Destinations / Experiences / New York City / Travel

Rediscovering NYC’s Charm: My 9 Favorites in the Big Apple

Rediscovering NYC's Charm: My 9 Favorites in the Big Apple

Ah, New York.

I am so so happy that I got to spend a few glorious days here earlier this week! New York City is a phenomenal place to be, whether for a day or for the long-term. I’m certainly glad to be home, but part of me wishes I’d gotten to stay a little longer.

It’s been a long time since I’ve spent more than 24 hours in the city, and I felt torn in so many directions. My guy joined me on the trip, so we found ourselves in super-tourist mode. I wanted to show him some of my favorites places while also getting to some of the must-see spots. I tried to meet up with friends in the city and spend time with the hostess with the mostess (thanks Kat!) without scheduling too much or overplanning. I wanted to see shows in the evening but still get in a full day’s worth of sightseeing, which was more tiring than I’d anticipated. I hoped to hit a few select destinations but also allow for time to just take the city in. It was a packed three days, and the sore feet and utter exhaustion I’m still feeling are totally worth it.

I strived to go back to New York with fresh eyes. Yes, I went to school there, but that was over three years ago. Cities are organisms that change for better and worse, and I definitely couldn’t go back expecting NYC to be exactly the same. Since I’d last been there, some of my favorite joints no longer exist, certain places aren’t under construction anymore, shows have closed, new shows have debuted, and new, amazing restaurants, bars, and attractions have opened up.

I viewed this as an opportunity to revamp my New York City favorites list. Some of these are my die-hard picks that I was happy to return to this trip, and others are newly-found faves that I only just experienced for the first time ever! Here are my top picks:

Columbus Circle

Favorite spot to sit and think:
Columbus Circle

I don’t know what it is, but something about Columbus Circle just feels quintessentially New York to me. It’s right by Central Park, and it feels “city” enough to me without being completely crazy like Times Square. I sat by the edge of the park on Wednesday when it was gloomy and drizzling and I was cranky from lack of sleep, but it was a perfect moment.

Favorite photobooth:
The Smith

My love for photobooths didn’t really manifest itself until I moved to San Francisco and started toying around with instant cameras, so I’m thrilled that I got to experience an amazing NYC photobooth this trip! The one at The Smith on 3rd Avenue is awesome for a slew of reasons. First of all, it’s black and white film so the shots come out beautifully. Also, The Smith is a relatively swanky place, as opposed to a dive bar, so it’s clean and kept in good working order. And, best of all, it’s only $3 and it takes credit cards — so no worrying about having cash!

High Line

Favorite park:
The High Line

I was not too excited about seeing the High Line because it seemed a little hyped up to me, but it’s actually an insanely cool park built upon an abandoned railway that’s elevated above the city streets. When you’re in NYC, it’s impossible to get away from the city, so even in parks you’ll see skyscrapers in the distance and hear taxis honking at each other. But the High Line has this quaint feel of being an overgrown train track in the middle of nowhere, USA. I loved grabbing lunch at Chelsea Market and walking around above the city streets.

Favorite bar:

My all-time favorite bar ever in NYC closed — RIP The Snug and your amazing late-night happy hour. I was pretty bummed I wouldn’t have a favorite spot to return to, but I happily scoped out other options, and when I noticed a Barcade location in Chelsea (I’d only ever heard of the one in Williamsburg), I wanted to check it out. And now I’m officially in love. What more could a gal ask for? Beer and delicious whiskey? Check. Tater tots shaped like Tetris pieces? Check. Arcade games? CHECK. My wrist still hurts from that X-Men game.

Tetris tater tots

Favorite museum:
International Center of Photography

This is a relatively small museum by Bryant Park, but they always have stellar exhibits — think quality, not quantity. I’m always most attracted to the photography exhibits in art museums, so this place is a dream. I always leave in complete awe at how talented some photographers are.

Favorite activity:
Seeing shows

I can’t pick a favorite show (although Billy Elliot might come close), and what’s available to see is always changing. But oh, how I miss seeing Broadway shows! This trip I finally got to see Once, which I’d been desperately wanting to see since it opened. It definitely gave me a big case of the feels and I got a good cry in. And I got to see Sleep No More for a second time, which is an incredibly unique theater experience in which no two audience members have the same experience. The next time I’m back in the city, I’d definitely want to see it again because it is just. that. awesome.

Once playbill

Favorite pizza joint:
New Pizza Town II

I am not disillusioned into thinking that this is the best pizza in the city, but it happens to be my favorite pizza place for nostalgic reasons. I remember trips to NYC with my family and getting pizza delivered to the hotel from this place, or stopping by before a bus ride out of town. Oh, also the white pizza is TO DIE FOR. The garlic and tomato pizza is a close second.

Favorite $ restaurant:

I come here for the pierogis, and it’s never a disappointing experience! I got seasonal pumpkin pierogis this time around, but I’m glad I got a bit of the goat cheese and arugula ones (they’re unbelievable). The potato pancakes rounded out my potato-centric dinner perfectly!

Favorite $$$ restaurant:
The Smith

Eating here was a little treat on our last day — also, it was raining and we found ourselves here already for the photobooth, so we just figured it was the easiest nom at the time. It was heaven. There was bubbly, there were brussels sprouts, and there was macaroni and cheese that was made of pure magic.

Do you have favorite places to go or things to do in the city that never sleeps? What items on this list are you going to do/see next time you’re in NYC?

Photo credits:

10 thoughts on “Rediscovering NYC’s Charm: My 9 Favorites in the Big Apple

  1. For me, NYC is all about the neighborhoods. Whether it’s Greenpoint coffee houses, East Village holes in the wall or random tucked away parks, just wandering always seems to uncover something interesting in NYC.

  2. Pingback: 8 Tips for Visiting New York City | Tremendous Times

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