NYC guide

Last updated: February 2020

I often get asked for my recommendations for New York. After years of sharing a mix of Google Docs, I collected everything into one awesome guide. Disclaimer: some venues might have closed since this guide was last updated (if so, drop me a note). I hope you have a great time in New York!

How to get there (or To fly a low-cost airline, or not)

I’m specifically answering this question for my biggest reader base for my NYC Guide: Folks coming in from Paris.

In 2018, the biggest question to figure out in deciding how to get to New York from a transatlantic destination is whether to fly a traditional airline, or one of the many low-cost airlines that have begun to serve this market (sometimes directly even from Paris / London, and sometimes with transfers in hubs like Oslo or Stockholm)

Obviously, you’re trading time/convenience for money, so the answer of whether to do this or not is largely based on which of time/convenience and money is more scarce or valuable for you.

Low-costs or legacy airlines?

A few points to consider that may aid in your decision:

–       the argument for traditional airline is, in my mind, and considering economy service (rather than business class), far more about the frequency of service of that airline than the actual aircraft / company

–       In that respect, Air France’s daily 6 or 7 roundtrips to NYC are your strongest guarantee that you’ll get to New York that day — should one service get cancelled, the company has options to get you to New York on the next schedule (and has many more options to send you on an alternative, perhaps less direct journey, with partners, should it be necessary.) The same thinking applies to flying British Airways to NYC from London, where BA runs a service to NYC every hour during the day!

–       If you are flying on day 1 to attend an event on day 2, I therefore wouldn’t recommend a budget airline, which usually only has one daily service (if even that), and are usually not part of alliances with partners as backup to help you get there at the end of day 1 as planned. If you have no other agenda than good old tourism, you are more flexible should you travels be derailed and you may make a good candidate for a budget airline

For myself, and having flown just about every traditional airline for transatlantic journeys, here are very short reviews. Again, I know nothing about the low-cost airlines, except their names: Norwegian, Wow Air, Primera Air (direct from Paris), XL Airways (direct from Paris).

The traditional airlines

Air France: Is my airline of choice for Paris-NYC. The most services daily, reliably pleasant and competent crew, modern aircrafts, and the least bad food in economy. Their business class is also very nice except the biz class of the A380 super jumbo, which, incredibly, isn’t a lie flat seat (so, seriously, you’re overpaying for that seat — just get premium economy if the flight you want is served with an A380). Air France for the U.S. leaves CDG from Terminal E, which is a humongous terminal and this means taking extra time as security can be crazy if you take one of the morning services from Paris, and the terminal is large enough that you may need to take a little shuttle in order to get to your gate. Air France flies to JFK and, once a day, to Newark (EWR). There’s a lot to be said about JFK Terminal 1, but arrivals at least are easy, even if immigration is not great for non-residents (but it’s not great for non-residents at JFK for all airlines).

Air France flies from ORY once a day from March to October. I highly recommend that flight. While ORY is a dump, it’s a small airport and you get in and out very quickly. In particular for the return flight from NYC to Paris, arrival at Orly takes 15 minutes from the time you’re exiting the aircraft to when you’re outside in the parking lot (assuming you are not waiting for luggage and are seated at the front of the plane). For comparison, it’s very difficult to do this at CDG 2E under less than 45 minutes.

United Airlines: Departs from CDG 1, so that’s a reliable sh*tshow when you’re leaving from Paris. Lands at Newark (and not JFK), which may be a good thing if you are not a green card or US citizen (in my experience in the days when I traveled with a U.S. visa, immigration at EWR is less swamped than at JFK so while you may find arriving a Newark less convenient in terms of transfer – and that actually depends on where you’re staying in NYC – you will most likely save some time at arrival in arriving at Newark. Note that a taxi from Newark going anywhere is more expensive than arriving at JFK. United has two daily flights, both in the morning.

