Adventure Point: The Cloisters, Met tour

The Cloisters was something I wanted to do from day one. All I heard about it was that it was pretty, had trees, and looked medieval. 

My friend Elliott from High School spent the summer interning for the MET at the Cloisters. The Cloisters is the MET’s medieval department. He spent the summer researching medievil art history and giving tours to school groups. Last Wednesday I came up and visited him at work, where he was able to give me a private tour of the museum. 

The Cloisters holds five Cloisters, which are squared-off courtyards in monasteries where priests would be able to go outside and relax since they were not allowed to leave the grounds. The five at the MET were from Spain and France and extremely old, with beautiful marble surfaces and intense details. The whole museum was filled with religious artwork that reminded me of being in Westminster Abbey. 


This is my friend Elliott next to one of the Unicorn Hunt Tapestries. The Unicorn Tapestries were my favorite exhibit because nobody knows who made them and it’s a mystery as to what they really mean. Some people believe the unicorn is a symbol for marriage because it is white and pure. Also, when this was made, people thought unicorns were real. 


The exterior of the MET Cloisters. The garden grows greenery that would have been found in a garden during the medieval times, including flowers that were used to make paint.


The entire area around the Cloisters was beautiful, with a view of the Hudson and big green trees. It really didn’t feel like I was in New York City anymore.

Adventure Point: Oysters Oysters Everywhere

So Harriet White approached me one evening about going to the Grand Central Oyster Bar. I had never been to Grand Central Station before nor had I ever had an Oyster, so I couldn’t say no. 

I met here there after work and we walked around Grand Central, me taking pictures of the ceiling and architecture and Harriet hoping I’d hurry up so we could eat. She needed to take photos of the bar for her final project, so we looked extremely touristy. I love looking touristy. 

We decided on the cheapest oyster they had and each ordered one (we’re on diets). Just kidding, we just didn’t feel like getting a meal. We also ordered Calamari because it’s delicious and we’re on vacation so we deserve it.

The oysters came and we both dipped them in ketchup, spritzed them with lemon, and shut our eyes. I must say, oysters are not that bad. However I really only tasted the ketchup. : )

I was surprised I made it so far into the trip before going to Grand Central, and I can’t believe I almost didn’t see it at all. 


Adventure Point: Coney Island Mermaid Parade

This adventure point has been done by all, but I must say it was quite the adventure. 

Annie, Ashley, and I set off to Coney Island via the A train early one saturday morning. It happened to be the day of the Mermaid Parade so we were immediately greeted with a hefty Coney Island bound crowd. On the train I saw my first Cardinal’s hat wearing fan, a four year old boy who did not seem like he knew what the Cardinals were. I digress, but the train ride took about an hour and we were very eager to see what Coney Island was all about.

Upon arrival, the crowd stormed the boardwalk, where a beautiful Nathan’s hotdog stand stood, serving even more beautiful looking hotdogs. Unfortunately, I did not have a hotdog because we wanted to see the parade.

The Mermaid Parade is exactly what it sounds like: a parade of people dressed like mermaids/mermen.

I’m pretty sure every drag queen in Queen’s was there (sorry for the inappropriate picture). Image 

The Mermaid Parade was a blast, but Annie, Ashley and I couldn’t see very well so we headed to the beach. The crowd on the beach was just as big, but we managed to push our way down to the water. 



I really wanted to see Coney Island, and I’m glad I chose the Mermaid Parade to do it. I’m not a huge roller-coaster girl, so the draw is lost on me. I would go back for the beach (and for a hotdog), but I value my neck too much to ever ride the Cyclone.


Adventure Point: Cape Cod

As anyone knows, New York summers are all about the long weekends. Whether you’re heading upstate, going to the Hamptons or getting some R&R somewhere else on the East Coast, long weekends are the answer to hot, sticky summers in Manhattan. My long weekend of choice was Cape Cod! When my boyfriend suggested getting out New York during one of his visits, I initially jumped on the idea of visiting an elegant seaside town up in Massachusetts. I wanted to go to Nantucket at first, but we finally settled on the 300 year-old-town of Chatham, MA, right on the elbow of Cape Cod. It was the perfect weekend escape from the city!

One of the things I enjoy most about New York is how close it is to other cities on the East Coast. Taking advantage of this fact, Michael and I decided to drive up to Chatham (4.5 hour drive!). Although it was a long drive for after work, the scenery driving though Connecticut, Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts was absolutely breathtaking. Driving on highways completely enclosed by lush green forest and the Long Island Sound was the perfect introduction to the East Coast. Yet, I have to say the adventure part of this trip was getting the rental car and driving out of New York at rush hour! Let me tell you I’ll never own a car in Manhattan; it was miserable. But once we hit the “Welcome to Cape Cod” sign, I realized it was worth it!

