The Local Tourist: Central Park

All too often I hear people say that they "could never live in New York because there are no trees" and this sentiment just kills me. True, New York is a metropolis and not a rural paradise of rolling hills. So, not every neighborhood has a park and tree-lined streets. However, living on the Upper West Side, I honestly enjoy more greenery and have more interaction with the outdoors here than I ever have elsewhere. 

How could that be, you ask? A large part of that answer is, of course, Central Park.

In the mornings, I walk alongside the park to work. On weekends, I have jogged through its trails, ambled around its lakes, picnicked near the baseball fields, watched concerts at Summer Stage and attended Global Citizens Festival on the Great Lawn. So, when people talk about Central Park, particularly regarding its massive size, I've always felt fairly in-the-know about it. 

That is, until recently. 

The Tourist: Central Park

I usually stroll in from the west side of the park, but recently approached via the very common 6th Ave./Central Park South entrance.  While the terrain was somewhat unfamiliar to me, I figured I’d get my bearings soon enough. After all, the lower part of the park is certainly more occupied and mapped out. However, after a few hundred yards, I began to pass unseen statutes, curious buildings and small ponds. I saw volleyball courts and gigantic boulders seemingly spring out of nowhere and even spotted an elevated carousel-like house built for chess playing. I became smitten with each and every new trail, view and landmark in my path, and it was then that I realized how little I had actually seen of the park the past few years. It truly is huge.

So huge, in fact, that for time-conscious visitors, I would definitely recommend having a plan or destination as opposed to just walking around it aimlessly, since that could easily take up your entire day.

Most notable picks for:

Family-friendly activities: The Central Park Zoo

A  Romantic Date: Kayak, A Guided Walking Tour

Friends: Summer Stage, The Met (Upper East), American Museum of Natural History (Upper West)

The Local: Loeb Boathouse

First off, let’s get something straight: the Loeb Boathouse is no grand secret. It is, however, an absolute gem that remains in certain ways undiscovered. True to my spoiled nature of good luck, I had the opportunity to have dinner there just last week and I would recommend it to anyone. The boathouse simply has that “thing” that people talk about when they speak of the magic that is Manhattan. Set off significantly from the streets but with the backdrop of the city over the water and trees, the atmosphere is both calming and splendid. At one table, a group of women celebrated another’s birthday – standard. At the bar, a local read a book while sipping her drink. Bartenders and managers softly flitted to and fro, greeting her only in the way a regular can be greeted, with a relaxed rhythm and commentary on recent conversations. The lofted ceilings and white pillars overlook a peaceful pond, lined with wooden boats and an authentically Venetian gondolier. Oh, and the food, drinks and service are, without hesitation, superb.

The boathouse, all things considered, is special. It is certainly crafted to attract tourists, but it has a natural way of fitting in comfortably well with the locals, too.  It feels like the subtle-yet-magnificent place one goes to hit pause on life – just for a moment – and to soak in all that is wonderful in the world. 

The Local Tourist: Radio City

The Local Tourist is a series that will focus on balancing a typical tourist's outing with a local's secret, tip or recommendation on the area.

As an Asian-American and a fond photographer of food, I won't lie: I pretty much always look like a tourist and I'm totally okay with it. Scoping out this great big grid's nooks and crannies for its hidden gems is certainly my forte; yet, I still like to take advantage of all that the city has to offer. And sometimes that involves doing something touristy. Most recently, it meant an evening at Radio City Music Hall.

I haven't been to Radio City since I saw the Rockettes as a child. While I've worked across the street from the famed building for the past two years, I've never taken the time to scope out seeing a show there. Not only is it a bit too close to work for comfort, but during the holiday season, the area is a madhouse. On top of it - this is New York! There's always something to do and somewhere to go, with new places opening left and right. So, some of the city's more famous mainstays haven't really been on the top of my list

Regardless, when a coworker slid over two free tickets to America's Got Talent semi-finals with Maroon 5 opening the show, I figured it was a perfect opportunity to take advantage of. I mean, have I EVER watched America's Got Talent? Not a chance. But was I just going to sit back and let a free ticket, including an Adam Levine sighting, slip from my hands? Of course not. My strain of FOMO is too severe for all that.

