New York was never going away, but wow, we’ve been through some tough times lately. 2021 was (maybe?) better than the year that preceded it, particularly as we’ve seen the city invoke a version of its old self that, well, may be even better than ever. Eating in the street at all hours in all seasons? Great! Being able to work from home whenever you have a throat tickle or just, well, want to Zoom from bed? Excellent! There’s still a lot of loss and recovery amidst New York, but here are some telltale signs that the greatest city on earth is back, and, arguably, better than ever:
1. The subway is fully up, running and the pain we love to complain about.
Have you been a victim of elbow stabbing at rush hour? Have you seen an L train so crowded you have to wait two more trains just to squeeze in for a spot? New York is so back, and with it, our subway woes. It’s hard to believe there was ever a time when the train wasn’t running 24-7, but now we’re masked up and ready to go at any hour.
2. All the openings!
The city is so different from what it was in February 2020, and while we can always look back, there’s so much to look forward to! It seems like new bars, restaurants, clubs, stores and uncategorizable experience-based Covid-influenced businesses are welcoming in New Yorkers at an alarming rate. It’s impossible to keep up with, just like New York is supposed to be.
3. Broadway is bright!
Broadway triumphantly returned in full this fall and so many shows are up-and-running with full audiences, standing ovations and humming crowds spilling out into Times Square after the curtain. So much of what makes New York is the live performances, and now that the show must go on, we can be assured New York City will too.
Quiet morning streets are no longer a thing, with brunch being the optimum meal for nesting New Yorkers eager to catch up with friends and return to their favorite haunts. Walk around most neighborhoods on any weekend and you’ll see plenty of mimosas, pancakes and bagels to indicate that New York is back to being her bad brunch self.
5. Good luck getting a reservation at the top restaurant on your list….
Dinner at Misi, Hawksmoor, Shukkette or Masa? Good luck! New Yorkers are back to our nightly rituals of, um, never being home, and if you want a coveted spot at a top rated restaurant, you’re going to have to be very patient. (Pro tip: Super Bowl Sunday is one of the best nights to score premiere reservations, book soon!)
6. The dating apps are still trash
Whether you’re single or just get the secondhand stories, you’re probably very aware that dating in NYC is back in full swing, with none of that getting to know you via FaceTime first or falling in love from a distant rooftop stuff.
Remember that sweet spot when the threat of COVID was lower than it had been in months and yet visitors were still not coming to the city… Well, it’s not August 2020 anymore and New York is flooded with visitors from all over.
8. The real estate market is peaking
Manhattan apartment sales are at a three-decade high, as in, more apartments have sold in New York last quarter than in the past thirty years. That’s a lot of people who want to live here permanently (and a few wealthy people who just know New York is always a good investment)
9. The line for Webster Hall stretches beyond Morton Williams
Gen Z is out! Gen Z is doing things! Questionably fun nightlife lives on!
10. Your calendar is insane
Remember having multiple plans in one day? Double booking? Triple booking? If you’ve cancelled plans with a friend only to replace that date with ~better~ plans, your behavior is a sure sign that life in the Big Apple is back
11. We’ve eaten all the cream cheese
Okay, this is more a supply chain-related issue, but you know New Yorkers are going to be mentioning the Great Cream Cheese Shortage decades down the line.
12. Chinatown is bustling
A ghost town in early 2020 due to xenophobia early on in the pandemic (before it was determined to be a pandemic), support for Chinatown has been inspiring and kept the immigrant and cultural enclave afloat. Now, the neighborhood is full of life, with outdoor restaurants and lines for street vendors, plus the reopening of Jing Fong, the epic dim sum spot we thought was lost to 2020.
13. You’ve left your neighborhood this week
New York is a city of neighborhoods, though during the pandemic it hardly felt like it to those of us left wandering around the same blocks just to stretch our legs. Bonus points if you’ve left your borough this week, because New York is back to letting you experience hundreds of cities in just five boroughs.
14. You have tickets for events in 2022
Remember actually looking forward to things? That’s happening! Your calendar is likely filling up with concerts, talks, shows and more to look forward to in the upcoming year (and maybe even beyond)
15. You have a tote bag full of receipts and assorted trash at your door
Oh, hello New Yorker back in the swing of things, nice to see you and your branded tote of garbage ready to get out on the town once again.
16. There’s a stack of unread New Yorkers/books on your table
Doing things? Seeing people? Bringing on the stacks of paper, because you’re exclusively catching up on your phone now.
17. Your body is more coffee than water
18. The rats are back
Quarantined no more, the rats of New York are out, about and just problematic enough to remind us why we put up with them just to live here. Consider it the rat tax?
19. Celebrity sightings are rampant
Feel like you’re seeing famous people everywhere all the time? Zoe Kravitz and Tanning Tatum at Brooklyn brunch? The Baldwins on Fifth Avenue? Stanley Tucci in Sugarfish? Celebrities are just like us, and they’re eager to unmask and just be out.
20. New York holiday traditions are happening
The Macy’s Day Parade was the best it’s been in years! The tree is up at Rockefeller Center, the Rockettes are kicking, SantaCon annoyed the sh*t out of us, vendors are selling trinkets and snacks at holiday markets across town and the ball is ready to drop in front of a crowd on December 31.
21. New Yorkers are just so reliably New Yorkers
When Steven Sondheim passed away this November, New Yorkers poured out to piano bars to sing the legendary Broadway composer’s songs. When floods decimated basement apartments and housing across the city, New Yorkers came together to support each other. When summer blackouts plagued neighborhoods during heatwaves, businesses opened their doors for free A/C and refreshments. Though so much has gone well this year, a lot has still gone wrong, and New Yorkers have stayed resilient, supportive and all-around amazing people we love to surround ourselves with.
22. The mundane things we love about NYC are here
Waving hello to your laundromat attendant while walking by, thanking the subway conductor, running into an ex you never thought you’d see again, watching a flock of pigeons battle for a leftover piece of street meat – all those little New York moments we lost by staying safe indoors in 2020 have come back full force and we love every single tiny one of them.
23. You’re crying a little reading this list
New York is fucking back!