NYC Reverie

Keith Haring, 1989

Keith Haring, 1989

I am seeking advice! In October, my spouse and I will be visiting New York City for the first time. We think we can afford to stay 5 nights/5 days. This is a planned treat for myself for having experienced one of those Significant Birthdays – and then the trip was deferred for a year. So now I am Mature+1!

I lived near Boston for 8 years and never went to NYC. The reason was that I didn’t have child care and I did not want my first trip to be child-centred. Selfish moi! Now the time has arrived to do what I like. Rom is carefully not expressing any opinions and will do whatever I choose. I am sure I’ll get my payback someday (perhaps being required to attend a Magic the Gathering tournament or a NAMM trade show!)

Oh, how I loved Harriet the Spy!

Oh, how I loved Harriet the Spy!

I have very skewed ideas about New York based on reading. My first introductions were, of course, Eloise of the Plaza Hotel, the inimitable Harriet the Spy, and Claudia and Jamie of From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I haven’t forgotten the All-of-a-Kind Family or the Cricket in Times Square series. Later I read about the smartass teens in Norma Klein’s books.

Unfortunately, the NYC-set books I’ve read for adults have been less than inspiring about the setting: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Catcher in the Rye, The Bell Jar, Bright Lights Big City, The Nanny Diaries, The Devil Wears Prada, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. None of them would make you want to visit!

But Winter’s Tale would.

My favourite people in 1982...

My favourite people in 1982…

Then I have warped ideas from television: from the 70s (That Girl, Rhoda, All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Welcome Back Kotter, Taxi), the 1980s (Fame, Night Court), the 1990s (Seinfeld, Mad About You, Sex and the City, and no, I didn’t watch Friends), and that’s when I stopped watching TV.

Annie Hall, 1977

Annie Hall, 1977

NYC movies, of course: Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Muppets Take Manhattan, Once Upon a Time in America, Saturday Night Fever, and my most favourite, Annie Hall.

I am caught up in the art world of Warhol, Basquiat and Haring.

New York Dolls

New York Dolls

But my biggest obsession is the proto-punk music of the early to mid-70s including the New York Dolls, Ramones, Patti Smith, Richard Hell, Television, Talking Heads, and the No Wave scene.

So, given all of these cultural trappings, I am trying to decide – should I just visit NYC and hit the major tourist landmarks and experience it for myself? Or should I try to see it through the eyes and ears of my favourite writers, artists, filmmakers and musicians who lived and worked there?

What would you do? If you’ve been to New York, are there sights (and sites) you think every visitor should see?

After receiving comments (if any), I will post what my actual plans are to date!

37 comments

  1. Well, if you love The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, then that’s a good reason to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art! When I went, I was constantly picturing Jamie and Claudia and where they might hide. Plus its an amazing museum for its own sake.

  2. New York City is a big trash heap, it is NOTHING like you see in popular media. Last time I went was for the ball drop, before that NYC Pride. Stay away from tourist traps; they are ridiculously expensive. And those $1 pizza slices you heard about? Putrid garbage; also stay away from pizzeria where the pizza boys are Latino, bad pizza there. Go without any expectation, and you will not be disappointed.

    Avoid taxis—expensive as all hell. Do NOT keep looking at the skyline, and AT ALL COSTS avoid a fanny pack; dead give aways you’re a tourist. Cell phone service will suck in plenty of areas. Keep a hoodie with you—it gets gusty in the streets. Keep your cell phone hidden or well gripped in your hands. And go with the flow when walking, even if the lights are red.

    The streets even in Time square are covered in trash. Hobos and street entertainers constantly want change from you. Know your food prices; there is always somewhere where the water bottle is cheaper. Make sure you plan your bathroom usage accordingly; few public restrooms anymore because of bomb fears. And stay away from the pigeons, filthy and annoying as heck.

