New York has enough tourist destinations to keep you busy for weeks. Ignore them. Here is my ultimate guide to seeing New York like a New Yorker.
I live in New York. You’ve been, you say? But have you? If you spent the majority of your time on a double decker bus, at the top of the Empire State Building, being shuttled over to the Statue of Liberty, checking out the caricature artists in Central Park, shopping on 5th Ave, getting lost in The Met, or snapping photos in Times Square then you spent 99% of your time where I spend 1% of mine (as most other New Yorkers). Those are all great places and probably should be on the list for any first time New York visit, but if that is where you spent most of your time then you haven’t seen New York through the eyes of a New Yorker, so for me, you haven’t been to New York. Not to fear though! On your next visit you’ll be prepared. Here are my 10 tips to experience NYC like a local:
Stay In An Apartment
Nothing ruins an afternoon of rubbing elbows with the locals like fighting the crowds to get back to your hotel in Times Square. Get on airbnb or homeaway and find yourself a pad worthy of your local weekend. You can stay in a great neighborhood where there usually aren’t any hotels. You can even look for a place that has some nice NYC touches like a loft with soaring ceilings or exposed brick. Best of all, you’re staying in someone’s home. You’ll have a kitchen where you can make coffee in the morning or cook dinner at night. Most hosts leave a list of their favorite cafe’s, restaurants, and bars in the neighborhood. Can’t get more local than that. Here’s the catch, the neighborhood you choose can completely change your experience. I’d recommended staying in Brooklyn. It has a much more local feel and if you follow the rest of my suggestions you’ll be spending a lot of time there. It’s also quick and easy to get in and out of Manhattan on the subway. See the next topic for some Brooklyn neighborhood suggestions. If you have heart set on Manhattan stay in the East Village or West Village.
Spend At Least Half Your Time In Brooklyn
Brooklyn, by far, has a larger population than Manhattan. So it’s got more New Yorkers! Manhattan might be busier and may even technically have more people walking around at any given moment, but most of them have commuted in or are the other millions of tourists that you are trying to avoid. Check back for a full Brooklyn post, but for now here are some neighborhoods where you can’t go wrong: Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Williamsburg, Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Prospect Heights.
Spend An Afternoon In Prospect Park
While we’re talking about Brooklyn, go to Prospect Park. It’s Central Park’s little brother. Designed by Olmsted and Vaux (same as Central Park) but, you guessed it, its more local! When I see a tourist wondering around Prospect Park I’m very proud of them for breaking away from the fold. We are there literally every weekend. It’s where we bring the dog to stretch it’s legs or break out the frisbee. You’ll see some signature Olmsted and Vaux, but Prospect Park is a little more
natural rough. Do it NYer style and bring a bottle of wine or 2 and risk the ticket (50 bucks if a cranky cop spots you, small price to pay). If you can go on a Saturday you can catch one of the biggest farmers markets in the city at Grand Army Plaza. Or on Sunday there is a food truck rally in the same place.
New York’s dining scene can frankly be a little overwhelming. New York has some of the best restaurants in the world. And there’s nothing wrong with going through them. Every once in a while we do. But on any given night, rather than be in a jacket at a restaurant we had to book weeks in advance, we’re a few blocks down at our local neighborhood favorites. You most likely have more than one day and while dinner at one of New York’s finest is a great idea, the rest of the time seek out some of the cities best neighborhood restaurants. You’ll probably be the only non-local in many of them. Here’s some of my favorite’s in Manhattan and Brooklyn: Rucola, Root & Bone, Prime Meats, Fort Defiance, The Little Owl, Emily, Bar Tabac, Rye, Westville, Rosemary’s.
Go On A Coffee Crawl
This is one of my favorite ways to experience a city. Find the best coffee shops then sit and sip the day away. As you navigate around the city you will go though neighborhoods you might otherwise not see, find shops where you can buy more interesting things, and find nooks and crannies of the city no tourist destination would show you. This will be a post if it’s own at some point so for now I just give you a list:
Stumptown, Ninth Street Espresso, Blue Bottle, Devocion, La Colombe, Birch Coffee, Everman Espresso, Anchor Coffee, Bedford Hill
Go To A Speakeasy
Honestly for us New Yorkers it’s a bit outdone but the good ones are still tough to find for the tourists. When you have to know where it is and how to get in you’re obviously in a place where there’s lots of locals. Little Branch, Please Don’t Tell (book weeks in advance), Attaboy, The Back Room, Featherweight, Apotheke, Dear Irving, Blind Barber.
Get To The Rooftop
When the weather is hot and the streets are packed many New Yorkers head for the roof. You can drink, eat, watch a movie, go to a fitness class, or watch a live band. Going to a rooftop location is probably on many visitors to-do list, but finding the right one that is not touristy is the trick! Check out: Gallow Green, Pod 39, Press Lounge, Rooftop Cinema Club, Yo Yoga, Subway Sets at Brooklyn Grange.
Clear your afternoon (and possibly evening) plans and settle in for unlimited drinks for brunch. If you know where to look there are several restaurants that do a prix fixe brunch with unlimited bloody Mary’s or mimosas. Check these out: Poco, Randolph, Agave, Calle Ocho, Union Bar & Kitchen, Pardon My French, Yerba Buena.
Go Off Broadway
Nothing screams tourist more than the people standing in line at tkts. Skip it. There are several theater experiences you can have that are much more unique, easier to get into, and a fraction of the cost. Check out: Sleep No More, Queen of the Night, Drunk Shakespeare, Avenue Q.
Get Out Of The City
We live in the best city in the entire world. Any city that dare suggest they might rival is flat out wrong, but there is nothing more than a NYer wants than to get the hell out of here sometimes. While the tourists are busy taking photo’s with Miney Mouse in Times Square, join us: Storm King, Stone Barnes, Long Island.
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