non touristy things to do in nyc

Non touristy things to do in new york city:Unveiling New York City’s Hidden Gems

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As a seasoned traveler who has visited New York City three times, I can confidently say that this iconic metropolis is one of my all-time favorite destinations. With each visit, I’ve discovered new and fascinating layers to this vibrant city, peeling back the layers to uncover its hidden gems and non touristy things to do in New York City: experiences that lie beyond the well-trodden tourist trail.

Despite being one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, New York City harbors countless treasures that often go overlooked by the masses. From secret speakeasies and rooftop vineyards to urban farms and graffiti-adorned alleys, the city’s offbeat charms are waiting to be unearthed by the curious and adventurous.

If you’re longing to escape the crowds and delve into the authentic soul of New York City, this comprehensive guide will unveil a captivating array of non-touristy things to do, ensuring an unforgettable and uniquely local experience.


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Non touristy things to do in New York City: Unveiling New York City’s Hidden Gems

non touristy things to do in nyc

A Guide to off the beaten path in nyc

Citywide non tourist things to do in NYC

New York City is a treasure trove of unique experiences that transcend borough boundaries. Here are a few citywide gems that will help you escape the tourist traps and embrace the city’s authentic soul:

  • Take a Helicopter Ride and see The city from above. It’s a great way to experience a thrilling and unique vantage point and get amazing photos. Check Prices Now
  • New York Dinner Cruise: Get dressed up and enjoy an amazing dinner aboard of the chicest cruise on an all-glass boat . Check Prices Here
  • Enjoy Free Entertainment in NYC Parks: Seeking budget-friendly entertainment? Check the calendars of NYC’s parks, as they often host free movies, tours, concerts, comedy shows, and more, especially during the warmer months.
  • Take a NYC Walking Tour with a Local: Immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant culture by taking a local class. From aerial arts and improv to cooking and hatmaking, the options are limitless. Not only will you explore your creativity, but you may also meet fellow enthusiasts and make new friends. Check Prices Now
  • Take A Food Tour led by a Local: This hidden Gem Food Tour of LIttle Italy and Chinatown 
  • Explore the City by Bike: Rent a Citi Bike and pedal your way through scenic routes like the Bronx Greenway, Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, and Hudson River Greenway. It’s an exhilarating way to experience the city while getting some exercise.
  • Niagra Falls from NYC:  Take a tour to see the magnificent Niagra Falls on a guided tour. Check Prices Now
non touristy things to do in nyc

Non Touristy Things to Do in new York City : Manhattan

While Manhattan is a tourist hotspot, it still harbors plenty of offbeat gems for those willing to venture off the beaten path:

  • Go on a New York City Mafia and Local Food Tour led by an ex NYPD: If you find the Mob and mafia history fascinating, you’ll have an amazing time on this fun food tour. Check Availability
  • Explore Roosevelt Island: Once you’ve arrived on Roosevelt Island, hop on the free Red Bus and discover this tranquil oasis, complete with historic sites, scenic parks, and a respite from the city’s hustle and bustle.
  • Go on a Guided Food Tour Of Chelsea Market: This indoor food hall in the Meatpacking District is a local favorite, offering a diverse array of food vendors and a rich history as the former Nabisco Factory, where the Oreo cookie was born. Check Availability
  • Explore The Foodie side of Greenwich Village. Go on a Secret Food Tours Greenwich Village food tour and discover all the hidden gems from a foodie local guide.
  • Visit the Met Cloisters: While the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a popular tourist destination, its lesser-known branch, the Met Cloisters, offers a serene escape into the world of medieval art and architecture.
  • Browse the Morgan Library and Museum: A stone’s throw from the New York Public Library, this breathtaking library houses rare books and manuscripts, making it a must-visit for bibliophiles.
  • Get Drinks at a Hidden Speakeasy: New York is renowned for its speakeasies, and hunting them down is an adventure in itself. From Employees Only (hidden behind a psychic shop) to Please Don’t Tell (accessible through a phone booth), these clandestine bars will transport you back in time.
  • Take an Architecture Cruise: While Circle Line cruises are popular, consider booking a cruise with the American Institute of Architects (AIANY) for a deeper understanding of New York’s architectural marvels and history.
  • Visit the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum: Step back in time at this quaint farmhouse, the last of its kind in Manhattan, offering a glimpse into the city’s rural past.
  • Visit the American Folk Art Museum: Free to visit and boasting an impressive collection of folk art, this museum is a hidden gem in the Lincoln Center area.
  • Watch a Free Comedy Improv Show: The Peoples Improv Theater hosts free comedy shows every night, offering a hilarious and budget-friendly way to experience the city’s vibrant comedy scene.
  • Eat in a Local Home: Through platforms like EatWith and League of Kitchens, you can immerse yourself in different cultures by cooking alongside immigrant women or enjoying a home-cooked meal in a New Yorker’s kitchen.
  • Find an Oasis in Midtown: Escape the bustle of Midtown by retreating to Greenacre Park, a hidden oasis featuring a 25-foot waterfall and lush greenery.
  • Enjoy a Scenic NYC Picnic: Forget the crowded Central Park and opt for a picnic in the serene Fort Tryon Park, offering stunning views of the Hudson River and the George Washington Bridge.
Coco Tran — Curated Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran

