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Saturday, August 4, 2018

Hidden New York City: Amazing Off The Beaten Path Ways To Visit Like A Local

New York City boasts more must-see attractions than we can name, but there’s a hidden side of the Big Apple filled with unique experiences and off-the-beaten-path things just waiting to be discovered.

New York City is a busy place, full of interesting neighborhoods, places to eat, and enough things to do to hold the attention of even the most committed “see it all” visitor. Manhattan is the city’s inarguable hub—home to Broadway, Times Square and the 9/11 Memorial for starters—but the city’s other boroughs, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, have their share of enticements. And if visiting the Statue of Liberty is on your New York agenda, then you will have also visited the city’s unofficial sixth borough, the state of New Jersey.

Visit New York Like A Local

The city boasts more must-see attractions than we can name (and let’s be honest, you probably don’t need our help identifying those!), but there’s a whole hidden New York filled with unique experiences and “non-touristy” things to do. From Harlem hip-hop walking tours and after-dark museum tours to off-Broadway theater shows, this post highlights some of the more authentic ways to visit New York City like a local. While its reputation as a city that never sleeps is a deserved one, sorting out a few details in advance about preferred sites to see (both the popular and hidden-gem types) will save heaps of time standing in line, particularly during the city’s busiest seasons: summertime and the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

No matter what brings you to the Big Apple, TripAdvisor is here to help you plan your whole itinerary. When it comes to finding a place to stay, we check up to 200 booking sites to bring you the lowest price possible on New York City hotels. Plus, you can book all your New York City tours, activities, and attraction tickets right on our site, too! Our new 24-hour cancellation policy (on in-destination experiences) means you can pre-book before arriving, but still have the flexibility to cancel if your itinerary changes.

1. Explore New York culture in Harlem

A large neighborhood that starts at the north end of Central Park, Harlem is an important locale for New York’s cultural history. The birthplace of hip-hop and the epicenter of the eponymous Harlem Renaissance, Harlem is all about culture. Stop in at the Apollo Theater and stand on the same stage as Michael Jackson and Ella Fitzgerald, feast on the new soul food (a trend sweeping the city) at Sylvia’s, one of New York’s iconic restaurants, on this soul food and jazz evening tour—or sing along at a gospel mass at a local church to understand the neighborhood’s history and its enduring impact on American culture. Or rent a bike to explore Harlem’s streetside charms and architectural gems at your own pace.

2.Dig Deeper into New York life

Every building in New York has a story, and discovering hidden New York like a local takes chutzpah and a willingness to explore alleyways, once-hidden corridors, and neighborhoods off the beaten track. Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers pass through Grand Central Station every day but few take the time to explore—or even look at—the gorgeous details of the recently renovated building. At a minimum, sit and have a coffee at one of the cafes at the top of the gran staircase and gaze at the star-lit ceiling while listening to an audio tour. Meet the ghost of Alexander Hamilton, said to inhabit parts of lower Manhattan, on a tour of the neighborhood’s spookiest places. Or dig in on what really happens when the lights are turned off at the American Museum of Natural History.

3. Go underground

New Yorkers know that the best way to move around town (and some of the best entertainment) is on the city’s efficient transit system. Head below ground to hear your next favorite band while waiting for the train. Explore New York’s role in ending slavery and the Underground Railroad movement. Ride the rails while learning about the subway and its ghost stations or check out the oldest railroad tunnel in the states, the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel in Brooklyn. Don’t leave New York without viewing the Oculus from deep within the World Trade Center Transportation Hub. You will never see the city in the same way again.

4. New York at night

New York has Broadway and the ever-brighter lights of Times Square, which are best seen from the top of a double-decker bus. Learn a few tricks for capturing the lights of the city’s most iconic buildings on a photo tour. Hang out with locals in one of the city’s smaller theaters like the Comedy Cellar or Astor Place. Take the subway to see a Yankees baseball game or NYCFC soccer game at Yankee Stadium (and enjoy a Gray’s Papaya hot dog along the way). Don’t miss the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and Brooklyn Bridge Park. These pocket parks are a green, scenic overture to a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and an easy way to capture gorgeous photos of the Manhattan skyline at night.

5. Art is where you find it

Perhaps the most non-touristy things to do in New York are found by simply walking. Everywhere. This gives you ample opportunity to discover graffiti art at 5 Pointz while exploring the flavors of Long Island City, Queens on this food tour, or stumble upon the tiny, 20- square-foot Mmuseumm in an old freight elevator in Cortlandt Alley off lower Broadway. Or walk the High Line, savor a bite on the shaded patio at Alta Linea, and stop in at the new Whitney Museum to see the very latest in American art. For a great walk on the less explored end of the island, walk north from the George Washington Bridge through Fort Tryon Park to visit the Cloisters. It’s an extension of the very popular Metropolitan Museum of Art and dedicated to the art of medieval Europe. It’s so peaceful here, you would never know this hidden gem was on the island of Manhattan. Getting off the beaten path in New York City is as easy as stepping outside and seeing where the sidewalk takes you!

Must-See Attractions

While visiting New York City like a local is fun, there are a few must-see things every tourist should do to make their New York experience a great one. These are the places locals take out-of-town guests, too.

Art Deco and the Empire State Building

Though visiting the Empire State Building like a local does not include a lift to the spire by the likes of King Kong or Superman, locals like to linger in the Art Deco lobby before heading up to the Observation Deck. The Second Avenue Deli is just a few blocks away and makes a great lunch stop before walking a few blocks north to the Empire’s Art Deco younger sibling, the Chrysler Building.

The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

Really, you must visit New York’s not-very-hidden twinned destinations, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Book well in advance and catch the ferry from New Jersey to beat the crowds that flock to see the enduring symbol of freedom, the green goddess, the one and only Statue of Liberty. Pair it with a visit to Ellis Island and the immigration museum to understand why one in six Americans has New York roots. Don’t rush—the exhibits at the museum are best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. To cover both famous sights in one swoop, consider this award-winning guided tour. It recently won TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice award for “best cultural experience” in the world!

The Star Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton

New York is full of great interior spaces. Don’t let the hustle and bustle stop you from taking a pause to revel in the city’s grandeur. The Star Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton is classic New York in the best sense. The soaring ceilings cast a lofty gaze upon tufted chairs and wood-paneled walls wrapped in the warm glow of shaded lamps. The scene evokes Mad Men at their Manhattan-sipping finest. Whether your drink is a single malt scotch or a lime rickey, take a moment to sip while savoring the New York-ness of it all.