by Margaret Mendel
The most frequently asked question of a New Yorker is, “Where do you go for fun, entertainment and relaxation?” As if we kept a list of secret spots.
I’d like to tell them, “We wait until all the tourists go home and then we come out to play.” But, truthfully, no one can avoid the hordes of visitors and New Yorkers go about their business no matter how crowded the city becomes.
Though New Yorkers do have a few tricks up their sleeves, which are simple, common sense tactics that take only a little effort to perfect.
I took the opportunity to test my theories about how New Yorkers enjoy and negotiate this city when out of town friends visited us a couple weeks ago.
First of all, in my opinion getting an early start is key. So, the first morning of our friend’s visit, we roused their jet lagged bodies from a sound sleep, handed them a cup of hot coffee and herded them off to the High Line Park.
It was a weekday and I think that Monday through Friday are the best days to avoid the crowds that come to this unique park, and many other popular attractions. On weekends this place is inundated with busloads of visitors.
New Yorkers are walkers and we delighted in the art and sculptures that were scattered along the streets this summer. This artwork, some of it commissioned by the city, is not a secret; you just have to keep your eyes open. Even the subways stations and platforms are dotted with amusing and whimsical sculptures.
I suggest that people do research before coming to NYC. Use the Internet and Google personal interests to see what might be happening in the city. During our friend’s visit they were able to see a local farmer’s market situated in the middle of a bustling community; we dropped in at the San Genaro Festival in Little Italy and because we got there early we missed the one million visitors expected later that day. Then that afternoon we saw the tail end of the Steuben Day Parade as it made its way along Fifth Avenue.
If you like theater, check out Theatre In New York: Insider Tips For Buying Tickets, an article I wrote some months back for KRL on how to purchase Broadway Theater tickets in New York City. There’s also information in that article about how to get tickets for Off Broadway productions.
And if it’s music you are looking for, you’ve come to the right town. Jazz clubs are scattered all over the city from Harlem, throughout the West Side, East Side and all the way down to Greenwich Village. Don’t limit your hunt for music to only Manhattan. Queens and Brooklyn also have excellent clubs and music venues. There are large clubs that charge big prices, but then there are small Jazz joints with a few tables, some with dinner menus while other clubs offer only beverages, some with cover charges and some without. Our visitors from out of town had a couple of Jazz groups they wanted to see. We looked them up on the Internet and luckily one of their favorite groups was performing in midtown. The tickets were purchased on line and we were set for the evening.A good place to hear classical music is in churches and Cathedrals. St. John the Divine Cathedral has regular Sunday afternoon organ concerts. The cathedral has great acoustics; fantastic atmosphere and concerts are free of charge with a suggested donation.
Unfortunately because of time constraints we had no choice but to walk with our friends across the Brooklyn Bridge on a Saturday afternoon, which is certainly the worst time to check out this historic bridge. And it was as crowded as I’ve ever seen it. The last time I visited the place was on a mid weekday and I almost had the bridge to myself. But despite the hundreds of people walking nearly elbow-to-elbow the view was spectacular.
Central Park is my favorite place to hangout. I particularly like the Reservoir. There’s always a large contingency of walkers and runners traveling along the path that encircles the Reservoir but the view is dynamite and more than worth the time. There’s loads of information online about this park and from early spring to late fall there is always something going on. There are free concerts on Sundays usually starting on the Memorial Day weekend and ending on Labor Day. The Consortium, a most beautiful garden located at 105th Street on the east side of the park, has free-guided tours every Saturday from April to October.
The problem with trying to get to every site on your to-do list at an early hour is that if you are visiting several places in one day, by noon and certainly by super-time, you’re going to be dealing with crowds. Just keep smiling and go with the flow.
There are no secret spots in NYC, only those yet to be discovered. Use the Internet. Get publications like Timeout New York, The Village Voice, and The New York Times. Being an educated visitor in this big city is the best way of insuring a good trip. Get a subway map. Start out early. Don’t be afraid to ask strangers for directions and just be careful where you walk during rush hour because negotiating sidewalks during those times is the ultimate in the New York experience.