10 Urban Experiences in NYC *Video*

Vert SkylineI lived in NYC for 5 years and I love to come back to visit. What I like most is that while I know the city, it constantly changes and I’m surprised and mostly delighted by the subtle shifts that have happened in my absence.

These changes can be seen by simply walking the streets. I think it’s here on the pavement (and in the subway bowels) where one can experience the true pulse of the city.

Here’re my 10 favorite urban experiences to savor when in NYC.

1.  Superior Skyline

Last week, I rode in from the airport at about 9:00 pm a night and I was greeted with a spectacular full moon peeking through the buildings. The moonlight illuminated the city’s iconic images, including architectural beauties such at the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. The sheer size and scale of the buildings in NYC are unmatched, instantly impressing me with the immensity and intensity of the city that never sleeps.

2.  Underground Music

I have tremendous respect for artists and their courage for putting their art out there for all to see (or hear). I especially enjoy musicians and I nearly always stop a moment to listen to their performance.

While you can find music throughout the city, the subways of New York are known for their amazing acoustics and at the most popular stations you’ll almost always hear a solo guitar or a trio or an a cappella group.

In fact these musicians are not only encouraged but sponsored through a city program called Music Under New York. Seen as a way to bring music culture to the millions riding the subway, there are currently more than 350 soloists and musical groups providing over 7,500 annual performances at 30 locations throughout the transit system. All I have to say to this city-wide effort is “Encore”!

Give a listen to this fabulous group of jazz musicians I happened upon in Washington Square Park:

Can’t see this video? Click on NYC Jazz Musicians

3.  Subway Art

NYC’s transit system also has a Poetry in Motion program that I love. It brings more than 200 poems or literary excerpts to commuters. If possible, I always try to maneuver close to the poster of poetry in the subway car and let the beautiful image and the words transport me to another time and place.

Chalk ArtHere’s one of my favorite poems:

west of rest is sleep

east, dream

where waters meet

north, emptiness,

south, wakefulness,

and out, rising up

to the stars, peace

             Jeffrey Yang, b.1974

4.  Street Fashion

Ok, so I’ve been caught staring at people lately. I can’t help myself. I’m enthralled by what they’re wearing. Big boots, cargo jackets, large-round glasses with thick frames—the assortment is endless.

I find NYC fashion has an edginess that doesn’t exist elsewhere. Sometimes it’s chic, sometimes it’s clumsy, but it’s nearly always original. I applaud these street-wise fashion statements that surround me in the city.

WA Sq PARK5.  24-Hour Diners

I dig diners. I like the bustle and the completely nonplussed wait staff. And, of course, I’m enamored with the bottomless cup of coffee. (Notice I didn’t really mention the food.)

The carnival-like atmosphere pulls me in and I happily sit in a sticky vinyl-covered booth and peruse the brightly colored picture menu of plastic-looking pancakes, synthetic Club sandwiches, and manufactured meatloaf. Heaven!

6.  The Grid

Contrary to what you might think, NYC is super easy to get around and that’s because of The Grid. Seriously it couldn’t be much simpler: numbers street crossing numbered avenues. There’re a few ringers in there, like Lexington, Park, and Madison, instead of 4th Avenue. Or the diagonal Broadway. But all in all, you generally have a pretty good idea of where you are at all times.

Chess in the ParkI also like that native New Yorkers define themselves by where on the grid they live. Do you live uptown or downtown? East or West side? Can you metaphorically cross 72nd street? A personal grid point literally orients a city resident.

7.  Outside Living

New Yorkers are known for their miniscule apartments. One reason why this works is that no one actually spends time in their apartments, but instead can be seen meeting up in restaurants, hanging out in bars, strolling in the park and shopping.

No one’s at home – everyone is on the street, living life right out in the open. And the best thing is that they don’t care who sees them. Gawkers welcome.

8.  Bodegas

The corner bodega has everything you’ll ever need. The displays of flowers and fruit alone are enough to draw you in. Newspapers, lottery tickets, metro passes. Look no further than the corner. Need a six pack, orange juice, bottle of rum? Walk to the corner. Can’t live without a PBJ? There’s a jar of peanut butter on the corner.

I had a friend who would go to a bodega to buy a 2-pack of aspirin when he had a headache. He saw no reason to stock up on this necessity. The convenience is almost frightening.

Skyline over Water9.  Law & Order SVU

Every street is straight (literally) out of an episode of Law & Order SVU. This tends to be a tad unsettling late at night, but in general, the grittiness of the city streets is sort of thrilling.

You actually feel that anything can happen at any time. It’s as if you have a bit part in an elaborate production and you’re living life on a stage. Cool.

10.  Doormen

Doormen are a NYC institution. You either live in a doorman building or you don’t. The advantage is huge, and not just in terms of safety and prestige. Doorman more than pay for their worth in convenience alone, as in: “I’ll just leave the keys with the doorman.” As a pedestrian I also appreciate their sentry. You can almost always elicit a cheery good morning or a compliment or a curt nod as you make your way past. As a result, you get greetings all day long and share lots of smile.

Are you a NYC native? What do you like about your city streets?

Interested in other post about urban centers? Check out:

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This entry was posted on Sunday, April 7th, 2013 and is filed under North America.

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