complete NYC n00b seeks assistance
July 26, 2005 4:26 PM   Subscribe

NewYorkVirginFilter: I'm going to New York on business in early August, and I'll have two blocks of time free: 4pm - midnight-ish, and 8am - 2pm the following morning. I am so clueless.

My hotel is at 356 W 58th St, the Hudson. I don't even know what portion of the city that is. So if you had 14 free hours in New York, what would be on your list of "must do" activities?

I'll probably end up taking the ferry around the Statue of Liberty, because I've never seen it in person. And I'm pretty much giving up on trying to not look like a tourist, as this post indicates. Pretty much everything I know about New York comes from NYPD Blue,, and the trailer for Gangs of New York. Thanks for any tips, urban metafilterians.
posted by craniac to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Random list of things I like:

The Mountain Goats
Survival Research Labs
Tasty cheap bistros

Things I don't think I'd like or can't afford:
Broadway shows
Heavy drinking or upscale restaurants
People with knives or guns
posted by craniac at 4:31 PM on July 26, 2005

Check out Brooklyn: Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope; CIVILIZED New York!
posted by ParisParamus at 4:37 PM on July 26, 2005

Parismus: Cool, thanks. Oh, recommendations for used bookstores are welcome too.
posted by craniac at 4:42 PM on July 26, 2005

If you like MOMA, you could go to the MOMA. It's on 53rd St between 5th/6th Ave - the Hudson is near 58th St and 9th Ave, so you're pretty close and it would be a cheap cab ride. If your afternoon/evening block is on a Friday, even better because it is free on Friday evenings from 4 - 8.

Why are you staying at the Hudson? It's sort of trendy/swanky. The rooms are TINY and the restraurant I ate at was good but expensive. Doesn't seem like the place for someone that doesn't like and/or can't afford an upscale restaurant.
posted by mullacc at 5:11 PM on July 26, 2005

Brooklyn's great but it doesn't fit your location/time parameters; save it for a future trip when you can spend a day there (museum, botanical garden, BAM). Explore Central Park (just a block from your hotel), walk down Broadway to Times Square (sadly denatured now, but still an inescapable part of NYC), go to one of the fabulous and cheap ethnic restaurants on Ninth Ave. in the 40s, see the NYPL and Bryant Park (behind it), maybe pop down to the Village for a look (though again, I'd recommend saving that for a future trip when you have more time). Me, I'd skip the ferry ride, since it will eat up a lot of your available time, but you may be really into ferries.
posted by languagehat at 5:22 PM on July 26, 2005

Look on TimeOutNY or Village Voice or New Yorker websites for listings. Your free evening might well be spent sampling anything from salsa to Shakespeare, often quite reasonably (especially in summer). It will be hot, and walking around outdoors is exhiliratingly essential for a first-time trip to NY, but dress appropriately and just wander. You can't go wrong in midtown west, which is where youl'll be. Check also on the webpages of Columbia University and NYU for events on either campus, likely to be free, cheap, and interesting. This is how you can both a) not look like a tourist and b) understand why people who love NYC love it so much. No matter how esoteric your passions, somewhere in this city on any given day you will find them stimulated, enriched, and extended. New York is not just buildings and attitudes. It is a cornucopia of interesting people doing interesting things. In your neightborhood or within a 15-20 minute walk: the Juilliard School ( calendar here, often there are recitals to hear there for little or nothing, though I'm not sure about summer schedules), or cross the park to the lovely Central Park Zoo , where the people are often as fun to watch as the other animals, or the American Folk Art Museum . If you do plan to wander the streets in the evening, downtown can be more fun (you don't say what days you are here, but weekend evenings in the village are cool, just take the 1/9 train from Columbus Circle, right in front of your hotel, down to Christopher or 14th and walk east.)

Have fun. If you come back with specific dates I'm sure some of us will have more specific suggestions. NYC is, by the way, safer than almost any small town in America. Just be street smart and it's fine.
posted by realcountrymusic at 5:40 PM on July 26, 2005

If you like indie rock in general (besides the Mountain Goats), you can check for any good shows on the night you'll be in town at Oh My Rockness.
posted by xo at 5:40 PM on July 26, 2005

Well, you could try the Circle Line, it's a boat tour around Manhatten. You'll get the Statue and the skyline, try the Harbor Lights cruise, it's at sundown.

I'd second dinner on Ninth Ave., and a walk through Times Square.

