After four years of living, working, and studying in New York City, I’ve accumulated a small number of places that I frequent. In particular, this past year of my life has been dedicated to really immersing myself in a place the same way I immersed myself in Sydney. I’ll be staying in New York for a little while, and so this list will probably change throughout the next few years, but as of right now, here are my ten favorite, mostly free, definitely cheap, places to be in New York City. (In no particular order.)
1. The Brooklyn Bridge.
The Brooklyn Bridge has always been a very special place for me. I first went to the Bridge when a few of my freshman year floormates wanted to go and see the sunrise. It was a beautiful early autumn morning, the sky was clear, and though I never really understood what was so important or significant about the Bridge before I went, being there changed my mind. The small details of the love locks on the railings, the cars passing by underneath, and the beautiful arches of the towers, it is an architectural feat to behold, and a great place to get a beautiful view of New York City. I go as often as I can, used to go on evening jogs when I could, and this will probably remain one of my favorite places in New York City forever.
2. Washington Square Park.
Like every NYU student, Washington Square Park plays an interesting role in everyday life. Walking across the square to and from classes, passing through street performers and just plain interesting people, in some ways, we become a little desensitized to how great of an area the park really is. And since renovations are more or less finished, the park is now completely open, with places to sit in the grass and enjoy the beautiful days of summer. My first memories of NYU include blowing bubbles around the fountain during the first week of classes, playing in the fountain on a rainy day walking back from one of the dining halls, and just sitting in the Square, reading and writing and enjoying the sights. Now, as a graduate from NYU, I appreciate the park even more.
3. Hudson River Park.
The Hudson River Park always holds something new for me. Whether that’s free kayaking on the weekends in the summer or new areas of the park that extend further south than I anticipated, there is always something new about it that I never quite knew about until I stumbled upon it accidentally. I have had mini picnics with friends here, gone here to read and write with the breeze off the river cooling me down, gone for jogs here. It’s peaceful most days, with the occasional rally or fitness class taking up the piers. It’s a great place to just sit and relax.
4. The Uncommons.
My friends and I went to The Uncommons one evening and ended up staying for hours playing different games right up until closing time. The Uncommons is a board game cafe, where there are hundreds of games to rent and play with friends. There’s a $5 fee for unlimited, all-day game rental, and it is seriously one of the greatest places in the world. They have some cafe food to keep you fueled during your marathon Settlers of Cataan games, and the staff is extremely friendly and knowledgeable about all of the games that they have available, and can help you choose a good game to play. They also have frequent game demo nights for indie game producers, and events for players of Magic: The Gathering. It’s one of my favorite places to hang out with friends and have a great time.
5. Kopi Kopi
Kopi Kopi was a place my friends and I discovered one day when we were looking for a place to meet up and do homework. The cafe has seriously the best mocha I’ve ever had in my life, and their staff is super friendly and full of talented baristas. They also serve Indonesian entrees, all of which are delicious and fill you up so that you can power through whatever work you have to do. They also always play really great music.
6. Grand Central Station.
This semester, I took the train weekly into Grand Central Station for an internship I held, and I always loved exiting out of the subway and into the grand concourse. The beautiful ceiling was always a sight to behold, and it’s a beautiful architectural and artistic masterpiece of New York City. Underneath, there is also the Dining Concourse, where I had my fair share of lunches and dinners, including my first taste of Shake Shack ever. (Which is delicious, and totally worth the price of the meal.) It’s not quite a place to sit and relax and contemplate life, but it’s a beautiful place to stand for a little bit and soak in one of the more beautiful buildings in Manhattan.
7. Central Park.
I’ve only ever been to Central Park a few times, but every time I go, I’m always awed by its (man-made, but still very awesome) beauty. Seeing open green space, a wall of trees, and then the city in the background, it’s a different sort of magical that makes you believe, if only for a minute, that you’re in a different place, almost out of the city. It’s a perfect picnic spot, there are trees that seem to be made for climbing, and it’s refreshing just being able to walk around in some place that isn’t all concrete.
8. The Cloisters.
Ever since my freshman year, I’ve had it in my head that I had to visit the Cloisters. I didn’t know anything about it, except that it’s a really beautiful museum in a beautiful park, and that since it was part of the Met Museum, admission was donation-based. This past May, I finally got the chance to visit the Cloisters, and it is a truly beautiful place, and well worth the subway ride way up to the northwestern tip of Manhattan. Walking to there, through Fort Tryon Park, you get this beautiful view of the Hudson and the Palisades across the way, and the museum itself is filled with beautiful works of art, notably the Unicorn tapestries. My personal favorite is the Medieval Garden, where the plants are separated into categories like “Plants used in Medieval medicine” or “Plants used in Medieval ceremonies.” It’s a fascinating place that’s very easy to get to, and full of things to do.
9. Staten Island Ferry.
Again, I’ve only ever taken the Staten Island Ferry once, but it’s still an amazing thing to do, if only just so you can take the ferry to Staten Island and then immediately back. (I’ve never ventured into island, just gone immediately back to Manhattan on the return ferry.) Still, being on the water, you get an awesome breeze and beautiful views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. It’s free, and ferries run every half hour, pretty much all day.
10. The Manhattan Bridge.
And, to close out my list, I end with another bridge. I first walked the Manhattan Bridge on Christmas Day, when it wasn’t quite bitterly cold and I was looking to get out of my dorm for a few hours. This bridge has a unique archway at the Manhattan-side entrance, with little nooks where I can imagine myself settling into to write one warm afternoon in the summer. When you walk along the pedestrian walkway, you get a fantastic view of the entire Brooklyn Bridge, and as the sun sets, the sky turns these amazing colors, a perfect backdrop for the southern Manhattan skyline. It’s a unique bridge, and not quite as crowded as the Brooklyn Bridge can get, which is nice when you’re looking for a quiet stroll away from Manhattan.