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nod 'n' smile I'm a blogger living in NYC, traveling the world, and madly in love with both. Seeker of grand adventures and admirer of the little things. Endlessly curious and fascinated by all things beautiful, quirky, innovative, and unexpected.

5 Things You Must Do in NYC

USA | Monday, 5 September 2011 | Views [9233] | Comments [3]

I wasn’t unfamiliar with New York City before I moved here nearly 10 years ago. My family and I visited about once a year throughout my childhood, but I don’t think I ever really understood the hype. I thought NYC had some cool attractions, lots of lights and tall buildings.  I also thought it was crowded, dirty and smelled a lot, especially in the subways. But then in college I became interested in film as a hobby and decided to take a semester off to come to NYC to attend the NY Film Academy. And that was when I fell in love with this crazy place.

Don’t get me wrong- NYC is still crowded, dirty and it can definitely smell in the subways. And our buildings are really tall. But what really differentiates this city is our unique approach to day-to-day living. You always hear that NYC has a very specific energy, and it’s true. You can’t help but be taken by it even as you’re crying over the rude people and intense pace of life. In NYC, it’s important who you know and what you do. But more significantly, it’s how you do it. To understand the style and approach to life here is to really understand NYC.

Here are five things that you must do in New York if you really want to learn and experience what this city is all about:

ONE: Go somewhere that used to be something else. NYC is a place of transformation and reinvention. And space issues. So as the years go by and things fade away, fail, or go out of fashion, they are repurposed into something else. But the history and layers still remain and New Yorkers love to use them as bragging rights. Pre-war details in your apartment? You’re golden. Living in a loft that used to be a factory with a gritty past? You’re a super star.

- Shop at Limelight Marketplace, a church turned mega-club turned ultra-chic shopping mall. And apparently now the mall isn’t bringing in the sales it had hoped for, so it may soon be changing again.

- Eat at John’s Pizza (one of the very few restaurants in Times Square you should bother with) a church turned pizzeria.

- Visit the continually expanding High Line, an architectural masterpiece of a park built atop old railroad tracks.

The High Line

TWO: Beat out the competition by being first or waiting longest. New places, events, and opportunities crop up in NYC everyday. Contrary to popular belief, they’re not all expensive, and in fact, many things are free. Money is not the problem. The problem is knowing about it and getting to it first (or not giving up until you get it). New Yorkers deeply want for extraordinary things and experiences and have the passion and stamina to fight for it.

- Watch a free movie in Bryant Park in the middle of Manhattan. Get there four hours beforehand and stand around the perimeter of the park. When the officials say “the lawn is open,” sprint like a maniac, elbowing anyone who crosses your path, to your perfect spot and spread out your blanket to stake out prime real estate. Spend the next few hours shooting people dirty looks when their blankets dare overlap with yours.

- Wait for at least an hour to get a burger or custard at Shake Shack, a tiny.. shack (they’re so literal, aren’t they?) in the middle of Madison Square Park owned by über-restaurateur Danny Meyer.

- Go to the hipper than thou Brooklyn Bowl, and wait at least 2-3 hours for a lane. In the meantime, feel free to grab some of the amazing food catered by the famous Blue Ribbon restaurant group- oh wait, no, you’ll have to wait 3 hours for that as well.

THREE: Geek out. NYC is where everyone who didn’t fit in growing up come to be accepted (or flaunt their non-conformity). We are a city of freaks and geeks, and in NYC, it’s very cool to be a geek.  New Yorkers value talent, passion and intellect. Geeks no longer need to hide in their basements playing Dungeons and Dragons. There are plenty of opportunities for them geek out in the real world, among the masses, blurring the lines between learning and socializing.

- Grab a beer and listen to quirky lectures by quirky people at Nerd Nite.Topics have run the gamut from the history of the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride at Disney to enigma machines to fun facts about the census.

- Grab a beer and play trivia against NYC’s brainiacs. Go to Crocodile Lounge on their Wednesday trivia night and get a free pizza for every beer that you buy. Bonus: skeeball in the backroom.

- Participate in a Watson Adventure (a walking tour meets scavenger hunt) to learn more about the history of NYC, or participate in a serious scavenger hunt and spend 12 hours wandering through NYC in the dead of night solving cryptograms. And then grab a beer to celebrate.

A scavenger hunt puzzle that needed solving at 2am

FOUR: Let your inner man- (or woman) child run free. It’s a well-known fact that New Yorkers are in no rush to grow up. Commitment? Noo. Reliving your childhood? Hell yeah! New Yorkers recognize that just because you get older doesn’t mean that you aren’t still interested in games and silly things, and have no qualms about indulging their inner child.

- Join in a sing-along at a local bar like the Bellhouse in Brooklyn. No children here; just a bunch of adults swigging beers, throwing confetti, dancing around in costumes, and bellowing along to The Little Mermaid or Moulin Rouge while clutching at their hearts with great emotion.

- Challenge others to a Pillow Fight, Light Saber Battle, or Arm Wrestling Competition.

Flying a kite on Governor’s Island

FIVE: Immerse yourself in a theatrical performance. New Yorkers aren’t content to standby and observe.. they do. And so while the city does offer a bevy of “traditional” Broadway, off-Broadway, and nowhere-near-Broadway shows to satiate any theatergoer, if the very thought of sitting in a theater for 3 hours makes you drowsy, try one of these more interactive experiences:

- Wander through the city as an Accomplice in a story. Along the way you’ll meet different characters who will provide you with clues and challenges to help you solve the mystery.

- Get some exercise as you watch a Shakespearean play by the New York Classical Theatre. The performances take place in parks and move to a different location every few minutes. Why would you pay to run after a play, you ask? You don’t- they’re free!

- Don a Venetian mask and wander through a hotel in Sleep No More, a Shakespearean production that plays out in various rooms simultaneously. It’s your responsibility to explore and piece it all together throughout the evening.

- Experience a dance performance blindfolded as part of Unseen Dances, a performance that plays to all of your other senses. Don’t be surprised if you’re moved from your original location and completely turned around by the end.

The ‘Blog your Backyard’ Project

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Tags: #blogyourbackyard, nyc, photos, resources, world nomads



Can't believe U didn't mention,,Chess in Washington Sq

  Don Sep 6, 2011 11:05 AM


That's a good one! I haven't participated myself (I'm not so great at chess) but have walked by and observed a bit. I also recently finished reading a Bobby Fischer bio, which discusses the intense games at those tables.

  nod 'n' smile Sep 6, 2011 11:27 AM


Hi nodnsmile,

Congratulations! This ‘Blog your Backyard’ submission has been chosen as one of the 20 winners of an Urban Adventures voucher. Please email Alicia@worldnomads.com to find out how to redeem your experience.

Thanks for being part of our ‘Blog your Backyard’ project and sharing your local knowledge with our community!


  travel-competitions Sep 14, 2011 9:47 AM

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