Modern aircrafts, bad food, ok crews. But flying out of CDG 1 really is a terrible experience

American Airlines: Leaves from Terminal 2A at CDG. Two daily flights. Modern aircrafts, bad food, ok crews (very comparable to United). One thing to note is that you’ll be using JFK Terminal 8, the home of AA. Arriving in NYC, Terminal 8 is also the home of other OneWorld airlines, which include British Airways. In the afternoon at Terminal 8, there is an arriving flight from London every hour. And since they are not always on time, you may sometimes see two (large) flights from London arriving at almost the same time. This can create really large lines of people waiting to be processed at immigration!

But again, it’s not like Terminal 1 is that much better…

Delta: Delta runs two daily services, and since they are a SkyTeam airline, they fly from Terminal CDG 2E, like Air France. I actually almost never ever fly Delta – I always fly on the AF services. Arrival at JFK will be at Terminal 4, the home of Delta, which is actually slightly less bad than Terminal 1 or 8.

Delta has modern aircrafts, nice crews, and bad food. I like them slightly more than United.

British Airways: A good option from London because there are so many services everyday. The negative is that BA flights leave from Heathrow Terminal 5, which is humongous and so it takes a while to leave and arrive.

The aircrafts are good, the food is better (I have a fondness for the economy curry), and the crews are pleasant.

Lufthansa through Frankfurt: Lufthansa probably has the best planes, service and the food isn’t bad. They are very on-time (cue the joke about German precision). The downside is that the Frankfurt airport is not just huge, it’s also an extremely puzzling airport in terms of getting orientated (someone gave me this advice once, which is on the money: “Even when it seems that the arrows are saying nonsensical things in terms of how you’re supposed to orient yourself, even when it seems you are going in circles, always follow what the arrows say and you _will_ end up in the place you’re supposed to be“). I fly Lufthansa when I travel from NYC to the south of France – it’s easier and there are better connections for me flying NYC-FRA-TLS than through Paris.

Iberia through Madrid: I love the Madrid airport. Iberia is a good option for a transfer but while their aircrafts that fly the JFK-MAD route are modern, beware of not accidently buying an American Airline JFK-MAD service under a codeshare agreement. Those aircrafts are some of the worst that AA flies: Super old and uncomfortable, no entertainment, bad seats.

KLM through Amsterdam: Often a cheaper option if you need a connection in Europe. Schipol isn’t a bad airport for a transfer, though I seem to invariably have to walk from the furthest points of the airport. KLM has good modern planes, mediocre food (no worse than AA or United), and very friendly staff. KLM flies many services to NYC everyday so it’s as safe as flying AF or BA in terms of having alternatives should your own service get cancelled at the last moment.

Don’t fly: Alitalia, La Companie (a smaller, NYC-Paris only airline: they are older aircrafts without entertainment), TAP Portugal.

Not tested but could be interesting: Flying with a transfer in Dublin on Aer Lingus (Ireland). The particularity of this option is that you go through immigration in Ireland — There is a remote outpost of US immigration there, and as you transfer to the Dublin-NYC flight, you’ll go through immigration there. For folks with visas, this is an option that significantly faster than going through immigration on arrival in the U.S. (I have done this from Canada and Abu Dhabi, but never flown those Aer Lingus flights, so I don’t have that specific experience)

Airport transfers

From JFK (To JFK)

The cheapest and reliably fastest connection between JFK and Manhattan or Brooklyn is the AirTrain. It connects JFK to the MTA (NYC transit authority) subway at Jamaica Van Wyck or Howard Beach

If you re going to Brooklyn, take the Airtrain to Howard Beach then the A train toward Manhattan.

If you’re going to Manhattan, take the Airtrain to Jamaica Van Wyck and take the E train to Manhattan.

The MTA (Airtrain + info re Subways)

The Airtrain is a service of the MTA, the transit authority in NYC.

The airtrain costs 7 dollars each way, and you have to add the cost of the subway on top of it (2.75 dollars as I write this). The cost of a subway ride in NYC is the same regardless of how long you travel.