As a small, quaint seaside town, Chatham was the perfect getaway. With streets such as Seaside Avenue and Main Street, Chatham is a picture perfect place out of 1950s America. With no chains around except a Bank of America and CVS, this small town was full with beautiful little boutiques, great seafood restaurants and beautiful baby blue hydrangeas lining the streets and white-washed cottages. Here are some of the fun things we did:

1. Seal Tour

Seals inhabit the whole coastline of Chatham. So it was only natural that we go on a boat tour to see these fun sea creatures! It was surprising just how many of them there were just relaxing in great patches of the harbor. Wildlife is a big attraction to Chatham.

2. Bike Tour!

How can you go to Cape Cod without taking a bike tour!? Renting bikes at the Chatham Cycle, we took an absolutely breathtaking 12-mile bike ride through the countryside of Cape Cod. With the ability to be active outside and just take in the scenery, this bike ride was one of my favorite parts of the trip!

3. Lobsta!

You can’t go to Cape Cod without having a lobsta. And lobsta is indeed good in Cape Cod. Having it twice over the weekend, my favorite meal was the lobster roll at a country club along the water. The lobster was fresh, light and delectable, melting perfectly in my mouth with each bite! and of course, in elegant, old Chatham, I accompanied my lobster roll with an Arnold Palmer!

Overall, my long weekend showed me just how necessary it is to get out of the Manhattan once and while during the summer. With the oppressive heat and trash, you almost need sometime away in the middle of nowhere to relax and get out of “city” mode. And Chatham did just that. I needed a couple days to walk around Main Street, go bike riding, be on the water and have a “typical” summer experience. But trust me, driving back into Manhattan, seeing the skyline from Queens, I had never felt so happy to be home in The Big Apple. Let’s just say you can’t take the city out of this girl!

– Harriet White

Final Project

Adventure Point: NYC Restaurant Week

Last week, I participated in a time-old tradition in New York: the 20th anniversary of Restaurant Week. In a city of beautiful restaurants, fashionable people and high prices, Restaurant Week gave me the opportunity to try some swanky restaurants for a prime price. Let’s just say this foodie was quite happy!

Now before I babble about my experience at trendy restaurants, let me explain what Restaurant Week is. Held twice a year, Restaurant Week is a 20-plus day event where more than 300 restaurants offer fixed-price menus for weekday lunch and dinner, giving New Yorkers an opportunity to try the best of the best of NY’s dining scene at a fraction of the cost. According to, this event is “a dining celebration and a pioneer in the dining industry.” And little did you know, New York was the first city to have hosted Restaurant Week in 1992 as a part of the Democratic National Convention. It wasn’t meant to be an annual event, but NYC residents enjoyed it so much, it became one!

Now, as someone who enjoys to wine and dine, I was anxious to try the variety and deliciousness  the New York dining scene had to offer. Here is where I went:

Gusto Ristorante, West Village



From the first two weeks of my time in New York, I had to wanted to try Gusto. Located in the West Village (plus), Gusto is a modern Italian restaurant. It’s the perfect place to go if you want a rustic, charming neighborhood feel with a trendy meal. As I love Italian food, for $35.00, I got eggplant cake with smoked mozzarella for an appetizer, steak with parmigiano and arugala and the tiramisu for dessert. Topped with a glass of Pinot Grigio, this meal was amazing! And luckily, because I went with my boyfriend, I got to try his meals too… zucchini risotto, mozzarella appetizer and a chocolate torte cake! Unlike some restaurants in New York, I enjoyed that Gusto actually gave you a sampling of some of their best meals, although the price was knocked off. I am not sure if I would have come here otherwise, so I was thankful for Restaurant Week! It really inspires NYC residents to get out of their neighborhoods and see what New York has to offer gastronomically!

Spice Market, Meatpacking District


So I might like the West Side, because I tried yet another restaurant there. But for Restaurant Week, I wanted to try a restaurant I absolutely was dying to go to but couldn’t necessarily afford. This was Spice Market. An Asian-Fusion (Thai, Indonesian, Japanese) restaurant, Spice Market is a staple restaurant in the NYC food scene. Trendy, exclusive and located in the MPD, Spice Market, under chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, was one of my top restaurants to visit this summer. So when I saw this restaurant was on the list, I almost died. It took forever to find a night where reservations weren’t completely taken, but when there is a will, there is a way. And I found my way into Spice Market.

