Cutting edge new art
The city offers loads of great smaller museums, such as the Studio in Harlem, the Lower East Side’s Tenement and the new Whitney in Chelsea. My favourite is the New Museum (at 235 Bowery), which is always packed with super-interesting contemporary art that isn’t just paintings on a wall. Past exhibits I’ve loved include one in 2014 by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson, where a dozen young men drank beers and strummed guitars to a score composed by a former member of Icelandic rock band Sigur Rós, and another in mid 2016, choreographed by British artist Cally Spooner, where dancers tackled, fought and cuddled each other in a white room while songs by Drake played. Until mid-January, the dreamy light-filled Pixel Forest created by video artist Pipilotti Rist is showing.
• Entry $18, students $12, under 18s free, newmuseum.org
Friendly dive bar
Times Square is notoriously the most hated part of the city – soulless, expensive and packed with tourists. But Broadway shows and attractions means visitors end up there, so I suggest sneaking away to Jimmy’s Corner, a much beloved Midtown dive bar, for a drink. The walls are covered in boxing posters and memorabilia from owner and former boxing trainer Jimmy Glenn, including snaps of Jimmy with Muhammad Ali. The prices are so cheap, it’s confusing ($5 for a Jameson on the rocks? $3 beers?), you can usually snag a table at the back and staff are friendly
Brilliant chocolate babka
I went to a holiday party last year and someone brought chocolate babka from Oneg, a Jewish bakery in Brooklyn. Every conversation between every guest that evening began with the words “have you tried the babka?”, and this delicious folded buttery chocolatey masterpiece is a perfect holiday treat. It’s worth the trek to Oneg, in the middle of the deeply traditional Hasidic area of South Williamsburg, which will make you feel millions of miles away from the hyper-gentrified Williamsburg just next door.
• 188 Lee Ave, no website
Go to a baseball game
People often suggest tourists go to a New York Yankees game but it took me over two years of living here before I did because I thought baseball – like most sports – was deathly boring. Turns out, a game at Yankee stadium is the kind of cliched Americana dream experience I always hoped for. The cheap seats offer great views. You down expensive hot dogs and beer. Take Me Out to the Ballgame is played and Village People’s YMCA gets everyone dancing, including workers sweeping the field between innings. People propose on the scoreboard. Every player gets a personal song as they step up to the plate. Mindless yelling is encouraged. And even I can follow three-strikes-you’re-out.
Escape from New York: art and nature
Escaping the city briefly makes the crowds and concrete easier to handle, and the Storm King Art Center in New Windsor is the perfect dose of art and nature. Over 100 sculptures lie among the fields, woods and hills in the 500-acre park; my favourite is the enormous Three-Legged Buddha by Chinese artist Zhang Huan. The perfect way to take it all in is to rent one of the onsite bikes and bring a picnic. The park is about an hour and a half’s drive from Midtown Manhattan and there are train and bus options.
• Adult $15, seniors $12, child/students $8, stormking.org
The new Gilmore Girls reboot jokes about how much New Yorkers love to queue for the newest craze, but locals have been lining up for Di Fara pizza for years. Arguably the finest slice in town comes from a no-frills shop front in Midwood, Brooklyn, about a 40-minute subway ride from Midtown. Store owner Domenico DeMarco, who was born in Italy, is in his late 70s and insists on making every pizza himself, which explains the wait. The queues begin before the store opens at 12 (1pm on Sundays – DeMarco goes to church), and on weekends you will wait anywhere between 30 minutes to three hours. Expect an hour minimum, but it’s worth it.