48 hours in NYC, let's go to the...?
December 10, 2009 10:22 AM   Subscribe

My fiancé and I will be spending Dec 21 and 22 in NYC. What are some interesting things to do and see this time of year that don't cost much money?

Our main interests are music, art, plants, museums, science, old stuff, and quirky things.

We're both vegan so we're planning on dining at Vegetarian Paradise 2. What other good restaurants should we hit up?

What are some interesting things to do, museums to go to, events to attend, etc that are cheap (less than $20 per person)? We're especially interested in things that are pertinent to this time of year (limited-run exhibits or shows, the cold weather, etc but NOT Christmas related).
posted by bengarland to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (24 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
If you're vegan you want to eat at Candle 79. Even this steak lover thinks it's good food.
posted by dfriedman at 10:25 AM on December 10, 2009

Response by poster: To clarify, the $20 per-person limit is just a suggestion for things to do. We're willing to spend more at a restaurant.
posted by bengarland at 10:30 AM on December 10, 2009

The Met and the Museum of Natural History are both suggested donation admissions. Lots of people don't pay anything, so you can pay $5-$10 without feeling too bad.

Otherwise, New York is beautiful in December. Go window-shopping in fancy parts of Manhattan (5th Ave and Madison Ave are fun).
posted by oinopaponton at 10:32 AM on December 10, 2009

Blossom in Chelsea
Souen in Soho
posted by cazoo at 10:41 AM on December 10, 2009

Came across this link recently; I am a local and kind of love it: 101 things to do in New York City in the Winter
posted by pinksoftsoap at 10:44 AM on December 10, 2009

Don't forget Brooklyn!

Prospect Park in Brooklyn is a full day, all in itself. The horseback riding and ice skating is awesome, but sans the lines of Central Park. After, go to Shenanigan's bar for the most strange, depressing, get-me-a-car-service-quick experience ever.

From there, you can hit the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, or go to BAM. (Which is always music-y and quirky.)
posted by functionequalsform at 10:48 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Walk down through Manhattan, wending your way through various neighborhoods and make your way over the Brooklyn Bridge.

You can plot little excursions, coffees and so forth along the way but a decent walk from say, Midtown through some of Gramercy or Chelsea, Greenwich Village, East Village, the eastern part of SoHo, Little Italy and the Lower East side will take a good few hours and can easily be made into a day.

Part of the fun is discovering the quirks for yourself.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:56 AM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Seconding Blossom and Candle, though I prefer the alternate/more casual versions of each: Candle Cafe and Cafe Blossom/Blossom Uptown. The fettuccini alfredo at Cafe Blossom is one of my favorite dishes ever.

Wild Ginger, in Little Italy, is another one of my favorite vegan places. Curly's, near Union Square, is vegetarian but highly vegan-friendly. Sort of diner-y comfort food, and sooo good.

For dessert, Lula's in the East Village has yummy vegan ice cream. If it's too cold for that, maybe Babycakes?
posted by alphasunhat at 11:01 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

You can see some great theater for cheap. Either discount price tickets to more expensive shows or tickets to smaller theaters would be close to your price range. For details, pick up a copy of Time Out New York when you arrive. In fact, do that anyway. It'll tell you everything going on that week.
posted by decathecting at 11:03 AM on December 10, 2009

When I visited NYC for a day in the winter with resident friends as tour guides, we went to a real bagel shop (I forget which one), the Museum of Natural History, Central Park, and the Public Library Main Branch. We walked a ton, took the subway, and also took a taxi — not really destinations, but important. It was lovely and just enough for a long day.
posted by dreamyshade at 11:04 AM on December 10, 2009

