My love affair with New York City began far before I had ever set foot on the Eastern coast of the United States. I can’t pinpoint exactly when New York became more than just any other city to me, but somewhere between Audrey Hepburn and Frank Sinatra, Carrie Bradshaw and Holden Caulfield, it became something else entirely. For me, New York has always represented a distinct idealism. Anything gritty about it was romanticized. The dirt added character, the danger brought excitement. It became a vision for what my life could be. As I walked through the West Village, I saw another version of myself—twenty-five, tall and slender, walking purposefully to my exposed-brick apartment or the subway stop on 4th. As I slipped out of the Met, I saw her again, this time forty-five—still tall and slender of course—stepping out of a pre-war apartment, a child on either hand and a briefcase hanging from her cashmere-clad sweater. I saw myself everywhere, on the uptown subway, at the new restaurant in the East Village, in the tattoo shop in Dumbo, between the stacks at Strand Bookstore. It’s a future that’s so seductive, so sweet, and so explicitly tied to one tiny piece of the world.
New York is so big—five boroughs big—that it can often be alarming. I have a perpetual fear that I will find a part of the city that shatters my vision of it. Each time my plane descends parallel to the Manhattan skyline, I wonder if this is the trip that will disappoint me, will symbolize an end to my childhood idealism of this American Olympus I have built for myself. As I landed in LaGuardia Airport in the last weeks of 2016, this was a more real fear than ever. Only a few months earlier, my father had passed away, an event that in many ways shrunk my inherent idealism and symbolized a definite end to my girlhood. Surely the city would be different now—less beautiful and less beckoning.
What I found was certainly different, as each new encounter with such a dynamic city should be, but no less awe-inspiring. Part of the power of New York, I think, is that it is an insurmountable city. It is not a city of blanket idealism, but nuanced and profound understanding of the varied courses of life. People can be swathed in money and fur coats on Park Avenue while broke hipsters lounge on the benches of Washington Square Park and families in Queens work out bus schedules to get everyone to school on time. It’s a city where a baby can be born in Washington Heights while a girl who has lost her father can fly in from California. It’s a city where a terrorist attack can rock everyone, and a New Year’s celebration can lift them up again. The city oscillates between elation and mourning and everything in between, and its power comes from the fact that it has never been just one emotion.
It is often hard to hand someone a piece of this New York. Every experience with the city is so personal that to outline a guide of it for someone else seems almost blasphemous. Much of the beauty of the city is turning wrong corners and finding a neighborhood bookstore with a case of free books or a café or club that never made it onto Google Maps. And so, with that, I encourage you to take this guide with a grain of salt. Pick a neighborhood and wander! Find something special and tell a friend about it, so that they can tell theirs, and they can tell theirs, and one day it becomes someone’s favorite bookstore or café or club and they can’t even remember how they found it anymore, all they remember is that moment of elation when they first set foot inside.
Café’s and Coffeeshops
Brooklyn Roasters / vertiable hipster paradise
Café Reggio / old New York lingers in the cafe that brought the first cappicino to America
Magnolia’s Bakery / classic spot, be ready for buttercream coma
Ralph’s Coffee / feels like New York in the movies
Tuome / asian inspired, order the beingets with ice-cream for dessert or regret it
Sarabeth’s / where breakfast reigns supreme and grandma would be delighted
Nanoosh / close seating means your bound to make friends, can't go wrong with a wrap
Peacock Alley Restaurant / live piano player contributes to classic New York elegance, order the Waldorf salad
The Empire Hotel / 1920's glamour isn't so far away at this West Egg in the city
Waldorf Astoria / hold your breath on your way through the lobby
Wythe Hotel / who needs Fifth Avenue? everyone knows Brooklyn is the new Manhattan
Nu Hotel / hammocks will become a requirement for all of your hotel rooms after staying here
Grand Ballroom, Waldorf Astoria
New York Philharmonic / support the arts, devour the music
Newsical the Musical / in these trying times, spend an hour laughing it off
Bowery Poetry Club / the voices of every generation
Metropolitan Museum / bring a plus one to tear you away when the day is through
Frick Collection / feats your eyes, fantasize about becoming an art collector
Central Park / walk, run, jump, boat, definitely have your palm read
Brooklyn Bridge / try not to get hit by a bike, try to walk half of it without taking pictures
St. Patrick’s Cathedral / feel as though you've stepped into Europe
Strand Bookstore / inspect every floor, caress the spines of rare books
Rockefeller Center / only venture to in winter, when the ice skating conjures visions of old New York
We'll give you a few landmarks, but shopping in the city is meant to be an adventure. Wander, stumble upon, buy.
Barney’s / New York's finest, lunch at Fred's on the ninth floor
Bendel’s / who can say no to another crisp wallet?
Chelsea Market / feed on the energy of the crowds and the divine donuts at The Doughnuttery
Saks Fifth Avenue / the window displays in the winter are reason enough
What Goes Around Comes Around / vintage shopping in New York City is always better. Hello Birkin!
Chelsea Market ceiling