01. Canal Street Market
Canal Street Market is one of my favorite places to walk around because it involves two of my favorite things – shopping and eating. Located in Chinatown, it’s a modern day version of a market split into two halves. The first half of it is a food hall with various cuisine options. Have you heard of the famed Nom Wah Tea Parlor? Well you can get the quick eats version of it at Nom Wah Kuai right in the food hall. The other half showcases local independent brands and businesses of all sorts. There are cute stalls selling jewelry, home goods, apparel, plants, and pleasant-smelling things. If you need to shop for gifts or unique souvenirs, Canal Street Market is definitely the place to go.
TIP: Grab some lunch in the food hall, walk around, then head back into the food hall for some dessert!
02. Hudson Valley
I love the city, but from time to time I feel the need to get away for some peace and quiet. It’s always nice to experience a change of scenery and to be surrounded by nature instead of buildings and crowds. Luckily, upstate New York has plenty of that to offer. The easiest way to get upstate is to rent a car, but there are ways to get there by the Metro-North train depending on your destination. Last fall, I visited Hudson Valley for a friend’s birthday and it was the perfect escape. It was only a two-hour drive from the city. We rented a beautiful Airbnb in the middle of the woods that fit our group of 13. The backyard had a fire pit and beyond it was a river. We were next to several hiking trails and neighboring towns like Woodstock and Phoenicia.
TIP: If you’re visiting in the late summer or early fall, I recommend that you make a stop at Twin Star Orchards on your way back to the city. You can go apple picking and stock up on some apple cider donuts for your ride back.
03. Seward Park
Having lived in the Chinatown / Lower East Side area for around 3 years, I’ve grown to love wandering around Seward Park. There’s always an eclectic mix of activities going on. On the weekends, families will bring their kids to the playground, teenagers will come to play volleyball, and many will enjoy some coffee or a meal by the benches. During the warmer seasons, a weekend-only outdoor street fair, called Hester Street Fair, will take place right beside the park. The vendors vary depending on the week and it’s always fun to check out what’s new.
TIP: There are a bunch of food options across from the park on Essex Street if your stomach starts to rumble. A favorite option of mine is L.E.S. Kitchen. I love their Angry Bird sandwich! If you’re craving a beverage or snack, head to East Broadway from the park to get a smoothie or acai bowl from Hawa.
Not far from Seward Park is an endearing theater called Metrograph. Metrograph provides a special cinema experience. Their selection of films is curated and varies depending on the day. They showcase old films, foreign films, independent films, documentaries, and so on. What’s cool about their space is that it’s thoughtfully designed to fit in a bookstore, a candy shop, and a restaurant, on top having two theaters.
TIP: I always check their website beforehand to see what’s playing on which day, but if you’re feeling spontaneous you could just stop in and catch a movie. You really can’t go wrong with anything that’s playing at Metrograph!
05. The Strand
The Strand is the go-to independent bookstore for all New Yorkers. Sitting on the corner of 12th Street and Broadway, it houses never-ending shelves of books – new, used, and out of print rarities. I can spend hours in here browsing their massive selection of books and flipping through pages of subjects I never even knew I was interested in. I often enter the store looking for one thing but coming out with something completely different. Those are the best days.
TIP: The carts of books outside the storefront are discounted used books. Some are even as cheap as a dollar!
The entire experience of going to Kenka is a bit hard to put into words, but I’ll do my best. I’ve been going to Kenka since I first moved to New York six and a half years ago. It’s the perfect spot for cheap Japanese eats and equally cheap beer. It’s conveniently located in St. Marks, a street lined with restaurants, but there’s always a long line of people waiting for a table. The vibe of Kenka is bizarre – the interior is lined with vintage Japanese artwork and traditional Japanese music is on constant rotation. They have an extensive menu of standard dishes to pick from, but there’s also a special menu for those that are more adventurous eaters. At the end of your meal, the check comes with a small cup of cotton candy sugar for each person at the table. You can make your own cotton candy in the machine outside the doors on your way out.
TIP: Go early and put your name down, then walk to Sly Fox about a block away for a $2 beer. After a short while, head back to Kenka to check if you’re next on the list. Or, you could opt to go later in the night (they close at 1AM on weekdays and 3AM on weekends), but chances are there would still be a short wait.
07. Lower East Side / Chinatown
The area I’m referring to is East of the bustling center of Chinatown, and right on the end of the Lower East Side, so you get the best of both worlds. I’m biased because I’ve lived in this area for a while now, but I really can’t stop stressing how amazing it is! I love how you can encounter a mash-up of cultures here. On one corner you can get ten dumplings for $2 and on another you can get some amazing Greek food. There’s a bunch of establishments around and you can easily hop around from one place to another, but at the same time it’s not as dense as central Chinatown or central LES so it’s a bit more lowkey.
TIP: PUBLIC Hotel is a great option if you’re looking to stay in the area, and it’s worth checking Airbnb to see if there are any other affordable options.
A good pair of shoes for walking. Besides taking the subway, you can easily get around by foot. It’s the best way to see all the different corners of the city. It helps to have a comfortable pair of shoes that you can walk miles in for this purpose!
Jocelyn Tsaih is a Taipei-born, Shanghai-raised illustrator and artist. She’s most interested in creating work that reflects her observations of human nature. When she’s not making art, she’s usually eating eggs, watching animal videos, or traveling. You can find Jocelyn on Instagram and on her website.