They call New York the “Big Apple”, so eat…

There are certain things in New York City which only tourists do. Or at least, they did, before tourism disappeared in the last year. But hey it’s gonna’ come back sometime, right?

Nope, you won’t find any real New Yorkers buying $10 pizza slices in Times Square. But there are some things in New York City which are so much fun, it really doesn’t matter whether you’re a first time visitor or a life long local.

The big apple has some of the most exciting attractions in the world, and also some things you just have to do before you die. Here are the 10 best locally focused things to do in New York City, however many times you’ve been.

If you tick all the boxes, you’ll fully understand New York.

Head To Arthur Avenue

Heard of the Bronx? This is where you’ll find the Bronx from “A Bronx Tale” starring young Robert DeNiro. Arthur Avenue is an incredible area of New York, with some of the strongest heritage.

It’s home to arguably New York’s best Italian restaurant “Roberto’s“, which is where real New Yorkers go for the good stuff, as well as classic Italian markets. It’s also quite nearby to the New York Botanical Gardens and Bronx Zoo, so make a day of it.

And by day, you’ll definitely want to do your exploring while it’s light out, and after dark a cab/Uber to Roberto’s is wise…

World Top 10 “Pub” Crawl

Manhattan is actually really small. A benefit of said size is the proximity of amazing bars. New York is home to 3 of the world’s 15 best bars, and 2 of the top 10. When bars reopen, without even cabbing it, you can hit 4 of the top 20, enjoying a nice little walk to get you ready for the next.

If there’s a better city for bar hopping, scratch that – there isn’t. If you’re in search of world famous tipples, Dante, Attaboy, Dead Rabbit and NoMad are about as famous as you can get.

If you want to get in on the new generation of cocktail bars popping up, try Mister Paradise, helmed by Will Wyatt, who’s been a fixture in just about every famous bar New York has had over the last 10 years…

Walk The High Line

This probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard this one, and if you’re smart you’ll realize it’s for good reason. With ‘The Vessel’ now too, even more so. The Vessel is temporarily closed, but will reopen soon.

The High Line is a true New York City triumph, created by converting a dilapidated old above ground railroad into one of the most pleasant and picturesque strolls you’ll find outside of Central Park. It’s so good, London is now copying it, with “The Tide“.

Bring a picnic, bring a camera, time things for sunset and watch the city come alive. Hop on at 14th street and go as far North as you can, or vice versa. With the addition of Hudson Yards, and “The Vessel” there’s plenty to keep you busy at either end now…

Snack In A Food Market

Eataly, Canal Street Market, Smorgasburg, Great Northern Food Hall, Chelsea Market, Plaza Food Hall and Gansevoort Market offer opportunities to do something semi cliche, but also thoroughly appease your appetite.

Before your dinner plans at one of New York’s best restaurants, a trip to one of these markets will warm your palate, and your appreciation for New York’s price gouging on food!

Really though, they’re fantastic people watching spaces, and that’s worth the money alone. If you’ve already kinda “done Manhattan” Williamsburg and DUMBO offer amazing food halls and markets too.

Go To The Garden

We’re talking about “the” Garden, by the way. Whether it’s a Stevie Nicks concert, some bone crunching ice hockey with the Rangers or the famous New York Knicks for some NBA hoops, the atmosphere in Madison Square Garden is unparalleled.

There’s something about the buzz of people on the streets and in the stations down below, and then an entirely different feeling when you look around the rafters and realize just how much history has been made there.

Last minute tickets are easy if you forget to plan, via options like Stubhub.

Rent A Bike In Central Park

In autumn, or spring – there’s something magical about a bike ride through central park. Whether the leaves are turning beautiful shades and falling, or just perking up, it’s an incredible way to appreciate the surroundings in every direction, with the safety of bike paths.

You’d be amazed how much ground there is to cover, and on a bike, you just might manage all of it. If you’re looking to rent bikes, head to the corner around Columbus Circle and you’ll be barraged with offers.

