Hi there, my name is Dana Berez, a travel blogger based in New York City. I write about New York travel guides, destination guides, and blogging tips.
Today I am going to take you along with me on a local’s guide to New York City. Covering where to stay, the best things to do, and of course my local picks for where to eat and drink.
Why trust all this local advice from me? I have been living in New York City for 9 years, currently call the East Village in Manhattan home. I have truly tested out the town and want to share the best of the best with you. Without further ado, let’s get into the list.
Here’s my local’s guide to exploring NYC!
Where to Stay
If a local experience is what you are going for, there are some neighborhoods you should definitely look out for when booking your hotel/accommodations.
Manhattan neighborhoods that have a cute local charm, local restaurants, and shops tend to be located in the downtown area below 23rd street.
A great place to book a hotel would be in Chelsea, Madison Square Park, East Village, West Village (pictured above), or SoHo. Here are some of my favorite hotels in local downtown neighborhoods that won’t break the bank.
Where to Stay in Manhattan:
- The Standard East Village: Light and airy rooms offering amazing views in the prime location steps from SoHo.
- Moxy East Village: Brand new hotel walking distance from East Village and Union square offering contemporary cozy rooms.
- Roxy Hotel: Located in the heart of Tribeca this lively hotel has great bars and dining options, a cinema, and comfortably sized rooms.
Brooklyn is also a great option for an authentic experience, and usually, these hotels have more space and amenities.
Look for hotels in Williamsburg or Dumbo. These neighborhoods are right across the bridge from Manhattan, so your view will be iconic and it’s easy to get to and from. Both Williamsburg and Dumbo have plenty of places to eat, drink, and shop with a more industrial laid back feel.
Where to Stay in Brooklyn
- 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge: Situated right on the water, this gorgeous hotel offers views, a rooftop pool, and Harriet’s—a popular rooftop lounge. (Pictured)
- The Hoxton: Stylish boutique hotel located in Williamsburg.
- The Wythe Hotel: The Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg brings out that authentic Brooklyn feel. Think brick walls, wood, and industrial accents.
- The William Vale: A 5-Star hotel in Brooklyn offering amazing views, bright rooms, balconies, and New York’s longest outdoor swimming pool!
There are so many options to get around NYC, but as a local, being cost-effective is key when choosing how to get around. While I would love to take a taxi everywhere, the prices do add up and you can end up getting stuck in traffic while the meter runs.
Instead of taking cabs, using the Subway, or riding a bike can save you a lot of time and money.
The locals call the subway ‘the train’ and for $2.75 you can get anywhere in Manhattan without any traffic. This makes getting from one part of the city to the next the most cost-effective!
One way to get around NYC is by taking the NYC Water Ferry. This makes getting from Manhattan to Dumbo Brooklyn super fast in just 4 minutes. The views from the water taxi are also so scenic with a view of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Ferries leave from Wall Street Pier 11 to Dumbo Brooklyn every 30 minutes from 6:45 PM to 9:45 PM on weekdays. Tickets cost $2.75 one way.
My Favorite Mode of Transportation: Biking
Taking a bike can be a great way to explore New York and discover new places while you ride around. It’s my go-to way to get around and it’s also a fun activity.
I use Citi Bike to ride around NYC and they have all kinds of rental plans including a single ride, a day pass, or a 3-day pass.
- One single 30-minute ride for $3
- 24-hour pass with unlimited 30-minute rides for $12
- 3-day pass with unlimited 30-minute rides for $24
Just purchase your passes at any Citi Bike station kiosk and you will be on your way. Just be sure to dock your bike before the 30-minute time frame is up.
The Greenmarket is a local food market that allows local family farms the opportunity to sell their goods directly to consumers.
What to Do + Local Highlights
Check Out a Greenmarket
You can find all types of fresh produce here in addition to flowers, plants, fresh bread, sauces, beer & wine, honey, popcorn, you name it. It’s a really neat place to find authentic souvenirs and to help support local farmers.
The Union Square Greenmarket is the largest and is open the most days on Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday from 8 am to 6 pm.
But you can find smaller Greenmarkets in other parts of all the 5 boroughs. Here is a map & list of all the locations.
Enjoy the Parks
Locals are used to the concrete jungle. That’s why heading to the park to enjoy some nature is always a relaxing thing to do. Bring some snacks and a blanket and enjoy a picnic like a local.
Best Parks for a Picnic:
Central Park: is the most famous park in New York, and locals love hanging out there all day long. There is plenty of space to spread out and have a bit of nature for yourself.
Hudson River Park: This park is a favorite amongst locals located right off Christopher Street in the West Village. This is one of the best places to catch the sunset, and you have views of all lower Manhattan.
