Ollie’s Top Five things to do in New York (that aren’t in the guidebook)

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Ok, so this isn’t exactly a PR blog, but I’m always being asked about what I recommend people do when in New York, so I thought I would write a post about it.

I’m a big fan and regular visitor to New York (and hope to spend time working out there one day), and as such, friends, colleagues and comrades often ask me for advice on the best places to go and visit. I often repeat, and type the same thing over and over again. So here are my thoughts on what you should definitely make time to do.

I have to warn you though, it does include quite a few bars and some pub crawls. I’m a big fan of bars and pubs and I love to visit as many as possible whenever I go somewhere. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a crazy alcoholic, I just find something wonderful about bars and pubs – their unique, the people you meet, the atmosphere, every bar is different, and every bar has something new to offer (obviously, I’m not talking about British chain pubs here, no Weatherspoons or All Bars Ones allowed…). New York has a huge variety and some of the best bars and pubs in the world – even more so than London, and London has plenty of smashing examples.

So if you care for a beer, and enjoy the variety of drinking establishments on offer, this list is for you. That said, it’s not all bars, so hopefully there is some useful information that will get you away from Times Square and all the other tourists.

1: McSorleys (East 7th street, just off 3rd Ave) My favourite pub in the whole world. It’s amazing. Go. Do it. It has been there since the 1850’s, and may well not have changed since, but hopefully the sawdust on the floor is reasonably fresh. If you find yourself a table (the waiters will usually assist with this) you’ll probably have to share it, and you’ll soon be hearing stories about the history of the place (Harry Houdini’s hand cuffs are still there) over a home brewed beer – there are only two choices here, Light Beer or Dark Beer… It is wonderful and I always make time for a visit.

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McSorley’s Old Ale House, 15 East 7th Street, Manhattan, New York. Photograph taken July 22, 2010.

2: Take in a view: All the guide books suggest one of the tall buildings, so here is a word of advice from someone who has been up all of them. If you’ve only got time for one tall building experience, my personal preference would be to take in the view at the Top of the Rock! (The Rockefeller building). It has shorter queues than the Empire State building, you get to see the Empire State building and you get both uptown and downtown Manhattan. The One World Trade Centre (the new one) is taller, but the views (in my opinion) aren’t as good – from the Rock you get a great view of Central Park and Uptown Manhattan, which isn’t as good up the One World Trade Centre. The viewing platform at the Top of the Rock is outside too.

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3: Pub Crawl around the East Village. My favourite place to pub crawl. There must be 700 pubs, all within a few metres of each other. Dive bars, music bars, cocktail bars, sports bar… Lively, fun and a tad ridiculous… Try and take in “Old Ottos Shrunken Head” – which is a particular favourite: great cocktails, plus Puffer Fish lamp shades, that are worth the visit alone. Please Don’t Tell, is a great little speakeasy too – you enter through a telephone box in a hotdog shop (just make sure that you stop for a hotdog, as they are smashing!!). Crocodile Lounge is also great, mainly for the concept of a free slice of pizza with every drink (free pizza, what’s not to like…). I could go on for days about bars in the East Village. But I won’t.

4: All you can eat Ribs and all you can drink Beer!!! If you’re in New York on a Sunday, Brother Jimmy’s BBQ (my favourite one is on 77th and 2nd) does All you can eat Ribs (really good ribs) and all you can drink beer (Bud/Bud lite/Coors etc). For two hours’ chomp on some properly tasty ribs and plenty of sports, and friendly and fun staff…

5: On my latest visit a few weeks ago, I checked out the Tenement Museum: It was recommended years ago, so I thought I’d take a look, and it is well worth a visit. It is a fascinating look at what life was like in a turn of the century in a tenement building, untouched since the 1930’s. It tells some stories of what it was like to live in New York and uses the history of actual families that lived in the building. Meticulously researched and fascinating. Get yourself there.

Other good stuff that is also in the guide book and definitely worth checking out.

The Highline is always worth a romantic walk along. Formally a railway above the Meatpacking and Chelsea districts, it is now a pleasant park/green area, in a city that lacks green areas. Stroll along and marvel in how reclaiming a bit of old industry that would have been pulled down is now a lovely little park (there is also a bar half way along…)

If it’s your first time in New York, you should visit Times Square, just for a look. If you do, and get thirsty then don’t stop at one of the hundreds of terrible mock Irish pubs that charge 10 bucks a beer. Instead head into Jimmy’s Corner (44th Street, just off 7th Ave), right in the heart of Times Square and run by a former boxing trainer Jimmy Glen. Cue plenty of boxing memorabilia and photos, a great atmosphere with locals and only a smattering of tourists, and to top it all, you can still get a beer for 3 bucks!! Jimmy’s is Awesome.

If you want to get good views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis island, but don’t want to pay for a boat trip or get off on either island, just take the FREE Staten Island ferry that goes past both. You can then stop for a pint on Staten Island (there is a bar a few minutes away from the ferry port), or just get another ferry back to Manhattan…

New York is fabulous city, and great to just wonder around aimlessly. Any other ideas of the must see things in New York? Especially the less obvious ideas, that aren’t always found in the guidebooks (and any suggestions for decent bars and pubs are always welcome…)

 

Ollie

 

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