New York City Travel Guide
By Kwame Anti-Darkwah
A Bite of The Big Apple, New York City
There are probably many people who ask, “What’s so special about New York?”. What’s so great that it’s inspired songs from the likes of Billie Holiday to Frank Sinatra? Why is everyone from literally every continent and probably every continent on earth represented there? Well, that’s just it.
My name is Kwame and I am happy to introduce you to New York City, USA. I am a student from Accra, but I have also studied in London and currently live in New York.
New York calls to everyone to be their best, their most creative, their most inspired… and that’s a hard calling to resist, even visitors take a piece of New York when they leave. In the words of Tom Wolfe, “One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” Come visit New York and know what it feels like to belong.
Photo of New York City Waterfall Tunnel courtesy of Brecht Bug
New York City Things To Do & See
1. Museum of Illusions
The Museum of Illusions is quickly enjoyed, and one can get through all the exhibitions (illusions) in about an hour. Next to each funny mirror, perception-deceiver, or puzzle is an explanation of how you were tricked. The museum is not large enough that it’ll split up a large group or leave parents tired chasing after hyperactive kids, and therein lies its appeal. At $25 a ticket, it can be slightly overpriced, but many things in New York are.
2. Waterfall Tunnel
In Midtown Manhattan, on the western side of the McGraw-Hill Building, you can step into a waterfall without getting wet. A glass tunnel, conveniently placed under a waterfall, connects the 48th and 49th streets. Apart from being extremely instagrammable, this spot is a great place to find a minute or two of zen. The sound of rushing water and the cooling effect it has on the air is sure to produce a meditative spirit.
3. Bronx River Paddling
Say you’re on a date in the fall season, and you want lots of face time with the lucky other. Say you’re anxious about nosy people-watchers overhearing your poorly improvised attempts at flirting; A Bronx River paddle offers a solution in both scenarios. Picture yourself and a special friend drifting dreamily down the river with a palette of soft shades of red leaves in the background. If you book ahead, this activity can be enjoyed by larger groups
4. Hudson Yards Observatory Deck
If you’re in New York to admire the architectural wonders that abound, you’re in for a treat! The new sky-scraping Hudson Yards development in Manhattan will have a 100th-floor observation deck opening on March 11th in 2020. Tickets to visit this observation deck start at $36. However, for $50, you can enjoy this with a glass of champagne and a free (but not really, you paid for it) digital souvenir photo.
5. Brooklyn Bowl
Catch a show or obliterate your friends in a game of bowling, or do both. Brooklyn Bowl is one of my favorite destinations in the city. The acoustics in the concert area allows you to be completely submerged in the music. You can enjoy food from the famous Blue Ribbon restaurants here, and the bartenders make fantastic mojitos (not as easy as it sounds).
Photo of the New York Chelsea Market Entrance courtesy of Shinya Suzuki
Customs and etiquettes
The quote “I’m walking here!” from 1969 film “Midnight Cowboy” embodies New York etiquette… At ALL costs, try not to get in people’s way. If you would like to take a picture of a landmark, don’t stop in the middle of the road to do it, move close to a wall out of people’s walking path, or move closer to a lamppost. The glares you get from interrupting a New Yorker’s determined stride could kill. Beyond that, follow the golden rule, treat others as you’d expect to be treated.
New York has some of the best pizza in the world despite being the simplest. You can find a dollar slice joint everywhere, even in the most expensive zip codes in the city. A single slice will magically fill you up and taste marvellous while doing so. Some say it’s the water, but there’s something about New York Pizza that leaves it unrivaled in America. One can find nearly every cuisine imaginable in New York as it is one big cultural melting pot. Harlem is especially good for finding African/Mediterranean food, the Lower East Side for Asian food, and Hell’s Kitchen for your typical western food.
Markets and shopping
1. Chelsea Market
Walking into the Chelsea market is like taking a bite of cookie history as this is where Oreos were invented. Today the building is no longer the property of Nabisco, inventors of Oreos, but is shared as a food hall, shopping mall, office building, and television production facility.
Wegmans is a privately owned supermarket chain with a charming mom-and-pop allure to it. The first Wegmans was opened by John and Walter Wegman in Rochester, New York. Later, Wegmans would expand almost all along the east coast except notably for New York City. Finally, it’s set to open in Brooklyn, NYC. It’s hard to explain why New Yorkers are so drawn to Wegmans or what makes them so excited about its arrival, but wouldn’t it be an adventure to find out for yourself.
3. Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar is a curated weekly market that was created to provide affordable retail space for local artisans and dealers. The exciting thing about it is you never know what theme to expect, what local dealers to be excited about… unless, of course, you look on their website and see what’s coming next.
