Often when I travel to New York, it’s for work, and I am short on time. But it’s a magnificent city, and the one that never sleeps, so I easily find ways to fill my time, even if it’s just a New York Minute. Okay, not an actual minute, but even it’s just a few hours. Whether you are spending a vacation in the city, killing time between meetings or maybe just on a layover before you head out to somewhere else, I wanted to share with you some ideas of things you can do in the city that don’t cost a lot (why spend a lot if you aren’t sticking around long, right?) and can give you fun memories of your time, short or not.
You’re probably thinking “Sarah, you just said you would share ideas that don’t cost a lot, and then you tell us to eat, in the largest city in the country?” Well, fear not. Think about it, you have to eat anyway, since you’re likely to be here during at least one meal. So, it’s a necessity. One that you can make into an adventure. New York is overflowing with restaurant options. According to Google, right now, you have nearly 24,000 options. And although NYC is our nation’s largest city, that doesn’t mean every restaurant will break your bank. You can find all sorts of food, at all sorts of prices. The best way to make the most of your time, and your money, is to try a food market/hall. These places are like food courts, but much nicer, with better food options. Think taco stalls, next to sushi burritos, next to coffee, next to acai bowls. You can eat a whole days’ worth of meals in one sitting if you really like! A couple of my favorites are Chelsea Market, Gansevoort Market and Canal Street Market. (For my fellow people restricted from wheat…you have plenty of gluten free options here.)
2. China Town
It’s a must in NYC. I have yet to see a China Town like it. From San Francisco all the way to Chicago, nothing seems to compare to the holy grail of China Town’s in New York. It’s fascinating to walk through the streets and see all of the shops full of spices, fruits and veggies, and meats (although I could do without this one). On top of that you could buy just about any type of souvenir you could think of here. And if you are in the mood for a designer handbag, at less than designer prices, this is your spot. Don’t be scared when they take you underground or in a back room, soon enough your eyes will fill with purse wonder!
3. Central Park
It should just be an unspoken rule that you have to go to Central Park when you visit New York City. It’s gorgeous and there are endless things to do and see there. If you visit in the winter, you can ice skate in the park, and if you are there in summer you can row a boat across the pond. You can enjoy fine dining or grab a hot dog from a food stand. You can sit and people watch, or you can go for a jog. All in all, it’s the perfect place to take in a new angle of the city. The quieter, more peaceful side that is. And it’s a hop, skip and a jump to my next recommendation…
4. The Plaza Hotel
If you are over 20 (or maybe under) and don’t live under a rock, you probably know exactly where the quote “Guests of the new celebrity Ding-Dang-Dong stay at the world-renowned Plaza Hotel” comes from. That would be Home Alone: Lost In New York of course! It’s where Kevin stays when he gets stranded from his family over Christmas vacation. So, that should be reason enough to want to visit. But, beyond bringing back great childhood movie memories, it is a beautiful hotel that is worth seeing. The outside is striking as you stroll up from Central Park, and the inside is equally as stunning. Plus, the basement has a great set of shops and restaurants you can peruse.
5. Times Square
This one is similar to Central Park, in that it should just be a given when visiting the Big Apple. Times Square is probably one of the most iconic places in the country. And if you are killing time, it’s a great stop. You can stroll through, see all the glittering lights and be on your way. (I recommend going at night if you can!) But, if you want to stay longer, you have lots you can do. Shopping, dining and of course Broadway theater. The next time you watch the New Year’s Eve ball drop, you will be so in awe that you stood in that very spot, taking in those very lights. (And hopefully, not fighting that very crowd.)
6. Ground Zero & Battery Park
While I wish so much this is a place that didn’t even exist, it is such a touching one to see. Sadly the tragic events of 9/11 did happen, and the Ground Zero Memorial & Museum are an absolutely beautiful way to pay tribute to all those our country lost that day. I was in New York City for the very first time just months after 9/11, and saw the rubble of the World Trade Center towers. To look around and think of the terror that must have happened that day, and see how much destruction was still there months later, was unfathomable. Going back to the site years later, to see the memorial was so moving I was instantly in tears. It has been beautifully done. If you have the time, you should go through the museum too. While it’s not easy, and I left sobbing, it was something I will never forget. (It’s about $20 to visit the museum. Most artifacts are at the end, so spend your time wisely.) While you are in the area, head over to Battery Park, so you can get a view of that big green lady…the Statue of Liberty, duh! It’s quite a juxtaposition to go from a spot of horror for our country, to blocks away seeing the symbol that stands for our freedom.
7. See The Skyline – 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar
Hopefully you get a peek of the New York City skyline while flying or driving in. Of course while you wander the city, you will be in the thick of it and will have a front row view to that skyline you may have seen from afar. But, why not get up above the din of the streets and see a whole new view of the city, from right there in the middle of it?! You could of course go to a skyline observatory and pay $30 or more just to see the view, or you could head to a rooftop bar, and take in the skyline while sipping your favorite cocktail. There are countless rooftop bars across the city, but one of my favorites is 230 Fifth Ave. It’s in a prime location in Mid-Town, and has a beautiful view of the city, both uptown and downtown.
So, what are you waiting for, if you’ve only got a New York minute, you better get out there and start exploring!
For more tips on what to do and see in NYC, check ouy my guide, “What To Do During A Weekend in NYC.”
Signed with Style,