Grabbing a Passion Fruit Sangria, I ordered the salmon sashimi, the Indonesian Fried Rice with coconut and the ginger cookie with condensed milk. Dying to try this meal, I was a bit disappointed in the quality. As you don’t have to order off the Restaurant Week menu, I tried my friend’s meal, and it tasted delicious. It was then that I learned the dark side of this event: some high-end places dumb down their food for those ordering off the Restaurant Week menu. Although it was disappointing, it is New York after all, and it didn’t surprise me that some restaurants wouldn’t care about those who were paying less. But for me, I at least got to go to Spice Market and get a glimpse of what trendy life is like in the MPD. And I learned the valuable lesson that New Yorkers really can be as stuck up as the world portrays them.

So in the battle between Restaurant Week restaurants, I think I’ll have to choose Gusto. Good neighborhood. Great selection on the menu. Charm. And you can tell they really enjoy people coming in and trying their food. And that’s the best part of Restaurant Week. Getting out and trying the versatility of food in New York! So if I have any advice for future interns in the summer, go to Restaurant Week! It is truly a culinary celebration!

-Harriet White


Multimedia Project: BATTLE(s) OF THE BIG APPLE

After browsing through magazine from a Delta airplane, I became intrigued by an article that stated how classic New York hotspots we’re less interesting than new, trendy places in town.

I decided to find out for myself if I agreed with the article and went head to head with Delta. They owe me some SkyMiles, so it became my passion to prove them wrong.

The BATTLE(s) OF THE BIG APPLE included:

1.Central Park vs. High Line

2. Shake Shack vs. Little Owl

3. Century 21 vs. Uniqlo

4. Little Italy vs. Eataly

5. Empire State Buiding vs. Top of the Rock

Please enjoy.

Multimedia: Little CoMo

As millions of individuals from around the world migrate and settle into New York City each year, thousands of high school graduates pack up their belongings and settle into their respective college towns. While these two groups may differ in age, gender, sexuality, race or religion, both have one thing in common: each is trying to find his or her place. From the two groups, many individuals strive to find a little slice of home: a sense of belonging and comfort in a new and foreign town.

After living away from home both in the United States and abroad, I certainly can attest to this scary and discomforting feeling.

While you cannot substitute many things from the United States in a foreign country, I believed I could adjust quickly after moving to another American city. However upon my arrival to New York, I found this was not always the case. I began missing my familiar Columbia hangouts and go-to spots. I didn’t have my usual places where I could guarantee the food was going to taste good or the atmosphere was going to be just right.

But here, in New York City in a sea of over 8.5 million global citizens, many ethnic groups have proved that is, in fact, possible to find a place of solace. Over the years, certain ethnic groups have claimed specific areas as their own that they can call home: the Chinese people have developed Chinatown, Italians have found respite in Little Italy while Germans have a large population living in the Yorkville neighborhood on the Upper East Side.

So, I decided that I, too, could try to make at least part of this city my own. I embarked on finding similar places to my beloved Columbia spots.

Through this, I put together “Little CoMo” 

(The name being inspired by a cross between Little Italy and NoHo/SoHo).

The following list contains some match-ups and hopes of equivalency. However, it is a reality that the majority of Columbia to New York City places cannot be accurately compared.

1. Shakespeare’s Pizza — Lombardi’s

Location: 32 Spring Street, New York, NY 10012

Shakespeare’s Pizza has been the go-to pizza place in Columbia since 1973. Loved by Columbia residents, students, faculty, alumni and visitors, Shakespeare’s is an institution. It even has a connection to New York City: it’s ridiculous and unique advertisements have even been featured on The David Letterman Show.

Similarly an institution in New York City, Lombardi’s is supposedly the first pizza place in the city and arguably has the best pizza. Lombardi’s is a unique, family-owned specialty that is coveted by New Yorkers and visitors alike. Unlike its biggest competitor, Grimaldi’s, customers are able to visit Lombardi’s without having to wait in line for two hours and sit down at any time.

While the atmosphere is very different between the Columbia and NYC joints, the pizza is pretty similar in composition. Both Shakespeare’s and Lombardi’s “pies” have a similar sauce to toppings ratio and thin – but not too thin – crust. They’re also both extremely fresh!

