12 hours in NYC: How to make the most out of one day in Manhattan

New York, the city of multitudes: tall buildings, shiny shoes, speeding taxis, art, drinking, dancing, an unparalleled culinary scene. Like looking directly at the sun, New York can burn. It can be overwhelming. It is best looked at from an angle, taken in bite-sized pieces.

Best things to plan in advance: where you will be, what you’re interested in, and how you will get around. While it’s a good idea to have an itinerary, leaving room for spur-of-the-moment discoveries is always key. 

Finding a hotel in lower Manhattan can be pricey, but doesn’t have to break the bank. A cute, clean room with tidy and helpful reception in a central location can be found in the lower $200s. NobleDen Hotel on Grand Avenue between Mott and Mulberry is reasonably priced and central to all the action Lower Manhattan has to offer.

Arrival: 11 AM

Step out of the Moynihan train station and round the corner to the bustling intersection of 8th Avenue and W 31st Street to NY Pizza Suprema. Say a blessing to the photo of trans goddess Colin Atrophy, author of Slice Harvester: A Memoir in Pizza, hanging on the wall in the cramped entryway before rushing out the door back into the street with a box filled with slices and squares. 


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Huff, and puff, to the Q train and shoot uptown to Glowbar for affordable, no-nonsense, 30-minute facials. One must be glowing in NYC, after all. If you time it right, and your partner was in for their treatment, power walk a few blocks down posh 71st to the Ladurée outpost on Madison Ave. Pick up a choux pastry bursting with decadent chocolate buttercream and topped with smooth-to-the-point-of-reflective chocolate frosting. Hide it in your bag until you check into your hotel a little later.


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1 PM

Train to 1st Ave where you can freshen up your looks at L Train Vintage without spending a fortune. You’ll find a buzzy and youthful crowd packed in with older punks, undergrad queers, and fashionistas browsing the racks of classic mainstays (hello gorgeous leather jackets) and eclectic on-trend items.

Next, head down 1st to Houston and skip over to fashionable Nolita, and pop into Wine Therapy. Pick up a bottle of cold, pale Austrian wine to enforce springtime vibes, and then it’s on to your hotel. You’ve picked an ideal downtown location, right? 


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Check-in: 3 PM

Find your room, open wine, shower, and eat the absurd pastry in decadence and (relative) luxury of our recommended hotel. You might be lucky and get a room with a view.

NEXT PAGE: Plans for the perfect Manhattan evening.

5-7 PM

The sun sets over the city, gifting you with a dramatic, noir setting for your date night. Walk to Bluestockings Cooperative Books, and browse aimlessly. The collection there is expansive, and as New York’s only queer, trans, and sex worker-owned bookstore, Bluestockings is a must-visit. 

After the bookstore, it’s a short walk down Delancey to Ludlow and Broome for $1 oyster happy hour at The Ten Bells. In the dim, romantic light, grab a seat at the bar or a small high top with a carafe of chardonnay. 

If natural wine and euro-style tapas isn’t your thing, keep walking that first bottle of wine off down to Kopitiam on East Broadway for LGBT-owned Malaysian fare that is outstanding.


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After dinner #1, head right under the restaurant to Aeon Books to look at their collection of occult and spirituality books. At this point, it might be worth backtracking less than a block to kitschy Nola-style 169 Bar, if it happens to still be happy hour.

If you have room in your schedule, head to Wing On Wo, an absolutely timeless shop filled with Asian and Asian-American art and ephemera, including a beautifully curated section of zines.

If there’s no line, it’s worth it to get dinner at Nom Wah Tea Parlor. Nom Wah is THE dim sum restaurant in Chinatown. Largely unchanged since it opened as a tea house in the 1920s, it is a real gem of Old New York and, if Wikipedia can be believed, the longest-running restaurant in Chinatown. Food aside, Doyers Street alone is worth the visit. One block, with a ninety-degree bend, Doyers has been called at times, “The Bloody Angle” and “Murder Alley.”


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7:30 PM

Take a stroll through the Lower East Side, past the former sites of Walhalla Hall (48-52 Orchard St.) or Paresis Hall (32 Cooper Sq.), the latter possibly being where the first trans-rights organization in the US was formed.

10 PM

After your history tour, head to Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. This area is full of incredible bars, clubs, restaurants, and history so it’s impossible not to have a great time. Please Don’t Tell, Club Cumming, Boiler Room, Ruffian, Lucy’s, Sophie’s, KGB Bar, Ace Bar, Spicy Moon, Superiority Burger – literally throw a stone and see where it lands. Also the site of LBGT literary history, the neighborhood is where Walt Whitman was known to drink, and generations later where W.H. Auden lived.

After refreshing your buzz on vodka tonics at any of these places, consider walking a few blocks to Amor y Amargo, a specialty bar for amaro, liquor, and other herbal elixirs. Try the one from North Carolina called Eda Rhyne. 

11 PM

photo via The Public

As you walk back to your hotel, you might cross East 2nd St where Allen Ginsberg lived in the late 50s, and stumble upon The Library. The Library is a legendary queer-friendly punk dive on Avenue A. Graffiti-covered, sticky, loud. It has the best jukebox in the city: Depeche Mode, Strawberry Switchblade, Limp Wrist, etc. Vintage horror movies projected on the back wall add a campy, moody air. Watch in awe as the tiny bartender chews out drunken straight tourists for not tipping while serving drinks rapid-fire and leaning across the bar to greet friends with a kiss. From the doorway, you can see Katz’s Delicatessen, Russ & Daughters, and the Mercury Lounge

Tip: if you’re nice to the bartenders at the Library you might get a shot or two on the house.



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If you can peel yourself away from The Library and make it back to your hotel, place an order from the legendary Prince Street Pizza (who are, thankfully, open until 3 am) on your walk and, if you’re lucky, it might just arrive at the hotel at the same time you do.

Standing at your hotel room window, swaying drunkenly, the city lights washing you in hazy red, raise a slice of pizza to toast Manhattan for a whirlwind of a day.

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