“And if you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there.” George Harrison paraphrases the Cheshire Cat’s advice to Alice, and it’s a perfect way to describe what it feels like to take a long walk in New York and discover a place you never noticed before.
We asked TEDxNewYork speakers past and present to provide a few of their favorite places in the city—bars, parks, street corners—that inspire their work and hold special meaning in their lives. They’ve provided peacocks and prosecco in a special guide we’ve compiled just for you.
Because in a city whose hum can lift you up while getting you down, it’s important to find spots to reset, places that re-inspire and remind you of the tiny and grand parts that make the city luminous. We hope you enjoy and find time in your busy schedule to uncover your own New York. Read below to discover your own favorites, old and new -- and use the map to plot your own path.
The bike path along the Hudson River down by Battery Park City is an urban escape. Set far away from the street traffic, but still a place full of energy, the path is a place where you can let your guard down and actually look at the scenery around you. Views of the best architecture in downtown Manhattan, the setting sun across the Hudson, flower gardens around each turn, and the cool Hudson River breeze make this an inviting space. Added bonus, several places along the way to stop for a cocktail or prosecco.
Actor and comedy writer
My favorite place in New York is Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene. I live in Park Slope, but I somehow end up there almost every Sunday afternoon, just to browse, de-stress, and inevitably impulse buy some ambitious novel that I never pick up again. it's just a beautiful, relaxing bookstore, and I love it.
My favorite walk in NYC is in the West Village, on West 4th Street between Jane Street and Christopher Street. There is a small café along the walk called Café Minerva that has large windows overlooking the tree-lined West Village street. It's a great place to sit, drink coffee, and organize your thoughts.
Head of product, Tinybop
Transmitter Park is my favorite escape within the city. In Greenpoint (where Greenpoint Ave runs into the water), it's one of the few pieces of land in Brooklyn that still has a magical view of the Manhattan skyline. It's a real oasis of calm along a very quickly developing waterfront.
WNYC was broadcast from twin antennas here from 1937 to 1990, giving it its name. I lived in Greenpoint for seven years, and after this park opened in 2012 this became my go-to spot for meeting friends or reading a book or the paper. It's also optimally located near Ovenly bakery, so you can pick up one of their killer salted peanut butter cookies en route.
Mark S. Luckie
Head of media and journalism, Reddit
Brooklyn Bridge Park is situated between two of the world's most iconic bridges and has unparalleled views of the glistening East River and the Manhattan skyline. The peaceful nook is rarely ever crowded, which makes it a great oasis for the New Yorker who wants to get away from it all for a while. Jane's Carousel is a few steps away for those who want to indulge their inner kid. Be sure to check out nearby Luke's Lobster for one of the best sandwiches you'll ever have in your life.
Psychologist, Columbia Business School
My favorite place is actually three places, a perfect triangle of nature, humor, and modern art. I adore a particular path in Riverside Park that helps me escape the concrete jungle: I enter the park at 116th or 108th Street and arrive at Cherry Walk on the Hudson at 100th Street. This jaunt takes me from a zen-like green oasis to magical sunsets over the water. And as I look north, there is a majestic view of the George Washington Bridge, and as I look south, I catch glimpses of southern Manhattan. I am a huge comedy fan, and so I head frequently to the Comedy Cellar; I sometimes get lucky with surprise guests like Aziz Ansari testing out new material, or I get to see rising stars like Trevor Noah. To immerse myself in culture, I like to visit galleries like David Zwirner’s, a place where my wife and I had our first date. I am excited to see the Josef Albers show at the Zwirner Gallery this fall.
Data scientist, I Quant NY
The Hess Triangle, on the sidewalk right outside Village Cigar in the West Village, was once the smallest plot of land in all New York City. It is about one square foot and was all that remained of the Hess family's land after eminent domain was used to take their home in order to connect 7th Avenue and Varick Street. Instead of turning over the last corner of their land to the city along with the rest, the Hess family put a mosaic on the location that was basically an “eff you” to the city. It reads: "Property of the Hess Estate which has never been dedicated for public purposes." And though the land was eventually sold, the mosaic remains to this day.
Quantitative researcher, IEX
67 Orange is a cocktail bar in Harlem that does not seem to want your business. It sits in a well hidden spot, and you enter through a curtain that makes it feel like you've just gone back in time to a 1920s speakeasy. The drinks and the food are incredible, perhaps only topped by the bartenders' impressive ability to pull off hats that I'd be cool enough to wear only in my dreams.
Neuroscientist, Columbia University Medical Center
The grounds at St. John the Divine: They have peacocks. These urban peacocks love bagels and the wonton crackers that come with Chinese takeout, at least according to knowledgeable strangers with clearly no official affiliation with the church. Occasionally the peacocks leave the gardens and venture out into greater Harlem. Perhaps to hang out at the bus stop across from the Hungarian Pastry Shop on 111th Street, or just to mill about the sidewalks, inconspicuously intermingled with the pigeons and the rush hour foot traffic.
My favorite place in NYC is Peter McManus Cafe. They have 100 years of burger-making experience, and just won TimeOut's "Battle of the Burger.” I've also come to know the McManus family over the years, and they're all really nice, down-to-earth, and fun people, as are all the staff that work there.
Director of Senior Services, Union Settlement
Fort Tryon Park is my favorite place in NYC. After my daily walk in the Heather Garden, I go sit with my dog in the Linden Terrace where I meditate as I watch the mountain across the Hudson River.
Co-founder, Morbid Anatomy Museum
One of my favorite places in New York City is Obscura Antiques in the East Village. It is kind of the shop version of my museum, Morbid Anatomy; or you can also think of it as a museum of amazing, atmospheric objects that you can actually buy. It is the first place I saw that helped me realize there are other people on Earth who like the things that I like. Every time you go, you meet the most fascinating people, not least of all the proprietors, Evan Michelson and Mike Zohn, who are both incredibly knowledgeable, generous, and enthusiastic.
Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Evangelism and Reconciliation
My slice of New York heaven is Greenwich Village, especially the four blocks surrounding 6th Avenue between West 4th and Bleecker Street. Get off at the West 4th Street station and just wander in a square. Every shade, age, and flavor of humanity is here. Get your indie flick fix at the IFC Center. Cross the street to West 3rd for some of the world’s best live jazz, blues, and R&B. A few steps away, slip into a basement comedy club on Macdougal Street – the funniest people on the planet are down there. Get your second wind at Molly’s Cupcakes on Bleecker, home of the best ganache-filled chocolate cupcakes on the planet (that just HAPPEN to be gluten-free). Then ride home on one of the seven different train lines that converge here, grinning the whole way.
Loeb Boat House in Central Park. You can always take the paddle boats out for a spin, but I strongly recommend just sitting by the water and having a few beers while looking out on the lake. You'll be in the middle of New York City, but by some miracle, it won't feel like New York City at all. Plus: by far, the nicest bathrooms in Central Park.
A Note from xAd
xAd is in the business of connecting local retailers to the people who need them most: locals. So as a NYC-based business ourselves, we’re especially proud to partner with TEDxNewYork to produce this guide for you, fellow people who live here.
For us, the city isn’t about what gallery we should be seen at or what sandwich we should be waiting in line for. When you live here, you know every nook and cranny of New York has a million stories of hilarious, heart-rending, and pioneering sorts. Every street corner is a whole neighborhood. Every bodega, a cultural center. These are the places that tourist’s can’t see: the places that make New York our home.
Our favorite place: the high line. Maybe predictable, but that sunset will always be our happy place. We hope this guide helps you find more happy places in this great city of ours.