Originally published July 14, 2015 at bivouacannarbor.com/blog/.
In early July, I visited the city that never sleeps for a 24-hour sprint through the greatest sights and destinations the city has to offer. I don’t get to visit New York often, and so cherish every second of my uncommon visits. Since I now live half a continent away in Ann Arbor, these visits have become even less frequent. So, when I heard I’d be getting a solid day’s worth of time in the Big Apple during my visit home for the July 4th holiday, I went into planning mode. If I was going to make up for a year’s worth of lost time in the world’s greatest city and only one day to do it, I would need to prepare. Now, I’m going to pass on my planning to you.
I did the research – you get the results. The following shopping/city guide is decidedly menswear focused, but a lot of the stores are unisex or have women’s-only counterparts literally on the same block. You shouldn’t feel pressured to visit every place listed in the order explicitly listed. Except for a Ground Support Coffee break somewhere in the middle. That part is mandatory.
Here’s the rest of how to make the most of New York City (well, downtown and midtown Manhattan) in just one day.
17:00 (6:30am) City that never sleeps is right. Even after yesterday's madness, I had half an agenda just as long for today. Considering stores don't open until 9am at the earliest, you might be wondering why I'm up. There was one specific reason a few blocks away. I got coffee and a bagel in the hotel lobby, read the morning paper (when in Rome, right?), and set out for Central Park.
17:30 (7:00am) Central Park is the massive green rectangle in the corner of the map above. Just how massive? Central Park is 843 acres of preserved, maintained, and well-loved green space in the middle of midtown Manhattan. Originally opened in 1857 as a natural space in which New York's exponentially-growing population could escape the noise and pollution of city life. Fast forward 160 years, and the park is still serving its duty to the citizens of New York City.
I got out early to beat the crowds and spent most of the morning, well, wandering. Central Park is immersive in the truest sense of the word. You don't truly realize how big Central Park is until you hear the only thing most New Yorkers never have: silence. In the middle of the Sheep Meadow, surrounded by long grass and perched by a rock with a good book in hand, I didn't hear sirens. There were no bus tours, and at 8:00am on a summer Wednesday, no one else really even around. I smiled and read in relative silence while 8 million people moved around me. No visit to NYC is complete to me without a visit here. Central Park is an oasis in the middle of a megacity; and for that, it is superb.
19:30 (9:00am) I left Central Park and headed straight for the F Train at the 57th Street subway station. Take the F Train downtown to 23rd Street, exit the station, and walk down 5th Avenue. Swing a left at the Flatiron Building and enter Eataly. Eataly is an Italian-focused grocer and prepared food mecca specializing in food made obsession. The staff are all knowledgeable, passionate cuisiniers whose only goal is to make sure you enjoy the food you're either going to eat or taking home to eat. This includes recipe suggestions, seasonal highlights, and in the case of espresso, near categorical knowledge of a bean's source and flavor. Try the espresso from Cafe Lavazza and if you saved room for second breakfast, the Nutella Bar is a must.
That's right - the Nutella Bar. An entire section of the store serving exclusively Nutella-based products and drinks, both hot and iced. It's gold, Jerry! Gold!
20:30 (10:00am) Exit Eataly, rejoin 5th Ave and walk a few blocks downtown to the intersection of 5th and 20th Street. Directly ahead of you, and ironically opposing Nike Running Flatiron, is New Balance New York. As you likely know, New Balance has undergone a sort of renaissance over the past few years. Gone is the stark white "dad shoe" stereotype -New Balance is the new cool. Their flagship NB Classics lifestyle line features bright retro running shoes in ultra high-quality material, including "Made in USA" models of their 574 and 996 shoes that are manufactured in Massachusetts and New York. I'm an unabashed fan of the brand (and the look, especially with selvedge denim jeans), so I took a considerable detour just to visit their NYC Flagship and have a look around. Because of my time constraint, I was there ready to break down the door when they opened at 10am. Resultantly, I had the store to myself. Enjoy the gorgeous pictures and try not to drool - it'll mess up the suede.
21:00 (10:30am) Because I was the only one there at opening, I had an awesome team of salespeople more than willing to indulge all my dumb questions ("What do all the numbers really mean?") and I was actually done pretty quickly. Exit New Balance, walk up 5th to the Flatiron Building, and take a slight left onto Broadway. If you're like me, have new-found time to spare, and enjoy the occasional leg stretch, take the 15-minute walk up Broadway to 34th Street (Herald Square). Or, if you have a MetroPass burning a hole in your wallet, take the N/R train from 23rd Street to 34th Street Station. Whichever way you take, you'll end up in the scenic Herald Square outside the world-famous flagship Macy's Building. Ignore the call of the star, walk another block up through a pedestrian mall, and enter the Urban Outfitters New York flagship.