RELATED: The Ultimate 3-4 day New York City Itinerary for First time Visitor

  • Go for an Urban Hike: Discover the rugged beauty of Manhattan’s hiking trails, like the moderate-hard Orange Trail in Inwood Hill Park, where you’ll find historic sites, scenic overlooks, and the city’s last remaining salt marsh.
  • Go Gallery Hopping: Immerse yourself in New York’s vibrant art scene by gallery hopping in neighborhoods like Chelsea, the Upper East Side, and the Lower East Side.
  • Browse for Books at Albertine: This enchanting bookstore, located across from Central Park, offers a curated collection of French and English books, making it a literary haven for book lovers.
  • Watch an Off-Broadway Show: While Broadway shows are popular, consider experiencing the city’s thriving theater scene through more affordable and equally entertaining Off-Broadway or Off-Off-Broadway productions.
  • Go Glamping on Governors Island: Governors Island offers a unique opportunity to go glamping in the heart of New York City, complete with luxury camping retreats and breathtaking views of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline.
  • Check Out the 191st Street Tunnel: Venture deep underground to the 191st Street subway station, home to the colorful “Tunnel Street” lined with graffiti murals, making it one of the city’s most unusual and photogenic spots.
  • Eat Your Way Through Harlem: Explore the rich culinary heritage of Harlem by savoring soul food and comfort classics at iconic establishments like Sylvia’s, Red Rooster, and Melba’s.
  • Shop a Sample Sale: Score designer clothing at a steep discount by attending one of New York’s legendary sample sales, where you can indulge in retail therapy without breaking the bank.
  • Visit El Museo del Barrio: Immerse yourself in Latin American and Caribbean art at this museum, which is part of the “Museum Mile” on the Upper East Side.
  • Walk the Manhattan Bridge: While the Brooklyn Bridge is iconic, the Manhattan Bridge offers a less crowded alternative with stunning views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the East River.
  • Bike the George Washington Bridge: Cycle across the George Washington Bridge and venture into New Jersey’s Palisades Interstate Park, where you can explore scenic trails and the historic Fort Lee Park.

Non Touristy Things to Do in Brooklyn

Brooklyn is a treasure trove of offbeat experiences:

Coco Tran — Curated Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran
  • Explore the Brooklyn Botanic Garden: Escape the concrete jungle and immerse yourself in the tranquility of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, where you can marvel at seasonal blooms, fall foliage, and a stunning winter lights display.
  • Hunt for Treasures at Brooklyn Flea: Vintage enthusiasts will delight in the Brooklyn Flea, a weekend flea market in DUMBO, where you can browse an eclectic array of vintage clothing, furniture, art, and antiques.
  • See (& Paint) Street Art in Bushwick: Bushwick is a vibrant hub for street art and graffiti, offering a unique canvas for exploring the city’s artistic side. You can even take a graffiti lesson to create your own masterpiece.
  • Eat at DeKalb Market Hall: This indoor food hall in Downtown Brooklyn boasts over 40 food vendors, ensuring you won’t go hungry while exploring the borough.
  • Stroll the Brooklyn Heights Promenade: Enjoy stunning views of the Manhattan skyline from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, a picturesque waterfront walkway that connects to the iconic Brooklyn Bridge Park.
  • Relax in Prospect Park: While Central Park gets all the attention, Prospect Park offers a tranquil oasis for locals to picnic, relax, and enjoy a variety of attractions within its sprawling grounds.
  • Visit a Rooftop Farm: Brooklyn Grange is an urban rooftop farm that offers yoga, events, and tours, providing a glimpse into the city’s sustainability efforts and the farm-to-table movement.
  • Check Out the Brooklyn Museum: Boasting an impressive collection of art from around the world, the Brooklyn Museum is the third-largest museum in New York City and a must-visit cultural destination.
  • Visit the City Reliquary: This offbeat museum in Williamsburg celebrates the quirky and unconventional, displaying an eclectic collection of New York City artifacts and rotating exhibitions that showcase local stories and makers.
  • Get Some Sun at Coney Island: Escape the city’s concrete jungle and soak up the sun at Coney Island, a beloved beach and amusement park that has long been a popular weekend getaway for New Yorkers.

