A Local’s Guide to NYC

I wore shorts today, for the first time this year.

Hallelujah! It’s finally spring!

And you know what that means…just like my winter-pale gams, pretty soon the tourists will be coming out of hibernation and visiting NYC.

I love my city. I’ve lived in NYC for seven years, and every day, I still have to pinch myself that I’m living in the greatest city in the world.

But I’m not going to lie, there’s a huge different between “Touristy New York” and “Locals New York.” For example: Ask any New Yorker, and they’ll lament to you how they stay away from Times Square like the plague. Which is a sensible practice if you want to keep your sanity. Or if you care to protect your blood pressure.

Here’s my list of how to “do up” New York like a local!

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1. Skip the Uber, take the Subway!

Sure taxis are iconic, and Ubers are the epitome of convenience, but nothing will make you feel like a kick a** New Yorker like tackling the subway. It’s truly so user friendly. Download the MTA Subway app on your phone – or use Google Maps – and it shows you exactly which train to take to get to your destination. You’ll be sure to see awesome subway performers, authentic New York street fashion, and if you’re lucky, you might even end up on the Hot Dudes Reading on Trains Instagram account….a secret guilty pleasure of all NYC single ladies 🙂 hehe ((And while you’re on the train – support the blog by listening to a Free Audiobook 😉 ))

2. Bring good walking shoes

Nothing beats a beautiful stroll through the wonky streets of the West Village — unless, your feet hurt. New York is literally made for walking around. I know the island seems intimidating, but every neighborhood has its own feel and look. Soho, Hells Kitchen, Alphabet City, Midtown West, Greenwich Village, Chinatown, Little Italy – they are all so different. But you’re not going to get the full experience from the back of a cab or *cringe* a tourbus. You’ve gotta have feet on the pavement. Go into the shops, stop at a non-chain coffee shop, go into a hole-in-the-wall art shop. Explore!


3. Skip Central Park, and go to a Rooftop Bar Instead!

OK, this one is going to be controversial, I know. But when it comes to Central Park…I’ve always been…underwhelmed. Unless it’s a Saturday afternoon in June, and I’m picnicking with my friends and we’re two glasses of rosè deep, I just don’t get that excited about it. It’s a big park. If you’re feeling like being outdoorsy and want to do something that will feel iconicly New York, go to a rooftop bar. The views are breathtaking, and you’ll get to experience why New Yorkers put up with the crappy, freezing, endless winters: for the rooftop parties and bars. Go at night, go during the day – just go.

4. For the love, SKIP BUBBA GUMPS. 

OK – you are in NYC. We have more restaurants per square foot than anywhere in the world. (And that is not fact checked, so don’t quote me.) BUT – opening a restaurant in NYC is every chef’s dream. PLEASE DO NOT GO TO A CHAIN RESTAURANT!! I know the Olive Garden in Times Square is convenient, and serves unlimited breadsticks, but branch out, people! Book a table on OpenTable – it’s so easy. The Meatpacking District has some incredible restaurants. So does the East Village. And around Bleeker Street. Not only will you get to experience some incredible cuisine, but it offers fascinating “people watching.” I was walking past the Blue Water Grill last night in Union Square, and I literally saw Alec Baldwin sitting the window, having dinner. You never know who you’ll see!

5. Yes, do Broadway, but also show MUSIC some love too!

The live music scene in NYC is unreal. This city is bursting at the seams with talented people, just waiting to be discovered. I cannot believe I’m sharing this, because I don’t want the secret to get out, but “The Bar Next Door” at La Lanterna has amazing live music. Go for the flatbread pizzas and stay for the music. 🙂 Plus, you’ll get to see Washington Square park 🙂 (And – use the TKTS App to get discounted Broadway tickets!)

6. Skip the Statue of Liberty, Spend an afternoon in Battery Park City instead.

OK, so this one is a must. Everyone has two bucket list items on their NYC list: Times Square (ugh), and the Statue of Liberty. Here’s the thing about The Lady: she is in the middle of the Hudson River, and so taking the boat, and the tour, and getting the boat back…it is an all day deal. And when you’re there, unless you climb all the way to the top of the crown – it’s a bit of an over-hype situation. SO my suggestion is to spend the afternoon in Lower Manhattan.