You know Urban Outfitters. If you're a UM student, you've probably frequented the State St. location any time you needed "going-out clothes". If you're the parent of a UM student, you've probably sat on one of their couches while your kids tried on "going-out clothes" (parents: don't ask your kids to provide examples of "going-out clothes". It's not a fun talk for either party.) UO's Herald Square store is a whole other experience altogether: thousands of square feet of clothing, home goods, records, books, and it all comes packaged with its own cafe. But you're not going to Urban Outfitters for their cranberry turkey sandwiches - you're there for their younger, playful, counterculture-made-accessible clothing from brands like Stussy, 10.Deep, Gourmet, Tom's, and Unbranded. I made the 10-block pilgrimage for that last one: I wanted to try on a pair of Unbranded denim.
I tried on a pair of UB255 black jeans. The fabric had heft but still moved on your body, and the lack of industrial wash produced this gorgeous texture and sheen that you just can't find on your standard $30 blue jean from the mall. That same mental dialogue that kept me in the APC store for so long was only drawn out by the affordable price point. If NYC food prices didn't necessitate saving my last cash just to get a decent sandwich, I'd be typing this Trip Report in a pair.
22:00 (11:30am) Exit Urban Outfitters, and continue your walk up Broadway to Times Square. Don't stop walking. Elmo doesn't want to be friends, and neither does the other Elmo.Take a right onto 48th Street and walk toward 6th Ave.
22:15 (11:45am) Bask in the glow of Rockefeller Center. That's an order, Lemon. There's always some kind of grand public showing happening around 30 Rockefeller Center - when I visited, the usual array of international flags surrounding the plaza had been replaced by Old Glory to celebrate the 4th of July. There was also a tropical garden installation, complete with non-native palm trees, in the pedestrian mall on the side facing 5th Avenue. Rockefeller Center is never short on production value.
If you're hungry, there are plenty of good (and fast) sandwich places around. They all serve about the same product, but I'll give a special shoutout to Cosi on 48th Street for their delicious flatbreads. Zero hour was rapidly approaching, and they got food out, well, really quickly. Moving on!
22:30 (12:00pm) Join 5th Avenue at Rockefeller Center and head towards uptown. 5th Avenue represents shopping as entertainment on a global scale: throngs wait outside "exclusive" stores, brands maintain flagships the length of a city block, and even on the morning right before a holiday, the streets were choked with people.
Walk 3 blocks up and enter Uniqlo. Uniqlo is a Japanese fast-fashion retailer with perhaps the best product in the world at the quote "cheap" price point. You've undoubtedly seen their characteristic "red box" logo on everything from shopping bags to the polos of one of the world's tennis great, Novak Djokovic. Uniqlo isn't yet as popular in the US as H&M or Zara, but that just means more product - and a much less hectic shopping experience - for you.
The selection at the 5th Avenue store is unparalleled, everything is reasonably priced, and their Japanese heritage means that their shirts actually fit my naturally slight body type. Suffice to say, I own many. There's also a Starbucks inside in case you need to feel as "New York" as possible.
23:00 (12:30pm) Exit Uniqlo, continue uptown on 5th Ave, check your watch, and walk a little bit faster. It was almost time to go, but I had one last stop planned as a triumphant capstone to this trip, and I was about right on time. Walk for around 5 minutes, cross 5th Ave at the 58th Street Intersection, and enter Bergdorf Goodman.
Full disclaimer: I am not Bergdorf's potential customer. The storied luxury department store was founded in 1899 by Herman Bergdorf, and has since been a permanent edition to the short list of New York's elite. Gucci suiting, Maison Martin Margiela sneakers, Visvim jackets, and Rick Owens haute couture line the walls of their three-story, marble and hardwood men's store. I walked around in a daze, tried on what I dared, and saw the kinds of things a poor college kid alt-tab's in their browser - in real life. Bergdorf was everything I had hoped it would be and more. As I left, a thickly-built man in a black suit cleared the way for an older gentleman with a gold Patek Philippe watch to go from the elevator straight to a waiting leather chair by the Tom Ford tuxedos. Stay in school, kids.
23:50 (1:20pm) Exit Bergdorf Goodman, speed-walk your way back to the garage, and watch the second hand tick down like a bomb tech at work. Congratulations - you just checked off 12 of the world's greatest stores, visited 3 distinctive NYC eateries, and still found time to drink 2 cups of head-turning coffee. There's only 1 thing left to do.
24:00 (1:30pm) Geddouta here.