15 Awesome New York City hacks for newbies

James A. Farley Post Office:

There's the James A. Farley Post Office. At first I didn't recognize it as a landmark, but when I looked up and saw the words: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" I recognized it immediately (In Miracle on 34th St. it was where Operation Santa was centred.)

Of course I'd heard of the building but I didn't imagine it would look quite so magnificent. The humble post office is majestic and a rather mundane job is adorned with a noble mission.

So read up on the architecture (if it moves you, and it will) and walk to some buildings. You don't even have to go up them (30 Rock, The Empire State Building, etc. etc.) to get a thrill. You can if that's your thing, but you don't have to. You can walk right in to many and have a look around for free.

More Landmark buildings/museums:

You really should step inside the New York Public Library. The facade is famous but it is breath-taking inside. If you're taking the subway (and you will) stop at Grand Central (42nd St.) at some point and go up to spend some time in the main foyer. Again, it's been beautifully restored (thank you Jackie O.) and you'll be sorry you missed it if you don't walk through.

Even if you're not a museum person, go to at least one in New York City. At the very least, walk outside a few. The Guggenheim or the Metropolitan Museum of Art NYC are good places to just soak in a vibe, if nothing else. But there are so many famous, significant and distinguished works of art held in the variety of venues, one of them must have the capacity to move you. My favourite is the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) where you can see "Starry Night", if you want.

Take the subway: 

Subwaying is the fastest way to get from one end of the city to the next. It can be a bit of an adventure, especially in the summer when the city gets stinkin' hot. The subways are like a steam bath come July and August and you can imagine the smell can be pungent. Relax, it's bearable and the cars themselves are air-conditioned.

Go Downtown:

Once you're south of Houston you can explore all the famous neighbourhoods you've always heard of: Little Italy, Soho, Nolita, Greenwich Village, Chinatown, the East Village, the university grounds, Washington Square Park, the financial district, Canal Street, etc. If you're taking a bus tour, you must get off and go on foot, here. You can stroll, shop and eat to your delight and particular price point.  You won't get a good feel for the neighbourhoods if you don't take the time to walk them. 

Food, food, food:

Oh the food! If you're a foodie there are tons of restaurants and chefs to enjoy. My fav. is Mario Batali's Babbo: imaginative, beautiful Italian cuisine to the sounds of The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and their ilk (at least that's how it was the night I was there). But it doesn't have to get too expensive.

You can find gems on your own, just walking around. La Esquina Corner Deli at 114 Kenmare St., is now pretty well known. Best home-made tacos, grilled corn and watermelon juice for a pittance. You can stand outside but there's some limited seating on the inside as well. It also has a mystery door entrance in the basement to a more comfortable lounge-type venue, which apparently caters to the oh-so-hip.

Bar Pitti is well-known to New Yorkers and once found, it made it to my perennial go-to NY eateries list. It's great authentic Italian with terrific prices and the best-people watching. Be sure to get the fried zucchini flowers if they're in season. When you get there, there will be a line-up and the owner will just ignore you. Don't worry, he's seen you. Don't dare ask him to leave your name at the door. He's got it covered. He'll seat you when there's an opening. In the meantime, get a drink from the bar and hang on the street until they're good and ready.

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