Exploring NYC, One Neighborhood at a Time

From Chelsea to Cobble Hill, our editors reveal the best places to eat, dine, shop, or simply hang out with friends or family.

NEW YORK IS a city obsessed with the very notion of neighborhoods. Not only is it a constant subject of conversation and a reliable source of arguments — the best neighborhood for late-night dining? For fancy cocktails? For shoe shopping? For art? For the perfect slice of pizza? — but taste, style, and social cachet are often defined by the particular neighborhood you live or hang out in. The city is an amalgam of micro cultures, each with its own distinct aesthetic and culinary language, all constantly evolving. For visitors, finding the best places to dine, dance, and shop can be equal parts fascinating and overwhelming. Where should you go? It all depends on what you’re looking for.

Here, our New York-based editors share their own neighborhood picks. Whether it’s shopping in SoHo, bar-hopping on the Lower East Side, gallery gazing in Chelsea, seeking the best Chinese food in Queens, exploring the many parks and shops in Cobble Hill, or finding a unique spot to cut a rug in Bushwick, this neighborhood guide gives you a variety of ways to enjoy the city that truly never sleeps. — T. Cole Rachel

Bushwick, Brooklyn

The best spots to cut a rug

Once considered a kind of no man’s land on the outer fringes of Brooklyn, Bushwick has transformed into one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the city. For travelers looking to see live music, Bushwick offers something for everyone. Nowadays boasts a sprawling outdoor space and one of the best sound systems in all of New York, which makes seeing DJs here feel like attending a loud and luxe backyard barbecue. Tucked just under a subway overpass, Bossa Nova is one of the best places in the city to hear house and techno music. Inspired by the films of Wong Kar-wai, the aptly named Mood Ring is a perfectly-vibed space for dancing, experimental performances, DJs, and having your tarot cards read. Billed as a “venue, bar, dance club, gallery, and eatery” TV Eye is the kind of multisensory spot where you can check out a metal band in one room before sliding into a Donna Summer dance party in another. For those looking to see more established rock and hip-hop acts in a relatively intimate setting, Brooklyn Steel is one of the city’s best venues with great sight lines, multiple bars, and plenty of room to move. — Cole

Lower East Side, Manhattan

A splendid Saturday

Historically defined by its immigrant communities, tenements, and nightlife, the Lower East Side’s current iteration makes for a splendid Saturday. Begin at the Perrotin gallery; there’s always something avant-garde and gargantuan. Check out vintage store Lara Koleji, where you may find me hovering over their collection of antique jewelry — I always wear two of their gold rings. Try on everything. Weak from shopping, regain strength with a slice of sour cherry crumb from Petee’s Pie Company, but get it to go. Movement is key for optimal LES people watching and for avoiding a pie-induced sugar crash. Walk through a nondescript door into the art cafe Happy Medium to sketch (watercolor, sculpt, collage, etc.) in their serene loft. Dinner’s at Corner Bar. Order something cold and from the sea to start; finish with the skirt steak. Next: The House of Machines, a cavernous bar and moto community space, for a drink and some pool. I’m conflicted about blasting my hiding spots, but favorite places were requested, and I am nothing if not an open book. — Sophie Mancini

Flushing, Queens

A transportive tour of Chinese cuisine

Flushing is Queens’ Chinatown — and it has an undeniable rush, whether it’s the chatter from dim-sum tables, the hustle of fruit-stall salespeople, or the speed of delivery drivers dashing in and out of restaurants, all in true New York City fashion. If you stop, just for a moment, you can catch the scent of Flushing’s culinary tapestry drifting through the air. A food tour of Flushing begins with New Flushing Bakery, as soon as you exit the Main Street subway station, for either a flaky Portuguese- or a crumbly Hong Kong-style egg tart, or why not both? Then, stroll to Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao for the closest thing to authentic Shanghainese soup dumplings you’ll find in this city. Take a pause at the trendy Korean cafe Gong Gan for otherworldly floral displays that set the stage for fanciful croissants and waffles. Then it’s on to the main act at an offshoot of the famed Chinese hot-pot chain Haidilao, where you’ll find bountiful ingredients. Get the hand-pulled noodles if you enjoy a side of performance with your meal. If you can’t decide what to eat, you can have it all at the New World Mall food court, lined with stalls of everything from Yunnan crossing-the-bridge noodles to Tianjin steamed buns and bubble tea. Luckily, the Queens Botanical Garden is steps away when you need to walk off all the food. — Annie Lin


