Having just returned from an action-packed trip to NYC, I am filled with a sense of awe for this most vibrantly dynamic city. NYC rules — there is nothing like it anywhere, and I am writing this as someone who has been to and lived in some of the other great metropolises. It is truly an extraordinary place; admittedly, not everyone’s jam, as the very energy that propels its dynamism can also be hard to metabolize. Covid was brutal on NYC, but the city is back big time. Having lived there through 9/11, a tech crash, the 1988 crash, the crack epidemic, a massive flood… take my word for it, never bet against NY or New Yorkers — they are resilience personified.
If one lives there, and perhaps this is true of anyplace, the downsides can seem magnified. The crime! No, it is actually a very safe place. The subway is horrible. No, the subway is a marvel, a national treasure appreciated best if you come from any other big city. New Yorkers are so unfriendly! No, they are not; they are pressed for time as they are not living here for recreation, they are here to get stuff done. It is so expensive! Ok, that one is true, but you also get a lot for your money. The quality of the restaurants, the culture, your fellow inhabitants, is unmatched in any American city.
The quality of the restaurants, the culture, your fellow inhabitants, is unmatched in any American city
New York has always been a magnet for young people, the best and the brightest looking to make their mark in the world. But it is not a youth-oriented place; it is an all-ages everywhere all the time place, as opposed to the often-found age segregation of Los Angeles. It even seems that some people our age are leaving the countryside or their empty-nest burbs for a smart 2-bedroom apartment in the city. When one considers the great medical care, no need for a car, and the best cultural scene in the country — this starts to make a lot of sense. But living here full time is not for everyone, as it is a full-on 24/7 experience. For some, a quick 5-day visit is best.
Ace Hotel Brooklyn was the find of this trip. A lovely, very modern, cool hotel that seems to have been inspired by the design of a similar hotel in Kyoto. The good: great location near all the subways (travel time to the Met Museum 30 minutes), near fabulous restaurants, 5-minute walk to BAM, good size rooms, nice staff. The bad: it is built directly over the subway. Get a high floor in the back for a wonderful view and you won’t have the 24/7 magic fingers effect of the subterranean A train.
The Food Scene:
Sure it costs some money, but so does Los Angeles or even Salt Lake City. The difference is that they really get it right here. The ambiance, the service, the skill with the food…everything is super pro, best in class. Because in a place like NYC, if you are not playing an A-game you are not in business; there are too many alternatives. Standouts: Perry Street in a Raymond Meier-designed building on the West Side Highway, and French Louie in Boerum Hill for audaciously brilliant cuisine.
NYC is a museum mecca
NYC is a museum mecca; there are so many great ones that one is spoiled for choice. But if your time is limited, go big: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the MoMA. At the Met, pick a couple of areas to focus on. I always like the Temple of Dendur and then whatever contemporary show they are featuring; in this case, the Charles Ray sculpture exhibition did not disappoint. At MoMA, the Matisse Red Studio was a surprising delight. How can you do an entire show around a single painting and keep it interesting? They succeeded, and it is worth the visit, along with all the majesty that can be found in the other galleries. Pro tip: If you go later in the day to either museum, say an hour before closing, you will probably lessen your chances of standing in an entrance line.
They are everywhere, and they are gorgeous. It seems each green space in the city has some group dedicated to making it amazing, no matter how small. The standouts were Madison Square Park, gorgeous and dense with green, complete with the original Shake Shack, where they actually have presentations every weekend on the history of a particular tree — not tree species, but an actual tree in the park. Central Park is a place where if more people in this country visited and saw how well run, diverse, and just magical a place in the center of the largest city in the country was, we would probably be a happier country.
I have the prejudice of someone who lived in Manhattan for 25 years and considered any other part of the city to be just an outer borough, a downgrade on the real deal. That is over. I may never do a hotel stay in Manhattan again. Brooklyn is generally quieter, more creative, cooler, and if you are in an area like where we stayed, easy to get anywhere.