Help me plan my weekend!
May 17, 2021 5:11 AM   Subscribe

I'm driving to the city this week for work and I've decided to extend my stay to the weekend. I'm having a lot of weird anxiety planning my free time. Can you help? Details inside! [Please don't tell me not to travel. Please don't tell me I should be concerned about spreading/catching Covid. I'd really, really appreciate it if you would just pass this thread by if you're feeling any kind of strong reaction to my travel plans. Thank you ❤️]

As inaugural post-pandemic travel goes, this is close to ideal. I'm traveling to NYC for work this Thursday and Friday, and I've extended my trip to cover the weekend because why the hell not. The city is close-ish to where I live so I'm driving, not flying. I'm fully vaxxed and masked and plan to be socially distanced throughout the trip.

I am normally GREAT at travel planning, and I usually have every little chunk of my travel days planned and booked up well before I go. But this time, beyond what my workplace already arranged for me in terms of accommodation, I just can't seem to think about what I could do without getting extremely intimidated by the thought. I pretty much know what kinds of things I'd like to do, but I just can't seem to stay on a browser tab long enough to make my plans, I keep going "Argh!" and shutting down. Would you please help me make specific plans?

I have Friday evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning to plan. I'm going to be alone. I'd like to make a tentative plan for each morning, afternoon, and evening as a chunk. So essentially I have five chunks to plan for.

Note: I'm quite unfamiliar with NYC despite living close to it. I've only made it over for an afternoon here or a show there. This will be my longest chunk of time spent in the city.

1. I would like to see a live performance. I know nothing about music, though, so that might be wasted on me... Not comedy, because my brain is freaking out at the thought of having to participate in the show even to the extent of laughing or having people around me laughing. For similar reasons I want to avoid poetry slams. A play or a musical would be fun, or hey, even lectures if there are any happening in person again: I'm interested in pop science, psychology, and literature.

2. I definitely must go to MoMA. Since there are lots of
entry times available, I'll slot this one into whatever unplanned time remains at the end.

3. I love museums and would not mind going to another one, especially something outdoors during the daytime.

4. I'd love to be at Chinatown for one of the chunks of time I have. But I have no idea what to expect there apart from eateries. Are there any performances? Museums? Galleries? in that area?

5. I really don't like shopping but you know what, I'd love to browse around art sales if there's any big, affordable markets...

6. Walking tours: yes! Especially architecture-gawkery or pilgrimages to literary shrines.

7. No restaurants or fancy for me I think :) street food is my jam. Please recommend food trucks or street stalls.

8. Specifically for Saturday night: I'm a total square with vague ambitions towards showing myself a cool night around the town. I have no idea where I'd begin but I'm easy to impress. Do you know what I should do?

Thank you so so so so much for helping! I feel kind of ashamed of asking for this type of help because it seems like I'm being lazy? And asking you to do the work I ought to be able to do on my own. But I appreciate you all so much for understanding what anxiety can be like and for helping me out.
posted by MiraK to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (26 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer:
Please recommend food trucks or street stalls.
The Halal Guys. (Looks like some locations have moved indoors since I last paid attention. Assuming the food is similar, it's well worth getting takeout and pretending it's still from a cart.)
posted by eotvos at 5:45 AM on May 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Have you been to the Cloisters? It's ridiculously lovely and calming, and fits under both (mostly) outdoor museum and (of a sort) walking tour.
posted by humbug at 5:45 AM on May 17, 2021 [21 favorites]

Natural History Museum! Natural History Museum!! Natural History Museum!!!

(You have to book an arrival time in advance.)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:51 AM on May 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

If I were heading to NY right now two exhibitions would be on my must-see list: Alice Neel: People Come First at the Met, and Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America at the New Museum.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 5:55 AM on May 17, 2021 [8 favorites]

I really enjoyed the Tenement Museum which appears to be open for the vaccinated or recently tested. Tickets are timed and even pre-Covid, the groups are very small due to the size of the actual apartments you tour. They also have walking tours.
posted by maxg94 at 6:01 AM on May 17, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I think you'll have a hard time finding live performances still, so don't set your heart on that one. But I would very strongly second the Tenement Museum, which only does tour-guided visits and is just a fantastic experience all-around. Plus that puts you near Chinatown for whatever the next meal is. I'm not sure what New York's current dining restrictions are, but my go-to in Chinatown when I don't have actual plans is to visit one of the bakeries and get an assortment of savory and sweet things and some tea. I also like to go upstairs at New Kam Man for stickers and cute stationery, and around the corner to oo35mm for cute face masks and skincare. It's not the cheapest place for that stuff, but it is literally on the same block. Tai Pan Bakery is also on the same block. There's a bunch of other ones nearby though and I don't pretend to be a connoisseur; I just like pork floss and pineapple buns. A little farther afield in SoHo is Pearl River Mart, which was always a tradition on shopping trips with my mother-in-law and is definitely fun to poke around.

