Islands, Military Bases/ Facilities, Historic Sites
Restaurants (Mediterranean, Spanish)
Flea/ Street Markets
A former military base turned public park, Governors Island is only a five-minute ferry ride from Manhattan, but it feels worlds (and centuries) away. With idyllic grassy expanses lined by stately historic mansions, a sculpture mini-golf course, and even a hammock grove, this is the perfect place to wile away a lazy summer afternoon--grazing on delicacies from local food trucks, exploring the original fort, or just admiring stellar views of Lady Liberty.
Established in 1854, this tiny bar holds claim to the title of New York's "oldest continually operating saloon," and it maintains a homey, old-timey feel even when populated with drunken revelers. Littered with yellowed photographs, wishbones purportedly left by soldiers going off to war, and even the chair in which Abraham Lincoln enjoyed his share of McSorley’s ale, this is not just bar but living museum. As for drinks, you've got two options, light or dark ale, and since they come in two small glasses, you can try one of each.
Yes, Central Park is lovely, but Prospect Park was designed by the same gents (Olmsted and Vaux), and is said to be truer to the vision they originally had of Central Park. I may be biased (I live only a few blocks away), but I find it amazing that I can be in the heart of Brooklyn and feel like I'm hiking somewhere far out of town.
You're likely to walk right on past this building, taking its plant-festooned entry for another lovely West Village residence, but head down the steps and into a literal hidden gem of a restaurant. The ever popular spot is dim and romantic, with an interior that resembles a Spanish plaza, and food to match the look. Order small plates to share, and sample as much as you can stomach, but be sure to order at least one plate of the brussels sprouts (I guarantee you'll want to add on a second!).
Taking its name from a Paris neighborhood, this bar and performance spot oozes all things hip, international, and artsy. Its French café style features wooden tables, tin ceilings, and bare light bulbs, but the focal point is the entertainment, an array of musicians from the solo French-Algerian pianist to bluegrass groups, all greatly enjoyed whether or not you're under the influence of creative or classic cocktails.
As a history buff, I can't get enough of this museum. Set smack-dab in the Lower East Side, this old building once really was a tenement, and the organization that now runs it researched actual families who lived here. Guided tours tell you the stories of some of those real people, and show you what the apartments would have looked like when they lived there. It's a great look back at history.
It's not a secret that the Chelsea Market is fabulous. The former factory of household food name Nabisco (makers of Oreos, Graham Crackers, and more), the cavernous brick space has a distinct urban feel, and has stayed true to its roots in food. Now it's home to myriad food stalls, from the beloved Amy's Bread to bewitching Fat Witch brownies, plus an authentic Italian deli, a well-stocked wine vault, and stalls specializing in everything from cheese to nuts to fresh-squeezed juice. I love stopping to watch bread being made or picking up a treat and sitting down to people watch. Don't forget to check out the artwork and Nabisco memorabilia on display throughout too.
I'm a sucker for bookstores, and thankfully New York has no shortage of them, but Housing Works ranks among the very top. Not only can you wander through an incredible, chock-full of books space (think a book wall with rolling ladder, nooks of books, and major discount carts), but you can pick a few and camp out at one of the tables in the cool cafe to peruse. Plus, every dollar you spend in store or cafe goes right back into the nonprofit's mission of helping those with HIV/AIDS.
Whether you're into vintage shopping or looking for hip new local designers, the Brooklyn Flea's got something for you. You'll find everything from funky jewelry to eco-conscious sandals, and you can wash it all down with local eats from some of the city's most popular food vendors.