I love New York! There is something about that city that makes me feel at home as soon as I set foot in the streets. Whilst visiting all the top tourist spots are a must, there is so much more to this amazing city! Here are my favourite things to do in New York that might not be high on your radar.
1. Bryant Park at Breakfast
I know Central Park is the Park everyone wants to go see in New York, and whilst it is worth a visit, i just love the smaller oasis that is Bryant Park. Situated next to New York Central Library if offers so much from an outdoor cinema in summer, to table tennis, chess games and a mini outdoor library. On my first visit to the city we grabbed a bagel and cream cheese with a coffee and sat in the park most mornings, just watching New Yorkers hurry to work. I love people watching and this is a great place to do it from.
2. Visit a Speakeasy
Speakeasy’s have become more and more popular as a gimmick in recent years. They’re popping up all over the place in England where we never had prohibition. In New York there are still two speakeasy’s operating from that period, using the original entrances that were used in the 1920’s prohibition period. My favourite was the Back Room, with it’s beautifully restored original bar.It took us a while to find (hope, I’m not going to tell you where it is though there are some clues in the pictures below), but after finally getting into the right back alley we found the entrance. The quirky way of serving the drinks (cocktails in teacups and beer in brown paper bags) are the exact way people would have enjoyed them in prohibition. We visited late afternoon, when it was quiet enough to chat to the barman and the owner who told us about the history of the place and made us off the menu gin cocktails. Not the cheapest place to drink at, but what price can you put on experiencing a bit of history?
3. Marjorie Elliot’s Jazz Parlor
New York may be host to some of the worlds best, most iconic jazz clubs, but on a Sunday afternoon, forget the big names and head to Washington Heights in West Harlem for a true “only in New York” experience. Marjorie Elliot has been opening up her home and putting on free Jazz concerts on a Sunday afternoon for the last 20+ years. She plays the piano, and invites friends and musicians to come along to play. It may feel a bit surreal wandering into a strangers apartment in Harlem (my husband was a bit wary about the whole situation), but I promise you will not regret it! Inside, there is a fantastic mix of people, from Julliard students to locals who are quick to tell you that “that’s my seat” or that they were there at the first concert, to a few lost looking tourists like ourselves. There is a break part way through where Marjorie hands out free juice and cookies to all who have come. The concerts are free, although donations are appreciated.
4. Top of the Rock
Yes, this is technically a big tourist attraction, but Empire State is always first on the list of buildings everyone wants to go up. The Empire State may be more iconic, but the views are far better from Top of the Rock, with none of the mesh wire in the way of your pictures. There are 3 levels to Top of the Rock and you’ll probably spend lots of time on the lower sections taking photos through the glass. However, if you wait until you get to the very top there is a viewing platform with no glass and no wire in the way, giving you an uninterrupted 360 degree panoramic view of the city. You get a clearer view of central park (the Rockefeller blocks it slightly from the top of the Empire State), and a perfect view of the Empire State itself. We went early morning and there were no queues.
If you can though, do both. We did Rockefeller in the morning and the Empire State at midnight – two very different views of the city!
5. Midsummer Night Swing
Every year in June the Lincoln Centre is host to the Midsummer night Swing, a series of open air music and dancing events. We were lucky enough to be in the City when this was on, and booked in to a Lindy Hop lesson followed by live music from an excellent band, The Hot Sardines. The lesson was great, with all abilities of dancers, and then the chance to put what we’d learnt in to practice to the live music.
Tickets were $25, but if we went back, I’d do as the locals do; you have to pay to get onto the dance floor, but it’s in the middle of a square where you can sit and watch the action all for free. We actually left the dance floor for a bit to sit with some of the local New Yorkers whilst we grabbed a bite to eat and a drink, and ended up dancing with them for most of the night instead. Those old timers had some moves and seemed to be having even more fun than everyone who’d paid! A definite “must do” if you get the chance.
If you have any tips on things to do in New York that are a bit different than the usual tourist sights, please let me know. I’m always on the look out for things to do in the City. One of my friends has recently moved there so I’m hoping to visit her soon and experience NYC in winter!