Hometown Tourist – The Highline

Thursday, January 5th, 2012 | Posted under Hometown Tourist, Manhattan

It’s definitely winter out there, so those of you who’ve been reading the blog for awhile will know that’s when I like to write about summer activities. 🙂
This past summer, I finally made it to the Highline, one of Manhattan’s newest parks. I remember back in the day when these elevated rail tracks ran on the far west side. After years of neglect, the rail tracks became overrun with vegetation and were pretty much an eyesore. Now they are the newest park attraction in the city stretching from 14th Street to 30th Street on the far west side (there will be another section hopefully opening in a few years that will extend to 34th Street and the Hudson River). It’s one of my newest favorite ways to spend an afternoon in Manhattan.

I personally like entering the Highline from its northern entrance and walking south, since I’ll end up in the Meatpacking District, a great neighborhood for some good people watching, eating and window shopping when I’m done with my walk.

Highline looking south
It’s pretty easy to see the old rail tracks. I like the mix of steel and greenery. To me, it’s urban and inviting at the same time.

I know that in many places going to the park and seeing grass and flowers are a given, but in this part of Manhattan it’s a nice change of pace.

I think they did a great job of making sure that there is lots of seating, so you don’t have to rush your walk.

As I walked, I thought about how this area has changed so much. There have been lots of buildings like this one around for years.

But now there are lots of buildings like these.

I wonder what it’s like having the Highline as your backyard.

While the greenery is great and all, I like the fact that the Highline makes me feel like I am in one of those futuristic apocalyptic movies walking through this urban netherworld. Okay…I’m getting a little carried away, but it’s true.

At one point in the walk south, you enter an area covered by an overpass. This past summer, there were vendors and an information booth.

I like looking at the colored glass underneath the overpass. I believe that these were restored as well.

Of course, there is food! Yay! This area below is called The Porch, and it’s a open air restaurant featuring local and seasonal ingredients. I’ll have to try it next summer.
In the summer, there are lots of foods being sold to cool you down including People’s Pops (artisanal ice pops). I didn’t try them out, but I hear that they are great.

Some other treats to look out for are La New Yorkina (Mexican ice pops and sweets) and L’Arte del Gelato, which is what I tried.
I kept it simple with some stracciatella

I took my gelato and went to this cool water feature. It makes you feel like there is a little stream in the sky.

Yes, those are my big ol’ size 9 hoofs.

It was nice to sit with my ice cream and take in the view of…..New Jersey? Yeah, I have to remind myself we still are in New York.

The Highline is open all year, but it’s at its best in the warmer months. Take an afternoon to enjoy it.


Hometown Tourist – Staten Island Ferry

Monday, October 31st, 2011 | Posted under Hometown Tourist, Staten Island

Staten Island…what can I say? It’s often considered New York City’s (forgotten) fifth borough. It is rather different from the rest of the city in that it has a very suburban feel. There are beaches and even farms, but little in the way of public transportation that we’re used to here (the subway does not go into Staten Island. There is a separate Staten Island Railway that operates only within Staten Island). In the past, some residents of Staten Island have wanted to secede from New York City claiming that it’s got more in common with neighboring New Jersey (I doubt that’s happening any time soon).

As for me, I can say that I have been to Staten Island about a handful of times. I think that’s in part because the commute between Staten Island and the rest of the city can be a bit of a trek, even with our great public transportation system.
However, I will say that Staten Islanders do have one great transportation resource that I think benefits both locals and visitors to NYC alike: the Staten Island Ferry. It takes people from Lower Manhattan to the northern tip of Staten Island for FREE. If something is free in NYC, I advise you take advantage of it. 🙂 As practically a life-long New Yorker, I’d never taken the ferry and decided to make the trip during one of our heat waves this past summer.
On the Manhattan side, there is a brand new terminal that opened in 2010.

After entering the terminal, you’ll go upstairs and see a waiting area with electronic signs showing the next ferry’s departure. People tend to start lining up about 10-15 minutes before the doors open allowing you to board. With it being free, you’ll see both visitors and commuters, so be aware that it will be fairly crowded even in the middle of the day and/or in the middle of the week.

The crowds can get pretty thick.


The ferry leaves its Manhattan terminal

As a visitor what you’re really taking the ferry for are the views of Lower Manhattan and everything in between.
Battery Park (I got married here :)) and lower Manhattan

The Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge to the north

The New York City Water Taxi (another great way to see NYC from the water)

You might recognize this as you make your way to Staten Island….
Happy Belated 125th Birthday to Lady Liberty (it was last week)!

With so much to see, you actually can forget that you are crossing a working harbor.

Soon Manhattan starts to fade away, and Staten Island comes into view.

Another ferry waiting on the Staten Island side. I like that the ferries are painted a happy orange color.

I guess you might be thinking that you should just turn around and go right back to Manhattan, but I would urge you to take a few minutes to walk around the area right outside of the ferry terminal on the Staten Island side, which lets you off in the St. George neighborhood.

