New York for Dummies

How the hell did it get to be October? Gareth and I are going to New York City at the end of this month for a little holiday. We booked the flights way back in March and I'd almost forgotten about it, this year has been so mental. But now it's almost here and the Time Out guide I bought six months ago is gathering dust and we've done no planning at all, save for getting some hockey tickets.

Two years ago your suggestions were invaluable for our Return to Oz tour, so forgive me for picking your brains again. What's good to see in NYC? What's essential viewing and what is highly overrated? Is it chilly towards the end of the month? And most importantly, perhaps… what's good to eat and where do you get it? 🙂

About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m Shauna, an author, copywriter and content mentor. I love telling stories about life and helping others to tell theirs.

Find out more about me and how we can work together – I’m now booking for January 2022.

59 thoughts on “New York for Dummies

  1. You can pay to go up the top of the Rockefeller Centre (it’s called Top of the Rock) and the view is great. You can see across to the Empire State Building and there is glass instead of a fence. When we went in April 06 it had only recently reopened and so there was hardly any queue.

  2. If the weather’s ok, make sure you save some time for hanging out amongst the locals in the parks. Central Park, Bryant Park and Union Square were all very cool, though Bryant Park was my favourite.

  3. Dear Shauna,

    oh my God, New York City – how I envy you! I spent one year as an Aupair in a New Jersey suburb way back in 1996/97, and NYC has been my most favourite big city ever since. I’ve only managed one other trip though, in 2003. What I really liked was the view across the Hudson River from Battery Park and the trip across to Staten Island and back on the ferry (which is free and gives you a good look at the skyline, Ellis Island and Lady Liberty. I also had a very nice day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art und the Museum of the City of New York. And like Dean said, it is wonderful to take a walk in one of the parks (my favourite is Central Park, especially when the leaves are turning all shads of orange, red and yellow) and just pretend you’re one of the locals having a stroll!

    My favourite places to eat are basically everywhere that sells bagels (they are only starting to become “trendy” in Germany), and I also simply LOVE the Italian restaurant chain The Olive Garden (there’s one right in the middle of Times Square).

    It’s probably going to be rather Halloween-y at the end of this month. As for the weather, I think it might still be rather nice then as long as the sun is shining, but chilly if it isn’t. There are lots of sites like where you can check the weather beforehand.

    Aaah, all this talk about NYC makes me want to catch a plane rightaway! Have lots of fun, you two. Did I mention I am envious? 😉

    PS The Trump Tower on Fifth Ave. has one of the poshest (free!) public toilets EVAH (one floor down from the street, next to the music store)

  4. Started writing and it got too long… I sent you an email instead.

    I was there for ten days from Oct 27th in 2004. GREAT time of year to go.


  5. whatever you do DON’T go to the olive garden in times square. It is a so so chain restaurant and times square is a tourist trap! times square is fun to walk around late at night but don’t eat there!

    Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
    Go to Central Park – first stop at Zabar’s to get food for a picnic
    Rockerfeller Center – maybe take the NBC studios tour
    SoHo is very trendy – eat anywhere
    the Metropolitan Museum is also a must see
    I want to go to the Tenement Museum
    The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are great
    The Staten Island Ferry
    Walk aroound Grand Central Station
    Spice Market is a fabulous place to eat – Address: 403 W. 13th St., at 9th Ave Phone: 212/675-2322

    Oh, I could go on for days… Go to they have great walking tours. We did the fodors thing when we went to Montreal, Canada and had a spectacular time.

    the average temps for end of Oct are a high of 62F and a low of 45F with records of 81F (hot) and 31F (cold) so bring a heavy sweater – but you are probably used to that kind of weather! I live in texas where we are still having high in the 90’s.

    I will be in NYC in November. Can’t wait!

  6. This may sound strange, but try a Segway tour (search on Segway and you’ll see a list of dealers by location).

    Segway’s are those two-wheeled people movers (if you’ve ever watched Arrested Development, Gob rides one around all the time). Anyway, most of the dealers do city tours as a way to get people interested in the Segway. My brother & sister-in-law did a fantastic one in Chicago; the three of us did another tour in Denver.

    You get a tour of the city, on top of the fun of learning to ride the Segways (which are really cool).


  7. I love love love New York! You are going to have a blast.
    I love Pastis in the meatpacking district. They have an absolutely amazing breakfast. I suggest going for breakfast bc it is rather pricey and expensive for dinner. Other than that I just love wandering around NYC and people watching, the energy is amazing. Have a blast.