2. Harpo’s — Blackstones

Location: 245 East 55th Street, New York, NY

Serving $3.00 domestic draughts and bottles and half-priced apple martinis and cosmos from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day of the weeks specials, Blackstones on 55th between 2nd Avenue and 3rd Avenue aligns itself pretty closely with Harpo’s. This Irish pub, who claims it is a saloon, has three bars and ten different large flat screen televisions that have cable access to thirteen different sports channels. Blackstones is also very refreshing and warm, as you’re one in the family! The Mizzou NYC alumni group gets together at Blackstones to watch Tiger football and basketball every Saturday or Sunday of the season!

3. Ragtag Cinema — Film Forum

Location: 209 West Houston Street, New York, NY

Ragtag Cinema is Columbia’s go-to independent film theater. In 2000, Ragtag Cinema was opened by an all-volunteer group of men and women known as the Ragtag Film Society.  It is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit, community-supported theater that shows independent, international, documentary and narrative films. Many filmmakers, students and professors visit the theater and its’ Uprise Bakery every day to appreciate and discuss its films. Not only a movie theater, bakery and bar, Ragtag supports local artists by allowing them to perform live music, theater, comedy and poetry readings. Finally, Ragtag is a host of Columbia’s popular True/False Film Festival.  Ragtag invites all citizens of Columbia and guests into encourage “dialogue between people of different cultures, backgrounds, and identities” as they “aim to foster a vibrant geographic core for the city” (Ragtag Cinema).

While New York City has nearly a half dozen of independent theaters, I believe Film Forum is the most equivalent match to Ragtag. While it is thirty years older than Ragtag founded in 1970, it too is a Film Forum is a nonprofit. According to Film Forum’s website, it is the only autonomous nonprofit cinema in New York City and one of the few in the country. Film Forum is open 365 days out of the year and shows American independent films and foreign art films. Film Forum supports local artists and filmmakers such as Ragtag inviting filmmakers to come speak. Film Forum believes, “As a cinema of ideas, Film Forum is committed to presenting an international array of films that treat diverse social, political, historical and cultural realities…Film Forum’s programs are thoughtfully curated, with attention to unique cinematic qualities, historical importance individually or within a genre and, particularly for documentaries, relevance to today’s world.” (Film Forum). Plus, it does not hurt that they have a delicious bakery too!

4. Déjà Vu Comedy Club — Comic Strip Live

Location: 1568 2nd Avenue,  New York, NY 10028

It seems like we have all been to Columbia’s downtown comedy club: Déjà Vu for one on-campus organization function or another. Established in 1975, the “Vu” serves as Columbia’s most popular, live stand up comedy club. Despite it’s mid-America location and cheesy promotions, it has hosted famous stand up comics from around the country such as: Tim Allen, Larry the Cable Guy, Jeff Foxworthy, Ron White, George Lopez, Drew Carry and Steve-O. In the fall, it will host Rob Schneider and its first international comedian.

Around the same time in 1975, Comic Strip Live, also know as “The Comic Strip” began providing entertainment in New York City’s Upper East Side. After trying out other acts, the club began providing only stand up comics and has been the most popular comedy club in New York ever since. According to their website, more major stars have started their careers at the Comic Strip than any other venue in the world. The Comic Strip first discovered Eddie Murphy, who then in turn discovered Chris Rock. Jerry Seinfeld worked at the Comic Strip for years as well. Other legends include: Adam Sandler, Sarah Silverman, John Henson and many more.

Both the Vu and The Comic Strip are extremely popular and have similar vibes. While Columbia’s club is two floors, it’s upstairs comedy floor has a similar setup to that of the Comic Strip. Customers at both venues are able to see the performing comedian regardless of their seats. Above all, each location provides a great laugh and a great time!

5. MKT Trail — The High Line

Location: The High Line stretches from Gansevoort Street to West 34th Street between 10th & 11th Avenues.

Just want to get away? Both the MKT Trail and the High Line provide refuge for those living in Columbia and New York City.

The MKT trail is a trail built on the old rail bed of the MKT railroad and begins in downtown Columbia. Walkers, joggers, runners and bikers are attracted to the 4.7 mile trail as they are surrounded by nature and separate from the chaos that can ensue in Columba.

The High Line was built in the 1930s, but no trains have run on the High Line since 1980. There were plans to demolish the High Line, but a non-profit group who called themselves “Friends of the High Line” stopped this from happening in 1999.  Friends of the High Line maintain and preserve the elevated trail and park. Construction began in 2006 with the first section opening in 2009. The first section stretched from Gansevoort Street in the Meat Packing District to West 20th. The second section opened last summer in June.

