Locals Guide to NYC: How to Visit NYC Like a Local
Last Updated on March 7, 2022 by Dana Berez
Locals Guide to NYC
Whenever I travel someplace new, I always want to get a sense of how the locals really live. Do New Yorkers really visit the Empire State Building on the weekend? The collective answer would be no. Here is a full locals guide to NYC.
New Yorkers are probably not even on 34th Street during the weekend unless they HAVE to go shopping.
So if you’re looking to tour NYC with a local’s perspective in mind, this will be your ultimate local’s guide to NYC.
Things to do in NYC:
Museums | New Yorkers love the classic museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the MoMa, but NYC has over 80 museums in all 5 boroughs that span all kinds of interests. So if you’re looking for something different, these are my personal favorite:
- Museum of Ice Cream: yes this exists! Sample Ice cream and walk through immersive rooms!
- My ultimate favorite museum in NYC is the Tenement Museum. Did I say favorite? I have visited this museum over 5 times and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to see what life was like in the Lower East Side in the late 1800s to early 1900s. During your tour, you get to visit the restored apartments of the families who used to live in this exact building. It’s so informative and wonderful, I’d say it’s a must-do!
- The Museum of the City of NY is a perfect museum for anyone who loves the history of New York!
- The FIT Museum is a specialized fashion museum located in the Fashion Institute of Technology. As an Alum, I’m a bit biased, but there is an amazing collection, and entrance admittance is free!
- If Al Capone and organized crime spark your interest, check out the Gangster Museum which includes a tour of a historic speakeasy in the East Village.
Staten Island Ferry | If you want close views of the Statue of Liberty and the harbor without buying tickets, hop on the Staten Island Ferry for free. When entering take a seat on the right side for unobstructed views.
Catch a Live Show | New York is famous for it’s Broadway Plays, but check out off-broadway or even other theaters around the city.
Public Theater, a popular theater in the East Village is known for being artist-driven and radially inclusive’. In fact, Hamilton got its start there, so it’s worth checking out what’s playing!
Live Music | Jazz, and dinner is so romantic and fun with friends!
I’ve been to Antique Garage in Soho that had live jazz and had a blast. The interior was so neat and since it was summer, the windows were open and you felt transformed into another place.
But if you want a list of more places that offer live music check out this Eater guide.
Catch a Game | Football, Baseball, Basketball, Hockey, you name it- NYC is home to many different professional sports teams.
So whether you’re a Yankee’s or a Met’s fan, or rooting for the rival team, rep your colors and let the games begin.
People Watch | When you find yourself with nothing to do in NYC (a rare thing) people-watching is the best entertainment NYC has to offer, and it’s free.
Take a seat in Washington Square Park and you’ll have stories for days.
Boutiques | Check out the side streets in Nolita or Soho away from Broadway. You will find unique shops that you wouldn’t find in your local mall. I found Sezane, a french boutique with the most adorable spring set up!
Another boutique shopping street is on 9th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue. You’ll find clothing and jewelry shops like Verameat, Elliot Mann, and Cloak and Dagger.
Thrift Shop in East Village | There are so many places to thrift in NYC including Goodwill, Salvation Army & Beacons Closet, but you’ll find many curated stores in the East Village.
Some shops include Buffalo Exchange, L Train Vintage, AuH2O, Cure Thrift Shop, and Housing Works in SoHo.
Consignment Shop | When in NYC, your chances of finding luxury second-hand goods are extremely high!
They have specialized shops that only sell luxury consignments like the Real Real, a Second Chance, and Eleven Consignment boutique.
Union Square Greenmarket | The Union Square Market is a favorite drawing in all the locals. This outdoor market primarily sells fresh fruits and vegetables, homemade jams and bread, flowers, and produce.
If you’re in the area, it is worth checking out. *Note closed on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday.
Picnic | Bring a blanket, some food, and drink, and you’re ready for a picnic in NYC! It is a great way to spend an afternoon relaxing and catching in some sun amongst the hustle of NYC.
The best locations are in central park and my personal favorite the Christopher Street Pier on the West Side Highway.
Rockaway Beach | If you have a free full day in NYC, I suggest having a beach day in the Rockaways! Thanks to a new ferry service, you can get there within an hour from Manhattan letting you relax in the sun all day!
There aren’t a lot of food options in the Rockaways so come prepared with your own snacks and water.
