Despite a recent Business Insider headline (“If you’re moving to San Francisco, this housing flyer will make you want to cry”), I have decided to trade in the City That Never Sleeps for the City By The Bay.
I’ve lived in Brooklyn for more than two years, and I never thought I would leave. But alas — love, year-round room-temperature weather, and something called the “Sushirrito” enticed me to pursue greener (though drier) pastures on the West Coast.
Before I move to San Francisco at the end of the month, I made a “bucket list” of all the things I’ve always wanted to do in New York, but never made time for. With weeks to go, I’m glad to say I’ve crossed off all 32 of these activities.
Whether you’re visiting New York for the first time or leaving it, you won’t want to miss these classic city rituals.
First: A trip down memory lane. One of the first things I did when I moved to New York City was take a walk on the High Line, a refurbished rail line suspended over Manhattan's far west side. I had to visit the park once more before my move to the west coast.
I was fortunate that the new downtown Whitney Museum of American Art opened before my departure. In addition to a magnificent art collection, the 8-story behemoth offers panoramic views of the city, including the Empire State Building, Freedom Tower, and Statue of Liberty.
It blew my mind how easy it was to get to Coney Island by subway, after hearing for years about its kitschy carnival games and famous food stands. I rode the infamous Cyclone, a rickety wooden roller coaster that celebrates its 89th birthday this year.
An onions, peppers, and mustard-topped hot dog at Nathan's Famous seemed like the perfect reward for not hurling on the Cyclone. That was one more 'to-do' crossed off my list.
I danced my heart out at an early-morning rave on a boat, which left its dock in the Hudson at 6:30 a.m. The early morning party, called Daybreaker, attracts all sorts of people, and is worth sacrificing a few hours of sleep for.
The cold brew coffee and juices, Burning Man-inspired costumes, and house music pumping through the speakers really jump-started my day. No city raves quite like New York.
I made it a point to set foot in all five boroughs. I hadn't been to the Bronx since I was old enough to tour colleges there. So in my final month in New York, I breathed in the lush fragrances of the Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden.
And I took a 10-minute walk from the Botanical Garden into the most authentic Little Italy this side of the Atlantic Ocean. In the storefronts of Arthur Avenue, you can see chefs piping ricotta into cannoli shells and butchers hanging fresh carcasses in the window. The cannoli I scarfed down was the best I ever had.
Another night in the Bronx, I buried my inner Red Sox fan and cheered on the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Though I betrayed my team, sitting in the bleachers and trash-talking the opponents felt like a New Yorker's rite of passage.
In Brooklyn, I took a stroll around Bushwick, where the street art mesmerised me. This is one famous, ever-changing art gallery you won't have to pay for.
While there, I waited more than an hour for a table at Brooklyn's famed pizzeria, Roberta's. The individual brick-oven margherita pizza was worth it. My pie arrived paper thin, and perfectly balanced with tangy tomatoes, gooey mozzarella, and basil.
I even made it to New York's 'forgotten borough' via the Staten Island Ferry, one more to-do on my bucket list. Bonus: It was free!
A woman who runs the borough's most awarded Sri Lankan restaurant, New Asha Café, fixed me a plate of fish buns and vegetable roti. There's a large immigrant enclave there, and I was glad I got to check it out before I left.
In Manhattan, I took in the Meatpacking District for the first time (in daylight). The warm cobblestone streets and artisanal food markets seemed out-of-place beside the sports cars parked outside designer stores, such as Diane von Furstenberg and Christian Louboutin.
Wanting to consume as much culture as humanly possible before I departed, I took in a movie at the historic, single-screen Ziegfeld Theatre. Rumour has it the Ziegfeld might be closing, so I got in just in time to see its red-carpeted interiors and ornate chandeliers.
Killing two bucket list items with one stone, I finally saw one of my favourite bands in concert at one of New York's rowdiest venues, Terminal 5. Sadly, the experience disappointed. I am too old to shimmy and shake for four hours in such a rambunctious crowd.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone's Tony-winning creation, 'Book of Mormon,' is just one of those Broadway shows that gets better and better each time. It was definitely worth seeing again, and 'Hasa Diga Eebowai' remains stuck in my head.
I finally bought that one thing that I couldn't previously justify: a $13.50 (plus tax) coffee mug donning the face of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a personal hero, from Fishs Eddy.
I searched for ages for a bodega that served coffee out of these iconic paper cups, which I believe to be as synonymous with New York as a yellow taxi. I found success at a bodega in Flatiron.
I'd visited the Dead Rabbit, named 'the best bar in America,' in the past. But I made it my mission to go once more to imbibe in a $14 Irish coffee, made with Clontarf Irish whiskey and topped with heavy cream and a dusting of nutmeg.
I made sure to wash down all that coffee with bagels -- lots of them -- from Bagel Shmagel in Bay Ridge, the Bagel Store in East Williamsburg, and Beygl in Park Slope. I don't know when the next New York bagel will come my way, so I had to take advantage.
There's a particularly kind, down-on-his-luck man who I regularly pass on my way to work, and who tells me to have a great day, without fail. I bought him a bagel, too.
I scrubbed away tears while reading 'Goodbye To All Of That,' a book of personal essays on loving and leaving New York. It should be required reading for anyone who intends to move.
I was fortunate to have a last celebrity sighting! Jesse Tyler Ferguson whizzed past me in Union Square. Too bad I wasn't quick enough to whip out my phone for a photo.
I ate a meal entirely out of my means. Digging into a filet at Peter Luger, the best steakhouse in America, was as much my dad's bucket list item as it was mine.
Another food-related item I crossed off: ordering like crazy at one of Manhattan's 24-hour diners at an unusual hour. In true 'YOLO fashion,' I wolfed this plate of eggs down at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday.
As I know from living in New York for two years, some of the best things in life are free. Traversing the Brooklyn Bridge with my friends, dressed like tourists, is something I won't soon forget.
And I shuffled behind a real group of tourists in one final visit to Times Square. It was awful, but sentimental. As a kid, I adored this place.
I 'got lost in the stacks' at the most beloved second-hand bookstore, The Strand. It's easy to see why this place is a book-lover's paradise.
Going to a 'braid bar' was always a pipe dream of mine, and I was thrilled when the hair sorceresses at Bust Magazine's Primped Craftacular -- a Bushwick craft fair -- braided my hair in Swedish milkmaid style.
The last item I checked off my bucket list was having one more drink at Park Slope's Pork Slope, my old watering hole where my boyfriend and I had our first date. A word of advice from one seasoned, soon-to-be former New Yorker: ask for bacon and cheese on your tater tots. You won't regret it.
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