*** This post was first shared in January 2014 after I finished a year of doing a new activity in New York every day. This blog is largely defunct so this post is a great place to start if you’re visiting New York and looking for things to do! For more on this project, visit the “About” section. ***
This year I did a lot of new stuff: 365 days of new eats, treats, meets and top notch museums.
When people have asked me throughout the year to name my favorite things, I’ve not known what to say. Not because I struggle to pick between my favorites, but because, when you do 30 (or 31) new things every month, sometimes it’s hard to remember half of them. So I’ve had a look back over my blogs and thought about the things that I loved and hated.
For my ultimate favorite things to do in New York City, check out my ‘Top Ten‘ page. I really recommend trying some out if you’re looking for something new to do or if you’re visiting.
But now! Let’s get to the inaugural ‘Today’s the Day I…’ Awards – a summary of my favorite and least favorite activities.
Best Views Of Manhattan Skyline: Brooklyn Bridge Park
I’ve seen Manhattan from the sky, a sailboat and various islands and bridges, but nowhere beats seeing it from Brooklyn Bridge Park. Not only does this give you plenty of unobstructed posing opportunities, it is also the cheapest option. Check out my pictures from the Promenade and see here for information on how to get there.
Special Mentions: Seeing Manhattan from a helicopter and from Greenpoint’s Rooftop Farm.
Best Place To Learn New Things: Brooklyn Brainery
I’ve gushed about the Brooklyn Brainery all year. Thanks to this small learning space in Prospect Heights, I now know how to hack computers, make soap, ferment vegetables, create origami and identify trees.
Special Mention: The Brooklyn Kitchen.
Most Useful Skill I Learned: How to make fire
While it wasn’t a Brooklyn Brainery class, learning how to make fire was fantastic. I’m not 100% sure I’d be able to do it again with ease, but it’s definitely one of those things I’m going to tell people I can do (unless we’re stuck in a forest).
Special Mention: Lie detecting class.
Best Thing That I Will Never Do Again: Ride a mechanical bull
It was fun, but there is no need for me ever to do this again.
Special Mention: Visiting a Haunted House.
Best Thing To Tell Stories About: Auditioning for a reality TV show
Auditioning for The Bachelorette (pre-Ryan, obviously) was a fascinating insight into the factory-like process of TV auditions. And it had some surprises: who knew the girls were actually going to be friendly? No call from the producers yet – but I’m sure it’ll come any day now.
Special Mention: The Air Guitar Competition.
Coolest Thing You Didn’t Even Know Was There: The Masonic Temple
I’ve done pretty well discovering secret things in New York this year (mostly thanks to this amazing book), but by far the most mindblowing was the Masonic Temple. It’s open to the public yet I’m sure so many people don’t know it’s there. Our tour guide – a Mason himself – was so welcoming and informative, but I couldn’t ignore its creepiness.
Special Mentions: The animation on the Q train and a section of the Berlin Wall.
Best Museum: Natural History Museum
Call it cliche, but the Natural History Museum has to take the top spot. You can wander endless rooms of fascinating artifacts, check out brilliant special exhibits – and watch the hours fall away. There are tons of tourists but thankfully it’s big enough to let you ignore them.
Special Mentions: The Museum of Chinese in America and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
Best History Thing: Governors Island
Now this is a hard one. But if I had to visit any historical site again, I’d head back to Governors Island in a heartbeat. It has everything – architecture, spooky stories, stunning views of Manhattan, parks and a ferry trip. And I’m so glad that it’s going to be open every day this summer rather than just every weekend.
Special Mention: The Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side.
Best Science Thing: New York Hall of Science
It’s a bit of a trek getting to Corona, Queens, but once you’re there, it has a gem of a museum: The New York Hall of Science. We could be big kids as we checked ourselves out at the hall of mirrors, used our noses to work a computer and found out if we were ready for a space mission (no). Definitely one of the best museums I went to all year.
Best Art Thing: Graffiti tour
This was a toughie – remember the beauty of The Frick Collection and the Morgan Library? The bizarreness of the house covered in mosaics and that SoHo loft filled with dirt? And the coolness of that college art battle?
But I have to say the graffiti tour through the Lower East Side was the best art experience of the year – mostly because it merged world class art with the city in a way none of those other experiences could. I remember going with a stinking hangover after throwing a party (and barely waking up in time), and yet it was the most glorious crisp day and I just didn’t want the tour to end. I learned loads. For more info, visit Graff Tours.
Special Mention: Socrates Sculpture Park.
Best Music Thing: Japanese drum show
New York’s best shows can quite often be found in the dingiest or most unexpected of places, so I hate to admit it – but my best music experience of the year was staged in a large theater beneath bright lights: Taikoza Live. I learned about a whole set of instruments I’d never seen before and was constantly surprised by the different sounds they could make.
Special Mention: Visiting a jazz club.
Best Food Thing: The Vendys
The Vendys, the annual awards for food truck vendors, is a brilliant cheat because you get to taste lots of New York City’s best foods all in one go. It’s held at an abandoned lot every summer and good god, is it delicious.
Special Mention: Smorgasburg.
Best Theater Thing: Chekhov in Central Park
This play performed by the New York Classical Theater in various parts of Central Park was the epitome of all great things about the city – top talent, making the most of the city’s surroundings and, best of all, it was freee.
Special Mention: The Blue Man Group (I honestly still laugh thinking about it).
Best Date Thing: Kayaking on the Hudson
You may not be aware of it, but you all witnessed my first date with Ryan – kayaking on the Hudson. I think it’s ideal for any date – whether it’s the first or fiftieth. We could chat and admire the skyline (which was semi romantic despite the unidentifiable stuff floating around us) while focusing on the activity at hand if we ran out of things to say (although we didn’t have that problem). Plus it was free, so no drama about who’s paying for the bill.
(This is assuming the date’s a success. Being stuck in a tiny boat with a blunt instrument is probably not the best place to be if it isn’t going too well.)
When I asked Ryan for his favorite date activity of the year, he said Bocce Ball. It gave him the opportunity to show off his skills and for me to fling myself into his arms, so I’m not surprised.
Best Way To Work Out: Anything at Bryant Park
I’ve taken a fair few workout classes this year – and some of them have been great, especially SoulCycle and Zumba. But who wants to run around inside a building when you could be out in the city?
Bryant Park has given me some great activities this year that I’m going to pretend are good exercise – from square dancing to musical chairs. Keep an eye on the park’s calendar because there’ll undoubtedly be a few unexpected treats coming up.
Special Mentions: The Chelsea Pier batting cages and playing tag on Wall Street.
Best Market: Brooklyn Night Bazaar
The Brooklyn night bazaar has it everything you need – snacks, beer, gifts, mini golf and table tennis – all beneath the roof of a run-down warehouse on the edges of Greenpoint. It’s a great place to socialize and shop for an alternative Friday or Saturday night out.
Special Mentions: The Brooklyn Flea and Union Square’s Holiday Market.
Best Building To Climb Up: St John the Divine
You’ve all heard of climbing to the top of the Rockefeller Center or the Empire State Building, but don’t do it! Instead, go to a rooftop bar in Manhattan (where the views are just as good and the refreshments are far better) and then jump on the subway to the Upper West Side to see the largest cathedral in the world. Take the vertical tour and ascend this masterpiece, before climbing on the roof. I got pretty emotional when I was there.
Best Thing That You Can’t Do Anymore (Sorry): Five Pointz
It’s a tragedy that they painted over Five Pointz in Long Island City a couple of months ago. This former graffiti mecca was the result of years’ worth of talent and dedication, and I’m so glad I got to see it before it was ruined. R.I.P.
Special Mention: Life drawing classes at 3rd Ward (it abruptly closed in October)
Best Thing That’s Not In New York: Visiting Alcratraz
On top of New York, I’ve traveled to seven other states this year. And out of those, I’ve done some amazing things (you can check out my full list here). But my visit to Alcatraz in San Francisco has stuck with me for a year and – as long as you go early enough to beat the crowds – it is such a fascinating experience that I would recommend to any visitor or resident.
Special Mention: The architecture tour in Chicago and St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
And now to the worst!
Worst Museum (So Don’t Waste Your Time): The Museum of Sex
This museum was absolute balls. It was just so uncreative – lots of sordid stuff and not enough balance or education. Don’t waste your time.
Worst Food Thing: Winter’s Eve Market.
Worst Theater Thing: Murder Mystery.
Do not – I repeat, do not – ever go to this.
Surprise Waste of Money: The Empire State Building
I know that you feel as if you have to visit the Empire State Building when you’re in New York – but there is no need. It’s a nightmare to navigate the tourists and corridors, and I promise you that you can get great views from other places in the city.
Right, that’s enough of that. Congratulations and commiserations to the winners of the TTDI Awards.
So. How has the year been?
A year ago, I could not have predicted all the different feelings I’ve had about this blog: Joy, love, resentment, pride, frustration. And although part of me knew I was never going to give up on it, realizing that I completed it has really surprised me – and I’m relieved and sad all at once. I don’t know what I’ll do with myself now!
Of course, the best thing about this blog is what I’ve learned about New York – trying out the tourist spots and finding out the city’s secrets, and, in turn, being able to pass on advice about them to other people. The main thing that I’ve learned about the city is that you could do a new thing every day for years and you wouldn’t cover the half of it. On some days there have been four different things I’ve wanted to do.
… and this has been hard with a busy work week. I’ve been confined to doing new things between the hours of 7pm and 10pm, which is a shame because there are so many great daytime activities. But this blog has also proven that the city can still be appreciated even if you spend a lot of your time in an office. There’s always something to do and sometimes it only needs to take 10 minutes of your day. I think this is such an important thing to remember: don’t forget where you live.
After the blog, doing a ton of stuff is the norm. And having a great project outside of the office – and looking forward to a new thing each day – has made me much happier at work, too. Even on those days where I’ve been tired and heading uptown is the last thing I fancy, my new activity has brought me right out of the rut.
That’s why, even though I’m going to stop writing this blog every day, I’m going to continue looking for new things and blogging about them whenever they happen… and I’ve already got quite a few planned.
Being busy has had its downsides though, too. I can’t count the times I had to turn down colleagues who were grabbing a drink after work because I had a show or class to go to. And on other occasions I’ve been unable to initiate plans with friends because I’ve just not known where the week was going to take me. From now on, I’m investing and saying yes to things!
While the blog has hindered some friendships here, it’s definitely improved other relationships.
For one, Ryan said how I did so many things was something he really liked about me when we met. And bizarrely, it’s brought me closer to people who are so much further away. Family (Auntie Susie, my #1 follower!) and long-time friends now know about what I do every day, rather than hearing a vague summary once a month or so. And it’s also made me new friends – new followers from all over the world who’ve reached out to let me know they’ve loved what I’ve done. And that’s pretty cool.
All of those things are just too great to give up. So I’m not going anywhere! I’m going to be back, posting new things whenever I do them. But I also need to get some balance back in my life, so I’m not going to be doing it every day. Thank you so, so much for following all year – and, as always, let me know if you have any suggestions for what I can do next!