New York City. Some people call it, “The greatest city in the world,” and I might be biased, but I agree. The streets are buzzing with energy; every turn on a new street is filled with possibility.
The music, food and art scene is unparalleled, you can pick up 10 different languages in a one-block radius, while the world’s top financiers bustle around Wall Street.
New York certainly has a little something for everybody, but with each block abundantly packed with options, it can be daunting to figure out the best of the best of (no… really…) the best things to do in New York.
As profound as a trip to the Statue of Liberty will be, if you’re only after the major tourist sites then you’re going to miss out on what makes New York so darn wonderful.
After living in the city for nearly a decade, I am positively giddy to share with you the ways in which locals best enjoy the city.
1. Have the most delicious French crepes in the world in Williamsburg
This French bistro called Pates Et Traditions creates the most amazing crepes.
It had me searching for similar deliciousness when I traveled to France, the homeland of the (adorable) owner of this quaint, low-key restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn… to no avail.
Among all the incredible eateries the city has to offer, this will always hold a special place in my heart for it’s bright, floral and homey décor and it’s the mouth-watering offerings.
This spot has dishes like the Poulet Citron with chicken, caramelized onions, lemon, honey, rosemary and swiss cheese.
Or, you can opt for the Poulette with white wine, mussels, onion, and swiss cheese.
To accompany your not-as-heavy-as-you-would-expect crepes, enjoy a glass of champagne with black current, or a Nutella latte.
Don’t forget to bring your cash, or hit up the ATM they have tucked near the restrooms, because this place is cash only.More Info (click to show for all)
2. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
For one of the more stunning views of the city take a stroll over the Brooklyn Bridge.
Unlike the Williamsburg Bridge or Manhattan Bridge, The Brooklyn Bridge offers unadulterated views of the city, as the walking path is open air, set high above the traffic below.
I recommend starting from Brooklyn so the view of Manhattan lasts the duration of your walk.
If you have a nice camera, this is a time to bring it. If you’re big on Instagram, make sure you wear your Brooklyn Bridge Best!More Info (click to show all)
3. Visit Other Countries
One of the very best things about the very best city is the diversity in cultures.
New York coins the term “The Melting Pot,” which America proudly tributes to the success of our nation.
Representing this fact are micro neighborhoods, mini versions of other countries that are as authentic as it gets.
Among the most famous are Chinatown, in lower Manhattan, and Little Italy in Soho. Make your way up to Koreatown in Midtown Manhattan, and even further up to Little Dominican Republic in Washington Heights.
Move over to Queens for Little India, and although Astoria isn’t technically a micro-neighborhood, it’s got some of the most authentic Greek cuisine in the city- definitely worth the trip!More Info (click to show all)
4. Get Lost In The City
It’s often said that best experiences come when there is no plan.
This couldn’t be truer for New York City, a place where history is constantly in the making, and art is in unexpected places.
Take a day to toss your itinerary out the window (not literally, you might hurt someone!).
Take a step out of your hotel, Airbnb or hostel and turn left. Or right!
Maybe you can have a general goal, ie, ending up in Central Park, or even another burrow.
Jump into a pizzeria or café when you need a pick me up, but make sure your eyes open; you might catch the butcher with his latest hide slung over his shoulder, or the brawl between the bus driver and the taxi driver.
Take notice of passersby lending a hand to those in need.
Throw yourself into a protest, or stop and dance with the drummer on the street corner. (Don’t forget to tip!)
No matter where you wind up, you can always hop on the Subway or in a taxi and get yourself back home easily.More Info (click to show all)
5. Take the $20 in your pocket and go thrifting
It’s no secret that New Yorkers are known for their astute fashion-sense.
It’s also well known that most New Yorkers live in apartments no bigger than a closet space.
In other words, Fashionistas constantly have to discard their garb, even the good pieces.
Williamsburg is one of my personal favorite neighborhoods to thrift in.
Warm up at Buffalo Exchange, a well-organized and wonderfully curated array of moderate to eccentric steals.
Once you’ve wet your appetite, head over to Beacon’s Closet, a warehouse sized facility with color-coordinated sections, and everything from sequence ball gowns to vintage tees.
If you’re looking for knick-knacks in addition to clothing, look no further than Mother Of Junk.
Some other thrifty highlights outside The Burg are Angel Street Thrift Shop in the Financial District (and yes, they have designer,) or, for Vintage hit up Vintage Thrift Shop in Gramercy, or it’s sister Store, Vintage Thrift West in West Village.More Info (click to show all)
6. Do Williamsburg, Waterfront Style
One of the special things about Brooklyn, namely, Williamsburg Brooklyn, is that the views of Manhattan are unparalleled.
Over the course of the last decade, the waterfront options became plentiful.
East River Park has a pier and a grassy area that you can lounge around and soak in the views.
In warmer months you can catch Smorgasburg on the weekend, where local restaurants come together to share the tastiest of eats.
