With its bright lights and incredible skyline, New York is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The city is rich with diversity and culture, and appeals to visitors of all interests. But with the sheer volume of visitors and the abundance of choice, it can be hard to sort the genuine experiences from the artificial tourist traps. To avoid costly and inauthentic mistakes, we’ve put together some of the local favorites of the city, so you can enjoy life like a true New Yorker during your visit.
New York’s vibrant cultural scene, including its countless museums and galleries are major attractions to the city. There are a number of classic museums that are renowned worldwide and should be on any traveller’s to do list – the Metropolitan Museum of Art with its iconic steps on the Upper East Side, the Museum of Modern Art in Midtown, the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side, or the Guggenheim. While these hallways will be packed on any day, they
are classics for a reason, and are frequented by locals and visitors alike. The permanent exhibitions will allow you to explore the most timeless pieces all year round, but there are also always plenty of temporary galleries and special exhibitions which breathe fresh life and showcase new and interesting artists and artifacts, ensuring that visitors keep coming back.
But to experience New York lesser-known museum culture, make sure to visit some of the specialty museums which have a more local focus. Whatever your interest may be, and however niche, you’re likely to find some interesting places to visit. For example, the New York Transit Museum, the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, The Cloisters, and the Tenement Museum all give fascinating insight into the city’s rich historical and cultural past, and should not be overshadowed by the glamour of their more famous rivals.
Given that New York is such a concrete jungle, and that people are always rushing in the hustle and bustle of the city, it’s no surprise that New Yorkers love and value their green spaces. Nothing could
be more New York than spending an afternoon in one of the city’s parks, whether to picnic, enjoy a coffee, read, or just people watch. Of course, the massive green oasis that is Central Park is an obvious and excellent choice, and offers so much to see that even most locals cannot claim to know it inside out. To enjoy a truly New York lunch, grab a sandwich at a nearby deli, lay out a blanket on the grass, stretch your legs, and relax. Or if you’re looking for some exercise, explore the park by bike, or go for a row in a boat. Besides Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park and Bryant Park are also great to enjoy the fresh air and
escape the stress of the city. At Brooklyn Bridge enjoy the waterfront and riverside promenades with gorgeous Manhattan views, and at Bryant Park bask in the lush seasonal gardens and friendly buzz of
There’s no city that does entertainment quite like New York. As you’ll see on the billboards and posters all over the city, there is a frankly daunting amount to choose from so it can sometimes be tricky to sort the authentic shows and venues from the tourist traps.
New York is one of the best cities in the world to catch some live music, especially jazz, and New Yorkers gladly take advantage of this. While the big name jazz clubs are world-renowned, these can be busier, pricier, and harder to get into. But as any local will tell you, there are plenty of more hidden, intimate and equally lively venues. Locals love some of the no-frills venues with good music and fair prices like Smalls in Greenwich Village, Bill’s Place, Paris Blues or Minton’s Playhouse in
Harlem. Don’t be fooled by their small and unassuming settings, the tunes and the atmosphere will take you places. But, if you can, we still recommend seeing the iconic clubs like Birdland or Blue Note
for their long-established histories and cult followings.
And like with jazz clubs, comedy clubs are a staple of New York entertainment. Stand up performance and other acts play at nights throughout the week, and at venues throughout the city.
What makes New York clubs even more special is that A-list comedians frequently stop by at odd venues to test out their new jokes, so you never know what star might be making an appearance at
your show. The Comedy Cellar is among the most famous and most frequented by stars, but can be tricky to get a seat in the small venue. Still, other locations like Gotham, The Comic Strip Live, and
Caroline’s Comedy Club are great alternatives and are guaranteed to bring the laughs.