Walking in Central Park is awesome and is zero dollars. Winter is the park is great, I have fond memories and great pictures. Bundle up.
posted by SantosLHalper at 11:06 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you end up going as far into Brooklyn as Kensington Stables, consider checking out Prospect Park South / Ditmas Park for some big Victorian homes in the midst of an area otherwise awash in apartment buildings and brownstones. If you want to see some "real"/local Brooklyn stuff, you can go to Shenanigan's as suggested and follow it up with Bar 773 (both are more for locals) and contrast them with nearby Vox Pop cafe and Sycamore bar (more for transplants/yuppies). Hell if you're going that way (i.e. south/toward the beach from Prospect Park) might as well hit up Brighton Beach / Sheepshead Bay to be immersed in the USSR-to-US transplants that came in waves, including a huge number in the early nineties. That's if you're into witnessing how local people live as opposed to high culture stuff though. There are a variety of Russian bathhouses and Russian restaurants with notoriously bad/interesting/odd shows they put on, plus the Coney Island museum and the boardwalk down there.
posted by lorrer at 11:10 AM on December 10, 2009

You're in luck, as the Frugal Traveler just did an NYC roundup.

Things to do:

For NYC's ongoing exhibitions, concerts and shows, see the list at Now in NYC on Newyorkology. The Skint, Oh My Rockness, BrooklynVegan also also good entertainment resources. The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre also has good, up-and-coming standup and improv, without the 2 drink minimums.

NYC's Greenmarkets (farmers markets) are always free to browse. The biggest is Union Square Greenmarket, which is open 8-6pm Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. The most variety can be found on Saturdays.

Here is a map of the 5th Avenue holiday windows. Here's a New York Times slideshow of this year's windows.

There are also a number of holiday markets going on this time of year which are free to browse. The big ones are at Union Square, Grand Central, and in Bryant Park, which is near by the New York Public Library.

Unfortunately, ice skating in the city is often overpriced unless you bring your own skates and/or don't require storage space. But it's fun to watch other people on the rinks!

Museum free hours in NYC for fall/winter 2009/10. Lots of great exhibits going on right now. Also, many New York City museums are always free or operate under a not-well-advertised "suggested donation" policy (like the Met and AMNH that were previously mentioned).

Many of NYC's greatest hits are free:

* Rockefeller Center - this will be VERY VERY crowded due to the Christmas Tree. However, it's pretty, and you don't need to stay here long unless you want to. Budget extra time and patience for the crowds. If you want to go to the observatory deck of somewhere tall in NYC, I recommend you do Top of the Rock (Top of the Rock is technically part of Rock Center).

* Times Square - IMO looks better at night. You don't need to stay here long unless you want to.

* Grand Central, and a peek at the exteriors of the Chrysler Building (you can't go inside really) and New York Public Library (the one with the two lions in front). NYPL has tours, too.

* Central Park, if you're up for some outdoor time. Can be easily combined with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and/or the American Museum of Natural History. NB: You'll never see 100% of Central Park or the Met in one day, so get a taste to satisfy yourself.

* Don't go to South Seaport. It's a giant outdoor mall with bad food.

* A visit to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty may be out of your price range, I'm not sure the concessions stands there have any vegan options, and it will suck up a good portion of your day. Expect to go through security, wait in long lines, etc. Also you can't guarantee that you get to go inside the statue or its museum unless you book in advance or show up first thing that morning.

Food and drink:
Relatively cheap restaurants in Manhattan that have good vegetarian options? (Many of these also happen be vegan)
Good vegan eats in Manhattan?
Recommend delicious vegan restaurants in NYC (from 2004 but most of these are still around
Free bar food (not sure how much is vegan)
Open bars

See also:
How To Visit New York: The Basics
Newyorkology's The Basics

Enjoy your stay! Dress in layers. And please keep to the right while walking on the sidewalks and "pull over" out of pedestrian traffic when consulting a map. Install the Yelp application on your iPhone if you have one (typically more accurate than the Maps application).

December is one of the busiest tourist months in NYC, so plan accordingly and when in doubt, buy tickets ahead of time, make reservations as soon as you can, etc.

