Guten Tag, y'all!
I first connected with Jen through her awesome blog, Imported Chocolate, which is all about inspiring black women to get out and see the world. I love Jen's attitude toward travelling: it's all about being fearless and open, and connecting with other cultures. Plus, the girl's got great taste. Whenever I've checked out a movie or music recommendation of hers, I've been very pleased. So I knew right away that I wanted her to do a guide to New York City, and as usual, she did not disappoint! Jen's New York is approachable, international, and unique--just like her. Check it out.
New York, in one word:
Your best friend's coming to visit. What does a perfect day with her/him look like?
Since most of my friends love to travel, I would say I’d take them on one of my favorite things to do in New York: a Staycation. If we’re in the mood for a little French savoir faire then we would do a French Staycation. We’d hit the art gallery at Alliance Francaise, then head to 5th Avenue for some luxury, savory, too pretty to eat macaroons at Laduree and then finish the day off with a movie at The Paris Theater and a French restaurant crawl. If we’re more in a Japanese staycation mood, we would hop on over to Sunrise Mart and stock up on Japanese goods and treats before hitting a manga and anime store.
I’m a big kid at heart and most of my best friends are too. We love doing unpredictable things. So a visit with me would be the most untypical New York experience ever. Also, since I live near the theater district, I would try to find a good Broadway show to take them to.
One place you have to eat at, and one dish you have to try?
The Goat Cheese Agnolotti at Spring Street Natural restaurant in Soho. Your eyes will roll back in your head. I’m not kidding. And if you come to New York with your girls, you HAVE to do happy hour at Pranna! It’s such a great place!
New York is one of the fashion capitals of the world. Carrie Bradshaw wannabes the world over (including me!) dream of stocking our closet there. So--where are the best places to shop? No pressure. :)
Unless we know exactly what store we want to go to, most New Yorkers window shop and boutique crawl. When we see some shoes or a bag that catches our eyes we go in. Some popular discount stores with designer clothes here are: TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Century 21. For outlets, most New Yorkers go to New Jersey. Woodbury Common in New Jersey is a popular outlet among New Yorkers.
Let’s not forget Macy’s, Bloomingdales, H&M and JC Penny.
But since I like one of a kind style and I want to make sure I don’t look like anyone else when it comes to my personal style, I like to shop at Beacon’s Closet. It is New York’s best kept secret. The most stylish people shop here. The clothes are a range of vintage to brand new European designer clothes at very cheap prices. I once bought a brand new Dolce shirt from here straight from Italy. My favorite find of all was the brand new $300 designer bag I scored for only $15! The biggest Beacon's Closet is in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but they just opened up a new location in Manhattan not too long ago. It’s on 13th street.
A vintage store crawl in Park Slope, Brooklyn is also a must!
One thing you can find in NYC that you can't find anywhere else?
A hot cheesy slice of Famous Original Ray’s Pizza on Houston street in the Lower East Side. It’s “real” New York pizza parlor pizza! And I know you said one thing but I just have to add another…a fresh cup of Serendipity 3’s Frozen Hot Chocolate!
You’re a lover of foreign films. Where’s the best place to watch and/or buy great movies from abroad?
Sadly most of the stores to buy foreign DVDs in NYC are dead or dying. The only places we have left (unless you find some obscure cute little store in the Village) are Best Buy, Barnes & Noble and the remaining Blockbuster stores. So I usually seek out my exclusive foreign films on Amazon or Netflix. :0(
I am happy to say you can still watch foreign films in the theater though! I like the Angelika on Houston street, I love the Sunshine Cinema, which is also on Houston street. The IFC Theater on West 3rd Street is also great!
I'm bringing my kid(s). What's something we can do together/that they'll love?
Easy peazy! The Central Park Zoo or Bronx Zoo; depending on what time of year you come, the amusement park, Luna Park in Coney Island; Museum of Natural History; Central Park, especially around the castle and carousel area and Fort Tryon Park, including the Cloisters. There is sooo much more to do but that’s what immediately comes to mind.
