Below you will find a comprehensive guide to all ‘My Favorite Things’ in NYC:
Brooklyn Bowl (Williamsburg, Brooklyn):
Bowling and live music at the same time? Yes, please. This old barn (built in 1882) turned LEED certified green music venue was created by concert promoter/ entrepreneur Peter Shapiro. He also helped save, restore, and re-open the historic Capitol Theatre and has opened two more Brooklyn Bowls, one in Vegas and London.
Tip: Sign up for bowling right away if ya wanna play. Their flatbread pizza and fried chicken are killer. Also, don’t let the ‘sold out’ scare you away, they release more at 6pm night of show, only catch, there is no re-entry and it’s cash only. Pre-show at Turkey’s Nest for the cheapest, strongest, dranks in W’burg.
Small’s (West Village):
If ya want an underground jazz spot, this is it. Created in 1994 by jazz violinist Mitchell Borden he’s maintained this legendary spot that many musicians call home. I was lucky enough to participate in Marion Cowings Jazz Vocal Workshop when I first moved to the city, a must-do for all singers. Check out SmallsLive to stream their shows!
Jazz Standard (Flat Iron):
This jazz venue is below a fabulous BBQ spot Blue Smoke . A great place to see live jazz, not a place for talkers, ya go here to listen. Go see the Mingus Big Band, they play here pretty regularly.
Tip: For sold out shows, go when doors open and you’re likely to get in. Also, it’s not necessary to buy tix in advance, you can just call in advance to make a reservation and they add the music charge to your tab.
Rockwood Music Hall (LES):
This is a Lower East Side staple. This spot has grown from only having 1 stage to having 3, they have tons of free shows too (on Stage 1). Betta tip dem musicians so they get paid! Go eat at Macondo for some latin fusion, right across the street from Rockwood.
City Winery (West of SoHo): I used to work at this rockin’ music venue and winery owned by Michael Dorf who opened famed Knitting Factory in 1986. Shlomo Lipetz is the National Program Director, he knows his music boy and books the best there is. There are now locations in Chicago, Nashville, and soon-to-be ATL.
Beacon Theatre (Upper West Side):
This historic theatre is the older sister to Radio City Music Hall which opened in 1929. The Allman Brothers Band annual Beacon Run has taken place here since ’89. This place is truly spectacular! Go eat at Barcibo Enoteca before the show, yummy tapas and wine in walking distance to the theatre.
Joe’s Pub (NoHo):
This intimate music venue is a great place to check out live music. It had a $2.35 million dollar face lift re-opening back in 2012. Amy Winehouse and Adele made their U.S. headlining debut here. Go visit the bar upstairs afterwards, The Library at The Public
Guantanemera (Columbus Circle):
This is my fav Cuban spot with live music 7 days a week, they even roll cigars for free on the weekends (tips appreciated). Famed percussionist/singer Pedro Martinez got his start here playing weekly residences before moving it recently to Brooklyn Bowl. Their cuban sandwiches and mojitos with fresh sugar cane are to die for. Yes, they have Happy Hour at the bar weekly, go on Tuesday for Two for Tuesday’s.
We all know the name, this legendary NYC historic landmark is a must-see. Hit up Amateur Night, it took me 9 years to finally go, wish I would have gone sooner. Pre-show around the corner at Corner Social, good eats and cocktails.
The Shrine (Harlem):
This Burkina Faso family-owned and run world music venue is by far my fav spot for music and dancing. The best mix of people and tunes!
A tiny dance spot, go for roots reggae night if you can swing a night out during the week, check their calendar for up-to-date events.
Home Sweet Home (LES):
An underground dance spot to getcho dance on, go on Friday’s when Jonathan Toubin is spinning soul records.
Mexican: Javelina (Flat Iron):
It’s all about the queso. This Tex-Mex joint is the only place in the city that does it right. Their frozen basil margarita is delish!
Thai: Laut (Union Square):
This is by far my favorite Thai spot. Get the Malaysian Curry and Roti Canai.
Chinese (Shanghai-style): Joe’s Shanghai (Chinatown):
The best soup dumplings, definitely worth the wait!
Greek: Agnanti (Astoria):
The best Greek food you’ll ever have, get the whole grilled fish, pastisio, greek salad, and saganaki (fried cheese). They’re right across from Astoria Park too, you’ll need a good long walk after eating here.
Bagels (Astoria): New York City Bagel Coffee House aka Sexy Bagel
The bagels are as big as your head, get the mini for normal size. Their coffee is amazing too, get the mochaccino!
Brunch: The Bonnie (Astoria):
Seriously the best burger I’ve ever had! Their cocktails are seriously yummy too. They have live music some evenings, check their website.
Gotham West Market (Hells Kitchen):
This fancy food court is a great place to go if you can’t decide what you want to eat, they have everything. They’re way west, go when it’s warmer out and you can head to the water afterwards.
Sandwich King of Astoria (Astoria):
Get the bomb, it really is da bomb yo!