Both the MKT trail and the High Line are man made structures dedicated to serving the community. Both also serve as a natural respite to escape the busyness of each respective city. Finally, both areas have been restored and were built on old train tracks.

6. The Blue Note –– Bowery Ballroom

Location: 768 5th Avenue,  New York, NY 10019

The Blue Note, Columbia’s most popular concert hall, was originally established in 1980. It moved into its Ninth Street location in 1998.  The Blue Note has hosted famous acts such as Phish, Third Eye Blind, Girl Talk, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dave Matthews Band, and many more. They have even hosted Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson.

Bowery Ballroom was built in 1929, but was used as a store for many years. In 1997, the space was converted into a music hall. Bowery Ballroom has hosted many famous acts such as: Eric Church, The Black Keys, Nada Surf and many more.

The Bowery Ballroom has a similar atmosphere, vibe and setup like The Blue Note. Similarly to The Blue Note, Bowery Ballroom has great acoustics and has an old warmth vibe that resonates within the venue. Bowery Ballroom has hosted dance parties and techno groups, but it is mostly known for having great, relaxed shows. It has a bar on all of its levels as well.

7. The Tiger Hotel — The Plaza

Location: 768 5th Avenue,  New York, NY 10019

Since moving to Columbia in 2009, I have believed that The Tiger Hotel is the nicest hotel in Columbia. The Tiger Hotel is a historic landmark and a newly renovated, luxury boutique hotel in the heart of downtown.  It has an ideal location of being blocks away from shops, bars and restaurants and our beautiful University of Missouri campus. The Tiger Hotel prides itself in providing excellence and luxury for all of their guests. They even provide in room spa sessions.

While I cannot justifiably say that the Plaza Hotel is an exact or even equivalent match to the Tiger Hotel, I can say that there are similarities as the Plaza Hotel is arguably the nicest and most luxurious hotel in New York City, The Plaza Hotel is impeccably located in a landmark as well on Fifth Avenue near Central Park, luxury shopping and many city attractions. The Plaza Hotel provides luxury for all of its guests including being the first hotel in the world to provide iPads for each room.

Both the Tiger Hotel and The Plaza Hotel have been recently renovated providing an even more luxurious and elegant stays!

8. Swank Boutique — Bergdorf Goodman

Location: 754 West 58th Street, New York, NY

While you’re staying at The Tiger Hotel, you can take a stroll over to Swank Boutique. Similarly if you are staying at The Plaza Hotel, you can cross the street and visit the opulent Bergdorf Goodman.

As a female living in Columbia, fine luxurious shopping is hard to come by. Also being the college student that I am, I cannot afford to participate in neither fine nor luxurious shopping. However, when I do treat myself, my first stop is Swank Boutique. Swank provides Columbia residents with the highest end designers and latest in women’s fashion. It prides itself on being Columbia’s most upscale and unique boutique.

Similarly to the Plaza Hotel, Bergdorf Goodman cannot truly and directly be compared. However, Bergdorf Goodman is New York’s nicest and most luxurious department store. Unlike its “competition” Barneys and Bloomingdale’s, Bergdorf Goodman is unique to New York and is a city classic. It provides the highest end designers across the shopping spectrum. Like Swank, it prides itself on being one-of-a-kind. Similar to Swank as well, its employees are not pushy trying to make a sale. Bergdorf Goodman is also respected for the rich experience it provides.

While some of these comparisons are similar in physical layout or aesthetic, others have similar atmospheres or related relationships. Unfortunately, you can’t import Harpo’s or transplant The Blue Note in the big apple, but you can find pretty close and related cousins. While there are locations, atmospheres and memories from Columbia that cannot be duplicated or recreated in New York City, I think it is safe to say that if you open your mind you are able to find a “Little CoMo.”

Multimedia Project: Exploring Classic New York

Exploring Classic New York  by Harriet White

The Big Apple. The City that Never Sleeps. The Center of the Universe.

Although there are many names for this majestic city, the feeling of being in New York is pretty inexplicable. If I could try to put it to words, it would be the sublime mixture of feeling on top of the world but while also feeling like one spec in a million among the great and grandiose population. New York is tradition. New York is stylish. New York is the freedom and “confidence of living in the center of the universe.”

