TLA Video has three functions: here you can watch a selection of movies, buy videos and DVDs, or buy books. The store has a gigantic selection that can put to shame most other video stores - but its real point of pride and specialization is gay and lesbian movies.
The store has two floors tightly packed with shelves full of movies. There is a huge collection of X-rated movies from all over the world (many of them very imaginative in their titles and positions), and it has a great selection of gay and lesbian dramas, documentaries, comedies and all sorts of other things.
The prices are very fair, especially considering that most of these movies are not available anywhere else.
PROS: Huge selection of gay and lesbian movies, great prices
Antique Boutique is one of those weird stores that probably exist only in New York: a second-hand store where used clothing sometimes costs more than brand new clothes cost anywhere else!
I guess the prices are somewhat justified, since some of the selections are amazing and unique. You never know what you'll find here, so if you have something specific in mind this is not the best place to go - but if you're up for a shopping adventure, you can come away with some amazing stuff. But you have to be prepared to spend a lot more than you'd expect to spend on second-hand clothing: I guess that's the difference between used and vintage...
PROS: Great selection, unique items, great atmosphere
CONS: Some of the items are quite expensive
Virgin Megastore has a great marketing engine behind it. It has a great location, right on the corner of Broadway - one of the most famous streets in New York, and Union Square - one of the largest public transportation hubs in the city. It's huge, well staffed with polite and knowledgeable employees, combines music, movies and books under the same roof, and has a gigantic selection that can put to shame any other store. But what good does all this do if the prices are ridiculous?
The bookstore part of the store is great - and in fact, that's the only section that I even use anymore. New books cost the same almost anywhere, and this place does have a superior selection. There's also a big magazine rack that offers many of the magazines that are hard to find in other bookstores.
But the music and movie sections of the store are completely overpriced. A CD that you can find in other places for around $15 will cost $18 here, or sometimes even more. The only time the store with its high prices seems tempting is when the CD is hard to find - but even then, 9 times out of 10 you can find it much cheaper on the internet. If you can't wait to get the thing in the mail, I guess going to Virgin is justified. But in all other cases, you'll be better off almost anywhere else.
PROS: Huge selection, has books, movies and music under the same roof
CONS: Music and movies are grossly overpriced
Urban Outfitters combines the charm of a St. Marks Place punk store with the prices and selection of a mid-sized chain. Located right between the cool Village, button-down office part of Midtown and the beginnings of the tourist areas of Manhattan, this great store offers something for everyone.
The clothes are great and unusual, with t-shirts bearing weird signs, coats that look like furry alien creatures and beautifully designed jewelry. There are also things for the home, or at least for a more eclectic home: bonsai growing kits, beaded curtains, oddly shaped lamps and picture frames. There are always some nostalgia pieces: lunch boxes with 50s TV show photos, pop art shirts.
The prices are surprisingly low, and the service is always friendly.
PROS: Great merchandise, low prices, great service
Trash and Vaudeville is located in the heart of New York's punk mecca, St. Mark's Place in the East Village. Since the heyday of punk, New York has changed a lot - but the East Village, and especially St. Mark's Place, remain a haven for the disaffected and weird looking. Not even the Gap on the corner has managed to change that... at least so far.
Trash and Vaudeville has a perfect punk atmosphere: it's small and somewhat cramped, but very cosy; great music is always playing on the speakers; the sales people are pierced, leather-clad and have hair of every shade of the rainbow. The merchandise doesn't disappoint: one part of the store is filled with t-shirts, dresses, gorgeous leather outfits and silver jewelry, while another part is taken up by angry-looking shoes and boots, including some that have devil horns, some that look like a mouth full of teeth, some with flames and some with British flags.
The stuff in the store is not cheap, but considering that you won't find most of these things in any other store, it's well worth it. I have bought some amazing boots there: they lasted me a very long time and were always a great topic of conversation.
PROS: Great unique merchandise, fun environment
CONS: A little pricey, but well worth it
The Barnes and Noble located on the north side of Union Square takes up several floors, and each floor has something fun to offer. The space is big and bright, and the shelves are spaced out and there's intermittent open parts with tables to keep from seeming claustrophobic.
