With five boroughs, millions of people, and hundreds of cultures mashed together, New York is among the most exciting cities in the world. But it can be hard to know where to begin! So we asked a few of our NYC locals about their favorite places to visit in New York City. Here's what they said:
“The Village” is classic NYC—a mashup of culture, history, and fun. Centered around Washington Square Park (another locally beloved spot), Greenwich Village was for decades the center of bohemian life in NYC. Notable residents like Andy Warhol, Walt Whitman, and Bob Dylan wandered streets, and the East Coast hippie movement was born in the shadow of Washington Square Arch. Today, New York University dominates most of this neighborhood. Locals tell us that although the area has lost a bit of its bohemian edge, it’s still a great place to soak up some authentic NY culture, grab a slice of pizza, and explore the bars and cafes.
Local tip: You'll find the famous Comedy Cellar near Washington Square Park, but don't get stuck in tourist traps—ask one of our NYC trip planners to suggest some of their famous spots for comedy.
If you’re a meat lover, locals in NYC say that picking up a Katz’s pastrami sandwich is a must. Founded in 1888, this beloved delicatessen is one of the last true hallmarks of the legendary Jewish Lower East Side. Afterward, work off those meat calories with a walk through the neighborhood—the Lower East Side has largely been incorporated into Chinatown and SoHo, so benefit from local advice—work with one of our trip planners to design a map full of their favorite Lower East Side spots.
Regally perched in Midtown, locals tell us that the main branch of the New York Public Library is so worth visiting. Constructed at the beginning of the 20th century, the building’s massive and gorgeous exterior is only overshadowed by the stunning reading rooms within. When you’re up there, don’t forget to wander through Bryant Park right next door—it’s a great people-watching spot, especially around lunchtime (since there are thousands of offices surrounding the park). Our local trip planners in NYC say that NYPL usually offers cool, free exhibits as well.
Local tip: Don't forget to say hello to Patience and Fortitude, the famous lions keeping watch over the library's entrance.
Wall Street is the site of the most important stock exchange in the world, but locals tell us that you'll find lots of cool stuff to see in this area. Check out the spot where Washington was inaugurated in 1789, stare up at some of the tallest buildings in the world, and make sure to go inside Trinity Church, where some of our Founding Fathers are buried (including Alexander Hamilton and his wife, Elizabeth Schuyler). Afterward, walk a few blocks down to the southern tip of Manhattan Island, where New York’s original Dutch settlement was located.
Local tip: Looking for cool, free things to do? Hop on the Staten Island Ferry for a close-up look at the Statue of Liberty.
Locals in NYC rave about the city's incredible museums. It's so tough to pick just one or two to visit, but locals suggest prioritizing a visit to The Met. There’s just so much to see; you could literally—LITERALLY—spend days exploring it. Masterpieces of art, historical artifacts from all over the world, real ancient Egyptian temples, you name it. Simply put: it’s home to the treasures of civilization.
Our NYC trip planners say that visiting Central Park is fun (especially if it's your first time in NYC). They suggest hitting up the highlights: The Great Lawn, Strawberry Fields, The Jackie O. Reservoir, etc—but you should talk to locals about some of the park's hidden gems. You know, the ones that don't make Internet lists like these.
Local tip: Many people don’t realize it, but Central Park is massive—it spans from 59th Street (Midtown) all the way up to 110th (Harlem). And there’s tons of stuff to see right along the borders of the park, like the Upper West Side, The Dakota (where Lennon was killed) and The American Museum of Natural History.
A 1.5-mile park perched above the West Village and Chelsea, the High Line was originally a huge section of elevated train track (prior to the subway, New York was crisscrossed with these elevated tracks). In 2009, one of Lower Manhattan’s few remaining sections of elevated track was transformed into a beautiful park—the High Line! Locals tell us it's a great place to wander to get unique perspective of the city—but it can get crowded.
Local tip: Grab a bite at the nearby Chelsea Market (a Nabisco factory-turned-gourmet-food-hall), head up to the park, and have a picnic with an amazing view.
The first bridge across the East River, the Brooklyn Bridge was constructed all the way back in 1883. Locals tell us that although the bridge draws a lot of tourists (like, a lot) it's definitely worth visiting. Not only is the bridge beautiful and full of history, but it also offers one of the best walking paths around. Take an afternoon and amble across the bridge. Locals suggest enhancing the experience by grabbing a slice of Grimaldi’s pizza and hanging out in Brooklyn Bridge Park afterward.
Local tip: If you want to stroll across a bridge but avoid the crowds, cross the Manhattan or Williamsburg bridges instead. They're parallel to the Brooklyn Bridge, so you'll still get an amazing view. Yes, there are fewer people, but you'll also have to deal with the noise from the subways that also use the bridges.
Williamsburg, in North Brooklyn, is thought of as New York’s hipster capital. Here, you'll find tons of colorful street art, vinyl stores, and many of NYC's coolest breweries. On that note, locals suggest visiting East Williamsburg, where you can find breweries like Grimm's and Evil Twin—local favorites.
Local tip: If your trip lands on a weekend, our local trip planners in NYC recommend checking out Smorgasburg, a lively market (open-air in the summer) which offers a diverse selection of international food from 100+ vendors.
The birthplace of the amusement park, Coney Island is part-attraction, part-neighborhood, and part-history lesson. Known for many years as “New York’s playground”, Coney Island’s thrilling-and-terrifying boardwalk attractions fell into decline after their heyday in the late-19th and early-20th centuries.