Buy a Metrocard (1 dollar, and it’s refillable) and put money on the card for at least the Airtrain amount. Then add more money for subway rides if you want pay-as-you-swipe (Note that you get a bonus of about 15 percent for the amount you load). For example, loading 10 dollars should get you about 11.5 worth of credit (it’s not exactly 15 percent, i forget the amount)

Alternatively, If you know you’ll also want a un unlimited pass (weekly, monthly pass), separately buy the pass: You can load it on the same card. When you swipe for Air train, you need the amount specifically for Airtrain to be available on the card (7 dollars) but the subway ride (2.75) will be taken from your monthly pass.

Note that monthly, weekly passes are for a running 7-day or 30-day period. Not calendar months like in Paris.

The monthly passes work on buses as well as the subway.

Uber, Lyft, Juno (the big ride-hailing apps in NYC)

The fare with UberX and competitors is anything between 65 dollars and 85 dollars during the day for Manhattan. It depends on where you’re going, and what traffic (and congestion pricing) are like.

On the way from the airport to NYC, Pool isn’t a bad option: There are so many users at JFK, that Uber is usually able to match you to people who truly are going in the same direction you are: You won’t be going out of your way, and in my experience, Airport Pool always drops you off at your exact destination, so you won’t be schlepping with your luggage from a dropoff point.

On the way to the airport, absolutely never take Pool: The route to the airport could be very, very circuitous and you could be stuck in traffic for hours.

During rush hour (7a-10a; 4p-8p) I would really suggest that you take the Airtrain rather than a car: It takes me an hour to go home from JFK with Airtrain, 2 hours with Uber.

From Newark (To Newark)

Newark Airtrain

There is also an Airtrain to Newark, that connects the Newark airport to Newark Penn Station, where you’ll take a suburban train headed to New York Penn Station (this is a bit confusing, I admit). The total fare is about 12 dollars. Very important: The train you’re taking is New Jersey Transit (NJTransit). DO NOT take Amtrak, that’s a totally separate company and your Airtrain ticket will not cover your use of Amtrak: You will get fined by Amtrak if you try to ride their train from Newark Penn Station to New York Penn Station.

The distances are longer but you can usually sit on the train and the train stops far less than the subway from JFK to Manhattan, so all in all, Newark could make sense for you, especially if your residence in NYC isn’t too far from Penn Station (34th st, between 7th and 8th avenue)

Taxi from Newark

Are very expensive (80 dollars + 20 dollars in tolls and bridges). This is because the airport is further from Manhattan and there are expensive tolls and bridges (and you’re paying roundtrip for these, that’s the rule)

If you really want to take an overland mode of transportation, I suggest instead the Newark airport Bus

Newark airport bus

Note that this also exists for JFK and LaGuardia.

This is a private company and they freight buses from the airports to Port Authority, which is the main bus station in Midtown Manhattan. From Port Authority, you can take a subway (many subways at Times Sq.) or a taxi

The fare is about 20 dollars round trip or so (maybe slightly more), so it’s (much) cheaper than a taxi. The bus will go over all the terminals, so it takes a while (can be an hour) to actually leave Newark. But then it goes direct to Port Authority. Certain companies also make a final stop at Grand Central station, for the same price: Get off at Port Authority if you’re staying on the West side of Manhattan, and at Grand Central if you’re staying on the east side.

Do not take: For any airport, I don’t recommend the “door-to-door” Shared vans, Airport shuttles, whatever they are called. These guys will make you wait forever until they have sold enough tickets on the van to others to get going (they will lie to you, tell you that if you buy a ticket, you’re leaving immediately, and then will make you wait). Then, you have no assurance that co-riders won’t force a totally inefficient van route (and maybe you’ll hit traffic so this will be worst).

At that point, share an Uber Pool. If you’re a single traveller, it may be slightly more expensive, but you’ll save yourself a lot of aggravation

Or take the Airport bus to Port Authority and put extra in a cab from there.

One Map to Rule Them All

This is my Foursquare Map with my best bets for Visitors (in some ways you can argue it’s a short, visual version of this whole guide).

Where to stay

I’m not going to give you specific hotel or airbnb recommendations because I don’t know these all that well. Tripadvisor will have you covered.