But what would I know? I am, by definition, a New York transplant, soaking in every bit of the city and still standing in awe of the Empire State Building’s gleaming authority over the Manhattan skyline. So to get to know New York better, and I mean, the real, classic New York, I decided to explore the timeless experiences and landmarks that make this city tick. And reading New York Magazine‘s “Classic New York” article, this transplant had a perfect idea of where to start…

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1. A Drink at the Carlyle Hotel’s Bemelmans Bar

Drinking Martinis at an Elegant Old Hotel Bar….Media Moguls Breakfasting at the Carlyle…

Okay, so maybe I wasn’t drinking martinis but to kick off my exploration of classic New York, I decided to grab a quick drink at what I suspect would be Don Draper’s watering hole:  Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel on the Upper East Side.

As an art nouveau, old-money bar, Bemelmans typifies the Upper East Side atmosphere: elegant, exclusive and quite highbrow.  Dimly lit, the walls of Bemelmans are adorned with classic Madeline illustrations and the sound of Sinatra tunes flow brightly throughout the room, making the atmosphere feel more like a scene out of Paris than anything else. Named after the illustrator of the Madeline series, Ludwig Bemelmans, the Caryle Hotel, and in turn, Bemelmans Bar, are New York institutions, described as “a favorite haunt for New Yorkers for years” and “a civilized bar with white-jacketed waiters, a little Gershwin in the background and ice-cold Martinis” according to New York Magazine and

As one would suspect, I strutted into Bemelmans with confidence, steering my nose high and barely pouting my lips; let’s just say I tried my best to channel Grace Kelly. Sipping on martinis and appearing as indifferent as ever, the crowd at Bemelmans was the creme-de-la-creme of New York from wealthy socialites to business tycoons.  Paying $15 dollars to simply sit in the bar, it was clear Bemelmans was a place to see and be seen. Overhearing conversations of society parties, business plans and scheduled surgeries at Lenox Hill, I got a small glimpse into New York’s upper crust. And sipping on a $20 glass Pinot Grigio at the bar, I felt pretty much a part of the elegance and exclusivity.

In the scheme of classic New York, Bemelmans represents the New York elite; the exclusive, society crowd that stays quite north of 40th street, lunches at Fred’s at Barney’s and attends the Met gala. This was the glamorous New York I often dreamed about when I was younger, and I finally got a real taste of what it felt like to be one of the lucky ones, at least for an hour. And I have to say, Frank, I liked it quite a bit.

2. Top of the Empire State Building

“The Skyline…Empire State Building’s Observation Deck when Tourists Forget to Turn off the Flashes on their Cameras…”

“I want you to meet me on the top of the Empire State Building”

These are the classic words we often remember when thinking about New York. Whether Cary Grant or Tom Hanks claimed these lines, a whimsical reunion at the top of Manhattan is the ultimate New York image. With this, I decided one of my classic experiences had to be sitting in awe of Manhattan from the top of the Empire State. And who knows, maybe Cary Grant would meet me there.

Although the top of the Empire State Building can be considered quite a tourist trap, I visited the landmark with the understanding of figuring out why it is such a classic image rather than a tourist location. And may I say, at first, that was quite hard, as my first classic New York feeling was scorn for tourists.

What they don’t tell you in the movies is that you have to wait quite a bit of time in line before you can reach the 86th floor. Feeling like herded cattle amongst a bevy of Midwestern tourists and foreigners, I thought to myself often throughout the line: Did Meg Ryan have to wait when she met Tom Hanks up here on Valentine’s Day?

But despite how I got there, I finally reached the magical top of Manhattan. And yes, it was just as magical as I thought it would be, so much so that you could hardly hear people talk on the deck as they stared in awe of New York City from the tip of the island all the way to Washington Heights.

Erected in 1931, the Empire State Building characterizes old New York, the pre-World War II era where men clad in full suits strolled the streets in top hats and New York was still The Wonder City. Sitting at the top of the Empire State, I felt a combination of nostalgia for that era and a sentimental feeling of being at a place where great “cinema” men had performed their grand romantic gestures.

Although the Empire State Building often gets thought over as a tourist spot, I learned from my time at the top that it represents the classic New York that is romantic, old and increasingly nostalgic. And I bet if you stood at the top, cradling the observation binoculars and staring down at the beauty of New York, you’d feel it too.

3. The Wooden Escalators at Macy’s on 34th

“Macy’s Santa…”

Naturally, in my search for classic New York, I visited the iconic Macy’s Department Store, one of the largest in the world. My goal was to finally ride the Macy’s wooden escalators and take a trip back into time.

