Rooftops in NYC's West Village at dusk — Photo courtesy of Thomas R. Stegelmann
To experience historic NYC, do not miss a tour of New York's famous West Village. Mismatched construction of the grid of streets and avenues created a number of oddly angled cul-de-sacs and hidden blocks with little traffic, vehicular or pedestrian. There are concealed corners perfect for taking in the old world architecture without the bustle of the big city interrupting. Pick up an expertly crafted and piping hot coffee at local hotspot Irving Farm and sip while you wander through quiet streets and gaze at the early 19th century shuttered houses and hidden courtyards.
In contrast to its earlier history, the Village was once the center of NYC Bohemia. You can browse Left Bank Books for interesting pieces written by authors of 1960's cultural dissent, curl up over a pint at White Horse Tavern and pretend you're Dylan Thomas, or stop by Bob Dylan's old apartment and imagine yourself on the cover of Freewheelin' Bob Dylan.
Building on the spirit of rebellion, the cornerstone of the West Village, the gay rights movement found firm footing here as well with the 1969 riots at the Stonewall inn.
Recently, the West Village connected to the High Line Park at 14th Street near Chelsea Market. This elevated train trestle is one of the city's newest and most popular parks. You can change your perspective and get a rare birdseye view of the West Village, Chelsea and Meatpacking neighborhoods, see the streets from above while enjoying a landscape of native plants and art installations. Plenty of benches and viewpoints encourage lingering.
In the evening, head to the Village Vanguard for some of the coolest jazz and atmosphere in NYC (Jazz greats like Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk played there, does it get any cooler?), hit the Ear Inn (one of the oldest bars in New York recognized and protected by the Landmark's Preservation Commission) or take in an old movie at the IFC Film Forum.
No matter what element in the West Village's unique history draws you to it, the main attraction is in the mix. Bohemia meets American Aristocracy and instead of causing discord, creates a beautiful and vibrant hodgepodge of cultural influences that has been inspiring artists, musicians and just about everyone fortunate enough to experience it for decades. Walking is the best way to get to know this neighborhood, because it offers a feeling and an atmosphere that keeps you coming back for more.