Apparently lacking an empire state of mind, I've grappled with a love-hate affair with the Big Apple. A self-proclaimed cynic, any place romanticised by movies, songs, books and pretty much every one who's ever seen Gossip Girl, I've been slow to warm to the city.
Big, unfamiliar places stress me out, so taking New York at my own pace is very important in my attempt to actually enjoy my time there. With so much to see and do, there is a certain pressure to wake up at six in the morning and run about all day and party all night - because that's how they do it in New York, right?
Already familiar with the main tourist attractions, in the last few years I've got to really enjoy New York at a more laid back pace. Living in Boston enabled me to take short weekend trips to the city, visiting friends and family. Every time I've gone I've made sure to relax, take it easy, and sleep in, (walk slower!) and I've had some really enjoyable trips! I'm beginning to see the appeal of the place.
I recently made it back for the first time since moving to the UK and I've realised that in my short trips I've become a fan of the place. Finding my own space in New York, places that inspire and intrigue me, time and time again has made the city enjoyable for me. I still always seem to find myself in Times Square - I think the lights are to me what silver is to a magpie, it's a nightmareish hell-hole. I've grown to appreciate the more creative side of Manhattan, and it's slowly wandering Soho and Chelsea and people watching that I finally get it. New York, you're alright.
There are too many New York travel guides out there that throwing my two cents in is probably not too helpful if you're visiting for the first time. However, if you're a seasoned traveller and looking for something new I've got some suggestions.
THE EARTH ROOM
Soho's streets of pricey boutiques and their stylish patrons may be the best for all your retail therapy needs, but take a break from the commercialism and literally breathe in the air at Walter De Maria's Earth Room. A New York loft, turned installation, the Dia Art Foundation host this white-walled sanctuary, filled with soil. The cynics among you may laugh, but you will be shocked by the fresh scent and the room's meditative nature.
GALLOW GREEN at THE MCKITTRICK
Gems like Gallow Green can only be discovered in New York if brought by locals. A family friend took me along to the small rooftop bar at The McKittrick hotel. If the bunk-beds and intimate train-carriage like setting doesn't do it for you, the original drink menu and lack of your usual New York crowd should make this bar your new favourite in the city. A surprising highlight of the trip for me, and the perfect stop off before checking out interactive theatre show Sleep No More.
If you've already had your fill of The MET or MoMA, head to The Whitney Museum of American Art. Not only is their collection a fantastic example of the country's finest artists, but the new building is stunning, and the views of Manhattan are almost more spectacular than the works that fill the space!
OAK AND FORT
There are too many good shopping experiences to be had in New York to narrow them down, but I had to give an honorable mention to Oak and Fort. The Canadian brand has only a few stores in the USA, and it's Soho pop up was the most perfect retail therapy. Friendly (but not too friendly) employees left me to browse the sales rack and their simple, well-made pieces were all so beautiful that I had to restrain myself from buying everything!
Nothing says 'treat yourself' quite like a weekday brunch. Jack's Wife Frieda was a close second best holiday meal, right after a dinner at Ruby's in Soho. I had a dreamy burger that I swear cured my jetlag but I want to go back for one of their salads.
Spend at least half a day wandering around the Chelsea galleries, the independent spaces hold much more interesting contemporary art, with less crowds, and usually for free. My favourite of the bunch is David Zwirner, with a special shoutout to the Bortolami Gallery, where I got the chance to check out the most beautiful Ann Veronica Janssens installation last year.
If you do one thing, walk The High Line - city planning at it's finest.
Brunch at Egg Shop before treatin' oneself shopping in SoHo.
Explore the vintage treasure trove under the iconic bridge at Brooklyn Flea.
The Standard Hotel's Grill - a dreamy lunch space.
Head to Sweet Chick in Brooklyn for the best Fried Chicken and Waffles up North.
Refuel with coffee at Happy Bones.
Taking time to meander around Chelsea Market, pretending to be more hip than you really are.
MISSED, BUT MAYBE NEXT TIME...
The MET Breuer
Speakeasies... any of them!
McNally Jackson Bookshop