Tag Archives: travel

  • Tips to get around NYC without your phone



    Thanks to the street grid system, finding your way around New York is actually pretty easy. That being said, there are always confusing situations: which way is south and which way is north? East? West? And where in Central Park am I, exactly? We’ve assembled six tips to help you navigate your way around the city like a local.

    1. Central Park is enormous and it’s easy to lose your orientation there. For this reason, the park’s lampposts serve as reference points. Most are marked with numbers that correspond to the crossroads, which are located at the same height on both sides of the park. If a lantern is marked with the number 7304, for example, you’re between 73rd & 74th Streets.

    2. Traffic in Manhattan usually only travels in one direction. On streets with odd numbers (i.e., 17th Street), the traffic travels west. On even-numbered streets, traffic travels east.

    3. Traffic on avenues (i.e. 5th Avenue) travels north and south, almost always in alternating directions (beginning with 1st Avenue, which is north-bound).

    4. There’s a trick that will help you remember the order of the avenues (e.g., Lexington Avenue) in Manhattan: “You can take a CAB back home if it’s Late PM.” Columbus, Amsterdam, and Broadway are on the west side of the city; Lexington, Park, and Madison Avenue are on the east side.

    5. 5th Avenue divides Manhattan’s east and west sides. On each side, the street numbering starts at 5th Avenue. 10 East 36th Street is east of 5th Avenue and is an altogether different address than 10 West 36th Street. The only exception is Broadway, which in some places runs diagonally through the city.

    6. In Manhattan, most of the northbound (or uptown-bound) subway lines can be accessed on the east side of a given street. The southbound (or downtown-bound) lines tend to be located on the west side of the street. Remembering this will save you from having to cross the street at the last minute before taking the subway.

    When all else fails, there is, of course, still Google Maps—or LOCALIKE New York. :)

  • The Mayor

    How many mayors are there in the world? We don’t know, and neither does Google. However, Google does know the name of every single mayor New York has ever had, and that surely means the “Mayor of New York City” is a very significant one. He or she leads an organization that has a budget of over 70 billion dollars and employs 330,000 people. That’s a lot more than in your average city. Until today there have been 109 NYC mayors. Let’s take a look at a couple of exceptional ones from recent times.

    Fiorello La Guardia
    La Guardia’s nickname, “Little Flower,” is derived from his Italian first name and refers to his height of only about 5’2” (1.57 m). His legacy as mayor, however, is one of the most impressive. He was in office from 1934 to 1945. During his term, he primarily concentrated on the reconstruction and maintenance of the then-dilapidated infrastructure. Parks, highways, an airport, and countless apartment buildings for social housing were built from the ground up. At the same time, he was highly successful in fighting the then-notorious corruption and organized crime. His name and accomplishments are remembered with an airport, a street in Manhattan, and a sculpture on that street.

    Ed Koch
    Ed Koch was mayor from 1978 to 1989. His accomplishments were numerous. Like La Guardia, he was responsible for the construction of lots of housing for socially disadvantaged people. He was the first mayor to create laws against the discrimination of LGBTQ employees of the City of New York. However, he wasn’t always on the same wavelength as his citizens. For one, he was an ardent supporter of the death penalty, which repeatedly earned him violent criticism from New Yorkers. The eternal bachelor liked to ride the subway, and he’d often walk up to strangers on a crowded street corner and ask them how they were doing.

    Rudy Giuliani
    Giuliani was mayor of New York from 1994 to 2011. During his term, crime rates sunk at an unprecedented rate. New York City was suddenly one of the safest cities in the USA, which simultaneously made for a dramatic economic and touristic boom. Mayor Giuliani’s zero-tolerance politics, however, did not come without their price, and he certainly wasn’t loved by everyone. Some circles accused him of stifling the city’s spirit. All in all, however, even today most people seem to think he made the city more livable for everybody. In his last year of service, he had to act as a crisis manager in the largest catastrophe the city had ever seen—the attacks of September 11th.