Here are fun neighborhoods to stay in, with pluses and minuses

In Manhattan

If you’re not a regular visitor to NYC, I would heavily recommend that you stay in Manhattan rather than Brooklyn. Brooklyn is delightful, but you’ll spend a lot more time on the subway and a lot of the things you’ll want to do as a first-time tourist will be in Manhattan.

I also wouldn’t bother with anything above 59 St. They are nice neighborhoods to reside in, but for a tourist, you’ll spend too much time in the subway most of the time.


the most central, with just about every subway you could want.
A bit soulless but you get the “New York like in the movies”, if that’s your thing. Loud, busy sidewalks, dirty, never sleeps.

Great places in the neighborhood: Danji (Korean), Burger Joint @ the Parker Meridien, The Modern, Sushi Yasuda

Chelsea, Flatiron, Greenwich Village, Soho, Meatpacking

A bit more fun than Midtown, with a bit more character. You won’t have as easy a time with the subway, esp. in Chelsea, but it’s still pretty central. Fun restaurants.

Great places in the neighborhood: The Breslin, John Dory Oyster Bar (both in the Nomad hotel), Marta, Maialino, Cosme, The Spotted pig

Union Square

Special mention for Union Sq (which is really included in the area above of Flatiron / NoMad) — because it has a very special nexus of subways — allowing you to head directly to the East side and West Side, plus Broolyn. In other words, it’s a very good position to be in in terms of transportation. If you can find a hotel / AirBnb in the neighborhood, it will probably make for very convenient exploration.

Lower East Side

Great for all the fun bars and good restaurants. Less useful with the subway (you’ll have to transfer more often).

Great places in the neighborhood: Mission Chinese, Dirt Candy, the Fat Radish, Osteria Morini

East Village

It’s the New York of “Rent” — one of my fav neighborhood. Fun bars and restaurants, quirky, less busy. Downside is that it’s a Manhattan neighborhood with far fewer subway options (pay close attention to where you’re renting: Some parts of the EV really have no nearby subway)

Great places in the neighborhood: Momofuku SSaam Bar, Il Buco Alimentari, Motorino,

In Brooklyn

This is great if you’re a seasoned New York visitor


Easy to get to Manhattan on the L train (which is very crowded though) but hard to get to any other part of Brooklyn: You ll pretty much want to Uber.

This is an area with fun restaurants and bar, warehouses made into apartments, galleries etc

Great places in the neighborhood: Peter Luger, The Commodore, Marlow & Sons, Brooklyn Bowl (also a concert place), Maison Premiere

Park Slope, Prospect Heights

This is the brownstone Brooklyn of the yuppies. Good restaurants, lots of strollers, and Prospect Park nearby

Great places in the neighborhood: Rose Water, Talde, Lavender Lake, Chuko, Hot Bird

Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill

Brooklyn Heights has the Promenade, and these are some great Instas’. These two neighborhood are also brownstone Brooklyn, a bit less parents/kids oriented. No park. Good restaurants.

Great places in the neighborhood: Henry Public, Vinegar Hill House, Char No. 4, Buttermilk Channel

Where to Eat

There is just about every type of ethnic food in NYC, and all of them may be super well represented in certain specific neighborhood. Indian food in Jackson Heights, Queens; Amazing Chinese food in the real Chinatown of NYC (That’s Flushing, Queens); Great arepas … Really, everything. Somethings stand out. And others won’t really be present in this guide

You should go for: Burgers, Chinese, Sushi, New American, Tapas, Pizza, Italian (that’s not the same as Pizza), Bagels (with lox)

You should pass on: Mexican (go to Southern California), French

My complete Foursquare maps

Manhattan Restaurants Best Bets

Brooklyn Restaurants Best Bets

Brunch best bets

Dinner and drinks with a view (rooftops)

Full Foursquare recommandations


Mission Chinese (Lower East Side). Absolutely, mandatory to book. They use the Resy app to book, and only the Resy app (saved you a click)

Cafe China (Midtown)

The Bao (East Village) for their awesome soup dumplings.