Might I suggest:

Starting off at the 9/11 memorial. It actually is a “touristy” stop that really is worth it. In all seriousness, I think it is so important to remember and honor that tragedy. Afterwards, go to lunch at Pier A. It is a fun restaurant that is literally on The southern-most tip of Manhattan. You can sit outside, and practically spit on the Statue of Liberty. So take in Lady Liberty with a gigantic tower of freshly shucked oysters and a cold Brooklyn Brewery lager, from afar. Then afterwards, take a stroll along the Hudson River in Battery Park. The views are like none other.

Brunching at Pier A! Shop this look!


It’s a NYC institution. Carve out a couple hours on a Sunday after church and just pay for the overpriced scrambled eggs and avocado toast. New York is known for their boozy brunch with bottomless mimosas and party atmosphere. It is to be experienced. Come with an appetite, cancel your plans for later.

Three final tips: 1) All Taxis take credit cards – NYC is practically cashless. 2) If you’re a light sleeper and are sensitive to sirens/street noise, bring some ear plugs. 3) Screenshot the subway map below so that you can access it without the internet when you’re underground! 🙂


So there ya go. NYC is truly the greatest city in the world, and if you go – I hope these tips will help you get the real flavor of NYC — not the touristy version! 🙂

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154 responses to “A Local’s Guide to NYC”

  1. These are great tips – I’ll bet tons of tourists miss out on Battery Park!

    • Thanks Carly! They really do – and it’s such a shame because it is literally my favorite place in the city!! 🙂 Hugs and love xox

  2. I love, love, love NYC! The last time I was there was as a chaperone for my goddaughter and her sister’s show choir team. We were expecting some fine dining before a Broadway show. We were sent to Planet Hollywood instead. Plus the kids could not experience the subway. What a letdown.

    • Thanks Thad! Oh gosh. Yeah. You’ve got to get back to nyc ASAP!! 🙂 it really is the best! Hugs and love xox

  3. We introduced our teenage daughters to NYC in February – Phantom, Times Square, One World Observatory, Statue of Liberty, Pier A was “chill” according to my 13 year old, and other local eats (The Smith for brunch was excellent). Plus shopping, looking at church architecture, figuring out the subway, missed and re-booking our train to Boston. LOTS OF WALKING. Looking forward to going back!

    • Oh I love The Smith!! How fun, Eric! Sounds like you gave your girls a trip to remember! 🙂 Hugs and love xox

  4. Lived there in the mid 80s. Still have the page with my listing from the 212 white pages. Shorts… heh heh under a blizzard warning in Sioux Falls this weekend. Glad you’re having fun!

    • Oh gosh stay warm! That’s so awesome – yeah NYC is one of a kind! 🙂 Hugs and love xox

    • Thank you so much Karen! Oh Tribecca is such a beautiful part of the city! Hugs and love xox

  5. Lol. Literally on our first night in Manhattan we hit the Olive Garden in Times Square.

    • Hahaha those breadsticks do have quite the allure. Don’t beat yourself up over it 😉 hahaha jk jk Hugs and love xox

  6. My grand daughter has just taken an apartment somewhere in NY hoping to establish herself in a modelling career. I’m glad you enjoy living there. I could not do that as I don’t fancy the lifestyle at all and was disappointed with my visits. I agree there is much to impress about the city and the determination of its citizens. Depending on where you live it does have appeal to the aspiring business and professionals who live well, but there is an underbelly of sad citizens that find it hard to survive and live in a climate of fear like any metropolis of the world. I’ve seen it all and am glad to retire in the peaceful safe surrounds we have here. Enjoy the Spring and of course being back in shorts again. 🙂

    • Oh that’s so exciting! Best of luck to your granddaughter! Yeah there are definitely all different types of existences here. Thanks friend. Hugs and love xox

    • I Haven’t!! I’ve only been to Whistler Blackcomb in Canada. I’d love to go back! 🙂 Hugs and love xox

  7. Great post. The same goes for New Orleans. The locals have the best recommendations or if you’ve gone there long enough, you figure it out, away from the tourist stuff. New Orleans is a culturally rich town with nooks hidden at each corner. The post offers great inspiration.

