I Know There's Lots of Cool Stuff in NYC...
September 12, 2010 7:26 AM   Subscribe

NYC. One day. What should I do?

Suddenly I'm going to have one day in NYC — Monday, September 13th. Arriving at JFK around 7am and leaving around 8:30pm, giving me roughly 8-9 hours in the city.

I've been to NYC twice before and done touristy things (Times Square, Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Met, Guggenheim, Broadway). The only main tourist attraction I haven't gone into is the Empire State Building and I live in Chicago so tall (or even architecturally significant) buildings aren't so impressive although I do love architecture.

What quirky shops, nice areas to hang out in, places to window shop and cute/interesting places to eat would you recommend? I'm planning on visiting Muji (we don't have one in Chicago) and possibly the high line park and the design museum, for instance. Art, design, costuming and fashion are my main interests and I'm looking to spend as little money as possible.

Is there a textile shop with a great selection of bright colors and prints to cover some pillows, centrally located?

I'm meeting a friend for lunch (also an out of towner). What is your favorite cute/fun/interesting place to eat?

Any other practical advice is appreciated as well. I'm great with public transportation but let me know if there are any tricks to getting into Manhattan quickly from JFK or if I should expect transit delays. I don't want to miss my flight!
posted by Bunglegirl to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (22 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
If you go to the Muji on 19th Street, it's an easy walk from there to the Highline. Under the highline between 15th and 16th Streets is Chelsea market, a very cute indoor avenue of shops and cafes that would be a sweet place to get lunch. If you walk south on the Highline, you will encounter really upscale high fashion boutiques.
posted by xo at 7:37 AM on September 12, 2010

Also not too far from the same rough area, go check out the new Eataly complex at 23rd and 5th, and ABC Carpets at 19th and Broadway. For lunch go to the next door ABC Kitchen.
posted by shivohum at 7:59 AM on September 12, 2010

There's a Muji in terminal 5 of JFK, so if you'll be there and want to save time...
posted by elpea at 8:08 AM on September 12, 2010

If you were at the Design Museum, you're also near FIT and the garment district, so there's a lot of fabric stores. You might enjoy: Les Toiles Du Soleil or Paron. If you watched Project Runway, you might try Mood. Also nearby for fun food is Momofuku, where you can get cereal-flavored ice cream and yummy desserts.
posted by artifarce at 8:20 AM on September 12, 2010

I just spent four days in NYC, and it is definitely not enough. We did High Line park, and that was nice - a good daytime thing to do. We found that the cheaper but still interesting clothes were to be found in Williamsburg (Buffalo Exchange for used/vintage, although there are many in the area around Bedford Ave station on the L). If I had to see only one museum, MoMA's PS1 in Queens would be it. But High Line + PS1 over in Queens in one day may not be doable. The Whitney is smaller and more manageable, it's in Manhattan, and is also good. For food, despite suggestions we didn't really have any unforgettable meals (outside of Rockaway Taco, but that's out in the Rockaways). I have heard that Corner Bistro, in the West Village and not too far from one of the High-Line entrances/exits, is excellent if you are into burgers and beer.
posted by molecicco at 8:39 AM on September 12, 2010

It's a little bit of a ride, but I think the Cloisters is not to be missed.
posted by Prairie at 8:43 AM on September 12, 2010

I second ABC Kitchen if you are going to be downtown.

For a Midtown lunch splurge, I would suggest the Bar Room at the Modern (inside the Museum of Modern Art (53rd between 5th & 6th).
posted by tmharris65 at 9:23 AM on September 12, 2010

Response by poster: ABC Kitchen sounds lovely but I think the main courses will be out of our price range for lunch. I'll take a closer look tonight when I can sit down with a map.

I did see the Muji in JFK but I assume it's really small and I'd rather have the whole experience. I usually stop in when I'm in London but don't want to carry stuff back.

MOMS Ps1 looks cool, wish I had more time. I'll definately map out a route that includes the garment district.

