In our last article, we introduced you to NYC.
Hopefully, this has given you a basic idea of what the city is all about and how it is organized. Now, let’s get into some things to see and do.
Since Manhattan is the most popular destination for most visitors, we’ll start there. However, we don’t want to just rehash all the basic tourist attractions so we’ve chosen seven places in Manhattan that are easy to see, but not as obvious as Times Square or Central Park.
We’ve also chosen places that will take you to many different sections of the island and organized it so you can go from bottom to top. If you decide to go to all seven, it’ll give you a great introduction to the city…
But, of course, you can just pick and choose what interests you, too.
1. Start at the New World Trade Center Station
The new World Trade Center Station is the perfect starting point because it’s such a bold design that you’ve got to see it for yourself. The massive, strikingly designed, and extremely expensive station gets strong reactions from people…
But, beyond all that, it’s within walking distance of the 9/11 monument, Wall St., and the rest of the Financial District. Plus, it’s a train station that’s well connected to the rest of the city.
There’s also a giant shopping mall inside and the main hall is just as striking as the outside. Check it out and see what you think.
2. Eat in Chinatown
Most people know about Chinatown and take a quick look, but the neighborhood has a lot more to offer than most realize—especially when it comes to food.
Generally speaking, food in Manhattan is pretty expensive… sometimes shockingly expensive. But, Chinatown goes in the opposite direction. You’ll often find meals that are surprisingly cheap, but still delicious. Tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurants serve authentic Chinese food and some creative forms of fusion cuisine.
Spicy Village is another one of our favorites and they actually have seats… but not many.
3. Explore The Lower East Side
Right next to Chinatown is the Lower East Side. If you manage to find a place to stay here, it’s a great location for exploring both areas on foot. Plus, it’s easy to access many other parts of the city.
But what’s really fascinating is the history of this neighborhood, which has changed dramatically over the years. It started off as an entry point for immigrants from Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe. More recently it’s become popular with Puerto Rican’s and immigrants from around Latin America.
There’s also a strong history with the Jewish community and many aspects of this past still are a part of the neighborhood.
During the 2000’s, the neighborhood has gentrified dramatically and attracted a mix of artists, hipsters, and young people. Many of the former groups of immigrants have moved elsewhere.
If you’re interested in the history of the area, be sure to check out the Tenement Museum. They have recreated the conditions for early immigrants in the Lower East Side and offer a variety of tours to show different parts of life during this time. There’s also a great bookstore at the entrance of the museum.
All these influences merge together to create a fantastic variety of food options. There are options from all different cultures that have developed the neighborhood over the years, plus a lot of new and creative options.
4. Walk The High Line Park
You’ve probably already heard about the High Line, but may not realize how unique it is. It’s one of the most incredible urban parks in the world and someplace that everyone should see at least once—despite how popular it already is.
If you’re not familiar with this park, it’s basically an unused above ground railroad that was redesigned into an urban park. It was about to be torn down and local activists fought to keep it around. Native plants were planted, walkways were created next to the old rail tracks and it continues expanding toward the edge of Manhattan.
We recommend entering around the Chelsea Market and walking all the way to the end. Inside the park, there are various attractions that pop up regularly, but many are there year round. One of our favorites is the movie theater style window that overlooks Tenth Avenue. Wooden stadium-style seating is behind a large window looking over the street below. Also, there are wooden lounge chairs that are great for sunset… if you can get one of them.
Also, be sure to visit the Chelsea Market before or after. It’s fun to explore and there are lots of great food options.
The Chelsea Market is must visit if you’ve never been there. It’s right outside the entrance to the High Line Park and is filled with all kinds of local foods and a few shops. A few standouts are Num Pang (Cambodian sandwiches), Dickson’s Farmstand (local meats), and Ninth Street Espresso. But, there are many more… You’ll be in food heaven😋⠀ .⠀ チェルシーマーケットはNYCに来たら必ず立ち寄って欲しい場所のひとつ🇺🇸 ハイラインの近くなのでお散歩前のブランチにもオススメ😉 マーケット内にあるお店はどれも本当に美味しいお店ばかり😋ナムパンというカンボジアのサンドイッチ、ディクソンズのお肉、ナインス・ストリート・エスプレッソも👍✨日本へのお土産にちょうどいいブラウニーや雑貨もありますよ!
5. See The Flatiron
The Flatiron neighborhood is best known for the uniquely shaped building that divides Broadway and 5th Avenue. But, there’s a lot more to see than that. Right at this intersection is Madison Square Park, which is a beautiful place to sit when the weather is nice. It has lots of benches, a couple fountains, and even a Shake Shack inside.
Right across the street is a seating area with a great view of the famous building. Lots of tables and chairs, plus access to public wifi.
Then, there’s Eataly, the specialty Italian market. This location is designed to imitate an Italian Piazza with foods separated by type (cheese shop, bread shop, meat shop, etc.). There’s a gathering place in the middle for food and cocktails, plus a number of restaurants inside. And, it’s all specialty Italian food.
There are lots of other food options around the neighborhood and it’s just a short walk to Union Square.
6. Relax in Bryant Park
When it comes to Midtown Manhattan, we love Bryant Park for two reasons: First, it’s an outstanding park to relax; second, it’s at the center of everything.
The park is without a doubt one of the best urban parks in the world. It’s right in the middle of the busiest part of New York City, but still, offers tons of amenities. The large, green lawn is well maintained and often has different events throughout the year. There’s yoga in the park, movies in the park, and other similar types of events.
All around the lawn are many different reading libraries, games, food choices, and even a carousel for children. There’s lots of seating, including tables and many umbrellas to protect you from the elements. There’s even wifi, so it’s great for both working and people watching.
As for location, the main branch of the New York Public library is right next door, Grand Central just a couple blocks away, and Times Square is a couple blocks in the other direction. The library is along Fifth Avenue so if you want to see the famous shopping street, it’s right there.
You have subway access to virtually everywhere in the city. Bryant Park, Grand Central, and Times Square together cover most of the subway lines, plus you can access Metro-North to go into Westchester County or Connecticut.
7. Harlem on foot
Harlem is another neighborhood that’s great to explore based on what you like. It’s best known as one of NYC’s largest African American neighborhoods, but this has shifted in recent years and a lot of gentrification has been happening.
While this has been changing the area, it’s still one of the most unique parts of Manhattan. Explore the neighborhood on foot and see the street art around the area and the historical landmarks. Walk down some of the beautiful, tree-lined streets with classic brownstones and visit landmarks, like the Apollo Theater.
Then, of course, there’s the food. Gourmet restaurants keep popping up, with the Red Rooster being the most popular of them. But, we’d recommend going for one of the classic Soul Food restaurants, like Sylvia’s (pictured above).
For your last stop, visit Morningside Park. It’s mostly in Harlem but leads to Morningside Heights, where you’ll find Columbia University.
You’re gonna love this city
Hopefully, this has given you some ideas about what to see in Manhattan… Or confirmed something you already want to see.
Beyond being big, New York really stands out for the level of density and diversity it has compared to many other US cities. Each of these places is within a much larger community that varies dramatically from other parts of the city. You’ll get a sample of many little worlds and the more you explore, the more you find.