When your friends visit you in New York City, they’re looking to be impressed. They likely have images from Broad City and Taxi Driver and West Side Story swirling around in their brains, so naturally they’re going to expect to find a weed-centric Robert De Niro singing show tunes in the middle of the Upper West Side. Since that probably won’t happen (but who are we to say?), you need some fun ideas that aren’t the typical Empire State Building / Times Square / Statue of Liberty loop. Here’s our ideal weekend of perfection, local style:
Your friend is probably tired from his bus/plane/boat ride into NYC, so start the night with a casual dinner at Saigon Shack, one of the city’s best Vietnamese spots. Their pork chop vermicelli bowls are great, and costs less than the average Manhattan cocktail. Try to get there early (so what if your friend still has her oversized luggage? 100% her fault.), as this place gets super crowded.
Next, head over to the Comedy Cellar, located just a few steps away, also on Macdougal. This hilarious stand up comedy club is where a lot of comedians get their start, so you’ll usually see a mix of up-and-coming acts, but often a celebrity will make a guest appearance and you can fangirl scream as much as you want. MAKE RESERVATIONS BEFOREHAND, or you will have to explain to your friend why your perfect weekend plans are ruined.
In NYC, we love a good boozy brunch, so don’t deprive your visitors of this important tradition. If you’re feeling a little rachet, take them to Blockheads (various locations). It’s mediocre Mexican food, with an unreal 1.5 hour endless option for just $11.95. You can warn your companion that this doesn’t necessarily represent New York’s culinary capacity, but they’ll probably be too woozy on mimosas to really care.
For something a bit nicer, opt for Hotel Chantelle, which doubles as a three-story club at night. Brunch is a popular affair (make reservations), and is served on their enclosed rooftop. The food is great, the atmosphere jovial, and they always have a 92 cent cocktail…yaaaaas!
After brunch, grab a blanket and find a spot on the Great Lawn. But why, your visitor might ask, are we just sitting and picnic-ing in Central Park when I really just want to visit the statue of liberty? You can tell them that a) central park is f*cking awesome, b) people watching is NYC’s favorite pastime, and c) shut up.
If you’re feeling couple-y, you can also rent a paddleboat for some Instagram perfection.
And if your friend visits during winter, my condolences to her, but you can embrace the chill by ice skating in the park. Wine and cheese picnics are so overrated, anyway (….said nobody. Ever.).
Once your friend is sufficiently enamored with Central Park, guide her to the Strand bookstand, where she’ll feel hipster and cool for buying a paperback in a park in NYC!
Next, head to Le Bain, the Standard Hotel’s rooftop bar. This two-floor bar means “The Bathtub” in French, and that name fits the bill on so many levels. The bottom floor, indoor area has weird disco lights, an actual hot tub that drunk people splash around in, and lighting that brings to mind a poorly made ’70s porno. Head to the outdoor rooftop, which affords stunning views of the city, and is pulsing with fancy-looking Europeans.
Tonight, you can indulge your visitor in something touristy that will also be enjoyable for you: Broadway. If there’s only two of you and you’re not too set on anything, consider entering the lottery, or heading to TKTS day-of. This will also satisfy your requisite Times Square Visit to oooh and aaaah at the pretty lights. If you really wanna pull out the stops, go buy a bracelet or small item from American Eagle Outfitters–with a purchase, you can take a picture and get your 15 seconds on their enormous electric screen.
Today is the today for some old school NYC. Whereas the Lower East Side is now full of cool bars and boozy brunch (lookin’ at you, Hotel Chantelle), it used to be a slummy place, teeming with immigrants. One of the significant immigrant populations were the Jews, and there is no better way to understand history than to brunch at one of the oldest and best eateries: Russ and Daughters. For a quick grab n’ go, you can grab something from the original location, but for a sit-down meal, head to Russ and Daughters Café, just a block over. Get your fill on premium lox, and everything else your old Jewish grandma would have had: borscht, blintzes, bagels, herring galore!
After you are satiated and reek of pickled fish, continue your history lesson at the Tenement Museum, which shows what life used to be like in the LES. This will simultaneously impress your friend and remind you that your current living situation really isn’t that bad (although your roommate’s dirty socks really need to go).
If this is summertime, head to the the Rooftop Cinema Club in Brooklyn, another sure way to impress your friend. The views of Manhattan are stunning, you can BYOB and BYOF, and you get to enjoy stellar movies and the night sky.
For a winter activity, go to Fat Cat, a game and jazz bar, where you get overly competitive in ping pong, shuffleboard, pool or boardgames.
After this packed weekend of fun, you can send your friend back to her second-tier city (kidding!!!!) with fond memories, a prayer for good traffic, and the scent of Jewish fish suck in her pores for days to come.