If you’re more of a DIY kind of person, head straight to the water on Grand Street and pop a squat right on the rocks that jut out into the river.
This spot is special because you have an up close view of the Williamsburg Bridge as well as the sparkling city behind it.
I recommend arriving around sunset so you can see how magical the transformation is from day to night.More Info (click to show all)
7. See the sites
You wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) go to Rome without seeing the Coliseum, and you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) go to India without seeing the Taj Mahal.
There are a few of those quintessential New York attractions that you also don’t want to miss.
I won’t spend too much time here, because these attractions are hardly “off the beaten track,” but let’s review a few of the crème de la crème.
For people who love history and, you know, freedom, you must of course check out the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Speaking of freedom, if you like your history modern then head to Freedom Towers at Ground Zero and pay your respects. Make sure you bring a few tissues.
For those who crave stimulation, Time Square dazzles. For View Junkies, head to the heart of the city for a view of the city after you arrive at the top of the Empire State Building.
If you’re in the city for the holiday season then don’t miss out on Rockefeller Center.
Even in the heat of the summer, it’s quite an exquisite place to shop and catch a good view from the Rock Observation Deck.More Info (click to show all)
8. Play in Central Park
Sure you can simply take a beautiful stroll through the 843-acre park.
You can paddleboat at Loeb Boathouse, or get lost in The Ramble, or go to the zoo, or see a concert or a show.
Or, you can honor the term “park” and unleash your inner child.
Bring a Frisbee for a game of ultimate Frisbee outside of Sheep’s Meadow, or shake your booty during a summertime drum circle.
Probably the best thing ever is sectioning off parts of the park and organizing a big game of cops and robbers. Just saying.
Pay tribute to John Lennon at the Imagine Circle, and while you’re at it, say hey to the Mayor of strawberry fields- he’s the one who decorates the circle with roses every day.More Info (click to show all)
9. Explore Museums, museums, museums
There’s not enough time in the world to tell you about each and every incredible museum that New York City has.
Buuuuuuuuuutttt, here are some good- nay, great options.
MOMA, or, The Museum Of Modern Art, is overflowing with contemporary and modern works. Their collections stimulate the mind, pushing the boundaries on everything you thought you knew about the very nature of art.
The American Museum of Natural History is like a playground for the mind; full of jaw-dropping reconstructions of primal species (or the bones of primal species,) immersive exhibits and historical artifacts that make you realize just how precious and mysterious our Earth is.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or The Met, is the largest art museum in the United States, expanding over three structures holding over 2 million pieces of work. From medieval to modern, from Van Gough’s self-portrait to Georgia O’Keeffe’s cow skull, there’s something for all types of art lovers here… the trick is narrowing down your must-sees because it would literally take weeks to see it all.
Other biggies include The Guggenheim, The Whitney, and The Smithsonian; and if you’re looking for “off the radar,” you can check out the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space museum, The New York Hall of Science, and, for the friskier crowd, The Museum of Sex.More Info (click to show all)
10. Listen to up and coming musicians
Whether it’s the subway buskers, or the siren of an ambulance, New York is filled with beautiful music the moment you walk out the door.
The best thing about it is you don’t have to shell out for the big performers in order to strike gold.
In fact, because New York is teeming with up and coming musicians, you should opt for some of the smaller music venues that offer the chance to see the next Bob Dylan or Bette Midler in an intimate space, before the artists hit it big time.
For instance, in a little spot off the Lorimer Stop on the “L” train is The West, part coffee house, part bar, part entertainment hub that gives a home to hustling local performers.
Catch them on an open-mic night and you might luck out and see Elijah Bridges kill on the guitar and mesmerize with his bluesy tunes.
A small but popular venue is The Mercury Lounge, where a little band called The Strokes was discovered in 2012.
In the Lower East Side, check out Sidewalk Café for a chance to get up close and personal with the next Regina Spektor.More Info (click to show all)
11. Go to the theatehhhh
Similar to the music scene, New York is teeming with talented performers, playwrights and producers who you can catch on the big stage or in unexpected places.
Broadway is the most famous place to sit in awe while you watch some of the most iconic shows and actors do their thing.
If that’s not quite in your budget, or you if you just like more of an indie vibe, there are plenty of other options.
Like an Off Broadway show, or an Off-Off Broadway show, or even an Off-Off-Off-Off Broadway show (only in New York.)
For instance, check out The Axis Theater Company, an immersive theatrical experience that utilizes technological components to elevate story.
See what’s going on at Theater For A New Audience, or Labyrinth for high quality work.More Info (click to show all)
12. Have a beer on the Hudson
We don’t discriminate. You can also have a glass of wine… or a lobster roll from a floating lobster shack. (That’s right, I said it: floating lobster shack!)
Surprisingly this 500-acre park that spans across the West Side of Manhattan isn’t considered a major attraction in NYC, and we like to keep it that way because, you know, more lobster rolls for us.