Han Dinasty East Village


Totto Ramen (Hell’s Kitchen, 2 locations) or Ippudo


The Burger Joint in the Parker Meridien
Ok, i’m providing the link but if you haven’t heard of this place., here’s my suggestion: Don’t click the link, don’t read the reviews because there’s something very improbable about this place that I think you don’t want to spoil if you can. Go there, it’s at the Parker Meridien (Google the address) and start to wait in line. Don’t peek inside until it’s your turn to get inside. It’s really one of these “wtf” place but again, saying too much really takes away from the surprise. Know that it’s a great burger, and that it’s cash only.

Shake Shack (various locations)


Hill Country (Texas bbq)

Dinosaur BBQ (Harlem), there is also one in Gowanus, Brooklyn

Classic New York

Balthazar, Soho

The Odeon, Tribeca

Keens Steakhouse
Notice I’m not suggesting Peter Luger that you will find in all the guide books for steak. While it’s great, it’s so frickin convoluted to get a table that it’s just not worth it. There’s steak just as good to be gotten elsewhere, like Keens Steakhouse.

The Bar at the Mandarin Oriental (Columbus Circle)

Blowout meal

It’s considered to be either Per Se (Columbus Circle) or Le Bernadin (Midtown West). Having been to neither, I don’t have much to say. But I do think Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare (which as the name doesn’t indicate is in Midtown Manhattan) is pretty spectacular.


Sushi Yasuda is top notch and proportionally not too expensive.

Otherwise, dependable choices are Sugarfish Sushi, and Blue Ribbon

There’s always Nobu … (and if you don’t have a booking, Nobu Next Door)

When I don’t know where to go

Tia Pol, a Spanish tapas restaurant in Chelsea with great wines. It’s very small, so absolutely book ahead.

Also, the Library at the Public (East Village / Astor Place) really is good for anything from a drink to a meal, is usually quiet, and the service is great.


Motorino’s in particular the Brussels sprouts pizza (and i don’t like Brussels sprouts)

Roberta’s (Bushwick, aka Deep Williamsburg)

Also, there are some classic slices that most guides will point you to (Lombardi’s, Lucali’s, John’s of Bleekers) that are absolutely worth it, but Motorino’s and Roberta’s are more creative. Btw, in New York, we don’t do Chicago slices so please don’t offend the locals and order a deep dish pizza.

Jewish Delis (aka Bagels with lox and a schmear)

Barney Greengrass in the Upper West Side (a good reason to visit the UWS: Go to the museum of Natural History before or after, and see the Whale!)

Russ and Daughters, Lower East Side (They have a new cafe next door, if you want a sitdown experience).

My preference is strongly for Barney Greengrass — Russ and Daughters is great, but more touristy and Barney Greengrass is the real deal NYC … Btw, know that lox is more salty than smoked salmon.

Also, don’t order a raisin bagel unless you want to be judged (and it doesn’t go with fish anyway)

Not for the bagels… And, I guess, Katz Deli, because you’ve seen When Harry Met Sally (Order one pastrami sandwich for two people, they are enormous)

Tired: The Russian Tearoom. Pass.

Only in New York

Order spicy Sichuan food at Xi’an Famous Foods on Saint Marks in the East Village, and take it just down the block to the dive bar known as Tile Bar (real name: WCOU Radio). Tile bar is a bar that only serves booze (as is required of a good dive bar), is cash only, and doesn’t care for the tourists. So, pretend that you’re a New Yorker, confidently walk in there, sit at a table with your food, order a beer, and look like you mean it.

About the cupcakes

If you go to Magnolia Bakery, go for the Banana pudding rather than the cupcake

Where to Drink

This is my definitive drinkage list, which I keep up to date … but see my note below about being carded!

My locals: Bar Centrale (Midtown), On the Rocks and Rudy’s (Hell’s Kitchen), Raines Law Room, The Magician (LES), Mother’s Ruin (NoLita) and in general, I like hotel bars because I’m actually a grandma.

Drinking at bars: Take your ID!

If you look like you’re under 40 (!), take your passport or ID card with you because you WILL be carded to get in the bar. And you won’t be able to argue around it. No ID, no bar.

