About two years ago, I came to NYC for the first time to go check out Vision Expo East. I booked a cheap hotel (hey, I am Dutch) which looked like a cruise ship on their website. Unfortunately, my cabin was down below, and it gave no space to put down my small suitcase when I was not on top of the bunk myself. I took Irene out for some nice pasta and had to pay 20 bucks per glass of wine and my 40$ tip was not acceptable according to our waitress. Eventually, I ended up in the Holland Bar with a Belgian friend listening to a drunk Irishman sing, which is less exotic than it sounds when you are actually from Europe.
That’s what you get when you visit a new continent and have no clue where to go or what to see. And while the international show Vision Expo East attracts visitors from all over the globe, I thought it would be an idea to go ask around in my network of optical professionals, who know this great city just a little bit better. Yankees like Selima Salaun and Jennifer Tsai, or globe trotters Eric Domege and Christian Roth give you some insides on what’s hot, and what’s not, in the Big Apple.
– Friday 27th:
– Vision Expo opening party – Eyedocs of Rock
– LOFT independent party & TEF Awards
– ODS on Facebook party
– Saturday 28th: Opticians on Facebook party
– Sights & Shows
– Optical Stores
– Tips from a Dutchie to survive The Big Apple
Sights & Shows
Walk the High line
One of the advantages of my cheap (yet far away) Hells Kitchen hotel, was that it was connected to the HIGH Line. This is a 1.45-mile-long elevated linear park, greenway and rail trail created on a former New York Central Railroad spur.
The park runs from Gansevoort Street (Meatpacking District) through Chelsea (market) to the northern edge of the West Side Yard on 34th Street (Hudson Yards) near the Javits Center, so it’s an ideal route to see NYC from a different perspective, while walking in comfort from your hotel to the show.
There are multiple streetlevel exits to check out cool spots you might find along your way.
Venture onto the Vessel
A good spot to exit the HIGH line on your way to Vision Expo East, is the elevated promenade surrounding the new Hudson Yards Vessel, also known as New York’s Staircase. This beautiful honeycomb shaped sctructure on High Line Park consists entirely of stairs and connecting platforms. It has a half oval shape that extends upwards. It is difficult to explain what Vessel is. It is perhaps best to describe it as a combination of a building, a work of art and a monument.
Anyway it is a real eye catcher in Hudson Yards, located at the end of High Line Park, just 2 blocks away from the Vision Expo
You do need a free ticket for entry. Tickets can be reserved online and there is a limited number of tickets available on the spot.
See a Show at The Shed
Just two blocks from Vision Expo, where the High Line meets Hudson Yards, stands the impressive theatre The Shed. Go and see some original works of art, across all disciplines, for all audiences.
The Shed brings together artists in fields ranging from hip hop to classical music, painting to digital media, theater to literature, and sculpture to dance in an unprecedented movable structure that adapts to support all kinds of inventive work under one roof.
Running shows during Vision Expo weekend are “HELP, by Claudia Rankine”, “Dis Obey” and the ongoing “In Front of Itselft”. Naturally, an abundance of shows can be found near the Broadway area.
The stage of Drunk Shakespeare is set at The Lounge, a hidden library on 47th and 8th (about 8 blocks from Vision Expo) with over 15,000 real books and craft cocktails. 5 classically-trained actors meet as members of “The Drunk Shakespeare Society”. One drinks at least 5 shots of whiskey and then overconfidently attempts to perform a major role in a Shakespearean play.
Hilarity and mayhem ensues while the four sober actors try and keep the script on track. Every show is different depending on who is drinking… and what they’re drinking!
For over 30, eyewear designers Christian Roth and Eric Domege have been visiting Indochine. A trendy spot then and now, this restaurant is a favorite of Tom Ford, Carine Roitfeld and Diane v Furstenberg. Back in the 80s, Chris and Eric would visit this place with the likes of Warhol and Basquiat. It is a timeless classic serving exotic French-Vietnamese cuisine.
TEF Entourage blogger Jennifer Tsai is a frequent visitor at Lamalo, a modern Middle Eastern gem nestled in the heart of NoMad, where dinner begins with the main event: a bounty of dips and spreads accompanied by a Jerusalem Laffa, fresh out of the oven.
La Pecora Bianca
When Jen is craving for a good paste, she likes to go to La Pecora Bianca, located in NoMad and Midtown East. La Pecora Bianca, which means “the white sheep” in Italian, offers a relaxed, all-day dining experience and vibrant Italian fare in a beautiful setting. Grab a morning pastry from their daytime café, join them for aperitivo hour at the bar or sit down to a relaxed meal in their dining room.
Sucker for sushi?
Jen is a sucker for sushi. For big groups, she advises Zuma, a sophisticated twist on the Japanese style of informal eating and drinking.
When you are a bit on a budget, check out Blue Ribbon which embodies the spirit of individuality by offering a true authentic dining experience.
Breathtaking view from Asiate
A bit out of the Hudson area, but certainly worth a visit is Asiate. A place where Jen can suck up the city, using the panoramic view on Central Park and the city for inspiration. The focal point of this restaurant is an incredible tree-branch sculpture symbolising trees in winter. Hanging from the ceiling, it is breathtaking in both scope and style.