    Michael Bloomberg
    After La Guardia and Giuliani, Michael Bloomberg was the third-ever Republican mayor in the history of the city to win the re-election. As in the case of his two predecessors, his views differed drastically from those of the mother party, especially on social issues. He was mayor from 2002 to 2013. During his time in office, he resigned from the Republican party and became an independent. As one of the richest men in the world, he renounced his salary and worked for a symbolic $1 per year. His time in office was characterized by economic upswing and great progress in quality of life. He has left a visible legacy in the city’s new car-free zones, bike paths, the bike-sharing program Citibike, and many other projects. However, he was often accused of being too closely associated with wealthy circles—it’s not quite clear if all New York citizens profited equally from the economic upturn. Bloomberg also created a law that secured him a third term in office, which earned him lots of criticism.

  • Cats don’t just rule the internet: they also rule thousands of New York shops.

    It’s midnight on a Friday night in New York. An elegantly-dressed couple in a black suit and evening gown, a group of raucus students, and a cat are all in the same room. This could only be one place: a bodega. Peoples’ reasons for visiting these shops may be quite different: the elegant couple may want to buy gum; the students may want beer. And the cat? The cat just lives there. But they’re all in the bodega on purpose.

    Bodegas, also called delis or green grocers, are New York’s independent grocery stores. There are about 12,000 of them in the city, so you’ll find one (or two) on almost every street block. Most of these tiny stores are stuffed to the brim with groceries, soft drinks, beer, cigarettes, umbrellas, cleaning products, toilet paper, light bulbs, cash machines, and many other things that are often needed urgently but don’t in themselves justify a trip to the supermarket.

    Interestingly, bodegas are all comparable in appearance. The aisles are so narrow that there’s hardly room for two people to pass each other; the light flickers; the air is stuffy; the cashier yells down at you from a raised counter, surrounded by more products on display. With a little luck, he (rarely she) is the friendly or quiet type. The chances that he’s grumpy, however, are high. Bodegas have a long tradition behind them, which is probably one of the reasons that national giants like 7 Eleven have long since cleared out of New York.

    The stores, and even more their owners, are symbols of the city’s constant state of flux. Two centuries ago they were all called ‘delis’ and were mostly owned by Jewish immigrants. The word deli is still often used to describe the few of these shops that also sell prepared food. In the first half of the last century, most of them were taken over by Latin American immigrants. Accordingly, people began to call them ‘bodegas.’ A couple of decades later, the Koreans took over the shops and the term ‘Korean groceries’ became popular (though it has since been abandoned due to its inaccuracy and political incorrectness). This variety was best known for its wide selection of fresh vegetables and fruit. At a certain point, both the names of these shops and the wares they sell have been diversified to the point that easy classification is nearly impossible. Recently it’s become clear that small businesses in New York face an uphill battle. Steep rent prices and the sudden interest of international chains in New York real estate have led to a consistent decrease in the number of the city’s bodegas.

    And what do New Yorkers who are otherwise no strangers to change or gentrification think about this trend? They hate it! They notice that the new chains sell neither alcohol nor cigarettes nor lottery tickets. Or they notice that there’s no place to leave the apartment keys for a couple of hours for guests arriving from out of town. Or they miss the skinny, hungry cats that saunter around and lend many of the bodegas a distinctive atmosphere—perhaps because these cats are reminders of the charming fact that New York often sees basic rules broken in broad daylight. Or perhaps because most New Yorkers just don’t like rodents.

  • The Really-Important Packing List for New York

    Optimal Weight
    At LOCALIKE, we generally maintain a very relaxed relationship to calories—after all, we only recommend restaurants that we’ve already tried out ourselves. Considering the city has a good 25,000 restaurants, you should plan to arrive hungry. The variety is difficult to believe. From delicious tacos for $3 to a feast in a world-class restaurant, there’s no cuisine in the world that isn’t represented here. Last year, 99 Michelin stars were awarded in New York. If, on your visit, you like the Big Apple so much that you decide to stay, you could eat at a different restaurant every day for 68 years.

    Scarf
    No matter which time of year you come to New York, it never hurts to bring a scarf along in your suitcase. Our limited knowledge of meteorology prevents an accurate explanation of why this happens, but a large collection of very high buildings seems to create the conditions for spontaneous gusts of wind, even on a mild spring day. And then there are the countless air conditioning systems that can make a room feel positively arctic.