New York Health & Racquet: I floated around at a bunch of gyms before finding this one and I love it. I never enjoyed working out until I started classes, now I’m hooked. Luckily these fabulous teachers are all over the city teachin’:
Body Burn/Relentless with Caroline Strong; this workout is by far the hardest I’ve ever done and my favorite. Fast paced, 20 minute push-up plank segment make this a full body workout you can barely finish but when ya do, you feel strong and fit!
Spin with Tracie Hendricks aka the best DJ; I want to go to the dance club with her (I tried inviting myself). I never thought I could enjoy spin until I found this hyper, hilarious, awesome teacher. Before you know it it’s all over and you’ve cycled up “mountains” and back.
Cardio Sculpt with Craig Smith; I had the pleasure of taking class with him before he went and got himself the gig as Madonna’s new personal trainer. If you can catch him when he’s in town, do it…he’ll kick your ass.
Military Muscle with Conyn Blade; the name pretty much sums it up…bootcamp with tunes like AC-DC Thunderstruck to keep ya movin’.
Lucky Brand (Flatiron): I love their clothes but they’re a bit pricey, luckily 😉 they have 40% off sales often & online too.
Buffalo Exchange: A great thrift at the right price. You can sell clothes to them too but dayum, they’re picky.
Brooklyn Industries: Their bags are the shit, lifetime guarantee too.
Nomad: This lil hippie truck wanders around the city, great boutiquey clothes and accessories.
TJ Maxx (Chelsea) Yea, yea, these are all over the country but this one has got the goods. Go to the Chelsea location at 620 Avenue Of The Americas. Check out their Rent the Runway selections. Pretty sure the shipment comes in on Thursday, yep I asked. So go on Friday’s for freshly stocked goods.
Macy’s (Herald Square): This is their flagship location and it’s massive. Go during their holiday sales to afford overpriced, but awesome, brands like: Free People.
Tip: Follow the wooden escalator or you’ll get lost…no really, there are 2 wings on every floor and they even have 1/2 floors.
Tailor (The Orchard Tailor Services-LES):
I never thought I could afford a tailor until I was told about this spot in the LES. This Dominican family-owned tailor is the real deal, reasonably priced, and they do great work.
Cobbler (Firm Shoe Repair):
With all the walking in NYC you’ll need to get your soles fixed up or you’ll be running through dem shoes. This place is quick and inexpensive.
Jeweler (Kathe’s Jeweler-Stuyvesant Town):
I have gone here for repairs and re-sizing of jewelry. They’ve been in the neighborhood for over 25 years run by family daughter team Jonas and Kathy Rueda. They’re super friendly, quick, and trustworthy!
Bike Repair Shop (Tony’s Bicycle-Astoria):
I was lucky enough to have this place around the corner. The staff is great, they’re speedy on repairs, sometimes fixing ya up right there on the spot.
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- Roosevelt Island: Take the tram over from 59th & 2nd Avenue and ride your bike all around the island, awesome view of the city and it’s very peaceful!
- LIC Food & Flea: A great selection of antiques and lots of yummy food vendors on the waterfront in LIC.
- Walk the High Line, don’t expect to walk brisk. Hit up the Chelsea Market while you’re there.
- Central Park (South): walk down 5th Avenue and gaze at the over the top window displays, see the lobby of the Plaza Hotel, visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral while you’re in the area. Rockefeller Center is right there too.
- Free boat ride on the North River Lobster Company floating restaurant, runs every 2-3 hours for a half hour ride up the Hudson.
- Bike Ride to Anable Basin (LIC): A hidden gem on the water overlooking the city, they serve booze and food too.
- Rocks Off Music/Booze Cruise: Go see some music while cruising around the East River. Great for a warm summers night.
- Miniature golf on Pier 25: Affordable mini golf on the pier, so fun!
- A drink on top of the Standard Hotel, yup one cocktail is as much as a whole meal but the view and free weekend live entertainment is worth it. You might want to dress up a bit here, it’s fancy pants.
- LCT3 Shows at the Claire Tow Theatre: The best, most inexpensive theatre in NYC. Always stellar performances, great set designs, and sound. The theatre is in the Lincoln Center complex which ain’t too shabby to spend an evening either. Take advantage of their rooftop and grab a drink before the show.
- Fuerza Bruta (Union Square): I love this live interactive show, great music and performers.
GOOD TO KNOW
- Things to do in Times Square if you must go: See live music at URBO upstairs (yummy farm-to-table food too), Iridium, Birdland, and Lucille’s at B.B. Kings, and the cheapest drinks at this boxer-owned bar Jimmy’s Corner.
- Download this app for the subway, much more inconspicuous than carrying around a big ‘ole map that screams out tourist.
- Streets run East to West (numerically North to South), Avenues run North to South. So if ya know you want to go West, look at the street signs, if they’re going up in numbers take a left, got it?
- Play-by-Play: This seat filling company was such a great find, if you want to go see more in the city (basketball games, plays, music, etc.) but can’t always afford it, this is for you. Give my name if you sign up 🙂
- Finding a place to use the restroom in NYC can be challenging at times. Any Whole Foods is usually a good bet, Starbucks, not so much. Here’s an actual website for where to go when you’re in a pickle: wherehttp://m3.mappler.net/nyrestroom/.
- 34th Street: it’s by far the hottest station, avoid at all cost in warmer months.