Add to this a huge wall of wine showcasing over 1,300 bottles and a menu featuring unexpected pops of flavour, interesting textures and beautiful visual presentations, and you have the perfect environment in which to enjoy delectable cuisine.
A great spot to grabe a bite when you want to get off from the island for a while, and a must see, with this optical name, is the Glasserie restaurant, located in the former home of Greenpoint Glass Works. The factory was built in 1860 to house glass production. It’s told that divers in Newtown Creek have found some of these original glass fixtures on the creek bed.
Must see Optical Shops in New York City
General tips to survive in the Big Apple
Get off the island
Most people only associate New York City with Manhattan, however New York has so much more to offer, including four other boroughs. That includes Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and Staten Island. Most of these are named after Dutch cities, from back when my Dutch ancestors founded this great city.
Many people have told me that they’ve been to New York and they’ve done everything. When I ask if they’ve been to Brooklyn (Breukelen), it’s always a no.
How taxis (don’t) work
You know the movies where the hero calls a cab in New York and rushes to tell the one that he/she loves her/him? You won’t make it in time in real life. Taxis are generally very expensive in New York and if you’re in a rush, traffic will make it about the same speed (or slower) than the subway. Sometimes, walking is even faster.
If you want to call a taxi in New York City, go stand on the curb NOT by a bus stop, put your arm confidently UP and stand there intensely looking at the cars.
Don’t be afraid of the subway in NY besides the handrails. I’m not really sure where the stigma of the subway comes from, but I promise you: I’ve never met a mole person. The week unlimited subway pass is worth it if you’ll be taking the train a lot over 4-5 days.
Subway etiquette includes NOT making eye contact. Like, you’re allowed to look around ~subtly, but don’t be that creep who stares directly at someone the whole time. It’s weird and creepy. It’s only okay if someone has a kitten or baby Yoda that they’re carrying on the subway. In that case, feel free to go crazy over it.
Don’t get on the express subway or bus unless you’re sure that it’s going to stop off where you want it to. The regular train will stop at the majority of the stops while the express trains will skip on average half the stops.
Don’t get on the local train because it will take twice the time.
You need to know which entrance you need for the subway via the direction that you’re headed. Check before you pay to get into the subway station as you might need to exit to get to the other side.
Driving a car in New York
While I am from Amsterdam, I loved driving around in this huge city, but my American girlfriend was absolutely terified by it. Not sure if it was due to my driving skills or that of the New Yorksers.
When we drove into New York, I was shocked about the cost of the bridges, which are not cheap (again, I am Dutch). You can’t really avoid them. Most New Yorkers also hate paying the bridge tolls, even if they get a discount.
If you’re visiting New York City and you have a car, the best thing to do is to find a parking lot near a New Jersey transit station or Newark airport and park it there. It’s typical to pay at least $25 per day.
If you don’t have a choice, use the BESTPARKING app for checking deals at various parking garages to find the cheapest ones and getting coupons by reserving a spot. The only thing is that you need to “reserve ” the spot then show your deal to the parking attendant.
Time Square is not as seen on TV
Like many things Made-in-America, they might appear larger on TV than in real life.
I think of Times Square as a light bulb as it attracts the worst of NYC: the crowds, overpriced things, and chain restaurants. Don’t bother visiting Times Square during the day or rush hour. Besides it is a must for most visiting tourists (especially at night), there’s mostly overpriced chain food directly on the Square.
That said, I understand if you want to see it at night. Times Square at night is like daylight, so your photos will actually come out better and it’s quite atmospheric to see the entirety of Times Square lit up like its Christmas every day.
You’ll also find a lot of TV shows filming in this area, so you might be able to watch a favorite comedian or talk-show host filming for free!
When you’re walking, you’ll see metal grates and cellar doors. Don’t walk over them. There’s always some horror story about them. Urban legend? Probably, but better safe than sorry.
Eat all the delicious food in NYC and not only at the cool hotspots.
There are about a million cool eateries and the best places to eat in NYC list is ever-changing, however, there is something to be said for the foods that are so typically New Yorkish.
That list is fairly constant and includes bagels, pizza, and Chinese food. Just take out some cash as many cheaper New York restaurants that mostly cater to locals are cash only. You’ll easily find ATMs all over Manhattan, so don’t worry about finding one.
Food lovers, consider this a competition of how many you can try while in New York: bagels, New York Style PIZZA, great Dim Sum, steak, pastrami sandwiches, knishes, hamburgers, and delicious Ramen.
Note that rainbow bagels are not on this list as they taste like play-doh. Prioritize taste over appearance. It’s also great not having to wait in line for one treat. For bagels, I think that it’s harder to find a place with a bad bagel.
You can’t see everything in one trip!
Don’t feel like you need to do everything. A lot of people come to NYC feeling overwhelmed and like they need to see/do all the major attractions. New York is ever changing, nothing remains stationary, so even if you live in New York, you’ll constantly be discovering new neighborhoods, museum exhibits, and eateries!
I think that one of the most important things to know when traveling to New York is that you can try and rush about to see AS MUCH AS possible, but at some point, consider what you actually want to see rather than ticking off every box off some list you found on the internet.
I hope everyone has a great time at Vision Expo East this year, and can find some time to go and experience this amazing city. Remember, Vision Expo will stil be here next year, and so is the Big Apple. Enjoy it to the fullest, but try to kick back as well. See you at the show!