New York can be overwhelming with its towering buildings and overcrowded subways but it is also incredibly easy to navigate and hosts a plethora of incredible sights and experiences. Most tourists head straight for the obvious spots to tick off the list - Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, MOMA and Times Square. There is a lot more to New York than just the tourist spots though. At the end of my third year of University I spent three months living and working in Manhattan with my two good friends in Times Square of all places. If you want to see a little more of the city than M&M's world and Macy's then hopefully this list gives you some inspiration.
1. The Frick Collection
This art collection is the work of wealthy industrialist Henry Clay Frick and is housed in the beautiful mansion he built on 5th Avenue a few years before his death in 1919. The experience of walking through the exquisitely decorated rooms and viewing his private collection is much more engaging than the larger galleries. Even if you don't know a great deal about art, you will still recognise the more famous names of Rembrandt, Vermeer and Bellini as you wander from room to room. We used the audio tour which tells you a little about each painting and sculpture as you move through the collection and for those of you on a budget, Sundays are pay what you wish from 11am to 1pm.
2. The High Line
This section of elevated railway in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan has been converted into 1 mile of aerial urban green-way. Stairs lead up to the floating park from 3 blocks below West 14th Street and the park runs uninterrupted to 30th Street. Originally inspired by a similar project in Paris, the re-purposed track even runs through the Chelsea Market building and the Standard Hotel. An urban theatre at 17th Street has the interesting addition of large windows overlooking the street where you may develop a slight Spider Man complex as you look over the cars below.
3. Serendipity 3
Still a favourite with many tourists I couldn't leave this restaurant out since it was one of my absolute favourites. Located on East 60th Street, Serendipity 3 can be difficult to get a table at. Put your name down and go for a 45 minute walk before they are likely to have a table for you but it will be worth the wait. While the meals here are said to be fantastic we were there for the sole purpose of devouring one of their famous desserts. For the high-rollers there is the Guinness World Record "Opulence Sundae" for $1000 - it has edible gold or diamonds or a free puppy I can't remember exactly. For everyone else there are a range of delectable Drug Store Sundaes to put you in a well deserved sugar coma. The waiter spent some time convincing us to order only two sundaes for the three of us and we left the guy a large tip at the end. They are enormous. It took a long walk back to our apartment on 105th street before we felt normal again. Worth every cent.
4. Catching a show on Broadway
Yes it means braving the bright lights and annoying street sellers in Times Square but live theatre is a legitimate excuse to go there. Book in advance or if you are trying to get cheaper tickets start queuing at the TKTS booth in the middle of Times Square at around 3pm for tickets to same night performances. Some people start lining up much earlier and if you are in a group you can tag team and check out some of the sights while one of you waits in line. By doing this you can score up to 50% off the ticket price but they also sell full price tickets to shows at later dates. I recommend WICKED personally but I haven't seen a bad show to be honest.
5. Walking tour of Central Park
If you have a little more time on your hands and the weather is nice, then exploring Central Park can make for a very pleasant afternoon. Guided tours will give you all the history and information you may want or you can hire bikes to cover more distance yourself. For the romantically minded a horse and carriage ride, especially in the snow, can whisk you back to a bygone era where New York transport needed to be fed regularly. If you are doing your own thing there are definitely some must sees. In winter you can head to the ice skating rink and either try your luck on skates or laugh at people falling over from the safety of land. You might visit the Alice in Wonderland Sculpture or take a stroll through the mall with your significant other. Belvedere Castle, built entirely for show, is located on 79th Street and overlooks the quaint Turtle Pond making for some excellent photo opportunities. The more adventurous may consider bouldering around some of the huge rocks found in Central Park. It would take days to walk around all of it so pick out a few options and just enjoy the novelty of such an incredible space in the middle of this massive city.
6. The Comic Strip
One of the things New York is famous for is stand up comedy. Be warned though, not all comedy clubs are equal in terms of entertainment value. Instead of being hustled into a basement with only three other people to listen to mediocre performances and sip overpriced drinks, do the right thing and head to The Comic Strip. Located on 2nd Avenue between 81st and 82nd Street is a club that has played host to some of the greats - Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld and Adam Sandler to name a few. Booked 7 nights a week with wet yourself funny acts, The Comic Strip is a must for anyone who enjoys a good chuckle. It pays to book your tickets online in advance, especially if you are only in the city for a few days. I can safely say you will not be disappointed.
7. Washington Square Park
If you find yourself quite partial to a bit of people watching in a pretty location then direct yourself to the bottom of 5th Avenue to Washington Square Park. Surrounded largely by NYU bulidings, the park features a central fountain and the rather prominent Washington Square Arch. Have a wander around the neighbourhood and grab a Starbucks while you watch all manner of humanity pass by you on a sunny day.
8. Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe
This place is so full of character I felt a little more cultured every time I walked through the door. Situated on Crosby Street (take the number 6 down to Bleeker Street and it's just around the corner) the book store is run by volunteers and stocked with donations from generous locals. The coffee is excellent and any avid reader will lose hours scouring the many titles and genres amongst the shelves. Keep an eye out for special events or while away a rainy afternoon with friends reading your chosen prose.
9. Greenwich Village
Once you have strolled down Bleecker Street and taken in the cafes, boutique stores and restaurants you will find you have fallen in love with the place. Rich in history and the setting for one of my favourite black and white films (A Night To Remember), the Village is rather enchanting. If the night life is more your thing, there are an array of great bars and clubs for every taste and price range. Some have a cover charge and drink minimum but the atmosphere is awesome. If you have had enough of big chain stores and busy streets, head to the Village and take in a quainter version of New York City. If you are gluten free and looking for incredible food - head to Risotteria for lunch and complimentary gluten free bread sticks. Your friends won't even care that that they are eating gluten free it's so good!
10. Brooklyn Bridge
Spanning almost 500m over the East River, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge provides an impressive view of the Manhattan skyline and a refreshing change from being surrounded by high-rises. Reading up on the building of this epic piece of industrial might is pretty fascinating and if you do some research before heading across you may have an added appreciation for the men who constructed her. Designed initially by a German immigrant who tragically died, leaving his son the task of overseeing the build, the bridge would eventually see the death of 27 workers in the 13 years it took to construct. Since then people have stampeded, jumped, shot and flown their way into the bridge's history. Take the subway to City Hall to enter the Promenade from the Manhattan side.