Finally I finished my list of favorite places, spaces & things to do in New York City! A little background one me… I am not a native of New York City, but I did grow up in New Jersey about 25 minutes away, so I’ve gotten the opportunity to explore the city at my leisure. After graduating from college, most of my friends relocated to either Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Hoboken, so I’ve been able to really experience the city both alone and with my friends.
So you want to have an epic weekend in New York…what should you do? How do you even begin to plan? Whether you’re visiting, staying for awhile, or a local, there are countless places to explore in New York and endless things to add to your agenda. I’ve broken down my favorite things to do in New York to guarantee an awesome weekend (minus, of course, a positive attitude).
For the Partier
You’re a club girl (or guy). You like to get ready and go out at 1PM and stay out until the next morning. I personally can’t do that every weekend, but on the occasion I do, I have a good time and try to commit to the whole day (and night, I suppose). Where to start? If you’ve added me on Snapchat (lmazzei) or Instagram (@laurenmazzei), you might notice that whenever I go out on a Saturday with my best friend, Chelsey, we have a bit of a routine. Saturday brunch at Lavo starts at 2PM and ends around 6PM, and it’s a great place to bring a group of girlfriends for a fun time. The food is amazing, but it goes quickly, and everything is cleared to make space for dancing. It’s definitely a club atmosphere and exclusive to get into, but worth it. On Saturdays after brunch, head on over to Sunset Saturdays at PH-D Rooftop Lounge at the Dream Downtown Hotel. You won’t be able to believe the view of the Empire State Building from the rooftop. In my opinion, it’s one of the best views in the city. Go take a nap, then get ready to head to Marquee, Tao, Avenue, or 1 Oak to finish the night out. Last the whole day and you’ll probably run into a celebrity or two. Side note – I really want to try Vandal, which was just opened by the Tao Group.
Not much of the clubbing type? I don’t blame you. A few of my favorite city bars are The Royal NYC, a fun but slightly-crowded sports bar & lounge, Fat Baby on the Lower East Side, and BBar & Grill on the LES. Generally, I’d say both Fat Baby and BBar are filled with recent college graduates, but that only makes the tempo upbeat and lively (and kinda fratty).
Bored of the typical? Then check out a few of my favorite speakeasies (which I guess, are supposed to be hidden). There’s Bathtub Gin in Chelsea, a modern day speakeasy, along with Employees Only and The Garret in the West Village. Nitecap on Rivington St. on the Lower East Side recently opened in 2014 and is decked out with Art Deco lamps, brick walls, and posh detailing.
Sometimes I opt for the swanky (and slightly pretentious) lounge scene. A few of my favorites rooftop lounges include the top of the Jane Hotel, 230 Fifth (disclaimer: very cliche but my go-to to bring someone visiting for the first time), Sky Terrace on top of the Hudson Hotel in Midtown, and my favorite, The Press Lounge on top of Ink48 Hotel in Midtown. Other lounges that you need to check out are The Raven and The Griffin on Gansevoort St. in Meatpacking. The Raven is a Poe-inspired basement club (think candles, red velvet, and Gothic art), while The Griffin is a lavish club featuring chandeliers and velvet couches. Then there’s Provocateur, also in Meatpacking, which has a sexy and alluring atmosphere.
For the Foodie
You can’t leave New York without having bottomless brunch. Nothing screams “it’s the weekend” like spending hours (yes, hours!) chatting with friends over mimosas and omelettes. My all-time favorite brunch in the city is definitely at Barraca in the West Village. For two hours you can sip on their wide selection of sangria while you snack on their Patatas Bravas and Huevos Benedictos. My favorite? The Rioja sangria: a mix of blackberries, cranberries, and lime. And for dessert? You won’t want to resist the Churros con Chocolate *mouth watering*. Craving other brunches? Try Zengo in Midtown by Chef Richard Sandoval, Paradou in Meatpacking (then take a stroll on the High Line!), or Distilled in Tribeca.
Hungry for more? After a late brunch, it’s unlikely you’ll want to stomach lunch. Instead, plan for an early dinner, or a light snack and dine late. New York City truly never sleeps; I was once ate at Cafeteria after a night out, and was surprised how many people were there at 3am. Other favorites to try are Decoy, ABC Cocina (very dark and glam), Catch NYC, and Scarpetta. As much as I love places authentic to New York City… Dos Caminos, which also has locations in NJ and Florida, is one of my favorite places for Mexican food in the city. Try the Prickly Pear Cactus margarita – it’s sinful!
*Pizza Alert* Want to grab one of the best pizza slices in the city? Take a seat at Arturo’s on W Houston St. It has one of the last coal ovens in the city!
You’re an avid foodie who follows every food Instagram there is. Why not venture to find those fan favorite foods? Yes, they may be touristy, but there is a reason why they are so popular. Levain Bakery sells the best cookies in New York (in my opinion), Momofuku Milk Bar serves those delicious truffles you see all over the Internet, and Black Tap Burgers & Milkshakes has been trending lately for their over-the-top milkshakes. Not full yet? Try the famous Rainbow Bagel at The Bagel Store in Williamsburg, and the birthday cake cream cheese at Tompkins Square Bagels. Finally, grab a slice at Artichoke Basille’s Pizza on your way home from PhD to try a unique twist on the classic pizza slice.
Satisfy your sweet tooth! Indulge in frozen hot chocolate at the cute Serendipity 3 on the Upper West Side and slurp down a sugary drink at the Sugar Factory in Meatpacking. Venture over to the original Dylan’s Candy Bar, and try the famous cronut or cookie shot at the Dominique Ansel Bakery in Soho.
For the Sight-Seeing
New York City is gorgeous in any season (side note: not the subways), so why not enjoy the outdoors? Venture over and explore all that Central Park has to offer. While you’re there, grab lunch at Loeb Boathouse and take in the view of the boaters on the lake. Already explored Central Park? Spend awhile in Bryant Park. This is my absolute favorite place in the entire city. During Christmastime, Bryant Park sets up little wooden shops, named Bryant Park’s “Winter Village”, that sells cute crafty items and food. During the summer, lounge on the park’s lawn and even partake in free yoga. My absolute favorite place to eat in the city has to be the Bryant Park Grill. It’s covered in ivy and is literally stunning. It would be an amazing place for a date night.
Top of the list is definitely seeing a Broadway show! My Mom and I are big Broadway buffs; We try to see at least two Broadway shows a year. My recommendation would be to see a classic: Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Mama Mia. All fan favorites and guaranteed to get your money’s worth. In honesty, splurge and buy the better seats. I’ve seen Wicked twice; once in the Mezzanine and then again in Center Orchestra, and it really enhanced the performance. If you’re only going to see it once or twice, it’s worth getting the better seats (trust me!) I would first look on StubHub, where people resell their tickets at a cheaper price.
During the day, explore Grand Central Terminal and the New York Public Library. Both are sights of many movie scenes and weddings you might recognize. They both are beautiful in their own way and you will be amazed by the grand architecture of each. Even for those who have lived in New York City, take the time to appreciate what you have the opportunity of seeing everyday.
For the Event-Chaser
New York City is magical around any holiday (but especially Christmastime). NYC is famous for it’s Village Halloween Parade: filled with strange costumes and even stranger people (disclaimer: and nudity). Not your thing? Wait until December and see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Even if you’ve lived in New York your whole life, and probably think it’s cliche, see the show at least once in your lifetime. The perfect synchronization of the Rockettes and excited children in the audience will spark the Christmas spirit in anyone (even you, Scrooge). The Rockettes return in the spring for the New York Spring Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. Santacon also takes place in December, when thousands of people dress up in their best Santa Claus costume or holiday attire and drunkenly roam the streets of New York City, bar-hopping and party-crashing. Lastly, a trip to New York City for the Thanksgiving Day Parade or St. Patrick’s Day Parade (which happens to be today) is a lifetime experience you should cross off your bucket list.
In the summer, Central Park usually hosts free summer concerts with popular artists. Usually Facebook events will circulate around right before the concert, and they are usually at random. It’s definitely something to take advantage of when the weather is nice. In both the summer and winter, there are separate New York Restaurant Weeks, where you can score deals at swanky participating restaurants who serve off of special Restaurant Week menus for a fixed price. It’s a great time to try a restaurant that is generally out of price range. The weeks usually fall between February-March and July-August. In November, always during my birthday week, New York Comedy Festival begins for one week. It’s a great time to enjoy a few drinks and laugh at your favorite comedian, or an up-and-coming star. In the summer, celebrate the Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy and embrace your Italian heritage while eating one too many cannolis.
For the Thrill-Seeker
Are you a thrill-seeker? Do you like to do things out of the ordinary? Check out Sleep No More at the McKittrick Hotel, a live adaption of Macbeth without any spoken dialogue and set in a dimly lit building (performance space/set of warehouses) named the “McKittrick Hotel” as part of the act. The audience has the ability to walk throughout the building and choose their own path for the story. You can follow around a character, or check out the rooms on your own.
If that’s a little too creepy for you, check out Fuerza Bruta, the off-Broadway acrobatic show with live music and incredible aerial stunts. There are no seats, so you can dance throughout the entire 65-minute performance. Not in the mood for a show? Take a helicopter ride over New York City, schedule a high-fall session with Hollywood Stunts NYC in Brooklyn, or grab some friends and head to Brooklyn Bowl for a concert and bowling.
For your Inner Photographer
Famous on the Internet? Freelance photographer? Social media guru? Whatever your reason may be, so many of us are always on the hunt for good backgrounds and scenery to snap that perfect picture. I’ve rounded up a few perfect places to snap that cute image:
- The little alleyway entrance to Freeman’s Restaurant, adorned with the cutest bistro lights that give off a soft glow at night. It’s the perfect artsy photo opportunity (and it’s helpful that the food is great, too!)
- Looking for love? Take a walk to the heart mural in the East Village, on the corner of Kenmare and Mott streets at the north side of New York’s Little Italy. James Goldcrown’s #Lovewall is actually a small mural, on the side of a pizza restaurant, comprised of a number of colorful, dripping hearts. Then head to the wall ouside of Little Cupcakes Bakeshop in Soho for another heart-adorned piece of artwork *snap snap*
- Washington St. in Dumbo, Brooklyn for the perfect picture of the Manhattan Bridge Overpass (you’ve probably seen this picture)
- The charming apartments in the West Village (think Gay St., Bleecker St., Perry St. – Carrie Bradshaw’s Apartment from SITC!)
- Grove Court and Irving Place in Manhattan
- The I love NY mural at 6th Ave. and 17th Street and the Albert Einstein mural at 15th St. and Washington St. as seen from the High Line
For the Savvy Spender
Whether you’re looking to spend a lot of money on vacation, or you’re a frugal saver, there are many enjoyable things to do in New York City on any budget. Don’t spend a dime and try one of the following ideas:
- Attend a free comedy show. Right now the most popular one is Whiplash by Leo Allen, who showcases a number of up-and-coming comedians as well as some very famous surprise guests.
- Get cheap tickets off StubHub for a sports game at Madison Square Garden. Even if you’re in the nosebleeds (there really are none), the energy of the Garden can make any event memorable.
- Explore free art galleries and exhibits. Right now, I’m dying to check out The Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology), where an exhibit on “Fairy Tale Fashion” resides until the end of March. Designers such as Thierry Mugler, Christian Louboutin, and Manish Arora feature their fairy tale-themed runway masterpieces.
Tired of the city? Looking to get away for the day, or maybe the weekend? Stay tuned for my guide on Hoboken and areas outside of New York City.
Thanks for reading! Let me know in the comments below if you’ve been to any of my favorite places, or attended any of the events. I love feedback and will definitely appreciate any suggestions!
Image 1: Photo Source: Famous Wonders “New York Skyline Its Marvelous Skyscrapers” / Image 2: Photo Source: PH-D Lounge / Image 3: Photo Source: Barraca NYC / Image 4: Photo Source: Eclipse Events “Bryant Park Grill” / Image 5: Photo Source: Broadway Box “Radio City Christmas Spectacular Tickets” / Image 6: Photo Source: Broadway Box “Fuerza Bruta Tickets” / Image 7: Photo Source: Grove Court via Local Ecologist / Image 8: Photo Source: ArtsFon Wallpapers