Narrowing down to 50 the reasons we love New York City was a difficult task—inevitably, some of the things that make Gotham great were left out. But here you’ll find a curated list of facts that prove NYC’s civic superiority, spanning everything from our superlative nightclubs and our expansive arts and culture scene to our place in history as an incubator of innovation, be it with architecture, dining or the arts.
50 reasons why NYC is the greatest
Once again, New York City’s tap water received first-place honors at the annual statewide taste test, held at the New York State Fair this August. Thirsty much?
Transforming from an industrial wasteland to a jewel box of fabulous green spaces, the upgraded NYC waterfront has been years in the making, but it really went into overdrive this year with the opening of three major parks. First, Williamsburg’s six-acre Domino Park was inaugurated, revamping the former sugar-refinery site into a sprawling adult playground, with beach volleyball courts and a buzzing taco-and-margarita joint. A few weeks later, in Queens, the second phase of the massive Hunter’s Point South Park redevelopment opened, boasting meandering walkways and dramatic promenades. Then, in Brooklyn Bridge Park, the verdant Pier 3 debuted—you gotta love those panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline. Island living has never been so glamorous
With Little Tong Noodle Shop, Szechuan Mountain House, Hunan Slurp, Málà Project and other new spots, the Chinese-food scene in the East Village is off the charts right now. Sure, the city has celebrated Far East fare for decades, but the food has never been so damn delicious and innovative. Mixian noodles? Mala chicken stew? Beef-tongue dry pot? Drool, drool and drool.
Yes, New York is an expensive place to live, and while concert tickets are no exception, plenty of amazing shows are totally free. All summer long, BRIC and SummerStage throw gratis gigs in the city’s parks, and year-round venues like Jalopy Theatre and Union Pool host no-cover nights. (Don’t miss the latter's regular Monday-night throwdown with the Rev. Vince Anderson.)
NYC's subway system is notoriously inaccessible: Less than a quarter of its stations are ADA-compliant. But the transit authority is working to change that, most notably by hiring Alex Elegudin, cofounder of disability advocacy group Wheeling Forward.
New York has always been a glorious place for film. Even so, we’re experiencing a high point in moviegoing: Just visit the newly expanded Film Forum, the renovated Quad Cinema, the already essential Metrograph and Brooklyn’s highly trafficked Alamo Drafthouse, which will satisfy all your grindhouse-con-queso needs. Streaming? Pfft. When it comes to watching movies, New Yorkers do it in public.
New York is expanding its park system with a 407-acre green space that’s named after Shirley Chisholm, the firebrand congresswoman. The park will open in Brooklyn next year.
We may be biased, but nothing compares to you, New York City skyline. Widely recognized around the world, the cityscape is our trademark. Watching iconic skyscrapers like the Empire State Building glisten at sunset can bring a tear to even a jaded New Yorker’s eye. All this many-storied awesomeness is appreciated at the Skyscraper Museum, where a current exhibit showcases the vertical splendor of our ever-changing metropolis.
In 2018, chef Flynn McGarry debuted his posh prix-fixe dining room on the Lower East Side. The L.A. native, who began his career hosting dinner parties in his parents’ home at 12 years old, now rules the kitchen at his first permanent solo spot, Gem. Meant to evoke an intimate dinner party, the restaurant offers a 12-course tasting menu that includes McGarry's signature dishes of braised beets and peanut crackers with foie gras. Oh, and did we mention he’s two years too young to be admitted into a bar?
Last year, the City Council made a move to help NYC’s nightlife community by establishing the Office of Nightlife, a new department within the Mayor’s Office of Entertainment and Media. This past spring, the city’s very first “nightlife mayor” was appointed: Ariel Palitz.The office is a liaison between every city agency and the nightlife community. Palitz claims her office will help mitigate fines and provide educational resources for venue owners and residents alike. “It’s really about helping [businesses] open and stay open,” she says.“The nightlife soul of New York is alive and well. Now, we’re just going to make space for it and support it.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old Bronx native who was working as a bartender only a year ago, beat a 10-term incumbent in the congressional primaries. It’s an inspiring-as-hell New York story.
We’re starting to feel bad for the other 49 states: When it comes to Drag Race, our girls have it down. Bob the Drag Queen, Sasha Velour and Aquaria may be performing all over the world, but you can catch the burgeoning icons just about every night at spots like the Rosemont, Macri Park, the Deep End and Metropolitan.
Murray Hill: “I’ve gigged all over the country and internationally, but audiences in NYC are the only ones who have stopped the show to tell me my fly is open. That’s showbiz!”
Ryan Raftery: “Last summer, I was performing my Martha Stewart musical [The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of Martha Stewart] at Joe’s Pub. One night, I sat down and saw a bewildered husband and wife with their teenage son. They seemed very out of place and appeared to be Russian. Later, the stage manager told me that they were in the lobby, asking to meet Martha Stewart. They thought I was really Martha Stewart. I don’t know if I should be flattered or if Martha should be offended.”
Catherine Cohen: “Singing about my butthole at the Met at a show hosted by Alan Cumming? Sometimes a dream you never knew you had comes true!”
