Visit New York City Like A Local
New Yorkers love this city, and with good reason: there’s no other place like it on earth. Living here can be challenging, from high rents to simply battling crowds for a table at weekend brunch. But locals have plenty of tricks up their collective sleeve that you too can enjoy.
Hit the ground walking
Spend a day in a New Yorker’s shoes and you’ll quickly realize that New Yorkers walk, and they walk fast. Pounding the pavement is often the fastest way to get around, but remember: move quickly. If you can't keep up the pace or you need to check your smartphone or take a photo, step to the side of the sidewalk and get out of the way.
Take the subway
If you truly want to look like a local you'll skip the double-decker bus tours and get yourself a MetroCard—it's cheaper than a cab and usually faster. The subway runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are maps posted in all stations, but locals are more than happy to show off their knowledge if you need directions. Even seasoned New Yorkers ask for or confirm directions, so don’t be shy. If you’re traveling with a smartphone, apps like NYC Subway Map will help you figure out the best route. As for safety, the same advice applies here as to traveling in any major city: be alert, watch your bag, and avoid traveling solo late at night.
E-hail a taxi cab
Many visitors to the city expect to find locals summoning taxis with a loud whistle or a brash "Hey, Taxi!" But in reality, locals prefer to hail cabs with a raised arm or with a smartphone app. Several e-hail services are available in the city, but Uber and Lyft are the most popular. Once you've signed up, a simple tap will search for a car and track it in real time; you pay with a saved credit card. Uber is the best-known service, but its "surge pricing" for high-traffic times like holidays and inclement weather have not endeared it to locals (the practice may soon be banned). If you're a woman traveling solo, or you prefer a female driver, you can hail a car from the city's newest e-hailing app—and the only car service app tailored to the needs of women—SheRides.
Food and Drink
Drink decent coffee
There might be a chain coffee shop on every corner in New York City, but you won’t find many locals there. The so-called "city that never sleeps" is fueled with coffee, but not just any coffee. Locals are particular (some might say snobby) about coffee, so wait those few extra minutes for the best freshly roasted beans and pour-over brews. Join discerning locals at gourmet hot spots like Blue Bottle Coffee, Everyman Espresso, Joe the Art of Coffee, La Colombe, Ninth Street Espresso (which has locations other than 9th Street), Stumptown, and Third Rail Coffee. Most offer the added bonus of homemade pastries and treats.
Follow that truck
New Yorkers have an appetite for the food trucks parked around the city, offering everything from Korean tacos and falafel to vegan doughnuts and Belgian waffles. Twitter feeds and blogs track their whereabouts (try NYCTruckFood.com).
Support local farmers
New Yorkers do eat in on occasion, and when they do, they shop local. Local greenmarkets like the Union Square farmers' market offer a range of fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as locally sourced meats, fish, and specialty foods. If you don't have a kitchen to prepare a meal, shop for the makings of a great picnic. Join hungry locals to shop the stands on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 8 am to 6 pm.
Skip the food fair
Beloved food festivals like Smorgasburg and Hester Street Fair are a huge local draw, especially on warm summer weekends. But now that the word is out and the lines are long, locals are heading back indoors to the city's new crop of highly curated food courts. Indoor markets like Gotham West Market, Gansevoort Market, Chelsea Market, and Hudson Eats feature artisan vendors and affordable meals, and sometimes live music and extended hours.
Weekend brunch is a lifestyle here, so brace yourself for an ultimate foodie experience featuring eggs Benedict, bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon, fruit-filled pancakes, decadent French toast, gourmet burgers, or fried chicken and waffles, accompanied by mimosas, Bloody Marys, or specialty brunch cocktails. Most places start serving at 11 am, and the more popular spots will have a line, so either plan to wait or get there early. These days, just about every restaurant worth its menu serves brunch on the weekends, even if it doesn't serve lunch during the week.
Take in a show
You won’t cross paths with many locals in Times Square, but New Yorkers are not so jaded as to ignore the wealth of the city's theatrical and musical offerings—they just don't like paying full price for the experience. Do as locals do and find discounted tickets at social buying sites like Groupon, Gilt City, and Living Social, or score deals at discount ticket booth TKTS (though you'll make better use of your time if you line up at the less-trafficked booths in Brooklyn or South Street Seaport than the one in Times Square). Use the free TKTS app for up-to-date ticket availability at each of the city’s three booths. You can also try to score discounted rush tickets: show up at the theater when the box office opens on the day of the performance (some of these deals are limited to students—be sure to look up the ticket policy in advance); the most popular shows offer rush tickets as a random lottery, so actually getting to see a show isn't guaranteed Otherwise, we favor the Off-Off-Broadway experience, staying in the know with sites like OffOffOnline.com.
Support the arts
Take advantage of the city’s amazing museums, but make like a local and go during off-hours, like weekday mornings, to avoid the crowds. If you visit regularly, become a member of your favorite museums (as much to skip lines as to support the arts). Many museums have free or pay-as-you-wish nights (or days), but they can be very crowded. Another popular (and free) local art activity is skipping the major museums altogether and hopping from gallery to gallery in Chelsea or SoHo. In Chelsea, Thursday nights are usually when the galleries open their doors to art lovers (often with free wine and snacks).
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