A few weeks ago, my husband Maxour toddler Ella and I flew to New York for seven days to explore and hang out with Joanna and the Cup of Jo team. It was my first time visiting New York as an adult*, and as soon as I stepped out of JFK, I began absorbing the city like a sponge for 168 hours—including the sweet smell of roasted nuts from downtown food trucks. And how you can feel like a goldfish and a spy every time you open your apartment windows. And watching Brooklyn brownstones turn into disco balls as they reflect the evening’s golden hour. Here are five cultural observations I can’t stop thinking about…
1. NYC parks are really cool.
People always talk about a few New York traits: the pizza, the rats, the Empire State Building. But how have I never heard of the parks?! All we visited were beautiful, clean and alive. One fall afternoon in Washington Square Park, people spread out on the grass — reading books, napping, picnicking — while a jazz band played romantic tunes. The playgrounds we visited, like Brooklyn’s Pier 6 and Central Park’s Old Playgroundfeatures sculptural climbing structures and views of iconic landmarks such as The Met and the Manhattan Skyline. So are park visitors talkative. Saturday mornings felt like cocktail parties—while following the kids, the parents struck up conversations about shows they’re seeing at night or which neighborhood restaurants are worth trying. With our toddler in tow, we spent a lot of time at playgrounds instead of the Statue of Liberty or Times Square; and at first I was afraid we wouldn’t get the full tourist experience. But slowing down and chatting with strangers was a fun, easy way to experience a new place.
2. The New Yorker tote is everywhere.
I’m not kidding when I say I saw more than 30 people walking around with one New Yorker tote slung over their shoulders, from the Upper East Side to the West Village to Coney Island. Now I plan to whip out my beloved Shakespeare and Company bag this winter. You’re also damn right if you think I subscribe The New Yorker just to get my own bag. I love a trend, guys!
3. New York busts out the fall decor.
In every direction we saw giant red oak trees, bodega pumpkin displays and skeletons sit at restaurant tables. I expected to see Halloween decorations like this in the suburbs where I grew up, but I didn’t expect them in a big city. Reader, I would marry fall NYC.
4. Passersby love small children.
New Yorkers have a reputation for no-nonsense personalities. So I was worried about how people would react if Ella wiggled in restaurants or melted down on the subway. But during our trip people were so friendly. While eating lunch at Cafe ClunyElla played along animal toys, and now and again she said “Oh no!” and roll them to two friends – an elderly man and woman – sitting at the next table. Instead of getting annoyed, they gave the toy back to Ella and said, “Thanks for making our day!” My mother’s heart swelled. And during subway rides there was always someone playing peek-a-boo with Ella or patting her on the head.
5. New Yorkers love baseball caps.
Our first day was rainy and windy, and I soon spotted a uniform repeated by many men and women: a sweater under a trench coat, topped with a baseball cap. After my tenth sweater/wrench/cap sight, I said to my husband, “I’ve got to ditch this rain jacket for a trench,” to which he replied, “Yeah, no.” But a few days later, even after the weather cleared, people were still going hard on the caps, which did this hat person proud. I returned home with one Met hatewhich felt like the perfect souvenir.
Has there been anything new for you this year? If so, what did you notice? I would love to hear!
* I visited New York City for the first time when I was 10, and one of my core memories is almost throwing up in the Empire State Building elevator. Almost!
(New Yorker Tote photo by Andrea Piazza.)