Tips from (or for) a Kiwi in NYC

(last updated July 2015)


I originally wrote this up for a kiwi mate who was visiting NYC in April but thought I’d share a bit more widely in case it’s of use to anyone. My friend is quite into art, and not super wealthy so it was somewhat customised to that. Also I’m pretty obsessed about food (as I have discovered in doing this) so there’s lots about those two subjects. By way of context for those that don’t know me, I’m a Kiwi (New Zealander) that has spent a fair bit of time in NYC — usually for one month periods — each year since 1999 or so, though I also lived there for a few years.

Table of contents

  • Neighbourhoods to wander around
  • Food
  • Art
  • Some random tips on theatre and concerts
  • Getting around / general
  • Email lists for more info..

Neighbourhoods To Wander Around..

This will overlap a bit with stuff below but some thoughts about specific neighborhoods below. Not sure why it’s in this order. Also I realised I somehow forgot whole areas like Lower East Side. Guess it’s a bit hard to summarize NYC but here’s some places to maybe check out while wandering around..

Walking is best

The best things are the things you discover by accident and you’ll maximise chances by walking so my first suggestion is that you aim to do lots of that. Anywhere south of 14th street — east village, lower east side, and west village — can be especially fun to walk through. That said walking down fifth ave at dusk or anywhere when there are not that many people around is awesome. Flip side is that there way too many people in Times Square, and around the 9/11 Memorial pretty much always so don’t go there except that you have to and it does get busy in the middle of day in midtown if that kinda thing freaks you out.

Midtown, Brooklyn and Parks

This ordering makes no sense at all, I did warn you

Highline and the Galleries in Chelsea

Pic taken from the highline

Walking down the highline is a definite recommendation. It used to be a subway line raised up above the road, but is now just a nice way to walk down through Chelsea. Jump off around 20th street or so and go to the galleries in Chelsea. Try to do this on a Saturday (see below).

Walking across Brooklyn bridge and visiting DUMBO

This is a great walk to do in one direction or the other. Brooklyn side is where you want spend the time though. Dumbo is the name for the triangle area in Brooklyn between Brooklyn and manhattan bridge — so about the three blocks north of Brooklyn bridge. We also used to live pretty much right there. Stop under the bridge for a picnic or visit the famous pizza place Grimaldis/Juliannas (see below) or both, or check out Smack Mellon studio if they are open or stop off at Jacques Torres Chocolates — all in DUMBO.

Queens or Williamsburg for views of ‘the city’

Queens and Williamsburg both have great views of Manhattan and are easy to get to. Not worth a special trip but if you find yourself in either place be sure to walk west to the river and check out the view.


It’s become just a little bit too damn ‘hip’ of late but that said maybe it might be worth a visit. Especially if you are into great vintage shopping eg on Sundays or this place Walk down Bedford and along Grand or Metropolitan maybe. Some galleries still there.

Williamsburg is the first stop on the L line after you cross into Brooklyn from Manhattan (going east).


Bushwick is further east on the L (also in Brooklyn) and there’s a few stops there. Can be a bit confusing because stuff can be a bit hidden away but for instance the Morgan Ave stop (or there are a couple of others also in Brooklyn) is liable to have a bunch of cool art galleries and discoveries to find if you figure out how to look. It’s kind of the ‘new williamsburg’ so is where a lot of art and movies and stuff is happening, but also tends to be a lot of warehouses and a bit more spread out though so harder to wander around and bang into stuff compared to Manhattan. MoMos japanese fusion restaurant in Bushwick is my favorite all time restaurant and is in Bushwick (see below).

Park slope / Prospect Park

Tends to be regarded as a place full of strollers and young families with working couples, because it is. If you find yourself there its a nice neighborhood though. The park slope co-op is a bit of an institution, worth a laugh if you can get in. There’s even an NZ Cafe in Park Slope to find too. Prospect Park (aka the ‘central park’ of brooklyn) is nice too for a walk and maybe to come across some music or circle drumming or something else random like Latin Dancing. Brooklyn Museum and BAM have some suprisingly impressive stuff too — check it out.

