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Notes From a Polite New Yorker: Things To Do Before You Leave New York


New York attracts people from all over the world. They come to New York with a variety of dreams and ambitions. Many eventually leave.

Recently, a co-worker announced that she was soon going to be leaving her job, apartment and life in New York for Los Angeles and the dream of working in the film industry. That’s a bold move even in good economic times. She’s following her dreams and that is commendable.

When she told the news to her colleagues, she asked us for suggestions of things she should do before she leaves New York. This is an excellent question. New York attracts people from all over the world. They come to New York with a variety of dreams and ambitions. Many eventually leave. It would be good to provide a list of things people should do in New York before they leave.

Here is my list:

Take a ridiculously long walk in your borough of choice. When the big blackout of 2003 hit the East coast, I had to walk the roughly 14 miles from my job in lower Manhattan to my home in Northern Manhattan. I had always wanted to take a ridiculously long walk like that; fate and an overloaded power grid gave me the prompting I needed. I helped direct traffic on Fifth Avenue, drank a cold beer on 10th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen, saw residents dealing with broken refrigerators by grilling loads of chicken while people played steel drums on Broadway and watched a city deal with adversity in ways that made me proud to be a New Yorker. It was a great adventure that left me with a sense of accomplishment and only moderately tired feet. You’ll see parts of the city you hadn’t seen before, and see life in the city in a myriad of ways that will be quite interesting. Hopefully there will not be a power outage when you take your long walk.

Ride the Staten Island Ferry. The Staten Island Ferry is free and gives you not only great views of downtown Manhattan, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. It also lets you take part in the daily commute of New York City in the most interesting and beautiful way. You can’t beat traveling on New York Harbor by boat for a morning commute, unless you’re a rich person who can commute to New York by helicopter, and that’s much more expensive and dangerous.

Go to Coney Island. If you have not done so already, ride the original Cyclone roller coaster and eat a hot dog at the original Nathan’s. If it’s open, attend the Coney Island Circus Side Show. If you have a lot of time, stop by the New York Aquarium and then spend time on the beach—if you walk far enough you can find a spot that’s not too crowded; you’ll be amazed how allergic people are to walking.

Visit the top of the Empire State Building
. Don’t wait on the long line with all the tourists, though. Go to the Playwright Bar & Restaurant on 35th near 5th Avenue. The restaurant has two passes that are good for up to six people each to visit the Empire State Building for free and lets the group cut in front of everyone else in line. You’ll need to leave your driver’s license or credit card at the restaurant until you get back, to make sure you don’t steal the free pass.
Ride the carousel in Central Park.
You’ll be standing in line with a lot of kids, overbearing parents and silly adults, but the carousel in central park is unique and you’ll be glad you were silly and took a ride on it. This is one thing I have not done since I was a kid, and it’s on my list several times over.

Go to a play. You don’t have to go to an expensive Broadway production. Take the time to go to an off-Broadway or off-off-Broadway play. At any time in New York, there are tons of plays being put on in many different locations, some of which are free. Many of them will be great and some won’t be, but all of them will be interesting and you will feel better having done something to support the arts. During the summer, the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park will allow you to see plays for free that would cost you $100 or more if they were on Broadway.

Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. It is the prettiest of all the city’s many bridges, where the geometry of the support cables and the bridge’s rich history and antique feel will impress you almost as much as the stunning views. It was built in the 1880s, when Brooklyn was still a separate city.

Visit an unfamiliar neighborhood.
Have a new experience in an unfamiliar neighborhood. This could mean having dumplings in Chinatown or pasta in Little Italy, or it could mean taking a trek out to Broad Channel, which is a small neighborhood in Jamaica Bay that doesn’t feel like New York City at all. Find a place you’ve always wondered about and go there; you won’t be sorry.

Go to The Bronx Zoo. It’s one of the best and largest zoos in the world. See the buffalo, lions and tigers. You’ll also see interesting animals there that you’ve never seen before, so be sure to take the time to learn the names of the animals. Don’t forget to go to the World of Darkness to see all kinds of nocturnal animals and the House of Reptiles to see alligators and snakes. If the cable cars are operating, take a ride on them; it may get scary at times but will be well worth it.

Take a historic walking tour. You may never know the history that has happened in some of the places you’ve passed by numerous times. A historic walking tour will teach you some very interesting things. I’ve taken the Revolutionary War walking tour of lower Manhattan, a ghost story tour of Greenwich Village, and Jewish Gangster tour of the Lower East Side. Each was interesting. Go.

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