Header Notice

Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

Unique Things To Do In NYC | New York City Like A Local – Free Guide


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Emera Mcglothlin



Welcome to the vibrant city of New York! Known as the “City that Never Sleeps,” New York City offers a plethora of unique experiences and attractions that will leave you captivated. Beyond the iconic landmarks and popular tourist destinations, there are countless hidden gems waiting to be discovered. In this guide, we will take you on a journey through the streets of New York City, sharing insider tips on how to explore the Big Apple like a local and uncovering the city’s best-kept secrets.


From the bustling streets of Times Square to the serene oasis of Central Park, New York City offers a dynamic mix of culture, history, and innovation. As you navigate the city, be sure to explore the many neighborhoods that make up the fabric of New York. Each neighborhood has its own unique character and charm, with a diverse range of cuisines, shops, and attractions to explore.


While it’s impossible to cover everything that New York City has to offer in just one guide, we have handpicked a selection of unique experiences that are sure to make your visit unforgettable. Whether you’re a foodie looking to indulge in local street cuisine, an art lover seeking out hidden galleries, or an adventurer eager to explore off-the-beaten-path attractions, there’s something for everyone in the concrete jungle.


So, gear up and get ready to experience New York City like a local. Let’s dive in and discover the unique things to do in NYC that will make your trip truly unforgettable!


Exploring Central Park

Central Park, the heart of Manhattan, is a sprawling oasis amidst the city’s concrete jungle. Spanning 843 acres, this iconic green space offers a multitude of activities and attractions for both locals and tourists alike.


Start your exploration of Central Park with a leisurely stroll through the park’s scenic pathways. Take in the beauty of the park’s meticulously landscaped gardens, serene lakes, and iconic landmarks such as the Bethesda Terrace and Bow Bridge. If you’re visiting during the warmer months, pack a picnic and relax on the Great Lawn, where you can soak up the sun and enjoy stunning views of the park’s skyline.


For a unique experience, consider renting a bicycle or a rowboat. Pedal your way through the park’s winding paths, passing by famous landmarks like Strawberry Fields, a tribute to John Lennon, or row your way across the serene waters of the Central Park Lake.


If you’re a lover of art and culture, don’t miss the chance to visit the Central Park Zoo and the neighboring Central Park Conservatory Garden. The zoo is home to a wide variety of animals, including snow leopards, penguins, and red pandas. At the Conservatory Garden, you can meander through beautifully manicured lawns, vibrant flower displays, and serene fountains.


Central Park is also a hub for outdoor activities and entertainment. From open-air concerts at the SummerStage to Shakespearean performances at the Delacorte Theater, there’s always something happening in this vibrant park. Additionally, the park offers opportunities for horseback riding, ice skating in winter, and even catching a baseball game at the iconic Central Park Ballfields.


As you explore Central Park, keep an eye out for the many public art installations and sculptures that are scattered throughout the park. From the famous Alice in Wonderland statue to the humorous Balto statue, these artworks add an extra layer of charm and whimsy to the park’s already enchanting atmosphere.


Central Park truly is a haven in the midst of the bustling city. Whether you’re looking to relax and soak up nature’s beauty, engage in outdoor activities, or immerse yourself in art and culture, exploring Central Park is a must-do when visiting New York City.


Discovering Hidden Rooftop Bars

When it comes to enjoying a drink with a view, New York City is home to some of the most incredible rooftop bars in the world. While popular rooftop venues like 230 Fifth and The Standard offer stunning vistas, the city also hides a handful of hidden gems that offer a more intimate and unique experience.


One such hidden gem is the Roof at Park South, located in the Gramercy neighborhood. This rooftop bar offers a cozy and sophisticated atmosphere with panoramic views of the city skyline. Sip on craft cocktails while enjoying the lush greenery and comfortable seating areas. The Roof at Park South is the perfect place to escape the bustling streets and unwind with friends.


For those seeking a rooftop experience with a touch of nostalgia, head to The Press Lounge. Perched atop the Ink48 Hotel in Hell’s Kitchen, this rooftop bar boasts breathtaking views of the Hudson River and Manhattan skyline. The stylish and modern décor, combined with an extensive list of craft cocktails and small plates, make The Press Lounge a must-visit for any cocktail connoisseur.