My personal tradition for killing an afternoon in New York in a way that feels very New York is to hang out around Bryant Park - visit the lion statues at the library, see what fun seasonal things are happening in the park, browse for manga at Kinokuniya, and have a very fancy dessert at Lady M. But obviously your tastes may vary.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 6:30 AM on May 17, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I came in to recommend the Cloisters too. It opens at 10; I would make this the Sunday morning activity, and use whatever time you have left before you need to head home to stroll around Fort Tryon Park , which should give you some great views of the city (and has some interesting architecture scattered around for good measure).

(Check this makes sense logistically though - I don't have a feel for what the driving or the parking will be like.)
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 6:33 AM on May 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Buskers have been in Prospect Park every time I’ve been there for, well, months. Including jazz groups near the Nitehawk entrance and various ensembles at the northern end.
posted by mahorn at 6:50 AM on May 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

The New Museum is beautiful and on Bowery.
posted by mumimor at 6:59 AM on May 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Alright!! I just booked an apartment tour at the Tenement museum 😍 and am planning to follow it up with walking around Chinatown, eating at bakeries and buying cute stationery. (One can never have enough notebooks... or stickers...)

Also the Cloisters sounds fabulous and YEP that's going into my schedule also.

I'm keeping one slot open for either the Met or MoMA, can't decide, but don't want to do both.

Now all that remains is Friday evening and Saturday evening. What goes on in the city at night these days that a shy, people-phobic rube might be able to brag about to her hometown friends???
posted by MiraK at 7:02 AM on May 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

If you're comfortable seeing live music together with other people, there is some that you can find here:
posted by xo at 7:24 AM on May 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you're keeping a slot open for the Met vs. MoMA, you might want to check out the rooftop of the Met - sweeping views of Central Park and the city. It's one of my favorite places to just... be. MoMA has some outdoor space too, but it's at ground level. (It's been really nice weather lately, so I am all about those outdoor spaces right now!)

From the Met, you could walk through Central Park all the way down to the bottom of the park, then depending on how much you want to walk further, walk down the west side of Manhattan and check out the High Line. Pop into Chelsea Market - there are tons of food vendors, and you can grab stuff to go and then just walk over to the river and eat.
posted by bedhead at 7:27 AM on May 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

For COVID-safe performances, I read about Exquisite Corpses' Zoetrope in the NY Times, and it looks bonkers, in a good way, maybe? Depends how you feel about experimental theatre!
posted by damayanti at 9:03 AM on May 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Take the ferry over to Brooklyn
posted by sandmanwv at 9:46 AM on May 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

When I went to the Tenement Museum (so, so interesting!) I walked around a bit and came upon the legendary Russ and Daughters at 127 Orchard St. very close to the Museum. The most delicious smoked fish offered by a business that arose in the Jewish diaspora to New York. It's a small deli and had a couple of benches outside for patrons to sit, but their website says takeout only. Definitely worth a visit, if only to get spreads and bagels to have for breakfast in your room.

And who couldn't love a business named for Daughters!
posted by citygirl at 10:38 AM on May 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: buying cute stationery. (One can never have enough notebooks... or stickers.

Nico Neco Zakkaya on E. 10th (in the EV)! And, if you like rubber stamps, there is a little store devoted to nothing BUT nearby on E. 11th., Casey Rubber Stamps. You will be close (by NYC standards--ten minutes' bus ride, or you could easily walk) when you're visiting the Tenement Museum.

Before/after the Tenement Museum, on the borderlands between LES Chinatown lies Spicy Village, where you can get the famous Big Tray Chicken (which is really not all that spicy!). It's a total dump/hole-in-the-wall but it just feels...right. Like it was not mocked up for someone's idea of what "gritty NYC" should be. In the same vicinity is Harper Bread House, where you can grab an egg tart or two. They are small and perfect.

The weekend nights remain...somewhat disappointing these days. You might want to take a look at the Nonsense NYC newsletter, for edgier/sillier young-people's-art stuff. Might have to go out to Brooklyn for that, but that's a trip in itself. Consider taking the ferry. If nothing else, both Film Forum and the Angelika have reopened, so you could see some classy old art film.
posted by praemunire at 10:43 AM on May 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

Oh, sorry, and on the stationery front, CW Pencil Enterprise has just reopened (also in the Chinatown/LES border area). They are no longer pencils and pencil accessories only, but, judging by their website, they still have plenty of unusual stationery items.
posted by praemunire at 10:47 AM on May 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you want the inside scoop on Chinatown food, I have a very friendly approachable friend who gives a walking tour of the best spots with samples along the way.

Also, I would maybe hit up MoMA over the Met with the limited time you have. Met takes all day if you want to see a lot of it vs specific exhibits. MoMa you can get through much much quicker. The Cloisters is very lovely, and you can get a little glass of wine in the courtyard there and hang out (if they are serving right now, which they may not be).

