When you get on the train, you sit across from people who are reading English-Greek dictionaries or trying to learn Hebrew on their iPhones. New York being the home of the United Nations, people are just so ready to speak with their colleagues, or their lovers, in their native tongue. After all, in New York, you don’t really need to travel the world. Because the world travels to you.
As soon as you get on a New York street, you see signs that the street is closed to traffic, and there is Lucy Liu, filming her next movie. Down on Wall Street, Men in Black is being restaged for a third installment. As soon as you take your next picture with the camera you got at B&H, you realize it’s not that you’re a great photographer, it really is just a photogenic city. You hit the many hidden spots of Central Park and you will find painters from out of the woods, working on their own interpretation of its greenery and scenery. New York–the skyline, the parks, the cafés, the streets, the boutique hotels– is so beautiful, it is a great model and source of inspiration for a blank canvas, a blank CD, or a blank screen.
But sometimes, when you actually live here, you get caught up in the day job, in the rent, in the errands. Sometimes, the inherently creative person needs a sanctuary, a place to be alone. The movement of New York could be inspiring, as long as you are able to stand still and let your mind wander still. Other times, you need to be with your friends, or with likeminded people who will inspire you or encourage you to go for your goals and create that passion project already.
With so many sources of inspiration and so much stimuli, how do you take what’s good and swirl it to be your own? True, there are so many good exhibits and great publicity for them, that you feel like you have to not miss the works of Murakami, Tim Burton, and Alexander McQueen at the Brooklyn Museum, the MoMa, or the Met. After all, these are creative gurus, and droves travel to New York just to see these valuable art on display. But for me, the most significant artworks are the ones you create yourself. And the most memorable New York spots are the places where you make memories.
Where are the places that you can let your mind wonder as you let your feet wander? As a creative type myself who needs to be inspired in order to inspire, I need my own space. And in the following spots, I share with you, my secret urban spots in the city where many dreamers and doers live.
When you need some peace and quiet, and some piece of chocolate, head to the Jacques Torres Chocolate Café, located on Hudson Street in Tribeca. The coffee shop feels like a palace in terms of New York spaces, and will feel like your own kitchen and living room both at the same time. It is also a literal and figurative candy store for those with a sophisticated sweet tooth and fondness for space and serenity. Space, serenity, sweets, and a sofa: what could be better than that? Grab yourself some hot chocolate, cold ice cream sandwiches, chewy chocolate chips, or some classic Belgian truffles, and you’ll be in dessert heaven. Hosted by Mr. Chocolate himself, you’re a lady in the Tiffany’s for your tongue, where you can produce your own creations, chocolate or otherwise. Who knows, you might just have a book to bring to Penguin Books or a song to bring to MTV, with offices across the street. This is the quintessential chocolate shop in NYC, and for me, the quintessential creative spot.
From chocolate, I taste popsicle. At least that’s what I had one hot summer day, when my boyfriend, also a writer and I took to Literary Walk in Central Park and were inspired by the literary greats that came before us and that are now lined in the Mall. The willowy trees provided a scenic and rustic respite to refresh our creative juices and knock on our poetic muses.
Established in 1873, the Mall is the Park’s widest pedestrian pathway, romantic and scenic for many American movies and photographs from tourists and locals alike. The old American elm trees form a cathedral-like canopy that look best in the fall and winter. Some photographers even collect photo versions for all seasons. Literary types stop by the sculptures of the poets lining up the walk to learn more about and pay respect to their lives and works. Among the literary figures that can be found there since the late 1800s are those of William Shakespeare, Fitz-Green Halleck, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Burns.
From free philosophy to pricey surroundings, I share my favorite hotel hotspot: The Crosby Street Hotel. If the hot and bright colors in the Crosby Bar are not enough to wake up your senses, maybe the ultramodern design will. From the bright retro lights to the multi-striped couches to every painting on the wall, the visual spectacle will make you look left, right, up, and down more than will most museums. Bet their guest rooms are just as creative, with rooms and headboards full of theme and color burst. If the first floor level’s Crosby Bar and mostly pink Drawing Room are not stimuli enough, take the steps down to the basement, and peek into the highly inspired basement bar and function rooms themed with colorful fabric-covered walls, where your guests, whether they are family or press, are sure be impressed. An ultra-modern screening room with 99 orange leather seats can also be found here. Come on a Sunday to enjoy their Sunday Night Film Club with dinner or drinks. Being there, you may just be sitting next to or become the next Martin Scorsese.
