How to: NYC in a Day (Summer)

If you haven’t checked off this list by the end of Summer, try, try again.

6:30 AM: My irrational fear of wasting daylight hours aside, it pays to be a morning person in NYC. There’s just about no pedestrian or vehicle congestion (except maybe at SoulCycle), so if you’re into pounding pavement, then try the Hudson River Greenway, Central Park Reservoir, or East River run. Walk home and appreciate how awesome highrises look with sunlight creeping over them. Pick up a coffee and sunflowers on the way. Little Collins at Lexington and 56th Street is the only real (and good, says Alex) coffee above the Villages (they’re Australian, of course).

7:30 AM: Settle for breakfast – Soho Grand’s morning menu is infinitely more tasty than most hotels. If you’re airbnb-ing, consume enough water, nuts and grains to tide yourself over to brunch (see 11 AM). Nothing (except Little Collins) decent is open yet. A copy of The New York Times is essential – compared to our Sydney Morning Herald, The New York Times is practically Shakespeare (both in design and prose). In Winter, this would be the worst hour of your life, but let’s not think such dark thoughts.

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8:30 AM: Choose an outfit for the day that isn’t going to melt your skin off, particularly if you don’t plan on coming home throughout the day to shower and nap. I will confess that on a particularly sweaty day without meetings, I did just that. In absence of days off, try pyjamas.


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9 AM: is the best time to roam the Meatpacking District and the Highline before it gets too crowded. I, for one, am not attracted to the physical exhaustion that comes with ducking in and out of concept stores but the La Perla and Kiehl’s boutiques here get me every damn time.

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10 AM: Get to the New York Public Library as soon as it opens. I make a habit of taking at least one afternoon off every time I visit to get lost in its grandeur and buy unnecessary (but cheap) maps of Manhattan from the gift store downstairs. Call me juvenile, but I’m still baffled as to how horses and manpower were capable of hauling seven tonne slabs of marble into place in 1905, and equally fascinated by the old library delivery system.

Make sure you spend some time picnicking and people-watching in Bryant Park immediately adjacent. Bryant Park Grill is expensive, but the quinoa salad is amazing. Lady M’s Bryant Park Boutique location right across the road has the tastiest mille crêpes, and Starbucks on the opposite corner is your best bet for cold beverages that don’t cost a mint. Apparently, there’s also mass yoga in the park sometimes, but I am yet to decipher that system.

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ASIDE: The first three times I was in New York for work, I avoided the subway for fear of being late to meetings and shows. As the universe would have it, NYC Taxi Cab TV slowly drove me insane (until I figured out that you could actually switch it off) just as much as the traffic, and bank statement by the end of it, did. Now I refuse to cab it unless I’m going East-West (not too many subway lines go all the way across Manhattan). It’s not as fancy as the London tube, but it rattles into every station just about on time, and just about frequently enough. Subway buskers are just the pick-me-up you need while sweating profusely, and a Metrocard will get you in and out of a station in two seconds. Tip: Switch your phone to airplane mode while you’re underground or your phone will be flat from ‘Searching…’ by the time you get out. Meanwhile, staring standoffs with innocent bystanders are far more entertaining than FlappyBird.

11 AM: As far as I’m concerned, any travel guide to any commercial city is going to declare that its residents live for Sunday brunch. New York is no exception. The brunchish-lunchish game is strong (to the point where I couldn’t order my go-to rice bowl off the Friedman’s Lunch menu until 4pm – brunch only til then). Find a friend and philosophise until they kick you out. A few favourites new and and old from above left to below right:

Narcissa at the Standard (East Village) is shady, quiet, and has seriously good carrot fries (Alex also claims that the crab salad rules).

Westville was a random stumble-upon after a stressful camera battery mission to Adorama a few blocks across (on further inspection, they have three other locations). They have a ‘market plate’ menu section where you pick whatever tickles your fancy from a list of both ticklish and fancy (not really) market produce. Highly recommend.

Freds at Barneys runs a mean vegan salad and the most amazing and/or hilarious people-watching in the city (even more so than Williamsburg). I was literally sitting next to a woman on the phone to her plastic surgeon about her upcoming lap-band surgery. She was a size 0. I was afraid she might disappear altogether.

You’d walk right past The Smile if you didn’t know it was there – I first had their griddle brunch in the dead of Winter with Chloe, and try and make sure I squeeze in at least one meeting there.

Friedman’s Lunch in Chelsea Market is basically my hideaway during New York Fashion Week – it’s just across from Milk Studios and (as I mentioned) the brown rice bowl is off the charts.