Central Park and Fifth Avenue

Central park is worth a visit. If you are lucky you might randomly come across something awesome like concert at SummerStage with no queues (Summerstage is concerts in the park every weekend and is free but sometimes has horrendous queues) or you might have been organised and got yourself Shakespeare in the Park tickets by queuing up earlier in the day. Anyway have an explore, maybe after visiting the Met. Uh there’s a few hidden gems like a place called Strawberry fields dedicated to Jon Lennon not too far from the place he was shot (west side of the park) which still even today get’s flowers laid there. If you are east of central park look up ‘chocolatier’ on yelp you’ll see there’s a couple nice places that will serve you hot chocolate with chili like they do in that movie Chocolat.

If you walk through central park, you’ll probably wanna walk down through manhattan. This can be super lovely especially just on dusk, but I would say the key to success here is to go for the east side of the park, and walk down fifth avenue, otherwise you’ll inevitably end up sucked into the gaping maw of lights and apparent excitement that is Times Square.

Times Square

Times Square is a truly awful horrible place. I know you’re gonna wanna visit it at least once — so, OK. Fine. You are permitted to visit the place once but basically its awful on account of too many tourists and too much disney. Maybe I’m jaded and maybe you always wanted to go the Disney store though so what do I know. Bring back the street walkers and the adult movie theaters I say though.

Times Square is basically on ‘Broadway’ (in quotes) as in, it’s the place where all the big broadway shows are like Avenue Q or The Book of Mormon or whatever. So, yes this can be another excuse for which I will permit you to visit the area. It might be good to catch a show if you can get some last minute / same day tickets but of course that’s a crap shoot. We really liked The Book Of Mormon by the way. I also greatly enjoyed a show at a bar around there called Drunk Shakespeare. So it’s not all bad.

Fifth Avenue/Rockerfeller Center

Much better than Times Square is walking down fifth avenue at sunset — starting around 59th Street (south end of the central park) and then going south. Maybe you took a look at the iconic apple store right on that corner, and then down past a few of the really high end fashion stores and looked at the windows. Or maybe you popped in to Bergdoff Goodman and you made the mistake of asking how much this tiny little thing like maybe a single sock was going to be and you got that look from the salesperson that says “If you have to ask…” so then you were angry and you decided to punch a horse in the face but fortunately you got stopped by the armed guards of the Sheik who happend to be staying at the Plaza (all within that one corner). Or maybe you stopped in at MOMA on 53rd Street which is a much better idea, and then afterwards it was sunset which is a great time to wander past some shops and stop in at Rockerfeller center on the way down. Especially just before Christmas this can be a little bit magic.

Jacques Torres chocolate original location was DUMBO (just around the corner from us when he first opened up so I kinda think of that as the ‘real’ location) but they also have one just near Rockerfeller center

The Village, East Village and South of there

Some guideposts as to the areas to wander might around include the following.

Other than the above, just wandering around Manhattan south of fourteenth street (north of Houston) can also be great. Actually south of Houston can also be good too but then we’re not in either west or east village.

Dont expect amazing incredibly things to happen on queue of course, but you never know what you might find.

St Marks place (aka 8th street and 2nd Ave) is the ‘heart’ of the east village so around there is worth a visit. 2nd Ave is a good Ave to walk along down around there too. It’s got a bit of history and was once, over successive generations the place where Thelonious Monk etc used to play then the hippies and then the punk generation. Mostly it’s still a gentrified echo of punk culture on St Mark’s place. You may find some interesting vintage shops there (or maybe not).

The Public Theater is just west of here and occasionally has awesome things on.

Conversely Christopher Street near West fourth would, I reckin, be just about the heart of the West Village/Greenwich and one of the bestest, gayests part of NYC. Also just around the corner from the location of the Stonewall riots. Well worth a visit. The Pride march starts around here. You can also find good jazz music in this area at night e.g. uhm the Fat Cat and also quite a bit of stand up comedy in the general vicinity. The comedy cellar that Louie CK made his start at is just to the east of here too. The only problem is that because of closeness to NYU there are also a lot of student bars in the region around there (centered on Washington Square Park) so not super great place at night. A bit like Courtney Place only both worse and better.