    • Thanks! I’ve never been to New Orleans! I’ll have to put it on my bucket list! Hugs and love xox

  8. This is a WONDERFUL entry! I love the parts about avoiding chains and there being more music in NYC than just Broadway Shows!! You know me, EL BARRIO!! Go the La Marqueta, Shop at El Barrio Music Center or Casa Latina. Now that vinyl is back, BOTH have their old (never disposed of) classic vinyl Salsa albums out for sale, as well as everything else. Get a Piragua, or a good Cuban Sandwich (a Cubano). Hugs Bellisima!! xoxoxoxoxo

    • Aw thanks Miguel! I know nyc has a special spot in your heart too :! El barrio!! Hugs and love xox

      • And you know what’s really sad in a sad/weird kind of way, is that all these brilliant landlords in cahoots with lawmakers etc.. are outing so many indie businesses, and you’re seeing all these chains move in but you know what a is SERIOUSLY failing in our nation’s economic outlook? CHAIN BUSINESSES!! They got too big for their britches.

      • It really is so sad. Angelica Kitchen – an east village vegan STAPLE just had to close it’s doors. so sad

      • That is sad. VERY sad. Nobody wants anything with distinct character anymore. Just more of THE SAME, THE SAME THE SAME that is anywhere. NYC used to the the kind of town you went to, to go to “that store or that restaurant” that you couldn’t find “everywhere else in every mall or plaza of every suburb”. Now its just more plain same.

  9. I’ve been to NYC twice, but it’s been a long time. 2000 and 2005.

    The first time, I was chaperoning a bunch of 14-year-olds, and it was exactly as chaotic yet awesome as it sounds. My English teacher from 7th and 8th grade, whom I’ve stayed in touch with ever since, was chaperoning a school trip that year (I don’t remember if they had it the year I was in her class, but obviously I didn’t go), and whenever she does that, she’ll sometimes ask former students she is still in touch with to be chaperones. I had to pay my own way, but it was well worth the price considering all I got to see in those crazy days. The trip ended up being a day shorter than expected, with the extra time spent in airports and on flights that were cancelled and re-routed for weather reasons. So we lost some of our free time, and we didn’t get to go to everything we had planned. But I saw most of the key touristy things, and we saw the Lion King and Beauty and the Beast on Broadway.

    The second time was during the summer that I was wandering around the country trying to find myself. I had a friend at the time who I knew from the Internet who lived in New Jersey just across from the city (sadly, we aren’t friends anymore). We took a bus into the city and then did a lot of walking and a couple of subway trips. We went to the 9/11 site; obviously, the Twin Towers were still there during my other NYC trip, and at the time it just looked like a construction site, but it was still something important I felt like I needed to see. She also took me to see CGBG; she was in a punk band at one time before I knew her, so that was her scene. I remember as we were leaving CBGB, walking up Bowery Street (is that what it’s called?), the light was red at the next street, which was Joey Ramone Place. It took forever for the light to change, and there were no cars in sight. Finally, after a few minutes of waiting, I said, “Let’s just cross the street on the red light. Joey would have wanted it that way.”

    Great read… let me know if you ever find yourself in Sacramento and want similar tips, although Sacramento doesn’t get tourists the way NYC does, and I think the most touristy places here are still worth seeing. Or if you’re ever in San Francisco, I’ve spent enough time there that I could give you some pointers as well, although I’ve never actually lived in the city or any closer than 30 miles away.

  10. I have always wanted to do a real tour of NYC. When I was younger, my parents got mad at me for wanting to go there, and they made every determination to discourage me from going. Although I have driven through the city and have seen the Statue of Liberty from Liberty Park, I do want to see other sites like Battery Park and a Subway museum in Brooklyn. I have been as close as Whippany, but that is it. I hope to do real siteseeing some day.