If it’s all too overwhelming, just duck into Whole Foods, or Jean Georges across the street to unwind. After a nice bike ride, the Mandarin Oriental bar is the perfect place to gain new perspective on the park.

Picnic At Williamsburg Waterfront

When it’s running again (that’s a New York joke), take the L train from 14th street directly under the water to Williamsburg waterfront hotspot “Bedford Ave”. Even if the “L” isn’t running, you can take the JMZ and no matter what – it’s worth the journey.

You’ll enjoy grassy parks and uninhibited Manhattan views, with ample bars, restaurants and epicurean shops to plot the perfect picnic. It’s easily one of the most picturesque spots in New York, with great graffiti too.

So much has been done to revamp the waterfront, including the Domino Park where the Domino Sugar factory once sat. Stroll up and down, and if you’ve got it in you, walk back across the bridge…

Visit The 9/11 Memorial And One World Trade

No New York story is complete without mentioning September 11th, 2001. The 9/11 memorial is one of the most beautiful symbols of human life, and juxtaposed next to one of mankind’s most iconic pieces of architecture at 1 World Trade, it’s even more spectacular.

For further inspiration, the Oculus is yet another fantastic tribute, and to lighten the mood, it’s set in a huge mall with great connectivity below. No matter how tough you think you are, it’s impossible not to reflect as you take it all in.

Get Lost In The West Village

When people think “NYC”, they think manic, big, loud and skyscrapers. The West Village offers a unique look at the original New York City, with quaint cottages, and no skyscrapers in sight.

It’s one of the best neighborhoods for quiet cafes, cool bars, super casual Michelin starred food and boutique shopping at every corner. There’s no better place to grab a drink and explore.

No map needed, and that’s handy, because unlike the rest of the city, it’s named streets here, and you will definitely get lost. Especially when 4th turns into 12th in one block!

Walk The Brooklyn Bridge

So what if it’s popular? Part of the magic of this walk are the New York City neighborhoods you’ll pass in each direction.

Preferably on a day when it’s not raining, the Brooklyn Bridge will give you splendid views of postcard Manhattan while ferrying you to cult favorite neighborhood “DUMBO” in Brooklyn and of course, lower Manhattan and Wall St on the other end.

Bring the camera and bring your walking shoes, because it’s not nearly as short as it looks. Oh, and it’s more beautiful and less busy in the morning than evening. Be sure to stop by Powerhouse Arena, Jay St and Empire Stores in between all the cute cafes.

What’s your favorite thing to do in New York?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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12 Comments

  1. This list is really good. Probably the best out there. One personal favorite would be to do the NBC studio tour, and I also think that the big statue and Ellis island deserve to be on this list. However I wanted to warn that for any international guests this city is INSANELY expensive. Get ready for 20usd hot dogs in Chelsea market. The US is a pretty closed market, so Americans have high salaries and don’t really feel how expensive their country has become. But for the rest of us: plan your days accordingly, and always remember that the best things in life are free or at least affordable (and a good place to find them is in this list). Well done.

  2. My favorite thing is to avoid all of the vomit piles all over the city! It’s ridiculous. Another favorite thing is to play, “why is this subway car empty?” at rush hour. Other than that, I like just walking around Manhattan without any particular destination. I also recommend going to Prospect Park.

  3. I’m a New Yorker so I’ll add a few things.

    First, you can update the food hall topic to include Time Out market which opened a few months ago.

    Like you, I always suggest a walk on the HighLine and the Brooklyn Bridge. Add to that – a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. If heading uptown and visiting Central Park, a visit to Conservatory Garden is a hidden gem.

    Kathy

  4. Awesome list. Well done. I’d pick Lincoln center over the garden, but hard to argue with the list.

    The 6 1/2 mile loop in Central Park can be done on roller blades, a bike or on foot. Just careful biking on actual traffic streets unless u are an experienced urban biker.

  5. Great list – I’d add a couple of things we do EVERY TIME, that never get old.
    Backgammon in Bryan Park
    Deli toasted fat free cream cheese Bagels for breakfast while we walk.
    A good few hours lost in books in The Strand.
    We miss New York…

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