By Jennifer Lynn
Friends, Sex and the City, Gossip Girl. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Ghostbusters, When Harry Met Sally. From small screen favourites to classic movie moments, New York City has not only provided the backdrop for countless films and TV shows, but the city that never sleeps has become a star in its own right. Having gorged myself on all things Americana since childhood, it’s hard to believe that the closest I had come to the Big Apple was a stopover at Newark Airport, but until last December that was the somewhat painful truth.
Arriving on a Tuesday evening, our first stop was the ultimate tourist hotspot: Times Square. And guess what? I absolutely despised it. After spending years dreaming of celebrating New Year’s Eve in this very location, I was overwhelmed by the crowds, found the illuminated billboards tacky and wondered what the heck all the fuss was about. In my jet-lagged state I was utterly terrified; not of the city’s infamous murder statistics, but of the idea that after twenty-two years of loving it from afar, I might actually hate New York. There isn’t a t-shirt for that!
Thankfully, after a carb-heavy dinner and a solid eight hours sleep (in the comfiest bed in the world might I add), I realised that the city and I were still in the midst of a heady love affair; I’m just not a very good tourist. Don’t get me wrong, I’m well travelled, but I’d much rather see a New Yorker’s New York than the overcrowded, overhyped Times Square. So that I did.
Heading down to Chelsea and the West Village, the crowds became fewer and the boutiques, bars
and restaurants gave off a friendly neighbourhood vibe – none more so than Tipsy Parson. Located on Ninth Avenue, between 19th and 20th Streets, the cosy eatery was quiet when we visited late one midweek afternoon, but expect quite the crowd on evenings and weekends when locals pour in for a bite of Tipsy’s famous mac and cheese.
The amazing comfort food comes second only to the staff’s service. On receipt of our bill we discovered that we hadn’t been charged for our drinks, three delicious Concord Grape Fizz cocktails at $15 a pop, so alerted the waiter. His answer? “They’re on the house.” Who said New Yorkers are unfriendly?!
Sticking with cocktails, if you venture across to the East Village, there are some particularly strong ones to be sampled – if you can find them. Yes, I’m talking about Please Don’t Tell, a ‘secret’ speakeasy style bar hidden inside an old hotdog joint. I won’t ruin the surprise, but a quick Google search will tell you how to get a reservation and find the magic phone box in time for gin o’clock. Oh, and those aforementioned hotdogs? The best $6 you’ll spend all week.
The trendy Meatpacking District is home to a plethora of designer boutiques, from Diane Von Furstenberg to Tory Burch, and is much easier to browse than hectic Fifth Avenue. That being said, if you avoid weekends, Fifth can be an absolutely magical experience. Tiffany & Co, Harry Winston and Bergdorf Goodman should be on every Gossip Girl fan’s must-visit list. For tech lovers, the Apple Store here a sight to behold: a glass cube in front of famed toy store FAO Schwartz, if you venture down the spiral staircase you’ll find yourself in i-Heaven. Oh, and did we mention that it’s open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year? Only in NY.
An evening venture across the Brooklyn Bridge was definitely a holiday highlight. Taking in the sunset during our walk over the mile-long structure, we headed to Williamsburg, more specifically the Brooklyn Night Bazaar. An underground warehouse party-come-market, over 200 stalls were filled with vintage wares, tasty treats and handmade goodies from local sellers. Table tennis tournaments were taking place across six ping pong tables and up and coming bands The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Black Marble were amongst those providing the soundtrack. I could have bought just about everything on display, but I controlled my urges and settled on a pair of high tops from cool sneaker brand Be&D, which have barely been off my feet since.
Of course, we didn’t avoid traditional tourist traps altogether during our trip- far from it. We took the elevator to the 186th floor of the Empire State Building by day and whizzed 850ft to the Top of the Rock by night, and were left utterly speechless by both views. A trip on the (free) Staten Island Ferry killed two birds with one stone, allowing us to take in the Statue of Liberty, while pretending we were off to judge naked firemen a la Sex and the City.
Residing on Broadway for a week really meant that we had no excuse not to catch a show and Bring It On: The Musical made the cut. Visiting in December, we had the added buzz of all the Christmas and Hanukah celebrations, allowing us the pleasure of Dr Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical at Madison Square Garden, a spot of outdoor ice skating (we chose the quieter Bryant Park rink, which offers unlimited free skating time, over the more crowded and expensive Central Park and Rockefeller Centre rinks), and the pièce de résistance: the Rockefeller Tree. Macaulay Culkin eat your heart out.
Whichever time of year you choose to visit, rest assured that the magic of the movies really does exist in New York… just maybe not in Times Square.
Taken from the February issue of Scotcampus, out now