College Tourist Student Guide to New York City
New York, the most populated city in the United States is an international hub of culture, commerce, fashion, technology and politics. Check out some of the more underrated or undiscovered spots on your next trip!
What to Eat:
Joe’s Shanghai is the hands down best place to eat for a supremely local, and literally off the beaten path, experience. Yes, it does seem like a bit of an oddity that the restaurant with the best soup dumplings in the city is called Joe’s, and not something much harder to pronounce, but this Chinatown hole in the wall is as real as it gets. The restaurant at 9 Pell Street is hard to miss with the near constant crowd of people hanging around outside waiting for their number to be called, but the line moves pretty quick. Here’s why: these are probably the quickest and most efficient servers in any restaurant in NYC. They greet you, seat you, and feed you at lightning speed.
Order the soup dumplings (but take note that they contain pork) and get an order of the shanghai fried rice.
Tip: there’s a special way to eat the dumplings to ensure that tongues don’t fall off due to being scalded by the hot soup inside. Place a dumpling on a spoon, bite a small hole into the skin of the dumpling and then pour out the broth onto the spoon using fingers or chopsticks to tip the dumpling. Drink the soup, then eat the dumpling. Keep tongue intact.
What’s great about this place is that it makes dinner an event. Between being seated at a big round community table, with other dumpling lovers visiting from all over, and the hustle and bustle of a popular eatery, nothing feels more authentic and local. Remember to bring cash as cards are not accepted!
Freeman’s Restaurant: For something a little more off the beaten path (and a little more expensive). In the adorable little neighborhood of Nolita, at the end of an unmarked alley, is an cozy little spot with some mighty brunch. The brunch plates run between $11-$16 but it can get a lot worse for a college student trying to find a respectable brunch in this city! Pull up your map and GPS it straight to 8 Rivington St to try the bacon-wrapped dates, AKA “devils on horseback”.
Fun For Free:
Williamsburg: Two things Williamsburg is filled with: artists and fleas. Not literal fleas, (or so I hear), but flea markets! In fact, one of the best places to check out with some extra cash is none other than Artists and Fleas market every Saturday and Sunday at 70 North 7th Street in Brooklyn. This intimate little market has a vast assortment of treasures by local artists, designers and vintage sellers that are sure to dazzle and charm.
Movies at Chelsea Piers: Another totally free, yes, free thing to do is go see an outdoor movie at Chelsea Piers in West Village. River Flicks shows last year’s blockbusters under the stars every wednesday evening at dusk (or 8:30pm) There’s free popcorn and food trucks lined up to make any other concession stand pale in comparison. Bring a blanket and pack a picnic for an even lower budget evening out at Pier 63 Lawn in Chelsea.
Everyone knows about Central Park, Bryant Park or even Brooklyn Bridge Park, but what many visitors and even New Yorkers themselves don’t know about are the “pocket parks” scattered throughout the city. These pocket parks are usually single lots that have been reclaimed and repurposed. You could walk by the same row of brownstone houses for years and never notice the one spot where a brownstone is missing and has instead been swapped with a garden and benches.
Three pocket parks to check out are Paley Park on 3 East 53rd Street, Septuagesimo Uno on 71st Street, between West End and Amsterdam, and Creative Little Garden at 530 East 6th Street.
There is ONE way to get around New York really. Technically there are several ways (buses, Citibikes, taxis) but that’s all in a hypothetical universe where you have unlimited money and/or time). Subway is the way to go.
No lie, conquering the beast that is the New York subway system will take far longer than anyone visiting the city probably has, so the first thing to do after getting off the plane is download a subway app. A favorite (and the most highly recommended according to several online polls) is the Embark app. Do not collect your luggage, do not look for the exit, do not pass GO, do not collect $200—download the app first, and then proceed. It’s convenient and also very savvy because you can ditch the paper map and just stare at your phone like everyone else in New York City.
There aren’t any student discounts on metro cards but a real DIY discount is to find one of the many subway cards that are probably on the ground in each station and refill that one (after cleaning it off). Why? Because buying a new metro card costs a dollar and that dollar could be spent somewhere else. Like, oh, let’s say a dollar pizza shop for example? A lot of the times these cards still have some money on them which makes broke college students rejoice as they present multiple cards to the MTA agent in the station booth so they can combine them. (Yes, you can consolidate money from multiple cards onto one).
St. Mark’s Place is the place for liveliness and culture in the East Village for a college student. This little area has funky salons and spas, quirky coffee shops and bars, a plethora of tattoo and piercing parlors, comic stores, record stores, and vintage shops. Everything in this area is open late and always lively considering it is basically in NYU’s backyard. Take the subway to 8th street-NYU or to Astor Place.
What to See:
Times Square the most iconic place in New York City. Everything is big and everything is bright (even the police station has a jumbo flashing sign over it). There are lots of street performers and lots of places to get NYC memorabilia. This is also where you come to see a broadway show or musical—just make your way to the TKTS booths for daily deals and discounts on shows. If there’s one thing in Times Square that is worth the sensory overload to seek out, it’s the Times Square Museum. This seems like a no-brainer but it often gets overlooked. Here you can learn about the history of Times Square as well as admire the New Year’s Eve ball and even write out your hopes and wishes on confetti and tack it to the wall to be put in the ball before the new year.
Coney Island is a timeless classic in another way. Coney Island has retained very much of it’s retro charm while managing to stay a dear favorite to New Yorkers of all types. Come walk the boardwalk while you eat a hot dog from the original Nathan’s Hot Dogs and enjoy the myriad of street performers or stick your toes in the water. Enjoy all kinds of carnival attractions and vintage arcade games as well as some more substantial rollercoasters and rides to get the heart rate up. The view from the top of the Wonder Wheel is truly instagram worthy too.
There’s only one piece of local knowledge that is vital to know in New York City: You are walking too slow and should probably pick up the pace.