If you don't do anything else while you're here, do this:
Visit Central Park!!! And have a slice of pizza for god’s sake, preferably at the same time! Lol! Oh, and ride the subway!!!
Best place to party?
Yikes! This is a hard question for an introvert to answer. I don’t party in New York at all (I save that behavior for overseas. Lol!) So I’m not too familiar with the party hot spots here, but I’ve heard some good ones are Webster Hall and Pacha.
Best place to chill?
I would say a nice lounge. You can’t really go wrong with any of those here.
Best place to people watch?
Any park or outdoor café. Central Park, Thompson Square Park and the park in Union Square are pretty good places to start.
I want to go see a play, but I don’t have Broadway money. Where else can I see live theater?
The best thing to do for this is to grab a Time Out New York and look in the Off Broadway section for a good play to check out. The arts section of The Village Voice is also a good source.
Best time of year to come?
Fall, spring and summer, though fall is the perfect time in my opinion. Fall foliage in Central park is absolutely beautiful! Mid September has a nice warm breeze.
New York is famous for the incredible diversity of its people and the cultures that they bring with them. When you want to experience a culture different from your own without leaving the city, where do you go?
I hit up the “littles”: little Italy, little Korea and little China etc. I like to do this for my staycations too!
On a related note--what, in your opinion, is the coolest neighborhood in NYC?
Hmmm this is a hard one, because I go wherever my interests take me. But I will say the neighborhoods that are the most interesting to me are: Harlem, before the gentrification; Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. You can find some of the most beautiful brownstones in Bedstuy and the neighborhood has a lot of black history; Lower East Side/East Village and if you really want to go to a part of New York like no other, visit the place I was raised—Roosevelt Island, the little Island between Manhattan and queens.
Hotel/B and B/etc. to stay in?
Hmmm. This is another difficult question. Since I am a born and raised New Yorker, I’ve never had a need for a hotel so I can’t recommend any I stayed at. We have the usual: Marriot, Hilton. There is a cool futuristic one called Yotel on 41st street and 10th ave. It’s very European inspired and like walking into a space ship. Hotels here are really expensive so I recommend using Airbnb for a more affordable stay in New York.
I'm moving to New York. What's the best piece of advice you can give me?
You have to have some thick skin to live here. It can be tough, but as long as you stick to your passions and make friends with good people and the type of people who interest you, you will be just fine.
Do not walk slow on a cramped crowded street. Even the nicest New Yorker hates that! Lol! Don’t take any rudeness you encounter personally.
Seek out all the discount stores because most of your money will go to rent.
As long as you use your street smarts you will survive!
Million dollar question: where do I get my hair done?
Hmmm. In the past, when I was relaxed, I’ve always gotten recommendations from friends. Now that I’m natural, I do my hair myself. I am still on the hunt for the perfect, affordable, natural hair stylist in New York. If someone knows of one please let me know!
A perfect day?
A 75 degree day and a nice walk through the city, with stops for treats at a bakery or cafe in between.
Best way to get around (bike? car? bus?) Also-- any tips for navigating the subway?
In the city the subway is the number one choice. Driving is too crazy and it’s hard to find parking. Bike riding is much more pleasant because of the bike lanes. Oh! And Citi bank has these new bike stands all over the city where you can rent a bike for hours. You can find the stands almost everywhere! It’s great for out of towners. The buses are pretty easy to figure out, especially if you come from another big city.
For subway tips, even I go to mta.info and hopstop.com to figure out where I’m going. It’s the best way to navigate the subway system. Pop in your address in the “from” section and your destination in the “to” section under directions and your good to go. Those sites work the same way as the directions section of Google Maps.
If someone asked me what I love most about my city, I'd say...
That I can find anything I can possibly think of in my city. If I have a craving for something, no matter how obscure it is, I can find it in New York with a quick Google search. This is why I believe with all my heart that New York is truly the #1 city in the world.