Isn't New York the best? Growing up in Jersey, I hardly appreciated it, and everyone pretty much stayed away from Manhattan unless we had an absolutely necessary reason to venture away from our sleepy suburb (which was a mere 30 miles, yet seemingly lightyears, away.) What a sad, closed-minded perspective we northeasterners had of a place that I've finally come to know - thank goodness - as magical. Now of course, there was always the once-a-year visit to a Broadway show or the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, but even then it was made very clear that we were going to an "over-crowded, filthy place with lots of muggers," and we were shoved into a cab or tour bus outside the theater faster than you could say "roasting chestnuts." Not until I left for college in Tennessee and had the chance to bring friends back with me who had never been there before, was my love for New York City kindled into a roaring fire.
So, as a dedication to a place that has held so many special memories for me, here's a list of Christine's top 7 favorite places to go & things to do in New York City:
1. Rockefellar Center sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you go closer to the end of November/beginning of December, it's way less crowded and just the most magical place to be. I love walking down 5th Ave. browsing all the Christmas windows and venturing into Macy's for a warm drink at their basement cafe...returning to the chilly outdoors to walk down the angel-lined pathway leading to the Rockefellar Christmas tree that is always about 20 feet taller in person that you ever imagined it would be from TV. A trip to this area of the city is not complete without some time spent resting your toes and sipping a latté at Dean and DeLuca overlooking the Rockefellar rink and across the street from The Today Show.
2. Central Park. OK, as far as I'm concerned, you simply cannot go wrong in Central Park unless a) you have no senses, or b) you're dumb enough to jog there alone in the middle of the night. Sitting under a gorgeous fountain...playing with iron sculptures like this friendly little Hans Christian Andersen duck...watching people at the Wolman skating rink on an icy pre-Christmas day...laying on your stomach in the lush grass in the spring, summer, or fall...or accepting a marriage proposal on a hill covered in golden leaves :), there are wonders and adventures every which way you turn. You could literally walk around the park and explore for an entire day and see a fastastic variety of people, ages, and cultures . My favorite thing about Central Park is that it can transport you to another world in a matter of seconds. One moment you're in the middle of the rush of crowds of high-class shoppers on Park Avenue, and a moment later, you're in a peaceful oasis with gardens, horse-drawn carriages, and quiet park benches that could be set in the middle of the country if you didn't know better (and if not for the tips of skyscrapers peeking above the trees, giving away your true locale).
3. Café Lalo. This place is a little piece of Heaven on a brisk New York morning. 9 or 10am - get off the train on the upper west side and walk down Amsterdam to this gem of a café. It's also the location of the famous scene from You've Got Mail where Kathleen Kelly hurts Joe Fox's feelings: "And you...you are nothing but a SUIT." As you can see in this photo, they usually have the tall casement windows wide open without a screen. If you can score a small table in front of the window, sip some homemade lemonade or a warm drink, let the sun warm your neck, and smell the fresh flowers, it's nothing less than ideal.
4. Serendipity III. Ok, so a lot of my favorite things in NYC so far have centered around food or drinks, but bear with me here. Have you HAD Serendipity's Frozen Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate? It's like a frozen Reeses peanut butter cup, except you can drink it, and there's a vat-load of homemade whipped cream on top. Susan and I always share this one, and we can only take about 5 sips each before our tummies start to give way. But those 5 sips...boy are they worth it. I know this restaurant has been hyped up since the movie Serendipity released a few years ago, but not only are their desserts delicious, but it's perfectly whimsical inside.
5. Peanut Butter & Co. in Greenwich Village. Yet again, centering around food, but where else can you order a peanut butter, chicken, and green apple sandwich on wheat, with a side of carrot sticks??? Yes please, may I have another. Take me to Heaven now, because if that was my last meal on earth, I'd be happy. This place is tiny and is right around the corner from NYU, and yes, they only serve peanut butter sandwiches! They also make custom peanut butters like Cinnamon and Spicy that you can buy by the jar.
6. Exploring the brownstones on the Upper East Side. These buildings are simply gorgeous. I love walking down these quiet, historic streets wondering who lives there, where they got their "old money" and what their life is like. Do they have a simple life or are they busy executives who hardly have time to enjoy their beautiful homes? Who lived there in the early 1900's and what was it like? Did they go to-and-from home by horse and carriage down the cobblestone streets?
7. Broadway. Last but not least, my favorite musical in the entire world...Phantom of the Opera. From the moment the music starts until the last note at the end, this show always gives me chills. Take the most glorious music you've ever heard and couple it with a set so realistic that you'll wonder how you've suddenly been transported from a regular theater to a dark and creepy underground waterway with gondolas, ghosts appearing in mirrors, and infinite candlelight. All I know is that this is a masterpiece and a Broadway must.
So, here's to a city that is altogether refined, entertaining, fanciful, diverse, serene, energizing, and quirky. New York City…that’s my kind of town.