We hit the streets of New York City and Chicago in 2011.
Here is a very short list of places you should check out:
In New York City
- Central Park (more than once),
- Penn Station,
- Grand Central Station,
- The Apple store on Fifth Avenue,
- Wall Street and the Charging Bull,
- The Flatiron Building,
- The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island,
- Yankee Stadium for a ball game,
- A walk across Brooklyn Bridge,
- Coney Island (even if it’s closed),
- The Met (pick wisely though, don’t try and do it all),
- A show on Broadway,
- Time Square at midnight,
- The streets, cafés, record stores and bars of Williamsburg.
We used a service called City Lights. Don’t be put off by the website, they’re super helpful and we managed to get a great apartment a block down from Columbus Circle. link.
Someone else said: “When you’re in America, order for one and it’ll be more than enough for two”. It’s true.
Try the Cupping Room Cafe in Soho for great American breakfasts. link.
Big Wing Wong in Chinatown for great (American) Chinese food. Go very hungry. link.
Keens Steakhouse has been serving mutton chops since the late 1855. They also have a pretty impressive whiskey collection. Rated big time by the New York Times at the time. link.
S’mac or Sarita’s Macaroni & Cheese. They serve over thirteen different flavors of mac & cheese. So ja. link.
Corton. We managed to catch a “A Matter of Taste” at the Tribeca Film Festival, and then subsequently made a reservation at Paul Liebrandt’s restaurant. If you’re into adventurous flavor combinations, tasting menus (and burning money on your credit card), then you should definitely go. link.
Totto Ramen was billed as the best Ramen bar in New York City when we were there. We queued for just under two hours and it was well worth it. You can’t not go. link.
Jin Restaurant. This place was recommended to us, and now I’m recommending it to you. White tuna roll and bento box goodness (and it’s around the corner from Back Room - see beer later on). link.
The National is a great quick lunch spot on the Lower East Side. Friendly folks and a great barber (fsc Barber: link) next door. link.
Food on the run:
Dean & Deluca is your friend. There is near Central Park, on the Met side. Grab some goods and head into the park for a picnic. link.
Hit the Shake Shack if you want fast food, skip the golden arches, this is way better. Great burgers, beer, and artery clogging cups of chocolate peanut butter crunchcrete. link.
Take a walk in Prospect Park and then head on over to Joyce Bakeshop for great coffee and rhubarb pie. link.
Bageltique. Great bagels and coffee in Brooklyn proper. link.
Starbucks, it gets flack, but whatever, nothing beats free (fast) wi-fi, hot bagels and cream cheese and decent coffee early in the morning before you hit the streets.
If you’re into beer, you’ve landed in paradise. We were in America for three weeks and I think I probably only had the same beer twice. You should also probably follow @brewyorkny on Twitter for the duration of your trip.
Blind Tiger in Bleecker Street. The first pub we went to. Great beer selection and great place to start your night. link.
Back Room is hard to find, which is the point. A spectacular old speakeasy bar that serves beer in coffee mugs and whiskey in tea cups. close your eyes and imagine you’re on the set of “Boardwalk Empire”. link.
Brooklyn Brewery. I love beer, and a Sunday afternoon at the Brooklyn Brewery is well worth it. Lots of different beer to try (they brewed a bacon beer once with mixed results). Do the beer tour, it’s quick and worth it. link.
d.b.a. Brooklyn has more beer and whiskey choices than you have ever been offered ever. on twitter.
The Guggenheim is by far the best art experience in NYC. It’s way smaller than The Met and MOMA so everything is easier to digest and less overwhelming. link.
Rockefeller Centre. We never made it to the top of the rock, but i’ll definitely do that next time. link.
The Empire State Building is great, once you made it to the top. We bought tickets that skipped a lot of the queues, but it still ended up taking a few hours to get up there. Go early. link.
The Highline and Chelsea Market. Hit the market, stock up on lunch (pork belly pies, shrimp croissants etc.), and head on over to the Highline to eat it. link.
There wasn’t much to see at Ground Zero at the time to be honest, except for the new World Trade Centre construction. Only head there if you have time to spare.
Sound Fix records in Williamsburg. Just down the road from the Brooklyn Brewery, walk in and burn your credit card. Go before you hit the brewery though, otherwise you’re playing with fire. link.
You need to catch a show in NYC. this site will help (link). Terminal 5 and The Webster hall are both excellent venues, and I’d imagine that the others listed here are too.
We didn’t spend nearly enough time in Chicago. But of the things that we did do, these are recommended.
Cloud Gate, a.k.a. The Bean, in Millennium Park. Great for Facebook profile photos. Kidding (slightly).
The Willis Tower (formerly The Sears Tower). The Tallest Building in America at the time. Great views of Lake Michigan, and way less busier than the Empire State Building. No need to buy tickets in advance really.
An Architectural boat tour. Chicago boasts some of the worlds best architecture, and the best way to see it is from a boat. Unmissable. link.
Billy Goat Tavern. Go to the original one for lunch. No frills burgers and beer. link.
Pizzeria Uno. How has deep dish pizza not taken the world by storm? This is apparently the oldest deep dish spot in Chicago (the world). If you’re a fan of food you must go here. Order the smallest one. link.
The Goose Island brewery is based in Chicago. They brew about 22 different types of beers. Reserve a spot for tasting (they do great pub food too) and book a taxi home. link.
Music and Comedy:
See if anything is on at Lincoln Hall while you’re there. It’s a great, small, venue. link.
You definitely have to catch an Improv Show. We headed to IO. It’ll be your cheapest, funniest, night in America. link.
- Get a Rough Guide. It’ll be indispensable.
- Pack the bare minimum, clothes are cheap, really, really cheap.
- Burn your credit card at: Gap, J. Crew, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters and every single record store you walk past. It’ll be worth it.
- Make sure you have the following loaded onto your iPod when you’re in New York: The Beastie Boys (obvs), Vampire Weekend, The National, Interpol, The Avett Brothers, Ryan Adams, Frank Sinatra (obvs), Blonde Redhead, Liars, LCD Soundsystem, Yeasayer and TV On The Radio.
Use it. Don’t use it.
Enjoy the trip.
(Originally published on Posterous / 2012)