By the time I decided I was going to move out of New York and had set a farewell date, I only had a couple weeks to book a flight, pack, turn over my apartment lease, and most important do everything I’ve always wanted to do in NYC. Obviously failed at that last one since my list has always been growing faster than I could ever check things off it… but I could try…
1) One of my favorite things about the city is how easy it is to access amazing, cheap, live music, especially in the summertime. Parks & venues are inundated with musical talent -both large names & up-and-comers. Some of the best free events in the summer include the Celebrate Brooklyn concert series at Prospect Park and various free, sponsored pop-up concerts (Chromeo for Made in America, Haim & Sleigh Bells for Levi’s come to mind).
Tip: Central Park hosts a series of Summerstage concerts throughout the warmer months -tickets are usually $20-40 each, but there is always a healthy crowd hanging out on the rocks right outside Rumsey Playfield. You can catch the entire show (audios only, but that’s 80% of a show anyways) while picnicking out on the grass. There’s even the margarita man who walks around with his ice chest selling margaritas & tall boys. I caught both the Blood Orange and Gary Clark Jr. shows like this before I left. It is by far the cheapest, chillest way to attend a concert.
2) Attend Sleep No More at the McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea. This famous interactive play (was featured in Gossip Girl once) has been running in New York for a few years and is 100% masked & 100% silent. The 5 stories are elaborated decorated, impressively realistic and set in 1930’s to a story loosely based off of Macbeth. You spend 3 hours exploring the hotel, stumbling upon & participating in different scenes, following actors and chasing them around through various sets. It is best experienced alone (you’ll get separated and lost from your group anyways) and without any preconceived expectations…. so that’s all I’ll say for now! Just go 🙂
Tip: Reservations usually fill up pretty quickly & tickets are around Broadway show prices, but if you’re flexible you can save a few bucks. I used Tourlandish, an app that finds last minute deals on entertainment options (Broadway included) to score a ticket the morning of for just $54.
3) Get my first ink done at East Side Ink. This was a bit more of a personal one… I have wanted this tattoo for a couple years now, and knew I wanted to get it done at this location – around the corner from my apartment, right in my beloved Alphabet City.
There is this line from a Chinese proverb that my father would always tell my two sisters & I… that 3 chopsticks together cannot be snapped, that in the end we are all each other has, that our siblings are our pillars for a lifelong family. It’s stuck with me for awhile, especially since our sister dynamic has grown & changed so much in the past several years. I had it done in his handwriting, and love it all the more for that personal touch.
And the pain? Definitely painful, but nothing you can’t grit your teeth through… Certainly nothing as bad as the medical-related pain I’ve been dealing with lately. Plus, that post-tat euphoria phenomenon is real -sort of blocks out your memory of any pain. (apparently that’s what childbirth is like… x 1000)
4) Eat! Everything! Everything I could fit into my post-surgery, still-broken mouth at least. Spicy ramen at Totto, Belgian fries from Pomme Frites, Moroccan tajine and cous cous from La Souk, baked eggs and boozy brunch at my new L.E.S. favorite – Hill & Dale. Never really done with this… New York has some of the best food ever, conveniently & densely jam-packed on that little island.
Tip: If you’re craving ramen but have no patience for the long waits at Totto or Ippudo. (who does??) There are a plethora of great, smaller-name ramen joints on every other block in the East Village. If you definitely want famous ramen though, go to Totto’s second location 2 blocks away and you’ll cut your wait time by a 1/3rd… at least.
5) Lastly, walk through the city, high & low, forward & back… taking it all in. One of my favorite things about NY is that it’s a walking city, and getting out of the cabs and on foot-soldier-level is one of the best ways to truly experience the city… especially in September when the weather is perfect (the weather is never perfect).
Tip: Street art is everywhere in downtown NY, but for some guaranteed great pieces… check out the Bowery Mural (Bowery & Houston) or Kenmare & Mott in Soho/Chinatown. Famous artists rotate through & regularly update these locations with their works.
Sometimes though, you need to go up to get a bigger view of the city & let it knock your breath out as you take it all in…