And back in time, I definitely went. Walking into the department store, I didn’t feel necessarily different or particularly New Yorkish until I reached the wooden escalators. A piece of history stuck in the present, these escalators date back to 1902 when Macy’s moved to Herald Square and were considered quite modern and revolutionary for its time. But let’s just say they certainly don’t sound like it. As you can hear in the video, these antiques makes quite the cracking noise as you ride them, giving them an extra level of charm. They are reminders of what Macy’s used to be: the elegance and excitement of shopping at a department store, taking the modern escalators and possibly visiting the “livestock” floor. They are time capsules of turn-of-the-century New York, an era when New York was beginning to be seen as the “new metropolis” and the seeds of the modern city were beginning to be set with Herald Square and the founding of Times Square.

Like the Empire State Building, Macy’s on 34th street plays to the idea of old New York, to the traditions and to the nostalgia. We think of the holiday season, Miracle on 34th Street, the Thanksgiving Parade and the magically old quality of New York. Or at least that’s what flowed through my mind as I took the escalators up to the 8th floor, closing my eyes to hear perfectly the cracking of the wood as it rotated through its cycle.

Listening to the escalator, I realized instantly that this was New York: the mix of old and new, the nostalgia and the feeling of being somewhere important whether now or in the past. Yep, that’s New York, alright.

4. Oysters at the Grand Central Oyster Bar

“The Oyster Bar…”

“Before the 20th century, when people thought of New York, they thought of oysters” – Mark Kurlanksy

Despite the glitz and glam of modern New York, the heart of the city is in its status as a great harbor metropolis. And one great mark of this harbor status is New York’s obsession with oysters. Early settlers in New York from the Indians to the Dutch ate oysters found at the estuary of the lower Hudson. With 350 square miles of oyster beds, oysters boomed in the late 19th century, giving New York the title “the Big Oyster.” Learning this, I went in search of oysters, not in the Hudson but at the landmark Grand Central Terminal Oyster Bar.

Nestled deep down in Grand Central, the Oyster Bar, a restaurant described as a New York landmark since its opening in 1913, is the perfect place to get a taste of classic New York; not the apple but the oyster.

As a landmark, you would think the Oyster Bar would be swankier, but it is a simple restaurant/bar with large signs displaying the oysters of the day. It’s clean cut New York, none of the trendiness of that new New York. Having never had an oyster before, I was nervous to try it. But in the name of exploring New York classics, I ordered a duo of Wellfleet, MA oysters, a small oyster perfect enough for an oyster newbie.

Dousing my oyster in cocktail sauce and lemon, I took the plunge and ate the slimy sucker! Fresh as could be, the Wellfleet, MA oyster was delicious with the perfect tart flavor of the lemon and cocktail sauce. From that first plump bite, I could tell why oysters used to represent the wealth and excitement of New York.

Sitting in the basement of the iconic Grand Central terminal and noshing on a couple of oysters, I felt like a quintessential New Yorker, privy to certain knowledge about the city that others didn’t know. I mean, how many people really know that New York used to be called the Big Oyster? It’s the secrets that make New York tick. And the Oyster Bar, hiding deep down in Grand Central, is just one of many New York secrets. I guess the world really is New Yorkers’ oyster…

5. Riding the Cyclone at Coney Island

“The Cyclone…The Waterfront…Brighton Beach”

When I was younger, my grandmother used to tell me about how her mother came to the U.S. from Greece via Ellis Island. Residing in New York for a bit before heading to Chicago, she visited the famous Coney Island during her stay in the 1910s. And it was there that she had her first American hot dog. I grew up listening to this story, thinking of Coney Island fondly and as a  landmark.

Except Coney Island is not a classic Manhattan landmark but a classic New York landmark as I’ve come to discover. Nestled in southern Brooklyn, Coney Island represents the old, eccentric, quirky part of New York where hot dogs were a hit and carnivals were still valued. If you can imagine, Coney Island used to be a resort town where people would vacation and walk along the beautiful boardwalk. Although the boardwalk is still beautiful, you get a sense in Coney Island that something beautiful and thriving has faded there. It’s history, not present. Even riding the Cyclone, you feel as if you are stepping back in time and remembering what it must’ve been like for people in the early 20th century to ride this, overlooking the waterfront. Plus, you can feel the history in how the ride jerks you around (Yes, classic New York basically broke my back).

The best quality of Coney Island though is the eccentric quality of it. From the bizarre dancers on the boardwalk to the colorfully old rides, Coney Island feels almost surreal, as if you’ve entered a 19th century circus overlooking the Atlantic. People are allowed to be unusual, the Cyclone can rule, Mermaid Avenue is a street and hot dogs are the staple; this is not reality.

