I posted this last December, and I've decided to make this an annual post. I've amended my recommendations a bit, because some of the places have closed, while other awesome places have opened. However, it mostly still holds true -- which makes me happy. NYC is consistently stellar.
There are few things I love more than watching people fall in love with the City that has stolen my heart. I know it can be a bit of a strange place and sometimes the locals don't exactly throw out the welcome mat, so please allow me to give you an absentee guided tour, along with a few tips and bits of info that might make your trip more enjoyable.
Note: NYC is made up of 5 smaller cities (aka "boroughs"). They are: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island. Manhattan is the part of NYC that most people think of and refer to as "the City." Since I never seem to make it to the outer boroughs, I'll only be dealing with things in the City. I've attached a map of Manhattan below.
* Avenues run north to south
* Streets run east to west
* 20 street blocks = 1 mile
* 5 avenue blocks = 1 mile
* BUT! None of those things apply below 14th St ("below the grid") where everything gets crazy!
* When people say cross streets, the order is Street then Avenue (i.e. "10th & 3rd" - 10th is the St / 3rd is the Ave)
* If you drive, no right turns on red
* In NYC, Houston is pronounced "HOW-stun" not "HEW-stun"
* Don't fall asleep on the subway, no matter how tired you are
* Take cabs after midnight
* Subway lines are referred to by number or letter, not color
* People say "uptown and downtown," instead of "north and south"
* Uptown is roughly anything above 59th Street
* Downtown is roughly anything below 34th Street
* Midtown is everything in between
* The east side / west side division occurs at 5th Ave
PLACES I RECOMMEND:
Note: most of these places are in the Village (btw. 14th St & Houston)
* Spring Street Natural (food, brunch) - 62 Spring St @ Lafayette St
* 7A (great, cheap brunch) - Avenue A at E 7th St.
* SaraBeth ($$$ brunch) - Fave is @ the Whitney / 1295 Madison Ave @ 93rd St.
* Corner Shop (great food) - 643 Broadway @ Bleecker St
* Think Coffee (where to hang out) - 248 Mercer St @ W 3rd St
* Grey Dog (great coffee & food) - 90 University (@ 12th St)
* Sushi Samba (my fave sushi) - 245 Park Ave S. (btw. 19th & 20th Sts.)
* MudTruck (coffee) - big orange truck / usually parks at Astor Place (E 8th St @ 4th Ave)
* Doma (coffee, food) - 17 Perry St @ 7th Ave
* Highline ($$ Thai) - 835 Washington St @ Little W. 12th St.
* Union Square (people watching) - 14th-17th Sts, Park Ave to University
* SoHo (street shopping) - Broadway, btw. Houston & Broome Sts
* H&M (shopping) - Fave is @ 51st St & 5th Ave
* Cafetasia (Thai, Pan-Asian) - 35 E. 8th St (btw. Greene & Broadway)
* Spice (Thai) - 60 University Pl @ E. 10th St
* Tasti D Lite (frozen yogurt) - they are everywhere!
* Chocolate by the Bald Man (dessert) - 841 Broadway @ 13th St.
* Redeemer (church) - meets 5 times Sunday in different locations / check site for details
HOW TO BE A LOVEABLE TOURIST:
* Walk fast.
* Walk faster.
* When stopping to check a map or convene for a discussion, move against a wall. In NYC, the sidewalks are the main routes of transportation. If you stop spontaneously or walk slowly, it's akin to slamming on your brakes or doing 35 mph on the Interstate.
* Don't refer to it as "The Big Apple"
* Many of the best things about NYC aren't in a travel guide. Ask the locals what they recommend.
* If at all possible, avoid eating in Midtown (near Times Square). Prices are ridiculous. Actually, just avoid Midtown altogether once you've done the obligatory trip to Times Square and Rockefeller Center.
* Don't wear your "I heart NY" shirt, as it will mark you as a target.
* No fanny packs (this is a LIFE RULE).
* Bodega ("bo-DAY-guh"): quick-stop corner shop (like a gas station, but without the gas)
* Do NOT use street ATMs or the ones in bodegas. That's a quick way to get your identity stolen.
I might add more to this later if I think of other things. If you're coming to town, drop me a comment, because it would be fun to meet up with you for coffee if I'm in town. Hope this has been helpful!