New York City: A Local’s Guide

It seems like everyone knows what to do in New York City.  When I lived in Brooklyn most of my guests came with lists of ideals.  Times Square, Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty were all popular choices.  These places are epic in their own way and definitely worth a visit once.  But they aren’t actually New York because these places aren’t where New Yorker’s actually are (and isn’t it the people that make the place?).  So, what are New Yorker’s doing in New York, the best city on earth?

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Times Square:  known for its billboards, remembered for its crowds!

Besides the normal life stuff like commuting and working and eating, New Yorkers have lot to do!  I loved living in New York, not just visiting it.  So, I’ve compiled a list of life worthy things to do in New York.  If you’d like to really experience the place or if you’re getting tired of hanging out with tourists, here are some ideas to get you started, ranked from most to least touristy.

1. Broadway Shows

Everyone knows that a Broadway is a must do.  New Yorkers know that many shows have day-of rush tickets and lotteries.  I have yet to pay full price for a ticket.  Also, in my opinion, Disney productions are the best as they are family friendly, well done, and well-rounded (everyone can sing, dance, and act).  Some shows I’ve seen have erred on one of those parts (too much singing, not enough dancing, etc).  Also, if you like percussion and physical comedy, I’d recommend the Off-Broadway production of STOMP.  I’ve never laughed so much at music before.

2. Museums

New York has hundreds over 80 museums.  Between natural history, local history, art, transportation, and more, everyone’s interests are well represented I think.  Here I’m just going to mention the ones you might not see on the first page of google search but are still worth a visit in my opinion.  Also, word to the wise, museums often have ‘pay as you wish’ days or free entry during certain hours.  This is definitely worth checking out if your schedule has any flexibility.

The Frick Collection

I’m a big fan of art museums so I need at least one on this list.  The Frick Collection is one man’s personal art collection, in his early 1900s home.  It’s art as it should be, surrounded by books and shelves and life.

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All that art and I only took a picture of the indoor fountain.  Lame, I know.

New York Transit Museum

Located in Brooklyn the New York Transit Museum chronicles the history of New York through the lens of public transportation.  Interesting and family friendly.

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Of course, the cleanest trains in New York are in museums.

African Burial Ground National Monument

Located in lower Manhattan this is a free monument and museum on the grounds of an uncovered African burial site, utilized back when New York was built by slaves and lower Manhattan was considered outside the city.

Federal Hall National Monument

Another free monument and museum in lower Manhattan, this one commemorates President Washington and the founding fathers.  Cool parts of this locale:  1. Washington was sworn into office on these steps and 2. you can see a crack in a marble door frame caused by the impact of the fall of the World Trade Centers.

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View of Wall Street from Federal Hall.

3. River Front Spots

New York is a series of islands, which means that nearly every angle of the skyline is contrasted with water.  My personal favorite views are from Brooklyn.  I always recommend DUMBO (the area under the Brooklyn Bridge) because it’s easily accessible from the Bridge or by train and is home to excellent pizza, homemade ice cream shops, and beautiful views.  It also has a little park and waterfront walking paths that make it extra nice.

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Manhattan, from DUMBO

The view from Long Island City, Queens is also very pretty and has some great food spots as well.  Also, Long Island City is a great place to watch Manhattan-hedge.  Manhattan-hedge is when the sunset lines up with the city streets of Manhattan and only occurs twice a year (in the summer).

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Manhattan-hedge from Long Island City.

4. Chelsea Market

Like many cities, New York offers a city market, Chelsea Market, with rows of small, boutique shops and food vendors.  I’m afraid that it’s grown to be quiet popular and crowded, but I keep going back because it’s cute and I like the bookstore and the gelato there and it’s right by the High Line.

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City views from the High Line.

5. The High Line

Also getting obnoxiously full of pedestrians, the High Line is a lofted park that runs along the west side on a reformed train track.  Beautiful concept, beautiful views, getting more crowded every day.

6. The Strand

I’m afraid this bookstore is also getting a bit too popular, but with “18 miles of books” all stacked into 4 floors, it’s a gem.  I say too popular because everyone knows about it, not because it feels very touristy, just to clarify.  My favorite part?  Take the elevator, not the stairs, to the top floor.  It’s all collectibles and first/early editions!

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Looking into the basement of The Strand.

7. Roosevelt Island Tram– with cupcakes

This is one of my favorite things but I never heard about it until I had been living there for some time.  The Roosevelt Island Tram is a tram that connects the upper east side to Roosevelt Island.  It’s the cost of one metrocard swipe each way but there is also a subway station on Roosevelt Island so I usually take the tram there and ride the train home.

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Squinty nighttime views from Roosevelt Island.

For some added fun, there is a Sprinkles cupcake ATM (yes, you read that right) near the tram on the upper east side.  It’s fun to select a decadent cupcake and eat it at the park by the tram or the riverfront on Roosevelt Island.

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Sprinkles cupcakes from the ATM are worth a photo I think.

8. The Beach

In case you forgot, New York City is made up of islands.  If you are looking for a beach day or a break from the norm, Coney Island in Brooklyn and Rockaway Park in Queens are both recommendable options.  Coney Island has a boardwalk and food and rides.  Rockaway is more like a small beach town (probably because it’s farther out from ‘the city’).  Either way, a beach day is a nice break from the city if you’ve had a bit too much of all the walking and craning your head up to see the sky.

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Rockaway Beach on an Easter sunrise morning.

9. Free Outdoor Movies

In the summer many, many parks and public places offer free outdoor movies.  Take a lawn chair and have some fun!

10. New York City Philharmonic Concerts in the Park

Another summer event worth checking out is the New York City Philharmonic.  The Philharmonic Orchestra offers free concerts for a week, with outdoor concerts in a park in each borough of New York.  If you happen to be around when it’s going on, pack a dinner and a blanket.  It’s a relaxing, out-of-the-ordinary fun.  Sadly, I don’t have any decent pictures of my experiences with this, so you will have to imagine it I guess.

Bonus: Just Walking

Usually when I got out for dinner in New York, even now, there is an understanding that we will end our evening with a walk.  Now, it might just be a walk to the train.  But, if you are chatting away, it might be a walk down the entire length of Manhattan on the West Side Greenway.  Other areas I enjoy walking also include strolls through the Village, Washington Square Park, and Central Park. (Parks are good places to find benches to rest and enjoy quality street-side performances).

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Washington Square Park is in the Village, a win-win!

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Central Park on a fall day.

 

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