The holidays are here and that means our family trip is right around the corner. We’ll be visiting my sister and her husband out in New York City. While I love Manhattan, we’ve usually gone the tourist route every time. This time will be a bit different… We’ve decided to see NYC like the locals. This took a lot of planning. First, since we’re getting in extremely early, we won’t be able to leave our bags at the hotel. Thankfully a good friend of mine told me about luggage storage in NYC and how it’s super easy to just drop off your bags and start seeing the city. This is a godsend because I know tons of the places we want to see don’t allow bags (e.g. museums, theaters, etc).
As cities go, Manhattan is well-travelled. Most folks follow well-worn ruts from monument to museum, absorbing the city’s splendor just like the tourists before them. But there’s so much more to see than what appears on a postcard! Break from the mold with these tips for visiting New York like a local.
1. Slum it in the subway
The New York City subway is a beautiful melange of humanity, 99 parts regular folks and one part street musicians, professional panhandlers, and roving gymnastic groups. Forget about surface transportation and travel from thing to thing on NYC’s sprawling subway system. A single fare is only $2.75, and you can get all the way to Coney Island on that. There’s a bit of a learning curve if you’ve never taken public transit, but the ample maps and bevy of helpful websites and apps are there to help.
2. Avoid the overrun
The top ten places to visit in New York City basically have their own bus line. As a result, all of these (admittedly wonderful) places are overrun with bridge and tunnel types.
Equally appealing but less-overrun options include the fabulous architecture of Grand Central Terminal and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the contemplative museums at the Morgan Library and the Cloisters, and the scenic Green-Wood Cemetery or the High Line. And if you’re in the mood for skyline views without the… well, without the line, the Met’s rooftop garden serves that up alongside cocktails.
3. Hit up a less-travelled part of town
While it lacks the glamorous Sex In The City vibe that Lower Manhattan exudes, you’ll find the same sorts of attractions and distractions in less travelled boroughs. There’s a whole world of delights out in Brooklyn, like boisterous bars, pastoral parks, and must-see museums, but with less of the cheek-by-jowl humanity that can get a bit wearing in Lower Manhattan.
4. Eat decent pizza
You probably didn’t come to New York for the pizza, but I bet it will make you want to stay. Even the most-neglected hole in a Lower Manhattan wall can turn out a quality slice, and few things bring New Yorkers together like their mutual disdain for that thing Chicago calls “pizza.” Get the quintessential New York City slice at Joe’s Pizza on Carmine Street, or trek out to Brooklyn to get a storied slice from Di Fara’s in Midwood.
5. Catch a show
A city’s music scene gives you a great taste of life as a local. NYC is overflowing with great places to catch some tunes, and you can see most local acts for less than a decent dinner date. Depending on your mood, you can grab a bite and catch an up-and-coming act at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theatre, scope out the ever-hip Baby’s All Right in Williamsburg (which has the maze from The Shining carved into the floor), or sip an upscale cocktail while you listen to jazz at The Django.
6. Try out the smaller museums
Like a visit to Broadway, New York City’s big museums are required reading. But once you’ve been mauled by the Met’s Sunday crowds, you might want to absorb some culture in a less cluttered atmosphere. The Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria is one such hidden gem, focusing on the history of TV, video games, and movies. It’s perfect for the hung over: you can literally just sit there and watch old TV. You know, for research.
Then there’s just the fascinatingly odd, like the Elevator Historical Society, devoted to the history of vertical transportation in NYC, or the City Reliquary, a chockablock stockpile of NYC-themed objects. The Federal Reserve Bank’s museum is unexpectedly appealing, with a tour including a vault of gold bars. And for the more serious, there’s the International Center for Photography in the Bowery.