24 Hours in New York City
Welcome to New York. Now get moving. You got business to do and it’s already daytime, moron.
There are many foods that New York has been associated with over the years- General Tso’s, pizza, hot dogs, etc., etc.- but just one of them is made perfect only in NYC: the bagel. So start your day off with a tough-on-the-outside-chewy-on-the-inside circle of pure heaven at Absolute Bagels or Barney Greengrass on the Upper West Side.
While munching on your untoasted bundle of joy (preferably loaded with lox and cream cheese), take a stroll down Amsterdam Avenue for a visit at the New York Historical Society. There is no finer place to drop a Jackson ($20) and learn all about Hamilton and the countless other famous New Yorkers. If you aren’t feeling the price, the Museum of Natural History across the street will let you in for a dollar. If the animal kingdom isn’t your thing, there is the absolutely epic Metropolitan Museum of Art (also accessible with a buck) just across Central Park.
It doesn’t matter if it’s mid-winter and carrion pigeons are dropping dead from the sky like frozen rocks of feathers and disease, a trip to NYC without going to Central Park is just ludicrous. I mean, you’ve seen the movies: this park is at the heart of what makes New York City the city of epic-ness, of adventure, of wealth, of loneliness and romance. Made entirely by human hands (and dynamite) it is the largest monument in town.
Here are a few key features: the Lake, where you can rent a boat for $15 an hour; the Bethesda Fountain, where you can listen to street musicians take advantage of the unique acoustics; Belvedere Castle, which offers a panorama of the metropolis from its insides; the Central Park Zoo, which is fun to walk through on your way to something with fewer screaming children; and Sheep Meadow, where you can check out all the New Yorkers looking to show off their summer bods and take a well deserved afternoon nap away from the city noise.
This is the time to utilize the legendary subway (preferably before rush hour) to skip down to the Brooklyn Bridge. There are few better places to catch the sunset in Manhattan (also see the Williamsburg Bridge, The Highline andChelsea Piers). The Brooklyn Bridge has the advantage of Chinatown and the restaurant-soaked neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan at its doorstep, where you will find whatever dinner you are looking for (at both high and low prices).
Joe’s Shanghai or Vanessa’s are solid for some epic cheap dumplings and there are dozens of interchangeable and delicious Italian joints up and down Mulberry and Mott Street.
This will be the longest (and costliest) section of any 24-hour visit to New “let’s bleed ‘em dry” York.
Here’s a broad swathe of places to go for broke in the imbibing of beers, wines, spirits and other things that you might buy in a bathroom:
Soho/Lower East Side/Chinatown: At night, these neighborhoods sort of blend together for an eclectic mix of fancy cocktail bars, nightclubs, corner pubs and divey little joints that still cater to the best of us. Louie and Chan is the kind of joint for a themed-Manhattan and a brush up with some folks who spent a lot of time at Central Casting in their early twenties. You’ve got Duane Park for fancy burlesque with glam nipple tassels and The Slipper Room for a more sordid scene of jokers and indecent exposure. Apotheke is a chair-less bar on one of the most historically significant and dangerous little alleys in American history (past-tense). You can still see punk bands at Clockwork Bar and Back Room rocks that Prohibition Era speakeasy look everybody is all about these days.
The Village(s): Still catering to a handful of old artists and students, the Village is slightly cheaper. Home to legends like The Stonewall, Duplex and Cubby Hole, the neighborhood is still the LGBT epicenter of Manhattan. Check outThe Jane Hotel for a good-looking trust-fund crowd that can dance until the break of dawn (no, they don’t have to be up in the morning for work). There is White Horse Tavern, where legends have drunk themselves to death; Park Bar, where you can meet all the waiters and bartenders after their shifts end; Village Vanguard, for the jazz types; Comedy Cellar, for those looking for a Louis CK sighting; Webster Hall, for the bigger names playing a smaller venue; Please Don’t Tell (again with the speakeasies); McSorley’s, for those who want to walk in Abe Lincoln’s footsteps; The Coal Yard and International for a healthy dive; Easternbloc and Ace Bar, for gay men and pool sharks, respectively.