    • Ha ha, Charlie, excellent advice! I avoid cheap pizza, fanny packs, taxis and pigeons here, so I definitely won’t be mingling with any of them while on vacation! Sadly, we have more than our share of garbage and “panhandlers” at home too, but I can imagine the scale in NYC. I will let you know how it turns out!

    • The garbage thing is true because, despite every NYC movie, there are hardly any alleys here – it just wasn’t designed that way a hundred years ago. So garbage for pick-up is just left out on the main sidewalk, in bags, and it’s common to see them rustling with rats.

  3. I can’t recommend anything in particular as I have never been there myself. However , I am incredibly jealous and want to wish you all the luck! What an adventure!

    Emory

    helloscarlettblog.com

  4. EcoCatLady

    Well… it’s been about 25 years since I’ve been to New York, and I never really did much of the touristy stuff since most of my trips were to visit friends who lived there (I went to school upstate.) I had a friend who worked at Carnegie Hall so I spent time in that area, and I have to say that Central Park was pretty amazing. It’s just the contrast between the jam packed city and the big open park – so you’d definitely want to experience that.

    Other trips I took there were largely centered around Greenwich Village – which mostly seemed like an endless sea of used record stores to me… but that may have had more to do with the company I was keeping rather than the area itself. Then I spent some time in Brooklyn and various spots in New Jersey, White Plains and Westchester County and I have to say that I have absolutely zero desire to ever go back to any of those locations!

    But what struck me most about the city was just the sheer volume of people. As a person who has always lived either in wide open Colorado or in fairly small towns elsewhere, I found the sardine-like nature of the city to be somewhat unnerving. I mean, just walking on the sidewalk felt frightening to me… people scurrying along 10 abreast… I always felt a bit like I was about to be trampled or something.

    So I don’t think that’s at all helpful, but I hope you have a good time! And whatever you do, don’t EVEN think of trying to drive in Manhattan, unless you’re really brave or really crazy! 🙂

    • Hi Cat, I wouldn’t dream of driving – or parking a car! Worth saying, though. I am keeping my fingers crossed there are still used record stores in Greenwich Village! I am not sure how I will feel walking on packed sidewalks either – that remains to be seen.

  5. Fiona

    I love the tour through NYC-themed books, television programmes and music…but unfortunately, I have no recommendations to add, as I’ve never been there.

    I *love* vicarious arm-chair travel though, so I will really look forward to hearing about your plans (and then seeing the photos!)

  6. urbanmythcafe

    I have no advice on where to go in New York.
    I would love to see a semi-fictional version of the city reconstucted from your books, television shows, movies, and music, however.
    On reflection I would say to go to the WTC memorial. We have thought about making a day trip sometime this fall.

    • Hey, good idea, UMC. I think “My” NYC is its own fictional place! I am not sure about Ground Zero. It feels creepy to me to travel on vacation and go see a memorial to loss. But then I think, if I were in Hiroshima, wouldn’t I go to the Peace Memorial park? My only similar experience was in going to the holocaust museum in Washington DC. I am glad I did. So I will have to think about this further.

  7. Juhli

    I’m afraid I would visit a lot of tourist sites as well as museums and unusual outside locations. I’d love to go to Ellis Island, Coney Island, see a show on Broadway, go to as many museums as possible, walk that park that is on top of an old freeway, etc. I would think the challenge would be to limit what to do LOL.

    • Hi Juhli, I’m sure I will do some tourist things, if only for the views! Some places, I just want to know what it feels like to be there. I’m hoping I like it, and this will be the first trip, rather than “the” trip to NY.

  8. Jan

    I was impressed by the number of parks and how much they are used – they really are the back gardens for the city’s residents. Walk or bike Central Park – there are bike rental shops within easy reach of the park and it’s a lovely way to explore and appreciate the scope of the park. Make sure they give you a bike lock in case you want to explore on foot (or go to the museums). Walking the Brooklyn Bridge also feels iconic on a sunny day. Enjoy all the planning and then the trip!

