New York City is as amazing as it is a daunting place to visit. It may suck you in and just as quickly spit you out if you are not careful. To get on the front foot, it pays to be prepared. Not only to get around but also catch some unique sights and dining experiences. NYC is much more than peering down at it from the lofty heights of the Empire State Building. These are our tips we picked up while aiming to live like a local in New York City.
Sights & Sounds
There are more sights packed into New York City’s 5 boroughs than any other city in the world. You’ll likely need to leave many sights for future visits to allow time for discovery. Here are some tips to getting on the locals path to some popular sights.
Museum Entry Admission Prices
A little known fact is that admission to most Nationally operated museums in New York City are donation-only. Purchasing tickets in advance or at self-serve kiosks will cost you full price. For example, at the Museum of Natural History if you line up to pay at the ticket window you can pay a ‘donation’ of as little as $1 to obtain the same ticket which would cost you $23 at the machine. To avoid lining up or paying at all, go after 4pm and spend the final free hour and squeeze in as much natural history as you can!
Rockefeller Centre, Mid Town, Manhattan
Sourced from a reliable local, the observation deck at Top of the Rock costs $36 per adult to visit for expansive city views from the 65th floor. There is also a $5 surcharge at sunset. Instead of paying this fee, head to Bar SixtyFive at the Top of the Rock and get a similar view (and a cocktail) for a lower price. Reservations are required.
Statue of Liberty Crown
A visit to the Statue of Liberty is a museum-do activity to see this iconic sculpture up close. For an extra buzz, book in advance to get access to the crown of the statue. It’s 169 very narrow stairs to the top so it’s not for everyone but it will be a memorable experience!
Rough Trade Centre, Willamsburg, Brooklyn
The Rough Trade Centre in Brooklyn is a great venue to catch some live music. Limited to 200 people it allows for an intimate performance. Find a suitable act for your music tastes when in town and you are guaranteed a special experience. Plus, the Rough Trade centre has a large warehouse of vinyl records to browse through before or after the performance.
Russian & Turkish Baths, East Village
Experience a ritual that has been popular with New York locals for over 125 years. The Russian & Turkish Baths in East Village was how poor immigrants living in tenement buildings bathed before hot water was plumbed. It is a unique and often confronting experience to go into the bowls of the city for a hot steamy bath.
Yankee Stadium, The Bronx
Baseball is a popular pastime for both players and spectators. The most popular local team is the New York Yankees. Yankee stadium, located in the Bronx, is an iconic place to view a game if they are playing in town the same time as your visit. Nosebleed seats can be purchased for as little as $20. Make sure you allow plenty of time to get in for the pre-game entertainment. Security is tight so check what you can bring in as security lockers are not easy to locate. Believe us!
Washington Square, NOHO
The playground of students studying at nearby NYU. There are budding, actors, musicians and film students practicing their craft amid the greenery of Washington Square under the shadow of the ornate fountain and marble arch that signals the end of Fifth Avenue.
Central Park Zoo, Central Park
It is surprising to know that snakes, bears, snow leopards and seals occupy a portion of Central Park. Central Park Zoo is an iconic landmark of the park and great for kids. Tickets at the self-serve terminals only allow you to purchase a ‘full experience’ package. At the ticket window (after a short line up) you save about $7 buy purchasing a basic ticket. Also, a good souvenir for kids can be had for 51 cents. The self-serve penny press will imprint your child’s favourite animal onto a flattened penny!
In the city that never sleeps, people are always on the move. To get yourself around New York City as a local here are your main options.
New York City Subway
The subway makes up the network of tunnels moving people around NYC by train. Each ride costs $2.75 and a MetroCard is your ticket to ride. Swipe your card to get in the gate but there is no need to swipe out. Purchase tickets from MTA machines at the entrance to the subway. If you are in town for less than a week and plan on doing more than 11 trips (likely yes) then get an unlimited trip MetroCard for $32.
- Tip #1: When purchasing tickets using a foreign credit card use ‘00000’ as the postcode.
- Tip #2: Use Google Maps which will give you up to the second timings for the train arrivals.
New York City Running Routes
A great way to experience NYC as a local is go for a run. Popular running routes are of course Central Park. But also there are wide flat paths suitable for running that follow the shoreline of Hudson river (from West Village); and East river (from East Village).
Walking New York City
Apart from the subway efficiency, convenience of Uber and speed of CitiBike, immersing yourself in New York City is best done on foot. So many stores and restaurants and sights lurk unexpectedly around each corner. With mostly grid-like streets, navigation is easy.
Catching an Uber
Forget waiting to hail for a Yellow cab like in the movies, Uber is the only way to get a cab these days. Get your Uber app setup before you arrive. You will save about 30% of traditional yellow cabs.
Grab a CitiBike
Bike paths have developed well in the past few years CitiBike is a popular way to get around NYC for locals. Sign up in advance and download the app to unlock the bikes. It’s as little as $3 per 30 minute ride or $12 for an entire day. You can leave the bike at any of the 750 stations placed across the city.
Food & Drink
You can get any type of cuisine you can possibly think of in New York City. With competition rife and rents running high you rarely find a bad restaurant or bar. From Michelin stars to down and dirty diners, we’ve captured a few classics we’d return to if we were ever locals.
Landmark Coffee Shop, Little Italy
Old school diners are hard to find in New York City. Gentrification has turned many cafes into soul-less hipster themed cafes. The Landmark Coffee Shop is down and dirty (but clean) and serves what you’d expect (at the prices you’d expect) in an old school diner along Route 66.
McSorley’s Old Ale House, East Village
Step back in time at an authentic original bar that counts presidents, gangsters, poets and celebrities as it’s guests. McSorleys Old Ale House is literally unchanged since it first opened in 1854. Scattered sawdust cover the worn wooded floors and dusty frames cover every inch of the walls. It is cash-only, there is no till and you only have the choice of two ales, dark or light. The only food served is a basic cheese and crackers. There is no music yet the bar is loud with warm and animated conversation.
The Grey Dog, SOHO
Breakfast hunger is well satisfied at this all American style cafe. Brunch is a massive part of life in New York City. Particularly on weekends when brunch means breakfast Bellinis or a Bloody Mary. The Grey Dog offers a modern cafe with great food escaping the brunch tax that can push prices out of the reach of many.
Shake Shack, NOHO
A modern take on fast food. Shake Shack has terminals to self-order their signature burgers and milkshakes allowing many customisations if necessary. You simply receive an SMS when your food is ready. The burgers are AWESOME! The shakes are great too, but very filling!
The Doughnut Project, Greenwich Village
Exceptional Doughnuts with more flavours than your tastebuds can handle await you at The Doughnut Project in Greenwich Village. From the classic glazed to an everything bagel inspired doughnut. They are open until they sell out for the day so get in early (opens at 8am).
We hope that gives you a start to your upcoming stay in New York City. Get in touch for any more specific details to help you make the most of your limited time in the big apple.
About The Author
Ever since venturing out the back gate into the bush as a kid, I've had a curiosity to escape and explore as often as I could. It's fair to say that my curiosity has continued to grow instead of fade as the years go on. It eventually came time to turn a few scribbled notes into some legible stories and travel tips for anyone with a similar curiosity as me.