The city that never sleeps took a short nap for about a year. Businesses shuttered, venues remained dormant and for once, the Big Apple looked like a hollow frame of what I knew it as. The hibernation brought upon us by Covid-19 restrictions slowly dissipates, leaving me longing to embrace all that my home has to offer. The months of ordering in have come to an end, and the isolated past gives way to “the new normal.” The guidelines in NYC continuously shift, allowing the hope for the old to find its home with the new.
Read on for the top 10 places to visit in New York City upon reopening.
Maybe the parks kept you sane all those months. But if you’re like me, the city itself remained a “no go” for over a year. Prior to the pandemic, Central Park hosted unforgettable memories. Strolls shaded by swaying leaves, picnics that provided a much-needed vacation from the streets. There’s nothing quite like natural wonder in this world. The greenery provides an escape from the struggles of day-to-day life.
While Central Park claims the title of most-known park, there are still dozens of other reserves of nature for those longing to flee the city life. A ton of parks most notably line the shores of Staten Island, but under the shade of the Brooklyn Bridge you will find an oasis of green. Among these parks is the properly titled “Brooklyn Bridge Park.”
Local parks on Staten Island acted as an outlet for my mental regeneration. Occasional walks better served my mind along with my body. While the crashing of the waves along the shore will always soothe my soul, the heart of Manhattan holds a special place in me. The central oasis boasts beautiful sights along with expanses of grass filled with people from all walks of life. The city encircles this shrine of serenity, but it’s for that reason that it shines so much more.
New York prides itself on its various unique exhibits. Modern art from across the globe decorates the halls of the MoMA, while fossils tower over guests at the American Museum of Natural History. Visitors make these museums a must-see on their lists along with natives of New York. For some, the experience educates, for others it excites. Being able to acknowledge the complexity of the world’s history or step into the world of another person’s mind through art is an experience welcomed with open arms.
3. Restaurants & Bars
New York hosts the greatest collection of restaurants out there. Across the five boroughs you’ll find hundreds of eateries, each unique in their own style. Every type of food you could fathom exists in this great city. If you’re in the mood for smokey BBQ, sink your teeth into some Virgil’s BBQ. Italian? Look up Little Italy. Craving a classy, crafted cocktail? Take a sip at Holiday Cocktail Lounge. To make a food fanatics fantasy come true, book a trip to NYC. Beyond just food, some of these venues regularly feature local talent.
“I became very interested in seeing live music and comedy shows at local bars & restaurants shortly before the pandemic started. There hasn’t been much to see over the past year due to the Covid-19 regulations in New York. I am looking forward to seeing live music and comedy shows again as places start to reopen in NYC this summer,” St. John’s University graduate Brian Macawso said.
The excitement injected into a venue from live entertainment can drive in locals from across the city. Nothing beats a performance of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” in your local bar. Do I even need to discuss pizza? Every block houses a pizzeria claiming to be #1. Frankly, the only way to decide who’s telling the truth would be to try every slice. That’s a task that isn’t “easy as pie” (wink, wink). One thing’s for certain, New York wears the crown when it comes to the art of pizza. There’s literally an entire style of pizza dedicated to the city. Going out to enjoy a memorable meal with friends once again makes for a much-needed remedy after a year of isolation.
4. One World Observatory
When 9/11 struck, New York took a knee amongst the ashes. From that rubble arose a phoenix of freedom: the One World Trade Center stands a monument to the lives lost on that tragic day. This symbol of resilience towers over its competitor skyscrapers, sending a message to the world of what New York is all about.
Beyond its stamp on the world, the tower adorns the skyline like a signature ornament. Ground Zero today admits thousands of visitors to solemnly pay their respects to those lost. While the sight holds a weight of grief, the observatory topping freedom tower makes for a wonderful trip. Being able to view the city from such a height provides a remarkable perspective of the city that never sleeps. To this day I remember my first visit, the sun glistened on the harbor while the streets seemed to stretch on to the horizon. I recall contemplating the sheer size of the world. If the city could hold so many people leading different lives, what rests beyond the seas? After a year where we all seemed to feel so alone we need a reminder of the world that surrounds us.
5. Rockefeller Center
When the holiday season reaches full swing there’s nothing quite like a trip to Rockefeller Center. The plaza dedicates itself to Christmas wonder each year, being the foundation for the iconic NYC Christmas tree. The site sees visitors from the shores of California all the way to the streets of Tokyo. Besides being the place for photographs, Rockefeller’s surrounding area holds plenty to do.