  11. I flew into New York many moons ago. Grabbed a cab that took me to a hotel downtown. Got out and stood there taking everything in and just couldn’t do it. I grabbed a taxi and went back to the airport and got a flight back to St. Louis (which I am not fond of either) and headed back out to the country. Guess I am a wuss when it comes to cities. So I will gladly leave all that fun up to you all. On a brighter note I am not a city person but I thought your article was well written and I enjoyed it.

    • Oh o don’t think you’re a wuss. I think you just know what you like:) that’s the thing about nyc – you either love it or hate it. Thanks for reading!! Hugs and love xox

  12. Great blog! I love reading about cities from someone’s perspective that live there. Makes it more alive 🙂

  13. Love this! I visited NYC about five years ago and loved it. But did the touristy thing…was on a study tour with uni so the itinerary was not mine. Planning to come back with hubster and kids ONE DAY when hopefully not too old 😎

    • So fun! Yes! Def come back and visit 🙂 thanks for stopping by Linda! Hugs and love xox

    • hahah nice, Eva! Copenhagen – oh my gosh lucky you! I visited once and it was literally the trip of a lifetime! 🙂 Hugs and love xox

  14. I have never been to NYC but I am saving this for when I visit and sharing with friends planning to visit. I can also say I am inspired to visit.
    Thanks for sharing.x

    • Oh awesome, thanks Lora!! I appreciate you passing it along, and I hope you make it to the big apple soon! 🙂 Hugs and love xox

  15. So, when I can afford to come to NYC, I can sleep on your couch and you’ll give me the “local” tour, right? I prefer doing what the locals do over the “touristy” stuff and you do make NYC sound appealing!

  16. I have vacationed in NYC 3 times. And you are spot on about the subway. It’s not like it used to be, with the maps and printed schedules….that MTA app is the bomb. We got around like champs and even got 7 day unlimited ride passes in advance.
    And I have to agree with you most whole heartedly about getting out and walking around the different areas. We stayed in Park Slope last time and we walked around and found not only the greatest chicken parm sub ever, but this really cool small local seafood place. Screw Bubba Gump…why in the name of all thats sacred would you eat at Olive Garden when you can be packed in with sone strangers at the Carnegie Deli eating those delicious pickles and s corned beef sandwich the size of a car tire?
    Our first trip we hit the touristy stuff. Since that stuff is out of the way, now its all Yankees games, shopping, and finding all the cool out off the way stuff, like pizza at Grimaldis then ice cream under the Brooklyn bridge or a night booze cruise up the East River
    My wife would tell you bring stuff to care for your feet, especially with open footwear and all that walking…and if you happen to be there during Fleet Week, you may end up gawking , like my wife was, as a platoon of mostly shirtless marines ran by us in formation during a morning PT session. Nothing to be done about that, i just let her have her moment…
    Your tips are spot on. You should share more of your local experiences. That is truly the greatest city in the world.

    • Thanks so much or sharing this! Oh yes – Grimaldis is an institution. I was going to spotlight the booze cruise too! It’s such a gorgeous view of the city and the statue of liberty – you just can’t beat it! Hugs and love xox

  17. Now I feel like I need to go LOL, its been years. I def did both touristy & non touristy. I want to go back & do the 9/11 memorial & that marketplace I forget the name, I never made it to it. Its supposedly right by food network studios. 😮😮😮 Chelsea market I think.

    • Oh you’ve definitely got to get back to the big apple! 🙂 Yep! Chelsea Market! It’s really exploded in popularity in recent years. They also have the YouTube studios there – i do quite a bit of filming there for work 🙂 Hugs and love xox

    • Thank you so much Amber! Glad you got some NYC inspo here! 🙂 hehe Hugs and love xox

  18. I went to NYC for a week last month with my mom. 🙂 I surprised myself by falling absolutely in love with the whole thing, despite my history of hating crowds and being more of a country girl haha. Subways are my new favorite way to travel and I came home and got pictures of NYC for my room so I can keep it with me till I get back there someday. 🙂

    • Thanks Abigail! Yeah – you can definitely catch the NYC bug! 🙂 aren’t the subways great!? Hugs and love xox

  19. So, being from Boston (ducking as heavy objects are thrown at me), I actually love this article. New York can seem oppressive as compared to other cities and knowing the inside scoop is helpful. I have been to NYC a few times and each time my experience gets better as I understand what to see and what not to see. Oh, yeah, and BTW – Go Sox!