The terminal does provides transfers for the Staten Island Railway and buses that travel south into the rest of the borough, but you can still see some nice views here as you walk on the esplanade. I will warn you that it is a little industrial though (but, hey, you’re in New York City).

As you continue to walk on the esplanade, you’ll come to the Staten Island 9/11 Memorial. I have to admit that I was not aware that this existed, but I am glad that I found it.

Once you enter between the pillars, you will see the names of those who died on 9/11/01 who were Staten Island residents. I think the memorial is moving in its simplicity.

Practically across the street from the memorial and the ferry terminal is the baseball stadium for the Staten Island Yankees, a minor league team that feeds into the New York Yankees and one of two minor league teams that play in the city (the other is the Brooklyn Cyclones based at Coney Island in Brooklyn).

That’s really it for things to see that are a short walking distance from the terminal, but even for someone like me who’s never been on the ferry, I thoroughly enjoyed my ride. If you’re ever in New York City and looking for a quick, pleasant excursion through New York Harbor, hop on over to Staten Island.

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Hometown Tourist – Brooklyn Chinatown

Friday, May 6th, 2011 | Posted under Brooklyn, Hometown Tourist

Brooklyn has a Chinatown. Yes, yes, y’all! I finally got to make my way around there last month. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll know that I linked to an article that I wrote for brooklynexposed.com about Brooklyn’s Chinatown. That article wasn’t my personal observations. I decided to save them for this blog, especially since it was my first time there and therefore perfect for a Hometown Tourist post!
When people think of Brooklyn, they tend not to think of a large Asian American community. Caribbean folks in Flatbush? Yes. Large Orthodox and Hassidic Jewish communities? Yeah. Old school traditional Italian neighborhoods? You bet. A Chinatown? Really? Yep. We got that that too. Some have speculated that the neighbhorhood grew out of Chinese Americans and new Chinese immigrants wanting a little more space and cheaper rents, so they hopped on the N and D subway lines from Manhattan’s Chinatown and discovered the already culturally diverse Sunset Park area. Now 8th Avenue in Brooklyn between 45th and 62nd Street is most definitely a Chinatown. The easiest and best way to get to the heart of BK Chinatown quickly is to take the N line to the 8th Avenue stop.
A view down 8th Avenue towards the Verrazano Bridge

Can I say something else? I often feel a little out of place even in the Manhattan Chinatown, so I made a point of coming here by myself as a means of getting myself out of my comfort zone. Why uncomfortable? Well, I’m obviously not Asian and don’t always know the best thing to order. Also I’ve had some “interesting” interactions with shopkeepers in Manhattan’s Chinatown (“You don’t want to sell me that fish? Why not?”), so I was not sure what to expect. My fellow Brooklynites in Chinatown were super cool (except in one instance), so maybe I should just attribute all that ‘tude to “Manhattan-ness” (Just kidding!)? 😉

You all have to know that I was going to go look for some food. Hello! There was waaay too much super cheap and tasty looking eats around, and it would probably take someone months to eat it all (anyone want to do an experiment?). I stopped off first at Kai Feng Du Dumpling House. Let’s be honest. This is NOT the place to go for atmosphere and decor, but you should definitely go for the dumplings.

I probably should have ordered less but at $2 for an order of 8, it was hard to say no. The dumplings were not too doughy, seasoned very well and chewy in a good way. Most of the dumplings have some variation of pork, but there are veggie options, too. If you don’t mind the extra wait, get the steamed dumplings like I did.
I also had a bigger than expected scallion pancake, which was really bread.

In the makeshift dining area, I struck up a conversation with this really nice man. When he ran outside, I took a pic of his noodle soup with beef.

After lots more walking, I wanted a little more refreshment than water and stumbled onto Kung Fu Tea. I totally liked the modern interor and young vibe inside the shop. I do like bubble tea, but I wasn’t sure what to get. I found the younger women who worked there to be pretty helpful. I settled on the passion fruit black tea with tapioca pearls, their most popular tea. It was delicious, so I understand the popularity.

Next time, I am going to get really adventurous and get their Red Wow milk tea: it’s condensed milk, black tea, red beans and tapioca pearls. The taste of red beans is surprisingly nice, so I think this will be a nice treat.

I know that many enjoy Chinatowns everywhere for the shopping opportunities, and Brooklyn’s seemed to have everything you could want.
Durian. I still haven’t tried durian!

Some distinctive looking pastries. Next time I will be brave enough and not rushed so that I can buy some.

Most Brooklyn Chinatown stores are pretty small, but if you want more of a supermarket experience, I would head for Hong Kong supermarket for one-stop shopping.

There are things there that you can find in other shops on 8th Avenue, but I got super happy in the sauce aisle. There are so many things that I have wanted to have at home for certain home cooking that I do, and now I know where I can find them more easily in Brooklyn.