  8. I second Zabar’s…you must go there.
    Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.
    It’s hokey but I do love the Statue of Liberty.
    If you make it to Brooklyn, you can call these people and go on a canoe tour of the Gowanus Canal, for free (ok, now it’s a suggested a five dollar donation, but still!)
    Bagels at Terrace Bagels (best in NY!). Cupcakes at Ladybird Bakery (used to be Two Little Red Hens). And I wouldn’t eat anywhere in Times Square, but that’s just me.

  9. My grandma was a beatnik poet/playwright she lived at 13 Bank Street in the Village just a few blocks away from “Elephant and Castle” it might be just the fond memories of my grandma and how she loved the place…but I think I also liked it…last time I went I was in high school… but that is my recommendation…if you go have a little toast “Cheers to Nancy Henderson” or even better “Cheers to Grandma Nancy” I am sure she would have loved you too!

    Oh and don’t forget China Town (you can get all kinds of pretty little gifts and there are loads of good restaurants.), or the Little Italy you will feel like you have enter a very mob friendly place (kinda spooky/scary/fun like you are in a movie)… get Cannolis

    And find a little coffee shop and order and espresso around 3 or 4pm…then you will be ready for a whole night of partying/pubbing/clubbing (whatever your style)

    Oh and my favorite Off Broadway show is “Tony and Tina’s Wedding” it starts off in a church, and the actors are all in the audience and it is very fun and interactive…you become part of the family even have to sit on the grooms side if that is who you know better;) and then you walk over a couple of blocks to the reception and all kinds of things happen and you have a good Italian dinner and cheap champagne….oh it is so fun and you meet all kinds of people you would otherwise totally miss… talking to your neighbors is encouraged

    But if you can only do one thing…like a nice lunch…the place I would go is Elephant and Castle

  10. Well… I lived there for 8 years and am about to move to the NJ suburbs. Here are some of my favorite things:

    * Union Square people-watching. There is a farmers market several times a week and on Saturday mornings, and there is just nothing like walking around and looking at the amazing food, and checking out all of the locals. There is also great shopping in the area, including…

    * ABC Carpet and Home. This is a housewares store near Union Square (on Broadway, I think), and, though I could never afford to BUY anything there, it is an amazing place to browse and spend lots of time in.

    * For restaurants, I don’t even know where to start. There are so many amazing places. Where are you going to be staying? Are there specific things you are looking for? A special occasion to celebrate?

    * South Street Seaport is great for shopping and views. You can also take a tour around the island from there. Circle Line does a tour that’s highly acclaimed (though it takes a very long time). It starts from 42nd Street at the very West side of the city.

    * Macy’s is worth visiting, for the sheer size of the place. And the exchange rate is well in your favor.

    * I love the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History (including the Planetarium).

    * Don’t miss Central Park. I especially love “Poet’s Walk” — a path that leads through statues of poets (including Robert Burns!), and heads toward a gorgeous Italian-style fountain. Right near there you can also have a beverage at the Boat House, and also rent a rowboat and paddle around on the lake.

    * Walking over Brooklyn Bridge is lovely.

    Aargh, I miss New York. Wish we were already there so we could meet up! Feel free to write with questions!

  11. When I was planning my trip to NYC a few years ago, a friend directed me to the website It’s a listing of restaurants in NYC and is searchable by location and by cuisine. Some of the restaurants have been rated by patrons and you can view menus online.

  12. Oooooh, i’m going to NYC next week!! (I only bought the ticket a few weeks ago — gotta love a £250 return flight!!) I love New York. This’ll be my third trip.

    I recommend Central Park, Brooklyn Heights (walk across the bridge), a Circle line tour (ferry that goes right around the island — great photo ops) and Bryant Park.

  13. I would go to Ellis Island (stay on the boat for the Statue of Liberty, it’s not that awesome inside) but Ellis Island is fiercely cool. I could spend all day there.

