I used to think I didn’t like Manhattan. The advertisements plastered to every surface, the inescapable flashing lights and honking cars were just too much. And the people, the massive throngs of people pressing in on your from all sides while the skyscrapers loomed overhead. Doing things like shopping on Fifth Avenue, visiting the Empire State Building or walking through Times Square was stressful and suffocating.
However, I just got back from a really lovely weekend in New York, where I visited some college friends. I was happy to see them of course, but I was also shocked to find myself actually having a good time in New York City. While in the past I’ve felt anxious and insecure, now I felt happy and excited to be there. I reflected on why that might be and realized that the key to enjoying Manhattan was skipping the touristy spots and acting more like a local.
Here are my tips for a more enjoyable weekend in New York City:
Get away from the tourists
Sure you want to see Times Square, the Statue of Liberty and all that jazz but I promise if you do so does everyone else on the planet. Once you’ve checked out the major landmarks spend some time exploring the less frenetic parts of Manhattan (or maybe even Brooklyn). Try staying in a new neighborhood. Take the subway. Try to be where the tourists, panhandlers, and pickpockets are not.
Eat a Lot
New York has some of the best food on earth, so spend some time sampling the city’s great international cuisine. It helps to plan ahead as your can only eat so much in a weekend in New York; you can use Yelp and other websites to narrow down your search. Avoid any restaurants within a 5 block radius of Times Square at all costs (your wallet will thank you).
This past weekend I ate at the majorly delicious Cafeteria in Chelsea and Fresh Salt in the Financial District (excellent macaroni and cheese). Otto Pizzeria in Greenwich Village is also fabulous and inexpensive. Of course, great New York pizza, bagels, and hot dogs are just about everywhere.
Find A Good Deal
The one semi-touristy thing we did do last weekend was seeing a Broadway show. I’m a fan of musical theater and there is nothing quite like seeing a big budget show. We settled on a Sunday Matinee and hit up the TKTS booth in Time Square for discounted tickets. We ended up with sixth-row seats for Mamma Mia at half price.
It can be an expensive city but there are other great opportunities to save money if you look for them. One of my favorite things to do in the city is to visit The Strand, an absolutely massive discount bookstore in Greenwich Village. I am a book addict and I can spend hours wandering the shelves, sorting through for a good deal. This weekend I behaved pretty well and only came off with four new books- at under $25!
Go For A Walk
A relaxing (and free) thing to do on a nice day is to take a stroll through Central Park- one of the greatest examples of American landscaping out there. The park is buzzing and alive on a nice day, full of New Yorkers jogging, walking their dogs or just hanging out.
Chelsea Pier and Battery Park are two other green spaces to escape from the concrete jungle even if you are just spending a weekend in New York.
Make Some Friends
Confession time: I used to be afraid of New Yorkers. You see them on the street walking briskly, confident in where they are going and that they belong in this hectic city. When I think New Yorkers I think Seinfeld, I think Gossip Girl. I think people who are far cooler than me.
Now that I have friends in the city I’ve actually gotten to know quite a few of these exotic New Yorkers. And guess what? They are kind of awesome. And like the other cities I love, London and DC, they are from all over the world and are doing all sorts of interesting things. You really can’t get to know a city unless you talk to the people that live there, so try and find someone to connect one on one with the people of New York City.
If you follow these tips you will not only be less stressed out, you will also spend less money and probably get a better idea of what New York City is actually like. Actually, pretty much all of these tips could be applied to any city to give you a better taste of the culture.
Okay, New Yorkers and New York fans, what are some other ways to enjoy a weekend in New York?