New York City is exploding with traditional tourist stops, historical markers, and timeless events. But to truly experience the depth of this city, consider going off the beaten path. Not only will you beat the crowds, but you’re going to experience a side of NYC that only the locals see.
Governor’s Island used to be a military base, but it’s been saved from deterioration and turned into a public park. It’s a five-minute ferry ride from Manhattan, and it’s the perfect place to sprawl on massive green lawns (sans the crowds of Central Park) and soak in the history of the island by way of the preserved historic mansions. You’re also treated to killer views of the Statue of Liberty without masses of people! Pay attention to their calendar of events so you don’t miss things like the summer Jazz Age lawn party and food truck rotations.
The Tenement Museum
The era of tenements is an overlooked part of New York City’s history, but this museum is keeping it alive. The building was an actual tenement, and the organization running the museum painstakingly researched the families that lived here. The apartments are decorated to depict how the tenants lived at the time, and the exhibits and guided tours tell you about the fascinating lives these families lived. The house has no elevators, so tours cannot accommodate wheelchairs or strollers.
Fort Greene Flea
Mingle with actual locals at this hip Brooklyn flea market instead of swanky Manhattan bars. You’ll get to see what NYC is made of with a variety of handcrafted goods and locally owned businesses. Plan accordingly on the weekends, especially if you’re taking part in any sort of city tour like Open Look New York. Saturday markets offer the best shopping opportunities and you can end your shopping spree at the General Greene where you can indulge on local fare. Sundays have the Smorgasburg, a lineup of over 100 local food trucks that gather along the river and offer plenty of goodies as well as epic skyline views.
McSorley’s Old Ale House
This itty bitty pub claims the title of NYC’s oldest continually operated saloon. The bar serves up a great pint, but it’s the history that will really get you. Old photographs line the walls, and dried-up wishbones left by soldiers heading off to war are scattered throughout the building. The secret is out with locals on this one, so expect heavy crowds if you go in the evening. Try to go in the afternoon to snag a table, and remember the pub only accepts cash and their food offerings are minimal.
New York City has endless sightseeing possibilities! Remember you’re going to get more deeply into the heart of the city if you manage to make it off the well-traveled trail and go where the locals go.