  14. I live in NYC and have for the past 6 years. It really depends on what you’d like to experience and how long you’re going to be here. If you want to see the basics, then I agree with some of the previous comments: Take a tour, you can find the buses all over Time Square (big red double-decker things). If you want to do off the beaten track, then I recommend going into the first Barnes and Nobles bookstore you see and by the NFT Guide for NYC…it’s the Not For Tourist Guide to NYC and it tells you about all the great hidden treasures available in this city. I also recommend getting out of Manhattan and seeing some of the Boroughs if you can…that’s always fun. There’s Williamsburg in Brooklyn that’s a huge hipster haven with artsy clothing, art studios and fabu restaurants. There’s Astoria, Queens that offers real Greek cuisine while housing dynamic restaurants and beer gardens as well or Flushing, Queens which offers a mix of Chinese and Korean culture on its Main Street thoroughfare not to mention great Korean BBQ or awesome soup dumplings. Go to the Bronx or Throggs Neck if you want the most incredible and authentic Italian food (stay out of Little Italy in Manhattan…it’s such a let down if we’re talking food wise.)

    Ah, there’s just so much this city has to offer and I still have yet to experience all of it in the time I’ve lived here (and let me assure you, I’m doing my best)

    Definitely feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions. I’d be happy to give you my digits and you can call me if you need a little tour guidance from a current local. (I’m originally a Texas girl, but I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.) Oh and sorry about the rambling…I tend to talk and write in run-ons.

  15. First off, Shauna, I must apologize b/c I’m sure some of this may be repetetive. I grew up in NJ and until recently have lived there my whole life, so NYC was a normal visit every few weeks:

    For totally touristy stuff:

    1. BROADWAY, BROADWAY, BROADWAY. You can get relatively cheap tix at this place called TKTS at Times Square for any last minute show.

    2. Lincoln Center/The Metropolitan Opera House – are beutiful sites and I believe they give tours, but even if you are not intrested in that, just see the inside.

    3. The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Museum of Modern Art/ The Guggenheim – all great museums. The Met is my personal favorite. You can spend an afternoon or a week.

    4. Empire State Building – go to the top.

    5. At Rockefeller Center, you can go to the top. There is also a restaurant called the Rainbow Room, and even if you don’t want an overpriced dinner (assuming you can get reservations), you can have an overpriced drink at the bar, which has a gorgeous view. That is where my now husband and I went the night we got engaged.

    6. Or for anoher great view and overpriced food, you can go The View restaurant at the top of the Marriot Marquis restaurant at Times Sqaure. You can go just for dessert (I think it’s like $20 pp) for the dessert bar, but the restaurant is rotating so you get 360 degree view of the city.

    7. Central Park – yes, it is touristy, but you a carriage ride through the park is one of life’s loveliest experiences. In fact, everything in the park is lovely, so just walk around and visit the Shakespeare theater and Belvedere Castle.

    For less toursity stuff: Just Walk and walk and walk all around the city. Autumn in NY is amazing and you will just happen upon things the more you walk. You can also buy the NFT Guide to NYC. Some of my favorite areas are: Greenwich village, Soho, Gramercy and midtown. BTW, for food – if you like falafel, make sure to go to Mamoon’s on Macdougal street b/t Bleeker and W. 3rd street(in the NYU area) – it’s fast, it’s cheap and it’s delicious. Also if you are into Indian fast food, try Kathi Roll, which is on the same street, I think, opposite side.

    There are a million jazz clubs and restaurants but one of my favorite places for an early supper, before the crowds, is Park Avalon on Park Ave and around 22nd street. Though I must admit I haven’t been in there in a couple of yrs, so not sure how great it still is. But they used to have tons of candles and sometimes live jazz – might still.

    Ok, so I’ll stop rambling – this is just bringing back memories and nostalgia. But basically, no matter what you do, NYC is a blast. Have a fantastic time!

  16. Shauna,

    We just did a quick three day trip to NYC in March. My husband is a pizza freak so we had to try the coal oven at Lombardi’s. Delicious!

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art -definitely a huge hit – we spent the day there and then stayed for wine and music.
    Central Park of course
    Brooklyn – Williamsburg, Park Slope…Great neighborhoods.

    In general, NY is a fabulous walking city. Just head out on foot and you’ll have great adventures!

  17. Metropolitan Museum Definitely!

    Tiffany’s … wear a little black dress like Audrey Hepburn

    Definitely go to the Algonquin Hotel and see the famed Round Table where my Hero, Dorothy Parker used to hang with her pals HL Mencken and Robert Benchley being all brilliant


    Coney Island

    Apparel District

    That’s my list… Have fun! The weather should be wonderful!

  18. Oh, and if it is still playing? Spring Awaking was AMAZING. It was tender, in your face, funny, sad and thought provoking.