If you want to skate, Rockefeller’s rink will make memories that will last a lifetime. The time I discovered the underground shopping plaza I lost my mind. After having visited the city numerous times, the fact that an entire shopping district escaped my sight boggled me. Of course, it wouldn’t be Rockefeller Center without Radio City Music Hall. The seasonal Rockettes extravaganza takes the stage every winter, but if dance isn’t your style, the stage welcomes acts of all backgrounds. Until I set foot in Rockefeller, my life will not be back to normal.
6. Sports Stadiums
The smell of popcorn wafting through the air, the roar of the crowd engrossing the arena. New York isn’t New York without its sports. Yankees fans can make peace with the Mets to agree that this pandemic sucks. Any time I step into a sporting event I can’t help but get wrapped up in the atmosphere. Even if I barely knew anything about the team, the excitement of competition never felt so alive.
For those die-hard fans, I could only imagine the despair. In a city that thrives on the athletics industry with a fan base so devoted, the lockdown took its toll. The doors open now to welcome back fans to their teams. If you’re into sports, this summer will be one for the books.
7. Coney Island
When I went to Coney Island, I’ll honestly admit it unsettled me. The magic of Disney spoiled me, so this turned out to seem like a whacky sideshow. A day full of amusement later I went to bed with the feeling that I just lived out one of the best days I will ever have. I barely went on any rides, only played a few arcade games and took a simple stroll along the boardwalk.
Nothing stood out that could even compare to a high-end resort, but it still delivered an everlasting memory. It might be exactly that though. The whacky characters that crossed my path filled the day like a story book. The amount of jokes shared regarding the insanity of a ride, or the summer scents that floated about. Perhaps it was just the stars aligning for one night, but Coney Island set the stage for a time I will never forget.
Nothing compares to the harmony of a crowd belting out your favorite song. The melody that fills the air while you chant along in pure joy can only be found in concerts. Just like sports stadiums, there’s an invisible bond that connects all in attendance. In times so divided, the show must go on. It’s simply impossible to be angry when your favorite music fills the venue. If you’re still not ready to commit to purchasing tickets, take a look at outdoor venues like Pier 17. Enjoy the show with the skyline setting the scene above you.
“The thing I’m looking forward to the most would definitely be concerts. I really miss the overall feeling of screaming my heart out to my favorite artist with my best of friends. I remember the times when I would go and have the time of my life without the worry of reality because you get so engaged in what is happening around you. I’m so glad they are slowly opening up and I definitely look forward to joining my friends at one again,” Baruch freshman Iris Procaccio said.
Live music will never go out of style. You can download any song you could think of through various apps but the experience remains unmatched. The live sound, the special setlists, the exclusive merch, the audience connection undoubtably steals the show. Thousands singing your favorite tune for a moment in time. A few minutes where the world outside did not stain the soul to cause conflict. Right now, we could all use some of those moments. Where better to share your love for music than iconic venues like the world-famous Madison Square Garden or the Brooklyn-based Barclays Center.
Where California dominates film, New York tackles theatre. The word Broadway summons up images of red curtains, bright lights and unforgettable performances. If Shakespeare still lived, he probably would relocate to NYC. There’s a reason performing arts participants aim for Broadway. The first-class productions will leave you rolling in tears of laughter or shaking with tears of sorrow. Storytelling thrives on New York’s many acclaimed stages.
“I was supposed to go see The Book of Mormon on Broadway back in March of last year, but the lockdowns had just begun at that point. So hopefully now we can actually do that once Broadway reopens,” St. John’s University junior Daniel Morgan said.
Tourists flock to Broadway, yet those who live here never doubt the presence of prestigious plays. Across the city, you’ll find institutions that instruct mediocre performers on how to rise through the ranks. The best of the best come to Broadway. Now that theatres will reopen steadily, the city will pull back the curtains for all to enjoy the beloved stories found only in the city of dreams. Theatres aim to reopen in September. Through assigned seating, masks and other guidelines, the venues hope to come back bigger than ever.
10. Times Square
Natives tend to avoid it like the plague deeming it a tourist trap. Would we really be NYC without the iconic hub of Times Square? Even though I’m a New Yorker myself, I unironically enjoy the square. The blocks upon blocks of restaurants leave an open selection for your company. The flashing billboards that cover every tower encircle you in consumerism.
Street performers showcase their skills in an effort to make a living, while scammers try their best to make a quick buck. The smell of industrial waste blends with the comforting scent of a cart selling nuts. It gets a little packed, so if you’re an introvert consider the alternatives. Yet, the truth still stands: when the world thinks of New York, they think of the “bright lights, big city” vibes of Times Square.