Autumn or Spring is the best time to visit, and the weather may well be brisk and bright or cool and rainy. Be young or young at heart, and ready for a lot of walking. You’ll want something to take photos with, and comfortable clothing. There will be a lot of people around, so don’t go if you are agoraphobic; or try to overcome it.
If you like exotic fast food, you may want to sample a knish or a falafel. Different vendors will have food of varying quality and price. With falafel (in the past at least) the trick is to not go too cheap or too expensive. The cheap will may be bad and the mid-ranged may be fresh and delicious. For the uninitiated, falafel is mashed chickpeas, deep fried, and served in a pita pocket with veggies and tahini (sesame) or tzatziki (yogurt) sauce. A knish is only exotic if you have never had one: mashed potatoes in a cooked dough. You could always get a foot-long hot dog or a pretzel with mustard, if you want to play it conservative.
The architecture is massive, varied, and pretty much stunning. See Wall Street and City Hall in lower Manhattan, for some of the older, historical greats; The Chrysler Building, The Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, and The Plaza Hotel, in midtown; and if you trek to Brooklyn, be sure to tour Grand Army Plaza including the Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Museum, and Brooklyn Botanic Gardens; Nearby Park Slope is also a fun walk, and if you want a sweet treat, check out Cousin John’s Cafe and Bakery on 7th Avenue for a bevy of French pastries and espresso drinks. Back in “The City”, is Rockefeller Center, great at Christmas time, with its massive tree, and small ice rink. In NYC, old and new collide in an explosion of colors and styles. The churches are beautiful, including the colossal St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
SOHO, Little Italy, Chinatown and the East Village have some more obscure wonders, including rustic and unique dining, museums, and theaters. The Upper East Side is very upscale and interesting. They plant thousands of tulips on the median of Park Avenue in the Spring.
The Upper West Side was my favorite place due to my interest in the performing arts: Lincoln Center, with the Opera House , Avery Fisher Hall, The Juilliard School, and more; Central Park, has a plethora of cool stuff, including the Delacourte Theater, where Shakespeare in the Park is free since 1963!
The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and The Metropolitan Museum of Art are fun to visit, as is the Museum of Natural History.
Korean and other grocers offer a wide variety of quick snacks from Chinese apple-pears to Doritos and Coke; Get Jamaican jerk chicken, Couscous, Thai steak salad, and a host of other exotic treats as you traverse the boulevards and restaurants.
The ladies will like the shopping, from the mundane or cheap to the exotic and extravagant, and the further uptown, often the steeper the price.
You may hop into a cab if it rains, or your feet are weary. Be sure to have a nice hotel, sublet, or friend’s home at your disposal, as the walking is exhilarating but can be exhausting. Even if you are young and traveling alone, safety nets are good, so have comfortable shoes, and a fairly large wallet. You may find a bargain, but overall, lodging is pricey.
Keep a bit of cash on hand for tips, or to drop in hats and guitar cases. There are a lot of great street performers, drummers and musicians. Entertainment abounds, but keep your eye out for trouble. I have encountered much more goodwill than menace in NYC, but keep your valuables secure, and your eyes open.
There may be people selling all sorts of items from umbrella’s to tube socks. Most items went for $5 in the ’80’s, and the umbrella’s were always welcome, but were cheaply made, and often quickly self-destructed in many windy storms.
You may also see famous people, strange characters, and many homeless. You may avoid the latter, or buy them a sandwich. Use wisdom and discretion. A few of them are dangerous, some crazy, many proud, and many kind.
Your senses will be crowded with the amazing, the not so nice, and everything in between. It’s a big world there in NYC. Enjoy the walk!
(I lived in NYC from 1987-1992, and did a lot of walking and exploring, when I wasn’t working, or going to a play or movie. The facts in this article are based on some of those activities I enjoyed during that era)