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12 PM: See the sweetest Eva on the block – compare twisty legs, black bobs, and Solanges. And the big guys upstairs. Not going to lie. It was a moment. Heart palpitations.

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1 PM: The Met rooftop is open at the moment with a Dan Graham mirror walkabout exhibit, and iced tea (and martinis). Bring a hat, and play guess the millions on neighbouring penthouses.

photo 12 PM: If you can handle the crowds, Friday afternoons are UNIQLO Free Fridays at MoMa. You can photograph Starry Night, but you can’t photograph the dude upstairs rolling plastic pillows over a lady’s sleeping body.

3 PM: By this time, most of Soho’s coolest kids are well and truly awake and kicking around being painfully cool. My favourite people-watching intersection is Prince and Lafayette St. SoHo Park on the South West corner has a killer vegie burger and iced tea to pass the time, and I could spend hours going through McNally’s bookstore if you let me loose. On the other side of Broadway, Mercer Street is the must-see, even if you hate shopping. But, beware, if you so much as set foot in Alexander Wang’s store, you’re guaranteed to walk out with something. The visual merchandising, service and interiors are just too good not to.

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4 PM: If you’ve a good pair of legs, or a bike, do the Brooklyn Bridge walk at least once. I’d gone three years without even getting close to it, so Alex and I made it a mission. Buy a bag of mango pieces with cayenne pepper at the beginning of the walk. Thank me later.

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5 PM: I’d never heard of the Smorgasburg weekend food markets before, but we 100% put on several kgs from just two hours sampling the best plates Brooklyn had to offer at the best prices I’ve ever seen. Climb down onto the rocks and digest before the skyline.

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6 PM: My last couple of days in New York were so packed with meetings that dips and grapefruit juice in air conditioning on a peacock feather table could not have sounded better. Soho Grand has the best of the above. Sam, Rey and Alex are great company.

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ASIDE: There are a lot of areas around New York that are so mundane to born-and-bred cityfolk, but so gobsmackingly beautiful to fresh eyes. I, for one, could stare at the ceiling paintings and staircases at Grand Central Station for hours.

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7 PM: This is not an optional activity. On my first trip to New York, I accidentally ended up at the Rockefeller Centre Observation Deck at sunset, and literally burst into tears. I don’t care that the $22 admission could have gone towards tomorrow’s brunch, and honestly can’t believe that a lot of New Yorkers have never made the effort to go up there. Nothing beats watching the sun go down and the lights go on. In that moment, you really are at the centre of the world.

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9 PM: Once you’ve stopped sobbing at the Top of the Rock, Times Square and its disgusting pretzels is absolutely necessary. I know there are gross tourists, and questionable street performers (i.e. naked painted ladies in stripper shoes) in the Summer, but just trust me, leave your bag at home, keep your dollars in your bra, find a spot on the stairs near the Coca Cola sign, and sit yourself down. Wonder who the hell thought it would be a good idea to put flashing lights all over three whole blocks of buildings. Admit that it’s pretty impressive.

  • Love this post– so much personality and humor into the piece. Really does The City justice. I absolutely love Westville (the veggies are too good to be true) and Fred’s definitely provides the best people watching in Manhattan– I once saw Vera Wang there too!

  • This is one of the best city guides I’ve come across; I love your writing style and the photographs make me want to hop on a plane over to NYC right this minute to follow your advice!

  • @thestoryofv

    I love your humour MZ! I’ve done most of the above and really identify with your descriptions! Xx

  • DarrellNAhner

    I don’t care that the $22 admission could have gone towards tomorrow’s brunch, and honestly can’t believe that a lot of New Yorkers have never made the effort to go up there.

  • Absolutely loved this post! You’ve made me so excited to go to New York!! Love you & your blog, we should be friends.
    P.S The composition within your photographs are always fantastic! Love you Magz! (Can I call you Magz/Maggie?) :/ xx

  • Laura Lama F.

    Great post! I have to visit New York soon


  • miguele3

    Your writing is really enjoyable.

  • Kim P.

    As always, an enjoyable read.

  • Ana

    Love this. Have been to New York a stupid amount of times and have read loads of different guides. But this by far is my favourite. I havent done a lot of the things you list, so I’ll make sure to do them next time I’m there in November… Although weather might not be as lovely as right now, hope most of the things on your list will be OK to do. The one thing I really want to try is waking up before the city and wondering the empty streets of NYC… Sounds amazing!