Brooklyn Bridge Park: Located in Dumbo Brooklyn, this waterfront park has the best views of Manhattan. There are picnic tables, grills, and plenty of space to spread out.
Visit a Museum
There are so many museums to visit when in NYC, and as a local, I love checking them out. My all-time favorite museum to learn about history and art is the Metropolitan Art Museum.
But if you want something a bit more local, check out the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side.
At the Tenement Museum, you get to tour around a historic apartment building seeing how life was like in the Lower East Side in the late 1800s to early 1900s through immigrant stories. The apartments inside are restored to how they would like in this time frame, and the tour gives you an insight into early life in NYC.
Bike Along the West Side Highway
One of my favorite things to do is bike along the West Side Highway. This path spans from downtown Manhattan all the way to the Upper West Side.
The best part? There is no car traffic on this path so it’s perfect for getting used to biking in NYC.
Take a Mini Day Trip
Roosevelt Island: Roosevelt Island is a small strip of land located between Manhattan and Queens. To get there, you take a Roosevelt Island tram from 60th Street and 1st Avenue in Manhattan. The tram takes you up sky-high over the city and river offering amazing views for only $2.75.
When on the island you can bike around and check out Southpoint Park.
Governor’s Island: Governor’s Island is another island you can visit when in NYC. It’s located between Manhattan and Brooklyn and the ferry takes less than 10 minutes to get there.
Governor’s Island was used as a military post for the US army but now is a seasonal public park. You can bike around, look at homes, and even spend the night glamping in a tent at Collective Retreats.
Rockaway Beach: Did you know there is a beach in NYC? You can take the NYC Water Ferry from Wall Street Manhattan to Rockaway Beach. It’s about an hour boat ride, but a day at the beach can’t be beat.
Catch a Game
Join the locals as they cheer on their sports teams (or cheer on a rival). Whether you like baseball, basketball, or hockey you can catch a live game. Head to the iconic Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to see the Yankees play.
The Best Places to Shop
The best areas to shop in New York City like a local are in SoHo, the West Village, the East Village, and Williamsburg Brooklyn.
In these local neighborhoods, you will find unique local boutiques selling vintage clothing, home goods, jewelry, and gift items.
Best Places to Eat
One of the best things about living in NYC is the variety when it comes to restaurants and things to eat. New York has every cuisine covered by local chefs across the world. If you are a foodie then NYC is your city.
NYC Things you Have to Eat
Bagels: You can’t visit New York not have a New York Bagel. They are delicious for a reason, and the secret is in NYC’s soft water. My two favorite places to get a bagel are Ess-a-Bagel and Tompkins Square Bagels.
- Butcher’s Daughter: Trendy plant-based restaurant, juice bar, and cafe with multiple locations in NYC.
- Cafe Mogador: Classic East Village and Brooklyn spot for the best Moroccan food.
- Tacombi: One of the best places to get tacos in NYC with a laid-back vibe.
- Meatball Shop: Serving all kinds of Meatballs, veggie dishes, and ice cream sandwiches with 5 locations throughout NYC.
- Jack’s Wife Freda: American/Mediterranean fusion restaurant with an understated local vibe.
Best Coffee Shops
The Best Bars + Places to Drink
- Goodnight Sonny: My go-to cocktail bar for great drinks and late-night hours.
- Grand Banks: Sip some rosé and dine on oysters and lobster rolls at this bar located on a boat right on the Hudson River.
- The Garret: Speakeasy style bar located on top of a Five Guys in the West Village Manhattan.
- Sel Rose: French style bar serving oysters, craft cocktails, and an impressive wine menu in the Lower East Side.
- Harriet’s Rooftop: Rooftop bar located on top of the 1 Hotel in Brooklyn offers epic views of Manhattan (pictured above!).
Helpful Tips + Fun Facts
The Best Time to Visit NYC
There really isn’t the best time to visit because there are so many awesome things going on throughout the seasons. However, for the best weather, May, September, and August are particularly nice: low rain and crisp days.
To know if a taxi is available, the light on top of the taxi will be illuminated. And to save money, hail a cab in the direction you would like to go.
Keep to the Side
New Yorkers lead a busy lifestyle, so a tip from a local is this: if you need to stop on the sidewalk, just step to the side. There are always a lot of people behind you, and the locals will appreciate it.
New Yorkers are Nice
Tv shows and movies always paint New Yorkers to be tough people. But at the heart New Yorkers are nice. If you get lost or need directions, don’t be afraid to ask around.
I hope you enjoyed this local’s guide to NYC!