If you like airplanes and subs, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is big fun.
posted by Marky at 6:00 PM on July 26, 2005

Indie-stuff-and-bookstores-wise: take a trip to St. Mark's Place (which is the street between 7th St. and 9th St. ...), between 2nd and 3rd Ave. (near the Astor Place stop on the 6 train), and the enormous record/video store there called Mondo Kim's. (Skip the other record stores on the same block.) You will also want to go to St. Mark's Books, which is not actually on St. Mark's but on 9th St. and 3rd Ave.; it is not a used bookstore, but it has very interesting new books you're not likely to see nearly as often other places.
posted by 88robots at 6:10 PM on July 26, 2005

Try these two AskMe threads. And I still think this advice is great for NYC noobs.
posted by mediareport at 7:05 PM on July 26, 2005

Walk east down 59th and see the Plaza hotel, swing into Central Park, hit the Guggenheim on the east side of Central Park, take the subway down to Wall Street and see all the big buildings, walk up Broadway to City Hall, take a right and walk halfway up Brooklyn Bridge, go to Washington Square and play a game of chess with some random person, then walk up Park Avenue to Grand Central Station. If you have time, also see the Empire State Building or take the United Nations tour. Maybe stay clear of the museums if you're looking for a quick walking tour. They're wicked.....but they're not New York. And of course, hit up Time Square, preferably after dark. Have fun!
posted by Idiot Mittens at 7:14 PM on July 26, 2005 [1 favorite]

Some of the museums are very New York, such as El Museo del Barrio.
posted by realcountrymusic at 7:26 PM on July 26, 2005

Oh yeah, except that one, that reeks of New York.
posted by Idiot Mittens at 7:58 PM on July 26, 2005

I'll let you in on a secret I learned the first time I visited NYC:

Nobody is from NYC. At least, you will probably not run into very many native New Yorkers while in town. Most have moved there from somewhere else and once upon a time were first-timers in town. So don't let your unfamiliarity with the town stop you from doing anything.

And don't be too worried about looking like a tourist. Except, don't stop in the middle of a busy walkway to consult your map or look up at big buildings.
posted by achmorrison at 9:05 PM on July 26, 2005

And I'm pretty much giving up on trying to not look like a tourist, as this post indicates.

Screw not being a tourist. Many things that are considered "touristy" and looked down upon by locals can be great fun. First time I went I did the tourist thing, just to get it out of the way. Each time after, I've gone further off the beaten path.

NYC is, by the way, safer than almost any small town in America. Just be street smart and it's fine.

This might be the most ridiculous thing I've ever read on metafilter. Just like in other big cities, being a tourist can be an invitation for trouble. Just keep your eyes open, and listen to locals regarding where NOT to go.
posted by justgary at 9:07 PM on July 26, 2005

This might be the most ridiculous thing I've ever read on metafilter

Except that, statistically speaking, it is largely true . OK, I'm being polemical, but NYC is the safest large city in the country, and as I said, being street smart and staying in busy areas in Manhattan means you will be much safer than most non-natives even imagine. I've lived here for 8 years, and grew up outside the city (meaning I spent a lot of my youth in the city in very bad years). In the last 8 years the only crime I've experienced personally is a broken car window, and being hit once by an uninsured driver. There are definitely many smaller cities with much higher crime rates. Hey, and now we have cops checking bags on the subways. I was being a booster, so sue me. And where the OP is staying, you'd have to try really hard to be the victim of a violent crime, like wandering over to 9th ave at 3 AM drunk in a full Monty tourist get-up waving money around.
posted by realcountrymusic at 9:50 PM on July 26, 2005

These are awesome recommendations, I knew the New York Mefi contingent would come through. Sorry for not responding sooner, I've been out this evening. I'm staying at the Hudson because it's a business trip and I'm not paying for it. Meals are comped, to a degree, along with cab from the airport, etc.

I'm in Utah, and flights to New York are surprisingly cheap (jetblue=$200), but again I'm not paying for it. And I just read somewhere that the murder rate in Park City, Utah (a ski town where I just spent the weekend with the family) is higher than New York.

re: "why waste time on a ferry..."

I guess the statue of liberty sorta resonates with me right now, as I watch our civil liberties slowly being eroded, plus I've never seen it and my wife *insists* that I have to see it and ground zero, and she's getting a little huffy that I'm not taking her advice over a bunch of strangers on the internet.

This post from another thread was interesting:

I don't know if anyone will ever stumble across this comment, but my little walking tour was quite an eye opener. SoHo is like one gigantic strip mall now. I was so depressed. Gone are all of the charming little neon fixture places and the struggling artists and the wonderful galleries. In their places are Gap and H & M and J Crew and Ann Taylor and Benetton and on and on and on. It's a huge shopper's mecca of mid price chain stores. And since it was the first beautiful day of the year, there were about 100 people per square foot on the pavement. Ridiculous.

