Top 10 Best Things to Do to Experience the Real New York that Locals Actually Do Too!
January 14, 2014 | In New York City, New York Favorites, Things to Do | 31 Comments
New York is undoubtedly one of the most fabulous cities in the world. New York has so many things to do that it can be downright overwhelming trying to figure out how to fit everything in that you want to do. There are literally enough activities, landmarks and restaurants to choose from to keep you busy for an entire lifetime–trust me, I’ve been here ten years and I’m still finding new things to do all the time!
The culture, the history, the food! The choices are endless! There are certain things that one must see if they’re in New York City for the first time–you know, the things that you can’t say you’ve really been to New York until you’ve done them. I’ve actually compiled a list of top ten things you can’t miss in NYC here but I thought it was also worth compiling a list of some of my favorite spots that I feel represent the REAL New York. Things the locals actually do to regularly–places that showcase New York’s real character. So much of New York is about eating and drinking but I’ll save that for a different post. This post is just about great things to do around New York that you should do if you’re in town for an extended period of time or if you’re a seasoned NYC veteran who has done many of the basics.
1. The Frick Collection
Housed in the former residence of Mr. Frick on the Upper East Side is one of the most incredible collections of fine art in the city. Its permanent collection features over 1,100 works of art from the Renaissance to the late 19th Century. Perhaps even more impressive though is the museum itself, which absolutely breathtaking–especially when you imagine Mr. Frick himself pacing through its galleries late at night trying to decide which piece of art to purchase next. Shall it be another Renoir? Vermeer? Decisions, decisions. Definitely one of New York’s most special and unique small museums. Be sure to check out my full review of the Frick Collection.
2. The Neue Galerie
Neue Galerie is German for “New Gallery” (can’t believe I cracked the code, huh?). This museum showcases early twentieth century German and Austrian art. The building is gorgeous and visitors can enjoy renowned artwork by artists like Klee, Kandinsky and Klimt. This small museum is really something special–as is its delicious restaurant, Cafe Sabarsky, which is housed in the first floor of the museum. Savor delectable German/Austrian goodies before or after browsing its impressive permanent collection or excellent exhibits. Be sure to check out my full review of the Neue Galerie.
3. Sleep No More
Sleep No More just might be one of my favorite things I have ever done in New York City. It’s one of those unique experiences that you can’t find anywhere else–except perhaps in London where the concept originated. Sleep No More is an adventure into the world of Macbeth, interactive theater and mystery. It’s a bizarrely sexy experience where guests follow performers around through many floors as they silently perform different parts of the same show. Oh, and you’re wearing a mask and must be silent the entire time. Be sure to sample an absinthe cocktail before embarking on your journey. The show is like nothing you’ve ever done before–I guarantee it! Check out my tips for how best to enjoy a Sleep No More performance.
4. The High Line and Gallery hopping
The High Line is a linear park that sits high above the street in an industrial part of Manhattan’s West Side. The park is built on a one-mile section of the former New York Central Railroad, which is elevated above the street. Visitors can stroll down this uniquely elevated park, which runs from about Gansevoort street to about 30th street. It was inspired by a similar project in Paris (Promenade plantée) and is a fun activity to spice up any morning or afternoon. I love pairing a visit here with a stop into some of the galleries in Chelsea. Browse some of the best art in the city for free! Even if you’re no expert this is a fun activity. Stop in any galleries you’d like from about 20th to 28th streets between 10th and 12th avenues.
5. Shopping at Bloomingdales
One of New York’s simple pleasures is shopping! And one of its finest shopping institutions is Bloomingdales. Ladies who lunch and working girls alike enjoy a trip here to browse the latest fashions and accessories. And no trip is complete without a visit to 40 Carrots for its famously creamy frozen yogurt!
6. Green Market in Union Square
Whether you’re a chef or just a mother of three doing some grocery shopping, the Union Square Greenmarket is the place to find the freshest produce, unique handmade products and foods like pies, cheeses and more. It’s open year-round Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 8am-6pm. It’s fun to browse or pick up snacks. If you’re a photographer it’s filled with fun shots to snap
While nearly everyone has heard of MOMA I left it off my list of must sees in favor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which I think is just a tad cooler. However, I absolutely love the MOMA and think that it’s definitely something worthy of seeing as well if you’ve got the time. The museum houses some of the world’s finest modern and contemporary art in the world so it’s definitely worth checking out. Think: Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Mattise’s The Dance!
8. American Museum of Natural History
If you’ve ever seen Night at the Museum you may already have had a glimpse of this NYC Icon. The American Museum of Natural History is spread out over several blocks this place is enormous so be prepared to walk and check out the map before you come. My personal favorite spot is the Rose Center for Earth and Space’s Hayden Planetarium where you can check out an awesome show that is truly captivating! If you’re still thirsty for more history be sure to stop by the New York Historical Society for even more cool exhibits *Note there is no fixed admission price so just pay whatever you want!
9. Washington Square Park
This is one of the coolest most eclectic “parks” in the city. It’s more of a gathering place for an eclectic bunch of people. Everyone from kids, canines, street performers, chess enthusiasts, piano players and even the odd drug dealer (don’t worry they won’t bother you) gather here to enjoy the views of its famous arch and fountain. The perfect place to take a stroll through with a coffee on the weekend.
