6 Ways to Experience New York City Like a Local

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6 Ways to Experience New York City Like a Local

One of the most fascinating things about New York City is just how much stuff there is to see and do. Even the most extensive lists of the best places to go to in New York barely scratch the surface of this vast metropolis.

A visitor could spend their time at the usual suspects, such as the Empire State Building and Times Square. That, however, would mean missing out on lesser known, but just as fascinating locations. To get a real feel of New York, you should consider spending the day in the shoes of a local.

Here are a number of ways you can do just that.

  • Walk

When you arrive in New York, one of the first things that strikes you is the sheer number of people walking the streets. New Yorkers not only walk, but they walk really fast. As a densely populated city packed with skyscrapers, walking is often the cheapest and fastest way to get from one point to another.

For visitors, few activities can rival walking as a means of experiencing the sights, sounds and smells that define a place. That being said, New Yorkers are notoriously impatient, so remember to step to the side if you need to take a photo or people-watch. If you are pressed for time, going on a hop-on/hop-off bus tour can serve as a suitable substitute for walking.

  • Take the Subway

Another fixture of New York daily life is the subway. Get a MetroCard and you’ll be able to move around faster and cheaper than you would with a cab. Maps are prominently posted in all stations, but don’t be afraid to ask a local if you are not sure. New Yorkers are pretty helpful and will be happy to share their knowledge. The subway is huge and even seasoned locals will ask for directions sometimes.

Traveling with a smartphone is a plus as any one of several subway map apps will show you the best route. The subway runs all day, all night, all year. However, take reasonable precautions and always be aware of your surroundings. Be especially cautious at night and avoid traveling alone. At late hours, you may want to take a cab even though the subway costs less.

  • Use a Taxi App

New York cabs are world famous. In the past, locals would hail taxis with a wave or loud whistle. The Big Apple has not been left behind by the taxi app revolution that’s taken many cities around the globe by storm either. Several taxi apps are available, but Uber and Lyft are the most popular.

A simple tap will trigger a search for the nearest available car and track its movement in real time. You then pay via credit card. Like most parts of the world, Uber is the most popular, but is reviled for its surge-pricing that kicks-in during high-traffic periods, like bad weather days and the holiday season.

  • Experience the Arts

New York has amazing and expansive museums that few people will have the luxury of time to explore in full. Still, make a point of visiting at least some of them. Being a local means knowing when it’s best to visit. If you want to avoid the crowds, go on weekday mornings.

If you’ll be in New York for months and intend to visit the museum multiple times, become a member. It’s not only a way to skip the long lines during peak hours, but also a great way to support the arts. Some museums have free days, but be prepared to encounter huge crowds keen on taking advantage of such rare offers.

An alternative to museums (and much cheaper) is paying a visit to the numerous art galleries in the city. They’re not only free to enter, but a number even offer wine and snacks.

  • Go for a Show

Many New Yorkers abhor Times Square and you’ll be hard-pressed to meet locals there. That doesn’t mean they have no interest in the rich offering of music and theater. After all, Broadway is Broadway primarily because of the city’s residents. Instead of paying full price, locals look for discounted tickets on Living Social, Groupon and other social buying sites.

You can also score great deals on TKTS, the discount ticket booths. If you choose to do that, your time will be best served by going to the less busy TKTS booths in South Street and Brooklyn than the much busier one in Times Square. Even better, you can use the TKTS app to keep tabs on ticket availability at the city’s four booths.

  • Drink Coffee

Perhaps the reason New York is referred to as the city that never sleeps is because the locals consume so much coffee. There may be a coffee shop on virtually every corner of NYC, but you’ll find mainly tourists in most of them. Locals may love coffee, but they are quite choosy.

Despite their reputation for always being in a hurry, New Yorkers are more than willing to wait several extra minutes for the best pour-over brews and freshly roasted beans. Join locals at gourmet spots like Third Rail Coffee, Stumptown, Ninth Street Espresso, La Colombe, Everyman Espresso and Blue Bottle Coffee.

As arguably the world’s most bustling city, New York is more than just another destination to cross off your bucket list. With more than eight million residents spread across five boroughs, the depth and breadth of activities visitors can choose from is overwhelming. Acting like a local will go a long way in making your tour efficient, real and fun.

Editorial Team
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