A Cultural Tour of New York City

Break_Out_of_Bushwick's picture
12 years
2013-07-04 to 2013-07-18

Just back from a month-long trip to Peru, my daughter and I were looking to do a few fun and exciting weeks in New York City before the schoolyear began. A huge, global city, New York is home to hundreds of different cuisines, and has neighborhoods upon neighborhoods that house various cultures and ethnic groups. We were yearning to explore different tastes and ideas, and therefore, the day after we returned, we went to Chinatown to take a look around, and I spent a day on a food tour, and then the two of us visited all sorts of museums and destinations in Manhattan for the next few days. 

New Kam ManNew Kam Man

Two words: Peking Duck. Yes, in addition to the New Kam Man market being filled with a variety of Chinese herbs, buckets of dried fish, and Japanese and Korean candies and foods, New Kam Man has a small food counter set up at the front of the store where shoppers can pick up a crispy, Peking Duck for dinner! Located at the edge of Chinatown, the market is a proper grocery in that it has aisles of canned and dried foods, fruit, beverages and the ilk, but the majority of the items in the store have been imported from the Far East. My child delights in wandering the rows upon rows of different foods to try to decipher the packaging written in foreign languages, and always begs to try some of the brightly colored gummy candies that come in day-glo packaging. 

New York City Food Tours

As Chinatown was on my mind, I thought it would be fun to try out one of New York's many food tours that work in the neighborhood. With New York City Food Tours I was able to not only try Thai food at the city's oldest Thai restaurant, dumplings from the area's most famous dumpling house, but remarkable eggrolls from a restaurant located in an area that used to house notoriously scary Chinese gangsters who used to have shoot-outs right in front of diners. In addition to visiting locations throughout Chinatown, the tour led us through the neighboring Little Italy, where, in addition to learning a bit about the history of the area, we tried amazing fresh mozzerela, a variety of meats, pizza and cannoli. 

Fruit vendorStreet Fruit Vendors

All throughout New York City, one can find vendors peddling sweet fruits on the street. Often more affordable than grocery markets, the fruits sold are often ones now seen in most of the grocery stores. Expect to find durian fruit- a large, brown fruit with a spiky skin that, once open, yields an aroma that some think heavenly, but most think smells like garbage. With a strong, earthy, almost fishy taste, it's definitely an experience to try one of these fruits with kids al fresca at any one of the city's parks. In addition to unique fruit, one can find, primarily in the Mexican, Dominican and Middle Eastern fruit stands, a vareity of more recognizable fruits: two types of avocado, raspberries, mangoes and the ilk. On a hot summer day, stopping for a healthy snack from a vendor is an affordable and fun way to keep cool. My daughter especially likes to pick up entire containers filled with blueberries and eat them while we're exploring. 

Grand Central Station

If you're staying in New York City for any amount of time, chances are you'll at least take a subway through Grand Central Station. I'd urge you, however, to take a little while to explore this amazing building. With countless trainlines running in and out of the terminal, Grand Central is a hub of activity, and also boasts being amongest one of the world's loveliest stations. Nearly every time I go with my daughter, we have a treasure hunt. Particularly fun is to locate both of the public water fountains in the station, and look for constellations in the famed green ceiling covered in stars. In the hot summer months, Grand Central, which is constructed mainly of granite, is a cool respite from the heat. I enjoy taking my daughter for a cheeseburger at Michael Jordan's Steakhouse overlooking the center of the station while I sip a glass of wine. It's an affordable way to treat ourselves at relatively expensive establishments, and the waiters don't seem to mind that I'm not spending hundreds of dollars! 

Spice and Tease Shop at Grand Central StationSpice and Tease

Grand Central boasts much more than its regal architecture. It's market, with shops from all around the city, are filled with fresh produce, flowers, meats and cheeses, and, my favorite, the Spice and Tease Shop. For those looking for unique souvenirs to bring back home to their families, look no further. The shop blends its very own New York pizza topping, and with teas and spices from both around the world and ones considered traditionally "New York," visitors always walk away with something tasty. My daughter is partial to the hibiscus tea, while I'm in love with the shop's special chicken seasoning.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

No trip to New York City is complete without visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Known by locals as simply "The Met," the museum was founded in 1870 and has grown to have one of the largest art collections in the world. Boasting amazing Egyptian, Impressionist and indeed, art from around the globe, some of my favorite sections include the Japanese and Islamic collections. My daughter always enjoys walking up (and down!) the impressive main staircase inside the building, while I always make sure to visit the European Decorative Art sections to see some of the interesting pieces Marie Antoinette kept at Versailles before she met the guillotine during the French Revolution.