    Dog Treats
    The fact that there are so many people in a limited amount of space in New York doesn’t mean there’s no room for loyal four-legged friends. On the contrary: about 600,000 dogs live in the city. Especially for singles, the “Oh, he’s sooo cute!” line could come in handy. By the way, there are also about a half-million cats in the city. But who has time to win over a cat on their vacation?

    Umbrella
    You’re better off leaving this at home. No umbrella survives for longer than 30 minutes in a real New York storm, and in case you end up in need, you’ll find one for very little money on any corner. No one quite understands how it is that all the umbrella merchants manage to show up within a few minutes of the rain beginning. But it’s very practical.



    Plastic
    This tip goes especially for our European friends: a credit card makes life in New York a thousand times easier.

    Sun Protection
    New York is at about the same latitude as Rome, so the risk of getting a sunburned nose begins as early as April. What’s more, New York has even more hours of sun than Rome does—a whopping 2,535 hours on 269 days, to be exact.

    Curiosity
    Bring along as much of this as you can. Nowhere else on earth has quite as much to discover.



    Charm
    This won’t hurt, either—especially not in New York.

    An Almost Empty Suitcase
    Since we’re on the subject of packing: sure, it’s good to be prepared for everything. At the same time, though, we’d recommend traveling as lightly as possible. In New York there’s no shortage of opportunities to fill up your suitcase for the way home. Some of you may catch the famous/infamous shopping fever; others will just need room to store all the experiences…

  • Houston, We Have a Problem

    There are streets in New York whose names are known throughout the whole world. Some of them are so famous that they’re even associated with entire branches of industry. “Wall Street” stands for the global financial market, and the name “Broadway” is almost always followed by the word “musical.“ What is the history behind these street names? How did they come to be? LOCALIKE set out on a search for clues. We’ve collected the most interesting facts and want to share them with you.

    Before we begin, we’d like to make a brief excursion into the city’s history. Once upon a time, New York was actually called New Amsterdam and—yup, you guessed it—was a Dutch colony. The Dutch maintained power for a good part of the 17th century, but eventually the New Amsterdam business acumen became a burden: the trading posts were so lucrative that, in 1664, the British took over, and the city was renamed that same year.

    Wall Street
    Unfortunately, there’s no clear explanation for the name of this famous street, except that it was once called “de Waal Straat.” There are two different theories. One suggests that for a while, the street acted as the northern border of the young colony and was therefore called “wall.“ According to the second theory, the street takes its name from the 30 Walloon families that were some of the first Europeans to settle in Manhattan.

    Avenue of the Americas
    It’s possible this street name won’t ring a bell, and in fact, New Yorkers never use it themselves. However, it’s actually the official name for 6th Avenue. In 1945, at the insistence of Fiorello LaGuardia, the mayor at the time, the then run-down avenue was renamed in tribute to the Organization of American States. This international organization, whose members included the U.S.A., Canada, and Mexico, no longer exists. As far as Mayor LaGuardia’s name goes: it’s been kept alive by one of the city’s two airports.

    Christopher Street
    This street in the West Village was named after the British admiral Charles Christopher Amons. Today, though, it’s a symbol of the LGBTQ movement. It was at the Stonewall Inn on this street that the 1969 riots against the police force began.

    Park Avenue
    Today, Park Avenue is one of the most representative residential addresses in the world. Earlier it was just called 4th Avenue (according to its placement in the grid). What is now a green strip between the two lanes used to be tracks for the train line to Harlem. When these tracks gave way to green in the 1950s, the days of “4th Avenue” were also numbered.

    Lexington Avenue
    This avenue, which has both northbound and southbound traffic (this is unusual for New York) is named after a battle in the American Revolution. More interesting than that, though, is the fact that it shouldn’t even actually exist. It runs exactly between 3rd and 4th Avenues (the latter was renamed, as we mentioned). Why, then, is Lex, as New Yorkers call it, there at all? Because landowners expected to generate higher estate prices this way.

