I’ve been living in New York City for years. I’ve lived in the boroughs and beyond – first Long Island, then Queens, Brooklyn and for the past 5 years, Manhattan. New York is a truly great place to visit or live. Especially during the summer, but honestly, it’s a great city all year round.
- One of the best things about New York City is its Accessibility. As much as NYers complain, the public transportation system is really quite impressive – an extensive, reliable, 24 hour system that rewards you for taking long trips. It costs $2.50 to swipe your Metrocard no matter if you ride the train for one stop or from one end of the line to the other. So it just makes sense to take long trips. The buses (usually) travel on a schedule. At the bus stop, there is usually a little box on the pole that tells you which buses stop there and what time the next bus is scheduled to get to that particular stop – different schedule on weekdays and weekends. Also, you get a free Bus-Bus, Bus-Subway or Subway-Bus transfer within 2 hours. And of course, commuting is not limited to public transportation. Thanks to former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, NYC is a true biker’s city. There are bike paths everywhere, even along the bridges that connect the boroughs. Feeling energetic and adventurous and want to ride from the Bronx to Brooklyn? No problem. And of course, super-wide sidewalks on the city streets and walking paths along the rivers and picturesque views in the park that promote running and walking. Walk, Ride, Mass-Transit keeps every inch of NYC accessible.
- Free entertainment. Kids breakdancing in the subway. Singers and musicians in the train stations. Free summer concerts in Central Park courtesy of Good Morning America. Free concerts in parks all across the city courtesy of Summer-stage. Free summer movie screenings in different parks at sunset, sometimes with free popcorn, ice-cream or candy. Movies and TV shows are always being filmed on city streets so you can see you favorite actors while they do their job. Places to do catch and release fishing solo or with a group. And you can always score tickets to visit the taping of your favorite shows and be part of the studio audience and sometimes get free stuff. There are great museums but there is also so much free art around to gawk at that you can get just as cultured on the street.
- 24 hour convenience. The subways run everyday, all day. Most of the buses run all day, everyday. And because there is always transportation, there is always something to go and do. New York City is truly the city that doesn’t sleep. If you have a craving for a burger with all the fixings at 2:35 in the morning, there is someplace you can go and order that burger and eat it surrounded by other people doing the same thing. The famous Times Square is at 42nd Street in Manhattan. The lights are so bright there that nighttime and daytime truly look the same and it’s almost as busy anytime of the day you go there.
- Weather. Winters are cold and summers are hot and spring and fall are a strange hybrid of both extremes – hot some days and cold the others. There aren’t that many days of mild weather. But it makes you appreciate the changing of the seasons. And for people who struggle to find conversation starters, the weather is truly such an experience that you can always talk about it.
- Places to exercise. Whether you Run, Walk, Swim, Bike, Triathlon. Duathlon, Sprint, Marathon, Tennis, Racquetball, Golf, Polo, Soccer, Baseball, Football, Basketball, Volleyball, Lacrosse, Yoga, Zumba, Climb Trees, whatever your sport or interest, there is a place you can go to do it for free or almost free. Some of the websites like Time Out New York and Club Free Time list free activities on a weekly basis so you don’t even have to search too hard to find a group that’s hosting your next activity. And you might meet some new friends just by doing something you already love to do.
- Cultural Diversity. The city truly is a melting pot of cultures. And although most immigrants assimilate with the existing culture in some way, most retain some vestige of their culture and practice, going so far as to live in groups and form their own miniature version of their homeland. Take Chinatown, Little Italy, the Caribbean groups in the Bronx or in Brooklyn’s Flatbush area, the Guyanese and Trinidadian groups in Richmond Hill in Queens. The various African groups in Harlem, the Dominican groups in Washington Heights and the Puerto Ricans who have their own barrio in East Harlem. Visit these areas and the sights, sounds and smells are as strong as if you’d just landed in their native countries. Worldwide travel for the small low price of a Metrocard swipe on the subway or bus.
- And of course because there are people from every culture in the world, there is FOOD from all over the world. Pizza, Thai noodles, Vietnamese dishes, gourmet Halal meals from the vendor at the corner on the street, Chinese, Moroccan tahjine stews, Japanese sushi, Greek dolmas, Ethiopian cuisine, Jamaican jerk chicken, Trinidadian roti. If it’s good food, there’s a place in New York City that you can buy it.
- Speaking of buying things. Shopping. I could write a whole book about New York shopping but I’ll just mention that Macys at 34th Street and Herald Square is the largest single store in the world. Over 10 floors of pure shopping in a single store that covers an entire city block. There are two full restaurants and several snack bars and Starbucks lounge areas so you can refresh yourself mid-trip and get the energy to keep going until you’ve spent all your money. Start in the Cellar and work your way to the top.
There’s live music on some floors, seasonal decorations, even a Santa’s workshop after Thanksgiving. There is no place like Macys.
And of course, there is also Madison and 5th Avenue shopping for the upscale and expensive, (think Bloomingdales, Cartier, Tiffany’s), Chinatown street vendor shopping for souvenir bargains and a myriad of stores that cover all points in between. Whatever your budget, whatever you want to purchase on your trip, there is a place in the city that sells it.
- Running. New York is such a running-friendly place, that Running has to get it’s own category.
First, NYC hosts the annual NYC Marathon which is probably the second most famous marathon, next only to Boston. Whereas Boston features only elite or semi-elite runners who have to qualify before they can enter, NYC Marathon is open to every runner. There are thousands of applicants, every year more than the last, and it is harder to get a spot by the lottery than it is to win the cash lottery, but there are so many other ways to run – like signing up with one of the charities and running for a cause. That’s what I’m doing this year. But weekly races and marathon aside, there are so many great spots to just put on your running shoes and go for a run.
New York City is a great city. They estimate that every year, about 55 million tourists arrive here, some repeat guests, many on their first trip to the city, armed with their cameras, guidebooks and maps, ready for an adventure. And many who visit, leave with a thousand pictures, an unforgettable memory and a plan to return. New York, New York. The place so nice, they named it twice. There’s no place like it!