Alrighty, so you've landed in the big city for Alt Summit, I've sent you to delicious places to eat and you've shopped til you dropped...... now what? Everyone always asks when they come to visit.... 'I want to do what people who live here do.' Cause we all know that us locals don't go visiting the Statue of Liberty every weekend or even stand in line at Magnolia for cupcakes. While there are tourist things that should absolutely be done, and are a must, there are also the behind-the-scenes treasures that this city holds that should be experienced.
1) FLAG A CAB
Before getting in, know the cross streets you are going too (ex. 14th & 6th or Christopher & 11th), don't just give the the address to your aunt's condo and expect that they know where that is. Telling them '335 East 66th' will get you nowhere and there may be yelling involved. To grab your magical yellow carpet ride, you will have to step into the street a little and glance down at the oncoming traffic. Rule #1 - don't get hit. To tell if a cab is available pay attention to the lighted structure on the top. If the MIDDLE LIGHT ONLY is on, the cab is available. If NO LIGHTS are on, it is unavailable. And if the lights ON THE SIDE are on, then it is 'off duty'... meaning, they are heading home for the night or changing shifts and will ignore you. Don't take it personally. You've all seen it in the movies.... just raise your hand and flag down a cab with the MIDDLE LIGHTS on. I don't mean to seem like I'm yelling that, but apparently it's hard for people to remember.... I've found! Please don't use this as a time to show off your whistling skills. Most cabbies are too busy illegally talking on their cell phones or listening to music at excruciating volumes to hear you. Once you've paid, as a general rule of thumb, be sure to exit the cab on the CURB SIDE (again, I'm not yelling, just merely emphasizing!) not the side that has oncoming traffic that could whip that door off in flash. BONUS :: Chat up your cabbie. Some of the best New York stories I've heard have come from my cab drivers. They see a lot of what happens in this city!
2) USE THE SUBWAY
People. Listen. It's not as scary as you think. Plus, it cuts out traffic and can be the most cost efficient way to get around the city. Purchase a Subway card from one of the machines. Buy a card based on the time, days and number of Subway rides you predict you'll use. You can always add more to the card, but you can't get the money back. If you're here for a week, I always suggest just getting the 7 Day Unlimited card. Smart.
Read the subway map. Some stops are local, some are express as are the trains affiliated with getting you to those stops. Think of the express stops as kings and the local stops as commoners. So the king stops (express) are noted by a white circle or bar and are the important ones (think Times Square, Union Square, Wall Street, etc). The commoner stops (local) are noted by a black circle or bar and are the inbetween sections of the city and have less 'important' attractions waiting outside of them (think 18th St, Christopher St, 33rd St, etc.). The king stops don't associate with the commoners.... express trains will whip right past the local stops to get you to important desitnations faster. The local stops however, do try to make friends with the king stops. Local trains will stop at express stops, but not vice versa. Last, but not least, be sure to check if you are heading UPTOWN or DOWNTOWN. No one wants to get on a train to Brooklyn when you thought you were going to Central Park. Don't ever hesitate to ask someone. Most NY-ers are happy to answer directional questions. Plus, it makes us feel all important and stuff.
Download the Official NYC Subway Map - click here
Buy a Pocket-sized Map - Rand McNally
Here's the thing. New Yorker's don't have cars, so we view walking down the sidewalk like you do driving down a major highway. Like driver's get road rage, we get walking rage when people stop out of nowhere, don't abide by the unspoken laws and move at the pace of a limping snail, but keep cutting us off as we try to pass them. Don't meander, walk with a purpose and do it briskly. Don't just stop in the middle of the sidewalk, move to the side. And stay to the right, just like in a car.
This is THE flea market. Stop everything you're planning to do and head out to Brooklyn (it's the borough over the bridge)! Hundreds upon hundreds of top vendors with tons of treasures - gorgeous antiques, vintage dresses, handmade reclaimed wood tables, buckets of your grandma's jewelry, plus apple crates and steamer trucks like you wouldn't believe. The list goes on. Most weekends, I'll grab a coffee and stroll down to the flea, take my time seeing all the new pieces and, when I'm lucky, I'll get to come home with something! If you must stay in the city, the second best options are Hell's Kitchen Flea and The Garage Flea in Chelsea. BONUS :: Check this site for updates on pop up street fairs and other markets going on in the city.
This could be an entire late afternoon into early evening activity. Grab some cheese and beer from Little Cheese Pub and wander this previously unused, above ground railway turned 2 miles park/walkway. It's ok to stroll (*note the paragraph above on walking tips!) down this slender park and enjoy the scenery. Find a grassy area and relax. BONUS :: Just hang out and enjoy some topnotch people watching! Another favorite activity of locals.
We New Yorkers love anything that is free, that's for sure. Both in Prospect Park here in Brooklyn and in Central Park, there are free concerts and shows that run during the summer (ice skating in winter). Check their calendars and you may be in luck! BONUS :: If you come out to Prospect Park, you can claim one of the grills right outside the seating area and flip burgers while listening to Head and the Heart.
Although Central Park is the gold medal of parks in this city, there are also hidden grassy knolls in other parts of the city. Take Brooklyn Bridge Park for example. It has a stunning view of the city and the Brooklyn Bridge, it also includes a carousel, the iconic Tobacco Warehouse structure and the option to take boats out paddling and kayaking. It's never overcrowded and has a number of things to offer that Central Park just doesn't. BONUS :: Check out their interactive map.
It's basically all the best food entrepreneurs in the city gathered in one area, set up food and beer tents and let you devour.... all amongst the backdrop of the NYC skyline. Truly, skip The River Cafe's views..... these are more than worth it for a fraction of the cost. Nearly 100 different restaurants, food trucks, fresh produce, cafe's, breweries and more set up shop here every Saturday all for the love of good food.
Yes, I know what you're thinking 'this is where tourist's go'. Yep, very aware. But honestly, I haven't been to a better museum in a long-time and you'll be thankful you made it in there. What you'll expect to be a quick trip, will turn into hours as you go back in time to memory lane of your childhood trips to museums. After our most recent visit, all I wanted to do when we got home was watch 'Jurrasic Park' and 'How the Earth was Made'! BONUS :: It's a 'suggestion based entry fee'. Don't use the auto kiosks, stand in line for the in-person tickets..... you can seriously hand them $5 for three people.