But for not being reality, Coney Island offers a special experience: a glimpse of real New York. Not the trends or Manhattan or the exclusivity of the Upper East Side, but real borough New York. It’s not glamorous, but there’s a real charm to it.

I felt this most when I rode up the first drop of the Cyclone. Going up, I got the perfect view of the crystal clear Atlantic Ocean and behind me the skyline of Manhattan and the view of borough New York. This combination of images showed me just how complex New York is, with so many worlds existing into one. Coney Island just represented a small section of that New York, which is so gritty, surreal and old. Coney Island might be fading, but it is a clear image in the idea of classic New York. You can’t get this experience anywhere else, especially when it comes to the hot dogs. Although my great-grandmother wasn’t a fan, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs were divine, perfectly juicy and the perfect cap off of my trip to the surreal and utterly classic Coney Island.

6. Eating a Pastrami Sandwich at Katz’s Delicatessen

“Corned Beef or Pastrami on Rye… Katz’s”

Food is deeply embedded in the idea of classic New York. Food makes New York tick. But what makes New York tick even more is a hot pastrami sandwich at Katz’s Delicatessen. And although I was skeptical, it was one of the most divine meals I’ve had so far in New York.

Pastrami was introduced to New York in the late 19th century by Jewish immigrants in the Lower East Side. Although there is a debate about which deli served it first, Katz’s is one of the first delis to serve hot pastrami (and corned beef) on rye. So naturally I went to Katz’s to check out what this sandwich was all about, as nothing is more New York than one of these sandwiches.

Katz’s is a simple deli where you get a ticket, walk up to the counter and order your sandwich. Packed on a Saturday afternoon, I waited in line, feeling anxious about the meal. What even was pastrami? I was convinced I wasn’t going to like it but knew that I couldn’t explore classic New York without a bite of this sizzling sandwich. As I approached the counter, I told the waiter my order, and he began slicing the pastrami, giving me a slice to taste test. Grabbing the meat, I slipped it into my mouth only to realize how absolutely delicious pastrami was! How did I live here three months and not eat this before?

Grabbing the enormous sandwich off the counter, I anticipated the idea of eating at least a pound of this smoky, chewy and absolutely delicious sandwich. Being conservative, I only asked for a bit of mustard to accompany my pastrami and rye. Sitting down, I took the first bite. Trying to attack this monster of a sandwich, I had pieces of pastrami falling out of mouth. Let’s just say it wasn’t an elegant meal. But that’s the thing, it isn’t supposed to be. Katz’s represents a part of classic New York that was built by Jewish immigrants. With parts of the menu written in Yiddish, you get a clear sense of this heritage at Katz’s, which I hadn’t experienced before. This wasn’t elegant or romanticized New York; this was the real roots of New York: the immigrants and the culture they brought with them. They crowned pastrami and corned beef sandwiches as an art form, and Katz’s celebrates this art form. It’s simple deli food, and I can say one of the best meals of my New York experience. I now understand the phrase that there is nothing more classic in New York than a pastrami sandwich; it encompasses a whole subculture that made the real New York what it is today. I didn’t have what she’s having, but I took a true bite of classic New York… 

 Wrapping it Up

Venturing through the different lenses of classic New York, from elegant to surreal to even the Big Oyster, I got the real sense that nostalgia is the typical feeling of classic New York. Wherever I went from Katz’s to Coney Island to even the Empire State Building, I felt nostalgic, reminiscent of another time and thinking of how I was standing somewhere that was so important both in the present and past. I was surprised to find just how many worlds exist in classic New York, so much so that it is hard to define classic New York. With New York Magazine listing hundreds of random phrases as their compilation of “What is New York,” I understand now that it’s simply indescribable. I guess that’s just what makes it New York.

Project: A Mass-ive Summer

St. Peter’s on Staten Island

Entering this summer, one of the factors of New York City I was most excited for was the plethora of beautiful Catholic churches just waiting to be visited. Instead of finding one and habitually becoming comfortable with that church by attending Mass there each week, as I do with my ‘home’ churches in Missouri and Colorado, I knew I wanted to see as many different, beautiful churches as possible. I had 10 Sundays in total – which ultimately led to a great, enlightening journey across all ends and to each corner of the Big Apple.

St. Francis of Assisi in Midtown

In the end, I learned quite a bit about my faith and the historical ties of the Catholic religion to this history-driven city. From the quaint parish around the corner to the revered Cathedral, you can download and view the path of my journey and details of it all by clicking here: My Catholic Summer. (Clicking the link will download a .pdf file, which contains the project in its entirety)

Zach Garcia