  9. Elaine

    Good walking shoes. Fanny pack close and somewhat covered by an over blouse. Food is very expensive but it is a once in a life time trip so enjoy. People watch as that is the biggest show of all there. And there is no place like it on earth.

    Most important … Good walking shoes.

    • Oh yes, I am a walker! And will definitely splurge on whatever food my heart (and stomach) desire. I bet when I people-watch I will be imagining them through a lens like in Humans of New York!

  10. I did all the natural touristy trappings… But it was fun! (http://theasianpear.blogspot.ca/2014/02/the-time-in-new-york-city-when-i.html)

    If you haven’t been to NYC before, I do say you should try to hit up the cultural stuff. I think you’ll enjoy The Met, MOMA and the New York Public Library the most. (There’s a street leading to the library, 41st St, that’s adorned with quotes by writers called Library Way – http://www.nypl.org/blog/2011/09/13/library-way). If you have time though, do spend some time in the other boroughs. If not, at least spend some time in the neighbourhoods within Manhattan. Each area will feel quite different and the architecture changes as well.

    And I, too, vouch for EXCELLENT walking shoes. Everything will seem close and you’ll think, “Oh. We’ll just walk there.” By the end of the day, you’ve walked easily 6-8km without realizing. Also, NYC is not accessible. Most stations do not have working elevators or escalators.

    That’s all I can think of… Have fun!

    • Thanks for the tip about the subway stairs! I walk 6 km daily (work commute) so I should be good. I bet everyone knows that the library and Library Way are high on my must-see list! I loved your post – very inspiring!

  11. Mmmm, what to do? I love planning a trip – almost as much as the trip!

    I’d do the touristy things – soup Nazi, Empire State, ferry ride. And I’d shop. And shop. And shop. I know, I know, I’m decluttering and have written about the true cost of cheap things. (And you are not buying stuff.) But, as an Aussie, the lure of clothes and cosmetics from America, cheaper than here and designs we don’t have is overwhelming. (Our market is too small.) There’s a watch I want – even after converting the currency – it’s $200 cheaper in the US. And friends come back with dresses we just don’t have here. (I know you’re not a dress girl.) Sorry, I’m not much help.

    Like Fiona, I will enjoy your plans and travels (doubly because I can’t see myself going to NY for many, many years).

    I would go to Ground Zero. To reflect, remember and commemorate. That event really was the trigger to change so much in our world.

    • Ha! Forgot about Soup Nazi! I will absolutely be doing lots of shopping, stuff be damned – it’s New York 🙂 I do have a list of NYC-related things to buy and we’ll see how off-list I go.

      I was in Massachusetts on 9/11. Since the attacks occurred in both NYC and DC, no one knew if all of the major east coast cities would be targeted. Bad times.

  12. Shannon D.

    My husband and I took a day trip by bus to NYC some years ago in December a couple weeks before Christmas. We saw Battery Park, the WTC site before the memorial was built and Times Square but the tour was mostly for people who wanted to shop for knock off purses in Canal Street and visit Macy’s. It was supposed to have reached the 30’s Fahrenheit but the wind whipping through the cement canyons was quite Arctic! I don’t know what October will be like but make sure that if the forecast is for cool weather read this as cold! I wore my long shoulder strap purse crosswise across by body under my parka. If I go back I will do a museum based tour since that would be more to my interests. It was interesting to note that for having so many tourists the city does not have much in the way of public amenities for tourists. It was very interesting but I don’t know how people live there!

    • Hi Shannon! The weather in October is usually similar in New York and here. Crackling cold evenings! After my very chilly trip to Toronto last November, I will be better prepared. I am also planning to carry a cross-body messenger bag. Do you know if shoppers prefer Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s?

      • Shannon D.

        I don’t know which is preferred but our local mall has Macy’s so I would go with Bloomingdale’s! Granted it was quite a bit bigger in NYC!

      • There is one on Broadway in Soho not far from where we are staying. So Bloomingdale’s it is!