Punk icon Patti Smith is now a Rockaway resident, and she advocates for the continued restoration of the community through art. Six years later, the peninsula is still dealing with the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, and to raise awareness of the ongoing issues there, Smith has created work for the annual Rockaway! public art project, put on by MoMA PS1 and the Rockaway Artists Alliance, with her friend and Rockaway neighbor Klaus Biesenbach, director of MoMA PS1.
Beacon Theatre, Village Vanguard and other standard-bearers hold it down in Manhattan, while outer-borough newcomers boast state-of-the-art digs: Brooklyn Steel is one of the best larger rooms in the city, with unobstructed views, a strong sound system and copious bars. In Bushwick, Elsewhere is a mini performing-arts center in its own right, with two indoor music rooms, a rooftop stage and an art gallery, all of which regularly host indie-rock concerts and dance parties that last into the wee hours.
With the surprisingly accurate MYmta app, countdown clocks in every subway station and the long-overdue introduction of electric buses, the MTA is finally forking over the technology we deserve.
With Broadway’s box office making money like gangbusters and intimate performance spaces opening seemingly every week, it’s clear New Yorkers still have a flair for the dramatic. According to the most recent World Cities Culture Report, New York has the highest number of theaters (640!) of any city in the world.
When Corey Johnson was elected City Council speaker earlier this year, it was clear from his party-like exuberance (he can frequently be spotted dancing in city parades) that he would bring a fresh perspective to the role. Since then, he has moved legislation through the council on everything from capping the number of Uber vehicles to providing discounted MetroCards for New Yorkers living below the poverty line. What inspires him most is the city’s multiculturalism: “Forty percent of New Yorkers were born in another country and came to this city,” says Johnson. “I think one of our greatest strengths is our diversity. The story of New York City is the story of peaceful coexistence and us being able to allow everyone to live their lives and do it together.”
Black-Owned Brooklyn, a “love letter to Brooklyn’s people, places and products,” is chronicling black creativity and success in Kings County, one Instagram post at a time. Each week, the founders, marketing executive Cynthia Gordy Giwa and fashion executive Glenn Alan, visit two black-owned spots—from home-goods stores to ice cream parlors and fitness studios—and then interview and photograph the owners, posting the images online. Recently featured locations include the Neapolitan-Caribbean fusion restaurant ZuriLee and the vibrant clothing boutique Moshood Creations.
“The fur on my shoulder mink, tell me what Hov would think / I get the money, I am the king of New York / And I rock a sew-in weave.”—Cardi B on Lil Yachty’s “Who Want the Smoke?”
On a recent evening at Club Cumming, pianist Lance Horne led the crowd in a chorus of “Happy Birthday” for a woman named Monica, who was there with a group of friends that included the club’s co-owner, the eternally puckish actor Alan Cumming. It wasn’t until later, when Monica stepped onto the small stage to sing a sweet rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” that most people realized the singer and birthday girl was Monica Lewinsky. That’s the kind of surreal happenstance that can occur at Club Cumming, which has become an essential destination since debuting just a year ago. The tradition of downtown nightclub performance is rich but endangered, and Club Cumming, an oasis of creativity and community, is the East Village’s best addition in years.
Dear Evan Hansen: $44,388,090.18
Springsteen on Broadway: $45,757,577.50
The Lion King: $54,876,586.00
Eman El-Husseini. Sydnee Washington. Jes Tom. Know ’em? Well, you will. While the showbiz world slowly reckons with its warped power dynamics, NYC’s comedians of color aren’t waiting for their cue. Catch them at old-school stand-up clubs, drag shows and even Broadway stages, where they're killing crowds and taking what's theirs.
An obvious bright spot in the New York City art world is the current surfeit of exciting public art projects. These range in scale and ambition, and some are even interactive. For example, at City Hall Park, B. Wurtz’s whimsical, idiosyncratic “trees” are made of pots and pans; at Brooklyn Bridge Park, Tauba Auerbach’s project takes you on an actual East River cruise in an FDNY fireboat repurposed as art. And more works are on the horizon: For instance, the High Line will introduce the Plinth, a new stage for public art in Hudson Yards. Opening in 2019 on the elevated railway’s spur at West 33rd Street and Tenth Avenue, the venue’s first installation will feature Simone Leigh’s monumental sculpture of a black woman. Best of all, the art is free.
Tucked away in the basement of the two-Michelin-starred Atera dwells one of the locations for Farm.One, a cutting-edge hydroponic farm. Some of Manhattan’s best restaurants—Eleven Madison Park, the Pool, Daniel and Le Coucou, among others—are sourcing rare herbs and edible flowers from this underground oasis that is able to sprout green things even in the dead of winter. Unlike your typical farm tour, a guided visit to the space involves seeing and tasting an array of rare products, such as wasabi flowers or cinnamon basil, all while sipping on a glass of prosecco in true New York fashion. When you leave, you even get a box of herbs that should encourage you to cook a five-star dinner at home. All your friends will be green with envy.
Glamping's on the rise in Gotham. Governors Island and areas like Jacob Riis Park Beach now feature safari-chic yurts you can reserve for a night. The fabulous tents come with rugs, lounge chairs and queen-size beds, not to mention amenities such as a complimentary breakfast. It's the perfect mix of city comfort and picturesque nature.
Across the five boroughs, we speak an estimated 800 languages, from Garifuna and Urdu to Bosnian. The city is a glorious, one-of-a-kind melting pot, and you can literally hear it all around you.