You are going to New York and are overwhelmed by all the things there are to do and see? Let me show you how not to be yet another tourist: These are my top 11 alternative ideas for your stay in New York!
You are planning a weekend trip or short vacation in the city of dreams, but want to skip the stressful crowds and impress your friends with some real NYC insider knowledge? I have the Top 11 alternative ideas for your stay in New York! Or how I would like to headline it: How not to ruin your New York experience!
Don’t Be Seduced By Hop-on, Hop-off buses
There is nothing sexy about Hop-on, Hop-off buses. End of discussion. But there are more than one or two ways to ruin your New York Trip. If you’re going to the most touristy attractions in NYC, it won’t be memorable in a good way. Billions of people had the idea before you and rushed to the same boring memorials, museums and restaurants as you and your company. And thousands will be pushing themselves over Brooklyn Bridge as your are trying to get the perfect shot for your Instagram.
Forget about the lonelyplanet pamphlet. Those insider tips aren’t gold – Considering that every tourist has one in his or her backpack. New York has a lot to offer and there are more than a thousand ways to enjoy this stinky and lustrous city, without getting crushed by the crowd or waiting in lines for two hours – although the proficient New Yorker loves to do so.
NEW YORK – Off The Beaten Path
New York City is 100 different countries in one small island, 13 miles long and two miles wide. With its five boroughs, the city of 8.2 million people has such a wealth of diversity and opportunity that whatever you’re in the mood for, you’ll find it anywhere, anytime.
Opportunity is EVERYWHERE!
The Top 11 Alternative Ideas For Your Stay In New York!
There are a couple of things you just can’t miss out on (in my opinion). These are my personal top 11 alternative ideas for a stay in New York – and I am keeping it at that, since there are plenty other travel guides and befriended bloggers who cover the New York essentials.
1. Visit the Met, Natural History Museum and Museum of Sex
The Classics: You MUST visit the Met and the New York Museum of Natural History. There is just no way around these two. I mean, who doesn’t want to take a picture with a giant dinosaur skeleton? If you are feeling fancy, you may wanna add the Museum of Sex, depending on your time frame!
By the way: Most museums won’t tell you this on their websites, but you can often safe big time on expensive tickets and make use of what is called “donation based” admission. - Yesss, it is exactly what the name promises. Don't be shy and tell the cashier you want to make a donation! Wether that is $15 or $5 is your decision alone.
2. Enjoy an island of green and peace: Central Park
With the money you saved on the tickets, you can buy a super-sized iced coffee, take your polaroid to Central Park and stroll through an isle of green in-between the crazy urban jungle.
Psssst! As you are already all the way up, you might as well visit this little gem of a coffeeshop: Bluestone Lane ist located inside the beautiful historic Church of the Heavenly Rest with magnificent sandstone features and archways. Bluestone Lane at the Upper East Side is a progressive café with table service, allowing you to relax and escape into one of New York’s most tranquil regions, the Museum Mile area within the Upper East Side. They offer abundant sidewalk seating during summer time, allowing you to enjoy the wonderful alfresco and passing traffic.
3. Experience New York off the beaten path: Harlem and East Village
Visit Harlem and the East Village to get to know “the other Manhattan” off the areas squatted by tourists!
Harlem first rose to fame as the birthplace of the 1920s renaissance movement, and is now a thriving mix of cultural traditions and avant garde creativity. Generations of art, food, and demographic shifts mean that newcomers and life-long residents continue to redefine one of the city’s most iconic culture hubs. Go explore!
New York’s East Village: Cute dogs and their hip owners cross Tompkins Square Park while drums echo over near Avenue B. Little kids playing catch while crusty punks and gritty old men occupy the benches on the Southwestern side. Just a typical slice of life in the East Village, which never fails to keep the excitement going long after other neighborhoods hit the pillow. Follow the foodies, dive bar enthusiasts, and vintage-hunters to the east end of Manhattan, where head-turning street style is the norm.
4. See New York from above: The High Line
The High Line is an elevated former rail line transformed into a public park on Manhattan’s West Side. The 1.45-mile-long strip was resurrected in 2009 and turned into one of the best NYC Parks, which runs from Hudson Yards to the northern edge of Chelsea. Today it’s an urbanite’s playground featuring lovely wildflowers, greenery and outdoor art, while offering walkers some of the best views in NYC.
5. Hunt street art in the Lower East Side and Bushwick
My favorite locations to take awesome shots are the newly opened First Green Street Art Park in the Lower East Side and Bushwick!
Spend a day taking in some street art. Collaborating with NYC Parks and Partnership For Parks, the First Street Green Community has successfully incorporated an empty building lot into First Park. The park provides ongoing cultural activity in First Park by engaging with emerging artists, architects, community and cultural groups through a series of programs that activate this public space. There is always something going on, so make sure to check it out!