  19. There are so many great places to eat, things to do and places to see that it is hard to narrow it down to a few suggestions…but after living in NYC (or very close by) for the last 9 years I have a few…

    Old Devil Moon is a very small Mexican/southern restaurant in the East Village that has an amazing brunch on the weekends.

    Olive Tree Cafe(not to be confused with the chain restaurant Olive Garden) is a Middle Eastern restaurant in the West Village with a comedy club in the basement that launches many great comedians but the food is tasty!

    Washington Square Park is a great place to people watch and is not far from the shopping in Soho and Olive Tree Cafe.

    If you have good weather Central Park and a walk on the Brooklyn Bridge are a must. On a rainy day I would go to one of the many museums…tops on my list are the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Natural History Museum. MoMA is great too, but expensive.

    The website is a good place to find events, restaurants and shopping.

    Hope you have a fab time!

  20. hey
    I am one lurker from your other site.
    NYC: I would recommend everything others said, but if you are not from new york and are directionally challenged (like me), I found the book called “city walks” very helpful! Infact because of it me and my friend walked all over new york on foot and by subway with no local person to help us!

  21. umm should maybe clarify? these city walks are set of cards, each card has an area and the route that would make a great walk! It specifies the subways that go there and the it gets really simple to take the cards that tempt you and just walk!

  22. Hey! My friend LOVES visiting NYC in October… the leaves are still just starting to change there (they are at their “peak” here in northern ontario, they’ll change by then down there 🙂

    I second the horse-ride in central park! My friend’s most fav-thing to do! Ellis Island is pretty cool…. you can find Art Garfunkels’ family on the immigrant wall (I’m a big Simon & Garfunkel fan, and they are definitely NYC folk!)

    Enjoy your visit! Just don’t fall into the tourist trap! My most fav. things while travelling is doing the non-planned, non-tourist things! But, you travel lots so I’m sure you’re keen on that already!

  23. As another New Yorker I’m going to second the person who suggested walking around Greenwich Village; it is *beautiful* and there is no shortage of interesting shop windows and great places to eat.
    Based on stuff I’ve seen on your blog, like your international candy wrapper collection, I have a feeling you might like Soho and I highly recommend this shop called Kid Robot:
    Mamoun’s falafel is hugely popular and you will probably run into hordes of us hungry grad students there.
    If you want a family-style Italian dinner, Lanza’s on 1st Avenue at 11th Street does a nice prix fixe dinner which, last time I checked, included the best arugula salad I’ve ever had. I still dream about it.
    And I can highly recommend Koreatown, which is around Broadway and 33rd Street. There are a few blocks of Korean restaurants where you can get a ridiculously lavish meal with all sorts of interesting appetizers and sides thrown in, and it’s quite reasonably priced.
    I know there’s no shortage of recommendations here, but if you’re looking for anything particular or have any specific questions, feel free to let me know if I can help. It’s always a pleasure reading your blog. Have a great trip!

  24. HI

    I know you saw my entries on NYC in February. I’m sure October will be warmer.

    Number one tip is to get a New York City Pass. You can get it from any of the attractions it allows entry into and you get a good mix of stuff. The attractions:
    Natural History Museum
    2 hour Harbour cruise

    The pass saves mony on buying entry for each. Dan didn’t come to MoMa because he wanted to visit the Fire Dept Museum and we didn’t have time for both.

    If doing the Statue of Liberty allow loads more time than you expect due to security.

    Do the Empire State Building first thing in the morning when the queues aren’t so bad.

    Buy whatever cosmetics/skincare you are into as the dollar makes it really worth it to stock up. I loved the Origins Store in particular.

    See something in Broadway. The half price ticket booth opens twice a day. The morning queue is for matinee tickets only! Evening tickets can be bought at the afternoon opening.


  25. I go there for work pretty regularly but I’m by no means an expert… the energy is amazing… I don’t think I could live there, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE visiting!
    Anyhoo, the best Indian food I’ve ever eaten was at Tamarind around 41-43 E22nd… and regardless of where you are, I INSIST that you pop into a deli and purchase black & white cookies (preferably from William Greenburg Bakery @1100 Madison & approx 80-something). I live on the west coast and we don’t have black & white cookies over here, so I stock up when I head east. They are similar to thick, dense yellow or white cake with vanilla and choco icing… SO GOOD!!
    Have the best time!

  26. Hi Shauna

    I went to NYC while on the VLCD (the blog details our trip back in April) but food was very much on my mind! I’ll forward you the various emails that I got sent for recommendations.

