Meaghan Li

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Meaghan's Guide to: New York

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NEW YORK. The Big Apple, the Concrete Jungle, the City That Never Sleeps. It's the undisputed culture capital of the world, but New York's menagerie of looming skyscrapers, investment bankers, and bustling interns is easily overwhelming to young and thrifty travellers. 

My first visit to New York left me exhausted and disappointed. The subway was dirty, the weather was miserable, and every corner would be swarming with a crowd of scowling locals and bewildered tourists. Of course, this was because I confined myself to the touristic hotspots of Manhattan. Living, working, and studying in New York for a semester completely renewed my attitude towards the city. If you're about to travel to New York, put down the guidebook, log off TripAdvisor, get your ass out of Times Square, and follow these first-hand tips for an unforgettable and authentic experience!

Pork and chives fried dumplings at Prosperity Dumpling

Pork and chives fried dumplings at Prosperity Dumpling

What to eat and drink

As a vast city with a diverse demography, New York is brimming with incredible dining options. Here are some selections that are dirt-cheap and delicious:

Prosperity Dumpling and Vanessa's Dumpling House are two hotspots in Chinatown with well-deserved reputations for cheap and quick food. My recommendation for a lesser know but equally delicious alternative, however, is Shu Jiao Fu Zhou. You can buy around a dozen pork dumplings for only $3!

After Chinese food, Mediterranean comes in as a close second as my favourite cheap NYC cuisine. Mamoun's Falafel is a hole-in-the-wall joint that has been around for over 40 years. Their $3.50 falafel sandwich is their claim to fame, but the hidden gems on their menu are the grape leaves! They offer their own homemade hot sauce, but be warned: it is not for the faint hearted!

Le Bain at sunset

Le Bain at sunset

Where to party 

As the house and techno craze that reigns supreme in Europe is slowly usurping the EDM scene in the United States, a number of clubs in New York are modelling themselves after renowned super-clubs in Berlin and London.

Verboten and Output are two venues that consistently book huge house, techno, and electronica names. Output has implemented policies that discourage "bottle service, egocentricity, and excess" while banning cameras and mirrors to imitate Berlin's Berghain. However, both clubs use tiered pricing models, a tactic that I really dislike. Tickets can cost up to $60 at the door so be sure to purchase yours in advance!

Le Bain is a rooftop bar/club on top of The Standard Hotel. The top floor offers a sweeping panoramic view over the city and is one of the best spots to catch the sunset. The lower floor is a club with glamorous decor, floor-to-ceiling windows, and even a jacuzzi. It's certainly not the classiest of venues, but with free entry most nights of the week, it deserves to be on any curious visitor's bucket list.

Where Brooklyn Bridge Park and DUMBO intersect

Where Brooklyn Bridge Park and DUMBO intersect

Where to relax

This semester, I'm lucky enough to be living in Brooklyn Heights, a beautiful neighbourhood with lush trees and brownstone buildings located right next to Brooklyn Bridge. Brooklyn Bridge Park is a newly-constructed waterfront stretch that offers something for everyone. You can play soccer on a floating astroturf field at Pier 5, bike along the promenade, or sunbathe on a secluded patch of grass with a million-dollar view of the Hudson River.

Washington Square Park is another spot that I love to frequent; it's right next to NYU and also surrounded by an overwhelming number of cheap, delicious eateries and boutique cafes. This is the perfect place to read a book, people-watch, and meet both fellow students and quirky locals.

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