5 Misconceptions About New York City

Whether it was something I’d heard/read in the numerous recommendations I solicited before my trip, or something I’d seen on TV/in the movies, there were several things I assumed to be true as I traveled to New York City for the first time. After spending three days in the Big Apple, I’ve been able to form my own thoughts. So here’s the top five misconceptions I had of NYC:

1. New Yorkers are rude. Maybe I got lucky, but I didn’t encounter a single rude person on my entire trip. My travel companion and I talked with lots of people, sometimes we initiated conversation, but frequently people approached us. (It was our Midwestern demeanor that made us seem so approachable, right?) No matter who we talked with, they were always super nice and interested in where we were from, why we were in town and what we’d seen so far. Thanks to everyone we met for being such good hosts for your city, especially the older gentleman that eats breakfast every morning at Bagel Express near the Courtyard Inn in the Upper East Side. Small gestures like that leave a great impression on visitors.

2. New Yorkers walk fast. I can probably credit my long legs and tendency to walk fast for this one, but I found the walking pace to still be a bit slower than I’d like. I was only in the city for three days and was determined to cover as much ground as I possibly could, which meant I was frequently looking for openings to pass around people. It’s completely possible to sightsee and keep a good pace, but only if the slow people move to the side.

3. New York is full beautiful people. While this is true, it’s not in the way I initially thought. I came to NYC expecting to see lots of model-esque people strutting around wearing high-end fashions like high heels, couture, fancy purses, etc. (I’m guessing this came from the hours I’ve invested watching Sex in the City.) While I saw some of this, my general observations were that fashion was all over the place. In a matter of three days I saw almost every fashion rule I’ve ever been taught broken. For every model-esque beauty I saw, there were at least two people wearing clothes that made me smile or laugh. Sometimes because the outfits were so were silly, ridiculous or over the top (like the guy in Washington Square wearing a wizard hat). Sometimes because they were wearing an outfit so plain I could see myself in. (Even New Yorkers wear t-shirts, jeans and running shoes… Who knew?)

The beauty in the people of New York came in the diversity. I couldn’t even count the number of languages I heard or the cultures represented. The open acceptance of everyone as they were was amazing.

4. New York is expensive. Sure, it can cost a lot to do stuff while visiting NYC, but it doesn’t have to. Some of my favorite memories from the trip will be from the time I spent doing free stuff that my travel companion and I stumbled upon while we were en route to other places. Since there weren’t many hard, fast timelines or plans to follow, we had the ability to embrace those opportunities when they were available. From the Museum Mile Festival and Central Park to SoHo and Washington Square, there was always an abundance of street performers to appreciate and artists/crafts-people’s creations to take in all of which were free.

5. Be cautious, it’s dangerous in New York. Again, maybe I just got lucky, but I never got the sense that I was in any type of danger. I wouldn’t claim that I saw any of the rough neighborhoods of NYC, but I did walk through Central Park and below the Brooklyn Bridge after dark. Common sense says not to go by yourself or be flashy (which I didn’t), but I didn’t see any type of violence, pick-pocketing or theft. If my small town upbringing and common sense mentality kept me safe, everyone should be fine there.

As you can probably tell, New York really left a big impression on me. While I can’t truly imagine myself ever living there, it was a ton of fun to visit!

Top 10 Highlights From My Visit to NYC

Here’s the top 10 highlights from my trip to New York City, listed in no particular order. (I made attempts to rank the highlights, but it was just too hard to compare the experiences at the conference to the subway system to a great dessert.)

1. Being on stage at the #140Conference. What a thrill! I was super nervous, but also so excited to be part of Jeff Pulver’s New York Conference representing Topeka, our Google Fiber Campaign and all of my colleagues at jones huyett Partners. The ten minutes I spent on stage talking about the campaign flew by. I wish I could’ve had another five so I could have mentioned the awesome videos John Ary created, or the way Brendan Jensen helped maintain the website, or even the fact that Google renamed themselves Topeka for April Fool’s Day. That’s okay though, it was still an experience I’ll never forget. I’m so grateful for Jeff for inviting me and for jhP giving me the opportunity to go.

2. Visiting the Museum of Modern Art, specifically the 4th and 5th floors. Picasso, Cezanne, Pollack, Kandinsky, Monet… Need I say more? I’m always inspired by the works of the Masters, but these were a real treat. My heart sung the entire time because this abundance of visual stimulation!