    In the meantime, here’s what I think:

    The Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Travel Guide is the business. It’s got loads of walks in there and you get to see different parts of the city. As lardbusting may not be far from your mind, if you walk, walk, walk, you can enjoy the food! And the food is EVERYWHERE in NYC.

    The length of stay should determine what you see. For a great all round appreciation of Manhattan, I would suggest the citytour bus (hop on and off). It helps you get your bearings, particularly if time is short. Then you can walk in the areas that you like.

    We stayed in Le Parker Merdien (got an amazing deal), which is also home to the best burgers in town (not great for Dr G – the shakes and fries are yummy though). It’s a little, informal burger joint.

    Katz Diner/Deli – a MUST! Touristy yes but still fabby. We went to the Empire Diner in Chelsea on our last trip and it was a massive disappointment.

    The best restaurant in Chinatown (for me) is The Excellent Dumpling House at 111 Lafayette Street. I am still dreaming about the veggie dumplings I had there four years ago!

    Pizza – I know people rave about Lombardi’s but it was a disappointment for me. I think Brooklyn may be better for Italian.

    Soho, Greenwich and the West Village are great for wandering around and has the best little snack joints. Don’t bother with the Magnolia Bakery – The Hummingbird Cafe in London is MUCH, MUCH better although their flourless chocolate cake was to die for!

    Museums…my favourite is The Tenement Museum. I am a massive fan of Scorcese and chums and this museum shows you just what it was like to live in Little Italy at the turn of the century. Ellis Island is also fantastic BUT only if you have lots of time. Definitely a must for your second visit.

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art was AMAZING It does a late night opening – go then, it’s quieter. Definitely recommend a card (someone else did) for discounts.

    Your other must sees are, as others have said:

    Empire State – go to the top
    Grand Central Station – just because it’s SOOO beautiful
    Central Park (check out Williams Sonoma and Whole Foods in Columbus Circle)
    Rockerfeller Centre
    Park Avenue
    Fifth Avenue
    Tiffany’s – definitely – just because – and no purchasing necessary
    Soho – gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous
    Ride the subway

    Film tours – if you have fallen in love with NYC through the movies, the On Location tours may be worth a punt. We booked a Sopranos tour to New Jersey but it was cancelled half way through due to flooding. The tours are done by actors so you get lots of snippets of information.

    You will have an amazing time (I hope). I didn’t like NYC the first time round (think I was too London focused) but the second visit was a massive love affair. It’s an incredible city.

    Sorry, I think my tips have been all about food!

    Bon voyage.

    Mrs Lard xxxxxxxxx

  27. Whenever I’m visiting my in-laws in NY, we like to eat at or order from Pio-Pio, a Peruvian restaurant with amazing, fresh, just yummy food. The chicken and the seafood salads were absolutely delicious. If you’re ever on the Upper East Side–give it a try.

    Btw, are you aware that Amtrak has (or at least it used to) a special deal for non-Americans? a relatively inexpensive pass on the Northeastern Corridor, good for unlimited travel for two weeks? That includes Boston, Philly, Baltimore, and Washington DC.

    I’m in Philly so…yeah, it’s a long shot, but I hope you get to see our beautiful city, too, while you’re at it! Have fun!

  28. Talk to Phil!! She stayed with my sister over there. I’m sure Phil will have some great highlights from her trip to share with you gorgeous 🙂

  29. You MUST go to Serendipity, it is the most amazing cafe. I went because of the film (I’m sad like that!) we had a brownie sundae each but we could have shared one they are so huge. Delicious!!

    Also, try to go on the open top bus tour, you get to see everything so you can decide where to visit and it also helps you get your bearings.

    I had my make up done in Bloomingdales as well which as well as being free was really cool! If you’re into make up there are loads of other places I can recommend but I’m not sure that’s your thing!

  30. Be sure to take a stroll though the Penn Central Train Station. It has been totally remodeled and is awesome. There is a really neat food market in there that has a very old world air about it.

    Look for out of the way places to eat for better deals. Some places actually have $5 “splitting” fees if you decide to split the gigantic portion they serve you with a friend.

    The revolving restaurant over Times Square is way cool. Expensive but worth going up to for a drink.

    And be sure to “people Watch.” Many celebs go unnoticed unless you’re looking!

  31. Well! You will get more recommendations than you can count, but I have to vote for the non-touristy, hang-around-a-neighborhood visit, especially if you have been there before. The Empire State building trip is always great, but skip Times Square and check out a real neighborhood, instead.

