While top tourist destinations like the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Central Park and Soho all deserve a visit, there are a handful of somewhat lesser-known touristy destinations that even locals will be excited to take you to. On your first visit, it can be tempting to stick to Manhattan, but you’d certainly be missing a huge part of what makes NYC so special. For all of the newcomers visiting New York City, here’s a guide with all the must-visits in the city, with a focus on Manhattan and some pointers on some outer borough gems.
The Highline is a park built on a historic freight rail line. The original New York Central Railroad section opened to trains in 1934, and was converted to a park in 2006, after about 20+ years of disuse. The park runs above ground and still retains many of its original railroad components (such as train tracks), now transformed into a beautiful, above-ground garden. The best time to visit is in the summer, but it’s certainly worth a visit any time of the year. The Highline runs mostly along 10th Ave, between 34th and down to James Ave. Make a point to stop by Chelsea Market when you’re in the area.
For a local look into the city, sign up for an Urban Adventures tour. The small walking tours will help you to get a lay of the city, as well as insight on the best local digs. Even if you’re not normally the “tour type of person,” UA tours are worth signing up for — they are not your average tourist experience. One of my personal favorites is a cocktail tour that focuses on speakeasies and a history lesson on Prohibition in the East Village. If you’re interested in densely tourist-heavy spots like Grand Central and Times Square, the only way to see it is on a tour with UA (you’ll learn so much more about the history of the area, as well as how to navigate it). Read more about one of my experiences and why I believe Urban Adventures are one of the easiest ways to travel like a local.
Top of the Rock
For one of the most iconic views of New York City, be sure to visit Top of the Rock. The sweeping views of New York City are unparalleled. A lot of first-timers opt to go to the top of the Empire State Building, but I would recommend choosing Top of the Rock because you’ll have a breathtaking view of the Empire State Building. Buy your tickets in advance, and reserve a time for sunrise or sunset.
Pro-tip: If you want to avoid the $34 admission fee but still want an incredible view of the city, check out Bar SixtyFive at Rainbow Room (located on the 65th floor).
Shopping in Nolita
I know, I know. Everyone says to go shopping in Soho. But the truth is, a lot of the stores you’ll find there are actually chain stores — think along the lines of H&M, Madewell, Kate Spade, etc… Essentially, stores you could find anyone. For a more authentic look at the NYC fashion scene, hit up Nolita. Not only does the area have more charming, local gems, but the area itself is also an Instagrammer’s paradise. Some of my favorites spots to visit include Le Labo, Love, Adorned and for the book lovers, be sure to stop in McNally Jackson for a cup of coffee and to browse some books. Other great shopping spots include market/pop-up style locations, and for that, I love The Market NYC (Nolita), Artists & Fleas (Chelsea and Williamsburg locations) and Friends (Bushwick).
Central Park was designed by landscape architect pair Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vox. In contrast with the more experienced Vaux, Olmsted had never actually designed and executed a landscape design, and after its completion, the pair continued their informal partnership to bring Prospect Park to life. This progression is especially important because Olmstead was particularly vocal about the fact that he made mistakes with Central Park and corrected them in the design of Prospect Park. Central Park is certainly worth a visit, but I love Prospect Park because you can get completely lost in it.
It’s the last day of winter! As the season comes to a close, look back on winter memories in @Prospect_Park. Share your stories as part of “Our Streets, Our Stories: Prospect Park 150 Stories”, an oral history project by Prospect Park Alliance and the Brooklyn Library. Learn more through the link in our profile. #prospectpark #prospectpark150 #winter
For the most magical view of Manhattan, LIC Landing takes the cake in my books. A waterfront park, the area has space to enjoy the outdoors, as well as take in the breathtaking views over a cup of coffee or a drink. I recommend taking the East River ferry over from Manhattan for a dynamic public transportation experience. Local Expeditions has a great tour of the area, which I highly recommend if you want to learn a bit more about the history and culture of Long Island City.
Of course, a NYC trip wouldn’t be complete without a brunch experience, and for an authentic NYC experience, I recommend making it a boozy one. When I first moved to NYC, I was astonished at how seriously New Yorkers took their brunch — it is certainly a right of passage. There are countless bottomless brunches in NYC, but some of my favorites include Miss Lily’s (Soho), Boqueria (Soho), Agave (West Village), Blind Pig (East Village — be prepared that it’s a sports bar), Anejo (Tribeca), Poco (East Village). Double check their brunch specials before heading to these spots; many specials are only during certain days/hours. Some of my favorite brunch spots in my home turf (Williamsburg) are: Five Leaves, Brooklyn Star, Jimmy’s Diner, House of Small Wonder and Egg.
Find out what’s going on:
Where to Stay:
To find the best place to stay in NYC, check out this blog post that I wrote on AllTheRooms: How to find the best place to stay in NYC.
New Yorkers often get a bad rep for being rude — but the truth is, most of us are infatuated with our city and are so excited to share it with newcomers. With that in mind, there are a handful of tips that will help keep you on the good side of New Yorkers 🙂
- We are not rude; but we are busy. If we’re walking fast, or don’t have time to stop and give directions, it’s because we have to be somewhere. It’s not you.
- Walk on the right side of the sidewalk. Just like you would drive a car, stay to the right. This will help keep the flow of people moving, and busy New Yorkers won’t have to weave in and out.
- Don’t stop in the middle of the sidewalk to take a photo. We know our city is beautiful, but it can be difficult when someone stops right in front of us to take a photo. Take a quick glance behind you, and then move to the side of the sidewalk.
- Follow basic subway etiquette. Please take off your backpack when you’re on the train, don’t wrap your arms around the pole so no one else can use it, and this may come as a surprise, but please don’t eat on the subway.
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