When I travelled to New York City as a kid with my family, I always dreaded it. For some reason, my parents were always fascinated with visiting the Statue of Liberty or joining a bus tour to hit up the best shopping venues in the city.
But as I’ve grown older, I’ve had the fortunate chance of visiting the city on my own terms and now I’m always clamouring to go back.
If you’ve never been before, visiting the main tourist attractions are an inevitability. You’ll want to lay eyes on the massive gift to the United States from the people of France, stand in the middle of Times Square to ogle at the bright lights, and walk through Wall Street to catch a glimpse of the giants of trade in the area. But these places are often packed with people and you’re rarely experiencing the best parts of the city.
So let’s go beyond that and discover some things you can do to truly fall in love with the city that never sleeps.
Visit the MoMA
The Museum of Modern Art is a great place to visit, whether you’re an art connoisseur or just looking for something fun to do one afternoon. If you’re less familiar with classical pieces, the MoMA features contemporary artwork and artists that you might be more likely to recognize (as compared to the more historic relics over at The Met). Snap a pic in front of Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night or marvel at the large triptych of Monet’s Water Lilies. It’s also fun to see the more unique works that make you say “I could do that”, like a beautiful installation of a string of light bulbs hanging from the ceiling (but, nah, you couldn’t really).
Here at MoMA, you’ll also get to witness and appreciate the well-known works of Picasso, Matisse, Salvador Dali, and the iconic Andy Warhol. Can’t get enough of those Campbell’s soup cans!
See a broadway show & meet the cast after
Going to NYC and seeing a broadway show is like a rite of passage. Some of the theatre world’s greatest talent consider performing in the city’s theatres as the highest honour. NYC has been the home of classics, such as The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, and Les Miserables, and newer stories, too. Sometimes, you can even be lucky enough to see a film or television actor take a role on-stage for a new play.
Live theatre is special; as we always say at Improv Your Acting, it’s the actor’s playground. No two performances are ever exactly alike and the energy is so palpable, you can’t help but leave the theatre feeling invigorated or exhausted (in the best way possible).
Whether you’re seeing a play or a musical, it’s a treat to get sucked into a live theatre performance. What’s even better is getting to meet the actors that made you laugh and/or cry. Make sure you check out the line forming around the stage door outside after the show and get your programme book ready to collect some autographs before you leave.
Go wild at Shake Shack
If you live in Canada or are unfortunate enough to live some place in the States that doesn’t have a location for this delicious burger joint, I’m telling you now that nothing in New York is worth waiting in line for more than Shake Shack.
Shake Shack, which originated in Madison Square Park, is known as one of the best burger joints in North America (and probably the world). Yes, the lines are long, but if you like burgers or have any functioning taste buds at all, you won’t regret it.
Don’t miss out on dipping your fries into one of their creamy milkshakes.
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge is a historic landmark; it’s one of the oldest bridges in US history and the first steel-wire suspension bridge ever built (and the longest in the world, at the time). When it first opened and there was worry that the bridge would collapse, a parade of elephants were marched across to prove its strength and stability. It’s also an iconic visual in pop culture. You can certainly drive across it quickly to get to and from the island, but there’s a beauty in being able to walk across this nearly 1,600 ft.-long bridge.
While it might seem excessive, you can easily spend up to an hour crossing the bridge. My advice is to take your time. You can get stunning views of both the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines while admiring the neo-Gothic design and the web-like patterns that the cables form all along the bridge. You can even see the Statue of Liberty at a distance! It’s an experience not to be missed.
Splurge on a 3-star Michelin restaurant
Some of the best restaurants in the world are in New York City. Even if you’re travelling on a budget, sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind and spend a little bit more money on a meal that will absolutely blow you away with service that will make you feel like royalty.
Before your trip, check out Michelin’s starred restaurants in NYC for 2016 and book yourself a reservation. Any restaurant on this list would be an experience in itself. But if you can, go for one of the best.
Eating at Eleven Madison Park was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had with food. Jen and I were served a luxurious 13-course meal – each prepared to perfection – while receiving exceptional service. We were even treated to a kitchen tour, take-home granola, and a special chocolate bar for my birthday. It was truly the icing on my latest trip to NYC.
Watch a live taping of a late-night show
Los Angeles may have Jimmy Kimmel, Conan, and Ellen, but New York City has the hilarious and dynamic personalities—and Saturday Night Live vets!—of Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers hosting some of the greatest late-night talk show television moments going viral every day. If you know you’ll be visiting the city in a month or two, be on the lookout on Twitter for when tickets to these shows are released. Whether or not you can nab one of those coveted audience member seats is really up to chance, but if you’re lucky enough to get one, it’s an unforgettable experience (and you can bet they’re easier to get than SNL tickets).
If you missed out on queueing online for a spot, be sure to drop by the NBC Store on taping days anyway. Staff members often approach guests to ask and see if they would be interested in watching Jimmy or Seth rehearse their jokes earlier in the afternoon before the actual taping!
Have a drink (or three) at a hotel bar
Whether you’re a fan of Gossip Girl or just a fan of drinking, you’ll appreciate this one. Some of the best bars around the city are the ones in the swanky hotels. The R Lounge in the Renaissance New York Times Square Hotel has the best view of Times Square without the hassle of dealing with the crowds. Others, like the Rose Bar at Gramercy Park Hotel or the Gordon Bar at Sixy SoHo are stunningly designed and will make your dream of feeling like an Upper East Sider come true.
The golden ticket might be getting a drink at one of the bars within the New York Palace (a familiar stomping ground for fans of Serena van der Woodsen), like Trouble’s Trust. You can bet the cost of a drink will be higher than average at any hotel bar, but who knows… you may end up running into a group of Australian businessmen who teach you a sleight-of-hand trick with a wine cork before picking up your whole tab for the night.