ESL’s New York Tips - Don't miss out on what the city has to offer!
Time Out New York and New York Magazine
Pick up a copy of either of these magazines and find out what’s going on in town. You can find them on any news stand.
Enjoy Times Square (but don’t eat there)
Times Square is a bewildering blur of neon, tourists and theatres. Of course you have to see it when you are in New York, but you’ve got to appreciate it for what it is... and it is a huge tourist attraction. Keep your wits about you to avoid the tourist scams and you can really enjoy this truly iconic New York landmark.
Former mayor Rudolph Giuliani made a big fuss of cleaning up the area and the seedy revue bars that once lined the backstreets are now gone. Instead, the big chain restaurants have moved in. If you want something tasty to eat, head two blocks west and explore Hell's Kitchen. The neighbourhood isn’t edgy like it once was and the gentrification process has brought with it a deluge of great cafes and restaurants. On Ninth Avenue you can enjoy everything from Vietnamese or Thai to Puerto Rican to Greek or Italian. Well worth the short walk.
Get discounted tickets for a show
If you don’t mind mixing with the thronging tourists, catching a show can be a memorable New York experience. Broadway is obviously the most famous place to catch a production but the tickets can be expensive. To get a bargain, find a TKTS booth (there is one on 47th Street and Broadway and a couple of others elsewhere in the city) where you can buy tickets for performances on the same day, often at half price. Tickets go on sale at 3pm for evening performances. Find out more here : www.tdf.org.
If you don’t fancy paying $275 for orchestra-level seats at the Metropolitan Opera, you can pick up tickets for $20 if you turn up at the Lincoln Center two hours before curtain, when 200 orchestra-level seats are made available at the box office (Mon-Thurs and not including galas/opening nights). Or you can watch the New York Philharmonic rehearse one morning each week at 9:45am in Avery Fisher Hall, for less than twenty bucks. See their website (nyphil.org/concerts-tickets/) for more info and dates.
Both the opera and the philharmonic give free concerts in Central Park in the summer months, so keep your eyes open for dates or ask at our New York language schools for more details.
The spectacle of an impassioned preacher, congregation and choir blasting out gospel music during a Sunday service is a moving experience, whatever your religious beliefs. The New Mount Zion Baptist Church, Mount Neboh Baptist Church and Greater Refuge Temple all welcome guests during sermons, as do many other churches.
Explore outside Manhattan
There’s enough to see and do in Manhattan to keep you busy for a lifetime (or more) but don’t forget to explore elsewhere in the city. Brooklyn has long been the home of New York’s minorities; as you move from block to block, the alphabets on the shop signs change, the rhythms shift beats and the smells that waft from the kitchens go from spicy to herbal to unidentifiable... if you close your eyes this could be Sicily, Haiti or Jerusalem. But it’s definitely New York.
Take a tour in Coney Island and Brighton Beach, the Russian and Ukrainian neighbourhoods. Have a dip in the ocean. Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights and Williamsburg are diverse and particularly good for vintage shops and flea markets.
Discover an abandoned subway station
City Hall subway station was built in 1905 to be one of New York’s most beautiful stations. It was closed in 1945 when trains became too long and the curved shape of the platform too impractical, but you can still visit the station if you know how. Simply stay on the Lexington Avenue 6 train as it goes past its final stop at Brooklyn Bridge and it will continue to City Hall, where it turns around. The old station is spooky and beautiful.
To watch, read, listen
There are so many New York movies to choose from, but here are some of the finest...
Saturday Night Fever (1977) Director: John Badham Manhattan (1979) Director: Woody Allen Once Upon a Time in America (1984) Director: Sergio Leone 25th Hour (2002) Director: Spike Lee
New York cinemas
Film Forum (filmforum.org) located at 209 West Houston Street is New York’s number one cinema for independent movies and attracts the city’s arty crowd. A popular alternative is the Angelika (angelikafilmcenter.com) in SoHo, which also has a branch in the East Village. If you prefer big names, the AMC Empire 25 on Times Square is the place to go. 25 screens on 11 floors make this behemoth one of the largest cinema complexes in the world.
Read The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
Listen Is This It by The Strokes Wu-Tang Forever by Wu-Tang Clan This Is Happening by LCD Soundsystem Transformer by Lou Reed El Sonido Nuevo by Eddie Palmieri & Cal Tjader Saxophone Colossus by Sonny Rollins
New York music venues
A warning: New York’s music venues come and go... even Madison Square Garden has moved location a number of times! A copy of Time Out will help you keep track of what is hot or not.
The Bowery Ballroom (6 Delancey Street, boweryballroom.com) hosts up-and-coming national acts and is one of the city’s most popular venues. Sister venues the Music Hall of Williamsburg (in Brooklyn), Mercury Lounge, Terminal 5 and Webster Hall are also highly rated by New Yorkers. For big names, Madison Square Garden is a good place to start (4 Penn Plaza, thegarden.com) as is Radio City Music Hall (1260 6th Avenue, radiocity.com). Nublu (62 Avenue C )and Pianos (158 Ludlow) in the East Village have diverse schedules and attract a mixed crowd, while the Jazz Standard (116 East 27th Street, jazzstandard.net) is the perfect place to enjoy concerts of legendary jazzmen or young cats. SOB’s (204 Varick St NY 10014) is consistently one of the best venues in the city for Latin music. Check out sobs.com.
Some of the city’s hippest venues can be found in Brooklyn, including the Brooklyn Bowl (61 Wythe Avenue, brooklynbowl.com), the Glassland Gallery (289 Kent Avenue, theglasslands.com) and the Bell House (149 7th Street, thebellhouseny.com).