In the heart of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, lies Westlight, a rooftop bar located atop The William Vale hotel. This trendy spot offers not only incredible views of the Manhattan skyline but also an extensive drink menu featuring both classic and inventive cocktails. With its chic and trendy atmosphere, Westlight is a favorite among locals and visitors alike.


If you’re looking for a hidden rooftop bar that offers a taste of the tropics, head to The Polynesian. Located in Midtown Manhattan, this rooftop oasis transports you to a tropical paradise with its lush greenery, tiki-inspired cocktails, and panoramic views of the city. Sip on a Mai Tai or a Piña Colada while taking in the vibrant atmosphere and enjoying the company of friends.


As you explore the city’s hidden rooftop bars, keep in mind that some venues may require reservations or have strict dress codes. It’s always a good idea to check ahead and plan accordingly to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience.


Discovering hidden rooftop bars in New York City is like discovering a whole new world within the already bustling cityscape. Whether you’re in the mood for a romantic night out or want to enjoy a drink with friends while admiring stunning views, these hidden rooftop bars offer a unique and memorable experience that will make your visit to the city truly special.


Trying Authentic Street Food

One of the best ways to truly immerse yourself in the food culture of New York City is by indulging in the city’s diverse and delicious street food offerings. From hot dogs to halal carts, the streets of NYC are lined with food vendors serving up tasty treats that will tantalize your taste buds.


When it comes to street food, there’s no better place to start than with the classic New York hot dog. You can find hot dog carts scattered throughout the city, but for an iconic experience, head to Gray’s Papaya. This legendary hot dog joint has been serving up their famous franks with all the toppings since 1973.


If you’re craving something with a little more heat, make your way to a halal cart. These carts can be found on many street corners, particularly in Midtown Manhattan, and offer delicious Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Don’t miss out on trying a platter of chicken or lamb over rice, slathered in flavorful sauces and accompanied by a variety of salads and condiments.


For those looking for a taste of the Caribbean, seek out a Jamaican food cart. These carts serve up mouthwatering dishes like jerk chicken, curry goat, and oxtail stew. Pair these flavorful dishes with traditional sides like rice and peas or fried plantains for a true taste of the islands.


If you’re in the mood for something on the sweeter side, keep an eye out for street vendors selling fresh-made churros or soft-serve ice cream. These sweet treats are perfect for satisfying your cravings while exploring the city.


For a truly unique street food experience, make your way to Smorgasburg. This outdoor food market is held in various locations throughout the city and showcases a wide array of vendors serving up everything from artisanal donuts to mouthwatering dumplings. Smorgasburg is the perfect place to sample a variety of street foods and discover new flavors.


As with any street food, it’s important to exercise caution and choose vendors with a good reputation for cleanliness and quality. Look for carts or trucks that have a steady stream of customers, as this is often a good sign of delicious and safe food.


Sampling authentic street food in New York City is not just about satisfying your hunger; it’s about experiencing the vibrant culinary scene that the city has to offer. So, don’t be afraid to step off the beaten path and explore the delicious and diverse world of New York City street food.


Visiting Offbeat Museums

When it comes to museums, New York City is home to some of the most renowned institutions in the world. However, beyond the well-known museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, the city is also brimming with offbeat and unique museums that offer a different perspective on art, history, and culture.


One offbeat museum that should be on your list is the Museum of the American Gangster. Located in the East Village, this small museum takes visitors on a journey through the history of organized crime in America. Discover artifacts and stories related to famous mobsters like Al Capone and Lucky Luciano, and learn about the impact of organized crime on American society.


If you’re a fan of all things strange and unusual, don’t miss the Museum of Interesting Things. This hidden gem, located in Brooklyn, showcases a vast collection of vintage items and curiosities. From antique cameras and rare toys to odd medical devices, the museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the past and is sure to spark your curiosity.


For art enthusiasts looking for something different, the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens is a must-visit. This interactive museum explores the art, technology, and history of film, television, and digital media. Immerse yourself in the world of media and experience hands-on exhibits, screenings of classic films, and behind-the-scenes insights into the filmmaking process.


If you have a thirst for knowledge and a love for books, make your way to the Morgan Library & Museum. Housed in a stunning architectural masterpiece, this museum showcases rare manuscripts, literary artifacts, and works of art collected by financier J.P. Morgan. Explore the library’s impressive collection, which includes original manuscripts by authors like Charles Dickens and Mark Twain, and indulge in the beauty of this historic institution.