Do this; Know This; Think About This

The Subway on the weekend / at night

The NYC subway famously runs 24-7. Because of this, there are a lot of late night and weekend services changes to accommodate track work because, well, construction still has to take place at some point. Btw, service during off hours is far more infrequent,

The advice is this: Always check out the MTA website, in particular its “Weekender” service that gives you a rundown of planned services changes.

Don’t skip this checking step when it comes to planning your trip back to the airport: Sometimes, these services changes affect the E Train that goes to JFK!

How safe is New York?

Much safer than the movies would have you think.

Midtown is busy 24-7, so really, you can be out very late and not be alone. In general, just keep your eyes out for anything weird, but you’ll generally feel very safe. You can ride the subway at night, it’s almost as busy as during the day (but the service changes, so don’t assume that the journey you did in the day time will run the same way — always look at the MTA site, and do use the features for “late night” or “weekend” because service is modified accordingly — including construction work that sometimes closes a line.

The buses

Don’t use the bus system unless you have all the time in the world. The buses are there to support disabled citizens (the subway isn’t very accessible, alas), and so they stop at like, every block. It takes forever to get anywhere

Money matters

In the US you can use a credit card for the smallest amount, particularly in chain stores. So this may not apply to a corner deli, but it does apply to Duane Reade: You can buy a pack of gum and pay with a card.

You therefore only need cash for bars (many bars will be cash only), some smaller mom-and-pop restaurants, and the corner deli.

If you bank in France with BNP, hit up ATMs with Bank of America, and you ll be charged lower fees than with other banks. Otherwise, avoid, like the plague, the mini-ATMs at corner stores or bars: They will charge you close to 10 dollars in total for using this, whether you’re taking out 10 dollars or 100.

If you have a Visa Premier or one such high end card, where usage fees overseas are minimal, try to use it as much as possible, keeping your cash for when you have to use it. And then make as few trips to the ATM as possible, taking out larger amounts, less often.

The City That Never Sleeps

You can absolutely do your basic shopping at any time. Corner delis, CVS and Duane Reade, Walgreens, some supermarkets, all-night diners…

Restaurant reservations

NYC is a city where you want to book as much as possible. Several apps dominate the market:

Opentable, Resy, and Reserve (app only). OpenTable is the biggest by far.

Some restaurants don’t do reservations at all: This is usually a bad sign. It means they are trendy and you may wait in line for hours. I once waited 4 hours for a table at the newly-opened Red Farm.

Jazz, Gospel Mass

Village Vanguard and Blue Note are some of the more famous spots. I’ve been to both, but since I’m not expert, I really couldn’t represent wether they are better than the rest.

For a Gospel mass (which the French are somehow obsessed with attending, and which New Yorkers really don’t care about), I only have been to one, once, many years ago, at St Charles Borromeo in Harlem. It was fine. I didn’t find it amazing. But I don’t think I’m too much into this, and the service was too long for my liking (as well as full of tourists)

I think what I’m saying is that there will be better guides out there than me. I really don’t know this topic.

The Greatest View from High Up

Your guide books will probably tell you to visit the Empire State building.

The lines are *bonkers* and I really don’t think they are worth it (if you really are going to climb to the top, then pay the extra dollars for the quick line. It really is a 3 hour wait otherwise. You don’t see the line from outside, or even from downstairs in the building — the real line begin after you have paid. Seriously, don’t be fooled into buying the regular ticket if you really want to do the Empire State.).

But anyhoo, the best view, I think, is from the top of the Rockefeller Center (‘Top of the Rock’). It’s slightly lower than the Empire State, but more central. You have a great view of Central Park and all of midtown… and of the Empire State! ... Shorter lines too.

Another great view is to get a drink from the bar at the Mandarin Oriental on Columbus Circle (it’s a view of Central Park). The drinks at 25 dollars each, so, yeah, but the ticket to the Empire state isn’t free either.

Another great view, in the summer only, is the view from the top of the Met museum (The sculpture garden). Plus there’s a bar there. But it’s only open from May to October.

