- Where the Locals Go
Booker’s New York City
Traveler of the Year Booker Mitchell was close to celebrating his fourth birthday when 9/11 happened. “Millions call New York City home, and while no one personally knows even a percentage of the population, we unite at times when it matters most and act locally like any other small town in the country or world,” he says. “That is part of the magic of this city, and why everyone should visit it.”
“It was hard moving a sleeping child in a stroller through the turnstiles on the subway, but New York was and continues to be the greatest playground for my kid,” says Booker’s mom and creative collaborator Tania Cypriano. “Booker wants to see the world because living in New York he gets to see a little bit of it everyday.” Here’s the City That Never Sleeps through his eyes.
Follow Booker’s story on his website, or on Twitter @BookerTravels.
New York City is My City
When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is Chinatown. Though it’s notorious for strong fish smells and dirty sidewalks, I think Chinatown sums up the uniqueness of New York. Its crowded and noisy streets are picturesque as well, and I always have a blast finding bizarre foods and toys.
Spring is the best time to visit my city because everyone is on the street and the weather is perfect. Everyone gets excited that winter is over and that summer is coming. All of a sudden you see people on the streets again trying new restaurants, checking out stores, and just getting out the house to see all the green. Beautiful flowers and trees in bloom run down the streets.
You can see my city best from Brooklyn Bridge Park. Right by the water you can get an amazing view of the famous New York City skyline. Its free, not crowded, and you can stay there for as long as you want, so thats why I like it more than the Empire State Building or any other main tourist attraction.
Locals know to skip Times Square and check out Washington Square Park instead. Times Square is wild and interesting to see, but if you’re looking for a place to sit and enjoy a beautiful afternoon Washington Square Park is the place to be. It’s really relaxing and there are always a handful of interesting characters and street performers to brighten up your day.
Village Chess Shop is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs. Right next to Washington Square Park you can find all sorts of cool chess boards that represent New York. I don’t think you can buy chess boards like that anywhere else in the world, plus the shop is REALLY cool.
In the past, notable people like John Lennon, Keith Haring, and Mark Gonzales have called my city home.
My city’s best museum is the Museum of Modern Art because it’s massive, really well designed, and has more than enough stuff to see. There’s always at least one show there that’s worth checking out.
If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that trains on the weekends are ridiculously unreliable. It’s a weird tip to give, but on the weekends don’t plan on getting anywhere that’s more than 20 blocks away on time.
The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is Central Park. That’s a given. It’s perfect for all occasions. When it’s nice out you can lay around in the grass and just hang out with your friends, and when it’s cold and snowy you can sled, build a snowman, or have a snowball fight.
My city really knows how to celebrate Halloween because the parade we have is such a city wide attraction. Whether you are sitting at home watching it live on TV, on the street watching it pass by, or in the parade, dressed up yourself, and a part of it, it’s always a blast. People take their costumes really seriously, and you can see some crazy things, it’s really mind-blowing.
You can tell if someone is from my city if they are up for walking more than 10 blocks without complaining. Everyone in New York City is constantly moving.
For a fancy night out, I like to walk around and try a new upscale restaurant. I don’t usually go out for dinner, but New York definitely doesn’t lack good restaurants, and there are always new ones to try.
Just outside my city, you can visit Long Beach or Rockaway Beach and surf. Surprisingly less than an hour away from the city you can find world class waves with the right swell. But even if surfing isn’t your thing, a beach day is always refreshing, especially during a New York City summer.
My city is known for being rude and aggressive, but it’s really welcoming. Every once in a while you’ll bump shoulders with someone, but there are wayyy too many nice and interesting people that cancel that out.
The best outdoor market in my city is the Union Square Market. All types of fresh and organic foods come from local farms, and the entire park smells amazing for the whole day. You can tell it’s natural and fresh too because everything there is so seasonal.
Murray’s Bagel is my favorite place to grab breakfast, and Zum Schneider is the spot for late-night eats.
To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read street posters. They’re posted up everywhere, and they tell you all you need to know about upcoming events and concerts.
My city’s biggest sports event is…that’s too hard. Watch them at Madison Square Garden.
When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I just grab a hotdog from the classic New York City street vendors. But in Chinatown there is this little hole in the wall by Worth Street where you can get five dumplings for a steal ($1.25 at last check).
To escape the crowds, I drive out to Long Beach, go surfing, and grab a burger from Five Guys.
If my city were a celebrity it’d be Charlie Sheen because you never know what is going to happen next.
The dish that represents my city best is pizza, and Snapple is my city’s signature drink.
The Flatiron is my favorite building in town because it’s amazingly beautiful and it gives you a great view down two of New York’s most exciting avenues.
The most random thing about my city are the advertisements that you see on the subway. Some of them make no sense or are about the most pointless things.
Terminal 5 is the best place to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out…I’m not sure; I don’t do that yet.
Manhattanhenge could only happen in my city. It’s when the sun lines up with the city’s street grid and illuminates EVERYTHING. It’s really impressive.
In the spring you should watch a Yankees game.
In the summer you should go see a free event at Central Park or Prospect Park in Brooklyn. You can see free movies, the New York Philharmonic and concerts from famous bands that come from all over the world.
In the fall you should go upstate and see all the trees change color.
In the winter you should go to the Union Square Holiday Market to do your gift shopping, and have the best hot cider and hot chocolate ever. You should also walk around Fifth Avenue to check out all the Christmas decorations and lights.
If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Famous characters from movies, cartoons, comics, and plays fly down Broadway. I used to look forward to this event every year when I was younger.
The best book about my city is…I don’t know of any book that captures the feeling that New York gives.
When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is “New York is Killing Me” by Gil Scott-Heron.
- Nat Geo Expeditions