Re: a night out: I would check out Thrillist or TimeOut on Weds or Thurs this week. They often put out lists of things to do over the weekend where you might find something. You could check out this immersive Van Gogh thing that is advertised literally everywhere right now. Or check out the view from any rooftop bar. No idea what this is, but it's an immersive outdoor walking theatre thing in the Village.

Eating solo can be a big benefit at getting a spot at a fancy restaurant where it's hard to get a reservation. Pick out a spot you want to eat and call ahead to see if you are able to eat at the bar as a solo walk-in. Don't feel awkward about dining alone - no one will bat an eye.

It might be helpful to let us know what part of town you are staying in and what kind of transportation you are planning to use, because getting from like Battery Park to the Cloisters and back could take almost all day and wipe out other 'slots'.

Enjoy your stay!
posted by greta simone at 10:54 AM on May 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: [Just a quick note to mention, I'm a vegetarian - sadly I will not be able to try your favorite chicken or smoked fish!]

Ooh, I can take the ferry at night? That sounds like it would be spectacular. Are there skyline views? There have to be, right?

Edited to add location: I'm staying in the upper West side (I think? unless this is past it). A hotel near Amsterdam Ave and W 90-somethingth st.
posted by MiraK at 10:55 AM on May 17, 2021

Response by poster: Commuting 100% by public transit. I'm parking my car outside the city and taking a train into Manhattan.
posted by MiraK at 11:01 AM on May 17, 2021

Best answer: Staten Island Ferry runs all night. You will see the Statue of Liberty and the downtown/WTC area from the ferry. It's free. Plenty of people just make the round trip for the sights without going into SI.

The East River ferry's last departures are a little bit after 9 on weekends, I think (check individual schedules). The usual MTA fare. Depending on which route you take, you will see the East River parts of Manhattan and the western parts of Dumbo/Williamsburg/Navy Yard/Roosevelt Island; again depending, you might go under the Brooklyn Bridge. Because you're at "ground" level, it's not quite "spectacular" as it might be if you were, say, in a helicopter, but it's still pretty cool.
posted by praemunire at 11:05 AM on May 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Staten Island ferry has excellent views. Any of the ferries have excellent views ripe for photos. If you time the East River Ferry right, you could get killer skyline sunset pics. If you, say, hopped on the Astoria Ferry at E 90th at 7:43 pm on Saturday and ride it all the way to the end at Wall St, you'll crisscross the East River, catching the sunset behind the Manhattan Skyline during the ride. It'll land you downtown at 8:34pm. Again, not sure if they are serving right now, but in normal times you can order a glass of wine or a beer onboard to enjoy for the ride. I do some version of this with all my new-to-New-York guests bc it's a solid hour of stunning views, going under lots of bridges, unique way to see the city, for under $15 a person (including the booze!). Honestly better than any expensive awkward 'harbor tour' boat experience you could book.

I recommend downloading the app and getting your ticket there.
posted by greta simone at 11:50 AM on May 17, 2021 [5 favorites]

not sure if they are serving right now, but in normal times you can order a glass of wine or a beer onboard to enjoy for the ride

Alas, they're not.

Definitely way better value for money than any harbor boat ride. Also, you can basically be outside the whole time.
posted by praemunire at 12:02 PM on May 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Evening plans: DONE and DONE.

Y'all have been awesome as usual, MeFi, I promise to report back here with details of what I managed to do. Thank you so much.
posted by MiraK at 12:10 PM on May 17, 2021 [8 favorites]

Also MiraK, thank you so much for asking this question because I am in the two-week countdown to full vaccination and just ITCHING to, like, leave my house for once and my husband's not quite interested in public transit yet, so a quick solo jaunt up on the Acela to New York just to kick around for a day or two sounds amazing right now and I may borrow all of the feedback you've gotten here. My in-laws were there this week and sent me a photo of some weird sculpture they saw on the High Line and I could just expire from leaving-the-house envy.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 11:42 AM on May 18, 2021 [1 favorite]


I had no time to do my own things on Friday evening; had to get dinner with co-workers & clients, and it was way too late when we finished.

On Saturday I went to the Met on 5th Avenue, I saw Alice Neel and spent the rest of my time there staring at van Gogh's sunflowers & also his boots. Then I ate an earth-shatteringly good lunch from a cart just outside the Met. Hopped on over to the Tenement museum (at which point my phone died and I could take no more pictures). Then I walked around Chinatown eating dumplings (yum) and drinking boba tea (which is just as weird and chewy as I remembered from my time in Singapore). I didn't do the ferry sunset ride because, like I said, my phone was dead and I couldn't access the app to get my tickets out. And anyway I was fuckin exhausted, having walked over 14 miles by then, so I just went back to my room and crashed.

The next morning I went to the Cloisters and had a lovely, peaceful time. I ate disappointing Mexican food from a cart later, bought some Krispy Kreme donuts to take home, and went back.

Here are some pictures! THANK YOU SO MUCH for helping me figure out my trip! I enjoyed it so very much.
posted by MiraK at 1:31 PM on May 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

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