Spring has finally hit New York and with the weather being so nice, I decided to take a stroll in Manhattan. I wanted to check out what the city was like in its current state compared to what it was like just a few months ago towards the end of 2020. With the current rollout of vaccines in the US, it was interesting to see how the rate of vaccination impacted re-openings and this return to normalcy. On this walk I went from the Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle to Central Park followed by Times Square. The walk was around 1 mile (roughly 1.6 kilometers), and since I stopped along the way, it took about 30 minutes in total.
Are things open?
Generally speaking, things are quite open. A lot of restaurants around the Time Warner Center were open along with all the coffee shops and boutique restaurants along my walk. The Time Warner Center itself was completely open, and would probably make for a good bathroom break place for tourists. Inside the centre there were shops ranging from H&M for clothing to Whole Foods for groceries. It was quite packed and I felt like there were just as many people inside as pre-pandemic times. I enjoyed the Botero sculptures on the ground floor; he's one of my favorite artists who created famous works such as his own interpretation of Mona Lisa.
Central Park was also very much so open with people flocked all along the grass. Many people were enjoying picnics with family members and friends. A lot of other people were in the park for strolling, cycling and jogging - even the horse carriage rides are back. While I've never been on such rides nor have any interest in them, it's probably useful for people to know that they cost around $60 USD for 20 minutes (not including tips).
It was so nice to just enjoy the outdoors. I imagine if I were a tourist, a nice walk in Central Park would be great for summer 2021.
What is closed in NYC?
Even though a lot of things were open, I couldn't help but notice that some things were still closed along my walk. Most noticeably, Broadway theaters were still firmly closed. I think that this might change in May 2021 based on news reports I've read and local resident predictions, but given the current situation, nothing is set in stone. I feel like Broadway shows are definitely one of the biggest draws for tourists in New York City and I do feel like the reopening of Broadway theaters will be a very good indicator of New York's overall recovery.
In addition to Broadway theaters, it appears that some businesses in the city have closed permanently. Some that have permanently closed include Bann, Bar Bacon, Bea, Cakes N’ Shapes, Esca, Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop, Lansdowne Road, Taladwat and Ninth Avenue Saloon according to The Infatuation's NYC Restaurant Closings article as of March 31, 2021.
For night owls, something that NYC will noticeably be lacking (at least at the moment) is nightlife. Many nightclubs remain closed although some lounges and bars are cautiously reopening such as Sky Room in Times Square. Most Meetup groups are completely virtual so making new connections in the city without a pre-existing network will be a lot harder for some visitors. Luckily, locals are pretty open to engaging with tourists contrary to some New Yorker stereotypes that lurk around.
While I haven't used the application in a while, Couchsurfing likely has a lot of locals who are more than willing to be free guides.
What to know before visiting NYC in summer 2021
Precautions are in place and I would say that most of the general public is masked up. Ordering food in restaurants usually comes with a great experience because many businesses are trying to keep their customers and their safety as their number one priority. For attractions, a lot of classic tourist spots are outdoors including the viewing deck of famous buildings such as the Empire State and Rockefeller Center, and social distancing is maintained pretty well by the public.
Generally speaking, the city is definitely making a big comeback. There are plenty of activities that can still be done without any issues concerning closures and restrictions. A lot of sightseeing can be done ranging from Central Park all the way to The High Line (an elevated outdoor walkway that used to be part of the New York Central Railroad). Even though some places might be closed such as Broadway theatres, there are enough things open that are worth visiting. As summer approaches, I think it's going to be important for tourists to take advantage of seeing things in New York City while there are still less people around because at some point, I have faith that the city will return to its original state.