If you only visit one museum

In Paris, I feel it’s slightly easier to tell visitors that they should make Le Louvre their one-and-only if they will only visit one museum. In New York, I’m slightly more conflicted between The Metropolitan Museum of Art (“The Met”) and the MoMA. Either can be crowned King.

The Met is an encyclopedic museum — The two others who can compete are the British Museum and the Louvre. It has a stunning collection of … everything… including Antiquities. It specifically has an American wing with treasures from the 18th and 19th century.

MoMA has what I think is the best modern art collection anywhere. If you’ve never been, and even if there’s a great temporary show, I strongly urge you to visit the Permanent Collection (Floor 5-6). Wall-to-wall (ha!) blockbusters …

About MoMA Free Saturdays: Museums are expensive in NYC (Met and MoMA are about 25 dollars each) so the few times when the museums are free are of course very popular. This is perhaps controversial to say, but I think as a visitor, you’re better off avoiding the free times: They are *so crowded*, it’s hardly a pleasant experience. For New Yorkers, there is the excuse that they can always come back. But for a visitor from out-of-town / overseas, your time there is of course harder to come by. Considering that you came all this way, I’d go for a moment with fewer crowd (opening time, or very near to closing time on Thursdays), and pay the entrance fee.

If you only visit two museums

Well then …

If you want to add a few others, The Whitney museum of American Art; The Frick Collection which has a notable collection of old masters in an interesting Upper East Side mansion

What about the Statue of Liberty?

Ehhh…  You can probably pass. It’s a pain in the butt (lots of security) and it’s not that amazing to be in it … Instead, I suggest you take the ferry from Wall Street to Staten Island. It’s a free ferry (with commuters, real new yorkers) and while it doesn’t cruise immediately under Lady Liberty, it gets close to her so you’ll get a good glimpse of her …

Then when you get to Staten Island, you can immediately turn around and take the next ferry back into Manhattan

And what about The Cloisters?

If you, dear reader, are European, I think you can skip The Cloisters

The Cloisters is (I’m not kidding) a made-up mish-mash of parts of things taken (purchased? Stolen? I don’t know) from Europe from various eras. So you’ve got a Cloister with, say, a doorway from 9th century South of France and some stained glass windows from 16th century Italy.

Now the result is interesting, but I keep on thinking of it as “a digest of 800 years of European architecture, put together by Walt Disney”. So, if you want something like this, by all means, trek uptown (way, way uptown). And to be clear, it’s nice and green and quiet and a very pleasant outing. But otherwise, you’re fine.

The Opera, the Ballet, The Philharmonic

All three reside at Lincoln Center. The seasons overlap but the summer is mostly sleepy with festival and non-resident companies.

The Met Opera (it gets confusing since New Yorkers will refer to “The Met” to mean both the Museum and the Opera, it’s all about context) puts on spectacular productions. One of my biggest cultural worries is that I have been spoiled for opera anywhere else.

Anyway, google the institutions to see about tickets. Know that the Opera has last minute (“rush”) tickets on each day of production, where you can line up at 10am for some nosebleed tickets — that also happen to be cheap.

In the Summer: Shakespeare in the Park

The Public Theater puts up productions of Shakespeare plays in Central Park in the summer. The tickets are free, which means that they are hard to get: It involves waiting on line in Central Park since early in the day. Visit the Public’s website for details

If you’re visiting in the summer and can arrange to wait on line, it’s really a great experience. All you need is time…

In the Summer: The Beach

New York is a beach city, even if it’s easy to forget this.

There are three options for the beach, roughly. I’ll let you google the details.

For a weekend: Go to the Hamptons. And you’ll have to research this on your own (know there is one direct train from Penn station to the Hamptons on Friday afternoons in the summer and it’s quite a party train). I recommend Montauk or West Hampton. Otherwise, use the Hamptons Jitney bus but absolutely book your seats ahead of time because it’s very popular.

For the day: Take the ferry (really, don’t go overland) and go to Sandy Hook in New Jersey (this is not the same Sandy Hook with the tragic school shooting. This one was in Connecticut). It’s a bit expensive (the ferry) but Sandy Hook is a preserve so it’s quite lovely and quiet. Because Sandy Hook is a preserve, there are no bars / restaurants. Take everything you need with you.