For a taste of New York City’s gritty past, visit the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. This museum preserves the history of immigrant life in the city and offers guided tours through restored tenement apartments, showcasing the living conditions and stories of immigrant families who once called this place home. It’s a powerful and immersive experience that provides a glimpse into the city’s rich cultural heritage.


These offbeat museums offer a fresh and unique perspective on art, history, and culture, allowing visitors to delve into lesser-known aspects of New York City’s diverse tapestry. So, step off the beaten path and explore these hidden gems that are sure to ignite your imagination and expand your horizons.


Exploring Street Art in Brooklyn

Brooklyn has long been a hub for creativity and artistic expression, and its streets are a canvas for some of the most vibrant and captivating street art in the world. From colorful murals to thought-provoking graffiti, exploring the street art scene in Brooklyn is a must for art enthusiasts and anyone seeking to experience the city’s dynamic artistic culture.


One of the most popular neighborhoods for street art in Brooklyn is Bushwick. This trendy and rapidly evolving neighborhood boasts an impressive array of murals and graffiti covering the walls of buildings and alleyways. Wander through the streets and immerse yourself in the vibrant colors and intricate designs that adorn the facades.


A notable destination for street art enthusiasts is the Bushwick Collective. This open-air gallery spans several blocks and features an ever-changing lineup of murals created by local and international artists. Take a leisurely stroll through the area to admire the larger-than-life artworks and appreciate the diversity of styles and techniques on display.


Williamsburg is another neighborhood in Brooklyn known for its vibrant street art scene. Walk along Bedford Avenue and explore the surrounding streets to discover an abundance of art adorning the walls. From political statements to whimsical illustrations, the art in Williamsburg reflects the eclectic and creative spirit of the neighborhood.


If you want to dive deeper into the world of street art, consider taking a guided tour. Various companies and local artists offer street art tours in Brooklyn, providing insights into the history, techniques, and stories behind the artworks. These tours not only showcase the art but also provide a deeper understanding of the artists and their creative processes.


It’s worth noting that street art is an ever-changing landscape, with new works being created and old ones fading away over time. What you see today may not be there tomorrow, so make sure to capture your favorite pieces through photography or simply take the time to appreciate the art in the moment.


Exploring the street art in Brooklyn is an immersive and visually captivating experience that allows you to connect with the city’s artistic soul. So, grab your camera, put on your walking shoes, and embark on a colorful journey through the streets of Brooklyn to discover the vibrant world of street art.


Taking a Ferry to Staten Island

For a unique and budget-friendly way to experience breathtaking views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline, hop on a ferry to Staten Island. The Staten Island Ferry is a beloved mode of transportation for both locals and tourists, offering a picturesque journey across the waters of New York Harbor.


The ferry ride itself is completely free, making it a great option for those looking to enjoy some sightseeing without breaking the bank. Departing from the Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan, the ferry takes you on a scenic 25-minute journey to Staten Island. As you glide across the harbor, be sure to grab a spot on the outdoor deck to fully immerse yourself in the stunning views.


As you approach Staten Island, keep your camera ready for the iconic Statue of Liberty. The ferry passes by the statue at a close distance, allowing for magnificent photo opportunities. The experience of seeing Lady Liberty up close from the water is truly awe-inspiring and is definitely a highlight of the journey.


Once you arrive at the St. George Terminal in Staten Island, take some time to explore the area. The St. George neighborhood is home to a vibrant mix of shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions. Visit the Staten Island Museum, located just a short distance from the terminal, to learn more about the island’s history and culture.


If you’re interested in more natural beauty, make your way to the Staten Island Greenbelt. This expansive network of parks and nature reserves offers scenic hiking trails, lush forests, and stunning views of the surrounding landscapes. It’s the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and immerse yourself in nature.


When you’re ready to head back to Manhattan, simply hop back on the ferry for another scenic ride. If you time it right, you may even catch a breathtaking sunset over the Manhattan skyline as you sail back across the harbor.


The Staten Island Ferry provides a unique and memorable way to see New York City’s iconic sights from a different perspective. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned local, a ferry ride to Staten Island is a must-do experience that showcases the beauty of the city while offering a peaceful and refreshing escape from the bustling streets.


