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Guide to New York
A Guide to Places You Must Visit and Might Not Know About
I've lived just outside of New York all my life, and I've lived in it for more than a few years. There is a lot to do here; everyone seems to agree on that. But tourists tend to stay in one part of town and do a prescribed list of things. What's up with that?
New York is not midtown, not Times Square, not Broadway. That is a tiny section of New York, and most people who live here tend to avoid it as much as possible. So here's a guide to some places that are somewhere between Tourist and purely "For-The-Locals".
If you're a tourist, you're guaranteed not to feel out of place in these places, and you will be glad you strayed from the typical path. If you're a local, it's quite possible you've never done any of these things, but you certainly will have fun if you do.
Browsing and Shopping
- The famous bookstore with eighteen miles of books. If ever you have not been able to find a specific book you wanted, you will probably find it here. Their prices are always ridiculously low -- you will wonder how they do it -- and downstairs, they have a whole section of brand new books for half price!
- If you're shopping in SoHo, take a break from the trendy clothes and shoes by strolling through this off-beat department store. From bamboo stools to lanterns to robes to waterfalls to rare musical instruments, they have a little bit of everything in this two-floor, block-wide store. If you want to get an eclectic gift for someone or add a little something to your home decor, stop by Pearl River.
- Literally their only store on the entire North American continent (right now) is in New York City, or more specifically, in SoHo. It's a direct import from Japan, so get a jump on the next fashion trend by stopping by here. The store is designed in a classic Japanese style (very clean, very white), and you're bound to find something that you love, especially if you're into a clean-cut, hip look (and, really, who isn't).
Museums and Sights
- Okay, so this one you probably know about. But I'm not recommending just that you go there; in fact, there is something you must specifically do while you're at the museum that always makes me want to go back again and again. If there is any childlike wonder left in you (and if you have children, even better!), you must go to the room with the big whale and lay down on the floor under it. Stare up at the model of that whale and think about the amazing fact that there are animals like that in this world. Doesn't sound like much, but it can be pretty moving.
- Possibly the most beautiful place on the island of Manhattan. It's a little bit out of the way (way uptown), but more than worth it if you want to see a different side of New York. It's a Medieval-style castle with beautiful artwork, and it's right in Fort Tryon Park, which is a gorgeous park. You won't believe that this park is in the busy, concrete city of New York. If you're feeling overwhelmed, it's a wonderful place for a quiet lunch.
- Much closer to midtown and well worth a visit or two. They're always bringing in new exhibits and events. The museum store boasts educational materials as well as the "best sex toys around," but MOSEX is not just for the kinky. There's a little something for everyone who has a sex life, and it's a great place to go on a date, if you know what I mean!
- On any night after (or around) sunset, take a walk on the Brooklyn Bridge. You don't have to walk all the way across; just walk about halfway to Brooklyn without looking back, then whirl around to see the greatest city in the world staring back at you. I'm sure you've seen pictures, but it's nothing like being there yourself.
- A fun trip for a day or night with good weather, and it's free! From the windy decks or behind glass, check out the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and southern Manhattan and Brooklyn. And when you get to Staten Island, you can just stay on the ferry and come right back! It's a trip that you can throw into your schedule at the very last minute and still squeeze in a bunch of beautiful views!
- Possibly the coolest part of Central Park, the "Ramble" is a winding dirt path through a mini-forest that leads up to the historic Belvedere Castle. You will not believe that you are literally in the middle of Manhattan as you're wandering your way up that hill, but when you get there you have a 360-degree view of all the beautiful buildings rising above the Central Park trees.
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Food and Drink
- A delicious restaurant, and a "must" for chocolate lovers. Chocolate pizza, chocolate breakfast sandwiches, chocolate sundaes. But their "real" food is delicious, too! I recommend the milk chocolate hot chocolate, Tutti Fruitti Waffles, and the salmon quiche. Go there starving and expect an amazingly fun and delicious meal!
- If you're out bar-hopping on the Lower East Side (which is generally recommendable; lotsa fun places down there), you absolutely must stop by Dumpling Man. Don't leave it as the last stop on your list for the night (they close just after midnight on weekends), but it is the ideal place to grab a bite between drinks... or on a lunch break... or as an afternoon snack... It's actually just the most delicious dumpling you will ever eat. And while they're more well-known than they were when I first went there, they have remained true to their original feel. I can't even recommend something to you because every dumpling I've ever had there has been amazing.
- A fun off-beat tiki bar (if the name didn't tip you off) that's worth a visit. They've got the islandy-feeling rum drinks as well your classic full bar, but there is also a back room with sometimes great comedy and musical talent. Otto's has something going on almost every night, though obviously weekends are the busiest. But if you want a funny little bar located in a funny little hole-in-the-wall, it's worth a visit!
- Thank God, New Yorkers no longer have to go to Philadelphia just to get a good cheesesteak (yes, I have literally done this). They have several tiny "restaurants" -- the original of which is actually quite close to Times Square and in an area with great nightlife -- but don't plan on sitting for long; there are about ten stools in their main store! But nobody builds as great a sandwich as the guys at Carl's, and everyone that knows about them swears by them.