Other things - Tic 'N Tac are doing the same tired routine in Washington Square. Little Italy is so run-down and depressing. Chinatown smells like dried fish. No one walks around in the West Village anymore - they've all gone someplace else and won't tell me where. The West Village is nothing but flea markets and shoe stores and graffiti, and all of the stores have such filthy, dirty windows.

But I still heart NY.
posted by iconomy at 6:26 PM PST on April 12 [!]

posted by craniac at 10:28 PM on July 26, 2005

I've stayed at the Hudson before; the rooms are small, but nicely designed. In any case, you want to spend time exploring NYC, so the room isn't much of a worry.

The location is excellent for several things, Central Park being one of them. I'd say, do Central Park on the day that you have the morning free. Go out, take a stroll in the park, grab a bagel and a coffee and enjoy yourself.

If your wife wants you to see the WTC site, catch the A or C train going downtown at the 59th St/Columbus Circle stop. You'll need to switch to the E train, which you can do at 50th, 42nd, 34th, or 23rd streets. If you want to take a little side trip, get out at 42nd street and walk over half a block to Broadway and check out Times Square. (It isn't what it used to be, but it's one of those NYC things that you have to see at some point.) Get back on the E train going downtown and take it all the way to the end. It stops at the WTC site.

If you want to take the ferry around to see the Statue of Liberty, I think the Battery Park Harbor Cruise is your best bet. Check here for schedules.

You can see the Statue from Battery Park, though, so if you're running short on time, you can just look at it from shore.
posted by bedhead at 11:15 PM on July 26, 2005

8 am - 2 pm: MOMA or Met, dim sum @ New Green Bo.

evening: meat at Les Halles, drinks at Mars Bar; or, conversely, meat at Katz's, drinks at the King Cole bar. Before you go to sleep, stop at Crif Dogs or Dumpling Man for a beer and a late night snack.
posted by luriete at 11:35 PM on July 26, 2005

craniac -

1. If you want to see the Statue of Liberty, take the Staten Island ferry. It's free, it's a hour round-trip, and you get great views of the harbor and the staute. You won't go right up to it, but the view from the harbor is better anyway.

2. To check out the best New York street life in the time available, hit the main touristy things in midtown and then go downtown. Midtown is a block of dull offices with a few bits of tourist eye candy thrown in. So hit Central Park and Rockefeller Center then book it downtown (the Village, SoHo, Nolita, the East Village etc.) where life is much livelier and more interesting. If you're perambulatory, and if you have a few hours, you can't go wrong just walking down Broadway until you hit the Battery.

3. It's true. New York is (or was, a few years ago) the safest city in the US of more than 1 million people on a per capita basis.

4. If it's a clear day, check out the view from the Empire State Building - at night.
posted by nyterrant at 5:42 AM on July 27, 2005

Oh, and forget what iconomy says. All of Manhattan is like that now. It's because all the bankers and movie stars have jacked up the rents, forcing lots of the cool kids over to Brooklyn (which is better, as PP says). Still, for a first-timer after a "New York" experience, Manhattan is a must. Just make sure you get to Brooklyn the second time around.
posted by nyterrant at 5:48 AM on July 27, 2005

All of Manhattan is like that now.

I can't think of a single generalization that applies to "all of Manhattan" (except that it's hot today). Go north of 125th and you're on another planet, and an interesting one. As for Brooklyn, allow me a curmudgeonly scowl. It's hipster disneyland, functionally no less yuppified (in the neighborhoods usually under discussion in such debates) than Chelsea or the upper East side. And no less expensive. Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy are another story. But so is East Harlem compared to Soho. End of rant.
posted by realcountrymusic at 6:26 AM on July 27, 2005

my girlfriend loved shopping in the chic meat packing district on the lower edge of chelsea on the hudson - great shops, galleries and botiques - i personally have enjoyed just walking the city.
posted by specialk420 at 7:11 AM on July 27, 2005

It's hipster disneyland

posted by craniac at 7:25 AM on July 27, 2005

I can't believe nobody mentioned the Frick yet
posted by matteo at 12:02 PM on July 27, 2005

If you like books, The Strand is a must. It's always the first place I go in NYC. It's on 12th Street & Broadway (take the 4, 5, 6, N,or R to Astor Place. Exit at 14th Street and walk the two blocks down Broadway.) You have never seen a used bookstore like this in your life. (They have some new books too, and my favorite thing, the shelves and shelves of review copies of new books in the basement, all half off!)
posted by SisterHavana at 7:59 AM on July 28, 2005

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