So my boyfriend just recently came to visit me in Manhattan, and I can now say without a doubt that I am an expert in New York City tourism.
Residents of any given city are generally the best source for inside tips, the worst for useful tourist info. And as a once and future New Yorker, I am a shining example of this rule. What the hell do I know about the Statue of Liberty? I can tell you with the utmost certainly that there is no public transport that will get you conveniently close to my old office building, but as far as the visiting hours at the Empire State building, your guess is as good as mine.
So this week was a bit stressful with regard to playing tour guide. If there are three things I loath, they’re Times Square, cold weather and knowing there’s an expiration date on the time I’ve got with my boyfriend before we go back to our separate continents. But a city like New York – reputed as the world’s greatest and meritorious of the title for reasons you might not expect – doesn’t allow for a staycation indoors. As I spent the last week hitting every major (and quite a few minor) tourist destinations in Manhattan, I tried to keep a mental list of the best of the best. And by that I mean, those classic New York experiences that are timeless, affordable and actually enjoyed by New Yorkers. Here are my top three.
The High Line
This is without a doubt my ultimate recommendation to anyone visiting New York City, and I was relieved for the future of our relationship when my boyfriend volunteered it as his favorite spot as well. An ongoing city project, the High Line is a free, public park constructed out of the old elevated freight rail line that used to run above the city. Stretching about a mile long (and still being worked on and growing,) the park was created by an organization called Friends of the High Line formed in 1999. It took ten years for the group to raise the money and interested to convert the old elevated rails into a beautiful public park, the first section of which opened in 2009. You can walk along the west side of downtown Manhattan and enjoy breathtaking elevated views of the city, tranquil park fauna and an ever-changing display of local artwork. The High Line may not be New York’s oldest attraction, but it’s one of its loveliest, and is actually frequented by New Yorkers, not just tourists.
The New York Public Library
The New York Public Library is actually composed of quite a few buildings spread throughout the borrows of the city, but the main building at 5th and 42nd is truly a wonder to behold. Intricate architectural structures and serene peace of mind await visitors, which are welcome for free during regular library hours. The various halls of the library offer free brochure information on the history of the wings, and it’s a popular destination for tourists visiting the city. But the charm of the library is that it’s continuously populated by residents as well. You can always find students studying away in the numerous computer rooms, and New Yorkers love to hit the stacks for an escape for the hustle and bustle of the city.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Head to the Upper East Side and you’ll find the Met, one of New York’s world class museums. While a museum doesn’t necessarily come to mind when one thinks of residents’ favorite haunts, the Met breaks the mold for a couple of reasons. Primarily, its $25 adult admission fee is a suggested donation, meaning visitors must only pay what they wish. Admission money funds the maintenance of the museum, so I never suggest being cheap for cheap’s sake, but if you can only afford a dollar, a dollar’s what you pay. I have also always found the staff consistently considerate to make very clear the admission price is a suggestion, and they actually recommend you pay less if you won’t have all day. Beyond the affordability, the museum building alone is worth the trip, and there are various public places to sit and appreciate the art. The Met is right next to Central Park, making it an ideal way for New Yorkers – and visitors – alike to spend a morning before heading off for an afternoon at the park.