I grew up just outside the city in New Jersey, have worked/interned there, and spent many a weekend there in my life. Now, I’m living just across the Hudson in Hoboken. People ask me for NYC recommendations all the time! Here are some of my best recommendations for non-touristy activities! However, the tourist stuff is still fun, so don’t let me discourage you from doing that too.
My favorite neighborhood in NYC is The Village (West, Greenwich, East, it’s all awesome). My grandpa is 87 years old and has been living in the West Village for over 40 years! Here are some of my picks from down there:
- Coffee lovers should visit Porto Rico, if not just for the smell alone! It’s hands down most awesome coffee and tea shop in the city.
- Head to MacDougal Street and grab dinner at any of the amazing restaurants there before going to a show at the Comedy Cellar (I recommend getting tickets in advance, especially for weekend shows). It’s not unusual for huge stars to show up there and test out their sets on the audience as a surprise! I’ve seen Leslie Jones there, and my parents have come across Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld. Skip the comedy clubs up in Times Square (they’re overpriced). You’ll get better talent in The Village.
- Go to Big Gay Ice Cream (exactly what it sounds like) over by the Christopher Street subway station. Their ice cream is bombbbb! Dip it in chocolate shell – you won’t regret it.
- Artichoke Pizza serves up slices at any hour. Sometimes it tastes even better at 3am.
- Bar hopping in the East Village over by NYU is fun! I am a fan of a place called Kingston Hall that serves super strong tropical drinks in coconuts (order the Drunken Coconut). Okay, so these next two are technically in the Lower East Side, but they’re very close to the Village! You can also go to a place called Pizza Beach that looks like it belongs in California, but is sitting in the middle of the East Village. Across the street is Hair of the Dog, but you only go there if you’re looking to have a particularly messy time.
- Go to Milk Bar (Christina Tosi’s bakery) and get a slice of Crack Pie. It’s pure sugar and so bad for you, but oh my god, it is so worth the calories.
- Chocolate chip cookies from Levain Bakery. That’s all you need to know.
- Go to Amity Hall for bottomless brunch. They’ll get you drunk and you are more than likely going to run into a bunch of screaming sports fans. It’s a good time.
I also really like Chelsea and the Meatpacking District! It’s a bit trendier over there but great for during the day or for dinner and nightlife:
- Catch Rooftop is a bit pricey, but has some of the most phenomenal sushi in the city. Plus, there’s a great atmosphere. You enter via an ivy-covered elevator and go up to a beautiful restaurant with picture windows.
- Dos Caminos is a perfect place for Mexican food! Bacon jalapeno guacamole and margaritas, plus a club downstairs – it’s fantastic.
- Go shopping – or window shopping – in Meatpacking! You can pretty much head right into the middle of the Meatpacking District and get lost. There are some great stores over there.
- The Whitney Museum is an underrated art museum and they’re constantly changing up exhibits. Plus, if you head up to the roof you can get phenomenal views of the entire city.
- Le Bain at the Standard is a fun bar with beautiful views of the city. Head there on an off night, like Wednesday or Sunday, as the bar can get really packed.
- Chelsea Market is worth it despite the crowds! There are tons of interesting food options, shopping, and great people watching.
- Chelsea Piers is fun for active types. They have batting cages and trapeze classes and lots of activities, all on the Hudson with again, great views.
- Drinks at the Frying Pan during the day are a must! The bar is built on an abandoned ship sitting in the water. It’s a fun atmosphere and great when it’s nice out. Try the Old Bay fries!
Other NYC Favorites
Some other suggestions from all over the city:
- If you want to go full on Gossip Girl and have a super classy brunch, go to Sarabeth’s near Central Park South. It’s the cutest little place and you’ll feel super elegant dining there! Don’t be shocked if you see $13 oatmeal on the menu, though.
- If you want to totally eat your way through the city, one of my favorite things to do with visitors is a food tour. I’ve personally gone on two and bought these as gifts for people and they are really great. It’s not expensive, you get a lot of food, and you learn all sorts of cool history about the city!
- If you haven’t done the NBC Studio Tour, you should! It’s very interesting. Plus, you get to see the set of Saturday Night Live and Jimmy Fallon, which I totally geeked out on (both times I did the tour…)
- I haven’t actually been to Color Factory myself, but I’ve heard it’s so much fun, and of course would be a great Instagram!
- FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY, HAVE A BAGEL WHILE YOU ARE THERE, A REAL NYC BAGEL (my faves: Pick A Bagel, Ess-A-Bagel, Long Island Bagel Cafe, Murray’s Bagels). You will never be able to have another bagel again after trying them in NYC.
- South Street Seaport is such a cute area: big sailing ships on display with museums, shopping, restaurants, photo booths, bars, and coffee shops sprinkled throughout. Lots to do here!
- And finally, try Shake Shack for the NYC ‘equivalent’ of In-N-Out Burger in LA. The black and white shake is really something!
About Melissa Cooper
Melissa works on the events and marketing team for Travel Weekly. When she’s not behind her computer, she can be found ripping it up on the dance floor, reading crime novels, searching for travel deals, or chowing down on NYC’s finest edible offerings (like this cookie). She resides in Hoboken with her two kitties, Joey and Chandler. You can find Melissa on Instagram!