    Ana x

  • Francesca

    these are the most beautiful photos I’ve seen. I know most are really simple (just of food) but you somehow make them look so stunning. I also loved reading this post. I’m yet to visit New York and It’s like the one city I’ve ALWAYS wanted to go to. But now, when I do, I will know exactly where to visit ;-)


  • I LOVE NYC!! Very cool to see it through your eyes. Will need to hit some of your spots next time. Never been to the library which looks insanely beautiful.


  • Your day in New York makes me want to book a flight there.
    Thank you for all the recommendations Margaret.

  • Teni

    This is perfect! I’m going to be there next week, this has definitely helped a lot! xo

  • Amazing style! I miss the City too!!!



  • I’m Just Me

    Amazing photos!

  • This is suchhh a fantastic travel guide!! I am going to New York in September and this is a god send. Definitely planning to go into Alexander Wang too and NOT leave empty handed!

    Shot From The Street | Fashion Blog

  • Avanti

    Wonderful blogpost! Perhaps my favourite. Your write up has brought about another bout of post travel stress disorder. I have only come back to Sydney for a week after holidaying in Canada and America. Your adventures really make me miss NYC. Next time I visit, I will make sure I rock of the things I didn’t manage to do.


  • Maleika Halpin

    10am <3

  • Wow, absolutely love this post


  • EJin

    Great piece and love the organization / narration of this guide :)

  • Great post! Makes me want to visit NYC all over again.

  • Love love love these photos:)

  • This post makes me both very happy & extremely sad at the same time. Happy because, wow, New York really is an exciting place, there’s always something new to see; and sad because I wish I could just grab my bag right this moment and run away to NYC to discover this city all over again.

    I love how witty and humorous your writing is, Margaret. X

  • I love this post! It makes me miss New York even more ;) x

  • Great post!

    Love, another New Yorker.
    xx jessica

  • aini

    Thank you for including ‘people-watching’ on the schedule. Absolutely what i’m going to do if i’ve ever have a chance to visit NY.


  • Meredith Wadsworth

    great post! I need to start waking up earlier…

  • Absolutely loved this! Definitely helpful and witty.

  • Veronica

    Recently found your blog. And it’s the best for me. Nice smart inetersting texts and beautiful pictures. This post is amazing since I’ve never been to the US, and NY is my dream.

  • Lisa

    That is one amazing post!
    So informative! I’ll definitely come back to that next time I’m in NYC!

  • Ahhhh…you’re making me miss NYC! Great post and beautiful photos – love your style and energy! xo

  • charmystique

    Oh you’ve made my wanderlust for NYC so much stronger!!

  • spiritedpursuit

    Consistently brilliant photos aside, your writing is truly captivating. So filled with wit, intelligence and personality. Loved this!

  • Super love the photo set in this post!! And I love how you “really” write a story on your blog posts. Dreaming of seeing New York myself in the future!!!

    Anyway, I’m giving away a Marilyn Monroe-inspired dress for free!! >>

  • Love the post! and all of the photos!!


  • A really witty guide. Bookmarking for my trip to NYC, however soon or late it may come. I’m repeating this, definitely! This sounds too good to miss.

  • Kate

    Margaret this is by far one of my favourite posts, I am yet to visit New York (hanging out in anticipation, along with the 3 other guide books I have) but when I eventually go I will be taking this post of yours with me to follow

    Thankyou xxx

  • Zé Medeiros

    Amazing photos and really nice tips!
    also I love the way you write about the city with so much personality.

  • <3


Margaret Zhang 章凝 is an Australian-born-Chinese director, photographer, consultant and writer based between New York and Shanghai. Since establishing her website in 2009, Margaret has gone on to work with global brands including CHANEL, UNIQLO, Swarovski, YEEZY, Bulgari, Gucci, MATCHES, Under Armour, and Louis Vuitton in a wide range of capacities both in front of and behind the camera, while completing her Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Laws at The University of Sydney. Margaret’s directing, photography, and styling has been employed by the likes of VOGUE, L’Officiel, Harper’s BAZAAR, NYLON, Marie Claire, GRAZIA and ELLE internationally. She has been listed in Forbes Asia’s 30Under30 and TimeOut’s 40Under40, and her work has been recognized as shaping the international fashion industry by the Business of Fashion BoF500 Index for the past four consecutive years. She went on to be the first Asian face to cover ELLE Australia. In 2016, she co-founded BACKGROUND, a global consultancy for which she specialises in Western-to-Chinese and Chinese-to-Western cultural bridging for a range of luxury, lifestyle, and brand initiatives. In 2017, she exhibited a series of 39 unseen photographic works as a solo show in Sydney, and premiered her first short film – a 15-minute exploration of her visceral relationship with classical music on both performance and abstract planes – to critical acclaim.

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