American Museum of Natural History

Where do I begin with my love for the Natural History Museum... From the amazing special exhibits to the permanent exhibits, everything at this museum is informative, interesting, and well-curated. My daughter- who is homeschooled- loves visiting this museum to study topics in various areas of science. This past summer, there was an exhibit about Global Foods that taught us a lot about biodiversity, the ethics of various farming methods, and what people eat in different cultures around the world. I highly recommend seeing any one of the shows in the Hayden Planetarium- they're impressive, and leave kids and adults alike dreaming big. While the museum is pay-by-donation, special exhibits make a visit much more expensive. Depending on your family size and how many times you expect to visit the museum, it might be worth it to buy a museum membership. I did this past summer, and definitely have gotten my money's worth!

Central ParkCentral Park

Created in the mid-1800's and spanning over 700 acres, Central Park is HUGE. So big, in fact, that I recommend giving Central Park an entire day to explore the woodlands, roam around the lakes, stop off at some of the famous sites such as the Alice in Wonderland sculpture, Belvedere Castle and Strawberry Fields, and finally, when you start to feel the burn in your calves, set up a picnic beneath a tree on one of the vast lawns. Beware: New York has open container laws, meaning you can't drink alcohol in public. If unsure of what these laws entail, ask one of the many police officers roaming the area. While my daughter has largely outgrown playgrounds, I highly recommend nearly all of them in the park. My daughter has always loved the carousel and taking a boat out on the lake, while I've always loved sipping cool drinks at the Boathouse. 

Vosges Chocolate

While I like to tell my daughter that I'm taking her to Vosges Chocolate because she deserves a treat, I have a guilty secret: I LOVE CHOCOLATE! It's a treat for me to visit this chololatier just as much as it is for my daughter! With chocolate flavors incorporating curry, violet, salt, and even cheese, chances are you'll find a flavor combination that's as unexpected as it is delightful. There's even chocolate with bacon. Yes, folks, bacon! For those of you not in the know, a bacon craze has spread all across the United States. As weird as it might sound, the chocolate with bacon bar is pretty amazing. Even more amazing, however, are the drinks... My daughter begs for the white hot chocolate, which is delicately flavored and, I think, be served in summer or winter! With small tables and shelves lined with equestrian-themed decor, purple splashes of color, and medicinal bottles filled with spices, this small cafe/chocolate shop is so inviting that my daughter and I have sat there for entire afternoons sipping drinks and nibbling on various truffles. Bonus: there are always free nibbles out, and the women behind the counter are always liberal with giving out samples of items you might like to purchase as gifts. After days of walking through Central Park, visting the museum, gazing up at the ceiling at Grand Central, exploring Chinatown and taking a food tour, Vosges Chocolate is a perfect way to end a New York trip!


1. New York isn't cheap. Make sure to get a Metrocard that reflects the accurate number of days you'll be staying in the city. For example, a seven-day pass is much more economical than purchasing a one-time pass.

2. New York weather is unpredicable! Hot out? Even so, make sure to bring a light jacket along. Cold out? Layer up- you may find that the weather warms up or that indoors, you'll roast if you can't take off a sweater!

3. Contrary to what people say, New Yorkers are generally friendly and willing to help tourists! Need directions, just ask!

4. If someone hands you something, DON'T TAKE IT unless you want to pay for it. A common scam is for men on the street to hand tourists music CDs to look at, and then force them to pay for them (or suffer being screamed at). The best thing is to politely but firmly say "no, thanks," and keep on walking.

5. Don't feed the birds! While it looks like a great, fun idea, it actually contributes to New York City's vermin problem. Also, don't let pigeons land on you for a photo op!




Hot chocolate at Vosges
Rose entrance at the American Museum of Natural History
Metropolitan Museum of Art
In the Egypt area of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Central Park
Durian fruit
Peking ducks in the window of New Kam Man
Fruit vendor
New Kam Man
Fruit stand
Spice and Tease Shop at Grand Central Station
Natural History Museum
Grand Central Station
Central Park
Article Type: 
In-Person Impressions


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