To make your experience in the Big Apple special, there is nothing better than trying to experience New York like a local and immerse yourself in the authentic culture of the city.
New York is a quite touristic city that attracts many people from all around the world. Generally, tourists spend their time taking pictures of uninteresting things, quickly visiting the famous landmarks of the city without really getting a real taste of the city’s culture and lifestyle.
New York is a rich city that is worth being deeply explored, I have lived in the big apple for two months and it was one of the best experiences in my life as I took the time to enjoy New York like a local and explore the city deeply.
In this post, I will share with you my insider tips and local secrets to help you experience the authentic essence of New York like a local.
My tips to experience New York like a local
Choose your Neighborhood
Staying in the right neighborhood of New York is important to fully experience New York like a local. I advise you to choose a neighborhood that meets your interests and what you prefer. Each New York neighborhood has its own charm.
I have personally spent my 2 months in New York in an Airbnb in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Bedford-Stuyvesant is well located, the neighborhood is bordered by Williamsburg to the North, Clinton Hill to the South, Bushwick, and East New York to the east, and Crown Heights to the west. It is easy to reach Manhattan by public transport from this area.
It is a charming neighborhood characterized by rows of brownstones and townhouses. I loved living in this area as it is a safe and calm area, with a good atmosphere. It is also close to everything I needed, shops, restaurants, groceries, parks, and more.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn: This neighborhood is known for fashion, art, and various culinary experiences. It is the perfect place to explore impressive street art, local galleries, and trendy boutiques.
Astoria, Queens: Astoria offers an interesting Greek heritage, it is a great place to try Greek food. Also, Astoria Park offers stunning views of the skyline.
Harlem, Manhattan: Harlem is recognized for Jazz and music, it is a vibrant neighborhood with a mix of African and American culture. In Harlem, you will find the Apollo Theater and the Studio Museum.
Greenpoint, Brooklyn: The Greenpoint features a relaxed and artistic vibe. In this neighborhood, you will find quirky boutiques, art galleries, and vintage shops. Enjoy waterfront views and relax in local parks.
Lower East Side, Manhattan: The Lower East Side is a dynamic neighborhood with a diverse culinary scene and vibrant energy. You can explore hidden bars, and enjoy lively nightlife, and cultural landmarks like the Tenement Museum.
Get around like a Local
Do not take the famous Yellow taxis to get around New York, but better walk or take public transport.
New York is the most walkable city in the U.S. If you look at the Manhattan map, you will notice by yourself that it is very easy to navigate in New York by walking without being lost. Also, walking is free and will allow you to explore the streets of New York like a local.
Public transports are also a good way to explore New York like a local as it is the most used means of transport by the locals. The subway in New York is well deserved, easy to use, and works until 3 am.
If you want to experience New York like a local, do not shop in tourist boutiques in time square. Instead, you can opt for Soho, Harlem, or Greenwich Village where you can find upscale boutiques and designer stores mixed with art galleries. You should also explore some shops in other boroughs like Brooklyn or the Queens.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of where you can make your shopping in New York like a local :
- Harlem, Manhattan (125th Street, Frederick Douglass Boulevard)
- Lower East Side, Manhattan (Orchard Street)
- Greenwich Village, Manhattan (Bleecker Street, MacDougal Street)
- SoHo, Manhattan (Broadway, Prince Street, Spring Street)
- East Village, Manhattan (St. Mark’s Place, East 9th Street)
- Nolita, Manhattan (Elizabeth Street, Mulberry Street)
- Chelsea, Manhattan (Chelsea Market, 7th Avenue)
- Williamsburg, Brooklyn (Bedford Avenue, Wythe Avenue)
- Flatiron District, Manhattan (5th Avenue, Broadway)
- DUMBO, Brooklyn (Front Street, Water Street)
- Park Slope, Brooklyn (5th Avenue)
- Cobble Hill, Brooklyn (Court Street, Smith Street)
- Astoria, Queens (30th Avenue, Steinway Street)
- Jackson Heights, Queens (Roosevelt Avenue)
- Forest Hills, Queens (Austin Street)
Go to the barber shop or hair salon
Getting your hair done in a hair salon or barber shop is a cool way to experience New York like a local and immerse yourself in the city’s various cultures. Plus, it is an opportunity to chat with locals, as these spots often serve as social hubs. You will also see the latest trends and styles that make NYC a trendy fashion city. Nothing better than leaving the city with a fresh look that represents your experience in New York like a local.
It is not hard to guess that New Yorkers do not spend their days in time Square in the middle of giant buildings. Here are some leisures you can try to experience New York like a local.
Spending a beach day in New York can be a refreshing experience. My favorite beach in New York is Coney Island beach, there is a lively atmosphere, amusement parks, iconic attractions, and delicious ice creams. I used to spend the afternoon relaxing on that beach.
But there are other amazing beaches to explore in New York, such as Rockaway Beach, Brighton Beach, Orchard Beach or Manhattan Beach.
The big apple is also known for its vibrant coffee shop culture, with plenty of coffee shops with different tastes, preferences, and themes spread in the city. So, if you really want to experience New York like a local you should avoid Starbucks and try one of these famous Coffee shop chains in New York.
- Cafe Grumpy.
- Butler Bakeshop.
- % Arabica.
- Felix Roasting Company.
If you like reading like me, I recommend you to experience a bookstore café. My favorite one is the Housing Works Bookstore. It offers a wide selection of books across two floors
If you are a sports lover, there are plenty of parks and soccer fields where you can make your sports sessions. My favorite spot for sports is Pier 5, Brooklyn, the field overlooks the Brooklyn bridge and the Manhattan skyline. You can find trainers and spaces for a picnic.
You can also have your sports sessions in one of the several outdoor fitness parks of the city or join a local running group.
Savor Local Cuisine
Try to eat in New York like a local is a must do, you have to try iconic dishes such as New York-style pizza, bagels with schmear, cronuts, and delectable street food.
New York features cuisine from all around the world. I advise you to explore small charming neighborhoods like Little Italy and Chinatown to get an authentic experience of Italian and Chinese food.
My favorite restaurant in New York City is Benihana, the restaurant is located in Mannathan few avenues from the Rockefeller Center. (47 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019, United States). This restaurant offers an atypical experience with their chef cooking in front of the guest and making the show.
Embrace Local Events and Festivals
New York is host to numerous festivals and events throughout the year. To explore New York like a local try to immerse yourself in some celebrations, art exhibitions, street fairs, or neighborhood parties. There is some interesting annual events to experience, like the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island, the Governors Island Art Fair, and the Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy.
I hope this post blog will give you useful ideas to truly experience New York like a local and live unforgettable adventures.