Alternative: Jones Beach on Long Island (train from Penn Station)

For an afternoon: Go to The Rockaways, in Queens. The Subways takes you there (the very end of the A Train), so 2.75 dollars … It’s super busy, there are lots of surfers (and waves for the surfers). There are great tacos (Rockaway Tacos, though it’s now changed names — Don’t call it its new name, nobody does that).Anyway, Rockaway Beach is pretty urban but for the convenience and cheapness of a subway tickets, I’d say you’re getting your money’s worth.

Don’t go: To Coney Island, or at least not for the beach (if you want to check out the amusement park, sure, although that’s somewhat disappointing). But the beach at Coney Island is quite dirty, I, for one, would never get in the water there…

How warm is the water? Remember that NYC is at the same latitude as Madrid. The water at the Rockaways is usually around 23/24 Celcius in the summer. Slightly less on Long Island.

The Shopping Situation: What to Buy in NYC (If you’re from  Europe)

Remember that you’ll have to add 8.65 percent to any price you see: Sales taxes are always additional in the U.S. Btw, you don’t get ‘la detaxe’ in the U.S. — but still, everything added up, it ends up being cheaper than in Paris.

IF you are going to be travelling to another state than New York, take note of their sales taxes. Some states have no taxes at all! So if you’re going to be going to Washington DC for example, considering stopping by Delaware and making your Apple purchases there. No taxes!

-Buy your computers from Apple, and order them online a few days early: You can get AZERTY keyboards as a free option (but they don’t stock these at the store, so you have to order ahead and have it be delivered to an Apple store for pickup)

Savings: about 20 pct relative to French prices, with the Sept 2018 exchange rate. The Apple warranty is worldwide, including Apple care if you buy it. So there’s really no downside to buying your Apple computer in the U.S.

– In general, electronics are cheaper but don’t buy anything with a motor since you’ll have issues with the conversion when you get home (it’s not strictly about voltage when it comes a motor. It’s also about the Hz). Recommended store: B&H near Penn Station. Be careful that because the store is owned and run by Hassidic Jews, it is closed on Shabbat (which includes Friday afternoon in the winter).

– Go to Bed Bath and Beyond (several locations), a homes good store, and check out a myriad of home gadgets that say something about how lazy and inventive society in a consumerist society.

– For clothing, Soho and the Meat Packing district / West village, provide a good concentration of the best brands and boutique. Skip the department stores. Good news: Items of clothing under 100 dollar are not taxed in NYC (so a 99 dollar shirt has no taxes, but a 101 shirt will see 8.65 percent added on top)

Parting thoughts

This John Updike quote, The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding.”

And this thing that a friend of mine my senior year in college told me, as we were contemplating whether to go live in New York post-college, “You can never be the weirdest person in New York. It is just not possible.

New York is maddening and sometimes just offensive: It’s a city whose infrastructure is shamefully inadequate and run down; the poor are very poor; the rich are very rich. To live there, in daily ways, is an act of survival: The city is too big, too mineral, too harsh, too unlikely. And yet … The culture is spectacular, there isn’t a thing you couldn’t do (a place you couldn’t head to) or find in New York. You can, importantly, be wholly yourself. New York truly doesn’t care about you — and there is actually freedom in this statement. You can be your most authentic self, whether you are a true misfit, bandit or want to start a new life; if you are oppressed where you came from; if you couldn’t find a place to exist quietly where you came from. New York, insensible and large, has room for all the possibilities of human experience. And you will find proof of this in ways large and small — from the large immigrant communities that have called it home, from the bullied gay kids who have always fled the conservative country for the freedom it offered, to perhaps far smaller freedoms that are afforded to regular folks like myself: roll into your corner deli at midnight to buy a lemon, a pint of ice cream, and cat litter — possibly wearing shorts in winter, and a sequin top, and absolutely no one will give any damns about it.


The New York Trilogy, by Paul Auster

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New York City by Among Savages