10. Bar Crawl Through the Lower East Side
So, I know I said I wasn’t going to even try to squeeze my food recommendations into this but I didn’t say anything about drinking! My favorite area probably of the city is the Lower East Side. So, yes, this is a luxury travel blog but the most New York-ey parts of the city aren’t necessarily the most luxurious. So even though parts of the Lower East Side can be a little grungey, it’s also some of the coolest watering holes in NYC. For my birthday this year we did a fabulous bar crawl, which began at Loreley’s, went to Experimental Cocktail Club, Epstein’s Bar and ended for dinner at Lil Frankie’s. It was a fabulous night. One of my other favorite bars is Two-Bit’s Penny arcade–they have old arcade games from the 80s! It’s awesome.
Some Runners Up: Coney Island, South Street Seaport, Upright Citizen’s Brigade
If you haven’t read it already, check out 10 Essential Things to Do in New York for First-Time Visitors and 22 Essential Food Experiences to have in New York City and also why I think Manhattan is better than Brooklyn!
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I noticed that your link up there says “why I think NYC is better than Brooklyn. ” Yikes. I’m guessing since you’ve lived here a while that you know that Brooklyn IS NYC. Just giving you the heads up before the complaints start and your cred is questioned.- January 14, 2014
Thanks so much for catching my faux-pas! I guess that was a bit ethnocentric of me! Note to self: Manhattan not center of the world 🙂- January 16, 2014
Hmm Sleep No More came to Boston. Nuff Said- January 14, 2014
ha! well I didn’t know that. Either way I still adore this show!- January 16, 2014
Great list, doll! Need to head back to the BIG APPLE soon.- January 15, 2014
Thanks!! Well let me know when you do! I’d love to grab a- January 16, 2014
drinkbottle with you!
I like the Neue Gallery! Must visit. Also, have you been to the Rubin Museum? Himalayan art in the middle of Chelsea!- January 17, 2014
I have not been to the Rubin Museum actually! I’ve heard of it but never made it over there. Now it’s on my list! Thanks for the rec!- January 17, 2014
I think this is one of the best guides I’ve ever read! Well done!- January 20, 2014
Wow thanks! What a wonderful compliment!!!- January 21, 2014
This is awesome! I loved Washington Square Park and the Highline, but hadn’t heard of a lot of these others. If we ever make it back…- January 21, 2014
You will definitely have to come back!!! Let me know when you do, I’ll tell you some of my fave restaurants!- January 21, 2014
What a great list! I am now adding The Neue Galerie to my list of must-see galleries. P.S. And to the first commenter, You must live in Brooklyn. Brooklyn is NOT NYC.- January 28, 2014
Yes, you’ve got to get there. Excellent museum!- January 28, 2014
Great list for a “real” NYC experience.- January 29, 2014
Hey nice list of things to do, in NY, I never been, I know I’ll check out the art museums, restaurants, what’s your best late night bars or clubs that are really cool, to check out, I’m open minded- June 20, 2014
I need to get another list together! Be sure to add that to the To-Do list! Thanks for stopping by!- June 23, 2014
I would definitely add a visit to St. John the Divine. It is the second largest church in the world, but because it’s on 112th (?) and because it’s part Gothic part Romanesque, nobody goes there. Take a rooftop tour if they still give them. Amazing!- July 6, 2014
Yes! I hadn’t been when I wrote this and I was so impressed by it’s magnitude. Great suggestion! Love it there.- July 6, 2014
A very nice list. Very well-done- August 22, 2014
NYC has 5 Boros. Manhattan is one of them. And the most inauthentic and expensive of the 5 Hipster brooklyn is a close second. I guess you mean the nyc that people with bottomless bank accounts inhabit.
Queens Bronx Boro Boy
NB please don’t visit us in Queens..or The Bronx…it’s plenty authentic without all the fussiness you bring to the table….- February 8, 2015
This is a luxury travel blog and these choices are meant for luxury travelers. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion though. Thanks for stopping by.- February 19, 2015
Btw ” locals” doing something actually means they don’t ….do it. This list is awful No we don’t do 90% of what is said ” locals” do- we live here….- February 8, 2015
To each his own! I’ve lived here for a decade and these are things my friends and I enjoy doing. Definitely happy to hear other new suggestions though! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.- February 19, 2015
So my gf and I are heading to the Big Apple in July. Staying 3 nights in the Meatpacking District. Would you say the Lower East Side is a better place to party than Meatpacking? Trying to figure out the best places and clubs to hit up while us Londoners are their????- May 10, 2015
They’re both great fun, really depends what you’re looking for. If you’re hoping for a clubby atmosphere, Meatpacking is where you want to be. Very fancy and sceney. But if you’re looking for an authentic New York type of scene, more understated then the LES is fun. You can’t go wrong though!- May 11, 2015
Hello,- August 20, 2015
I will be visiting NY with my 2 17 and 18 years old kids at the last week of October. We’ve already been to NY a few times and we love it!
I love your recommendations and will add to our list most of them.
Can you refer me to a website that will help me build a plan according to areas?
Which are your most favorite neighborhoods to visit?
Thanks so much!
I wish I had an answer about a website for you. It depends what your’e looking to do for areas, I would say definitely go to Central Park and the West Village, Soho and Lower East Side. Those to me are the most New York-ey! haha- August 25, 2015
I highly recommend checking out the New York Pass (https://www.newyorkpass.com/En/). The pass is great value for money but they also have a very useful app on iphone which shows the location of attractions on a map so you can plan out whats close by. I highly recommend you check out the Intrepid Air, Sea and Space Museum. My girlfriend and I went 6 weeks ago and it was awesome, they have a real Space Shuttle there, and you get entry as part of the New York Pass.
I’m very jealous you’re going, you’ll have a great time!
Jan- August 26, 2015
Great article.- March 27, 2016
So happy you found it useful! Hope you’ll come back and visit me again soon!- April 28, 2016