I’m lucky enough to live in one of the world’s greatest cities. Yet most of the time, my daily grind keeps New York City’s most alluring attractions at arm’s length. Case in point: Until recently, after more than 12 years living here, I had never been on the Staten Island Ferry.
I’m not alone in this. Most of the New Yorkers I hang out with have never been to the Statue of Liberty. I know Parisians who haven’t been inside Notre-Dame Cathedral since they were schoolchildren, and more than one friend in SoCal has confessed that it’s been months since they’ve been to the beach.
Recently, I cleared my schedule to spend some quality time with my city. These are the five rules I lived by during my staycation this summer—I hope they inspire you to plan one, too.
1. Check out by checking in
When you stay at a hotel on your home turf, something magical happens. That stack of bills isn’t there to greet you when you walk through the door. The leaky faucet you’ve been meaning to fix seems worlds away. And no need to refill the ice tray—just call room service (and can I have an order of fries with that?). My room at the residential-style Langham Hotel on Fifth Avenue, with its views of the Empire State Building, gave me the mental space to sleep in late and pad around in a fluffy bathrobe in the middle of the day.
2. Power down
Try for as long as you can to keep your smartphone on silent. Even if it’s just a friendly call from a pal or a quick note from a coworker, your everyday routine is just a text message away from flooding back in.
3. Be touristy
Go ahead and do the obvious things locals wouldn’t be caught dead doing. During my holiday at home, I got into queues (Staten Island Ferry on a Saturday), paid too much for drinks (a $22 Moscow mule at Bemelman’s Bar), stopped in at Macy’s just to ride the old wooden escalators, and even took selfies in front of a Broadway marquee before my matinee show (The Book of Mormon—still so great). And I loved every minute of it, even when the ushers on Broadway mistook me for—gasp—an out-of-towner.
4. Don’t play host
Sure, you can let an out-of-towner come along with you on your staycation, but make sure the sites you see are the things that are on your list, too.
5. Go big
Pick a singular experience that only your town can offer, and then go do it. I can’t think of a better example of this in New York City than Eleven Madison Park, where Daniel Humm’s tasting menu unfolds in an art deco dining room and where the hospitality is on an equal footing with the amazing food.
A passing reference to the humble pickleback shot inspired our sommelier to surprise us with one later that evening. This small gesture turned the evening from memorable to unforgettable: I can now say that one of Manhattan’s finest restaurants served me pickleback shots. Only in New York.
>> Next: Check out the AFAR guide to New York City.