To know New York City like a local is a badge of honor for any traveler. My New York goes back many years, at a time when the Big Apple was not so attractive, and it was not very high on the love scale of the planet.
So much has happened since. The zero-tolerance policy might have been criticized by many, but it has been instrumental in the comeback of Manhattan.
Truth be told though, whatever the time in history, New York City has always been a magnet to all sorts of travelers- poets, fashion designers, movie directors, artists, lovers, and of course, entrepreneurs and starry-eyed tourists.
There is so much to experience here, from the culturally rich quirks like the buzz of Broadway to the great monuments, the green calm of Central Park and some of the best hotel restaurants in the world. The trick to seeing it is making those quintessential stops that will help you catch a glimpse of the city’s beating heart, and for me, these are some of the things I do again and again, whenever I’m in town.
Things to do in New York City
Run the reservoir of Central Park in the morning
Central Park is not short of picturesque landscapes, but the 40 feet deep Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, stretching from the 86th to the 96th Streets is something special. In the morning light, when the city’s skyscrapers reflect in the pristine waters, it feels like the city is portrayed upside down by some crazy architect, and there is nothing quite like it. This is also the site pictured in the movie Marathon Man, with Dustin Hoffman and Roy Scheider, and none of us can really forget this 1976 American classic.
Head to Absolute Bagels
After the appetite-building run around the reservoir, a stop by Absolute Bagels is a must. Their bagels, glossy and perfectly textured, are, for a lack of better words, absolutely the best, and the shabby storefront space, with just a few tables and pop music playing on the stereo, is picture-postcard NYC.
Book an evening at the Met Opera
Speaking of classic NYC experiences, the Metropolitan Opera at the cultural epicenter of New York City is a transformative experience. Secure a seat here for an evening in one of the best opera houses in the world, and an unmatched onstage artistry and a glamorous offstage scene.
Make a stop at the Frick Collection for a dose of Western European art
For quiet time off from the ever busy streets of New York, I always pay a visit to Sara Corder, Lady Hamilton and her fellow high society friends, all so beautifully displayed at the fabulous Frick Collection. This former mansion of millionaire industrialist Henry Clay Frick is not your garden-variety boutique museum. It’s filled, nearly every inch, with the art enthusiast’s collection of old master paintings, and it feels like a New York City museum highlight reel.
Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan deserves a visit
At night, the neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen on the West Side of Midtown Manhattan is where you want to be. Walk the animated streets of this diverse neighborhood and stop for drinks at fun bars or have a bite with true New Yorkers or… the many more who feel or hope they belong.
Take a ferry to Staten Island
Then, of course, a ferry ride to Staten Island for photo ops of the Lower Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty is also a must. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it’s worth it to see the city from the waters and understand how it all started when a few Dutch sailors bought the island from a small group of local Indians to then name it New Amsterdam.
If you happen to be visiting over a weekend, get on the metro, all the way up to Harlem to attend a service at one of the churches where gospel is interpreted so well, the voices make you believe heaven really does exist! My advice? Get there for the early services of 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. When the tourists get there, it’s not so pleasant…
The best thing about a trip to New York is: The city does not sleep, so if you feel jet-lagged, there is nothing to worry about. Almost everything’s open 24/7!