A Different Take On Mainstream


 We are not apologizing for not having a post out last week. Instead we are ignoring it as if it never happened.
       So I’ve been wanting to make a post about Union Square for a while. It is such a quirky, off beat part of Manhattan, that for some reason seems to fade into the limelight of the big Times Square. I literally have come here about every single Sunday for the past two months. Religiously. However, I don’t usually have time to wander around the shops, and stare curiously at the Hari Krishna people banging drums in the middle of the square. I usually step right off the subway, and zoom straight for Starbucks across the street– where I will then spend the next five consecutive hours staring into my laptop. And occasionally getting hit on.
       However, because I have indeed been going there every single Sunday, religiously, for the past two months, I have managed to stumble upon some real gems tucked into the nooks and crannies of the place. I do have to say this though: one sec, let me switch to red– I do not claim to be an expert on Union Square. In fact, I have just disclosed that I am an anti social nerd who sits in Starbucks all day. Everything that I am about to show you are things that I stumbled upon accidentally, and on my own– without even trying. Therefore, think of this as more of an interactive guide, just the things I’ve stumbled upon while wandering Union Square. 
ALSO: because this post got too long, I plan on releasing a Part II where I will mention all of the quirky cafes I found around Union Square. But for now, enjoy the Everything Else. 

So Union Square, in essence, is one of those many squares that Manhattan seems to have instead of flowers, or trees. When you climb out of the subway station and into the light, you are greeted by a historic and artsy looking neighborhood that seems to brim with personality. Every building seems to have a history behind it, and combined with all the people and the street performers, the quaint shops and popup markets, Union Square is probably one of the most flavorful squares Manhattan has created– something that shouts that it wants something so much more than its provincial life. (10 Duchess points to whoever catches that reference).   

Starbucks– For one, and this is a big one for me– there is an excellent Starbucks right across the street from the subway station. Sometimes, working all day at home without seeing any daylight can get really depressing. Actually, it is always depressing. Thats why I personally love getting dressed Manhattan style, putting on some red lipstick, and simply working on my laptop among the company of other New Yorkers who had the same idea as I have. I should also mention that this Starbucks is geared towards the study freaks, the college students, and the artsy workaholics of Manhattan. There are tons of little nooks and work tables around the cafe, so it’s very study friendly. Embarrassingly enough, I have gone there enough times that I’ve started seeing the same people every single Sunday. At some point I’m going to have to introduce myself. 
Health Food Stores– So Brooklyn has one giant thing wrong with it. Actually, Brooklyn has many things wrong with it, but I’m not going to go into it now. The one giant thing that Brooklyn has wrong with it, is that it does not have a single Trader Joe’s in a normal area. I live in the Midwood area of Brooklyn, which is a huge suburban area filled with many families. But for some reason, Trader Joe’s has not had the sense to build a chain in Midwood. Pathetic. Which is why I usually go all the way to Union Square to do my heath food shopping. Because Union Square, unlike some other place we won’t mention, has a Trader Joe’s, a Whole Foods, and a Trader Joe’s Wine Shop all within two blocks of each other. Take that Brooklyn. 
Drugstores– So this is usually where I get my marijuana  shampoo. I’M KIDDING, I’M KIDDING. (*colleges please don’t un-accept me. Corny joke). Since I usually do the bulk of my dry goods shopping here, it is also quite convenient that there is a Walgreens, 2 CVS’s, and a Rite Aid placed in strategic places around Union Square. There are so many little crevices that you can disappear into, but no matter which direction you take, there will be a drugstore nearby. Which is uber useful, for both tourists and locals alike. I should also mention that there is an Apple store a few blocks down for the Square.Just in case you needed one. 

The Well Known Ones– So think of any well known, and not so well known– shops that you can come up with– Forever XII, H&M, Zara, True Religion, Doc Martens– Union Square has it. Trust me, it is a lot more fun to go shopping when the stores are spread out in a sprawling neighborhood, among beautiful people and architecture, than having to stuff yourself up in some decrepit, closed up mall, buying the same exact clothes from the same exact stores. Just saying. 
The Not So Well Known Ones– For one, there is a store, which I have not entered yet, called Chocolate By The Bald Man. One day I must, I must, enter. There is also a store, whose name I wasn’t able to catch, that only sells smoking paraphernalia. Hookah pipes, cigarettes, cigars, general pipes– this guy has it all. I just find this store hilarious because something like this would probably be deemed highly dangerous and illegal in LA. Not that I condone smoking in any way, as I do indeed find it extremely dangerous and addictive, but I still find it bothersomely ironic how LA can ban any and all suggestions of a cigarette, but allow marijuana to be so rampant, that on national Pot day, about 85% of my college mates came to school high. Trust me, I could tell. 
Nature Republic– So this is indeed an extreme gem that I found nestled between some random nondescript stores that I usually ignore. I first heard about Nature Republic from a Youtuber who deals specifically with Korean skincare/makeup products. The reason why I was reading up on Korean makeup products in the first place, is because I still plan on traveling to Seoul this summer, and one of the things I wanted to stock up on, was some of the excellent makeup and skin products Korea has to offer. Which is why I did a rather comical triple take when Nature Republic suddenly appeared before my eyes. Of course I had to go right in. At first I was apprehensive as I totally thought Nature Republic would hike up their prices, just ‘cuz they were in America. BUT THEY DIDN’T. Five dollar body butters and hand creams, ten dollar cc creams and coverups, TWO DOLLAR FACIAL TONING MASKS. Suffice to say, I was in heaven. It was also at that moment when I realized that Walgreens had lost my business. We were also helped by a lovely salesgirl named Tina, who was both friendly and truthful in her recommendations. My friend tried on some of their lipsticks, and Tina made sure to truthfully tell her whether the color suited her or not. So I’m just saying guys, if you ever find yourself in Nature Republic, go ask for Tina– she’ll really help you. 
       I should also mention, that they give you free samples with every purchase. Because I spent over $25, I got a free hand cream, as well as a chance to spin their wheel of fortune, where I won two packs of mineral infused facial wipes. Score, I say. 

Bookstores– Once again, right when you climb out of the subway station, across the street, standing formidably next to a Sephora, is a gigantic Barnes and Noble. It is three floors high, and reminds me very much of my B&N in the Grove, in LA. They also have a cafe on the third floor, as well as having a lot of author/celebrities events every month. 
       The famous Strand bookstore is also located around Union Square, but I have yet to visit it, so I don’t really know much about it– though it is definitely on my bucket list of places to visit. Lastly, there is a bookstand right across from the main subway station, near where the Hari Krishna usually like to settle themselves, that deals with various secondhand books. I also have yet to peruse this book stand, but if you dare me enough, I’ll probably do it. I may even buy a book. 
Popup Markets– You do not understand the feeling of climbing out of the underground into daylight, and emerging into a bustling surprise market selling who-knows-what. From August to September it was an organic food market. From November to December it was a twinkling Holiday market. Currently there are a few vendors that sell various paintings and art, but who knows what will be during the coming months? I am rightfully excited. 
Street Performers– from jugglers, to guitarists, to singers, to saxophonists– you will always catch some sort of musician or performer hanging around the main square. Just make sure to tip them a dollar when you pass by– it’s free music they hand you. 
And well– that is all.  I hope you enjoyed this meticulously researched Guide to Union Square, just as much as I enjoyed writing it. Stay tuned for a part II post on the quirky cafes I found in Union Square. 
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Cynical Duchess
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