Chelsea, Manhattan

Art gallery gazing

Located on Manhattan’s west side, just north of the West Village, Chelsea has inspired many artists. The legendary Hotel Chelsea has hosted everyone from Andy Warhol to Bob Dylan, with endless tales of creativity and a recently renovated lobby bar. The neighborhood is also home to a wide range of unique galleries featuring art from all around the world. For a look at the contemporary scene, stop by David Zwirnir’s eponymous space. Poster House, my new favorite, is the first museum in the U.S. dedicated to poster art, examining the medium's impact on society. The Shed is a new kind of creative space for emerging artists across all disciplines, and one can easily spend a whole day there. As you make your way up the High Line, you’ll find the stunningly designed food market Mercado Little Spain. There’s Urbana Cafe and Gallery for the early risers who need a pick-me-up. Stop by 192 Books, owned by Paula Cooper, for a great selection of art and photography books eagerly waiting to make their way to your coffee table. — Lisa Lok

SoHo, Manhattan

Hidden-gem shopping

SoHo is a vast ocean of shops, having evolved in the past few decades from a downtown bohemian enclave below Houston Street into a tourist hotspot and New York’s mecca for both luxury goods and fast fashion. There are still plenty of intimate little gems hiding in plain sight, though. John Elliott has a version of just about every indispensable item a guy needs in his closet, from leather bomber jackets to cozy hoodies, made in some of the most luxurious fabrics and ideal fits possible. McNally Jackson has a small cafe and an amazing selection of new and notable books. Luxury Swiss watches have become such a hot commodity these days, and Watches of Switzerland helps boost your odds of snagging a Rolex, Patek Philippe, or Vacheron Constantin. You’ll find a perfect present for a loved one at Trudon’s candle and fragrance boutique. Stadium Goods in SoHo has rare limited-edition versions of Air Jordans and Nike Air Force 1s. Thierry Lasry is a special, small eyewear boutique with unique, made-in-France styles that always have a slight edginess to their shape. And for a post-shopping apéritif, Sant Ambroeus has four different signature types of Negroni. — Alex Frank

Cobble Hill, Brooklyn

A classic family day in Brooklyn

Cobble Hill is composed of just 40 blocks of tree-lined streets packed with brownstones and strollers — the ultimate sign that kids are welcome. Despite gentrification, it’s still filled with many mom-and-pop shops that have been around for generations. Part of what makes this neighborhood magical are the spots that feel borderline secret, such as Cobble Hill Park. The park is tucked into a residential street where you’ll find a modest yet sufficient play structure and a number of park benches to indulge in pastries from Poppy’s — another blink-and-you-miss-it gem. Next, grab tickets for a movie at the storied, no-frills Cobble Hill Cinemas or visit the Transit Museum for an immersive and playful experience inside historic New York City subway trains. After that, walk over to Carroll Gardens to let your kids explore the delightful nooks and crannies in the children’s section at Books Are Magic while you browse their curated selection, followed by classic grandma pie at Baby Luc’s (Lucali’s pizza shop with a much shorter line, if any). For dessert, visit the charming Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain. Wrap up your day with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Hailey Andresen


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Our Contributors

T. Cole Rachel Editor-at-Large

T. Cole Rachel is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and teacher with over 20 years of experience working in print and digital media. He is currently an editor-at-large at Departures.

Sophie Mancini Writer

Sophie Mancini is an editor at Departures. Born and raised in New York City, she holds a degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University and has a background as a writer in brand and editorial.

Annie Lin Writer

Annie Lin is the social editor at Departures. A writer and content strategist based in New York City, her work has been featured in Time Out, Resy, OpenTable, Women’s Health, Elite Daily, CNBC, and many more.

Lisa Lok

Lisa Lok is the visuals director of Departures. A Brooklyn-based creative, she enjoys collaborating with photographers and illustrators from around the world.

Alex Frank Writer

Alex Frank is a contributing editor at Departures. Based in Manhattan, Frank previously worked at as deputy culture editor. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, GQ, Pitchfork, New York Magazine, Fantastic Man, and the Village Voice.

Hailey Andresen Writer

Hailey Andresen is the guides editor at Departures. A New York–based writer and editor, she founded the digital lifestyle publication Household Mag and has spent more than a decade in the hospitality industry.


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