What New York City Isn’t:
Lingering over lunch for three hours with your best friend. Leaving work promptly at 5 PM to go for a couple beers with your coworkers. An intimate, sparsely decorated coffee shop filled with familiar faces.
New York is not leisurely. It is not intimate. It is not clean and cookie-cutter. It does not smell like fresh earth, and it is not always the friendliest.
But this is the thing about New York. She doesn’t give a subway rat’s ass what you think about her, because she’s too busy trying to make her dreams come true.
What New York City Is:
She is fast. She is direct. She is unafraid to offend, and she can be intimidating. Her veins are numbered streets, interlocking in a grid-like pattern, and her cells are the millions of young creatives, entrepreneurs, innovators, techies, and over-all go-getters. People don’t come to New York to sit in a cafe and read magazines. They come to New York to make shit happen. If there were such thing as time in fast-forward, New York is where you would find it.
Many people who come to New York find it stifling and don’t stick around for very long. However, the ambitious attitudes of those who stay has translated to a lot of really inspiring and innovating projects come to fruition. You’ve got the Brooklyn Grange building farms on top of rooftops, because, why not? Sustainability-minded fashion designers and slow-food, locally-sourcing restauranteurs are stealing the limelight at an impressive rate. New York may not be gentle and zen and all the other things that you may think encompass “conscious living,” but if you look behind her stone cold exterior, you will find that deep-down she’s just a whole lotta tough love.
I couldn’t fathom trying to cover all five boroughs in one city guide (it was hard enough to come up with a guide to Manhattan alone without feeling like I was writing an encyclopedia)… partially because of the sheer size of the entire city combined, and partially because each borough truly takes on its own persona. I like to think that the five boroughs of New York City are like siblings. They all have a shared history. with more or less the same blood and DNA flowing through their veins. But each has also grown to take on a personality of its own, with its own unique set of characteristics.
So before I get too ahead of myself, here is what I consider the top things to see, eat, drink, and do in the city that never sleeps. Let’s start with Manhattan.
Coffee and Tea
An Australian-style cafe known for both their coffee and their delicious brunch. For a healthy start to your day, order their version of avocado toast, a hearty sized portion topped with EVOO and fresh cherry tomatoes, or their warm quinoa-oat porridge.
A Scandinavian chain of coffee shops with several locations throughout Manhattan. Come here for quality espresso drinks, locally made chocolate truffles, and a variety of Swedish specialty food items.
Soho | 264 Elizabeth St
Attached to Toms Shoes’ NYC flagship store is a cafe serving up fair-trade coffee drinks and pastries.
Tribeca | 401 Greenwich St
Financial District |275 Greenwich St
Midtown | 530 5th Ave
I love the overall design and vibe of this coffee shop. A massive wooden table in a room downstairs of their Tribeca location makes for a great hide-away. They also make really delicious “energy bites” which are the perfect pick-me-up.
Come here for the 100% organic, fair-trade, shade-grown coffee (and also for the vegan donuts).
Their matcha green tea lattes are some of the best in the city.
Where to Eat
West Village | 33 Carmine St
A beautiful, health-focused restaurant with a farm-to-table ethos and an extensive menu of gourmet, largely plant-based dishes.
Lower East Side | 49 Canal St
Greenwich Village | 18 Greenwich Ave
This beautiful Italian trattoria sources ingredients right from its very own rooftop garden. It’s a great spot for date night.
Tribeca | 73 Warren St
Flatiron | 55 W 27th St
Midtown | 155 E 44th St
A nice place to stop for a healthy, delicious lunch in between shopping and sight-seeing. Food is served cafeteria-style, with many vegan and vegetarian options.
Soho | 19 Kenmare St
West Village | 581 Hudson St
Although this place is no “secret gem,” it is still one of my favorite restaurants in NYC. They make an incredible avocado toast, as well as juices, smoothies, hot drinks, and a variety of fantastic plant-based meals. Live greenery makes up most of the decor and water is served out of glass jars with fresh mint leaves.
Union Square | 35 E 18th St
This is definitely a “special occasion” restaurant with a seasonal, organic, farm-to-table menu. Make sure you book a reservation in advance.
Union Square | 841 Broadway, 2nd Floor
A vegan, organic cafe attached to Jivamukti Yoga that serves as great post-yoga nourishment.
Gramery | 229 E 14th
Midtown | 134 W 37th St
Midtown | 62 W 56th St
A vegan sushi restaurant chain that makes both delicious and innovative sushi rolls, wraps, and salads.
Nolita | 224 Lafayette St
Greenwich Village | 50 Carmine St
This popular brunch spot offers a Mediterranean-influenced menu, several vegan options, and has an updated diner feel.
Union Square | 78 5th Ave
A cafeteria-style lunch spot that caters to paleo, vegan, and generally healthy eaters. Head to a rustic wooden table upstairs to enjoy your meal and hang out.
East Village | 165 Avenue A
Recover from a night out with an authentic New York bagel with your choice of toppings. They have several different flavors of tofu cream cheese and dozens of other toppings. Don’t be dissuaded by the line that goes out the door (it goes by quick) and keep in mind this place is cash only.
One of the best fresh juice chains in Manhattan, and their almond butter acai bowl is incredible.
Inventive juices, smoothies, and vegan snacks.
