a sundae, or all three (!) before or after a show. Their onion rings are truly something to behold.
Bar Tabac (Boerum Hill, Brooklyn)
French food in an adorable setting in a neighborhood that I lived in for seven years. Their lone drawback is that they only take cash and AmEx.
Red Hook Lobster Pound (Red Hook, Brooklyn)
After you go check out the waterfront, stop for a lobster roll and a Maine Root root beer. The crispy brussels sprouts are great too.
Ample Hills Creamery (Multiple Locations)
A super cute & creative local ice cream chain.
Broadway ShowsI’ve gone to a lot of Broadway shows this year and it has been a ball! You don’t need me to tell you to see Hamilton (but like, it lives up to the hype) or The Book of Mormon (also great—saw it twice), and you certainly didn’t ask for my theatre recs, but this is my blog and you’re getting them anyway.
Shows I *love* that are currently running: Hamilton, The Book of Mormon, Waitress, Dear Evan Hansen, To Kill a Mockingbird.
Shows I like that are currently running: Come From Away, Beetlejuice, Beautiful, The Lion King.
Shows on my list to see soon: Hadestown, Oklahoma!, The Prom (closes August 11th), Moulin Rouge.
How I get Reasonable Tickets
TodayTix is my go-to for tickets. They have Broadway, Off-Broadway, and specialty shows (looking at you, Golden Girls Live!) all at reasonable prices. Highly recommend!
For the really pricey shows (Hamilton, Hadestown, To Kill a Mockingbird) I like to use GameTime, which is an active marketplace. Prices drop as showtimes get nearer—still regretting not taking a pair of $61 front mezzanine tickets to Hadestown the week after the Tonys. Don’t be like me!
If you’re still at a loss, some shows have standing room tickets ($25-$40) available at the box office. Be prepared to stand for 2-3 hours.
I love baseball and try to make at least one game a year (ideally when the Texas Rangers play the New York Yankees). I use GameTime to get crazy reasonable seats—seriously love that app.
These are the places where I spend my money.
Zabar’s (Upper West Side)
A NYC institution! Go for the coffee and the babka, or grab a few things at the deli counter and go picnic in nearby Riverside Park.
Sahadi’s (Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn)
This Brooklyn favorite is where I buy all my coffee beans, dried fruit, and cheese. Everything is shockingly reasonable, the staff is sweet, and they make the best hummus, period. I also used to work as a cashier here, and can say that the Sahadi family treats all their employees with the utmost respect. Love that.
Vintage & AntiquesPippin Vintage (Chelsea)
My favorite store in NYC. Great vintage and antique clothes, furniture, and jewelry (fine and costume), all at reasonable prices. I’ve never brought anyone there who didn’t totally fall in love with it. If nothing else, go to see the store itself, which is a small house set back from the street. It’s only accessible through a hall of antique mirrors!
Yesterday’s News (Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn)
The best vintage and antiques in Brooklyn. I bought my dresser here, as well as countless unique gifts for all my favorite people.
Alabaster Bookshop (Union Square)
A hidden gem around the corner from the famous Strand Bookstore.
Mercer Street Books & Records (NoHo)
A great bookstore around the corner from the Angelika. It makes for a wonderful start or end to a movie date.
Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books (Greenwich Village)
A left-wing community bookstore with grouchy staff that I love.
Random Free (& Cheap) Things
NYC is full of free things to do. Here is a list of ideas, just off the top of my head:
Go to the Brooklyn Flea. It costs nothing to browse.
Picnic in any park.
Walk the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and/or the Brooklyn Bridge.
Explore Green-Wood Cemetery. Seriously.
Get some soft-serve from a Mister Softee truck.
The Union Square Greenmarket is a great place to spend some time (even if you don’t end up buying anything).Go to the Balloon Saloon.
Tour Theodore Roosevelt’s birthplace.
Go take pictures at the Oculus.
Check out the reading room at the central branch of the New York Public Library.
Go take a look at Grand Central Station.
Walk into open churches.Take advantage of summer street fairs.As you can see, there is literally no excuse to be bored here. That’s why I have to go to Maine.