Ladies and Gentleman, I write this blog post from a place of pure selfishness. I love New York City and I love it when friends come to visit. But I am going to drown myself in the Hudson River if I have to take one more friend to Times Square, the Empire State Building or the M&M store. From here on in, I am strictly going on non-touristy NYC adventures.
There are so many AMAZING things to see in the big apple, but you won’t find them flipping through the pages of a guide book. So, I will take it upon myself to be your personal tour guide and will happily take you to any of these top 10, favorite, non-touristy New York hot spots when you come to visit.
1. Marie’s Crisis
Marie’s Crisis is ultimate place for musical theatre lovers. Come stand around the piano and belt out show tunes all night with random strangers who also happen to know every word to OKLAHOMA, HAIRSPRAY and CHICAGO. A bonus for my girlfriends – not one guy will try to hit on you in this bar… unless he needs a duet partner for “A Whole New World”.
2. Hop Shing
I am a massive Yum Cha lover, and for months I tried asking native New-Yorkers where I could get the best in town. They looked at me like I had three heads. I finally discovered that Americans refer to Yum Cha as Dim Sum and the best place in town to get it, was Hop Shing. An authentic, super-cheap, super-quick, super-delicious restaurant in China Town. The best roast pork buns on the PLANET! My husband has spent his last two birthdays there. That’s how good it is.
3. The Strand Book Store
Don’t be fooled. The Strand is no ordinary bookstore. It has been the legendary home of 18 miles of new, used and rare books since 1927. It is the sole survivor of 48 bookstores that used to run along “Book Row” below Union Square. It smells of dusty books and has almost any book you can think of. I went in only last week to see if they had a vintage edition of “Daddy Long Legs” and of course they had three copies.
4. The Father’s Heart
New York is not all Broadway shows and sparkling lights. There is a dark side to the city. Scores of homeless, cold and hungry folk walk the streets day and night. Thank God there are places like The Father’s Heart, where volunteers can serve hungry New-Yorkers a big hearty breakfast on Saturday mornings. The good people at Father’s Heart want to restore dignity to their guests, and it is one of the most inspiring and uplifting experiences to serve these people and hear Pastor Chuck speak to the volunteers about how we can all help. This video says it all.
5. Hudson River Park
Every tourist needs to walk through Central Park at least once when they visit NYC, but after you’ve done that, come and hang out with the locals. Hudson River Park is inconvenient to get to as it is right on the edge of the Hudson River, on the west side of the city. But once you get there, it’s heavenly! The park is a long pier that juts straight out into the Hudson. It has beautiful grass to lie on and amazing views over to New Jersey.
6. Upright Citizens Brigade
The ultimate comedy club where you can see improv, stand-up and sketch comedy shows for between $5-10. Scores of comedians had their start here and often come back for a surprise visit. Robin Williams, Mike Myers, Will Ferrell, Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey and Conan O’Brien have each appeared in shows at UCB Theatre for no more than $8 per ticket. I’ve been to the Chelsea venue several times and love it. Though a couple of tips – reserve your ticket online first, get there 45 minutes before the show starts to get a decent seat and enjoy the cheap drinks!
7. Fat Cat
An awesome, old school, pool hall that sells cheap drinks, provides live jazz music and has scores of games to play! Pool, checkers, ping-pong, chess and shuffle-board just to name a few. Fat Cat has a great atmosphere and often only has a cover charge of $3. It totally makes you feel like you stepped into an American college movie, but the crowd is usually all over the age of 30. Go figure.
8. Hoboken, New Jersey.
If you have a few hours to spare one afternoon, here’s what you do. Take a ferry from World Trade Center up the Hudson River and get off one stop later at Hoboken. Walk along Washington Street, a cute village area with pretty cafes, stores, bars and restaurant and eat some lunch. Then walk over to the waterfront where you will find lush grass parks and boardwalks that you can stroll along as you take in the spectacular skyline of Manhattan just across the Hudson.
9. The Paris Cinema
This gorgeous old cinema opened in 1948 and sits directly opposite the Plaza Hotel. It shows art films and foreign films and feels like you are stepping back in time. I was lucky enough to see The Artist play at The Paris before it became the big Oscar hit that it did. Be sure to go walk across to the Plaza afterwards and have a cheeky drink.
10. Chelsea Flea Market
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know how often I go here. Truth be told, I probably visit at least twice a month. It is a parking garage on 25th Street filled with vintage wares, artworks, clothing, books, jewellery, rugs and soooo much more. You can barter prices and find the most amazing treasures here. Definitely worth popping in on a Saturday or Sunday when you are in town.
PLEASE NOTE: Since writing this post, my beloved Garage Flea Market has closed down. However, my other favourite market is the Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg in Williamsburg! Amazing food stalls, vintage furniture, hand-made jewelry and stella views across to Manhattan.
So there you have it! Any future visitors, you have been warned. You WILL be taken on these 10 NYC excursions by me… but will have to find someone else to take you to the Statue of Liberty 😉
– Penny xo
P.S New-Yorkers… anything I missed?