Everyone and their mother is visiting or moving to New York City right now. Who can blame them? A lot of us have spent the last 2 years following COVID-19 protocols closely, avoiding travel. It makes sense that one of the first places we would want to visit is New York City. With restrictions lightening up, the city is basically open, and makes for a great vacation. The possibilities seem endless and there are a plethora of places to see and experience. However, if your recommendations are coming from influencers, you’re most likely going to fall into a newer tourist trap.
As always, we got you. Just about everyone at ULTRA lives in NYC, and we know better than anyone that a lot of places that seem like niche sights and eateries are actually overpriced joints with subpar offerings. So, with that all being said, let us tell you where to steer clear of and give you an alternative.
If you want a New York bagel, like a real New York bagel, don’t go to Sadelle’s. You’re going to be paying way more than you need to for a staple. Now, every person who lives in New York has their bagel spot, but a must-go for visitors is Russ & Daughters on East Houston. It’s a popular place, but it holds a lot of history.
Located in the Lower East Side, a historically Jewish neighborhood, this storefront has been at this specific location for over 100 years and is still owned by the same family. An institution!
2. The Vessel
Known by its meme name, The Shawarma, this architectural nightmare located in Hudson Yards is a complete waste of time and comes with a depressing backstory. The 150-foot tall tourist attraction has been a hotspot for suicide since its opening in March 2019. It’s been almost 3 years since it was opened to the public, and there have been 4 suicides. Since July 2021, The Vessel has been indefinitely closed after a 14-year-old boy jumped.
Not only is the story of The Vessel haunting, but it isn’t much to look at and is a glaring reminder (and almost an unabashed statement) of gentrification in New York. Instead, I recommend checking out Little Island, and artificial island park, located at Pier 55 along the Hudson River. Bring a bottle of wine, some snacks, a picnic blanket, and enjoy some time along the water at this beautifully constructed park.
3. Prince Street Pizza
The line at this pizza joint has never been worth it for me. When I first moved to New York, I was excited to try the famed Prince Street Pizza square pepperoni slice that everyone hyped up. I can count on two hands the amount of times I got a lukewarm to cold slice.
I bet you’re saying to yourself, “Ask them to warm it up.” Yeah, I have, and the fact of the matter is that you shouldn’t have to ask for something to be warmed up when it’s assumed that it would be served warm at the very least.
So save yourself some time and check out Scarr’s Pizza on Orchard Street. Is there a long line there too? Usually it’s OK during weekdays, but weekends can make the lines a little longer. Honestly, it’s worth it though. The staff is nice, the pizza is great, prices are reasonable considering how popular it is, and they have frozen alcoholic drinks and with generous pours.
If your priority is cheap beer and the food portion of the night falls by the wayside, then yeah, go to KENKA. But if you’re looking to actually enjoy your food, then I would avoid this place at all costs. While the overtly sexual décor (a novelty which fades almost immediately) draws a crowd, people usually only ever go to KENKA for the beer tower.
If you want an izakaya experience that will leave you full and happy, I suggest NONONO on Madison Avenue. Minimal interior design and a variety of skewers makes this place the perfect dinner option for small and large groups alike.
5. Nearly all nightlife in Manhattan
Manhattan has its qualities, but there’s something about Manhattan on weekend nights that feels unholy (and not in a fun way). It’s so busy, the drinks are overpriced, and the crowds aren’t that great. Nothing makes my night a bummer more than those three things.
Again, that’s not to say that there aren’t some places that are fun, but the majority of the borough doesn’t make for the best of nights.
If you’re looking for more variety and more of a down-to-earth feel, I would suggest looking into places in Brooklyn. Brooklyn has something for everyone. It has bars that specialize in good cocktails, aesthetically pleasing wine bars, clubs that play actual good music, some of the best dive bars I’ve ever been to, and so much more.
6. Times Square
I feel like this one should go without saying, but I’m going to add this in just to drive it home. I promise you, your trip will be perfectly satisfying without having to step foot in Times Square—also known as the portal to hell. It’s dirty, it smells, it’s ridiculously busy, you’re shoulder-to-shoulder with people who have no idea where they are going, and the lights are blinding. Most of the stores that line Times Square are nothing special and can probably be found at your local mall (with the exception of the LINE store).
My personal hell is Times Square. To me, nothing about this place represents New York. If anything, it just represents energy-waste and consumerism. If those two things are your jam, then by all means go visit Times Square.
When you’re in the city, you need to hit up the museums and art shows. There’s always something to see.