It's been called a hundred names, and deserved all of them. New York is everything and nothing at the same time – a city that changes so constantly that few generalizations can be applied to it, blazing with an indefatigable and indefinable energy no other city can match. Once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker, the saying goes, and this city's denizens are well aware of the unparalleled vitality of their city. Although the line between New Yorker and Non New Yorker is difficult to traverse, here are five ways to experience New York as a New Yorker would.
Photo by Jim Linwood
1) The Central Park Bike Loop
There's much to see in Central Park, and walking or biking past the main “Lower Loop,” passing the Metropolitan Museum, Alice in Wonderland Statue, Sheep Meadow, and many more park icons, is the best way to see it. From hardworking bikers and joggers struggling to stay in shape to compete in the city's cutthroat beauty arena, to ladies who lunch walking diminutive dogs in colorful leashes, the Park is a fascinating cross-section of uptown and midtown Manhattan life. While the West Side's Riverside Park has a bit of rebellious urban bohemia mixed into the bourgeoisie, Central Park is New York's mainstream at its finest. The lush flowers, tranquil meadows, and placid ponds, however, provide an escape from the madding crowd outside the park walls.
2) Take a Cab Up Madison Avenue
You may feel that death is near, but it really isn't. For a New York experience you won't find recommended in the guidebook, get one of the city's signature yellow cab mid- or down-town (we recommend Union Square) and demand an uptown destination with the implication that you're in a hurry (we suggest Mt. Sinai Hospital, on the north end of the upscale and charming residential neighborhood Carnegie Hill, if you're brave). You will then be subject to a ride more intense than anything you can find at Coney Island – weaving in and out of other cabs, playing chicken with headlights, and otherwise risking your life for the sake of a high tip and quick turnaround fare. Even if you don't plan on making a ride out of it, be sure to catch a cab at least once in your time here. Just make sure you haven't eaten an enormous meal first…
3) Eat From a Country You've Never Been To
…Which segues nicely into the next New York necessity: eat a meal from a country you've never visited, or, in the case of fusion, from more than one (The Korean Sushi Barbeque in Times Square is the most prominent example of this, though not exactly recommended). Special recommendations are the midtown Barbes, for French-Carribbean-North African Fusion, or Banjara, by far the best Indian restaurant on the East Village's Curry Row, if not the city, or the Polish Veselka, also in the East Village. Avoid Little Italy (the best Italian food is scattered through the city, with special concentrations on the Upper East Side) and Chinatown (too difficult to discern good from bad) and instead discover the more “random” ethnic enclaves and eateries, like the descriptively titled “The Ethiopian Restaurant” in Yorkville.
4) Survive a Night on the Town
New York may be the City that Never Sleeps, but it takes the energy of a real New Yorker (or a good imitator) to stay up through a long night of club and bar-hopping. Specific recommendations are useless in a city where hot and cold seem to change places by the hour, but generally, by region – the East Village is NYU students and grungy music-types, the West Village is gay and arty, Chelsea is gay (men), Tribeca is rich financiers, Williamsburg (Brooklyn) is hipster, and Soho is for endearingly pretentious artists who can afford it. Whether you're out in Brooklyn or coddled near Union Square, be sure to enjoy the best part of the evening: the drunken, late-night subway rides back to security (and sobriety).
Photo by flickr's jillclardy
5) The Hungarian Pastry Shop
This bohemian hole-in-the-wall, mostly patronized by aspiring novelists, Columbia students, or some combination thereof, across from St. John the Divine represents the ideal of writers' dreams. Cheap tea, delicious pastries, outdoor seating, and a bathroom graffited with poetry quotation all serve to make an ideal Columbia hangout.
By Tara Isabella Burton