My Favorite Ethnic Spots in NYCGUEST BLOGGERS, Historic/Museums, STREET LIFE, USA MAINLAND, WALKING/HIKING — By Samantha Wilson on September 12, 2011 at 01:15
By guest blogger Samantha Wilson. Photos Copyright © Samantha Wilson.
I LIVE A FEW hours from NYC but any time I have a chance to visit some of the amazing ethnic spots, I take it.
My most recent trip was in the beginning of July when I traveled with one of my sisters for a two-day stay. The two of us are very different, yet in NYC the varied atmospheres, differences in music, and delicious tastes from traditional dishes provide enough diversity for both of us to find something we love.
Though NYC has great public transportation, our preferred method of travel is by foot. As long as you’re equipped with trekking sandals and a water bottle, walking around the different neighborhoods is the best way to see everything.
A Few of My Favorite Ethnic Spots in the City
CHINATOWN in downtown Manhattan is the best one for tourists to visit. It has one of the largest populations of Chinese people in the United States and outside of the country of China. This neighborhood is colorful and vibrant. It is filled with souvenir shops, perfumes, handbags, seafood markets, street vendors selling exotic wares, and newspapers written only in Chinese.
My sister is a big shopper and she always manages to find cheap jewelry or some other great buy in this area. When she was there a few years ago she came home with silk slippers for all of us—at $1 a pair it was a great buy.
For myself, I prefer learning the history and religion of any area I visit. Chinatown is the perfect place to take a personal guided walking tour to learn the history while experiencing some culinary treats. Columbus Park is the central social gathering place of this population. Here we came across women playing cards and men playing dominoes.
The Eastern States Buddhist Temple has about a dozen small Buddhas, but the free-admission Mahayana Buddhist Temple is larger and has a tall golden Buddha in its main area. Since we were strapped for time and money, we stuck with the free one.
LITTLE ITALY is right next to Chinatown (it used to be much bigger but has gradually been absorbed into Chinatown). Now there’s just the one area of Mulberry Street, between Canal and Broome Street. Since it is right next to Chinatown, and the food is much better, it’s worth walking over. We sat at one of the outdoor tables on a street lined with fire hydrants painted green, white, and red, and ate delicious biscottis and cookies from a local bakery.
Anyone who prefers cookies to eel will appreciate this area!
According to my guidebook, the most exciting occurrence in this area is the eleven-day Feast of San Gennaro, a large street fair in September that celebrates the Italian culture and San Gennaro as Naples’ Patron Saint. Since we were there in July we missed this event, but I hope to make it next year.
ASTORIA The largest Greek population outside of Greece has been in Astoria since the 1960s. This traditional neighborhood is worth a look and has several Greek Orthodox churches, plus the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Greek and Roman Galleries that had a $220 million renovation. We spent about two hours here looking at a sampling of the thousands of pieces, including human sculptures, coffins, grave markers, pottery, and other relics. I loved the coffins and grave markers as I feel they give you a sense of the people who lived and died there.
For something a bit less morbid try shows at the Greek Cultural Center, which are held in the basement of a row of houses and are only in Greek. My sister doesn’t have patience for Greek so we skipped an authentic show and headed to Broadway instead.
SPANISH HARLEM is filled with music from mariachi trumpets, salsa bands, drummers and dancers. Though the name “Harlem” has a bad rap, we felt perfectly safe there walking around during the day. We had an amazing home-cooked meal at one of the restaurants, which included roast quail and a seafood salad, followed up with pineapple cakes from the Valencia Bakery that are often used at weddings.
Needless to say, we were stuffed by the end of that little snack. We took a break to let our food digest and sat in Thomas Jefferson Park where they have benches, sculptures and a flower garden.
Once we were able to move again, we took advantage of the great location and visited a couple museums. (You can’t visit NYC without checking out a few museums!)
LITTLE POLAND in Greenpoint, the northernmost part of Brooklyn just north of the trendy Williamsburg, may not be the most visited tourist spot but for me it is dear to my heart. My grandmother is Polish so I always feel a special connection to her when we walk around this area.
The small but neat apartments with gardens in the back, meat stores with kielbasas, Polish bread and babkas in the bakeries, and the grocery stores with sauerkraut, pickles, and jams are all essential parts of Polish culture. There may be other places in America that have this authentic atmosphere but I have yet to see them.
If you’re looking for a weekend getaway that provides diversity and fun without breaking the bank, NYC is the place to be.
———Samantha Wilson has been to many exciting places, including New York, Niagara Falls, Texas, Arizona, Ireland, England, Spain, Hungary, Austria, Cyprus and more. Her friends describe her as adventurous yet responsible. She travels a lot—and often “last minute”—but her trips are always researched and planned out. She also enjoys helping other people plan their trips and get ideas of things to do that are good deals or off the beaten path. Samantha likes writing about her travels because it helps her relive the great memories. And she says, “I know from experience that reading other people’s adventures helps with my own!”