In New York City, the Crosby Street Hotel was built in the heart of Soho, a neighborhood where the hottest fashion houses, architectural offices, and design firms are found. It’s just in the right place, because this highly creative hotel can further serve as inspiration to the many modern artists living and working around it, especially those yearning to become successful Interior designers, like the Crosby’s visionary design director Kit Kemp.
Coming from a rainbow spectrum, you realize, white can be inspiring too. Well, white will welcome you with crystal chandeliers at Caffé Falai. There, you can rest your eyes, and let your mind wander. They have a pretty good cappuccino, too, to keep your creative soul and eyes awake You will see models and publishers sitting next to you, reading their old-school paperbacks and dining on their squid ink linguini or their Prosciutto panini. You, on the other hand, are well satisfied with the crepe cake you ordered and the concept of your next novel. While your palate is inspired by the creations of Iacopo Falai of Le Cirque fame, white will push you to paint your own canvass. If the interiors don’t inspire, count on the art on your plate.
If you feel that creativity is contagious, head on to the ultimate creative crux, the Ace Hotel lobby. The mélange of furnishings, objects, lighting, and finishes reflects this sense of freedom and unconventionality. A variety of vintage seating pieces mixed with two massive sectional suede sofas give off a ’70s vibe custom designed by Roman & Williams, provide ample space for lounging and conversation. Just from quiet people watching, you will see that the lobby of Ace Hotel New York has exploded into a hive of activity among people who have the power and the audacity to change the world.
So make a trip to this rocker chic hotel, where you can join fellow cultural creatives in the ultimate artist rocker setting. You are sure to be in the company of writers, artists, models, and musicians. Well, even corporate creatives squat there now. All in all, you’ll be among the quintessential set of creative in New York–whether it’s a dude trying to be creative on a deadline with the corporate logos and ad campaigns, or a self-employed musician listening to his first hit on his headphones.
This hotel focuses more on the whole experience rather than the hospitality clichés, that even the locals will find it cool to be seen there. It’s the ultimate creative friends’ hangout spot without any of the stuffiness. You just need to find a spot. Otherwise, you’ll find other spaces in the Ace’s ecosystem of boutiques and bars.
Any new hotel can make bold statements and win PR hype when it launches—but it takes word-of-mouth recommendations to make a business flourish. It wasn’t long before TIME Magazine nominated the Ace team as “the next wave” of hoteliers and named it one of the “Innovators of the next millennium.”
If New York Times names Ace “the country’s most original new hotel,” what stops a visitor or a New Yorker squatter from creating the next big thing?
Before you head back home, relax in the park with the iconic Pepsi Cola sign behind you, and, in front of you, a beautiful view of the city that makes your dreams come true.
It may be a surprise to many, but the Gantry State Plaza Park in Queens is my favorite park in all of New York. Central Park may get all the publicity, but there is a lot of local love for this park. And I am not alone, just check Yelp.com. The combination of the uniquely designed chairs, the magnificent view of the city, and the native few who know of this spot, make it so ideal for a true respite from the hustle and bustle of the urban life.
There is even a playground that I tested myself. Yes, this is a play ground for a thirty-something creative soul who lives, works, and plays in New York City.
These secret spots are just a hop and a train ride away!
Jacques Torres Chocolate Bar
• 350 Hudson Street (between Charlton Street and King Street) New York, NY 10014
• Take the 1 or 2 trains to Houston Street
• (+1.212) 414.2462
Literary Walk, Central Park (the Mall)
• Central Park, 66th to 72nd Streets
• Take the N, Q, or R to Fifth Avenue
Crosby Street Hotel
• 9 Crosby Street (between Spring Street and Prince Street) New York, NY 10012
• Take the N or R train to Prince Street
• (+1.212) 226.6400
• 265 Lafayette St (between Cleveland Place and Prince Street) New York, NY 10012
• Take the N or R train to Prince Street
• (+1.212) 274.8615
• 20 W 29th Street (between 5th Avenue and Broadway) New York, NY 10001
• Take the N train to 28th Street
• (+1.212) 679.2222
Gantry Plaza State Park
• 474 48th Avenue Long Island City, New York 11101
• Take the 7 train to Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue