- Where the Locals Go
Annie Fitzsimmons’s NYC
When star blogger and licensed New York City tour guide Annie Fitzsimmons started to fill out this questionnaire, she was reminded of a saying from her alma mater, Texas A&M University: “From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. From the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.” That’s how she feels about her hometown of choice, which she says she loves more than ever after seeing how the city pulled together in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
“It would be cheaper and easier to live elsewhere, but elsewhere isn’t New York and I wouldn’t want to do it. I’m never the best person in a group of people here. I’m surrounded by people who are better, smarter, cooler, and more worldly and generous than me. But it doesn’t make me jealous. It makes me want to be better.
I don’t even bat an eye at what I see anymore. A man with a goat on a leash? Awesome! The No Pants Subway Ride day, when thousands go without pants? Just another day in New York!
When I travel, I always get butterflies when I cross the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan from the airports. Home again.”
Check out this urban insider’s guide to NYC, then add your own two cents in the comments section below.
New York City is My City
When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is around my neighborhood, Greenwich Village. Then we hit the big ones, like Central Park, The Met, and Grand Central Terminal. I always leave time for: the iconic Strand bookstore; William Greenberg for a small black-and-white cookie; Varsano’s for sea salt caramels; Ballato, The Little Owl, or Locanda Verde for dinner; Tea & Sympathy and Myers of Keswick for English charm; the Brooklyn Heights Promenade; and a long walk along the Hudson River.
My city’s best museum is The Frick Collection because it’s not as overwhelming as The Met. The collection includes works by Rembrandt, Renoir, Goya, and Vermeer, but you also get a taste of old New York, as it is housed in one of the last remaining Fifth Avenue mansions.
The New York Transit Museum Store or CityStore near City Hall is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs. I think the set of old subway tokens from 1953-1995 is a cool gift.
You can see my city best from the Brooklyn Bridge. When you walk to the middle, the view of the skyline is breathtaking. You can also see the Statue of Liberty.
Locals know to skip the Empire State Building and check out Top of the Rock (which affords much better views because the Empire State Building is in them!) instead.
In the past, notable people like Truman Capote, Nora Ephron, and Mickey Mantle have called my city home.
October is the best time to visit my city because New York is at it most enchanting: leaves changing, pumpkins everywhere, cool weather.
The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is all the downtown neighborhoods — Tribeca, SoHo, West Village, Little Italy, Chinatown, East Village, the Lower East Side. You can spend hours ducking into one-of-a-kind shops, stopping at sidewalk cafes, and watching the endless parade of people walk by.
My city really knows how to celebrate holidays. Whether it’s July 4th, Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas, people from all over the world come to see New York put on a show.
You can tell if someone is from my city if they take huge liberties with traffic signals as they walk. They just don’t care!
For a fancy night out, I go to my never-ending list and ask myself which neighborhood I feel like going to. For drinks, Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle Hotel is magical. I love Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, and The River Café under the Brooklyn Bridge for dinner.
Just outside my city, you can visit the Hudson River Valley, with rolling hills, vineyards like Millbrook Winery, classes at the Culinary Institute of America, “skizza” (crispy flatbread pizza) at Gigi Trattoria, tours of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library and FDR’s beloved former home in Hyde Park.
My city is known for being overwrought and inconsiderate, but it’s really compassionate, dedicated, and ambitious.
The best outdoor market in my city is the Union Square Greenmarket, but go right when it opens in the morning to beat the crowds and shop with local chefs.
Square Diner in Tribeca or Cafe Cluny in the West Village are my favorite places to grab breakfast, and Joe’s Pizza and The Spotted Pig in the West Village are the spots for late-night eats.
To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read New York Magazine and its food blog, Grub Street. I also read Eater NY and SeriousEats NY for up-to-the-minute restaurant news and recommendations.
My city’s biggest sports event is the Knicks home opener or if the Yankees are in the World Series. Watch it at The Half Pint in Greenwich Village.
When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I walk. I always think “Walk and you will feel better.” A long walk on the streets of New York is therapy and entertainment all in one.
To escape the crowds, I take the subway to The Cloisters museum in Fort Tryon Park in upper Manhattan. It is a branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and some of its treasures date back to the 12th century. The gardens there are so peaceful.
If my city were a celebrity it’d be a Woody Allen/George Clooney hybrid because depending on the mood, it’s either neurotic, quirky, and overly analytical or distinguished and charming, with impeccable style.
The dish that represents my city best is thin-crust pizza, and the New York egg cream is my city’s signature drink.
The New York Public Library is my favorite building in town because I love the two marble lions that stand guard outside, named Patience and Fortitude by Mayor LaGuardia in the 1930s, two qualities needed to get through the Great Depression. The Rose Main Reading Room is one of the most impressive interiors in the city. You can also see the original Winnie-the-Pooh stuffed animals here, which belonged to Christopher Robin Milne!
The most random thing about my city is there are over 2,000 bridges connecting the five boroughs and within them. How cool is that?
The Living Room or Blue Note Jazz are the best places to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out the city streets when power comes back on after a long outage! Or during any of the big parades.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
The unique combination of smells — the air wafting off the East and Hudson rivers, pizza and garbage, fresh bread and bagels baking, sewer steam, the subway platforms, hot dogs, peanuts and pretzels, and exhaust from taxis and buses — could only happen in my city.
In the spring you should celebrate the bounty of post-winter produce and eat anything with ramps on it because they’re only in season for a few weeks! Motorino has a great ramp pizza, and ABC Kitchen never fails with its in-season menu.
In the summer you should ride a bike from Central Park to Coney Island. Just outside Prospect Park in Brooklyn, you pick up Ocean Parkway, America’s oldest bike path, which leads to Coney Island.
In the fall you should take advantage of New York football. The two teams play in the same stadium, so go see a Jets game one weekend and a Giants game the next. Then decide which fans you have more fun cheering with.
In the winter you should go see the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden, which has incredible model replicas of NYC landmarks. Then go eat pasta on Arthur Avenue, the Little Italy of the Bronx!
If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre, which is in a model schoolhouse brought to Central Park in 1877. Shows are staged year round.
If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that it is almost impossible to hail a cab around 4:00 p.m., when shifts are changing. Plan accordingly or download Uber to get a car! Also, cabs are only available when the center light is illuminated.
The best book about my city is Here Is New York, by E.B. White. You can’t argue with this quote: “No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.” The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton is also timeless.
In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because: If you come to New York City, something extraordinary will happen to you. If it hasn’t yet, it will.
Follow Annie’s story on Intelligent Travel, on her personal blog, Hotel Belle, and on Twitter @anniefitz.