How to enjoy New York like a local – Aspen Travel Blog
When you think of New York, whats the first image that pops into your mind? Is it the Statue of Liberty? Could it be the Empire State Building? Or perhaps its the illuminated Manhattan skyline as viewed from the sea? These iconic sights are fed to us almost daily in films, news stories and glossy travel pages, but with so much to see and do here, how can you make the best use of your limited time?
Weve put together a guide to some of the most exciting hang outs and attractions, frequented by Manhattanites to bring you an insiders guide to this unique city. Here at Aspen Travel we provide plenty of different ways to explore New York. You might want to take an escorted tour of Americas East Coast, that takes in New York as part of a day trip, or you might want to enjoy a short break here. Its even possible to cruise up to one of the piers and walk into the city from the sea.
Whether you travel here with a tour guide, or book a simple hotel stay, youll have leisure time that can so easily be filled with getting lost and not knowing where your time would be best spent. We want to help you make the most of your stay, by eating the very best food on offer, drinking in some exciting bars and having unique local experiences. (If youre part of a tour, youll be taken to the famous sights anyway.) Weve split up our guide into New York neighbourhoods, so no matter where you find yourself, youll be able to locate some excitement in the nearby vicinity.
Lets start in the touristy parts. Midtown is where youll find Times Square, a must for every first timer to the city, but heavily avoided by those who live here. Its a neon wonderland located in Midtown West, that leads to nearby Broadway, where you can catch a theatre show and Madison Square Gardens; the sporting arena.
In East Midtown, youll see the skyscrapers, which youll recognise from the skyline silhouettes youll no doubt have seen throughout your life. Grand Central Station is the main train station, but worth a look inside for its incredible architecture. The Chrysler building is a vision in glass and the Rockefeller centre is a regular in top 10 things to see in NYC lists, especially during the Winter months, when a huge ice rink is set up outside.
Youll definitely want to make your way up to the observation platform at the top of the Rockefeller for its great view of the Empire State Building and youll probably want to hit the shops of 5th Avenue just outside too, even if its just to look and not buy. Make sure you check out the Lalique windows with their intricate etchings.
Midtown is also home to what is commonly believed the best rooftop bar in Manhattan. Its at Salvation Taco. Not only do they serve tasty Mexican food here, prepared by Michelin star chefs, but theres also a great ambience, set off by plenty of fairy lights.
For a quick snack, half of Manhattan heads to the Bouchon Bakery and cafe on a daily basis. You can grab a french pastry, prepared by some of the worlds finest pastry chefs. The street food is also good here with The Halal Guys serving beef, rice and pita being particularly notable.
This area is on the seafront and home to big corporations, Wall Street and the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Youll find the streets populated with smart, moneyed young professionals, who work and play hard. Its worth checking out Stone Street, which is filled with al fresco bars and a fun, relaxed atmosphere and the Fraunces Tavern, where you can enjoy an excellent brunch.
Nearby South Street Seaport is where you can not only get discount Broadway tickets from a street kiosk, but also eat well at the Dorlans Tavern, or Cowgirl Seahorse diners. For some local culture here, why not check out the Museum of the American Indian, or the monuments in Battery Park, just a short walk from the Brooklyn Bridge.
The East Village is where you need to be if you enjoy shopping for vintage clothes, dancing the night away, sports bars and eating well. One of the trendier drinking establishments here is Angels Share; a speakeasy bar hidden inside a Japanese restaurant. When you enter Village Yokocho, youll find a secret door hidden inside what looks like a cupboard at the top of the stairs!
The Blind Barber is also worth a visit. Its both a barbers and a cocktail bar. Get your beard trimmed, while you sip on a Long Island Iced Tea. At the weekend, this unusual Barbers shop throws dance parties with well known local DJs. As for Lois, this is a bar which serves selected wines on tap, to keep prices low without compromising on taste.
