New York City will always have a piece of my heart. I went to college at NYU and being back in Manhattan always brings back wonderful memories for me. As an 18-year-old from a small ski town in Idaho, I not only learned how to navigate life in the big city, I also officially learned how to be an adult. It’s where I learned to do my own laundry, pay my rent, get myself to class (most of the time), make new friends, and how to hold my own. It’s more than a city to me—it’s the training ground that gave me wings. And while it certainly never picked me up when I fell, it did teach me to always get back up and keep moving (or get trampled).
These days, I try to visit NYC three or four times a year, and every time I fall in love with a new neighborhood, shop, or restaurant. But I also have my old favorites. Here’s my NYC guide, featuring my go-to museums, stores, restaurants, outdoor activities, and hotels.
Along with being the largest art museum in the U.S., the Metropolitan Museum of Art is personally special to me for several reasons. The first is because we had to use it as part of our curriculum at NYU. I remember having to do interpretive movements to the paintings (the docents weren’t particularly impressed). It’s also where Jared proposed to me, so it will forever be one of my favorite places in the world. The Whitney Museum of American Art is another favorite. It always has exhibits that get me out of my comfort zone and make me think. And the American Museum of Natural History (and its humongous dinosaur fossils!) never disappoints.
Bergdorf Goodman is my favorite department store—it has the best eye candy! Nothing is more fun than walking through the revolving door and being greeted with handbags that are works of art, then shooting up the escalator and viewing all the mannequins that are styled in gorgeous designer gowns like they are on their way to a fabulous party. Plus the shoe department is pretty much heaven for shoe fanatics.
For boutiques, I love the clean, green beauty products at Onda. I always find something new there. For hair and apothecary products, I head to C.O.Bigelow. It carries the best brushes and barrettes. The quirky tableware at Fishs Eddy has always made me happy. The store is delightfully cheery, and I can’t resist the mixed-matched plates. And I’m also a big fan of the bold gold jewelry at Broken English.
FOOD & DRINK
There are so many amazing restaurants, cafes and holes-in-the-wall in New York City, the hard part is choosing where to go! One place I always make time to visit is coffee spot Kaffe 1668 South, where the vibe is great and the décor is adorable. I order the Hawaiian Pink Dragon smoothie or the Healing Yogi Bowl. Mercer Kitchen is another restaurant that never disappoints. I remember going here with my mom when I was in college, and I still order the same thing today: the tuna spring roll with soy bean puree. Beyond Sushi is a place you just have to try. My vegan friend told me about it. While I’m not vegan, I’m pretty hooked on this alternative sushi and wish we had a location in Austin. And I love the drinks at Employees Only, a prohibition-style cocktail bar hidden in the West Village. I’m always nostalgic for it because this was my corner bar when I lived on Christopher Street.
NYC can feel like one big playground—especially when you are shopping for little ones. I always go to My Little Sunshine and Ever After to pick up clothing for the kids that I can’t find in Texas. I am a big believer in natural, wooden toys (though it’s getting harder since my kids are getting older), so I always stop by Playing Mantis to check out what’s in stock. And Mary Arnold Toys has great presents for every kind of kiddo.
The concrete jungle of New York City is also full of picturesque outdoor moments. The views of Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge while jogging around DUMBO are simply breathtaking. I also adore strolling the 1.45 miles of The High Line. For people-watching or soaking in college life, I head to Washington Square Park. And in the spring (soon!), there are beautiful flowers everywhere you look, including tulips on the Upper East Side and 52 acres of blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. In the fall, you can’t beat the sight of millions of leaves changing color in Central Park.
Recently, I stayed at 1 Hotel Central Park, which has eco-friendly touches throughout, including reclaimed wood and plants as decor, toiletries in recycled packaging, organic sheets on the beds, and a five-minute hourglass in the bathroom to keep your showers in check. I’m also a big fan of The Greenwich Hotel, where the design is just awesome. Each room is different and features a blend of decors and fun colors that makes it stylish yet homey. Plus, the service is top-notch, the pool is so relaxing, and the Tribeca location is right in the middle of everything.
What about you? Tell me your favorite places in New York City in the comments below!
This reminds me so much of my time in New York as well i actually went to NYU but i dropped out at the start of the second year because my mom got sick and i didn’t want to leave her in the care of a home. She died a year later. I’m not actually from New York I’m orginally from Trinidad and Tobago. Caribbean islands. So after she died I came back home. So yeah New York is actually a nice place and there are some places you can visit, Brooklyn New York that place is amazing. I’ve been there a few times and that place is a part of me!
Have you been to the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co with the kids? It’s part of the 826Valencia charity and the storefronts are AMAZING. Just creative, fun and over-the-top imagination…so fun.
hi, gen! I’m so excited to be visiting NYC in mid-April for a choir field trip. I can’t wait to explore this amazing city! I hope i will be able to visit some of the places listed here. I hope you have a great rest of your day!
I have never been . I have always always wanted to go and I think I still might. I have learnt so much about the place through research over the years I somehow feel like I know the place. I live in the UK and it can get a little eugghh at times. Maybe this should go on my vision board I am about to create for the new upcoming spring season. Thank you for sharing your ideas, I LOVE your blog. But you probably know that as I always seem to comment :0 I look forward to what you have in store for us next. Love to you and yours xxx
Thanks for sharing !!!
