This trip advice is based upon a bunch of subjective and, sometimes objective, experiences of a twenty-four-year old immigrant New Yorker who can’t guarantee the places she will be talking about will make you as happy as they made her (well, mostly, because most things about New York excite me all the time). What’s great about you as a reader, though, is the fact that you chose to travel to New York, which tells me a lot about you and your expectations. Your trip to New York means to me that you want big, urban adventures, a whirlwind of something deeply international, global and unique. To get the right portrait of New York and its pulsating “veins”, you, my friend, have to check out not just the city, but, at least, two or three of its boroughs.
So, I guess, this is a traveling advice piece. So let me talk about places.
Let’s do this fast: in Queens, you should definitely see “Museum of the Moving Image”, since the kind of stuff they show there is extremely curious and simply brilliant; quite often they have screenings of movies that are no longer or have been long out of the theaters. They do exhibits about video games and music videos. Amazing exhibits of the old broadcasting and filming equipment are also on the list.
If you are as crazy about bakhlava as I am, and you seriously want to try the best bakhlava in New York, go to Omonia Café in Astoria. It’s juicy, thick and has every hint of the divine sweetness you expect out of a piece of bakhlava. Astoria is also known for the best Greek cuisine in general.
Check out Long Island City close to Astoria as well, the little neighborhood has a fantastic European environment to it, tons of great bars, open mic spaces etc.
As for where to go in the city, i.e. Manhattan, my list can go on and on. Just to give you an idea of what I think is worth your attention and just has a nice bunch of the local authenticity – East and West Villages, Meatpacking district, TriBeCa, Upper East and West sides. Why? Galleries, theaters, restaurants, bars, book shops etc. Culture! Character! My favorite bookshop in New York, and I am a big book reader, is the bookshop Strand in Union sq. Strand is where you can dig for all kinds of books all day for a much better deal than most places offer. They also have endless bookstands full of one-dollar-books!
If you want to get into trouble, or have a random adventure with some local, or not so local characters, go straight to Union sq. You could even stand in the middle of it for a few minutes with your eyes closed, and that would be quite enough for something to happen to you. Oh, and if you do care about reading, go to the New York Public Library and get nicely overwhelmed with its history and the perfect atmosphere for wanting to change the world.
The best bars, as far as I’m concerned, are:
1) laidback: Puffy’s (TriBeCa), Vbar (Greenwich Village), Penrose (Upper East Side)
2) loud and divey: Reade St Pub (TriBeCa), Fat Cat, Tom & Jerry (Lower East Side)
3) fancy and expensive: Ward III (TriBeCa), The American Cut (TriBeCa), The Writing Room (Upper East Side) and Greenwich Project (on W8th st).
The most delicious food I found at is Restaurant Marc Forgione. That food makes me feel like I don't exist.
My all time favorite show in the city is “Sleep No More”, the art deco seduction. Scary and provocative. The kind of experience you will never forget.
In Brooklyn, you definitely want to explore neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Bushwick and Greenpoint (all pretty close to one another), since those three have so much concentration on the art scene of the whole city. That’s where lots of young artists build their temporary homes and little bits of inspiration for the future generations. Bright and vibrant.
As a Bushwick, Brooklyn local, I cannot finish this without mentioning my favorite local spots around my hood, such as:
1) The Bushwick Starr
If you are into theatre, you should come to The Bushwick Starr Theatre, where they show puppetry, modern underground, musicals, poetry, classics, Greek avant-garde, all kinds of interpretations of sexuality and tragedy etc. If you want to get free access to their shows, you should volunteer for their performances as a bartender.
2) The Living Gallery is a wonderland for anyone. At this seemingly tiny art mall, you can discover more than you can imagine: yoga studio, local organic food corp., art galleries, yarn and coffee place, vintage shops, interesting workshops, Jewish community place, tattoo salon etc.
3) Cypress Inn – my absolutely favorite coffee shop on Cypress Ave, run by a very eccentric owner. The kind of place where you feel capable of finishing writing a book of a long time in a day or two. Where you meet your entire neighborhood through the movie nights they throw there twice a week, and just find it so easy to interact with the whole place. Absolutely unpretentious, electric in its character and truly homey. This is honestly the first place in Brooklyn I could go to with just my pajamas on and feel completely welcome.
Favorite bars and places to eat in Bushwick?
1) Pearl’s Social and Billy club. Beautifully Brooklyn, cheap, loud and always alive. True social club: no TVs around, real talking only.
2) Bodega. Right next door. Great local beer and wine place. They also show movies there a couple times a week.
3) Dear Bushwick. The best, most delicious restaurant, cocktail bar in Bushwick. Their burnt bourbon nutmeg crème makes me drool uncontrollably.
So does the pizza place
4) Roberta's pizza off the Morgan stop on the L train
My favorite concert venues in Brooklyn are Williamsburg Hall of Music and BAM. Just go on their websites and you’ll find tons of stuff to do. I think the most informative websites on upcoming music shows is ohmyrockness.com.
To finish this I have to say - go eat New York with your eyes, ears and all your receptors. Bars, clubs, restaurant, museums are great, but in reality so not important for your true appreciation of the place. Open your heart to New York, and you’ll see what kind of magic it’ll bring to you. Oh, and how could I forget, if you play music, bring it with you. You never know where it will take you in this city.