By Shin Park
A city bedazzled with Broadway’s neon lights and Time Square’s vibrant billboards, New York City is a major hotspot for adventurous tourists from all over the world. The stream of boutiques, cafes, and bookstores seem endless as you cross from one street to the next, and you cannot help but stop in front of every store and admire each one’s masterful construction. Turn the corner and there are stands at almost every curb, selling everything from a bottle of water to a CD collection of timeless Broadway hits. On my way to Central Park, a historical landmark beloved by many New York dwellers, I made pit-stops to places tucked away in the nooks and crannies of our city and found the beauty of New York hidden in places many of us would never expect.
After I was dropped off at Penn Station, the first location in my mind was a whimsical ice cream store in Little Italy called Taiyaki NYC.When you arrive, the first thing you notice about the store is the Asian-style wooden exterior, as well as the Japanese illustrations on the windows which bring a pop of Asian culture that contrasts to the style of the many American restaurants nearby. The inside of the store is quaint, barely able to contain the large masses of customers they receive each day; lines can be so long that they sometimes lead out the door. However, it is worth the wait when you order the main dessert, taiyaki, a Japanese fish-shaped pastry. The twist here is that the fish serves as the cone that holds ice cream—an inventive and culturally stimulating approach to ice cream consumption. Each flavor of their soft-serve ice cream, from matcha to taro to their signature “unicorn flavor,” topped on a taiyaki pastry is priced at $8. Let us not forget about the ice cream’s vibrancy and aesthetic, which adds points for the treat’s “Instagramability.” The ice cream tastes simple enough, but a bite into the taiyaki brings on a new and different taste that is unique to the American palette. A simple blending of the red bean to the pastry bread is enchanting, and suddenly the initially intimidating ice cream seems to have gone too quickly. The store’s slogan is “There is a new fish in town”; let us hope they stay here for a long time.
As you swing around the corner of the Little Italy Church, you will arrive at a block dedicated to selling goods made by young and ambitious artists. The sidewalk street fair is filled with young artists next to their stalls selling clothes, photographs, jewelry, and artwork: One table displays necklaces and bracelets made with big and bold pearls, and another lays out hand-drawn, framed comics of pigeons overlooking the city skyline. The large variety of items available for sale makes the search more interesting; close and personal questions with the vendors can help one appreciate the amount of time and effort spent during the production of even the smallest of items. Though prices can vary depending on the artist, it is important to keep in mind that everything you see on the tables in the street fair around the Little Italy Church were handcrafted and produced after countless hours of labor with the goal of making the best quality products for their visitors. When a customer decides to purchase an item, it is wrapped with love and care, encased delicately in paper, and placed gently into a colorful plastic bag with the artist’s business card.
Situated in the heart of the city and a B-train ride away from Grand Central Terminal, Central Park has been known as New York City’s national sightseeing landmark since 1962. Near the many entrances of the park, food stands from the outside sell New York’s iconic hot dogs, pretzels, and ice cream, which do an exceptionally good job of alluring children. Giant skyscrapers tower over the park, juxtaposing the serene environment of the park to the bustling city scene. Families with children bond near the ponds of the park, feeding the fish or sailing their little toy boats. Lovers come on picnic dates here, laying down on the grass and eating the sandwiches they packed beforehand. In warmer weather, children’s laughter fills the air alongside the chirping of the birds and buzzing of the bees. Being on the brink of spring, flowers and greenery are only beginning to sprout, but once the park is littered in pinks and green, it will awake from its long sleep and bring life back to the city of New York.