While New York is a true mecca for seeing street art and graffiti, I recommend you take the train to Bushwick. Take the L and get off at Morgan Ave, take the Bogart St exit. Make a right off the subway and check out the huge Missed Connection billboard painted on the side of a building on Bogart St—it’s a woman looking for a man she saw walking his cat in the area, asking him to call her “if you nasty.”
6. Have a drink at New York’s best vegan bar: The Pine Box Rock Shop
The Pine Box is a feel good venue with a heart for animals, great music, decent beer and a neighborhood bar vibe. Pine Box Rock Shop provides in-house alternatives to traditionally non-vegan bar favorites such as Bloody Mary’s and homemade Irish Creme.
Alcohol aside, Pine Box Rock Shop is also a great place to enjoy animal-free snacks after a long day of vintage hunting. Watch out. The Pine Box Rock Shop is regularly hosting a vegan market, where vendors offer vegan treats, cakes, pizza and tacos, but also cruelty-free cosmetics and such.
Around the corner lies one of my favorite stores: Friends NYC. Though you should probably visit that one before you hit the bar (or leave the credit card at home *trust me*). Friends is a 2200-square-feet big indie department store retail goodness. They have something for everyone, and carry women’s and men’s, contemporary and vintage clothing, accessories, and footwear.
Vegan Shop-Up Every second (or sometimes third!) Saturday of the month The Pine Box Rock Shop hosts the biggest cruelty-free bash in NYC. Whether you're an herbivore, carnivore, omnivore, or detritivore, this pop-up market is crammed full of such amazing food, jewelry, crafts and so much more, you'll love this fair! Starts at noon, entry is free. Come early to make sure you get to try all the good stuff, as the best vendors sell out early.
7. Go thrift shopping and safe big bucks
Go thrift shopping and fight capitalism while you are saving big time on awesome outfits! Beacon’s closet, No Relation Vintage, Awoke and many more offer best vintage clothing at an extremely affordable price!
The Brooklyn magazin lists the 11 best vintage stores right here.
8. Dance your heart out at Mr. Sunday
It is Sunday? Time to dance your heart out! Now, New Yorkers are often too cool to let go in public and I have never seen them dance during day time until I came here! Things change when Mister Sunday opens his dance floors! The open air event location Nowadays welcomes the party folk from 4pm to 11pm until end of October at the edge of Bushwick. Great for people watching!
9. Walk through Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Red Hook Piers
Wander through the small cobbled streets of Brooklyn to reach the piers. It’s a wonderful place to be, especially at sunset with views over the Manhattan skyline. A favorite among locals and visitors alike, Brooklyn Bridge Park curves around the waterfront in DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights. The park is chock full of activities, from basketball to bocce, and a pop-up pool made of recycled shipping containers. One of the most beautiful spots for skyline views is right by Jane’s Carousel, where the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges meet.
You’ll eventually reach Red Hooks Piers if you follow the waterfront trail from Brooklyn Heights, walking away from Brooklyn Bridge. You will pass by the sports fields, where New Yorkers enjoy their after school and work activities, go for a run or come to have a BBQ with friends and family. Soon you will find yourself in a real artist’s community with plenty of little galleries and shops to duck into on your way. Welcome to the Red Hook Piers!
10. Visit magical Coney Island (or take another day trip)
Take the subway (Q, D, F, N) all the way down to Coney Island, take a walk on the beach, ride the rollercoaster, eat a salty pretzel and watch the sun set over the ocean
Coney Island! New Yorkers don’t really want to leave for good, but when the stress of the city starts to bear down on their shoulders, it’s nice to escape the madness and get ghost for a while. And what better to way to escape and spend a miserable hour on the train, just to emerge in a bright and trashy wonderland, with its roller coasters, romantic ferris wheels, salty pretzels and cheap bear. Take a stroll on the board walk, do some people watching. There is plenty to see!
You came with plenty of time and are looking for alternatives to Coney Island? Try the Poconos (less than 1:45 hrs away) or Nantucket (less than 1 hr)! For more ideas check out these day trip ideas!
11. Eat Bagels like a real New Yorker
Enjoy the real thing: Have a Bagel at Bagel Brothers (they got all sorts of flavored vegan cream cheese!!!) in Park Slope while admiring beautiful brown stone houses and strolling through Prospect Park. The G and F Train take you there (get off at 4 Av 9th Str).
Don’t feel like going down to Brooklyn? Thrillist has a list of the best bagel places in town!
Planning to visit a couple of museums? Then the New York City Explorer Pass might be the best option for you. The pass can be purchased here.
For first-time visitors looking to cover the most ground in a short amount of time, an all-access pass is the most cost-efficient and comprehensive option. The New York City Explorer Pass grants you access to your choice of 3-10 attractions and museums like the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum (skip-the-line entry), Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Sex.
Looking for free stuff to do in the city? Check out Time out for current events!
Travel and Leisure has a wonderful list of free things to do all year around.
I hope this article helps you to make most of your New York Trip! Let me know if you have any additional advice! After more than a year living in the city, I know for certain, that new ideas never run out!
Best, Jen May