1. See Woody Allen play jazz at the Café Carlyle.
Allen, who said in Annie Hall that L.A.’s only “cultural advantage” over NYC is that “you can make a right hand turn on a red light,” has a regular engagement playing Dixieland jazz at the Upper East Side’s intimate Café Carlyle. It’s tough to get in, but slip the doorman some cash and you might score a standing-room spot.
2. Catch a Staten Island Yankees game.
Skip the corporate vibes of Yankee Stadium and Citi Field. The true old-school New York baseball experience can be found just a ferry ride away at Staten Island’s Ballpark at St. George, home of the minor league “Baby Bombers.”
3. Get your ass kicked by a chess hustler in Washington Square Park.
As a kid, Stanley Kubrick honed his chess chops as a hustler in Washington Square Park. Get in on the action and try to defeat one of the park’s chess masters. [Spoiler alert: You’ll lose.]
4. Take a romantic rowboat ride in Central Park.
On busy days, rowboat traffic jams up under Central Park Lake’s Bow Bridge (above), but it’s nothing like the hellish traffic you’ll experience on the 405 in L.A. And at $12 an hour, in a boat surrounded by breathtaking views of Manhattan, you’ll kick yourself for not taking a rowboat out sooner.
5. Try the veal parm at Dominick’s.
Dominick’s on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx (the real Little Italy) is NYC’s greatest red-sauce joint. If you ask for a wine list, prepare for your server to glower at you and bellow, “We got red or white.”
6. Blast “Blitzkrieg Bop” in your earbuds while walking on Joey Ramone Place.
NYC’s the birthplace of punk rock, and it all went down a stone’s throw from Joey Ramone Place at CBGB on the Bowery. Never mind that CB’s is a John Varvatos store now; the ghosts of punk still haunt this section of the East Village. Hey! Ho! Let’s go!
7. Ride the Cyclone at Coney Island.
There may be faster or scarier roller coasters elsewhere, but none are as iconic as the Cyclone. And its rickety rattle does make it pretty terrifying. Wait till after you ride to chow down on a Nathan’s hot dog while cruising the Boardwalk.
8. Eat pastrami on rye at Katz’s.
It’s the menu item at Katz’s that’s most likely to give you Meg Ryan’s “I’ll have what she’s having” reaction from When Harry Met Sally.
9. Find out who’s buried in Grant’s tomb.
Located in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights neighborhood, Grant’s tomb is the subject of one of the oldest jokes in the book. But that joke is more of a riddle. The answer to “Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?” is: no one. Grant and his wife are entombed above ground.
10. Sit in the cheap seats at Carnegie Hall.
Classical music buffs know this well-kept secret: The best acoustics in Carnegie Hall are way up top in the balcony.
11. Drink Prohibition Punch at the Campbell Apartment.
Tucked away in Grand Central Terminal, the Campbell Apartment is a cocktail lounge frozen in time. Grab a seat at the bar after the commuter rush dies down.
12. Examine Mary Magdalene’s tooth at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
You could spend a year wandering in the massive Met and still not experience every art world treasure it holds. That’s why so many people overlook this strange relic on their way to check out Rembrandt paintings and Cindy Sherman photographs.
13. Yell “Stern rules!” as Howard jogs past you in Central Park.
This isn’t going to happen anywhere but NYC. Baba Booey.
14. Play bocce ball at night in Spaghetti Park.
Located about a mile from Citi Field, Spaghetti Park in Queens feels like you stepped into an old Italian village. Be sure to grab an Italian ice at the Lemon Ice King of Corona across the street.
15. Cheer (or boo) a performer at the Apollo Theater’s Amateur Night.
Audiences at the Apollo’s Amateur Night have been telling performers to “be good or be gone” since 1934. Join in on the insanity at a live show that’s inspired talent-competition shows from Star Search to The Voice.
16. Fold (and eat) a slice of Brooklyn pizza.
If Captain Picard can do it, so can you.
17. Ask a cabbie, “What’s the craziest thing that’s happened in your taxi?”
… and brace yourself for strangest tale you’ve ever heard.
18. Talk about moving to Los Angeles (but never actually go).
Gabbing about leaving NYC for greener pastures is a favorite pastime of all New Yorkers. But ultimately, you’ll stay. Because as bonkers as the Big Apple is, why would you want to live anywhere but the greatest city on earth?