11 Ways to Experience NYC Like Native New Yorkers

Most New Yorkers have never been to the Empire State Building or Ellis Island. Here’s what you should do instead!

1. Try a speakeasy.

New Yorkers don’t blink twice at paying $14 for a cocktail, and many of us take the art of its consumption very seriously. If you can stomach the pretentiousness of places that call their bartenders “mixologists,” speakeasy-style cocktail bars are pretty awesome places to drink. Yelp is a great way to find one near you. I recommend the Dead Rabbit in FiDi (short for ‘Financial District’) which was recently named the best bar in the world, twice by people who aren’t me!

2. Happy hour.

Nothing soothes a riled-up New Yorker like those three little words: $7 wine. Take a stroll around the East Village, and let the witty chalkboard signs lead you to cheap (well, by New York standards) beer, wine, and generally a good time.

3. Prospect Park

Almost everyone knows about Central Park, but few tourists ever venture south into Brooklyn’s biggest park. On any given weekend in the summer, there will usually be a handful of different events going on around the park. And even when there isn’t, the park is usually packed during weekends with nice weather. If you’re looking to dodge the tourist mobs and rub shoulders with some New Yorkers, this is the place.

Experience New York Like A Native New Yorker

Summer is a great time to visit Prospect Park.

4. Donation-based Yoga

A communal experience almost every Millennial has tried at least once, and many of us swear by. All you need is some loose-fitting clothing and a couple bucks to join the crowd of stressed out New Yorkers heading to ‘Yoga to the People’ or YTTP in St. Marks for a challengingly meditative power vinyasa class. Mat rentals are just $2 and you pay what you can at the end.

5. Brunch

If you’re in New York on a Sunday, you’ll find that the nice restaurants will all be packed. That’s because New Yorkers brunch like we grumble about the subway: at least once a week. Expect a 40-minute wait at many popular brunch spots like Cafe Orlin or Jack’s Wife Freda. But don’t fret! A long line usually means the food is worth the wait.

6. Pizza

There’s great pizza everywhere in New York, but one place I have to call out is Artichoke—a name every New Yorker worth their salt err, slice has known for years. Their two-inch thick pies are the staple of drunk New Yorkers in the wee hours of night. (Note their convenient proximity to bars in Union Square and Chelsea.) If you’ve seen the video of how they make their pizza, you’d understand why they’re a bonafide New York classic.

7. Union Square

I have a rude awakening for many visitors to New York—we avoid Times Square, and by extension all of you, like the plague. If you want to blend in with the New Yorkers, put away your selfie stick (it’s for your own safety) and take the train down to Union Square.

Sit in the park and people watch. Strangeness congregates in Union Square, and not the “Naked Cowboy” or extortion artist Elmos kind that plagues Time Square. On any given day, you may see a protest being staged across from the Whole Foods at one end of the park, and the blissfully undisturbed farmer’s market happening on the other.

Experience the New York of New Yorkers

Say what you will about concrete jungle, but we have some pretty great parks.

Spend the afternoon at Strand. Whether you’re a true literature connoisseur or just pretending (most of us are) spend a few hours craning your neck sideways at the racks of books outside Strand. I’ve often picked up a mildly interesting used book, and headed over to one of our many non-Starbucks coffee shops in the area. Cost for the afternoon: usually <$10!

8. Go “Out”

Something like a rite of passage, there is nothing that Millennial New Yorkers agree on more than the horror, anxiety, and claustrophobia associated with a Friday/Saturday night clubbing in the Meatpacking District.

9. Find Some Culture Outside of a Museum

As New Yorkers, we sometimes take for granted that this city offers a rich calendar of cultural events, often inexpensive or even free. Poke around the homepage of Time Out (most of us get a free print copy from the office) and find out what’s happening around town. Find something interesting to you, but is also a little out of your comfort zone and see what happens!

10. While we’re on the subject, don’t Pay Full-Price at the Met

If you’re planning to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, there’s no benefit to ordering tickets online. In fact, ordering online or at the kiosks means paying the full $25 suggested donation. Do what a New Yorker would do and get in line. And don’t let those snobs at the ticket counter guilt you into forking over $25 for a ticket (unless you really want to) when most people don’t.

Experience New York Like a Milennial New Yorker

I see way too many people on their phones in the museum.

11. Smorgasburg

If there’s anything New Yorkers love more than delicious, artfully prepared food—it’s when they all congregate in a line for us to sample like some kind of Homer Simpson sex dream. Smorgasburg is not the only festival in New York, but it is the most widely known. The markets are seasonal, so check their website for the calendar.

What’s your favorite thing to do in New York City?

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