I’ve had a long, adventurous love affair with New York City. It began as a child growing up in the suburbs of northern New Jersey. My mom took me into the city for trips to places like the American Museum of Natural History, where I gazed up in awe at the life-sized dinosaur fossils, and Rockefeller Center, the site of countless family portraits amidst throngs of tourists in front of the sparkling, gargantuan Christmas tree. My relationship with Gotham continues to this day, even though I haven’t lived there since January of 2008, proving that absence truly does make the heart grow fonder.
However, I’m biased. I lived in New York City for eight years, got my start in journalism there and will be returning for graduate school in the fall. Feel overwhelmed by the multitude of offerings? Have no fear. My guide will help you navigate the best of what this city of more than 8.1 million souls has to offer.
If you’re not lucky enough to have a friend’s place to crash, check out the Chelsea Pines Inn. The quaint gay-owned and -operated inn, a five-story brick walkup building lovingly restored in the 1980s, is decorated throughout with Old Hollywood posters and sits in one of NYC’s gayest neighborhoods. The rates are affordable for NYC, but definitely call well in advance of your trip to make a reservation.
Feeling a little more like fancy? The W has no fewer than five locations in Manhattan, while the gigantic Marriot Marquis in Times Square, with its 1,900 rooms, vertigo-inducing elevators and rotating rooftop bar, puts you right in the center of the madness. Mere steps from the theater district (try scoring tickets to The Book of Mormon), you’ll be sleeping high above the world’s busiest intersections—a neon-lit capitalistic monument to the city’s polyglot and multi- cultural essence.
EAT AND DRINK
There are thousands of places to choose from, so planning ahead is a good idea. On the flip side, I love walking neighborhoods: Sometimes you make the best discoveries that way. Bottino offers classic Tuscan cuisine in a relaxed setting; it’s the perfect spot to bring your family, too. Busloads of tourists create lines outside Magnolia on weekends during the summer, so check out Billy’s Bakery instead (full disclosure: I briefly iced cupcakes there many years ago). The homemade cupcakes, cookies and cakes are scrumptious and moist, and the people-watching on Ninth Avenue is fantastic (other locations include Tribeca and Nolita).
At the foot of Gansevoort Street, formerly home to actual meatpacking plants and prostitutes but now conquered by high-end retail shops and tourists with limitless bank accounts (thanks, Carrie Bradshaw), sits Chelsea Market. This factory-like indoor marketplace features dozens of worthwhile shops and restaurants, including Amy’s Bread, Posman Books and Gramercy Park Flower Shop.
Book lovers will delight in the city’s many thriving independent bookstores: Three Lives & Co., The Strand, and Williamsburg’s Spoonbill & Sugartown are some of my favorites.
Walk the East Village, Soho and the Lower East Side for everything from up- scale retailers to funky, more-affordable thrift shops. Don’t miss Topshop on Broadway (the only other U.S. locations are in Chicago and Las Vegas) for fast and fun Euro fashion. Check out Japanese fashion giant Uniqlo, a socially aware company that sells well-constructed, ca- sual clothes and employs 400 retail as- sociates who’re at your beck and call at any point. Flip to page 20 on the L side for where to explore, New York City es- sentials, the tried and true, and how to get married!