The Tourist: Radio City

- Best For: a show, duh. However, there are a lot more shows here than the staple Christmas Spectacular. Think: Train, Bastille and Eric Prydz. And, of course, semi-finals for TV shows like America's Got Talent are often filmed here. Like I've said, I don't follow the show. However, it's pretty cool to take part in a TV show as its filmed and learn about all the logistics involved. Plus, again, free Adam Levine. 

For the full calendar of events, click here.

- Atmosphere: It's just north enough to be out of craziness that is Times Square and is easily accessible by subway, making Radio City the perfect place for a date or a family outing. Having never been to Radio City in recent memory, I was surprised at how updated and modern it was.  Phenomenal sound and lighting, pleasant and helpful staff and ultra comfy seats. To sum it up:  old-school opera meets luxury movie theatre.

 - You'll Spend: Though lines were fairly long (as expected in any theatre pre-show), cocktails came in at a fairly reasonable $12 a piece. Having had a $20 glass of the house red at MSG before, I have no complaints about this, especially considering they put a tad bit more effort into actually listing a few spotlight cocktails. 

The Local: Carnegie Club

http://seuleanewyork.com

http://seuleanewyork.com

After seeing your show of choice, skip out on the hyped-up restaurants in the immediate area and stroll up a few blocks toward Carnegie Club for a cocktail with your date. Past the New York Health & Racquet and just before an industrial parking garage, you'll find an incredibly-easy-to-miss entryway to Carnegie Club.

Upon entering, you'll find a buzzing cigar bar that seemingly brings the past to life. Between the live jazz and the smoky, cathedral-like ambiance, the place manages to embody the storied glamour of Central Park South in the era of Madmen. Order a martini or champagne, cozy up on the glamorously worn furniture and sip away amongst rows and rows of old books and good conversation.

Note: I'm not a smoker but I've always enjoyed the smell of a cigar for whatever reason. If this doesn't sound like you, though, I would obviously. not. come. here. You WILL smell of cigar smoke for the rest of the evening.

Tip: There's generally live jazz at Carnegie Club which makes it feel as if you're at a private show. Usually there is no cover, either, which makes the $15-ish cocktail prices very much worth it. I have heard that there are $40 seatings on Saturdays, though, so best to call ahead if you're going on a weekend.

 

How I moved in Manhattan for $250

(Scroll to bottom for move details/pricing)

Let’s get one thing straight, here. If you have friends and you want to keep them, you will absolutely not ask them to help you move within the city. It is a completely irrational request and reserved strictly for those moving into the city for the very first time.

No one wants to spend one of their precious weekend days lugging someone else’s stupid 50-pound coffee table halfway across Manhattan.

No, not even if it’s from Crate & Barrel – I promise you.

And so, enter the delightfully vague world of movers. I could pretend as if I did a whole bunch of research that led me to a making an educated decision on which mover to choose, but truth be told, I just went with some sketchy Chinatown moving company run by a guy and his cell-phone that a coworker recommended. 

This is what showed up.

Every now and then, I take a walk on the wild side.

But the risk turned out to be not so much of a risk at all. After a quick Google search, I learned that the company, Sanho, even had Yelp page.

Ipso Facto, they’re legit.

And, they turned out to be legit. Well, for the most part. They were 2 hours late and while the movers were very sweet and swift (the entire process took 2.5 hours once it actually started), the driver was kind of a d-bag.

All-in-all, it was a tad bit G-hetto.

I also think it was illegal that they transported me across Manhattan in the front seat between them, sans a seatbelt, but let’s not get our feathers ruffled over spilt milk. Or whatever.

BUT FIRST...

BUT FIRST...

Point is: New York is a massive place with more resources and options than you could ever compare. Sometimes going for the lesser-known name or off of a recommendation from a trusted friend is the best option out there.

But in case you were reading this in hopes of more beneficial information (and, honestly, whose fault is that?), I’ve listed some more insightful resources below:

How to choose your company:

http://www.timeout.com/newyork/style-design/best-nyc-moving-companies

To Review the company you choose:

 http://www.mymovingreviews.com/move/new-york-city-moving-guide

How to negotiate pricing: http://brickunderground.com/blog/2012/10/negotiating_your_way_to_a_better_price_for_moving

Full Disclosure: I ended up paying $250 all-inclusive (even tip!) to move from Murray Hill to the Upper West Side (30 blocks up & a miserable 9 avenues over). The move was from a door man building with an elevator to a walk-up in a brownstone and included a bed & frame, 6 boxes, an ottoman, 2 small dressers, a bedside table, a light lamp and a suitcase.