      • I would recommend going to the flagship Macy’s in Herald Square (34th st and 6th/broadway) just because it’s quite an experience. Super crowded but also the store is HUGE!

        And the weather is no joke! Manhattan is a true island and the wind can get pretty nasty. The grid-like layout of the streets make perfect wind tunnels!

  13. Lisa

    I do not have a lot to offer since I haven’t been to NYC since I was 17 years old with school (and that was more about shopping and trying to buy alcohol under-aged than anything else 🙂 ). I am not a city person, so it is not on my travel list. However, my cousin was recently there, and from his photos I remember thinking the New York Public Library looked amazing. I know that is on your list already. Enjoy the planning and then the experience!

  14. OH I wrote a comment, but it got gobbled 😦 Happy for you to ask for advice – both myself and Laura LOVE NYC, so… 😀

    I would support you seeing things through the TV shows or songs you know and loved. You’ll end up seeing and passing the more famous things doing that, but feel more authentic. Of course, it’s hard to go past the standard things, like Times Sq, Empire State, Statue of Liberty etc. I went to streets I saw on Gossip Girl and enjoyed seeing more of the normal streets of NYC!

    I don’t agree with Elaine – like any big city, I took a handbag. Easy. Simple. But I saw your comment to Charlie, so I think we’re in agreement. I loved cheap pizza, and even went to Olive Garden in Times Sq (and got a table faster by pooling myself and two brothers, with two strangers, to get a table faster, was great!)

    • Hi Sarah, When were you there last?

      I will be choosing some tourist attractions, but can’t see them all (this time!) I remember Olive Garden from my time in the US – I liked it. There is enough cheap, greasy pizza here that I don’t need to travel for it 🙂 Great idea to look for streets you know from TV – I was excited when I saw Degrassi Street in Toronto! BTW, we share an interest in Jewish culture so I am thinking about that in the context of the trip.

  15. I love NYC! I’ve been many times, but never overnight (I live close enough to save money by just taking day trips). Sometimes we plan and other times we just walk and see what we come across. I enjoy both ways. I think it’s worth it to see tourist traps if you’re interested – we’ve visited Radio City Music Hall (to see the Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes), Central Park (where Mr. G and I got engaged), Times Square, Rockefeller Center (we skipped the ice skating, but the food was excellent), Lombardi’s (the first pizza place in NYC), 9/11 memorial, and the library, which I know you’ll be seeing 🙂

    I’m looking forward to hearing more about your plans!

  16. You will definitely not be able to do everything you want to because NYC is HUGE and there is SO MUCH to do. So you really have to narrow it down. Also, it takes a lot longer to get to places than you’d expect. There’s time spent waiting for trains. And lots of time spent walking. I would think about two things and one eatery per day you want to do, then have “bonus” things you could also that day.

    Definitely walk one of the bridges (though the whole process one way will take about an hour). Walk around china town. Manhattan’s Little Italy isn’t really anything special. Eat a bagel! Eat a cannoli! Drink an eggcream! (does not contain egg nor cream).

    As for 80’s nyc punk scene, walking down St. Marks Pl kind of has that vibe (start at 9th st and broadway, walk east).

    • Hi Leslie, I am so very glad to get your advice! I am quite a serious walker and stair climber. I did wonder, though, how long things take. For example, the main public library (Schwarzman bldg) is 13 minutes by subway from my hotel in Greenwich Village, departing every 4 minutes, and a map says it is 1.8 miles. In my slow-town life, it would only take me 30 minutes to walk that distance. Based on my travel to other cities like London and SF, I agree that doing 2 things a day and one notable meal is plenty. I am not sure if you saw my follow-up post: https://anexactinglife.com/2014/08/24/nyc-plan/ I like having a big list of things to do which involves a lot of walking, and if the weather is especially crummy (worse than at home, which is pretty bad) I could just do more museums and shows. BTW, have you been to any shows at Terminal 5? We have tix for a concert there.

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