Generally though anywhere around either of these places or in between is worth exploring. If you go south of the East Village you get to the Lower East Side which gets a bit more edgy but still fun.

Definitely stop for Knish if you make it as far south as Houston Street — here

Sunshine Cinemas next door is great too and has some movies you may be suprised to see.

I’d also like to mention the two chess shops on Thompson Street just south of Washington Square Park.

Soho, Chinatown and South

Soho South of houston — aka if you keep going south from Washington Square park you get into Soho which has some nice restaurants and some stuffy overly expensive art galleries. Great for shoes! The Prada store in Soho is kinda cool and worth a looksee if you wander by

Chinatown is always worth a visit, it’s freaking enormous and swallows up what used to be Little Italy. On that subject I’d give Little Italy a pass, even though the tourist brochures seem keen on the place (or perhaps because of that)

Canal Street and Broadway is a noisy crazy busy place and I can’t really give you directions just dive into the maelstrom and don’t be afraid to buy something that looks so cheap it’s probably fake (yes it is fake but maybe its a good deal) or to sit down at one of those restaurants where the menu is in Chinese. There’s open fish markets and people selling tons of cheap crap. Watch your wallets , no kidding.

There’s an awesome incredibly cheap Malaysian place my friend always takes me to (well a few times) but I honestly don’t think I could describe where it is. Be touch and go to find it if I was there. So, you know, give it an explore see what you find. If you like chinese food, do you know what Dim Sum is ? Look up Dim Sum on yelp for a few places around here. Sorry can’t remember the place my chinese friend took me to but it was awesome. Maybe it was this one but not sure.

I like to go to and pay homage to Occupy Wall Street at Zucotti park and skirt around the 9/11 Memorial and look at that awesome new Gehry building downtown.


So having written this I guess it turns out I’m a bit obsessed with food in NYC. Not sure if that’s a comment about me or NYC but anyway for what it’s worth here’s a few thoughts or ideas...

Some cheaper food ideas

Food trucks
Don’t be afraid of food trucks on side of the road. they can be absolutely awesome like really nice tasting food. Admittedly mostly ‘gyros’ but if you see a mexican one in particular it might be really good and cheap at same time. Something to write home about. There’s a great Mexican food truck in Williamsburg on Bedford Ave and 6th? OTOH whatever the fuck you do don’t buy yourself a NY hotdog from one of those hotdog vendors. Well OK just once but don’t say I didn’t warn you. There’s a food truck on Park Ave n 33rd called lobster shack that is amazing if you like food that is nice.

The only question is, does lobster count as “Street Meat” ?

Pizza. Now as for Pizza. Grimaldi’s Pizza* in DUMBO on Old Fulton street just about under the brooklyn bridge is the one they usually say to visit *. There’s tons of ‘famous’ Brooklyn Pizza places but I’m pretty sure this is the quintessential Brooklyn pizza.h ttp://

Well it’s not all that much to write home about in some ways but at least you’ll have established a baseline to compare other pizza to.

But wait! No. Actually don’t go there.

Grimaldis was, yes, the name of the original pizza place under the brooklyn bridge but the family that started Grimaldi’s sold their name to another place which is now just a few doors down the road. But the pizza joint physically at the original location and run (once again) by folks from original family is actually called Julianas pizza.. so go there instead..

Or you know just go grab a slice from any one of the many many many pizza joints you’ll see around. If the whole place looks a bit low fi but busy you’re in the right spot. Best done at night after a few beers and eaten on a paper plate that you kinda fold the paper and pizza slice a bit so as to get the pizza lined up for consumption.

Pizza. At night. When durnk.

Shake Shack is kinda the In-n-out burget of the east coast. Not sure how much you keep up with popular culture of these things but people seem very excited about them and they have very long lines. The burgers are pretty cool too though kinda small. Their original location in madison square garden is closed for renovations though but they have a few more locations include DUMBO.

Knish. Have yourself some Knish while in NYC. Classic Jewish food thing. The Yonah Shimmel Bakery next to sunshine cinema on houston street — here — is a classic tiny littel place to go. Basically its like a little bit of potato or something. Not really a meal but will definitely fill you up between meals. And if you like that you might like Katz deli also downtown.