If you fancy lining your stomach on your way out for the night, a delicious food spot in the East Village is Fuku. Its a hole in the wall that serves just one dish; a spicy fried chicken burger. This may sound unpromising, but locals flock from miles around to get a taste. You could also try Cacio e Pepe, which is great for simple, incredibly tasty pasta dishes, the Caravan of Dreams restaurant, which is perfect for vegans and meat lovers alike, or the infamous Momofuku noodle bar.
The West Village has a far more luxurious vibe, with quiet, tree lined streets and upmarket shops and restaurants. The latter is where youre likely to find the celebs.
Great bites to eat here include Latin inspired food at Macondo, the salads at Westville and sandwiches at The Grey Dog. Rosemarys offers tasty and affordable Italian food. As for drinking, Employees Only is the name of one of our favourite bars here. You can sip on a cocktail, whilst having your palm or tarot cards read.
Greenwich Village is the big student area. There are plenty of bars and restaurants in the area. We like The Little Owl, which serves upscale Mediterranean fare and requires a reservation, as well as Arturos; a restaurant widely believed to serve the best pizza in the whole of New York.
Lower East Side
For some nightlife action with the locals, youll want to head down to the less than salubrious clubs of the Lower East Side. Youre guaranteed a great night. A couple of interesting museums in the area include The Tenement Museum, which details the fascinating story of immigrants in New York and the Museum of the American Gangster.
If youre eating in the area, ahead of hitting the clubs, check our Les Enfants de Boheme for exquisite cheese and meat platters.
Chelsea, Soho and Noho
Although these areas are not close geographically weve grouped them together for their similar arty vibe. Chelsea is great place to discover up and coming artists and give you the opportunity to walk around a variety of independent art galleries for free.
Soho also has plenty of art galleries and curious shops along its cobbled streets. If youre eating out here, why not check out the Mediterranean inspired cuisine of the Hundred Acres restaurant, or the authentic New York experience offered by Raouls; a classic French bistro and stalwart of Manhattans dining out scene.
Noho focuses on more on designers and offers smart, hip boutiques, where you can buy unique clothing.
With its reduced urban vibe, youll find yourself surrounded by a friendly, family neighbourhood, fringed with green parks and rivers. Its another hot spot for celeb spotting! For a delicious brunch inspired by flavours of the South, like fried chicken and biscuits, check out Bubbys.
Upper East Side
Bordering Central Park and Madison Avenue, the Upper East Side is where youll find the Museum Mile; home to the Guggenheim and the MET. Its a wealthy district, where youre certain to have a bit of home envy.
The French Brasserie, Match 65, here serves excellent moules et frites and the Clocktower will provide you with posh mac and cheese, or slow cooked ox cheeks, that will blow your mind. The latter are served in a classy dark wood panelled setting, surrounded by photos of 1950s filmstars.
For a less formal dining experience here, you could head over to Blake Lane, which serves healthy salads and wraps.
Upper West Side
On the other side of Central Park, youll find yourself in the Upper West Side, where you can visit the National History Museum, Riverside Park and the Lincoln Centre. Its quite suburban here with a family friendly vibe.
If youve visited Chinatown in London, then youll have some idea of what to expect. Brightly coloured shop fronts and lanterns, with plenty of restaurants serving delicious East Asian cuisine.
Joe Shanghais offers simple, wholesome Chinese food, with soup dumplings as their speciality and youre looking for an exciting bar in the area, keep an eye out for Apotheke, which although it looks like a chemists, but is actually a high class cocktail bar.
So now youve got an idea of what youd like to do in New York, how would you like to get there? Collette worldwide and Titan Tours both offer tours of the city spread over several days, while Viking will give you a cruise voyage of a lifetime that will take in New York, Bermuda and the West Indies! Great Rail Journeys will take you to New York first, before whisking you off to visit Niagara Falls and Eastern Canada. The possibilities are practically endless.
To find out more about our huge range of luxury packages, please get in touch with our experienced team of travel advisors. Ring us or send us an email, giving us an idea of your travel preferences and budget. Well be able to find the ideal holiday for you. Please give us a call today to discover our best deals