    I recommend the East Village, a neighborhood I lived in for years and probably a good one for the mix of local, authentic, and true NYC feeling. The NY Times recently did a piece on walking around that area:

    All this is to say that the restaurants I am about to recommend are pretty much all in that neighborhood, and are some of the best, cost-effective, friendly places to eat in New York. (Watch out — there is a lot of bad, overcheesed, chicken-parm-style Italian food in New York. People will tell you it’s good. It isn’t. You don’t need it.)

    Here goes:

    In Vino
    215 E 4th St. btwn A and B
    Wines from southern Italy and small plates; great bruschetta; casual but semi-refined; great way to start the night

    Li’l Frankie’s
    19 First Ave btwn 1st and 2nd St.
    Casual but delicious thin-crust, wood-fired pizza and really good pasta; great, inexpensive wine list; boisterous and friendly atmosphere; local beers (I used to live upstairs!)

    647 E. 11th St. btwn B and C
    Intimate and friendly Japanese tapas; inexpensive but unusual; great sake and chicken wings (strangely)

    438 E. 9th St. btwn First and A
    Amazing fresh Mexican like nothing you’ve ever had; tiny tiny dining room, friendly service, great guacamole

    403 E. 12th St. at First Ave.
    Contemporary American cuisine with upscale service, smart wine pairings, great tasting menu but pricey; definitely for a special occasion and not the typical “East Village” spot

    I’m open for more sights and restaurants prying, so do email if you want.

    Wear comfortable shoes. Better yet, don’t bring comfortable shoes — that way you can buy some while you’re there! (Southern B’Way near Houston St. has some good, cheap shoe shops, and I love Sacco, which has various locations around the city.)

  32. I haven’t been there for a while (children… they kinda cramp your travelin’ style!), but when I go to NYC I make sure I spend Friday night at Marie’s Crisis Cafe. It is a bit of a wild and wacky place – camp as christmas, a gay piano bar full of Broadway types singing show tunes after the shows finish. It’s a good bar, too! Well worth checking out for the experience alone. (for address and some reviews) brief history)

    Have a great time Shauny! Can’t wait to see the Flickr pics!

  33. I haven’t seen Witold in a while and you not at all so: kill two birds with one stone and hang out with both of us!

  34. Not to be missed:



    I couldn’t find the reference right now (still trying to get used to using a Mac and have not been successful in toggling between various Safari browsers — grrrrrr)…but the New York Times recently had an article on walking tours of “unknown” New York that you can download to your iPod. I have not done this myself but the description sounded fantastic.

    Oh…and if you have not booked hotel rooms yet, you may want to consider staying across the river in New Jersey (Jersey City)…just a short train or ferry ride and much cheaper!

  35. American Museum of Natural History at 81st and Central Park West, for the big dinosaurs and the incredible planetarium show.

    The famous Halloween Parade in the Village (Greenwich Village) on Oct. 31st–not to be missed!!

    Autumn in NYC is the best!

  36. well depending on when you are there – the NY marathon is on 4 November! quite a specatle I believe… unfortunately I am not running but the boy is and I will be cheering and there next year!

  37. Try and get standby tickets to Letterman, if you’re a fan. That’s the thing I have the best memories of from my time in NY. Back then you just queued up in the morning, got given tickets in the order you were queued at (I think) 9AM, come back at 5:30 or something for the taping and people are admitted in the order they’re needed — if 10 of the people who booked tickets don’t show, they’ll let in the first 10 standbys.

    I got there at 6AM, was ticket #2. Not sure how many they let in… maybe 20. Yeah, I’m crazy.

    If you plan in advance (I didn’t) I think you can write to them saying ‘we’re coming from Scotland, we’re here on days x y and z… any tickets available?’

    Good fun.

  38. Bar 89 – The bathrooms are the most interesting part about this place…they’ve actually appeared in the newspaper?!?!

    Cuba – Very small place, but the food was great and the Mojitos were even better!

    Tasti D Lite – They’re everywhere in the city and they’re delicious! You’d never know it’s low-calorie/low-fat?!?!

    Shecky’s – If you’re going at the end of the month you’ll miss their Girls Night Out, but their Beauty Night Out is Oct 24-25. I’ve been to the Girls Night Out a few times and it’s pretty cool…shopping AND and open bar all night long!!