Exploring the High Line

Suspended above the bustling streets of Manhattan’s West Side, the High Line is a unique and elevated park that offers a tranquil escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. This innovative urban oasis, built on a historic freight rail line, has become one of New York City’s most popular and beloved attractions.


Stretching for 1.45 miles, the High Line winds its way through the vibrant neighborhoods of Chelsea and the Meatpacking District. As you walk along the elevated pathway, you’ll be greeted by picturesque views of the city skyline, beautifully landscaped gardens, and thoughtfully curated art installations.


One of the highlights of the High Line is the abundance of public art that lines its path. From large-scale sculptures to interactive installations, the park provides a platform for both established and emerging artists to showcase their work. Keep an eye out for temporary exhibitions and installations that change throughout the year, adding a dynamic and ever-evolving element to the experience.


In addition to the art, the High Line offers a variety of seating areas, green spaces, and gathering spots. Take a moment to relax on one of the many benches and soak up the sun or find a shady nook to enjoy a picnic. The park provides a breath of fresh air in the heart of the city, inviting visitors to unwind and connect with nature.


As you stroll along the High Line, you’ll also have the opportunity to explore the surrounding neighborhoods. From the trendy shops and boutiques of the Meatpacking District to the renowned art galleries of Chelsea, there are plenty of attractions to discover just steps away from the park.


For food enthusiasts, the High Line’s vicinity offers a wide array of dining options. From casual food stalls and food trucks located along the pathway to stylish rooftop restaurants overlooking the park, there’s something to satisfy every craving.


Whether you’re a nature lover, art enthusiast, or simply seeking a unique experience in the city, exploring the High Line is a must-do when visiting New York City. Immerse yourself in the beauty of the elevated park’s green spaces, take in the stunning views, and appreciate the creativity and innovation that went into transforming an old railway into a vibrant and captivating public space.


Enjoying Live Music in Greenwich Village

Renowned for its rich history in the arts and bohemian culture, Greenwich Village in New York City is a haven for live music enthusiasts. The neighborhood has been a breeding ground for talented musicians and has played a pivotal role in shaping the music landscape throughout the decades. From intimate jazz clubs to legendary music venues, Greenwich Village offers a diverse and lively scene for music lovers.


One iconic venue in the heart of Greenwich Village is the legendary Blue Note Jazz Club. Since its inception in 1981, the Blue Note has attracted the biggest names in jazz and continues to showcase world-class talent. Prepare to be mesmerized by the intimate atmosphere and the soulful sounds of jazz as you indulge in an unforgettable night of live music.


For those seeking a more eclectic and intimate setting, head to Le Poisson Rouge. This multi-purpose arts space hosts a variety of performances, including live music across different genres, from classical and jazz to indie rock and electronic. With its avant-garde ambiance and diverse lineup, Le Poisson Rouge offers a unique and immersive musical experience.


No trip to Greenwich Village would be complete without visiting The Village Vanguard. This iconic jazz club has been a cornerstone of the New York City jazz scene since 1935. Enjoy the historic setting, cozy atmosphere, and incredible acoustics as you listen to some of the most talented jazz musicians in the world.


In addition to well-established venues, Greenwich Village is also known for its open mic nights and singer-songwriter showcases. Places like The Bitter End and The Sidewalk Cafe provide aspiring musicians with a platform to share their talents and offer a more intimate and interactive experience for both performers and audience members.


Greenwich Village also holds a special place in the history of folk music. Legendary venues like The Gaslight Cafe and Cafe Wha? were once the stomping grounds of iconic musicians such as Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. While these specific venues have changed over the years, the neighborhood still exudes a vibrant folk music heritage that can be discovered by exploring its cozy coffee shops and listening spaces.


With its rich musical history and vibrant scene, Greenwich Village is the perfect place to immerse yourself in live music. From the smooth sounds of jazz to the raw energy of indie rock, there’s a genre and venue to suit every musical taste. So venture into this creative enclave, soak up the vibrant atmosphere, and let the live music of Greenwich Village captivate your soul.


