JOIN ME IN AN INTERVIEW WITH JAMES IAN, A NEW YORKER WHO LOVES TO TRAVEL !
James Ian has been to almost 80 countries and lived in six. He fell in love with New York and is a New Yorker. He has lived there for the past 11 years. Through his blog, he aims to inspire people to have awesome travel experiences, as well as learn how to turn that inspiration into reality.
Which is the best month to visit your city and why ?
This is difficult to answer, because different months offer different things. I would say that January and February are the worst months to be in NYC because it is so cold. Summer (July and August) can get very hot, and the subway stations especially can be unbearable in these months. April-June have lovely weather. In October and November there is fall color in Central Park, and there is the Halloween parade, the NYC Marathon and Thanksgiving Day parade. December is cold, but the holiday spirit makes the city magical.
Which is the most convenient and favoured transport of your city ?
The subway, of course. New York is the city that never sleeps, and the subway runs 24/7. You need to buy a Metrocard ($1) that you can refill. One ride (any distance) is $2.75, but you can also buy a 7-day pass. Trains run uptown (north) and downtown (south) in Manhattan, and at many stations you need to go in the correct entrance (uptown trains are on the east side of the road), so look at the signs above the entrance. There are express and local trains and stops – look at a subway map and the big white circles are express stations and the small black circles are local stations. If you aren’t sure, ask someone. New Yorkers are actually very happy to help tourists – they know how confusing things can be.
What are the top 3 must visit places in your city ?
That is difficult because there are so many! Number one for me would be the Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art) because there are so many different experiential spacesthere. It’s my happy place. I love sitting in the café in the American Wing enjoying a snack and soda whilst looking at the sculptures and façade of the Branch Bank. I also love having a coffee in the medieval courtyard of the Cloisters, a branch of the Met uptown. In summer, there is nothing better than having a glass sangria on the Met’s rooftop terrace with an annual art installation, overlooking Central Park.
Second would be an observation tower – either the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock or the World Trade Center. My personal favorite is the Empire State Building – there is something magical about being at the top of this iconic building with incredible views all around. (However, the other two have views OF the Empire State building!).
Third would be Time Square. Local New Yorkers tend to avoid this area because it is so crowded, but the razzle and dazzle epitomizes New York’s energy and flare. And of course, you have to see a Broadway show in one of the many theaters nearby.
Can I cheat and name two more? It’s hard to leave the Statue of Liberty off the list (and the views of lower Manhattan from Liberty Island). And the views from and of the Brooklyn Bridge are also an absolute must-see.
Which is the most celebrated holiday of the year there ?
Again, this is hard to answer. Can I name three?
The Fourth of July fireworks in NYC are televised around the country! They are the biggest, longest and most spectacular fireworks in the country.
Christmas. Almost every holiday movie ever is set in New York – for good reason. This time of year is an amazing time to be in the city. The store windows are works of art; there are iconic places to ice skate surrounded by the city (Rockefeller center, Wollman’s Rink in central and Bryant park); there are enormous Christmas trees in the parks and museums including the largest ‘real’ tree in the country at Rockefeller Center; The Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall; gorgeous Christmas markets, and much more.
If I had to choose just one, however, I would choose Thanksgiving. The parade with enormous balloons, floats and bands is also televised around the country and seeing this in person is an incredible experience. You can also go the day before and see the balloons inflated, for something a little different.
Which is the most happening area in your city and why?
These questions are hard to answer because New York has so much to offer! Times Square for theatre and people watching. Central Park to escape the crowds. Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen are the main gay areas, but have lots of restaurants and bars for everyone. Greenwich Village for restaurants and comedy and jazz clubs. The East Village and the Lower East Side for bars and clubs. Harlem for delicious soul food.
Where can one find amazing street food in your city ?
Street food in NYC isn’t that big a thing, though there are lots of food carts with coffee and cheap lunches scattered around. The main thing would be the hot dog stands. You can’t miss having a hot dog in NYC! They are everywhere, but especially in main tourist spots like outside the Met and Macys.
Where should one head to for affordable shopping ?
Most of Soho has expensive designer stores, but the stretch of Broadway between Houston and Canal Streets has many reasonably priced stores. Century 21, a discount designer clothing store, is downtown near the World Trade Centre and is also a great place to find a bargain.
Which is the most loved local food in your city, both sweet and savoury ?
Ask different New Yorkers this question, and you will probably get different answers, but it is hard to argue with New York hot dogs (see above) and pizza. You can grab a slice to go at casual pizza joints all around the city, but for something a little nicer, go to a real restaurant that serves wood-fire pizzas. Three famous favorites are Lombardis in Little Italy, Johns of Bleeker Street in Greenwich Village, and Grimaldi’s. Grimaldi’s has several locations, but the original is in Brooklyn, the perfect place to end your walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.
To experience a completely different culinary part of New York culture, head to Katz’s Deli on Houston Street for the hugest pastrami on rye sandwich that you will ever (try to) eat. Don’t lose the ticket they give you when you arrive – you need it when you pay at the end.
For something sweet – well, New York cheesecake, of course! A classic place to have a slice is Junior’s Restaurant and Bakery. The original is in Brooklyn, but there are two other locations in midtown on Broadway (1515 and 1626). And for more modern New York sweets – cronuts, cookie dough and watermelon soft serve ice cream served in a ‘plate’ made from real watermelon with chocolate seeds. They all started in NYC!
I also really recommend getting out of Manhattan into the other boroughs to travel the world by subway. In Brooklyn, try perogies in Russian Brighton Beach or jerk chicken to die for in Crown Heights. In Queens, take the 7 train to Flushing for Mongolian hotpot or Jackson Heights for empanadas. Or head up into the Bronx for fresh pasta along Arthur Avenue or Irish soda bread in Woodlawn.
Which side of the road does your city drive on ? Is it cycle friendly ?
People drive on the right side in the United States. However, if you can avoid driving in NYC, do so. There is a great subway system and there are plenty of taxis everywhere. NYC is actually one of the greenest cities in the United States because so few people drive. It is easier not to. Parking is also very expensive. If you do drive, keep in mind that it is illegal to turn right on a red light in NYC, unlike most of the country.
Is New York cycle-friendly? Well, it is easy to rent a Citibike for half an hour. There are designated bicycle lanes in many streets to help make the city more cycle friendly. Do people cycle around? Yes. Would I? No – the traffic in NYC is insane! However, there are paths along the rivers that are great to cycle along.
Would you recommend any popular local apps to tourists for transport, food and hidden gems in your city ?
A transport app that I love is https://citymapper.com/nyc. Citymapper compares all forms of transportation, including walking and cycling, and will tell the quickest to get from Point A to Point B. You may think that a taxi is going to be faster but Citymapper will tell you there is a traffic jam and it will be faster to take the 6 train.