So, you’ve successfully moved in, made a few friends, and purchased your first MetroCard. It’s officially time to head out into the city without your OL or your parents and really explore. But where to go first? Here’s what some of the most popular NYC neighborhoods have to offer.
This definitely isn’t all-inclusive and doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the smaller NYC neighborhoods (or any of the four other boroughs), so leave any suggestions you have in the comments!
Courtesy of Hannah Josi
Upper West Side: The UWS, while nearby, is quite different from Morningside. Tina Fey famously said, “If you walk around the Upper West Side, you will never ever see a truly good-looking person.” It just has that classic New York kind of charm. There’s plenty of amazing food (Jacob’s Pickles, Momofuku Milk Bar, Sarabeth’s, the closest Shake Shack), shopping (does Trader Joe’s count?), and some really interesting architecture. It even has its very own Banksy art on 79th & Broadway! Also, since the area is so residential, expect to see lots of dogs. Dog watching is totally a thing.
Midtown: So. Many. People. It’s busy, it’s expensive, but at the same time, it’s a quintessential New York experience. I would avoid Times Square at all costs, but the surrounding area does become a lot of fun around Christmas time. From the giant tree at Rockefeller Center to all of the intricate department store windows, to just gawking at all the skyscrapers we can’t see uptown, it can be an interesting break from the Morningside monotony.
Chelsea: Chelsea is one of NYC’s best-known neighborhoods for a reason: The art galleries, Chelsea Market, and the High Line are all slightly touristy but totally worth visiting. For all you art history majors, Chelsea is pretty much the epicenter of contemporary art. And for the foodies, there are great little eateries both in Chelsea Market and around the entire neighborhood---plus, the Food Network HQ is right above the market, so you might just get a glimpse of the likes of Alex Guarnaschelli.
Greenwich Village: NYU territory. You can actually head down here to study in Bobst Library, which is a cool building, but why do that when you can stake out at one of the little cafés all around the area? If you don’t want to work, there’s some great old movie theaters like Film Forum that play both classics and new indie releases, as well as the famous Stonewall Inn. Just walk around here, you’re bound to find something interesting.
SoHo: SoHo is cool if you love the big, sweaty crowds of Midtown but want to feel more hip. Save SoHo until later in the fall-—trust me, it’s worth avoiding the touristy masses that stick around through September. Despite that, it has a nice mix of high- and low-end retailers, as well as restaurants ranging from the famous Balthazar to hole-in-the-wall cafés. While many galleries have moved to Chelsea, there’s still plenty around to make a day out of gallery hopping. Also make sure to check out Evolution, which is like a mini natural history museum that sells weird stuff like raccoon penis bones and bat dioramas.
Lower East Side: Oh so trendy. The LES has some of the best nightlife, including the Bowery Ballroom and Cake Shop. It’s also a New York foodie paradise. There’s Katz’s Delicatessen for pastrami, Russ & Daughters for bagels, and the Doughnut Plant for, you know, doughnuts. Just go.
Upper East Side: GOSSIP GIRL. Or maybe not. You can get the full Serena van der Woodsen experience if that’s what you’re looking for, but the UES’s Museum Mile is art heaven. Take the M4 bus over and hop off on Fifth Avenue to visit the Guggenheim, the Met, and the Frick. Plus, there are plenty of smaller museums like the Neue. Go further east past Madison, and there’s plenty of affordable restaurants, a weirdly high number of bakeries (FP Patisserie, Maison Kaiser, Ladurée, Ô Merveilleux), and fantastic consignment shops.
Harlem: Last but not least, we’re back close to home with Harlem. There’s more to this uptown neighborhood than Red Rooster and the Apollo (although definitely visit both if you can!). Go to Sylvia’s for soul food and Dinosaur BBQ for the best ribs in the city. Harlem is also home to some incredible museums like the Studio Museum, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the Hispanic Society of America.