  20. I love this post! I’ve never been to NYC (let’s face it, I’ve hardly been anywhere because I’m always skint and terrivly anxious about everything) but you’ve made it sound glorious. Hopefully one day I’ll get to go and I’ll make sure to follow your advice 😊

  21. Thanks, Caralyn, for this. You bring back fond memories. I haven’t lived in NYC for over 40 years (in Chelsea), yet what you write about subways and Broadway AND music, Battery Park, and…and…and…is wonderful. Again, my thanks.

    • Thank you so much 🙂 haha yeah – there’s not a blog post long enough that could even begin to touch on all the awesome spots in NYC! Hugs and love xox

  22. So, I was born in Manhattan – Mount Sinai Hospital, across from Central Park. My dad was in the Coast Guard, and was stationed at Governors Island for several years, until 1990. My parents loved New York. It’s where they met several life-long friends, and they had so many wonderful experiences. I was born at 25 weeks, so we were fortunate that we lived there, because I got the best medical care. I have no solid memories of living there. However, my parents kept up a relationship with the hospital. The nurses told them, “Our greatest joy is seeing these babies grow up and do well.” So, they took me back to visit the hospital every summer until I was 16. It was like magic. I dreamed of going to college, and then living in the city, working as a journalist or someone on TV. The last time I visited the city was in 2007, when my high school chamber orchestra was selected to play at Carnegie Hall. It was absolutely incredible! The head nurse of the NICU came to the performance, and gave me flowers. It was awesome. I can’t wait to go back later this year, and take my husband! He’s never been to the city. I’m so excited. So, thank you so much for these awesome tips! We will definitely be using them.

    • You were!?! That’s awesome, Laura Beth! And I had no idea that was part of your story. God is good that He placed you in a city with exceptional medical care. And wow – playing at Carnegie Hall – that’s amazing. What a special moment with your nurse. Thanks for sharing that 🙂 hope you’re having a great weekend, and I hope you get back to visit soon!! 🙂 Hugs and love xox

    • Thanks friend! Oh you’ve got to come visit! hopefully soon!! 🙂 Hugs and love xox

  23. This is great, I’ve been wanting to go to New York for a while now and my boyfriend and I were chatting about it last night. I’ll definitely take you advice into consideration when we go. Also congratulations on the success of your book! I’m looking to do the same kind of thing, and any advice on how you got your work out there would be invaluable to me! Take care x

  24. Great tips! Would u also suggest some great Bnb’s in new York in some main or central areas of your city?

    • Thank you smooch Misha! I actually have zero experience with Air Bnbs so i’m sorry I can’t be any help there – but i know they’re out there! 😉 xox

  25. My husband and I spent two weeks in New York 33 years ago. We rode the subway but were scared to death the first time. We loved riding the subway and getting off in different neighborhoods and just walked around. We ate at a little “hole in the wall” local restaurant and it was the first time I had rice and beans. Loved it!

  26. Leave it to a local to give peeps the real 411!

    THANK YOU for that whole “Skip Bubba Gumps”. Even though I lived in New York back in the day, I played tourist a while back and went up with co-workers on a bus trip. I couldn’t believe how many folks wanted to do Ruby’s and TGIF! People . . we’re in NYC!

    All great tips, and you hit on one of my very favorite things about the town. Walking. I love to walk, and man, what a town to walk in.

    Peace and Manhattan

    • hahah yes! thank you so much! there really are such great little restaurants! Hugs and love xox

  27. We have been crossing paths for several years over WordPress. I have had many blogs, you, just this one. Lol. I am happy for your happiness, as I can see/read that you have come a long way. Stand tall, BBB. Deep bow.

  28. Thanks for the tips! I haven’t been to NYC yet, but the train there now come through my town so it’s on our must do list!! 🙂

  29. I haven’t been to NYC and it’s not on my list, but who knows? 😄I’ll save this post. 👍

    • hahah I’ve got to admit, those are pretty cool shirts 🙂 heheh Hugs and love xox

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