Exploring Little Italy and Chinatown

Located in lower Manhattan, the neighboring neighborhoods of Little Italy and Chinatown offer a vibrant and multicultural experience that is rich in history, culture, and, of course, delicious cuisine. Exploring these two distinct neighborhoods is like taking a trip to Italy and China without leaving the city.


Start your exploration in Little Italy, where the streets are lined with charming Italian restaurants, cafes, and pastry shops. Take a leisurely stroll along Mulberry Street, the heart of Little Italy, and immerse yourself in the atmosphere of an Italian village. Indulge in authentic Italian dishes such as fresh pasta, brick oven pizza, and cannoli filled with sweet ricotta cream.


While in Little Italy, be sure to visit the famous Italian market, the Arthur Avenue Retail Market. This indoor market is filled with specialty food vendors offering an array of Italian products, from fresh produce and homemade pasta to artisanal cheeses and cured meats. Explore the market, sample tasty treats, and pick up some ingredients to recreate an Italian feast at home.


As you venture into Chinatown, you’ll find yourself in a bustling neighborhood filled with vibrant colors, aromatic flavors, and a rich cultural heritage. Start your journey on Canal Street and wander through the crowded streets filled with shops selling traditional Chinese goods, from exotic spices and herbal remedies to intricate artwork and colorful trinkets.


Chinatown is a food lover’s paradise, offering an endless array of culinary delights. Dive into the world of Chinese cuisine by sampling famous dishes like dim sum, Peking duck, and hand-pulled noodles. Don’t forget to explore the many bakeries in the area and try some delectable Chinese pastries and desserts.


While in Chinatown, take the opportunity to visit the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA). Located on Centre Street, this museum showcases the history, culture, and contributions of the Chinese community in New York City. Through its exhibits and programs, the MOCA provides insight into the vibrant tapestry of the Chinese immigrant experience.


Both Little Italy and Chinatown offer a wide range of cultural events and festivals throughout the year. From the colorful celebrations of the Chinese New Year to the lively Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy, these neighborhoods come alive with music, dance, and tradition, providing a glimpse into their rich cultural heritage.


Exploring Little Italy and Chinatown is like embarking on a culinary and cultural adventure. From the aroma of freshly baked Italian pastries to the bustling streets filled with the sights and sounds of Chinese culture, these neighborhoods offer a unique and immersive experience that will leave you with a newfound appreciation for the diversity and vibrancy of New York City.


Taking a Walk on the Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge is not just an iconic symbol of New York City but also a historic landmark that offers breathtaking views and a memorable walking experience. Taking a leisurely stroll across this iconic bridge is a must-do for visitors and locals alike.


Start your walk on the Brooklyn side of the bridge, where you’ll be greeted by stunning views of the Manhattan skyline. As you make your way across the pedestrian walkway, take in the intricate Gothic architecture of the bridge’s stone towers and the suspension cables that stretch overhead.


As you continue your journey, be sure to stop and admire the panoramic views of the East River, the Manhattan skyline, and the Statue of Liberty in the distance. The bridge offers unparalleled photo opportunities, so don’t forget to capture the breathtaking vistas and the architectural marvel of the bridge itself.


Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge also provides a unique perspective on the city’s transportation system. Watch as cars, bikes, and pedestrians navigate their way across the bridge, giving you a glimpse into the vibrant energy of New York City.


For an extra special experience, time your walk during sunset. As the sun dips below the Manhattan skyline, the bridge takes on a golden hue, creating a magical and romantic ambiance. It’s the perfect moment to pause, take in the beauty around you, and create lasting memories.


Once you reach the other side of the bridge in Manhattan, you’ll find yourself in the vibrant neighborhood of DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). Here, you can explore the cobblestone streets, trendy boutiques, and art galleries. Grab a bite to eat at one of the many local eateries and cafes, or simply relax in one of the waterfront parks and enjoy the magnificent views.


If you’re up for a longer walk, continue your journey along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. This elevated walkway offers stunning views of the Manhattan skyline and is lined with picturesque brownstone houses. It’s the perfect way to extend your exploration of Brooklyn while reveling in the charm and beauty of the neighborhood.


Taking a walk on the Brooklyn Bridge allows you to appreciate the architectural beauty of the bridge, soak in the panoramic views of the city, and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of New York City. It’s a quintessential experience that showcases the city’s grandeur and leaves you with a sense of wonder and awe.