And don't forget that best places to hang out in Manhattan are those that feel more like real neighborhoods where people eat, drink, live, and play, i.e., not Times Square/midtown.
posted by kathryn at 11:12 AM on December 10, 2009 [5 favorites]

The Onassis Cultural Center is in the basement of the Onassis building just north of St. Patrick's Cathedral. (51st St between 5th Ave and Madison, just a block from Rockefeller Center). They have an amazing exhibit right now: THE ORIGINS OF EL GRECO: ICON PAINTING IN VENETIAN CRETE. It shows the emergence of El Greco's style and that of some of his contemporaries. It's free and they also give out free exhibition posters.
posted by Jahaza at 11:14 AM on December 10, 2009

Vegetarian/vegan restaurants:

Angelika Kitchen is my favorite. Great food + atmosphere. There's often a long wait for dinner. More affordable than Blossom (which I haven't been to).

Sacred Chow is a little vegetarian tapas place in Greenwich Village. Charming atmosphere (downscale relative to Angelika Kitchen). The food is hit or miss, so it's fortunate that the portions are small (3 small dishes for $15).

Counter has a very nice mellow-but-classy atmosphere, but the prices are absurd -- you'll order something thinking it's a not-cheap entree but it'll turn out to be no more filling than an appetizer. I liked the food when I went there, but if you follow my link you'll see that several reviewers had worse experiences. Unfortunately, those who sit near the window have a view of an enormous McDonald's billboard.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:24 AM on December 10, 2009

Oh, or Angelica Kitchen. I don't know why I thought it was spelled with a "k."
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:30 AM on December 10, 2009

For vegan/vegetarian food, I can't recommend Quantum Leap enough. Even my most carnivorous friends love their veggie burgers and vegan desserts. There are two locations, one in the West Village and one in the East. Not expensive, friendly service.

IMHO, I love the very very bottom of the city - Battery Park, Trinity Church, where Alexander Hamilton is buried, old cobblestone streets. The real deal.
(And the Museum of Jewish Heritage and Museum of the American Indian are right there too.)
posted by bookgirl18 at 11:35 AM on December 10, 2009

Oh, or Angelica Kitchen. I don't know why I thought it was spelled with a "k."

Probably because the Angelika Film Center is spelled with a "k."

Oh, and this is a place the OP should check out.
posted by dfriedman at 12:12 PM on December 10, 2009

Probably because the Angelika Film Center is spelled with a "k."

I think what happened is I just remembered that there was something awkward about the name. Turns out the awkward thing is that it's Angelica instead of Angelica's.

posted by Jaltcoh at 12:32 PM on December 10, 2009

If you're in the East Village, Kate's Joint is cheap and good for food. Dirt Candy is a a bit more expensive, but worth it IMHO.

If you're around that hood, might as well make a quick peek at the Earth Room. I really love the Cloisters, even though it's a bit of a trek up the west side. Check it out if you really like Medieval art.

Kiosk has cool quirky things from Portugal right now. the MTA transit museum is great if you're into pubic transit history.
posted by sub-culture at 3:42 PM on December 10, 2009

Mr. infinityjinx would like to recommend Caravan of Dreams in the East Village.
posted by infinityjinx at 6:29 PM on December 10, 2009

Response by poster: These are all great suggestions. Thanks everyone, I definitely won't be bored while I'm there!
posted by bengarland at 6:21 AM on December 11, 2009

My vegan cousin ADORES Foodswings, in Brooklyn. It's basically a vegan diner. Shakes, burgers, wings, etc.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:18 AM on December 11, 2009

In addition to the holiday markets I listed above, you can get more quirky and vintage items at any of the Brooklyn Flea pop-up locations. The DUMBO one is weekends only, but the Noho (in Manhattan) one (Gifted) is going to be every day from Dec 16-24.
posted by kathryn at 1:51 PM on December 13, 2009

« Older What was that rolling train song?   |   What's an "exotic blitz"? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.