HOW TO VISIT NEW YORK CITY WITHOUT FEELING LIKE A TOURIST

Advice on how to explore the Big Apple based on first-hand experience

By Nadine Romay

AAA World Article

I love New York City, but this hasn’t always been the case. While I enjoyed visiting all those iconic Manhattan landmarks, the city itself seemed too overwhelming, too noisy, and too crowded. But after multiple visits with a native New Yorker, I began to embrace the entire experience for precisely what Manhattan should be—a vibrant, evolving place to explore.

Here’s what I’ve learned about how to feel less like a tourist and more like a short-term local.

FOCUS ON EXPERIENCING A LITTLE SLICE, NOT THE WHOLE PIE
New York City is a city of neighborhoods, each with its unique flair. Before you arrive, decide where you want to focus your energy—Midtown, Chelsea, Greenwich Village, SoHo, lower Manhattan. It’s much better than trying to do it all at once.

EXPLORE WITH NO AGENDA
I’ve headed to the Meatpacking District and meandered along the High Line only to discover the Hotel Gansevoort and its relaxing rooftop bar—a welcome respite that afternoon. I’ve walked along Madison Avenue just to appreciate the blend of classical and modern architecture. Wandering the Cast Iron Historic District in SoHo, I discovered some great shopping without having to deal with the crowds of tourists on 5th Avenue.

SWAP ICONIC NYC LOCATIONS FOR LESS FAMILIAR SITES

  • The Esplanade in Lower Manhattan’s Battery Park City, not far from the World Trade Center site, offers outstanding views of the Hudson River and Lady Liberty and allows you a leisurely,crowd-free stroll among the locals.
  • Instead of Central Park, head to 6.2-acre Madison Square Park on Fifth Avenue at 23rd Street for a picnic lunch with a view of the Flatiron Building as a bonus. You can purchase just about anything you need at any of the many local bodegas, diners or Pret-A-Manger locations.
  • The New York Public Library and its “backyard” Bryant Park are well-known and worth a look, but just as impressive is the Morgan Library and Museum just a short walk from Grand Central Station. You can also grab an affordable lunch at its cute café.
  • While immersing yourself in the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a day well spent, so, too, is visiting The Met Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park, Washington Heights. You’ll see beautiful medieval art, impressive architecture, and majestic views of the Hudson River from one of its many balconies.
  • While the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center might be a must-see on every tourist’s list during the holiday season, one block over behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral you can enjoy a great photo opportunity, up close and personal, in front of the beautiful tree in the courtyard of the New York Palace Hotel.

JUST GO WITH IT
To visit New York City without feeling like a tourist, I recommend you just take it all in, and allow yourself a new adventure with every visit. Wrap its energy around you; delight in the hustle and bustle; embrace the crowds and revel in your anonymity while you soak in the sights, sounds and smells—just like a native New Yorker.