3. Washington Square. Located by the NYU campus, Washington Square was full of life. There were multiple musicians playing, everything from a solo cellist to a 5-piece string band, all sharing their musical talents with the world. Throughout the park groups of people were congregated, enjoying nature and the beautiful weather. In particular, I had fun watching some very talented hacky sack players and observing what I determined to be a curious band of earthy hippies sprawled out on the lawn. All of this on top of children playing in the fountain, and a (probably crazy) older gentleman standing on a pedastal holding a sign high above his head encouraging everyone to buy American-made products and quit sending jobs overseas. This abundance of life and the time I had to slow down and appreciate the company I was with made this one of my NYC favorites.

4. The Museum Mile Festival. The first night I arrived in the city, the Museum Mile, located about a mile from the hotel, had a festival where they offered free admission to several museum, street performers and booths where local artists could display their works. After a trek in the rain (in my cute heels), I was able to score a great piece of artwork from a New York artist, and got to spend some time at The Met. While I was disappointed that the Modern Art section was closed for the evening, it was still a great place to visit. The sheer size and architecture made it a great experience.

5. Times Square. What can I say? I’m in the advertising business and Times Square was a commercial feast for the eyes. With advertising literally everywhere, it was nearly impossible to take it all in. I know there were lots of shopping opportunities in the area, but I honestly didn’t see any of them. I’m sure some of that was due to the fact that I’m not a big fan of shopping and I really didn’t have any money to spend, but I think the overwhelming amount of stimulation from all the jumbo electronic billboards was the biggest factor.

6. The subway system. God bless the NYC subway! While I may have inadvertently led my travel companion in the wrong direction more than once, the subway system was super easy to use and gives you cheap access to most of the city. I can’t even imagine how much money I would have spent on taxis if I had used them instead. In about three days time, we took in sights from Brooklyn, Central Park, SoHo, NoHo, the Upper East side, Chinatown and Little Italy.

7. Pizza at Grimaldi’s under the Brooklyn Bridge. After waiting in line for 30 minutes to get a table, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this coal-fired brick oven pizzeria, but I wasn’t disappointed. The pizza was great, especially since I had the opportunity to watch it being made as I waited in line (again) to use their restroom. On top of that, the owner took a liking to my travel companion and ended up giving us some excellent free canolis, all because of a t-shirt.

8. Dessert at Peroni’s in Little Italy. This little pizzeria/dessert shop was amazing. I didn’t try any of their pizza, but was highly impressed by their Mixed Berry Cake. My travel companion had a berry inspired dessert that was pretty good too!

9. Bagel Express. Located only a few blocks from the Courtyard Inn and pretty affordable, this little shop was a true gem. The fresh bagels and cream cheese were delightful, and they carried my favorite Naked Juice, Orange Mango. On top of good bagels and a convenient location, this is where we got a chance to talk with an inquisitive older gentleman two days in a row that in many ways reminded me of my grandfather. He asked us questions about Kansas and we asked him about life in New York. He was so tickled to meet us, and I think we were very fortunate to have met him.

10. A carriage ride through Central Park. While it was pricey, the carriage ride was a great way to end my trip to New York City. It allowed me to appreciate the beauty and relative quietness of the park while I reflected over all the sights, sounds, smells and memories I made on my trip. It gave me a chance to really appreciate and think about everything I’d experienced over the previous few days and enjoy my last moments in NYC with my travel companion.

NYC, Here I Come!

This week I’ll be making my first trip to New York City. I was fortunate to be asked to speak at the #140Conference by the founder, Jeff Pulver. So I’m making the trip to represent jhP and Think Big Topeka, and to talk about the role social media had in the Google, Kansas campaign.

I’m super excited about the opportunity to be on stage. There’s going to be a bunch of people there representing at least 14 different countries and 25 different states. And the entire conference streams live, so everyone’s got a chance to watch. I love talking about Think Big Topeka and what Topeka was able to do during our campaign to get the Google Fiber Experiment. It’s not really something that makes me nervous, I know I’ll do fine once I’m on stage.

Instead, my big anxiety before the trip comes in knowing what to wear, how much money to bring and what I should try to see while I’m there. I will be in NYC for just less than three days, staying in a hotel on the Upper East Side a few blocks away from Central Park. I’m trying to gather as many opinions before then as I can so I’m able to plan a great trip. Can you help?

  • What do I need to see while I’m in NYC? I’ve got a wide range of interests and just can’t make up my mind… the Guggenheim, MoMA, Central Park, Ground Zero, Yankee Stadium, Broadway, Times Square….?
  • What should I wear? Will I look like a fish out of water if I’m wearing jeans/shorts and a pair of running shoes? (Somewhere Tracey Stratton just shuddered at the thought of me wearing running shoes…) I realize NYC is a fashion capital, but I’m planning to do a lot of walking. I just don’t see myself rocking any high heels, but if it’s important I suppose I could take a pair.
  • How much money do I need to take? Do I need a lot of cash, or will credit work for most things?

Any feedback will be appreciated and may be blogged for future reference.