Hi Gen, I’ve been in NYC three times in my life, and yet it will always have a piece of my heart too. I love its verve and its energy. I got to chatting to so many native New Yorkers once they heard my Northern Irish accent :o) I adore Grand Central Station which has to be seen to be believed (and even managed to impress my then 16 year old nephew). Another favourite was the area in front of the Rockefeller Ice rink – great for people watching,. Central Park Zoo may be small, but it was perfectly formed
Only been once, a few years back, but would love to return.
Didn’t have time or money to do much but got my nerd on by visiting Hotel Chelsea.
Thanks for the post! My best friend and I visited NYC for the first time last year and absolutely fell in love. We plan on going back in the fall and hopefully making it an annual trip. We stayed at the Roosevelt and just loved the atmosphere of it (and the fact they kept filming TV shows there!) And I think the Metropolitan Museum of Art may be my favorite place in the world. Just incredible history and (duh) art to immerse yourself in. Can’t wait to go back and use your guide!
Like you, New York will always have a piece of my heart, its verve, its buzz, its life. In the next life, I hope I get to live there :o). I’ve been in NYC three times, the last in 2016, and met lots of locals who loved to chat once they heard my Northern Irish accent. My favourite places are Grand Central Station – truly gorgeous, and it even managed to impress my then 16 year old nephew, the view of the Met Life from up Park Avenue, Rockefeller Plaza (great for people watching!) and Central Park Zoo. Take care x
I had never been to New York, but it’s my dream since I was born. Thank you for sharing your amazing experiences with us and I can say that I just felt butterflies in my stomach imagining Jared proposing you there and I wish you too all the love in the world. I love your blog very much. One day I’ll be there in the big apple and I can’t wait to use your guide. xx from Brasil
Born and raised NYer currently living in SC. My favorite places in no particular order:
Brooklyn Promenade because the view looking at Manhattan is spectacular.
The Cloisters – my Grandmother lived six blocks from there in Inwood. That was our playground when I was a kid.
The Frick Museum – it was like, visiting someone’s home.
The Museum of the City of New York – history abounding.
Katz’s Deli, Russ & Daughters – ridiculously expensive but there is nothing like them.
Soho galleries and shops
Being from the Jersey Shore I love jumping on a train and going into the City. Don’t know if you’ve ever been but the Met also owns The Cloisters. It’s devoted to the art and architecture of Medieval Europe. First time I went as a kid, and every time since, it feels like I’m in a castle.
For kids right now there is a slime “museum” it’s called SlooMoo Institute… heck it’s even fun for adults!
Hi Gen – I also love NYC and try to visit once a year. My fave unusual-ish spots: the JP Morgan Museum, Grand Central for people-watching, Corner Bistro or McSorley’s for “dive” bars, and the Waldorf-Astoria for a fancy bar – I saw Dr. Ruth one on visit, randomly ran into an Australian friend on another visit, and saw the frenzy caused by a visit from President Obama in 2012! I’m tempted to book a plane ticket right now…
I love NYC too. Thanks so much for a few new places for me to check out. And thanks for the ACL tips last year. Perfect!
I’m going to check out that botanical garden!
I grew up in NYC but sad to say I haven’t been back in so long. Is MoMA still there?! Also have you been to the Tiffany’s? Whispering Gallery? The secret gardens of Rockefeller center? Do many beautiful hidden gems there. Away from all the touristy spots. If you want some amazing food, try African Kine …. 2267 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd. So so so good. I can taste it right now.
I went for the first time three years ago and loved it. I’ve been back once more since and can’t wait to go back again. I really liked the cookies at Levain Bakery and the ice cream at Big Gay Ice Cream! And maybe it’s morbid but as a history nerd and Hamilton fan I enjoyed visiting Trinity Church cemetery to see Hamilton’s grave, along with his wife Eliza and sister-in-law Angelica. The public library is awesome too.
I live about 25 minutes outside of Philly and I love being able to tell people who aren’t familiar with the area about all the hidden gems and amazing places to go. I have always wanted to explore NYC some more but never really knew where to start, so I’m really happy you posted this! I loooove the Met and The High Line and I’ve seen the gardens on the Upper East Side. But, now I’ll have a guideline for the next time I’m in NYC. And if you ever find yourself in Philly, I have some great suggestions on amazing museums, restaurants, shops and outdoor places you should visit!
last week was our first time in NYC and in the USA. It was my gift for my husbands 40th birthday last year and our first trip without our 3 children since our honey moon. We visit the Met last thursday and friday, visit the MoMa and a lot of other beautiful places in this city. We’ re walking most of the time and feel well. Now we’re back and begins to work on impressions.
Thanks your personal stories.
Take Care Julia
Though I do remember going to the Russian Tea Room- the favorite place is going to the deli outside Radio City Music Hall. Literally best everything. There are a lot of fun pizza places though they all tought themselves as “the original” I recommend Speedy Romeo or Emily’s.