Today, however, the area is going through a resurgence. You can still ride The Cyclone (the world’s oldest functioning rollercoaster), grab a hot dog at Nathan’s (the ubiquitous NYC hot dog shop), and even catch a minor-league baseball game at MCU Park (go Cyclones!). Moreover, Coney Island has somehow managed to retain its creepy-yet-wonderful Victorian carnival-and-freak-show vibe, and is known for its unparalleled burlesque scene.
Locals tell us that just up the beach from Coney Island is a hidden gem that few outside of Brooklyn knows about: Little Odessa. Centered around the Brighton Beach neighborhood, Little Odessa (also known as Little Moscow) is home to a massive population of Russian and Ukrainian immigrants. If you’ve never had the opportunity to travel through Eastern Europe, don’t fret—grab a pirozhki and wander the streets of Brighton Beach instead.
As fundamental to Brooklyn as Central Park is to Manhattan, locals rave about the immense beauty of Prospect Park. Spanning over 520 acres, it was designed by the same architects that created Central Park—but it’s much less crowded than its twin across the river. It’s also much wilder, and its hills and forests are filled with hidden nooks and crannies (think secret gardens and ponds). It’s also home to the Prospect Park Zoo and the gorgeous Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.
Local tip: Make sure to check out Grand Army Plaza at the northern tip of Prospect Park. If you head over on a Saturday, you might even catch the weekly greenmarket!
Locals tell us that a classic thing to do in NYC is to pair your Prospect Park visit with a stroll around its surrounding neighborhoods. While each one offers something special, the neighborhoods that line the park’s western edge—especially Park Slope—are worth checking out. Developed at the end of the 19th century, these upscale neighborhoods are filled with traditional brownstones, huge trees, and adorable cafes. Basically, they’re exactly what you picture when you think of a traditional Brooklyn neighborhood. Our local trip planners say that just walking around is fun—there's lots to look at—but they can suggest hip cafes, bars, and restaurants in the area as well.
Local tip: If you haven’t had your fill of adorable Brooklyn neighborhoods, be sure to check out nearby Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens.
Right across the river from downtown Manhattan, the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood isn’t just a collection of historical townhouses and fancy restaurants—it’s also home to one of the greatest views in the world. The Brooklyn Heights Promenade, a public park running along the riverfront, offers the ideal view of Lower Manhattan’s gargantuan skyscrapers. If you’re looking for your ideal NYC photo-op, this is it.
Local tip: Head over to the promenade at night. The lit-up skyscrapers are nothing short of magical. Super romantic too…
Locals say they wouldn't recommend spending too much time in the area around Rockefeller Center, but the view from the top of the building—“The Top of the Rock”—is totally worth it. From there, you can actually *see* the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, 1 World Trade Center, etc. in all their glory.
Local tip: Looking for a rooftop view on a budget? Hit up a rooftop bar. While the drinks aren't budget-friendly, locals tell us you can usually enter a rooftop bar without paying a cover.
A total hidden gem, locals note that The Cloisters are unknown even to many New Yorkers. The backstory: almost a century ago, industrialist John D. Rockefeller Jr. purchased four medieval French cloisters and had them moved, brick by brick, to Fort Tryon Park. There, they were reassembled and filled with medieval art from several private collections. Rockefeller even bought the land directly across the river and refused to develop it (to retain the rustic feel). If you can make it up to 190th Street, a walk in this historical park—and a visit to The Cloisters—is a cool way to spend the afternoon.
Local tip: If you’re nervous about walking around this far uptown, you’ve been watching too much SVU—New York is very safe these days. If you’re still nervous about exploring on your own, though, we’d recommend getting some insider safety tips from a New York local.
Our NYC trip planners tell us that you can't leave the MoMA off a list of must-visit places in NYC. Aside from The Met, it’s probably the most beloved museum in the city. Be sure to check out the rotating exhibitions alongside the museum’s permanent collection—both are worth exploring.
Benefit from local knowledge when it comes to the art scene. Our NYC locals can suggest museums to check out—and their favorite art galleries in town.
Home to sizeable populations of Asian, Hispanic, European, and Middle Eastern immigrants (as well as a large African-American community), Flushing is a one-stop-shop for amazing food, cool sights, and a look into the melting pot that is NYC. Our local trip planners in NYC tell us that this is the place for incredible dim sum.
The East Village is located at the junction of Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side. At the beginning of the century, it was filled with immigrants. In the ‘80s, it was filled with drugs. Now, it’s filled with NYU students who need cheap housing. Locals tell us you'll find great nightlife here—tons of bars, comedy clubs, and new restaurants.
Notable spots: St. Mark’s Place (the epicenter of American punk), Tomkins Square Park, every sleazy dive bar you’ve ever known and loved.
We end our list with two tourist treasures: The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Located on neighboring islands in New York Harbor, these attractions are worth the visit simply for their ubiquitous place in American history. The Statue of Liberty, a beacon of hope. Ellis Island, the harsh reality of the immigrant experience. Both are accessible via the frequent ferries that leave from Battery Park (at the southern tip of Manhattan). Go ahead and look up if your family passed through Ellis Island!
Why not ask someone who actually lives there? Our trip planners are locals in NYC—and no one can share better insights than they can.
Our local trip planners design a custom guidebook based on your interests and their insider knowledge. With their help, you’ll see a side of NYC that most tourists miss. Find a local today.