New York City Guide

12:13 PM

New York, it’s cold, it’s smelly, and it’s loud, yet it still has a certain charm that always leaves me wanting more. Somehow I can get over the smell of hot trash and overcrowded streets and subways and miss it. Maybe it’s the busters in the street, the architecture or the street style, but I love New York. I’ve been able to go to New York twice in the past few months and it’s been a dream; I played Blair Waldorf and ventured up to the Upper East Side and hung around the Met and then headed to the West Village to pay homage to Dan Humphrey at NYU.
I’ve been going to New York since I was young, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve started to explore a different side of the city. I no longer stay near Times Square (in fact, I won’t allow myself to be closer than five blocks from it) or do all the touristy activities. If you’re planning your first trip to Manhattan, this might not be the guide for you, unless you want to explore more local hangouts. Keep reading to learn all about what to see and do in the West Village and learn what to do when a blizzard comes to town (hint: order take out).

Skip midtown and Times Square and stay in the West Village. You’ll be surrounded around coffee shops, boutiques, and restaurants. I stayed at THE WALKER HOTEL, right off 5th, on 13th street. It was perfect for exploring Soho, walking up to Midtown, and shopping. Every night they brought fresh-baked desserts to the room and always had free bottled water. They had happy hour at the bar every night and were in perfect walking distance to anything you need. If hotels at your thing, try Airbnb – you can live like a local and feel right at home.

New York is home to some of the best restaurants in the nation, as well as some of the best Chinese takeout. During my stay I didn’t have the chance to try some of the best restaurants, but here are a few of my favorites over the past few years:
Eataly: Want to feel like you’re in Italy, head to Eataly. There’s an Italian market, fresh gelato and cannolis, authentic restaurants with to-die-for pasta and pizza, and a bar with Italian wines and beer. Even if you don’t want to eat there, pop in just for the experience.
Tao: I first went here in middle school, and I considered it a PF Chang’s on steroids. If you want amazing, fancy Asian food, make sure to make a reservation and come with an empty stomach.

Serendipity: When I close my eyes, I can still taste the frozen hot chocolate. This place is famous for its desserts, specifically their frozen hot chocolate. It’s not hot chocolate, it’s not a frappuccino, it’s something else and it’s magical. Go just for dessert, treat yourself.

John’s: This place is a total tourist stop, as it in next to Times Square, but they serve some of the best pizza I’ve ever had to date. It was even featured in Gossip Girl, so you know it’s good. Perfectly thin crust, just the right amount of sauce, and gooey mozzarella cheese.

If you’re looking for some delicious cheap eats, check out Refinery’s list

Skip the tourist stuff (if you’ve seen it before). There’s no need to go back to the Statue of Liberty or the top of the Empire State Building if you’ve seen it before. But always go back to museums – they’re always changing out art and having new exhibitions.
There’s a museum row of a reason. If it’s raining or snowing, head up to the Upper East Side and midtown to see priceless works of art. Even if you think you’ve seen enough Picasso or Monet, the answer is, you’ve never truly seen enough Picasso or Monet. I could list every museum for your enjoyment, but I’ll just stick to my favorites, for my sake (and yours). Missing from this list is the Natural History Museum, because although it may be gorgeous, I’m freaked out by taxidermy and the hallways are dark so I had a panic attack when I was young and vowed to never go back.
The Met
More formally called the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Even if you’ve never heard of it, you must recognize it from Gossip Girl or the annual Met Ball. Walk up the steps or sit in your thrown like Blair Waldorf and snag a picture. Then head inside and pay whatever you’d like (although the suggested donation is $25 for adults and $17 for students). On the ground floor you’ll be welcomed by ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian art. Admire the sculptures, tools and murals before heading to look at some modern art. You’ll soon reach the second floor, the real gem of the Met. Here you’ll find impressionists, modern, renaissance and romantic art. If you’re there in the spring, make sure to check out the costume exhibit – it’s open to the public after the Met Ball. If you want a good skyline of New York, head to the rooftop and grab a glass of rose before taking a picture with a gorgeous backdrop of the city.
My must-see pieces? Autumn Rhythm by Jackson Pollock (he was one of my first favorite modern artists), Before and After I by Andy Warhol, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat, and if the exhibit is still going on whilst you’re there, the David Hockney exhibit.

The Whitney Museum
Obsessed with American art? This is the place for you. The Whitney is a newer museum in the city and has started to make a name for itself. Head outside on the deck and get a different perspective of the city and look at the concrete jungle. My favorite pieces are all by new-wave feminists Guerrilla Girls, who point out the inequality in the art world, but don’t miss on on Keith Haring as well as Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s War is Over piece.
MOMA (Museum of Modern Art)
This is my favorite museum in the city, mostly because I love modern art. The museum is filled with light and tall ceilings, perfect for admiring the works of Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, and Roy Lichtenstein. I always get inspired when I come here. I love watching art students sketch sculptures and paintings, get up close to see each individual brush stroke on my favorite paintings, and listening to people mumble and critic the art. Make sure to check out the gift shop on the way out – it’s one of the best museum shops I’ve ever been to.