The site has mini golf, restaurants, kayak rentals, and even hosts’ live entertainment on occasion.
It’s a wonderful way to spend a pretty day that’s just the right balance between exciting and relaxing.More Info (click to show all)
13. Jazz at Lincoln Center
Among the esteemed music venues of New York, Jazz at Lincoln Center stands out.
With heaps of history, you don’t merely listen to music when you see the orchestra play, but you feel like you’re part of it.
Wynton Marsalis is the artistic director and leader of the world-renowned orchestra, and the elegant venue greatly enhances the experience.More Info (click to show all)
14. Satisfy your curiosity at South Street Seaport
When you’re in New York City, of course you want to feel like you’re in New York City, but sometimes you might also want to feel like you’re in a quaint little seaside town… in New York City.
South Street Seaport satisfies this craving.
The neighborhood is full of delicious and unique eateries, including seafood, which you’ll surely be craving.
You can take a tour of the old vessels, and peruse the museum to learn about the history of the port.
Top things off from the top at R17, a new rooftop bar and lounge that serves up boozy beverages while you look upon your surroundings.More Info (click to show all)
15. Walk the Highline
As I mentioned maybe once or twice, New York is filled with art in unexpected places.
The Highline happens to be one of these places.
What was once an old rail line elevated above the streets of the city is now a flourishing walking path and park complete with unique art and design.
The best way to “do” the Highline is to simply wander down the paths and passageways, and discover the hidden gems it has to offer for yourself.
I’ll leave it at that…More Info (click to show all)
16. Shop Chelsea Market
Nearly underneath the 14th street entrance to The Highline is The Chelsea Market; a wonderfully and deliciously curated array of food stands on one floor and trendy shops on another.
With enough food options to satisfy any palate, you’ll find that the artistic and bohemian vibe is the perfect backdrop to go with your, say, fresh Oysters.
I’ll leave it at that…More Info (click to show all)
17. Travel all the way to to Little Eataly (it’s not far)
Incase you need even more culture, Little Eataly is truly the perfect place to indulge in all of the best Italian dishes and wines.
The spot has shops, so you can take home some authentic Italian knick-knacks, including cheeses and handmade pastas.
Stay for a bite at one of their many restaurants, and don’t forget to add a glass of wine to accompany your meal!
I’ll leave it at that…More Info (click to show all)
18. Eat Like a King
I could write a 10 page article just about all the amazing food options New York has to offer, and it still wouldn’t even scratch the surface.
Yet, New York’s food scene is so incredible, I just couldn’t NOT rattle off some personal favorites, and the favorites of my trusted friends and family… so here we go.
West~Bound: moderately priced Western veggie meals in Soho.
Jacob’s Pickle: decadent Southern Comfort, (giant) chicken sandwiches and goooood cocktails in the Upper West Side.
Ishikawa: upscale sushi that will break your mind and your bank (and it’s worth it.)
Fette Sau: Fresh BBQ in Brooklyn.
The Four Horsemen: a wine bar with perfectly crafted sample menus.
Any Halal street vendor. Actually, most street vendors. Most street pizza joints.
I’ll leave it at that…More Info (click to show all)
19. Find steals at Century 21
For those who take their fashion as seriously as they take their budgets, Century 21 is where you want to shop.
The giant department store has top designer brands at heavily discounted prices.
Just make sure you’re comfortable in your skin, because the last time I checked the changing rooms don’t really offer much (any) privacy.More Info (click to show all)
20. Go hood hopping in Brooklyn
Brooklyn has so many different neighborhoods that it’s hard to recommend visiting just one.
Luckily, its got enough amazing parks, coffee shops, shop shops, restaurants, bars, etc. to keep you busy while you check out all them!
Among the coolest are Gowanus, Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, Carol Gardens, Bushwick, Green Point, and of course, Williamsburg.
Rent bikes to travel between them if you’re up for an adventure, or navigate the rickety subway lines.
Of course, this is New York, so a cab ride is just an arms length away at any given moment.More Info (click to show all)
21. Take the ferry to Brooklyn Bridge Park
A great place to bring the family, and an equally great way to transport yourself there.
Brooklyn Bridge Park offers a playground, a carousel, an environmental learning center, waterfront promenades and gardens.
Taking the ferry over is a unique new way to get a view of Lower Manhattan.More Info (click to expand)
There are events and parties on every single night and in summer there are festivals pretty much weekly, you cannot get bored in this city that also never seems to be sleeping.
What are your thoughts about New York? Do you have any questions or anything cool still to add on? We love to discuss travel so go ahead and fire away, there are no wrong comments!
Also, please let us know how your trip went and what was the most exciting part about it.
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Shira Weitz is an adventure seeker who loves writing, wine, and watching sunsets. She enjoys weaving together personal experiences with thoughtful information to create compelling stories about the places she’s been. She can’t stop, won’t stop grabbing life by the… horns, because carpe diem, after all.