Diners Well of course they are an american institution. Some are great and some, frankly, suck. I won’t try and itemize which ones are good but will say that if you go to a 24hr Diner at 3 am in the morning expect the service to be staggeringly grumpy. It’s all part of the charm. Actually I will say if you are on the west side, quite far up you may wanna visit the Seinfeld Diner for a gag aka “Toms Diner” (also featured in that Suzanne Vega song). It is *not* busy and is really just a perfectly average diner but you know, maybe it would interest you.

Broadway Bites is a food market in Herald Square on Broadway at 32–34th street or so. It’s actually super awesome when its on. If you are walking down broadway and you are hungry hope that it’s up and running (which it is, most of the summer).

Some picks of theMore Expensive Restaurants

Yeah it’s NYC

If you feel like really splashing out (not sure of budget) here’s some of the more unusual/more interesting restaurants that I’ve discovered and love. From more expensive to less..

Degustation is the only one of this list that is your real, classic, super expensive restaurant with a white linens and a ‘tasting menu’ etc. Go for sitting at the bar if you can. Kinda french. Stupid expensive. To be totally I honest I think Id prefer to go to a nice Tapas place twice but I have a kiwi friend who went there with his partner and really enjoyed it.

Robotaya is really amazing Japanese but not really sushi. Well I thought it was pretty amazing. Also expensive, but worth it. Afterwards cross the road, to the downstairs bar with the sign that says ‘on air’ don’t get confused by the pretend sake bar at the front, but walk through the curtains that look like staff only curtains but actually take you to the real sake bar at the back. Amazing for Sake.

Robotaya. Scary but Awesome!

Diner in Williamsburg ( is not a diner at all but rather a fancyish kind of restaurant but not white linen fancy, kinda the opposite of that. But also a bit pretentious in a hipster/williamsburg way but the food is great.

MoMos in Bushwick is my favorite restaurant anywhere though admittedly I mostly just go from NZ to NYC and back. More into the ‘normal’ price range. But we’re still in NYC. Totally definitely 100% worth it.

Casa Enrique is the first mexican restaurant to ever get a Michelin star and the only one to get one in Queens (I think) As a true Mexican restaurant it’s not too expensive either. Well depends on how many Margaritas you order. The food is to die for though.

Fette Sau in Williamsburg will save you the cost of flying down to Texas and having a real true souther bbq experience. The menu is meat, meat or meat so not for Vegetarians but definitely a worthy experience. Not really that expensive at all.

Snacky’s also in Williamsburg has the huge advantage of also not being that expensive. In fact it’s almost down market but it’s bloody nice.

Art / stuff

Mainstream Art Galleries / Museums

For clarity I’m not going to even mention lot’s of touristy things like the 9/11 Memorial, and going to the top of WTC1 or Empire State. They can be totally worth doing, for a tourist, but I’m sure you’ll find plenty of info about that by other methods i imagine. That said I really want to mention the following in particular.

The Met in particular is freaking huge so kinda like the Louvre — you’d be a fool not to visit it but expect to feel overwhelmed by all the things you can’t get to with the time available.

If you saw that movie ‘The Woman in Gold’ and/or if you like Klimt/Schiele stuff check out the Neue Gallerie not far from the Met. Might be busy. Like true hipsters the wife and i went there before they were famous ;-)

The American Museum of Natural History is on the opposite side of Central Park ( has both onit) also bloody huge and also pretty dang awesome especially if you wanna see actual real dinosaur bones and such.

MOMA has some impressive paintings and exhibitions but at $25 an adult seemed a bit dang expensive. Personally I’m more of a contemporary art fan so it’s the place for me.

One thing to note about the Met is that technically it is admission by donation. You do not have to give the amount they request. In fact you can go right up to the desk and just ask for the wee pin that they generally give to people that have ‘paid’ without actually paying. They’ll definitely work hard to guilt trip you into paying but just so know if, I dunno let’s say you wanna pop back in later in the day but you lost your pin or are wondering whether to go again for a second day or something.

