Discovery Intern: Discovering New York
Some awesome places I found in NY that the internet didn’t tell me about.
Chinatown in New York refers to a few blocks of shops and street food, clustered around the city-side of Manhattan Bridge. As dodgy as it looks from the streets, I first heard rave reviews about the area from an enthusiastic Uber driver and fellow passengers. Every time someone mentioned Chinatown that week, it would be followed with something like “they have good food down there, and it’s all good!” That confirmed it, I had to go on a little expedition and grab a feed! My conclusion? Not only is the food AMAZING, but the portion sizes are HUGE!
My buddy made the mistake of thinking his main meal wouldn’t be filling enough, so we ordered a plate of dumplings on top. Let’s just say we were there a few hours trying to eat everything - and yes we finished it all, because that’s how delicious it was.
Pro tip: the food is cheap, but bring a full wallet, ‘cos it’s cash only!
Located just out of Chinatown, Cortlandt Alley is one of the only true alleys in Manhattan where commercial filming is permitted. It’s instantly recognisable as the sort of place where you might expect to find a local superhero having a standoff with a wanted criminal. Cinema stereotypes aside, it’s just a really cool little walkway complete with epic rooftop fire escapes, secret passageways, and covered in decades worth of graffiti. Apparently, some doors open to an underground ping-pong training centre and even a small museum! I didn’t get time to have a look for those, but it was definitely still worth checking out.
Pro tip: I visited at night, but probably a better adventure for the daylight hours.
Scattered throughout New York are hundreds (probably thousands) of electronic bike racks, called docks, hopefully with a few available bicycles connected. For a modest $24USD, you gain a three-day pass to use any bikes from any docks at any time.
This was such a unique way to see New York! I spent a whole day cycling from Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park and back, stopping in at coffee shops, taking photos, buying street food. All things you couldn’t do if you were catching a taxi or Uber everywhere. I just took it easy, and made sure to look for cars and use the appropriate cycle lanes that can be found down the side of every main road. My legs definitely weren’t thanking me at the end of each day, but the experience was 100% worth the ache.
Pro tip: You get charged additionally for keeping a bike unlocked past 30 minutes. Keep note of the time, and whenever you’re around the 28 minute mark, look for a dock. They are everywhere, so the nearest one will probably be around 100 metres away. Dock your bike, eat a snack for a minute or so, then use the app to unlock your bike again for another 30.
In the heart of Central Park, you can find a fountain next to a lake full of turtles, rowboats, gondolas, and couples taking a romantic stroll. When you find this fountain, turn 180 degrees, you will see a looming dark cavity with pillars and a stairway going up through the roof. Chances are, you walked past that stairway on your way to the fountain, and thought it was too eerie to explore down, but I can tell you now, you won’t regret it.
As you enter the cavern, you might be greeted by live music from a talented street musician, or even a man using some rope to float giant shimmering bubbles into the air around you. Looking up, the ceiling is layered with golden tiles and the walls covered in archaic paintings and patterns. If it’s the right time of day, you’ll be stopped in your tracks like I was from the beautiful hazy light streaming down the stairway from above. Definitely ‘gram worthy!
Pro tip: If there’s too many people in your stairway photos, wait. Every few minutes the people seem to disappear and you can be the only one in your shot!
Directly Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, aka DUMBO, is an eclectic little place with stunning views across the river to lower Manhattan. The Empire State Building even lines up through some of the bridge pylons! The surrounding brickwork on the old buildings adds a nice vibe to the place too.
I walked further around, and under the actual bridge, where I discovered a group of people setting up tents and stalls. Within minutes, I was surrounded in the craziest Flea market I’ve ever seen. Vintage skateboards, military uniforms, taxidermy bedside lamps, a hand-stitched USA flag, film cameras from the ‘40’s, and clothing from a bygone era. It was like wandering through a collaborative museum.
Everyone was so friendly, and I even got invited to visit one guy in his hometown if I wasn’t leaving that day. There are other cool things to explore in DUMBO like art galleries, pizza restaurants, a chocolate store, and a merry-go-round park, but the market was definitely my highlight.
Pro tip: If you go on a Sunday (when the market happens), allow for more time here than you think you’ll need. I planned to spend an hour, but ended up walking back to my hotel 20 minutes before my transfer to the airport!
- Kaleb Anderson