Merely mentioning the name New York usually, draws sighs from people. But ask what they want to see most and the answers are mostly the same, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, shopping, Times Square. But for me, New York is so much more than that.
It’s no secret that I love New York. I’m not a big city type of girl, but there is just something special about this city. In fact, it is still a bit of a mystery for me why I love it so much. Because I am a complete Introvert.
Usually, bustling, crowded, noisy places do me in, leaving me depleted and drained. But having visited three times I have found the quieter places to recharge, know the places to visit quickly and where to linger. I hate crowds, with a passion, which can prove to be somewhat of a challenge when I travel. But I have developed strategies for myself which include venturing out early morning, downtime during tourist peak hours and out again in the afternoon, early evening.
But in New York, above all else (and strangely so), it is the sound that I find captivating and the constant rhythm of this eclectic and vibrant city that never stops. Whatever the reason, I cannot wait to return.
Where to Stay?
Upper West Side
My preference for neighbourhoods to stay in New York is the Upper West Side.
I also liked the West Village but for me, the Upper West Side makes my stays easy and convenient.
Located in Manhattan and in easy walking distance to Central Park, Times Square and Broadway. The Upper West Side is the perfect combination of city living and a family friendly neighbourhood.
Full of beautiful brownstones, a good variety of places to eat, it is filled with families and their well-groomed pooches. The neighbourhood has a warm and inviting atmosphere making you feel comfortable and at ease.
This is the perfect place to enjoy some “real” time in New York and get that taste of “living like a local” away from the tourist-filled areas like Times Square.
Of course, there are other neighbourhoods that have the same vibe, but their proximity away from the main places that a first-time visitor might like to see makes them less appealing.
Next time I travel to New York, I wouldn’t mind staying in the East Village. I have heard great things and because I have already visited three times, I am looking for a more casual, laid back visit. Somewhere I can enjoy a neighbourhood cafe, build some familiarity and a slower pace.
Some of the neighbourhoods of Brooklyn would probably be worth a stay too.
My preferred hotel is the Hotel Beacon located on Broadway, on the Upper West Side, this hotel has large rooms and suites with kitchenettes.
For travellers like me who have some dietary issues and prefer to cook for themselves occasionally, this provides the best of both worlds.
And with the Fairways Supermarket across the road, it couldn’t be better. You have the choice of buying supplies, picking up something delicious from the deli or going upstairs to the cafe if you don’t want to cook yourself.
With the Theatre District, only a 10 -15 minute walk away it makes visiting Times Square and taking in a Broadway Show easy.
Central Park is a 10-minute walk as is the Natural Museum of History.
I prefer to walk rather than take public transport if I can, but for excursions farther afield the subway is only a block away from my preferred hotel.
I hate public transport, well buses anyway. And I was worried about the Subway. But we mastered it and travelled all around Manhattan.
Eating New York Style
As an Australian, there seems to be the assumption that American food is things like bacon with added sugar, hot dogs with every topping imaginable, burgers with fillings oozing and spilling out the sides.
But it is possible to find great tasting, decent, delicious food especially if you head out of the tourist areas.
My favourite café, The Fairways Cafe, makes the best salmon, creamed spinach and sweet potato fries. I also love that it is frequented by locals, telling me it is a neighbourhood favourite.
I will admit though, that a trip to Crumbs for a Peanut Butter Cupcake from Crumbs is usually a pilgrimage I make soon after arrival. There are so many flavours to choose from that next time I think I will have to change it up a bit.
Free Things to Do
So what would I recommend to first-time visitors? And particularly those who are introverted like me?
Obviously, there are the big sights you have to see and do (or not) The Empire State Building, maybe a visit to the Top of the Rock, some shopping on 5th Avenue, Grand Central Terminal and I could go on and on.
I understand that most first time visitors want to see Times Square. I get it, but for someone like me who hates crowds, it might be best to avoid it. At the very least, make sure your hotel is not located in this area so that you don’t have to deal with the crowds the minute you walk outside. Nice to visit, but great to escape!
BUT what about great stuff to do that’s totally free and quietly manageable?
Here are five of my favourite things to do in New York and best of all they’re all FREE. Make sure you check them out on your next visit.
- Central Park Conservancy Tours – run by volunteers and cover different areas of the park. Some of these are paid tours, but there are still free tours available.
- 79th Street Greenmarket – Chat to locals and buy great local produce.
- The High Line – a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on the west side of Manhattan.
- Staten Island Ferry – an excellent way to cruise past and see the Statue of Liberty (beware do this when energy levels are up because it can be VERY crowded).
- MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) – free admission on Fridays from 4 pm to 8 pm.
View for the High Line
On my next visit I plan to stay in my favourite hotel, The Hotel Beacon (if I can as it books out quickly), spend days lounging in the Sheep Meadow in Central Park soaking up the sun, enjoying a picnic, indulging my inner shopaholic at Century 21 and spend evenings relaxing at wine bars and restaurants. Just taking it all in.
I plan to visit boroughs that I haven’t been to before and more walking tours; my favourites tour company is CityRover Walks.
What are your favourite things to do in New York?
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