Other art galleries

This is actually from an exhibition at Columbia University but will suffice to represent the kind of thing you might see at an art gallery ;-)

As I mentioned above, Chelsea Galleries are awesome to visit on a Saturday. Basically there’s a ton of galleries on, like 20–24th street, west of the highline (so at the far west edge of Manhattan). The main thing about Chelsea is go there on a Saturday. The galleries are closed for private sales (mostly) on Sunday but they are totally and happily to any and all people and very welcoming. Also amazing if you are into contemporary art. Some say the ‘center’ of art in NYC has now shifted again (to where? I dunno) but yeah.

One of the main places I would always visit in Chelsea was called Eyebeam which is kinda like MIT Media Lab forNYC.. but they moved to brooklyn. To 34 35th Street Broklyn. which is to say the kind of place you’d probably not have any reason to go to. If you were paying attention before you’ll see if you can get a bus there. That said the old space always had at least a couple of exhibitions but don’t know about the new space to be honest. Hmm.

I also have a very fond spot for Smack Mellon in DUMBO some of the most amazing things I saw, but you know, it’s just one gallery so not sure it’s worth a special visit. But if you in the area or it looks amazing. Gallery 216, 111 Front Street is just near by.

Ora Gallery NY This is a gallery specializing in NZ art, set up very recently by Kiri Te Kanawa’s niece (who lived in NYC for 20 years or something like that). I haven’t actually been there but if you’re in midtown..

Galleries in Williamsburg and Bushwick may be of interest too (see above).

PS1 is usually well worth the visit to Queens. MOMA in the city is also great. Think they are finished with the new build.? Similarly with the Whitney I think it’s currently in process of renovation or something.

And I should probably mention Transfer gallery which is kinda the hub of a net art scene. Tiny tiny place and a little out of the way but maybe check out what’s on

Some random tips on theatre and concerts

You know the joke that goes..
A man with was walking along in midtown. He stopped a stranger and asked him “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”. The stranger replied “Practice, practice, practice”.

Well actually no, what you want to do is you go to the Julliard school and then practice, practice, practice. So if you want to hear amazing music do check out the Carnegie Hall line up

But if you want it without paying Carnegie Hall prices you should check out the Juilliard School rehearsals. This is awesome because its free. They have this thing where the students give concerts.. free. You just have to line up to get the tickets. Check it out: Props to my dad (may he rest in peace) for figuring that one out

The Julliard School in the upper west side is just around the corner from the home of NYC Ballet and the Met Opera and some other stuff (ie the Lincoln Center).

NYC Ballet has $29 ‘day of’ tickets for people under 29. which I guess they think is affordable.

I mentioned last minute broadway tickets about three times already. Worth a crack in terms of more expensive shows. Stop in at TKTS in the middle of times square or use an app to find out what’s available.

The Public Theater. Theater can be a bit overwhelming to google (at least I find it is) so I just check out whats on at the public theater and Joe’s pub. because that’s where I’ve seen two amazing things. Same people as the people behind Shakespeare in the Park. I haven’t actually done this one yet to be honest so won’t give advice but I understand the tickets are free but you have to pick them up on the day of the performance or something. For a few months of summer only.

New York live Arts is worth having a look at too. I went to a really indescribably arty/metal/european thing last time I was in NYC. Not too expensive either.

Again I’ve totally skipped over entire genres like stand up comedy say which can be cool so this is just a few random notes.

Getting around / general tips

For kiwis traveling via elsewhere in the US some of this won’t be relevant but anyway, fwiw…

Get a SIM card first thing

If you have a smart phone highly recommend getting a sim card — for use with navigating. Vodafone have a five dollar a day roaming plan which is OK too. Yelp!, Subway apps, TKTS app. I learnt to make that the first thing I do after I arrive (swap out my sim)..

I now have a US number I keep but we got a SIM card for L’s phone — for one week — the other day with unlimited data for $25 from a tiny little apparently dodgy electronics shop in Koreatown, but in the end it was all good. You want one of the indepent hole in the wall places with AT&T stickers on the window. The electronic shops around Times Square can’t actually do SIM cards and will probably try to rip you off. Otherwise you should be pretty good pretty much anywhere.

