“Each neighbourhood of the city appeared to be made of a different substance, each seemed to have a different air pressure, a different psychic weight: the bright lights and shuttered shops, the housing projects and luxury hotels, the fire escapes and city parks.”
~ Teju Cole,
A few more fun activities around NYC:
1. Go on a Walking Tour with Free By Foot
Perks: Pay-what-you-wish tours that include historical facts, good food places, and subway tips. Reserve ahead of time online.
Find it: A. Midtown Manhattan Tour: Begins at 8pm on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. You can see the city lit up at night!
Meet inside Grand Central Terminal at the information booth on the main concourse. Tour ends at the Rockefeller Center.
B. NY in a Day Tour: Begins at 10am daily. Meet at the George Washington Statue at Federal Hall on the corner of Broad St. and Wall St. You’ll hit spots such as High Line Park, The NY Stock Exchange, Little Italy, NYU, the World Trade Center, and the West Village. Granted, it was very long walking tour (6-7 hours), but worth it to know some of the history and get more acquainted with the boroughs of NYC. Plus, you’ll stop at Chelsea Market for lunch.
2. Kayaking Under the Brooklyn Bridge
Perks: In the summer, and a little bit into the fall, free kayaking is offered in both Manhattan and Brooklyn.
I went with a couple of friends, both living in the city, who hadn’t heard of it before, and we had so much fun! We managed to catch the sunset over the Hudson river, and the view of the Brooklyn skyline from the river was one of my favourite sights.
Tip: Bring a change of clothes. The kayaking company offers a free locker for you to store your belongings in while you kayak, and there are changing rooms right on the pier.
Find it: Pier 26 in the Tribeca Neighbourhood of Manhattan
On Weekends from 9am-5pm
On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings from 5pm-7:30pm
~ or ~
Pier 2 in Brooklyn
Saturdays from 10am-3pm
Thursdays from 5:30-6:45pm
3. Take the Staten Island Ferry
Perks: Free of charge! If you have a bit of time to spare in Staten Island, you can take a bus from the ferry terminal to Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Gardens.
At the top of my list for sure, this ferry ride during sunset offered some of the most beautiful views of Manhattan, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty. Plus, it’s completely free and very efficient/easy to get to. The only thing is that even if you aren’t planning on staying in Staten Island, you still have to get off the boat and re-board to make the return trip to Manhattan.
Tip: I didn’t do this myself, but a cute couple on board the ferry brought a beer or two along and scoped out a spot on the second floor balcony in the corner. It was so sweet, and looked like the coziest, quietest little corner to have a conversation, enjoy a drink, and watch the sunset behind Ellis Island.
Find it: Every 15-30 minutes from the Whitehall Terminal at Whitehall and South Streets, near the east end of Battery Park. You can take either the 1 Line or Q line to reach Whitehall Terminal.
4. Explore the campus of Columbia University
Don’t Make My Mistake:
I wandered onto the campus of Columbia University sort of by accident. I was coming back from seeing the Manhattan School of Music and just decided to walk downtown towards Central Park. The university campus is absolutely gorgeous, full of buildings that look as if they belong in Greece or Rome. The libraries are especially stunning, from the lobby that is, since that’s all of I saw of them.
Do This Instead:
If you are serious about seeing the campus, book a tour ahead of time. This is the only way you’ll be able to see inside the libraries and halls. The campus is still worth a visit, even without booking a tour, but it would be much more interesting to know some of the history behind the buildings and get a look inside.
213 Low Library, 2960 Broadway
New York, NY 10027-6902
Open from 9am-5pm.
4. Catch a Performance at Lincoln Center or the Juilliard School
Tip: If you find yourself at Lincoln Center, stop by the TKTS booth. The pop-up is open from August to October, and so far, it remains relatively undiscovered, meaning no lines! As a plus, it’s air-conditioned, and there’s a sweet little café around the corner.