  39. I would agree with everyone else about NOT doing Olive Garden…there is so much better, non-chain Italian food in NYC.

    When people come in from out of town I normally take them to ooo and ahh at Times Square, then we leave. It’s great to gasp at the huge buildings, advertising, gobs of people, the guy who plays guitar in his underwear, the buskers, the traveling sales men, etc. But there isn’t any place there that is worth eating.

    Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is nice. Take the subway to the Brooklyn side, then walk towards Manhattan…you end up within walking distance to China Town. Then you can grab some yummy Vietnamese food at Doyer’s Vietnamese (downstairs at 11 Doyer St at Bowery). Poor lighting, in a basement, but the food is yummy and inexpensive. For dessert head over to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (65 Bayard St)…the cantaloupe ice cream is amazing if they have it that day.

    Zabar’s (80th & Broadway) is an institution in NYC. Great little grocery store. A destination point? I’ve never thought of it that way, but you can get some yummy stuff there. If you go see it, walk down a few blocks to Beard Papa’s (2167 Broadway) for the most amazing cream puffs ever. I’ve heard they have other yummy stuff, but I can’t stop ordering the regular cream puffs.

  40. If you like Indian food, I would recommend Chennai Garden (129 E 27th St near Lexington Ave). It’s vegetarian kosher, and across the street from a bbq joint. The staff is super nice and the food is excellent south Indian cuisine. The mango lassies are super yummy.

    If you do go to the Met Museum, afterwards you can walk over to Gobo Restaurant (1426 Third Ave) which is not your mother’s vegetarian restaurant. Great hearty meals in a nice atmosphere…you won’t miss the meat.

    wear comfy shoes.

    Utilize tkts in the middle of times square for inexpensive last minute broadway tickets. ‘spamalot’, ‘wicked’, and ‘rent’ are some good ones.

    The weather will be cool, possibly in the 40s at night…so bring some warm clothes.

    the village is great to walk around in at night for people watching…and stop by Veniero’s (which will be super crowded, but worth the wait) (342 E 11th St & 1st Ave) for coffee and one of their gajillion pastries. Flor’s Kitchen (Venezuelan) is great for dinner (170 Waverly Place, between 6th and 7th) The chupe (chicken soup) is fantastic if it’s chilly outside…and they also have yummy homemade red sangria.

    If you’re walking around Astor Place, have coffee from the Mud Truck (usually parked 4th Ave & 8th Street). Then head over to Criff Dogs (113 St Mark’s Place) for one of their hot dogs with a side of tater tots.

    There are so many great places to go and see, it’s hard to include them all for you…these are just my faves…

  41. I’ve only been once, but here is my limited experience & plans for next time:

    – Central Park was great
    – We ended up walking more than I expected, I fourth or fifth the comfy shoes recommendation.
    – We used Priceline to get our hotel. We only stayed Saturday night (live near Boston, 3-4 hours away), and weekends stays in the WallStreet area are cheap. Way cheap. The area is creepily deserted on weekends.
    – I WILL do a food tour of the Vendy award semifinalists Street vendors ROCK!
    – I wish I’d done a bus (Ooh, or the helicoptor!) tour, just to get my bearings. When we weren’t walking, we took the subway, and I didn’t always know where we were.

  42. I’ve lived in NYC my whole life so I have a few tips…hopefully these will be useful.

    –I didn’t read all the comments, but I did see the Halloween parade mentioned above. If you are in town for this, go; it’s great fun! Sixth avenue in the teens is a great place to watch.

    –Weather wise, it might be cool. Bring a fall jacket, and wear comfy shoes!

    –You should see Times Square, but I wouldn’t spend any length of time there. It is crowded and really, there’s nothing all that special there if you aren’t going to a show. If you are going to do anything in Times Square, eat at Juniors; it’s a famous restaurant in NYC (they make awesome cheesecake) and they just opened up a place in Times Square.

    –And do try and go to a show. You can get discounted tickets on the day of the performance by going to the TKTS booths on 46th St. between Broadway and 8th Ave. Rent is great. Les Mis, also great.

    –Good Mexican food can be found at El Cantinero on University Place (by NYU) between 11th and 12th St. Good Thai can be had at Spice, also on University Place, but a couple of blocks down. Also, there is a great place where you can get Belgian french fries on 2nd Ave between 7th and 8th streets…if you like french fries definitely do not miss this place! Plus you’ll be right in around Greenwich Village then, so you can eat and see some cool stuff!

