Nowhere Is New York When it Comes to Shopping
By Courtney Sunday
New York and Toronto Local Expert
"I like my money where I can see it — hanging in my closet," quipped Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City. Although we likely won't be taking any financial advice from that character, we do feel similarly powerless when it comes to New York shopping opportunities. It is way too good to pass up.
Whether you are starting from the centre at Fifth Avenue and making your way out, or going to Nolita (north of Little Italy) to extend your Soho experience, there is no shortage of one-of-a-kind shops to make a serious dent in your wallet. There is no need for an I Heart NY monogram; it will be quite clear once you fill your suitcase with Manhattan items that will gather praise. You can't buy love, but you can buy admiration, and maybe even a little bit of jealousy.
Even if you don't identify with the role of shopper, New York is one of the prime destinations in the world. From giant department stores to specialty shops, open air markets to iconic boutiques, any spare New York moment could be spent in shopping paradise. Put on your walking shoes. No matter what you are looking for, it is undoubtedly here.
Although Brooklyn and Manhattan were once pegged against each other, it is high time that we see that there is great value in both districts. Extremely hip and fashionable, the streets of Williamsburg have an impressive array of street murals and art. Hipsters congregate here, whether they are composing a song in a trendy cafe or scouring flea markets and food bazaars. For vintage clothing or local independent stores, even Manhattanites have to admit that it is worth making it over to Brooklyn. Ignore the chains and try something different, like Desert Island, a must for any comic book nerd (or lover of a comic book nerd).
With a name like the Meatpacking District, it is somewhat surprising that this New York neighbourhood is now a glamorous location. Once the headquarters of the meat industry, this neighborhood has been transformed completely (but former meatlockers and meat packers still remain). At the corner of Ninth Avenue and 14th Street, you'll see the high tech Apple Store, mobbed day and night. The cobblestone streets are home to all the latest designer boutiques, Jeffrey, Stella McCartney, Catherine Malandrino. In addition, you will also find the hippest hotels and fantastic restaurants. Whether you are a fashionista or a foodie, Meatpacking District has you covered. (888-847-4869)
NoLita, (North of Little Italy), was once the tenement filled home base to thousands of immigrants who came to New York for a better life. Now, chic and super cool, the streets are filled with one-of-a-kind boutiques, shoe stores, jewelry vendors and quirky style setters of downtown. Artist driven boutiques are a joy for browsing or purchasing unique pieces that will add flair to any wardrobe. From socially responsible children's clothing to thrift store jewels, NoLita is the rare combination of fashionable and friendly. Narrow streets are charmingly old-fashioned and ideal for people-watching in one of the many independent cafes.
Madison Avenue from 59th street to the 90's is home to Tom Ford, Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein, Luca Luca, Hermes, Carolina Herrara and almost every high fashion designer. Hotels like the Mark, Pierre and the Carlyle, where major celebrities and other dignitaries stay, are super luxurious. Once synonymous with the New York advertising world, it is now just as recognized for its wealth and unparalleled shopping opportunities. Numerous art galleries and the Whitney Museum are an art lovers dream. Outdoor cafes are plentiful and populated with the jet-set who lunch in between their spa and salon visits. You will see celebrities as this is where they shop. Just look for the limo and driver outside Barney's.
The historic intersection of Union Square is located where Broadway and the former Bowery Road came together in the early 19th century. It is now a mega shopping zone with everything from Whole Foods to Forever 21 to Nordstrom Rack populating the area. During the holidays it is particularly lovely, with outdoor tents featuring all sorts of gifts, handmade soaps, scarves, and craft items. Home to the Greenmarket, Union Square is also where all the local, organic and fresh food and flowers are showcased on Wednesday and Saturdays by New York farmers in an outdoor setting. Cozy coffee bars like Think Coffee are student favorites, as NYU is nearby. Many of the city's finest restaurants are here, too like Union Square Cafe and Blue Water Grill. (212-460-1200)
One of the most populated Chinatowns in the United States, NY's is a dazzling trip into authenticity. In fact, New York has one of the largest ethnic Chinese population outside of Asia. The bustling, rough and tumble neighborhood spans for blocks and blocks, from Canal Street to City Hall. You'll find roasted ducks in the windows, along with fruits and vegetables you have never seen before spilling out onto the streets. Acupuncturists, herbalists and other Chinese medicine specialists offer wonderful treatments to get the tension out of your shoulders caused by holding too many shopping bags. Check out Yunhong Chopsticks Shop for a souvenir that will travel well and, according to Chinese tradition, spread happiness.
SoHo (South of Houston)
SoHo (short for South of Houston) was once home to New York's factories from sewing to iron foundries. Now, the warehouse buildings have all been converted to loft spaces used for living - if you're super rich - and an array of high fashion boutiques, shops, and trendy restaurants for the rest of us. You'll find a branch of the Guggenheim Museum, a Bloomingdales, and even a Chanel boutique. Gourmet eatery Dean & Deluca is a food fantasy not to be missed. Wander in and out of all the cobblestone streets, and you'll be amazed at the store displays, which have some of the most creative windows in town.
Lower East Side
The Lower East Side was once one of the roughest neighborhoods in town, but it has been reborn into a haven for the trendy. Roughly located between the Bowery and the East River, and Canal Street and Houston Street, the shopping in the lower east side has great bargains and indie boutiques, but stores that feature designers who design and sew their own creations are the norm. The unusual and unexpected is at home here. Home furnishings, jewelry, and of course hip cafes and culinary experiences abound. You'll find gourmet pastries, chic wine bars, and charming coffee cafes mixed in with the local residents still shopping in some of the old haunts like authentic Jewish deli Russ & Daughters.
This legendary part of town is divided into east and west sections by 5th Avenue and bounded by Houston Street, 14th Street, the Hudson River, and Broadway. Stroll the streets, be inspired, be yourself: it's Greenwich Village. The "Village" carries a mystique all its own, resulting from a rich 100-year history as a haven for the creative and rebellious. Rogue writers like Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs once frequented Macdougal Street cafes like Café Reggio and Café Figaro. Today, the area is too expensive for a typical starving artist, but the Village remains a wonderfully open, tolerant community for anyone hoping to explore individuality, talent, and thought. A strong gay presence adds character, and Bleecker Street is a music lover's (and a shoppers) paradise. Edgar Allan Poe and Mark Twain once walked the zig-zagging streets now frequented by NYU students, skaters, and street musicians. (212-484-1222)
Fifth Avenue has been the center of elegance in New York for some time. Located between 39th and 60th Streets, Fifth Avenue is a must for any fashion-focused tourist. Start spending at Saks Fifth Avenue and work your way up to the super-chic Bergdorf Goodman. There's a separate store exclusively for men across the street. Along the way, you'll find Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Harry Winston, DeBeers, and Tiffany's where you can window shop to your heart's content. Don't miss St. Patrick's Cathedral, and other grand churches, which are side by side to retailers like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Prada, all featuring the finest goods in the world.
About Courtney Sunday
Courtney Sunday lived in Canterbury, England and Luzern, Switzerland before returning to Toronto in 2010. Yoga teaching and freelance writing became her full-time professions, as she learned the true meaning of the statement: "If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life." Courtney now divides her time between Philadelphia and Toronto. She loves the cafe culture of both cities and the ever-expanding group of foodies. When not leading small yoga teacher trainings around the globe she explores her cities by foot: www.courtneysunday.com, @Omathomeyoga.
Read more about Courtney Sunday here.