At great risk of uttering a profoundly trite phrase, I Love New York! I love everything about it, especially Broadway, the MOMA and Central Park. But one does tire of the tourist canon after the first few visits, and I have realized that the best way to enjoy the City is to do so like a native. That means exploring the unexplored, going beyond the ordinary, and sampling the best culinary concoctions that are enjoyed only to those lucky few who are in the know.
For my next visit, I will still take in a Broadway show, but I’ve discovered a few rare delights which are well out of the tourist routine.
Where ice cream isn’t just ice cream
What’s better than ice cream on a hot day? Ice cream with booze on a hot day. The Tipsy Scoop Barlour is one of those only-in-New-York places where you can get liquor-infused ice cream, and this one is on my must-visit list every time I’m in town. Even in the winter.
Located at 217 East 26th St. in Kips Bay, Manhattan, Tipsy Scoop makes all their ice cream and sorbet in small batches and with up to five percent alcohol by volume.
If that’s not enough, you can go get loopy at The Loopy Doopy rooftop bar at the all-suite Conrad New York also has some spectacular frozen treats with their Prosecco and Ice Pop cocktail, a fruity People’s Pop ice pop, topped with chilled prosecco or rosé. Flavors include Blueberry Peach, Empire Apple, and my personal favorite, Strawberry Lemongrass.
One thing I love about the Conrad is that it’s an all-suite hotel, something I first got accustomed to in Las Vegas at The Venetian. There’s no reason to get stuck in a tiny hotel room! The combination of the luxury suite, the view of the Statue of Liberty and the Lower Manhattan Skyline, and the delicious ice pop treat is a winner.
New York Neighborhoods
One of the best ways to see the real New York is to visit its many amazing neighborhoods. It’s challenging to find the right places to go, but well worth the effort – but you’ll have to ask for a little help. Lynn and Justin, who run Mad Hatters NYC, a lifestyle, travel and food blog, have the best tips, and Lynn tells me, “We highly recommend heading to Long Island City, Queens, which is just a 10-minute subway ride from Times Square. There, you can visit Gantry Plaza State Park for amazing views of the city, pop into Casa Enrique, a Michelin-starred Mexican restaurant, and attend a fun event like Warm Up at MoMA PS1. Opt for a return trip on the NYC Ferry and enjoy the panoramic views as you sail bak to Manhattan. Bonus points if you do it at sunset!”
A side trip to Brooklyn to see Bushwick’s famous graffiti art found all over the neighborhood will also give you a chance to see some of the most vibrant street and performance art scenes in the city, especially around the Jefferson L train stop. After taking in the street scene, stop in at The Brooklyn Cider House, the first working cidery, bar, and restaurant under one roof, is right here in Bushwick at 1100 Flushing Ave., at owners Peter and Susan Yi took their inspiration from the sagardotegi (cider houses) of Spain’s Basque Country. Four-course meals are served communally, and the most fun part of the meal is the cider-catching, where guests catch cider in their glasses straight from the barrels.
Okay, get out of your taxicab and start walking! The best place to start is in the East Village, perhaps one of the most walkable neighborhoods in New York. Known as the center of the counterculture, it’s roughly the east-coast equivalent of my own old neighborhood, the Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, and it was, and still is, considered the birthplace of the punk rock movement. While you’re taking in the nightlife, the clubs and the endless art galleries, you’ll definitely want to stop in at the Mayanoki, New York’s only sustainable sushi omakase restaurant, which serves local, seasonal, and environmentally-friendly fish.
With just an intimate, eight-seat setting right in the heart of the East Village, Mayanoki is a real find! Sushi chef Jeff Miller there runs the sushi bar himself and offers up a unique 15-piece omakase of fish rarely used by sushi chefs.
I never get tired of the MOMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but real New Yorkers are going to look at some of the lesser-known galleries in Chelsea. Between 19th and 28th streets by the west side highway, you’ll be able to see works by emerging artists as well as heavy hitters like Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons, and there’s something new there every week! A good way to start out exploring this wonderful artistic neighborhood is by checking out Heart for Art, where you can get a VIP tour or a group tour every day. Get a close look at the type of experience you’re in for at their Instagram page.
Great art isn’t unique to Chelsea though, and licensed local tour guide Denise Foley says one of her personal favorites is the Met Breuer. Denise tells me “The Met Breuer on Madison Avenue is a local gem! Most people visit the main building on 5th Avenue and never make it to the Breuer. The collection of modern art and the rotating exhibitions are not to be missed.”
Not all art is in the galleries, either. The Manhattan Sofitel New York in Midtown is wonderfully French and close to everything, and the hotel’s lobby frequently doubles as a gallery for works by world-renowned artists. This fall, Sofitel will be celebrating the 75th anniversary of France-Amérique, a bilingual publication focused on the French-American lifestyle, with a special exhibit of 20 of French artist Olivier Tallec’s original covers throughout the lobby. The installation, which will be in place from Sept. 21 through Oct. 31, is free and open to the public.
Some of the best artwork is not only not in galleries, it’s not even in a building at all, and Maria Leonard Olsen says it best in her book, “50 After 50 – Reframing the Next Chapter of Your Life“: “I have a completely new appreciation for the artistic graffiti that mysteriously blooms on New York City’s surfaces. Most of it is placed illegally. Serious graffiti artists are well known, and sometimes commissioned. There is a famous graffiti work by the artist Banksy at 79th and Broadway that I doubt I would have noticed had it not been for my tour guide.”
Where did the Carrie Bradshaw and her gal pals get all those designer clothes and how did they afford them? Fashionistas in the know will go to the sample sales. This is one of the greatest hidden secrets of the city, and it’s where designers sell off samples and overstock for 80 to 90 percent off at two or three events that take place in random places throughout the city. Every week there are somewhere between 20 and 100 sample sales taking place – but you’ll either need to be in the know, or you’ll need to download the Shopdrop app to find them.
Dan Blacharski is editor-in-chief of TheVivant.com.