New York is a shopping heaven. I live in Los Angeles and the shopping is good, but it’s all spread out and in malls or promenades. New York has every store you could ever want all on one street. You’ve heard of 5th Avenue, which has high-end stores like Tiffany’s, Cartier, and Chloe. You can head to Bloomingdale’s and purchase something just so you can walk around with a big brown bag, or drool over everything in Topshop. There’s something for everyone, and if you get hungry, make sure to buy a NY pretzel or hotdog from a cart. To organize my favorite shops, I’ve done it by location for your convenience.

5th Avenue
Topshop: This is one of the nicest Topshops I’ve ever stepped foot in. Everything is spread out, clean, and it’s two stories! It reminds me of the ones in London and I had to hide my wallet just so I didn’t buy the whole store.

And Other Stories: I’ve been obsessed with this shop since it opened in Covent Garden last Summer. All the girls at my internship were freaking out, and I had no idea why until I went in and saw my new favorite store. LA only has one, so I made sure to stop by the store on Broadway to pick up some mom jeans and admire the jewelry and sweaters. It is relatively expensive ($60 for a sweater) but everything is well made and made in Sweden or Los Angeles.
Stories: This is such a cool shop. Everything in it is based on a theme, which is changed every few months. Last time I went in the theme was The Greatest Showman, so there was lots of confetti, drinks, and sparkly goods.
Glossier: This is my favorite beauty brand at the moment, and as of now, this is their only US store. Yes, I can buy their products online and get free shipping when I spend more than $35 (I go on their site far too often) but I love trying the products in store and getting the full experience. I dare you to go and not buy anything (it’s basically impossible).

I’m obsessed with markets. Give me a flea market and I’ll go crazy. NY has ton of local artists who located all over town in different markets. Need art, clothes, or candles? You got it.

Canal Street
Head down to Chinatown and get harassed by people asking you if you want a fake designer bag (which you have to go and buy in a dark alleyway – no thank you) and you’ll stumble upon this beauty. It’s a market and a food court with live music and local artists. Wander around and buy skincare products, leather goods, prints, flowers, or clothes before stopping and grabbing a bite to eat. I recommend Oppa - their beef rice bowl is to die for.

Artists and Fleas
You can find this market all over town, but they’re mostly on the lower side. Here you can shop thrifted goods, homemade jewelry, clocks, and whatever else they’re selling. It’s so nice to support local artists and help them make a living – make sure to stop by and look at their booths!
Brooklyn Flea Market
This is only open on Saturdays and Sundays, and it’s not only in Brooklyn! There’s one in Soho and it’s a real gem. Sort through vintage Levi’s, old pins, flannels, jewelry, and postcards and find your next treasure. During the summer head to Brooklyn where the flea market gets huge and outdoors and spend hours thrifting for your next statement piece.

Chelsea Market

Need a bite to eat? On the lower west side you’ll stumble into the Chelsea neighborhood and find boutiques, restaurants, and this market. Wander in and you’ll be greeted by hundreds of different food stalls. Pizza, Mexican, Thai, seafood – whatever you’re craving. If you’re not hungry, wander into a few of the shops (my favorite is the bookstore) or grab something for takeaway and eat it on a bench on the Highline.

The best part of visiting New York is wandering around until you stumble into something beautiful. I love walking outside and admiring the architecture, people watching, and finding hidden gems. What I miss most about living in a city (yeah I live in LA but it doesn’t count since I live outside the city) are parks. Lush, large green sanctuaries filled with dogs, park benches, playgrounds, and flowers.
Central Park
An obvious choice, but it’s not overrated no matter how much you hear about it. This park is massive and has something for everyone. Every time I visit I get lost and find something new to enjoy. Amble around and listen to people busting, visit the boathouse, go ice-skating, or visit the Zoo (one of my favorites). Go order takeaway and lay out a blanket to have a picnic, or listen to a concert in the summer. There’s an endless amount of things to do in the park, like feeding the ducks or reading under a shady tree.

Washington Square Park
Pretend you’re an NYU student and chill in the park. It’s more pavement than grass, but you can admire the tourists taking pictures of the archway or feel like you’re on Friends and pretend to go to Central Perk and bring back your coffee to the park.

The High Line
Need an Instagram picture or want good views of the city? Right next to the Whitney Museum you can walk up to the Highline, an abandoned railroad-turned-park and walk a mile along the pathway. You can admire the Empire State Building, sit on a bench and watch the world go by, or try to be an influencer and take a trendy picture. Anything goes when you’re on the Highline.


Always take the subway; you’ll save a lot of money and it’s faster than an Uber or taxi. Take pictures of everything. People, buildings, art - anything. Prepare for the cold. Pack a warm jacket, a scarf or a hat. Unless it’s summer, then wear the bare minimum. Now go book your next trip to the city and try something new.

Comment below your favorite things to do in New York or make me envious of your upcoming trip.

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  • Looking for Alaska
  • One Day
  • Me Before You


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