Long Walks | Sometimes having no plan is the best plan. You can aimlessly walk around NYC and never get bored. You’ll probably stumble upon a new restaurant or even a festival you had no idea was going on.
This is probably my favorite reason for living in NYC, how each neighborhood has its own vibe! Some of my favorite aimless walks include:
- Highline Park
- Walking over the Williamsburg, or Brooklyn Bridge
- Check out the art galleries in West Chelsea on 24th Street
- Battery Park Promenade and the Yacht Club
- Anywhere in the West Village staring at gorgeous townhomes
- Anywhere in Soho admiring the lofts
Biking | Biking is my favorite way to get around the city. You’re not confined to an underground smelly subway car and you’ll get some exercise while at it.
If you don’t want to navigate the streets in NYC, I would practice on the West Side Highway or Central Park where there are only bike lanes. After a while, you’ll get the hang of it!
Local Tip: use CitiBike. For guests, you can rent a daily pass for $12 which you can use throughout the entire city. The only downside is once you take a bike out of the station, you have 30 minutes to dock it into another station.
I would download the app to see where and what stations are open.
Subway | Although not the most glamorous way of transportation, the Subway is the most efficient way to get from point A to B, especially during rush hour when traffic is insane.
However, the Subway during rush hour will be the most horrific NYC experience, especially when there are train delays.
Usually, the Subway runs just fine, but there are some days, especially on the weekends where it would have been better just to walk.
Taxi & Car Apps | I personally don’t use taxis that often just because if I am going somewhere far, you bet I would be on the Subway.
I’d say most New Yorkers prioritize the subway over a cab or car service, just because they aren’t cheap and you’ll be broke before you know it.
Locals Guide for Food & Drink
Related: 10 Things You Have to Eat in NYC
A coffee shop is a perfect place to catch up with friends or enjoy a delicious cup of joe! There are so many unique artisan coffee shops that you shouldn’t dare step inside a Starbucks.
In fact, if you walk around my block in the East Village you’ll probably find over 5 coffee shops. So to name them all in this post would be insane. Instead, I will name a few of my favorites (even though they’re all my fave).
New Yorkers take brunch very seriously. I’d even say that a New Yorker’s weekend plans revolve around brunch! There are countless places in NYC for brunch but some of my personal favorites are:
- Upland – Chic interior space serving American/Italian fare
- Cafe Mogador– East Village staple serving Moroccan flavors with outdoor cafe seating.
- Jack’s Wife Freda – Cozy spot serving American Mediterranean-inspired dishes.
- Bar Pitti – This trendy spot is known for its blackboard menu, outdoor seating, and people-watching.
- Tiny’s – Located in a pink 1800s townhouse with most of the original material restored, this is the ideal place for a cozy brunch. There even is a real fireplace burning in the back dining room!
Want a boozy brunch? 30 Best Bottomless Brunch Spots in NYC (2022)
What better way to take in the New York skyline and have a few cocktails while at it?
With endless amounts of rooftops to choose from, I picked my favorites with the best views and delish cocktails!
- 50 Bowery | The Crown is the rooftop lounge where unobstructed views of Manhattan await.
- Refinery Rooftop | A Midtown Classic, this spot offers stunning views of the Empire State Building.
- 1 Rooftop | On top of the 1 Hotel in Brooklyn, the entire Manhattan skyline is a sight to see! *Closed until Memorial Day Weekend.
- Magic Hour | New Rooftop with an amusement park theme on top of the Moxy hotel in Times Square.
Other Food & Drink Options
Smorgasburg | Smorgasburg is the largest open-air food market drawing in thousands of foodie lovers to Brooklyn to check out more than 100 vendors selling all types of food and drinks.
This market takes place on Saturdays on the Brooklyn waterfront in Williamsburg and Sundays in Prospect Park. You’ll find some unique options like smoked smores ice cream and a pineapple bowl.
Wine Tasting | Astor Wine & Spirits in Astor Place offers free daily wine and liquor tastings! Who doesn’t dig a free tasting? I also love this place because the price point isn’t insane. I’ve found delicious bottles of wine for $8.
Check out their schedule online to see what tastings are happening!
Eataly | This gourmet grocery and restaurant has all New Yorkers and tourists thinking they are in Italy. If you have never been to Eataly, it’s definitely worth checking out.
They have it all from to-go counters, wine bars, sit-down restaurants, gelato, coffee, as well as a cooking school.
More NYC Posts:
I hope you enjoyed this local guide to NYC! Here’s a handy map of the places I mentioned in this post!
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