    –If you are willing to travel into Brooklyn (just 10 minutes from Manhattan), take the L train to Bedford Avenue. The neighborhood is a little too hipsterish these days, but they have a lot of nice restaurants. Among them: Sea and the Williamsburg Cafe.

    –Unless you are a big fan on Modern Art, skip the MOMA. However, if you want to go (big fan or not) go on Friday night because it’s free.

    –The Met and the Museum of Natural History are a must. The top of the Empire State Building is pretty cool too, but try going on a weeknight; there will be less of a line.

    –The Upper West side (take the 1 train to 66th st/Lincoln Center) and Battery Park City (it’s a few blocks from ground zero) are nice neighborhoods as well.

    –Go to the Union Square farmer’s market if you can.

    –Central Park too, but obviously only in the daylight. It’s not super dangerous at night or anything, but it’s easier to get lost and there might be some unsavory types out.

    –Each of you should get an unlimited weekly Metrocard; it will save you money. Do not fear the subway; it will be faster and cheaper than taking a cab everywhere.

    –If you are into animals, go to the Bronx Zoo. It’s a bit of a ride, but it’s a nice zoo. You just take the 2 or the 5 train to East Tremont Ave/West Farms Square.

    Have fun!

  43. When are you there? If you time it right you could cheer me on in the marathon 😉

    Seriously though, I’m going to be reading through these tips very carefully for myself.

  44. I’m sure your being overloaded with tips- so I won’t give you a huge list but just mention one- as I just got back yesterday from NYC! I live in Boston and love to visit NYC at least once a year.
    So my suggestion – Max Brenner Chocolate by the Bald Man.
    Yes that is the name! I believe they have 2 locations. I went to the one on 141 Second Ave at ninth street. It’s ALL CHOCOLATE- ALL THE TIME. No really.
    Check it out:
    My friend and I started with chocolate Martini’s and shared the Chocolate Fondu for two. Giddy Up.
    (Also- I second Spice Market! Amazing interior and interesting/delicious food.)

  45. Former New Yorker here, now living in the northwestern woods of Connecticut.

    Three things I love to do in NYC when I pop down for a visit:

    SUPER CHEAP INDIAN FOOD — East 6th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue — the entire block is full of Indian restaurants so the competition is fierce — they even have guys out on the street like carnival barkers trying to get you to come in and eat THEIR curry. Many of these restaurants have live music — sitar/drums – it’s great. My favorite restaurant is called Milon and it’s on 1st Avenue between 6th and 5th st, around the corner from the rest. The food is cheap, good and the decor is insane and so worth the little jaunt down that way.

    FAVORITE COFFEE SPOT: Caffe Reggio on MacDougal Street between W. 3rd and Bleecker. It’s tiny and hasn’t been remodeled in 40 years and have GREAT espresso — you’ve probably seen the interior of Caffe Reggio in the Godfather and Shaft. Love that place.

    PEOPLE WATCHING: Washington Square Park — it’s the heart of Greenwich Village. It used to be much more interesting when it was overrun with drug dealers and freaks on drugs — it’s been cleaned up a lot but there’s still some folks who show up with their guitars for impromptu jam sessions. Once I saw a bunch of college kids wearing bedsheets acting out King Lear. I love to grab a coffee, a notebook, and pull up a piece of park bench and just watch the world around me.

    None of these are really tourist hot spots, per se, but all will give you an experience I find completely unique to New York City.

    I also second trying to catch some of the Halloween Parade if you’re going to be in town on the 31st. I HATE parades (claustrophobic in crowds) ss a rule but this one is so awesome I make an exception — so much creativity in one spot — everyone makes their own costumes. It’s great fun.

    Have a great time!!!

  46. Please make sure to stop people in the street and ask for directions, help, etc… they will be intrigued by your accents and you will enjoy theirs… and you will meet the real New York!!

  47. THANK YOU SO MUCH EVERYONE! You’re bloody legends. I shall have to collate this into a trusty spreadsheet. THANK YOUUUUU!

  48. Used to live in NY, and by far the best bagels (as all the locals know) are H&H bagels. Not too far from Zabars. Get a picnic lunch at zabars and go over to Central Park and have a picnic lunch. Walk over to the East Side and visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. If you’re into modern art, the MOMA is cool too. Be sure to pick up a local newspaper or magazine and see what free events. Or check out for the time you’ll be there. An outdoor concert in New York. Ah, memories!

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