New York is also home to a number of different professional sports teams, and loyalties and support run in the blood of every New Yorker. Whether you’re into basketball, baseball, football, or hockey, catching a game at an arena like Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, or Madison Square Garden is a rite of passage for all New Yorkers, and a must-do for visitors who want to experience the stadium atmosphere in New York. Be sure to see who’s playing in advance of your trip and book your tickets early to avoid outrageous prices! And of course, we couldn’t fail to include New York’s most famous theatre and musical destination –
Broadway. This landmark boulevard is packed with famous theatres showcasing the top musicals of the season and exciting plays. It may be filled with tourists at times, but New Yorkers are still keen to
indulge in a night at the theatre and catch the latest buzzworthy show. Besides the long-running favorites like the Lion King, Wicked, or the Book of Mormon, be sure to give some of the newer and
less talked-about shows a chance – you never know what the next Hamilton will be!
You don’t have to spend long in NYC to notice that New York is absolutely packed with hip and delicious coffee shops. In a city that’s awake all night, it makes sense that New Yorkers insist on a
well-brewed cup. If you want to experience authentic New York coffee culture on your trip, you’re going to have to ditch Starbucks, and instead head to some of the independent and artisanal coffee
spots across the city. For a truly intense pour-over try Abraco in the East Village, or to enjoy a coffee in a signature yellow mug surrounded by airy tropical plants go to Devocion. La Colombe and Blue
Bottle, while still chains, serve exquisite specialty roasts, intriguing nitro and cold brew blends, as well as perfectly-executed classic lattes and flat whites at locations across the city.
When it comes to the food, New York’s vibrance and diversity has a profound influence on the dining scene. A great place to sample a wide array of New York’s food and drink is at Smorgasburg, an extremely popular outdoor food market and the largest of its kind in the US. The market hosts vendors of all kinds of delights every weekend from April to November at multiple Brooklyn locations. With so much choice, you’re likely to have multiple dinners. Similarly, check out Eataly, a vibrant Italian marketplace with refined Italian cafes and restaurants serving authentic Italian pastas and plates. Busy New Yorkers on the go also love the quick, casual, and delicious plates offered by classic New
York food trucks, carts and stands. A mouth-watering option that has locals lining up at lunch is the Halal Guys food truck, which serves up cheap and fragrant Middle Eastern plates. For a grab and go
breakfast, you can’t miss out on a classic New York bagel covered in cream cheese, whether from a bakery, a deli, or a street stand. If you have the time too seek out the best bagel, we love Brooklyn Bagel or Ess-a-Bagel hand-rolled and baked fresh every day with top ratings from the locals. And like bagels, you can’t leave the city without sampling a slice or two of the famous New York pizza. With so many hot and cheesy slices being served everywhere, it’s hard to distinguish what’s the best – the truth is, it’s good most places where it’s fresh. For a funky slice try the artichoke pizza made famous at Artichoke Basille’s. Joe’s Pizza is another tasty option, and is as popular with locals as with tourists for an authentic New York slice.
New York is also home to some very famous spots for a sweet tooth, with café’s and bakeries that have gained a fan following across the world for their delectable and different treats. Milk Bar by
award-winning chef Christina Tosi is a perfect example, serving up its unique signature desserts like Milk Bar pie, creamy cereal milk soft-serve, and classic and colorful birthday cake. For cookie-lovers,
Levain Bakery took social media and visitors by storm, with their gooey and chunky cookies the size of your face, which people line up for hours to taste. And or those who cannot resist an old-
fashioned pudding, Magnolia Bakery is a must, with its infamous banana pudding as well as cakes and cupcakes.
Where to shop in NYC depends hugely on what you’re looking for. As you would expect every major casual retailer you can name is to be found in the city, particularly around the 5th Avenue Shopping
District which is the heart of Manhattan retail. But as you’ll notice New Yorkers have a very unique and sometimes edgy sense of style, which requires some shopping outside the usual places. One way
locals achieve this look is by thrift shopping. An attentive and stylish New Yorker can put together a whole outfit from thrift havens like Goodwill or Salvation Army, or to make life easier at one of many
curated thrift shops like AuH20, L Train Vintage, or Housing Works SoHo. For standout pieces, locals also love the boutique stores in Nolita and Soho for trendy pieces you can’t find just anywhere.