Is the high line really worth visiting? I remember watching all of the development and designs so it might be worth a morning stroll but it is just a park... The last time I was in NYC was 2004, if that helps.
posted by Bunglegirl at 10:26 AM on September 12, 2010

Response by poster: I've also just spent 4 days in D.C. seeing all kinds of amazing museums so I'm not heartbroken The Met is closed Mondays.
posted by Bunglegirl at 10:28 AM on September 12, 2010

I'm planning on visiting Muji (we don't have one in Chicago) and possibly the high line park and the design museum, for instance. Art, design, costuming and fashion are my main interests and I'm looking to spend as little money as possible.

Those places are all very close to each other - what you're saying is that you'd like to spend the day in Chelsea and the Meat Packing District. To which, OK. Sounds great.

Is there a textile shop with a great selection of bright colors and prints to cover some pillows, centrally located?

I doubt there are any textiles in New York that you would not find in Chicago. There are lots of interesting garmenty type stores in that general neck of the woods, though, yes.

I'm a fan of Habu Textiles, which is mostly fiber arts related stuff (i.e. supplies for knitting, weaving, etc, not finished fabrics, though they may carry some of that), as well as M & J Trimming, which is exactly what it says on the tin - any kind of button, ribbon, bead, etc. you could possibly imagine. The googles can give you addresses, maps, directions, etc.

There is, sadly, not really much of tourist interest to see in The Garment District, but maybe you have some insider knowledge there that I don't.

I'm meeting a friend for lunch (also an out of towner). What is your favorite cute/fun/interesting place to eat?

Go to yelp's New York City restaurant browsing section. Using the filters, you want to search for restaurants in Chelsea, the Meat Packing District, and maybe around Union Square or the Flatiron district depending on how far you adventure. There are also options for selecting the kind of food you like to eat, price range, and other typical features of a restaurant that may be important to you.

If you are interested in the history/culture of the Garment District, I'm a fan of Ben's Kosher Deli, which is on 38th and, like, maybe 7th or 8th ave?? Not in the neighborhood we've been discussing, necessarily, but easily accessible by public transit. And who doesn't like a pastrami sandwich? There are other more famous Jewish delis in Manhattan, but in terms of bang for your buck and not wanting a tourist circus (e.g. Carnegie or Katz's), Ben's is a good choice.

You could also check out either Chelsea Market or Limelight Marketplace.
posted by Sara C. at 10:34 AM on September 12, 2010

And, YES the High Line is worth visiting.

Oh, and you might also like to check out ABC Carpet and Home. It's right near Muji and browsing heaven. Everything is very expensive, though.
posted by Sara C. at 10:38 AM on September 12, 2010

High Line was more than a park when we were there. There was a bunch of activity, art installations, and a general good feel going on.

This probably applies to all cities, but be careful with Yelp. We went to a restaurant near Bowery Ballroom because of the high rating on Yelp, but found it to be a gawdy, unfriendly, busy, kind of lame restaurant. So, stick with recommendations from people you know/trust.
posted by molecicco at 10:46 AM on September 12, 2010

99.999999999999999% percent of all restaurants in New York City are going to have a bunch of people who love it, and a bunch of people who were not impressed.

Yelp and similar sites are most useful as a list of possibilities. You want to find a restaurant you can afford in X neighborhood. Yelp has a list.

There are literally too many restaurants in New York City for local Mefites to vet all of them and come up with the best one for any given situation.

I worked in the area OP wants to visit for 4 years. I have eaten in most of the not-McDonalds restaurants in that neck of the woods. And yet I really can't tell OP which of them is going to be perfect for her and her friend.
posted by Sara C. at 11:05 AM on September 12, 2010

The next logical step after the touristy things already mentioned is a walking tour of the Village, Little Italy and Chinatown. If you had to choose one it would be the Village.

If you haven't already, sample the bagels, pretzels and pizza.
posted by caddis at 11:13 AM on September 12, 2010

Little Italy: 2 blocks long, not really worth visiting unless you have ancestors who passed through or want to eat at Lombardi's Pizza.

Chinatown: huge, sprawling over more of lower Manhattan every year, the opposite problem from Little Italy in terms of a walking tour. I don't know how you would even begin to construct a "walking tour" of Chinatown. Though I'm fairly sure that Big Onion has something awesome. They tend to.