Midtown: Yeah, you really should check out Times Square, if only to walk through and think, “is this all that different from porn?” While in the area, check out Grand Central Terminal and the Rainbow Room for a real fancy night out (proper attire requested, whatever that is). There are also the famous granddaddy hotels to consider: The Plaza, Regis, Waldorf and the Carlyle are all rocking some classic hotel bars, each furnished with fine leather sofas and potential sugar daddies. Maybe you can get one of them to take you to an opera at Lincoln Center or a play at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre or a symphony at Carnegie Hall, just across town.
Still alive? Here’s a final stop to sooth you: The Rusty Knot is a sorta-pricey maritime-themed dive bar right on the West Side Highway in the Village. It has a mediocre pool table, above average-jukebox and dozen or so lounge chairs to sooth your aching feet. The view is of New Jersey- and the rest of America behind it. It’s a good place to let passivity of the Hudson River remind you that maybe it isn’t so bad that your 24 hours are almost up. Open until 4 AM.
Ten Tips For 24 Hours in NYC
- Use the Subway when you can, but don’t be frightened of short cab rides in Manhattan. $10 bucks will go a long way and you don’t have to worry about getting lost.
- Avoid the long haul to the Statue of Liberty and go to the Williamsburg or Brooklyn bridges for a free, time efficient way to get a view of the city. If you insist on paying to go inside a tall thing, aim for Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building instead.
- The Museum Mile has some of NYC’s best exhibits and is totally walkable
- The best parking for napping are: Sheep Meadow in Central Park, Tompkins Square Park, Washington Square Park, Robert F Wagner Junior Park, The Highline, Bryant Park and Riverside Park above 96th Street
- The pizza is fine, just like everywhere else. Maybe try some Cuban or Korean or Jamaican or Polish or Egyptian cuisine, which can all be found in neighborhoods bearing their nickname.
- Alternate between coffee and booze from 8AM until 4AM for a New York-inspired buzz. Bloody Mary’s (a NYC invention) and a Brooklyn Lager make for solid lunchtime accouterments.
- NYC has been home to some of the greatest Jazz musicians that ever lived, and Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, named after 20th-century master Dizzy Gillespie, remains the best place where that tradition lives on.
- Don’t buy the pretzels or hot dogs, man. Aim for a bodega sammy instead.
- Don’t let people tell you how to walk. Yes, you are slow and in the way no matter how courteous you try to be in Midtown, but you are new to this city and New Yorkers have to deal with a lot more crap every day than in-the-way tourists. My only tip is to avoid walking next to more than one person, as the constant bumping into other folks will become a nuisance and ultimately leave your elbows bruised.
- Never, ever wait in line. The whole point of a city that has everything is that whatever bullshit people are waiting in line for can be found just around the corner at a cheaper price and lower wait time. Your whole life is waiting in line. When in New York, live impatiently.
Cabs: Yeah, even with Uber crowding the market there are still thousands of cabs crawling up and down Manhattan 24/7. Pro tip: only yellow cabs can be hailed in Manhattan, whereas the green Boro taxis can be hailed in the outer boroughs. All drivers are required by law to take you anywhere in the city. Cabs are expensive but also worth it for such a short trip.
Public Transit: New York’s subways are famous for a reason. The entire city can be accessed with one SingleRide ticket, which will run you $3.00 these days. For newcomers exploring Manhattan, it is best to rely on the 1-2-3 or 4-5-6 lines, which run the full length of the island and stop near or at most of the city’s landmarks.
Crosstown transit is the Achilles Heel of the subway system. There are plenty of buses that manage this feat (see M’s 79, 57, 42, 23 and 14 for the most useful), but given a nice day and bad traffic, this might be a reasonable excuse to get some exercise and hoof it.
Biking: Citibike racks, where you can check out a heavy-duty ride for $12, can be found all over lower Manhattan and the western neighborhoods of Queens and Brooklyn. With a plethora of new bike lanes and a new car speed limit of 25 MPH, biking in NYC is better than ever. Although a bike can avoid traffic unlike a cab and you won’t get lost in a byzantine subway station, the Citibike racks fill up and empty quickly, which can leave you stranded with or without out a bike.
Foot: Lol. You can’t see New York in a day on foot. Don’t try.
If you want to do a little pedestrian exploration, stick to the lower Manhattan neighborhoods of Little Italy, Chinatown, SoHo and Greenwich Village. Astoria, Williamsburg and Dumbo make for good walking excursions in the outer-boroughs, and walking across the Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges are an adventure on their own.