New Yorkers have developed winning strategies when it comes to nightlife, dining out and partaking of the city’s staggering cultural calendar. From long weekend brunches to leisurely spring days in the park, there are plenty of appealing ways to go local – without having to pay those ridiculous rents.
Dos & Don’ts: On the Street
- Hail a cab only if the roof light is on. If it’s not lit, the cab is taken, so put your arm down already!
- You needn’t obey ‘walk’ signs – simply cross the street when there isn’t oncoming traffic.
- When negotiating pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk think of yourself as a vehicle – don’t stop short, follow the speed of the crowd around you and pull off to the side if you need to take out your map or umbrella. Most New Yorkers are respectful of personal space, but they will bump into you – and not apologize – if you get in the way.
- When boarding the subway, wait until the passengers disembark, then be aggressive enough when you hop on so that the doors don’t close in front of you.
- In New York you wait ‘on line’ instead of ‘in line’; you'll also hear 'quarter of' rather than 'quarter to'.
- Oh, and it’s How-sten St, not Hugh-sten, got it?
Eating & Drinking
- The Culture of Brunch
Brunch in New York is deeply woven into the city’s social fabric, much like teatime for British royals. It typically happens between 11am and 4pm on weekends (though some places, especially in Brooklyn, have begun serving brunch every day). The meal provides a perfect setting for friends to catch up on the week's events and the weekend’s shenanigans over dishes constructed of breakfast materials and an indiscriminate mix of cocktails or coffee.
- Weekends Are for Amateurs
New Yorkers tend to avoid the big clubs, packed bars and certain neighborhoods (East Village, Lower East Side) on the weekends when you find yourself among a high proportion of less sophisticated types. Instead, weeknights can be great for going out – with fewer crowds, fewer of the aforementioned types, and more creative folk who don’t work the typical nine-to-five (actors, writers, artists). Plus, you’ll be able to score happy-hour and early-in-the-week specials.
- Bar Food
Many of New York’s best bars blur the boundary between eating and drinking. Slide onto a bar stool, pick up a menu, and you’ll often be faced with some surprising dining options. That could be oysters at the bar, small sharing plates (seared scallops, sliders, truffle-oil fries), cheese boards and charcuterie or anything else – roasted beet salads, gourmet sandwiches, braised artichokes, rack of lamb. When planning a meal, don’t limit yourself to a sit-down restaurant – you can also eat and drink your way around a neighborhood by stopping in at gastropubs.
New York’s Twitterati
Check out our favorite members of New York’s Twitterati, who are always tweeting about the city’s latest musts:
- Everything NYC (@EverythingNYC) Hunting down the best things to see, do and eat in the Big Apple.
- Pete Wells (@pete_wells) Restaurant critic of the New York Times.
- New Yorker (@NewYorker) Insightful commentary on politics and culture.
- Guest of a Guest (@guestofaguest) In-the-know info on NYC parties, social and fashion scenes.
- Gothamist (@gothamist) News and curiosities in NYC.
- Hyperallergic (@Hyperallergic) Tweets from NYC’s favorite art blogazine.
- Colson Whitehead (@colsonwhitehead) Manhattan native, novelist and New Yorker contributor.
- Paul Goldberger (@paulgoldberger) Pulitzer Prize–winning architecture critic.
- Tom Colicchio (@tomcolicchio) Celebrity chef and owner of the popular Craft franchise.
- Sam Sifton (@samsifton) Food editor at the New York Times.
Truth be told, watching a parade can be a pretty dull affair. It’s much more fun to take part. Along those lines, there are many ways you can join in the action. Don an outrageous costume for the Village Halloween Parade or the summertime Mermaid Parade in Coney Island. Sign up for an organized race in the city (New York Road Runners stages dozens of annual runs). Take a rock-climbing class at Brooklyn Boulders or Cliffs in Queens. Polish up those old poems and take the stage at open-mic night at Nuyorican Poets Café, or if there’s music in you, try the open-mic at Sidewalk Café. Meanwhile, Brooklyn Brainery offers evening and weekend courses in all sorts of topics. Whatever your passion – chess, hip-hop, drawing, architecture, beer-making – you’ll find it in NYC, and be surrounded by plenty of like minds.
Even dreary winter weather brings its delights – namely, ice skating! Beginning in November or December, the city’s skating rinks provide ample amusement (and a good prequel to fireside drinks in a toasty bar afterwards). Locals skip tourist-swarmed Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park and instead head to Central Park, Prospect Park or Riverbank State Park for skating.
The city’s blossoming parks are the place to be for spring picnics, sun-drenched strolls and lazy days lounging on the grass. Top spots for flower-gazing: the New York Botanical Garden and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The latter hosts a lovely Cherry Blossom Festival, much adored by Brooklynites.
Summer is the time for free open-air events: film screenings in Bryant Park, street festivals around town, and concerts in Central Park, Hudson River Park, Prospect Park and other green spaces around the city.
In fall the cultural calendar ramps up again as the city’s premier performing arts halls open their seasons (which run from September through May) and galleries kick off their new shows (Thursday night, incidentally, is when the art openings happen).