    Broadway
    New York’s oldest north-south axis was actually once called “Breedeweg,“ which in Dutch simply means “wide street.“ Today’s name, then, is a simple translation. Broadway not only runs through all of Manhattan and the Bronx—it ends about 30 km outside of the city limits.

    Bowery
    Another Dutch thing. “Bouwerij“ is Dutch for “farm,“ and “Bowery“ expresses the sound of that word to English-speaking ears. This spot, which connects Chinatown to the East Village, connected Wall Street to the bordering farmland back in the day.

    Houston Street
    The origins of this street name are rather boring and complicated—its pronunciation is the more important issue at hand. Let’s say you’ve just successfully hailed a cab and (justifiably) feel a little like a local. Your destination is on Houston Street, so you say “Houston Street“ as you’d pronounce the city in Texas (HIU-ston). Well, Houston, we have a problem—the taxi driver now wonders where exactly he should take you. In fact, the street is correctly pronounced (HOW-ston). Why, you ask? Oddly enough, there’s no good explanation.

    And, just so you can show off with ALL the facts on your next visit to New York, we’d like to inform you of one last thing. This time it’s not about streets but rather about city districts, namely Harlem and Brooklyn. In the Netherlands, there’s a city called Haarlem and a city called Breukelen. We’ll leave it at that.
    Keep on searching for facts—and see you soon in New York!

  • The cowardly hunter, a revolution on the toilet, and other New York stories

    What would the world be like without New York? Certainly much less interesting. It would also be lacking certain integral symbols of daily life. Did you know these things were invented in New York? We didn’t, either.

    1. The Teddy Bear – This most classic of stuffed animals was invented in Brooklyn by Morris and Rose Michtom. It was inspired by President Theodore Roosevelt, who on a 1902 hunting trip declined to shoot an injured bear. The name “Teddy” comes from “Theodore.”

    2. Air Conditioning– In 1902, Brooklyn resident Willis Carrier invented a machine designed to prevent paper in printing plants from bending in the summer humidity. The machine’s ability to cool off a room was a happy coincidence that went on to revolutionize daily life in America

    3. Toilet Paper– The first modern, commercially available toilet paper was invented in 1857 by Joseph C. Gayetty, who sold the paper in his Manhattan store. It was made of manila hemp and enriched with aloe vera extract. The best (or worst, depending on your perspective) thing about it: every individual sheet was embossed with his name.

    4. Scrabble –Alfred Mosher Butts, an unemployed architect and anagram zealot from Jackson Heights in Queens, invented this beloved board game in 1938. Fun fact: the street where Butts used to live is marked with a sign in Scrabble language: “35t1Ha1V4e1n1u1e1.” This jumble of numbers and letters includes the name of the street (35th Avenue) and the corresponding Scrabble letter values.

    5. The Remote Control– This technology was developed by the New Yorker Nikola Tesla, who invented a radio-controlled boat in 1898. What at the time was almost impossible to believe is today an integral component of daily domestic life.

    6. Eggs Benedict – In 1894, upon returning to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel after a night on the town, the stockbroker and bonvivant Lemuel Benedikt ordered poached eggs, crispy bacon, toast, and hollandaise sauce. The legendary maître d'hôtel, Oscar Tschirky, found this combination so interesting that he added it to the menu and named it after its inventor.

    7. The Hot Dog – The idea of serving a hot sausage in a bun came from the baker and Coney Island, Brooklyn resident Charles Feltman. Feltman sold his hot dogs at the unbeatable price of a dime ($0.10). The invention was a huge hit and made Feltman into an influential investor in Coney Island—at least until his former employee, Nathan Handwerker, opened a shop of his own and began selling hot dogs for a mere nickel ($0.05).

    8. The ATM (cash machine)– The first prototype for a cash machine was designed by Luther George Simjiam in 1939. Citibank was the first bank that volunteered to test the invention over a 6-month trial period. The test was unsuccessful: too few people used the machine, and those that did were mostly prostitutes and casino visitors. 

    The next time you take out money, eat a hot dog, play Scrabble, or change the TV channel, think of New York.