I think I will always gush about the Big Apple. I love this city. A week away this October was my fifth trip, and I was excited to use it as an excuse to get off the beaten path in New York. I was lucky enough to stay in my sister’s work apartment again, which is near Penn Station and boasts killer views, and was visiting with my boyfriend – a New York first-timer. This meant that between us we had the appetite to tick off some known-and-loved icons, as well as explore further afield. Check out my not-so off the beaten path in New York post here!
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3 THINGS YOU REALLY CANNOT MISS:
BROOKLYN GRANGE FARM | I am still obsessing about this place! So much so I’ve even been looking at urban farming projects in other cities: my not-at-all-green fingers have been inspired. Brooklyn Grange has a sister project in Queens, and collectively they make up the world’s largest rooftop soil farm: both certainly off the beaten path in New York. The Brooklyn farm is located on the 11th floor of an industrial warehouse that formed part of the old Brooklyn Naval Yards: book on to one of their Wednesday morning tours, if only for the views.
Also check out: be sure to walk Brooklyn Bridge in at least one direction, as well saving time to wander around DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights, and Brooklyn Bridge Park. Lunch at Juliana’s Pizza was a bit over-rated versus the great $1 slices from 2 Bros Pizza, but still way better than queuing for Grimaldi’s! My sister and mum recommend Luke’s Lobster, which we missed assuming it was a food truck and so looking in the wrong place.
GUTTER BAR | I don’t know if I was just drunk on American double pours, but this place is FUN! Don’t let the name put you off. If you’re planning a night out in Williamsburg (and you must), this bowling-lane-come-bar is a great place to end.
Also check out: abuse your holiday-maker freedom and get to beautiful Maison Premiere ahead of the queues for the 4-7pm Mon-Fri $1 happy hour oysters. If it’s a balmy night there’s The Gorbals for a rooftop drink, dive bar Rosemary’s Greenpoint Tavern for some cheap but flat beer, and Sweet Chick – a well-known institution for fried chicken. I won’t even list the rest: you’re spoilt for choice!
WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART | has been re-located, and since 1 May 2015 is now in a fabulous building designed by Renzo Piano. Founded in 1931 by wealthy American socialite Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, it focuses on 20th– and 21st-century American Art. OK, OK, not really a true off the beaten path in New York tip. However, I hadn’t been to the previous venue, and this New York gallery is stunning: we saw a fascinating Harlem Renaissance feature exhibition; the ongoing collections focus on US-movements Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art and are brilliantly curated; and the outdoor levels are the Whitney’s ultimate trump card.
Also check out: could the Whitney get any better? It’s at the very end of my previously mentioned fave spot, The High Line. AND it’s right in the heart of fancy Meat Packing District, so you can explore the cobbled streets and grab lunch at Chelsea Market: Los Tacos No. 1 is tasty stuff.
3 THINGS WORTH A SNOOP:
STORM KING ART CENTRE | it seemed that this huge outdoor sculpture park an hour North of the city had made it on to more people’s radar this year: I was recommended to visit by various New York living ex-pats, yet they admitted they’d never heard of it before. With our late October trip, this couldn’t have been better timed to truly appreciate ‘Fall’. Yes, the leaves were red; maroon; gold; yellow; ochre; orange; and definitely falling all around. We should have wrapped up warmer and been more organised: definitely make a day of it, take a picnic and rugs, stock up on some nice wine, and enjoy the great outdoors!
Also check out: If you’re lucky enough to be spending some time in New York, make the effort to get to beautiful Fire Island as well. It warrants another day trip, as you need to catch the not-so-cheap LIRR from Penn Station to Bay Shore, and then a 45 min ferry to Ocean Beach (this is the main town, although there are other ferry stops).
FDR FOUR FREEDOMS PARK | I think Roosevelt Island must get very overlooked as it’s off the beaten path in New York (I know I hadn’t even noticed it on a map!), yet it makes for an easy escape from the Manhattan chaos by subway. The park is tranquil with decent views of the city as far as the Statue of Liberty, and you can get a free cable car back across to the Upper East Side.
Also check out: make a leisurely day of it, and stroll Central Park (a must) and pick either The Guggenheim (I love this building, but the exhibitions don’t rotate enough for $25 a pop), the MoMA (fantastic, but again sacrificed on this trip in favour of the Whitney), or The Met. I loved the latter: it holds so many interesting things it’s hard to know where to begin. Entrance is a ‘recommended’ $18, so we rationalised that a quick free peek for an hour is OK for a first visit. And when on a budget.
911 MEMORIAL | it feels only appropriate to visit the site of the destroyed World Trade Centre, to honour the many lives lost and admire the stunning new public space that has been created. The memorial is both sombre and incredibly positive, rising from the literal ashes as a very impressive symbol of hope for the future. We didn’t go in the Museum, which is reportedly incredibly moving (but commands ridiculous queues), however I thought the two pools were beautiful.
Also check out: as you are at the South end of the peninsula, get the free Staten Island Ferry from Battery Park – more off the beaten path in New York than paying for a water taxi or tour – and you’ll see not only the amazing Manhattan skyline, but the green lady herself, the Statue of Liberty.
3 THINGS TO STEER CLEAR:
KATZ’S DELICATESSAN | wow. Those sandwiches. And those queues. I recall going to Katz about 10 years ago, and whilst I think it was popular I do not remember this current hype. The food is good, but $20+ for a sandwich where you need to fight for a table, gobble your fare, and get out pronto? I’d recommend you pass and save yourself the stress.
Also avoid: food in general can be so hit-and-miss in New York. There’s so much you get overwhelmed, and so many places still serve up careless, hurried, bland carb- and sugar-loaded cr*p! We were particularly unimpressed with Tick Tock Diner and Johny’s Luncheonette near where we stayed in the Garment District (common theme being: bad American diner style food).
TIMES SQUARE | I fail to see the appeal of this place. Advertising and tourist hell. I’ve caved in and walked through a couple of times now, burdened by my own obsessiveness of taking of photos of absolutely everything. But it’s just really not worth it, and that’s because it’s definitely not off the beaten path in New York! Take my word that – like Piccadilly Circus in London – it’s just the grim bowels of this incredible city, and spare yourself the elbow-wrestling match with hundreds of selfie-stick wielding eejits.
EMPIRE STATE BUILDING | I’ve been up both Empire State (a long time ago) and Top of The Rock (in 2013) and do love a tall building! Both warrant a trip, of course, however my tip is you can save yourself some cash (all 3 – including the newer One World Trade Centre – are a hefty $32 each, per adult) and enjoy the impressive skyline from so many other places: Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn Heights mentioned previously probably being my highest recommended.
1 THING I WISH I’D DONE:
BIG SPORTS GAME | the major seasons seemed to be against us on this trip, as Basketball started just a week later (27th October) and Baseball begins in April and ended 4th October. American Football was on, running from September to February, but I think tickets are a bit more pricey so we rejected them this time. Fall is definitely a beautiful time of year to go, but we did miss out on attending a New York sports spectacle, and also Open House New York – in this case, due to jet lag! This was on 17th and 18th October just as we landed and – if it’s anything like the one I went to in Denver, or London’s annual event – would be well worth working out an itinerary to see.
AND KNOW THIS: When Brooklyn Bridge first opened, it cost a penny to cross by foot, 5 cents for a horse and rider and 10 cents for a horse and wagon. Farm animals were allowed at a price of 5 cents per cow and 2 cents per sheep or hog. And now it’s free. Hooray. Good to see something costing less than it used to.