When it comes to a go-to city like New York, it’s so easy to get swept up in the tourist trends, running around the city to tick everything off your list without really making the most of the sheer exhilaration of being in New York – trust me, the emotions are real and you NEED to experience them. It’s been more than a year since I’ve been back in this magical city, and my hit-list is so ready for when I’m back!
So, whether you’ve got 48 hours or a whole week, here are some of my favourite spots in New York to really get you feeling like a local (check out my full walking guide of the city that, if you’re feeling ambitious, you can easily accomplish in a couple of days!)
Battery Park City
This is my absolute favourite place in the city, and the sunsets here are easily some of the best. The beautiful part of FiDi (Financial District) this walkway has it all – gorgeous views across the water, the Freedom Tower being iconic in the skyscape, and a perfect place to enjoy a run or light stroll while gazing at the sunset.
#Protip – for a lovely evening downtown, explore Battery Park City before heading to TriBeCa for some of NYC’s best sushi joints.
Now, oddly enough, everyone’s so fixated on hanging out twenty blocks north in Times Square that so many people often miss this perfect spot in the City that even locals are obsessed with. An elevated park and greenway on what was once a former New York Central Railroad, this 1.5km walkway is an ideal way to explore one of the City’s loveliest neighbourhoods – Chelsea – while catching up with friends as you make your way south to Meatpacking!
DON’T restrict yourself to going out and about only in Hell’s Kitchen or in and around Rockefeller Centre – live like a true local and get downtown to the Meatpacking District to either spend a day at brunch (while clubbing obviously, because hey, you’re in Meatpacking) at Bagatelle, or unwind with a drink in the evening after a day of sightseeing at The Standard or the rooftop of The Gansevoort Hotel.
I LOVE this gem in New York! Home to some of the City’s most beautiful homes, brunch spots, and footpaths (particularly in the spring, but really, there’s never a bad season to be in New York!), this historic little neighbourhood has been through every decade in New York and makes for an ideal Sunday afternoon in the city. It’s got some of New York’s best restaurants (pizza guide here!), and is home to the City’s best Italian grub.
Washington Square Park
Everyone gets themselves over to Union Square (yes it’s touristy, but you should definitely go!) but rarely do tourists head on a little further to Washington Square Park. If you’re in the Village this is easy enough to get to and a lovely park for a stroll, fraught with coffee shops surrounding it (hit up Stumptown Coffee Roasters or La Colombe in Noho for some of the best brew in the City) and the NYU campus at your doorstep.
St. Mark’s Place
Raise your hand if this definitely wasn’t on your list when you made your first trip to New York. Hidden away on the east side of the City, this three block stretch of 8th Street, and an unofficial neighbourhood if you will has some serious character. Tattoo parlours, organic ice cream stores (Van Leeuwan’s!), bars and restaurants for the twentysomethings, and the energy that has kept New York going through every century. If there’s one place that immortalizes New York through the ages, it’s St. Mark’s – you absolutely cannot miss this.
Make an evening out of it, grab some falafel at Mamoun’s (a NYC legacy of it’s own) and explore the speakeasy bars that have given St. Mark’s it’s character… some of those bars are probably older than your grandparents and have plenty to say about every facet of New York they’ve seen through the ages!
Brooklyn Bridge Park
This one is a little more common amongst tourists hitting the city, and yet everyone just stops halfway through their walk on the bridge without getting across. Brooklyn Bridge Park, just off the bridge into Brooklyn gives you some of the best views of New York from the ground. You’ve got the river, the Freedom Tower in your camera, and the iconic New York skyline – what more could you possibly want?
Dellarocco’s and Juliana’s are your go-to pizza spots to grab a pie and sit by the water if the weather’s nice! Walk on to Cobble Hill and hit up the Community Book Store for the best jumble of every kind of book you could possibly want.
#protip – get into DUMBO’s Washington Street (the intersection of Water Street) for the best Instagram of the Bridge!
Central Park’s Boathouse
I’m sure you’ve all been to the park and seen Strawberry Fields, but make your way down to the Boathouse for a perfect afternoon picnic spot – even better, rent a boat and paddle your way across the pond for a romantic afternoon or a catch up with girlfriends!
Upper West & East Side – Madison Avenue + 5th
So you’re definitely going to hit 5th Avenue in the area of Saks and other landmarks midtown, but definitely make your way further north to the City’s most beautiful residential neighbourhoods, scattered with boutique coffee shops and brownstones as far as the eye can see. A walk through this ‘hood about twenty blocks or so from 60th street gives you a whole different perspective on living in New York, and I promise, you’re going to stop repeatedly staring in awe and the gorgeous side streets and homes.
For a weekend morning well spent, go north to 90th Street (intersection of 5th Avenue) to Bluestone Lane for a meal inside a Cathedral (yes I’m serious!) and some of New York’s best Aussie brunch joints. Follow that up with a stroll around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir.
The East Side’s bohemian carve-out, Alphabet City, deriving its name from the only single-letter avenues in New York, is home to some of the trendiest restaurants, cocktail bars, and of course, Tompkins Square Park. If you’re a musicals fan, this is the setting of Rent and leaks straight into the Williamsburg Bridge, another icon in the NYC skyline. Supper, one of the best Italian restaurants in the city is on 2nd Street, as well as Westville East on Avenue A, a hidden brunch favourite for many locals.
There you have it… everything you need to know to live like a New Yorker.