Coming to New York City for a vacation? Here are some spots you may want to consider adding to your itinerary. This list is a work-in-progress, so check back again before your departure!
5th Avenue. This is the New York City you know from the movies--the glamorous high-rises and luxury department stores that make this street one of the most expensive in the world. It's the traditional route for most major parades in the city and the store window displays at Christmastime are nothing short of magical.
Battery Park City. Once you make it past all the suits and ties and onto the long waterfront walking path, it's easy to forget you're in Manhattan. Bike, run or plop on a bench and watch the boats sail by. If you're looking to snag a banker boyfriend (or girlfriend), take a seat during happy hour at one of the riverside restaurants.
Brooklyn Bridge (and Brooklyn Bridge Park). A must-do for tourists and locals alike. Start your walk on the Manhattan side by City Hall, then grab a slice of pizza at Grimaldi's once you make it to Brooklyn. Walk off your pie in the newly opened Brooklyn Bridge Park, which offers a truly glorious Manhattan view.
Greenwich Village/ West Village. "The Village" has been the subject of numerous songs and poems (put on a Bob Dylan record sometime, you'll see what I mean). Stop by this kick-back, downtown area for after-work drinks, great live music or a spontaneous late-night tattoo. Great cafes and bars abound. Make sure you catch a pick-up game at the West 4th Cage to see some incredible amateur basketball.
Central Park. A New York landmark that needs no introduction, Central Park is one of my favorite places to find some solace in this crazy town. It's beautiful year-round with picture-perfect snowy trails in the winter, crisp fallen leaves in the fall and much-anticipated cherry blossoms in the spring.
Hotel Chelsea. To say this place is a NYC landmark is a bit of an understatement. The Chelsea has been home to more artists, writers and musicians than will fit in this space (Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith and Janis Joplin, just to name a few). It's where Dylan Thomas died in 1953 and the spot where Sid killed Nancy. Eeek. Stop in to admire the funky art in the lobby then head for a coconut cream or creme brulee donut that will blow your mind at the Doughnut Plant right next door.
Chinatown. Once you've found your cheap-o Louis Vuitton and discount perfume on Canal Street, make sure you stick around Manhattan's Chinatown (the other one is in Flushing, Queens) to delight in its unique culture and terrific food (try Ping's, Chinatown Ice Cream Factory and Joe's Shanghai). The best time to experience Chinatown is during the Lunar New Year's Parade in February.
Coney Island. I adore Coney Island in all its wacky glory. In addition to a boardwalk, amusement park rides, an aquarium and fried foods out the wazoo, Coney Island also boasts a freak show where you can see women swallow fire and grown men hammer nails into their noses. Special events include the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest every 4th of July and the Mermaid Parade every June. Oh yeah, there's a beach here too.
Empire State Building. Never been myself but I hear there's a hell of a view from up there!
Madison Square Park/ Flatiron District. In my opinion, Madison Square Park is way underrated. It's an amazingly well-kept park with plenty of places to sit and enjoy a morning cup of coffee and the paper. The incredible Italian marketplace Eataly is directly across the street, and the always excellent Shake Shack is right at the park's tip.
Riverside Drive Park. This four-mile strip of land overlooking the Hudson has a special place in my heart, as I used to go here for contemplative walks while living on the Upper West Side. It's less crowded than Central Park and just as pretty. You can rent kayaks in the river below, and the further you go uptown the more likely you are to stumble on some amazing monuments.
SOHO. Soho is best known for its art galleries and artists' lofts, although any artist who lives in this gorgeous downtown neighborhood these days is probably pretty well-established. The beautiful cast-iron buildings are still home to plenty of art galleries as well as lots of trendy boutiques and cafes.
South Street Seaport. If you're already down in the financial district, walk east and check out the historic South Street Seaport. Skip lunch and shopping (way overpriced and not that good) and walk straight to the end of the pier for a stellar view of the Brooklyn Bridge. Tip: If you're looking to score discount theater tickets, this is where the less crowded TKTS stand is located.
Times Square. Truth be told, "The Great White Way" is one of my least favorite parts of NYC and I generally avoid it all costs. You couldn't pay me to watch the ball drop on New Year's Eve, but I do understand Times Square's allure to out-of-towners. My jaw dropped the first time I stood in the middle of Times Square, and yours probably will too.
Union Square. My favorite thing about Union Square, which kind of marks the division between downtown and not-so-downtown, is the fantastic Greenmarket held four times a week. It's also a great spot for people-watching, local art-shopping and scoping out homemade trinkets at the holiday market each December.
Upper West Side. I used to live on West 93rd and Broadway and have fond memories of long walks down beautiful tree-lined streets. Most notable attractions for me are Zabar's, Riverside Park and Tal's Bagels on upper West Broadway.