Everywhere there are places where you can sit (even if it's on the floor, which is very clean and welcoming) and flip through the book before you buy it. There are couches here and there. There's also a Starbucks on the premises, and you can actually sit at a table and read there, but you will be asked to buy something.
Escalators carry customers up and down, and at the foot and the top of each stretch of elevator there is a sign telling you what you can find on each floor. If you still have trouble finding your way around, there are helpful workers everywhere and computer stations where they can check where to find a certain book. There are usually at least half a dozen registers open, so even if there's a line, it always moves very quickly.
The bookstore also hosts many speakers promoting their new book, such as Ralph Nader. The stage and podium is usually set up right on the floor of the bookstore, and the sound system is very nice and carries the speaker all over the big bookstore.
PROS: Bright, helpful staff, great selection, lines move quickly
It might just be me, but I have never been able to enjoy concerts at the Radio City Music Hall. One of the biggest tourist attractions of New York and a staple of family entertainment around Christmas, it has never managed to capture my heart.
The place is huge, overdecorated to ridiculous proportions and full of the sense of its own historical importance. Because of its size, the acoustics are not that great - which would have been ok for a smaller, more unassuming concert venue, but in this highly overpriced location it's unacceptable.
Speaking of the price, Radio City tickets cost way too much. There are separate tickets sold for tours of the historic premises, but it seems that they think that if you're going to see a concert there, you'll inevitably be seeing the premises, so you have to pay for both.
CONS: Overpriced, stuffy atmosphere, bad acoustics
Avery Fisher Hall is part of the famous Lincoln Center, and is one of several music theaters there. With its gilded walls, plush red seats, beautiful design and grand ceiling, the place can turn any music, dance or spoken word act into a magical experience.
This is one of the old places that were built with the acoustics in mind, so the sound there is absolutely perfect, on par with Carnegie Hall. Even without amplification, the sound carries through the specially designed space. The walls themselves work as amplifiers.
People who work there are always polite and interested, since most of them are volunteers who are working there out of love of music.
The place can be understandably pricey, being part of the upscale and expensive Lincoln Center. Prices usually hover in mid- to high range, depending on the act. I don't remember ever paying less than $30 to go there. They do, however, offer considerable special deals for seniors and students.
PROS: Discounts for seniours and students, perfect acoustics, great staff
The Actors Playhouse is located in the heart of the West Village, and has over the years been a hub of gay and lesbian theater, as well as unusual, experimental and just plain weird productions. It has hosted such shows as Naked Boys Singing, The Only Thing Worse You Could've Told Me (a one-man play from Dan Butler, known for his over-the-top straight sportscaster on Fraser) and Marijuana-Logues.
The theater is very small, with no more than 150 seats. It's built very comfortably, and though the seating doesn't have an incline, the stage is set high enough - and the place is small enough - that you can see everything from even the farthest row.
The acoustics are superb. I saw several one-man plays there, and those are always very taxing on the actor's throat. But because of the great acoustics of the place, the actors don't have to overextend their voices and can speak comfortably while still being heard everywhere in the audience.
The prices vary from cheap to mid-range depending on the stature of the show. Mostly, they hover in the $10 to $30 range, rarely going higher than that.
PROS: Small and cosy, great acoustics, cheap
Despite what some people think, tattoos can be beautiful art. And the most beautiful piece of tattoo art I've ever seen was created here, at Andromeda Tattoo, by a tattoo artist weirdly obsessed with squirrels.
This is considered one of the premier tattoo parlors of New York. It's very clean, but not stuffy - it retains the atmosphere of underground and rebellion even though you can probably eat off the floor there. The waiting room is filled with tattoo samples for people to choose, but you are always welcome to bring your own design.
The people who work there are friendly and fun, always joking around with customers, not taking themselves too seriously. Sometimes one of the artists who's free at the time ends up doing reception duties as well, but most of the time there is a very friendly and sweet receptionist.
The place is not cheap - far from it. But with art, just like with anything else, you get what you pay for. The artists here are worth the money.
PROS: Friendly and fun staff, world-class artists, clean environment
CONS: Pricey, but worth it