Post by: Jessica Festa
Need help planning your New York City itinerary? Look no further, as we’ve gathered some top Big Apple experiences featuring both well and lesser-known attractions. The following recommendations are provided by native New Yorker Jessica Festa, who also blogs regularly about NYC and beyond on her websites, Jessie on a Journey and Epicure & Culture. The following experiences will help you have a memorable trip while seeing the city from a local point of view.
1. Immerse Yourself In Nature
While New York City is technically a concrete jungle, you may be surprised just how many lush parks and gardens you can find in the city. The most famous is Central Park, encompassing 843 acres (3.41 square kilometers) of greenery and outdoor attractions. While you can come here to simply sun and stroll, the park is also home to bird watching at The Ramble, kayaking, theaters, a carousel, a zoo with indoor rainforest and endangered animal breeding programs, sculptures, an inspiring 4-acre Shakespeare Garden with quotes from the author and plants mentioned in his works, a castle, sports fields, free walking tours, bike rentals and loads of free events like concerts, yoga clinics, photo safaris and performances. In Brooklyn, notable greenspaces include Prospect Park — created by the same designers as Central Park and full of flora, fauna and activities — and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden with its loads of themed gardens, guided plant walks and educational family events.
2. Try Something New
There are so ways to do something quirky or novel in NYC. If you want to get active, hone your aerial acrobatics skills at the Trapeze School of New York/ or head to Bryant Park for a free Petanque lesson. If you’re a foodie, sign up for an excursion with Freegan Info to learn more about the culture of dumpster diving and salvaging wasted food. You can learn the art of sultry dance at The New York School of Burlesque, practice rock climbing at Brooklyn Boulders, taking a cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education and more. You may also want to check sites like CanaryHop and Vayable to see what kinds of unique experiences are being offered by locals.
3. Explore NYC, For Free!
There are a number of excellent tour companies in New York City offering insider knowledge and memorable experiences; however, for those on a budget FREE Tours By Foot offers complimentary walking, biking and bus excursions, typically lasting about two hours. While this list is by no means exhaustive — there are so many different tours offered — some suggestions include a “Subway Art Tour,” “2014-When We Were Idiots (A Comedy Walking Tour)” and “Ghosts Of Greenwich Village.” Every day of the week they offer about 10+ different excursions, so there’s always something to do. Just remember to tip your guide, as they only make what you give.
4. Eat Sweets
My favorite neighborhood for sweet treats is the West Village in Manhattan, home to an array of high-quality bakeries and chocolate-focused venues. While Sockerbit sells Swedish candies with unusual textures and flavor combinations, Molly’s Cupcakes allows you to make your own cupcake or purchase one of their freshly-made treats in a whimsical space with swingset chairs and board games. At Sweet Revenge one can opt to pair decadent homemade cupcakes with wine and beer, at Popbar offers artisanal gelato on a stick dunked into gooey dips and coated with toppings, and Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar serves up delicious dessert pizzas and chocolate martinis.
5. Take In A Beautiful View
Along with popular sites like the Empire State Building and Top of The Rock, there are loads of lesser-known places to take in a beautiful view. Head to Upstairs at the Kimberly for innovative farm-to-fork tapas, craft cocktails and front-row views of the Chrysler Building. For a free view of the Statue of Liberty, nothing beats the Staten Island Ferry. Walking or cycling over the Williamsburg or Brooklyn Bridges offers water-enhanced skyline vistas, while the DSW Designer Show Warehouse in Union Square allows for a unique vantage point of the Empire State Building, Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower and the Fuerza Bruta Theater.
What’s your favorite thing to do in New York City? Please share in the comments below.