The Village: prime turf for historical walking tours. See Big Onion, above. I find the village kind of boring from a tourist standpoint, but this is probably because I am jaded about it. It's super interesting if you're curious about the history of the city, especially of underground and bohemian movements. Every other building is "William Burroughs OD'ed here" or "Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote Poem X while sleeping on Gertrude Stein's couch". If you're into that stuff, you're also going to want to check out the Chelsea Hotel. Which is on 23rd and 7th ave, not in the village.
posted by Sara C. at 11:32 AM on September 12, 2010

Best answer: Here's a plan that incorporates some of the above suggestions:

--Take the airport bus from JFK to Grand Central Station.

--Walk west across 42nd St. to New York Public Library and go to Bryant Park for a coffee. (If it's raining, take your coffee at Grand Central Station.)

--Walk farther west to 8th Avenue and go to the mega-Muji in Times Square. Then get out of that madness and . . .

--Follow artifarce's advice upthread about garment district shops etc. if you're bent on visiting fabric shops. This area has no charm, but it does have textiles, notions, etc. (This could also be done after lunch on your way back to wherever you have to be at the end of the day.) I personally dislike this area--so research info about it today so that you're not aimlessly wandering through a rather ugly, noisy part of NYC.

--Take a bus downtown to 20th St. and start the High Line there-it's fabulous and not "just a park." It's landscape, citiscapes, street theater, history, and uber coolness.

-Walk all the way to the end of the High Line at Gansevoort, take the stairs down to the street level, then check out Chelsea Market at 15th and 16th as suggested upthread. Keep walking south/downtown towards the West Village. There you will find the charming little shops and restaurants. One affordable little place is Tartine on West 11th St. Go online at Yelp or Trip Advisor for other charming, affordable restaurants in the West Village. There are lots of small shops there as well.

Wear decent walking shoes--many cobblestone streets. The districts you want to read about before you leave are Garment District, Meatpacking District (many designers have boutiques there), High Line, West Village. If you have to forego anything, you can save the Garment District for another time. Have fun.
posted by Elsie at 11:37 AM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I like Elsie's suggestions, but would add:

I've lived here for a decade and have never heard of this "airport bus to Grand Central" she speaks of. You want to take the Air Train (JFK's monorail system) to Jamaica Station, which is a terminal for the LIRR regional rail. From there, get any LIRR train bound for Penn Station. This will let you out in the midst of the Garment District, 10 blocks north of FIT.

You could also grab the 1/2/3 or A/C/E subway lines downtown to 23rd St, 18th St, West 4 St, Christopher St, or the like. Your best subway station for the High Line is 23rd and 8th Ave on the A/C/E line.

Times square is hell. Do not go there. There is a lovely Muji outlet on 19th street in Chelsea, which happens to be on one of my favorite browsing/window shopping blocks in the city. In addition to Muji, there's Idlewild books (dedicated to travel writing, though there's a good selection of other stuff), Paper Presentation if you dig stationery and other papercrafty goodness (they also have great NYC postcards and similar souvenirs), Books Of Wonder AKA probably the best children's bookstore in the country if not the anglophone world, City Bakery for snackies, and probably more I'm not thinking of. Said block is bordered by 5th and 6th avenues, which are themselves some of the best shopping and browsing in the city. And slightly further afield to either the east or west are Union Square and the Meat Packing district.
posted by Sara C. at 11:51 AM on September 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh, and if you are bound for Penn Station at 8am and have some time to kill before things you want to do open for the day, check out the Flower District. Not necessarily to buy flowers, but all the action is in the wee AM hours. The window shopping will be pretty, at least.
posted by Sara C. at 11:57 AM on September 12, 2010

Spa Castle. $35 all access all day, take the 7 train to the end and take a free shuttle. Its SO worth it. I just moved to CA from NYC and thats the only place I miss.

posted by tessalations999 at 4:09 PM on September 12, 2010

New York Airport Service is the bus that Elsie speaks of.
posted by kathryn at 4:16 PM on September 12, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the responses. I ended up at the MUJI in SOHO and ran out of time before ABC Carpet. Met my friend for dim sum which was an excellent choice. I really wanted to go to Momofuku — next time!
posted by Bunglegirl at 5:50 PM on September 13, 2010

Response by poster: Oh, and the high line was really nice. Thanks for insisting I go. Sorry for the double posts, I've been traveling instead of sleeping.
posted by Bunglegirl at 5:52 PM on September 13, 2010

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