4. Essex Street Market
Essex Street Market is a 79-year old food hall which recently got renovated. It used to have low-ceilings and feel a bit stuffed. However, you can now buy foods from original vendors such as Ni Japanese Deli, and Dominican Cravings in a space with brand new stalls, and kitchens, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a high sloped ceiling.
5. Gansevoort Market
Not far from Chelsea Market and often competing with it, Gansevoort is another food hall with an eclectic line-up of restaurants. Here, you can hit up restaurants like Chick ‘n Cone or Bou Sushi.
Photo of New York City Thanksgiving Parade Float by Condi316
When it comes to music in NYC, you can really find whatever suits your tastes. However, you may see subway performers in action for the first time. Sometimes it’s a violinist playing Vivaldi’s four seasons in the walkways; other times, you may find B-Boys breakdancing and performing acrobatics to hip-hop inside the trains. Whatever you happen to see, drop some change if you enjoy it. Support local acts!
1. NYC Restaurant Week
There are 22,257 restaurants with an A-grade health rating in NYC. This means that you’d have to visit 60 of them a day in a year just to enjoy them all. This is, at least for most people, impossible. However, twice a year, NYC’s best restaurants offer set menus that’ll help you really cut down on that list if you were trying to complete it. They call the occasion “NYC Restaurant Week.”
2. Thanksgiving Parade
America celebrated its first thanksgiving after the pilgrims, first immigrants to settle, enjoyed their first harvest. Today you’re more than likely to celebrate it with an ungodly amount of gravy, turkey, and mashed potatoes. If you’re not into that kind of food, you can watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade that begins at 77th street and ends at 7th Avenue. Watch the marching bands, the floats, and the enormous balloon replicas of some of your favorite cartoons and brand mascots.
3. Labor Day Carnival
The highlight of labor day celebrations is the West Indian Day Parade, where people dress in carnival attire, and dance from sun up to sundown on the streets of Crown Heights Brooklyn.
4. Memorial Day Parade
Memorial Day Parade is more “wholesome” than the Labor Day Parade, mostly because it’s a day for remembering fallen veterans. Most people just enjoy it from home as a free day off work, but it is possible to see marching bands and floats on the streets of NY
5. Fourth O’ July
This one is straightforward. Find a rooftop or a spot in one of NYC’s parks after sunset (my personal recommendation is Prospect Park). Go equipped with a tasty beverage, and enjoy one of the best fireworks shows around the world, from any angle, skyward. 4th of July is for celebrating America’s independence and what better way than looking at the sky, which symbolizes freedom.
Photo of New York Niagara Falls by Stan Balik
Landscapes outside the city
New York State is a far cry from New York City. It’s mostly green or a lovely shade of red during the fall months. There’s a plethora of parks, rivers, and lakes. One might even find ranches, orchids, and farms if they look hard enough. Wildlife enthusiast may enjoy camping in the Adirondacks, either bringing their own tents or renting out a cabin or a loghouse
Day trips from NYC
1. NIAGARA FALLS
25 Minutes from the city buffalo sauce was invented in (Buffalo, NY), is one of the world’s most famous groups of waterfalls, the Niagara. Many boats go up and down the Niagara River, offering breath-taking views, many platforms along Goat Island do the same. This landmark is 6hours by car, 9 by train, and 11 by bus.
2. ATLANTIC CITY
If you’re feeling lucky, Atlantic City is a perfect day trip for you. Along the New Jersey shores with stunning boardwalks, a wild nightlife scene, and several casinos, Atlantic City has something for people of all ages. In the warm months, the beach at Atlantic City is a pleasure to visit. It has a boardwalk complete with roller coasters and amusements. By train, Atlantic City is two hours and 30 minutes away from New York City, by car, it is a little over two hours.
New York City has one of the best railway systems on the east coast of America. Lines run in all five boroughs of the city, and for the rare areas that lack them, there is a bus route to supplement travel. If you’re not one for occasionally crowded public transport, then you have Uber, Yellow Cabs, Citibikes, and Viavans to choose from (there is also an app for most of these options).
When visiting another option what we wrote about is checking out New York’s top dating destinations on a bike.
Cost of living
New York can be a costly city to visit, with the average price of meals for one day at a minimum of $38 and accommodation in a hostel at a minimum of $60. Apps like Airbnb, Turo, and websites like Gothamist can be an excellent resource for saving on lodging, car rentals, and food deals respectively
If penthouse suites or five-star hotels are more of your style, you can expect to pay upwards of $500 for something fancier. Meals will run you around $82 a day, and local transport might be as much as $118.
Airport and travel
The three major airports of New York City are John F. Kenndey Airport (JFK), LaGuardia Airpot (LGA), and Newark International Airport (EWR), which is actually in Newark, New Jersey. The cheapest times to fly to NYC are from November to March (excluding the holiday weeks like Christmas, etc. )