While Brooklyn Chinatown is a hub for eating and shopping, it’s also a place for building a greater sense of community among the Chinese who live there. I happened to pass by this poster board that had a small crowd gathered in front of it. Since I don’t read Chinese, I’m not sure what’s on it. Advertisements? Job listings? News from home? Can anyone see anything and translate for me?

I passed by the Brooklyn Chinese-American Association and decided to research some more about them. In addition to providing social services for the area’s elders and children, they coordinate the Brooklyn Chinese New Year Parade. That’s got to go on my calendar for next year.

I was very appreciative of the really warm welcome I received at the Xi Fang Temple, a Buddhist temple right on 8th Avenue that was renovated for the community in 2007.

The temple’s altar is beautiful, and I snapped this shot even though I was a little timid about taking pictures. The monk on duty (I think he was a monk? Am I getting this right?) was very nice, and we had a great conversation about the temple and its activities.

While this part of 8th Avenue’s businesses are overwhelmingly Chinese, there are other cultures repping.
Ecuadorean food. I’m intrigued….I’ve never had Ecuadorean food.

Fabulous pho at Pho Cho Lon

I hope that this post and my article have piqued your interest in exploring this part of Brooklyn. I know I’ll be looking to discover more of it. For addresses and more information than I’ve included here, check out my article about Brooklyn Chinatown on Brooklyn Exposed.

Happy Weekend!


Hometown Tourist – Flat Stanley Visits NYC

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011 | Posted under Family and Friends, Hometown Tourist, Manhattan, Travel General

My sister-in-law is an elementary school teacher and asked for my help for one of the kids in her class. Apparently, her students are learning about different communities in other states, and she was hoping that I would help one of her students who wanted to study New York. NO problem, except I didn’t realize that I would have to tote around a friend…a paper friend that is.

My sister-in-law’s students are learning about different states through the eyes of Flat Stanley. Flat Stanley is a children’s book series that follows the global travels of a little boy who gets flattened by a bulletin board (sounds a little violent, LOL!), and his new easy to maneuver shape allows him to travel all over the world. The book has developed into a wonderful teaching tool for opening up the world of travel, geography and diverse notions of community life to kids.
Since I was running around doing some errands one day in Manhattan, I took Flat Stanley with me and snapped some pictures of him in places that someone might want to visit during their first time in NYC. I think Flat Stanley enjoyed it, too.
Here’s what we saw and did that afternoon:
Flat Stanley reads the paper on the subway.

Flat Stanley liked seeing Radio City Music Hall from the outside.

Flat Stanley was a little disappointed to not see too many people ice skating when we passed by Rockefeller Center.

Flat Stanley in front of the New York Public Library. He wanted to see where Carrie Bradshaw was supposed to get married, but I hurried him along. Uh…I had to finish my errands!

Flat Stanley in front the of the Flatiron Building

I think I enjoyed my afternoon with Stanley waaay too much, but I love the idea of teaching kids about how others live in different communities. Here’s a link with more information about the Flat Stanley Project. 🙂

If and/or when I have a child or two, one of the things I hope to instill in them is a wonder and awe for the larger world and a thirst to know how others live.

Were there any books, tv shows or school projects from your childhood or teen years that made you interested in travel, geography or different communities?


Tourist in My Own Town – Walking Across the Brooklyn Bridge

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011 | Posted under Brooklyn, Hometown Tourist

Having lived in Brooklyn once before, it amazed even me that previously I hadn’t taken the time to experience one of its most recognizable monuments: the Brooklyn Bridge. Yup, an almost lifetime New Yorker had never walked across. One Saturday afternoon, Husband J and I got off our tushes, put on some comfortable walking shoes and set off.

Personally, I think if you are going to walk the bridge, definitely try to do so from Brooklyn to Manhattan. While I love my borough, I think the walk towards Manhattan is quite scenic. Definitely check out the DUMBO neighborhood and Brooklyn Bridge Park before entering the pedestrian walkway to the bridge near the corner of Washington Street and Prospect Street in DUMBO. There is also a bike lane on the bridge, if you want to get some exercise. Other than that, you’ll just have to hitch a ride in a taxi to experience the bridge.
Actually for another pretty cheap and equally scenic vantage point of the bridge itself, I would take the subway. Yep! The N & Q subway lines both cross the neighboring Manhattan Bridge and actually give you a clear view of the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s definitely worth $2.25 and the trip between Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Many people had the same idea of crossing the bridge that afternoon.

If you’re a fan of architecture, the bridge’s design is really worth examining. It’s still beautiful even after 125 years.
The bridge’s easily famous arches

I find the suspension cables to be their own form of artwork.
Recognize someone?

This view from the bridge was taken a few years ago. This area is now Brooklyn Bridge Park, which I think is a big improvement over the unused pier. I wrote about my day there several months ago.

What’s the main reason to cross the Brooklyn Bridge? The views!

Make sure to make it across the Brooklyn Bridge for a FREE and fun way to view the New York City skyline.


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