A NYC salad chain that sources locally, uses compostable serve-ware, and has a menu that changes seasonally. Their salads are truly the most delicious I’ve found in the city, as well as reasonably priced.
Soho | 45 Spring St
A counter-serve restaurant serving up the most amazing gluten-free falafel and other vegetarian Israeli fare.
A retro-themed ice creamery with vegan options.
Union Square | 888 Broadway
ABC Carpet & Home is what I like to consider the Barney’s of conscious consumerism. Take your time perusing the different departments dedicated to fashion apparel, jewelry, cosmetics, home goods, furniture, books, and more.
Soho | 281 Lafayette St
Affordable basics made with non-toxic dyes, an emphasis on sustainable fabrics, and eco-friendly production practices.
West Village | 238 W 10th St
A small shop selling luxury non-toxic beauty products and superfoods, with an attached spa offering eco-friendly treatments. They frequently host workshops and presentations from guest speakers in the wellness industry.
Chelsea | 75 9th Ave
A trip to the Big Apple wouldn’t be complete without an hour or two spent shopping and eating your way through the famed Chelsea Market. Shop handmade goods from Artists & Fleas and taste ethnic dishes from one of the many specialty food outposts.
Soho | 9 Prince St,
Non-toxic beauty products from brands you know and love, like Tata Harper, RMS, and Fig & Yarrow.
Soho | 121 Prince St
This socially and environmentally conscious retail store is passionate about showcasing well-designed, high-quality products and fostering a more mindful approach to consumption. Their mission is to pass on the stories of their brands and to create a memorable in-store experience, through small-batch, one-of-a-kind products. Their store feels open and airy, and I love reading about the stories behind the different products and makers.
Soho | 269 Elizabeth St
A boutique selling a collection of vintage and contemporary jewelry as well as a variety of other handcrafted goods.
Soho | 78 Orchard St
A 100% vegan fashion retailer specializing in cruelty-free footwear, handbags, and accessories. Be sure to stop in their vegan deli/ grocery store next store for a hearty sandwich and some locally-made, nut-based cheese.
Soho | 23 Howard St
Lower East Side | 156 Ludlow St
Reformation is the brand that made sustainable fashion sexy, and now you can try on their beautiful fashion in person at one of their Manhattan store locations.
Union Square | 828 Broadway
A beautiful book store selling used, new, and rare books and regularly hosting events and book signings.
Bowery | 21 E 1st St
The Alchemist’s Kitchen is a team of herbalists aiming to connect you to the incredible power of plants. They sell a variety of botanical tinctures and beauty products, and regularly host tastings and workshops. This company is passionate about introducing holistic health, environmental sustainability, and conscious living to the local community.
Sweat (or Flow) it Out
Manhattan makes it easy to stay fit and active. On top of walking miles upon miles just to get around, the city has an insane amount of gyms and fitness studios at your disposal- cycling, yoga, pilates, barre, bootcamp, you name it. But that doesn’t mean you need to shell out $20+ to get in a good sweat session. There are also tons of opportunities to simply get out and go out for a run (Central Park and the path along the Hudson River are two of the most popular running spots) or hit up a free class.
This donation-based yoga studio is a favorite among young Manhattanites who can’t afford a $200 per month membership at an elite studio. Each of their four locations offers a slightly different style of yoga, although all are Vinyasa-based. Just arrive 10-15 minutes early, grab yourself a spot, and pay what you can afford on the way out.
Take a Free Class at Lululemon
free yoga every Sunday at 9:30 AM
rotating fitness class every Saturday at 9 AM
free yoga every Sunday at 10 AM
75th & Broadway
free yoga every Sunday at 9 AM
Run Club every Wednesday at 7 PM
Find a Free Fitness Class on ShapeUp NYC
You can find a free fitness class nearly every day throughout the summer in one of NYC’s parks. Click here for the full schedule.
Things to See & Do
A $20 donation is suggested for a foraging tour, which typically starts between 11:30 AM and 1 PM on Saturdays and Sundays in various locations throughout the city. You can check out the schedule here and call at least a day in advance to book your spot.
Hour of Happiness at the Alchemist’s Kitchen
Head over to the Alchemist’s Kitchen’s flagship store in Bowery on Fridays from 5-8 PM for botanical elixirs and herbal cocktails.
Walk Through Central Park
While you may be tempted to stay in the bottom portions of the park, I really encourage you to explore further north. The further up you go, the less crowded it gets, and the less you feel like you’re in the middle of one of the most densely populated cities in the world.
Whitney Museum of American Art
Browse the abstract art exhibitions at The Whitney, then grab a bite to eat at their cafe.
Walk the High Line
When the weather is nice, walk the roughly one-and-a-half mile elevated pathway that runs from the Lower West Side up to the Meatpacking district.
Have a Picnic in Washington Square Park
Grab a falafel to-go from Taim or a salad from Sweetgreen, head over to Washington Square Park, and people-watch.
Visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum
Head downtown to the memorial at the base of what was once the World Trade Center to pay your respects, and leave feeling refreshingly humbled. This site has a way of putting things into perspective, of bringing you back (no pun intended) to ground zero. It’s free to visit the memorial, and general admission to the museum is $24, although on Tuesdays it’s free from 5 PM to close.