As a principle I try to have at least one NYC adventure a week, whether that be visiting a place I’ve read about or trying a fad food. That adds up to 52 local adventures a year. But since I don’t have the bandwidth to recount 52 things I did in 2019 and you as a reader wouldn’t want to subject yourself to a mountain of text, I’ve narrowed it down to nine. So, in no particular order, here are my nine of my favorite NYC adventures from 2019.
Learning to respect Grant’s Tomb Nowadays Ulysses S. Grant gets lost in the sea of old white dudes who served as U.S. presidents in the nineteenth century. But in his day, Grant was actually a big deal both nationally and internationally, and it was a tremendous honor for New York City to be home to Grant’s (and his wife Julia’s) final resting place. The General Grant National Memorial looks like a piece of Washington, D.C. was dropped in the middle of Morningside Heights. The architecture wasn’t the only thing that wowed me during my visit; it turns out that Grant was a pretty progressive guy (compared to the other folk of his time). The video in the visitor center gave some insightful details but what really made this visit worthwhile was talking to National Park Ranger Willoughby, who taught me why this place mattered back in the day and why it should still matter today.
Picnicking in Green-Wood Cemetery I must have a thing for being around dead people, because I found spending the day at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn to be one of my favorite outings this past fall. I’ll admit, it was quite spooky at first, but once I convinced myself that no one was going to jump out and snatch my soul, it was fun finding unique grave markers and memorials. I detailed my experience here if you’re curious about the history of the cemetery and a few of its most notable sites.
Following Awkwafina’s NYC to Literary Walk I doubt there’s another NYC guide book that encourages you to embarrass yourself on the level that Awkwafina’s NYC does. In addition to having food and activity recommendations, this book is full of dares that’ll turn your run of the mill visit to Staten Island into a wild story you’ll never forget. I wanted a wild story, or at the very least, a wild picture, so I took my copy of the book and headed to Central Park with every intention to squat on a duck (statue)—the duck statue that’s next to the Hans Christian Andersen, specifically. As you can see in the picture above, I didn’t even attempt to do that, because I chickened out. I was too afraid of what the people around me would think. Even though I got a half-decent photo that day, I wasn’t particularly pleased with myself. What I realized from that experience was that if I’m fully going to commit to making the most out of life in NYC (for this blog’s sake and my own sake), I would have to shake off my fears of being perceived as too cringey or, god-forbid, too touristy. This city is full of weirdos. No one is going to care if I squat on a duck (statue).
Taking a bike ride around Central Park It’s funny how for the better part of 2019 I worked for a bike rental company but I hadn’t been on a bike in years (NY drivers are crazy and I’m trying to be around for a few more decades). But after seeing how nearly every customer we served would come back from their bike ride with huge smiles on their faces, raving about their adventure, I decided to face my fears and get on a bike. I figured the route that would pose the least risk of bodily harm to me would be the 5.14-mile loop around lower portion Central Park, which is mostly car-free. But the joke was on me; I missed the turn to stay within the lower loop and ended up having to do the whole 6.2-mile loop around the park, included the notorious northern hill. By the time I made it back to the southern entrance of the park, my legs were dead, but I felt so alive. It finally made sense why customers came back so happy. Will this experience coax me into joining the ranks of other cyclists in the city? With 2019’s cyclist death toll? Fuggedaboutit.
Strolling through Roosevelt Island Since I had neither the budget nor the time this year to take a proper vacation outside of NYC, I tried to make up for it by taking day trips to places that were diametrically different to the rest of the city. Although I was too lazy to make the trek to City Island or Governor’s Island this year, I made it over to the next best option: Roosevelt Island. And it was by no means a wasted day. Walking around Roosevelt Island was like walking through a small town. But what small town you know has stunning waterfront views, a beautiful park, a haunted hospital, AND a gander of geese on the loose? If I didn’t hate the F train so much, I’d seriously consider moving there.
Visiting the Queens Museum While most New Yorkers like to hate on Staten Island, for years I’ve had a vendetta against Queens. How could I not? It’s hard to access from Brooklyn and its streets make no sense at all. But in the fall of 2019 I learned that this perplexing borough does have at least one redeeming factor: the Queens Museum. Right off the bat the Queens Museum gets points for having a merely “suggested admission,” so I got in for free.99. And unlike typical art museums, the Queens Museums had interactive exhibits and it wasn’t geared to the obscure. The crown jewel of the Queens Museum, of course, was the Panorama of the City of New York. It’s mind-boggling that a group of 100 people created a scaled down replica of all of NYC (as it stood in 1964). It took me the better part of an hour to even attempt to take it all in.
Riding the SeaGlass Carousel Maybe I was riding the high of starting a new job that day, but taking a ride on the SeaGlass Carousel in Battery Park City was the most magical experience I’ve had this year. Being seated on a color-changing fish whirling around to a soft rock soundtrack was like being in the center of a live-action performance of The Little Mermaid. I got off the ride feeling twenty years younger. Definitely worth the five dollar admission fee.
Tracking down a piece of the Berlin Wall It didn’t take a lot of sleuthing to find NYC’s piece of the Berlin Wall because 6sqft and Untapped New York had detailed articles pinpointing its location. But that didn’t take away from the feeling of awe I had when I finally was able to stand in front of this literal piece of history. Despite the articles I read in preparation, this was still an experience full of surprises.First off, it was surprising to see that the villainous Berlin Wall was a thin slab of concrete. Second surprise: it was just sitting in a FiDi courtyard, only guarded by a black fence that’s not even as tall as I am. If I wanted to, I could have touched the wall (but for the record, I didn’t!).
Living in Ocean Hill, BK In May, I left my quiet (and very out of the way) neighborhood of Flatlands, Brooklyn, and moved further north to Ocean Hill, a longstanding contestant for NYC’s best misnomer. Sandwiched between Bed-Stuy, Bushwick, and Brownsville, Ocean Hill was simultaneously more hood and more hipster than the southern Brooklyn neighborhoods I grew up in. I’m not going to attempt to sum up my feelings about a complex neighborhood that I only spent seven months in, but for now I will say I have so much appreciation for the A train.
What were your favorite NYC adventures of 2019? And what adventures do you hope to have in 2020?