On my very first trip to New York, many years ago, M and I were walking down Times Square when a young man on the street waved a sweet potato in our faces and sang a senseless song about said sweet potato. It was delightful and strange – like all of New York! Over the years I’ve seized every opportunity I could to visit this marvelous, madcap city and there’s always new stuff to see, new songs about vegetables to be serenaded with. My recommendations don’t include a lot of touristy stuff like getting into the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty (gasp!) because I hate standing in crazy long lines, and I think these historic landmarks can be enjoyed from afar. So, here goes:
Brunch at Junior’s Restaurant & Cheesecake
Like all of New York’s landmark eateries, you can expect to find long lineups at Junior’s Restaurant and Cheesecake – I’m okay with standing in these lines because, food. The cheesecake here is so beautiful, Helen of Troy is jealous. It’s so beautiful an old witch came in and offered it an apple. Heh heh. It’s so beautiful it’s going to be the next face of Lancôme. Heh. Umm, moving on. . .
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
If you’re visiting between May and August (dates vary according to year), the Costume Institute’s legendary annual exhibit, an eye-poppingly gorgeous marriage between fashion and art, is a must-see. Unless you’re not super-duper-into clothes. In which case there’s plenty of other stuff for you, like this lovely sculpture of Ugolino where he is starving and contemplating whether he should eat his sons:
And speaking of nourishment! Another New York favorite:
Their renowned pastrami on rye is tender, buttery. . .magic. Eat it and you’ll know why it’s the stuff of New York legend. Magnolia Bakery’s cupcakes, on the other hand, were a tad underwhelming. When Carrie Bradshaw eats a cupcake, you expect it’ll knock your socks off – but these just didn’t do it for us. I’ve heard since that their banana pudding is the real star, so maybe try that instead?
Shopping on 5th Avenue
If you’re a well-heeled, deep-pocketed, fancy-pants-wearing fat-cat I suggest walking into the stores along this historic street and flinging fistfuls of cash at people’s faces. They will (probably) cheer and clap! If you aren’t, you should still go because it’s a pretty, quintessentially Upper East Side street with quick access to Central Park.
Running parallel to 5th is Madison Avenue, which is very, very important because –
Ladurée may originally be a Parisian establishment, but thanks to Blair Waldorf’s penchant for their famous little pastries, the Madison Avenue outlet is now practically an institution of its own. As a macaron enthusiast living in a Ladurée-less city I’d never miss a chance to go, so on my walk to the Met I stopped by for this glorious breakfast:
I like really old bridges.
We watched Fiddler on the Roof at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, and while we weren’t too happy going in because M’s first choice (The Book of Mormon) as well as my first choice (Wicked) were both sold out, it turned out to be a great show and we both left singing its praises (and its very catchy songs). The lesson is if you’ve got a show in mind, make sure to book tickets far in advance. It’s the grown-up thing to do, and you ought to start acting your age!
Bagels at Russ and Daughters
You’ve got to have a bagel if you’re in New York! I think. The bagel+scallion cream cheese+lox was to die.
Best time to visit
The only time it’s low season in New York is during the winter, which is the worst. There’s a reason why no one else goes then, so you probably shouldn’t either. One little tip I got from my dad is not to go in September if you’re planning to stay at a hotel. The UN General Assembly means an onslaught of 10,000 people coming in during the month (dates vary according to year), and a quick search on tripadvisor will confirm that hotel prices are nearly double for that period.
The best time to go, according to Lonely Planet at least, is June – lots of street festivals and outdoor music events (and the Pride Parade!).