I reserved a tour to see the school, and while the tour guide didn’t really show us very much on the tour, it was all worth it for one dance studio in the middle of the school that was one of the most beautiful spaces I’ve ever seen. One side is completely made of glass and looks out onto Broadway, and at night, our tour guide mentioned that all the lights of the city make the studio feel like a glowing box in the middle of New York. Can you imagine how beautiful and romantic that space would be to practice in? I was in bliss.
The space that the Julliard School occupies is right in Lincoln Center next to the Metropolitan Opera House, the NY performing arts library, David Geffen Hall, and the home of the New York City ballet. It’s one of the most gorgeous performing arts areas, and if you can, catch a performance or concert and then afterwards, head to the Vanguard Wine Bar just down the street on Amsterdam Ave. for a post-concert drink.
60 Lincoln Center Plaza
New York, NY 10023
6. Walk Across the Historic Brooklyn Bridge
Walk or run along the East River Parkway till you reach the Brooklyn Bridge. When you’ve walked across the bridge, spend a little bit of time in Dumbo, and take the new East River Ferry back to Manhattan.
Perfect for a run/walk; Brooklyn Bridge Park right across in Dumbo; take the new East River Ferry back to Manhattan.
7. Stroll along Riverside Park
Find it: On the edge of the Hudson River, concludes at the tip of Manhattan in Battery Park. Some of the beautiful Upper West Apartments are located right next to the park.
8. Visit Battery Park & The Statue of Liberty
Find it: Directions: Take lines 4 or 5 to Bowling Green.
New York Harbor: Ferry leaves from Battery Park
Ticket Price: $12
Price includes admission to Ellis Island
Hours: 8:30 am – 5:15 pm
9. See the City from the Empire State Building
While I didn’t get a chance to do this, another wonderful way to see NYC at night is to go up the Empire State Building late at night. It’s so much quieter than in the middle of the day with all the tourists. I think I loved NYC the most at night (and in the early morning). There’s something magical about all the lights slowly coming on across the city, and because people tend to eat later in NYC, the city truly comes to life at night-time. People cozy up in restaurants and bars, and there’s an undeniable energy in the air.
Find it: 350 5th Ave., at 34th St., New York, New York, 10118
Open: 8am-2am; last elevator up leaves at 1:15 am
10. Go for Dinner in Chinatown
Perks: Come here for delicious, cheap eats and inexpensive post-card/souvenir shopping.
Tips: Keep an eye out for Redfarm restaurant, a new Asian-fusion style restaurant that’s receiving rave reviews. Locations on Mulberry St. and Canal St.
Find it: Mostly south of Canal Street, east of Broadway.
11. Eat at Ferrara’s in Little Italy
Perks: Although Little Italy is sadly being crowded out more and more, there are still a few neighbourhoods that preserve the authentic Little Italy charm. Explore this area to find Ferrara’s: NYC’s famous Italian Bakery, serving Italian specialty pastries and gelato since 1982.
Find it: North of Canal St. around Mulberry St. for good, authentic restaurants serving Italian food
12. Take the Roosevelt Island Tram
Perks: Free of charge with the Metrocard!
Find it: Catch the tram at the Manhattan station at 2nd Avenue between 59th and 60th streets.
13. Be Part of a Studio Audience
Find it: Late Night with Seth Meyers: standby tickets available at 9am at the NBC Experience Store near Rockefeller Plaza
14. Walk the Boardwalk at Coney Island
Tips: Go around 5:30 pm, ride the Wonder Wheel, and have dinner on the Boardwalk.
Find it: Take the D, Q, N, or F train to Stillwell Avenue.
15. Have a Movie Night at Nitehawk Cinema
Perks: This one-of-a-kind movie theater is located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and offers a unique twist on the dinner+movie night date idea. Each seat is equipped with a table and movie-inspired menu, and they also offer a brunch series for lazy Sundays.
Find it: 136 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.