Phone Apps

Some apps work really well in NYC include:

For last minute tickets to broadway shows

For subways Not sure what’s the best app actually

For local info eg restaurants:

The Metro

You will of course get around a lot by subway so may as well buy a multitrip ticket. Buy the ticket with the funny price as it’s the best way to ensure you don’t end up with half used money at the end.
Subway is awesome but don’t neglect the above-ground options — specifically, the buses, where you can use the Metrocard (or exact change, like coins). If you need to go across town in Manhattan or north/south in Brooklyn or Queens they are especially good.

Walking is best

However, the best way is to walk, wherever possible.


Biking down the west side

The citibikes are somewhat new but they are awesome. Basically you give them your credit card and you can rent a bike from one place and return it at another. You can even bike over the bridge to Brooklyn — which is really nice. Not too far into brooklyn though. Take the time to download the Citibike app. The hassle is that sometimes there are no bikes at a location and sometimes there are no slots where you can return your bike so get the app to check that. The bikes themselves are really surprisingly good. Like a corporate blue version of one of those good old solid Dutch bikes. Biking in summer is great. In the center of the city its a bit scary but their are bike paths. Google maps is very good at routing you via the bike paths if click on the bike icon, and can use that.


Tourist boats that circle the island aren’t really worth the investment of your time in my opinion. But jumping on the commuter East River Ferry as part of your explore to get from Williamsburg, Dumbo, or Queens to Manhattan or Vice Versa is pretty nice.

Similarly, if you take the commuter ferry to State Island you get a great view of Lady Liberty (if that’s your thing) for much less time and expense. Only problem is then you are on Staten Island ;-)


Removed to make it more general. Suffice it to say that Autumn and Early spring are the best times to be in NYC. Otherwise snow before Christmas can be magical. Howling icy blizzards and deep, cold, wet puddles in January/February suck though. Take great big, waterproof, tramping boots and a BWFC *big warm fucking coat* (that you can take off easily) to deal with weather in Jan/Feb .


20 % seems to be the current going rate (on the generous side?) for restaurants or diners where you sit down. Locals might tip less. Whatever you do don’t let anyone think you’re English because then they’ll give you grumpy service in expectation of a generally lower English style tip. You really don’t need to tip at a cafe or pizza place if you order at the counter and take your food yourself (even if they have a tip jar, consider it truly optional). Taxis and car service expect to be tipped 20% ish also. If you find yourself at a bar, it gets more complicated give a dollar note (or two) back for every drink. Can be a good idea to be super generous for the first one if you are at a place with lots of regulars and are hoping to get them to actually notice you again for future drinks. Or not. Whatever. If you find yourself in one of those bathrooms with a ‘cleaning attendant’ just yell “No I dont need you to hand me a fucking towel get a job doing something useful for christ sake” and then glower at them while not giving them any money. I always do (not really, but man do I find that annoying, definitely don’t want to encourage them). If you give money to homeless people in the subway, do it for yourself on the off chance that maybe hey are not running a scam (but they probably are).

Booking things aka there’s too many people.
Key point. There’s too many people per square inch in NYC so booking things is kinda important, even movies. If you want affordable tickets to big broadway shows or the opera or whatever you often have to be book a month or so in advance — but, otoh, like aeroplane seats you can also get really great same day / last minute tickets if you take your chances and book on the actual day of the show. For instance at TKTS in times square (or via the apps below). Just to clarify you even need to arrive a good 20 minutes early if you want to get a seat that doesn’t suck at most movies. And expect to wait in a queue for half to an hour for brunch if you just walk up to the place. Crazy but you gotta eat right?

Email links to subscribe to

Finally, if you thought this email was long how about getting a huge giant list of events and things by email every day. For some reason to find out ‘what’s happening’ in NYC the way to go is to subscribe to an email list. Suggest you do so a week or two before. You can always unsub later.

The Skint has awesome free things to do in NYC every single day but you have to subscribe to the email. Here’s a specific example Skint on the web: Or click here to subscribe by email:

Nonsense List for a less frequent also primarily email list, check out:

Wow List for a more arty focus check out: