I just spent an awesome couple of weeks at my home away on the east coast. Being a first generation Californian, I have as much New York in me as I do California. So when someone (like my California sis in law) asks me what to do and where to go, I am an annoying font of unending response. For the obvious (Statue of Liberty, Museums, Macy’s, Ground Zero), buy a guidebook. If you want a piece of my New York, here you go…
Brooklyn. Airbnb is a great option for apartments that are bigger and much less expensive than a hotel room in Manhattan. And it’s a quick couple of stops from Union Square on the ‘L’ train. Easy peasy. We stayed between Williamsburg (hipster) and Bushwich (artsy) in the most adorable apartment. Walking distance from great Brooklyn neighborhoods (think Chestnut Street for the hipster, SOMA for the artsy).
Seriously eat everywhere. My cousin hooked us up with an amazing pizzeria in Bushwick called Roberta’s. It was totally worth the 90 minute wait, even with a 6 month old. Cocktails and foosball out back keep you happy.
Eat a black and white. It’s not the same as anything made in California and I’m not just saying that. It’s not a cookie and it’s not a cake. Find them in delis and don’t be put off by the cellophane wrapping…they get stale quickly. Don’t share and make sure you alternate bites or you’re not getting the whole experience. Italian ices. When I was little we could buy Italian ices on the street, now you will find them at pizza parlors and even ice cream stores. Ices are something like sorbet…kind of. Lemon is the traditional favorite, but my favorite is always melon. For the best ices you’ll need to buy in Brooklyn or Queens, but you’ll find them everywhere. Don’t have just one. You need to compare.
Use the subway, don’t be a wuss. $2.50 to get in (just put twenty bucks on a metro card) and you can go anywhere you want. You’ll get lost but it’s okay…you’re on vacation. Get a map or an app and figure out what line gets you closest to where you want to go. Look at the map and see what’s at the end of the line so you know which side of the track to board on then follow the signs. If you stay in Brooklyn take the ferry to Manhattan at least once. The waterfront is one of a kind.
Midtown: Don’t wait in the ridiculous line to go to the top of the Empire State Building. It’s a gorgeous building, but a horrendous line. If you want to see New York from the top go to the Top of the Rock. Both buildings are in midtown and you can see one from the other. Walk through Central Park. You have to. And if you can stomach it have a dirty water hot dog…it’s a hideous tradition. If you have a sweet tooth go to Dylan’s Candy Bar and buy mediocre candy in a ridiculously over-stimulated environment. My son’s first stop every trip. If you want to try some amazing chocolate go to Max Brenner’s. Don’t eat there, but buy some delicious, beautifully designed Israeli made kosher truffles. Go to Grand Central Station, find the bar in the center of the station, get a drink and pay too much money to people watch…it’s a gorgeous building. Make sure you look up.
Chelsea/Meatpacking District: Galleries and restaurants…do your homework. Spend some time on the High Line, walk, eat, enjoy. The High Line is an abandoned elevated freight rail line that once served the meatpacking district when it was packing meat. Now it’s a unique public park. Chelsea Market is the food hall of all food halls with restaurants that are beyond fabulous. Can you say Buddakan?
Gramercy/Greenwich Village/Soho: Eataly is Mario Bataly’s Italian food mecca with restaurants, marketplace, wine shop. Go hungry. Visit the Strand Bookstore, but only if you go with a friend who also loves books. My people were (kind of) patiently waiting on the sidewalk after about 15 minutes and I was still in the first 1/10 of a mile in and they say there are 18 miles of books. Go to Union Square at night to people watch. Maybe the snake people will be there. Shop on and around Spring Street.
Lower East Side: The Tenement Museum recreated the homes of several turn of the century families that are open for tours…pretty cool to see how my people lived after they came through Ellis Island. Katz’s Deli is famous for their knishes….if you haven’t had a knish in a while you need to visit. And pickles….find a pickle place. Essex Street is a good place to start…you’ll recognize it by the barrels of pickles standing out on the sidewalk. There are a few although once upon a time there were a lot more. Keep your eyes open. Last visit I went to The Pickle Guys…try a few different flavors. And finally find The Doughnut Plant…it’s down below Delancey. The best most interesting and delicious donut flavors you’ll find anywhere. Get something seasonal. Then get a creme brulee and a jelly donut. And go back on the weekend and get some ice cream too.
So there you have it…I’m still a newbie to Brooklyn so don’t have much to say about it yet. But we did love the vibe there. Once the kids are up and out we may just pack up and move east of the East River.
Keep in touch,