By Stephanie Ila Silver-Silberstein
“Aaaahhh!” screams your long distance friend from college into the phone. “I’m coming to New York!! I can’t wait for you to show me all the fabulous things you do living in that fabulous city!!” It is an exclamation you are all too familiar with as you muster up the energy and enthusiasm required to plan the perfect visit for your friend.
When you moved here, you always imagined this process would be easy and fun because you’d have been constantly taking full advantage of all this city has to offer each and every day, right? But let’s face it, you hardly even notice the Empire State Building anymore, you avoid the mid-town crowds like the plague so it’s been years since you’ve seen a Broadway show, you can’t afford dinner at Nobu every night, and your only recollection of the Statue of Liberty is from the movie “Splash”. Hopefully, your friend won’t want to do that touristy stuff anyway, and you can show her the New York City of which you actually do take some advantage! Here’s a list of some of the best things to do in New York City when you have a visitor. But shhhh, your friends don’t have to know you don’t do these things ALL the time ;-)
1) Do Brunch–the phrase “Let’s do lunch” has curiously changed to “Let’s do Brunch.” Many places in every neighborhood offer prix fixe champagne brunch menus, outdoor seating, which is great in the early autumn, and proximity to all things cultural. Try Annie’s on the Upper East Side (212-327-4853), Sarabeth’s in the Whitney Museum (212-570-3670) or Jane in trendy Soho (212-254-7000). www.menupages.com is a great site to help you figure out the best places to go in every part of town.
2) Go Shopping-Depending on where you start your day, the best of city shopping is around the corner. After Annie’s, you’ll feel compelled to enter the cute boutiques that line 3rd Avenue in the 70′s. Following a walk-through the Whitney, stroll along Madison Avenue for some couture window-shopping. Work off brunch at Jane by combing the streets of SoHo. Start a trend by wearing a new design from a street vendor or browse though hip boutiques for the latest looks. Even stop inside the Apple Store-you never know, a Coen brother might be giving a lecture in their upstairs theatre! And no one will know that bag is a knock-off in your friend’s hometown!
And remember – there is life outside of Manhattan – rent a car or take Metro North to upstate NY and go antique shopping. Explore the hip neighborhoods of Brooklyn (Williamsburg, DUMBO, Park Slope or Cobble Hill) and spot the next new trend!
3) Get physical-If your buddy is a gym rat, it’s fairly easy to score passes to a gym, but why do that when September is the perfect time to get in touch with nature? It was too hot and humid to walk around Central Park this summer (and besides, you were in the Hamptons anyway), but now the weather is perfect for a 6-mile power walk around the park’s circumference. Performances of Shakespeare in the park run through September 11th. For details on having a gorgeous evening of free theatre, go to www.publictheater.org. You can always get a fun pass for unlimited use of the subways and busses but walking is the best way to see most of this city. Other places for a stroll include The East River by Gracie Mansion or even a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge! Or, spend the day at Chelsea Piers, www.chelseapiers.com. There you can hit a golf ball, get a facial, climb a wall, bowl or roller-skate, all under one roof!
4) Be artistic – Take a class, see a show – Visit www.92ndstreety.org for individual classes in anything from African Dance to Cooking, or see if there’s a lecture that suits your interests. Everyone from Nathan Lane to Martha Stewart has given seminars there. Make a trip to www.ournameismud.com and paint your own NYC ceramic souvenir. And if you were smart enough to hold onto that college ID, use it to get rush tickets for renowned theatres like www.lincolncenter.org, www.roundabouttheatre.org, or www.mtc-nyc.org. Call up individual box offices for more last minute ticket offers or visit the TKTS booth in Time Square (the summer crowds should have dispersed by September).
5) Splurge! – We all know the best places to go for dinner (Nobu, Le Cirque, Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Café, Pastis, etc.) but if you can’t get a reservation in time for your friend’s visit, save both of you a few bucks but don’t skimp on calories by going to the famous John’s Pizza on Bleecker Street, www.johnspizzarianyc.com 212-243-1680. Round the corner, make like Carrie Bradshaw and have a cupcake at Magnolia Bakery (www.citysearch.com) (212) 462-2572. And if you’re uptown, feel like a kid again by stopping at Ralph Lauren’s daughter’s place, www.dylanscandybar.com and follow up with “dessert” at www.serendipity3.com for some frozen hot chocolate.
6) Pamper yourself – www.mariobadescu.com offers the best facials for only $65. Enjoy a cocktail in the W hotel’s lounge and then get the ultimate spa experience at www.blissspa.com. For a great escape (and to get a mani-pedi in a private room for you and your friend) visit www.rescuebeauty.com – which also gives you the chance to explore the meat-packing district of the city. As for make-up, forget Sephora! Henri Bendel www.HenriBendel.com (212-841-9400) is the place to be. From Trish McEvoy to Giella, you and your friend can get makeovers and a whole new look with tips from the best make-up experts in the world.
7) Party! – Whatever your idea of entertainment is, good nightlife is not hard to find. Time Out NY, www.timeoutny.com, is the most comprehensive guide to NYC life and will inform you of the best club/bar entertainment, movies, live music, and theatre performances that week. See music at the www.BaggotInn.com, www.cbgb.com, www.KnittingFactory.com or www.CrashMansion.com. See the latest art house flick at the www.angelikafilmcenter.com. Dance with the bachelorettes at www.cultureclub.com. Have a drink at the Marriot Marquis for a great view of Time Square or find a friend with a rooftop deck for some amazing views of the skyline. Union Square/Park Avenue South (i.e. Beauty Bar on East 14th) is a great area to go out in as well as the Lower East Side/Chinatown (www.happyendinglounge.com). www.CitySearch.com is a great website to go to when locating the perfect place for the night’s festivities.
September is perhaps the nicest time to visit New York City. You’ve avoided the heat and humidity of the summer and the crowds of the winter holidays. You get to see the leaves change color and sport fantastic fashions without bundling up with a winter coat. With one quick ride on the subway (www.mta.nyc.ny.us/mnr/ or www.hopstop.com – a very useful site), you can find yourself in a whole new world. Even those of us who live here discover something new about this city every day, but it’s always nice to have a friend visit and have an excuse to visit some old favorites.