I returned to New York City twice after the first time I visited in April, which is a sign of how much I love the city. Sure, my obsession with New York isn’t exactly creative or unique: who doesn’t feel a special connection to the city? But I tend to explore new destinations rather than returning to old favourites, no matter how much I liked them. The good thing about New York, and the thing that keeps bringing me back, is just how much there is to do, from the big, extravagant attractions like Top of the Rock and Broadway to my personal favourite activity.
On my birthday trip to New York City in November, we focused on visiting new neighborhoods, revisiting favourite sites (Brooklyn Bridge anyone?) and trying typical New York food. But what did we discover was really the best thing to do?
One day after heading downtown to 13th Street to try out a different location of my favourite consignment store, Beacon’s Closet, I had a free afternoon before I had to meet my travelling companion in Times Square. I figured I’d walk a few blocks up Fifth Avenue, do a little shopping, then find a subway to get me there. Instead, I ended up walking almost 50 blocks and having one of the best afternoons of my life.
I’m all about plans and itineraries, so it’s very surprising that such an unplanned afternoon was so awesome. As I continued to wear out my already beleaguered feet, I stumbled upon landmarks that were totally not where I thought they were, had some incredible food, and encountered an American Christmas market.
In an area as compact and as exciting as Manhattan, there’s literally something interesting on every block. By taking the time to walk further than you normally would, you’ll be giving yourself the chance to see things you’ll miss on the subway. I wanted to see the Flatiron building but it totally slipped my mind and I never looked up the location: on my walk, I crossed the street and there it was. There’s nothing like the feeling of looking up and seeing such an iconic building where you didn’t expect it to be.
I caught a peek of “The New School” around a corner and went to look and pretend I was a student; literally all I know about the place is that Carrie went there on the Carrie Diaries, but that was enough. I hopped into what looked like a popular student restaurant and got a PB acai bowl, aka heaven in a bowl. If you haven’t tried acai bowls, try them – even if you don’t like smoothies! I saw an old favorite store, C Wonder and immediately leaped into the store to investigate their holiday sale – how could I resist the pull of such a beautiful window display?
And then, in one of my favourite moments, I looked up and saw THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING. Who knew it was on Fifth Avenue? Everyone but me. Anyway, I gawped for a while – this whole walk involved me looking like a crazy tourist – before moving on to Bryant Park. I had been here before to visit the New York Public Library, but I had no idea that there was now a Christmas market and a skating rink here! I was just starting to get into the Christmas spirit and this just really helped me feel festive. I didn’t feel like going skating alone, but I observed all the cute couples and adorable families and wandered the stalls, perusing the lovely Christmas-related goods.
I was getting close to my destination, and reluctantly I took in the last few sights on my route before meeting Sunjita in Times Square. It was time to take off my walking shoes (except I had to keep them on) and enjoy Phantom of the Opera on Broadway!
What’s so cool about this experience is that you could probably replicate it on a ton of streets in New York. Sure, Fifth Avenue is exceptional, but next time you’re in New York, pick a street and walk as far as you please. You might be surprised by what you find!