Non Touristy Things to Do in Queens New York

Queens, the most diverse borough in NYC, offers a wealth of unique experiences beyond the typical tourist trail:

  • Explore the Flushing Chinatown: While Manhattan’s Chinatown is famous, the Flushing Chinatown in Queens offers an authentic and vibrant alternative, complete with bustling markets, incredible food, and the popular Queens Night Market.
  • Surf at Rockaway Beach: Did you know you can surf in New York City? Head to Rockaway Beach in Queens, the city’s only legal surfing beach, for an exhilarating adventure on the waves.
  • Check Out Socrates Sculpture Park: Socrates Sculpture Park is a free outdoor museum featuring large-scale sculptures and multimedia installations, providing a refreshing artistic respite in Long Island City.
  • Visit the Queens Museum: This visual arts museum in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is completely free to visit and houses an impressive collection of contemporary art.
  • Visit the Noguchi Museum: Dedicated to the works of Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi, this museum in Long Island City is a hidden gem in Queens’ vibrant arts scene. I love all the lamps and lanterns I have several in my home.
  • Relax at Gantry Plaza State Park: Escape the city’s bustle and enjoy stunning views of the Manhattan skyline from Gantry Plaza State Park, a waterfront oasis in Long Island City.
  • Visit the MoMA PS1: While the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan is a tourist hotspot, its lesser-known branch, MoMA PS1, offers a unique perspective on contemporary art in a former public school building.
New York City Itinerary

Non Touristy Things to Do in The Bronx

The Bronx, often overlooked by tourists, is a treasure trove of offbeat experiences waiting to be discovered:

  • Visit the New York Botanical Garden: Escape the concrete jungle and immerse yourself in the tranquility of the New York Botanical Garden, a sprawling oasis featuring waterfalls and meticulously landscaped gardens.
  • Check Out the Bronx’s Little Italy: While Manhattan’s Little Italy has become more of a tourist trap, Arthur Avenue in The Bronx offers an authentic taste of Italian-American culture and cuisine, including the famous fresh mozzarella at Joe’s Italian Deli.
  • Eat Your Way Through the Bronx Night Market: Foodies will delight in the Bronx Night Market, an outdoor food market featuring live music, arts and crafts vendors, art installations, and a diverse array of delectable treats.
  • Relax at Wave Hill: Wave Hill is a breathtakingly beautiful public garden along the Hudson River, offering a tranquil escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.
  • Visit NYC’s Largest Park at Pelham Bay Park: Contrary to popular belief, Central Park isn’t the city’s largest park; that honor belongs to the sprawling Pelham Bay Park in The Bronx, where you can hike, play golf, sunbathe at Orchard Beach, and more.
  • Explore City Island: Step into a coastal New England town without leaving New York City by visiting City Island, a quaint neighborhood with charming cottages, lighthouses, seafood restaurants, and marinas.
  • Check Out the Bronx Museum: The Bronx Museum of the Arts is a world-class institution showcasing contemporary art exhibitions and a permanent collection of over 2,000 works.

Non Touristy Things to Do on Staten Island

Staten Island, New York City’s oft-forgotten borough, is a treasure trove of offbeat experiences:

  • Enjoy the Cooking of Global Grandmas: At Enoteca Maria, you can savor organic meals cooked by grandmothers from around the world, offering a unique and authentic culinary experience.
  • Visit the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden: This tranquil oasis features seasonal gardens, a heritage farm, and a diverse array of visual and performing arts programming, making it a must-visit destination in Staten Island.
  • Go Back in Time in Historic Richmond Town: Step back in history at Historic Richmond Town, a living-history village and museum complex featuring restored buildings dating back to the late 1600s and actors bringing the past to life.
  • Ride the Staten Island Ferry: One of the best free activities in New York City, the Staten Island Ferry offers stunning views of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty as it travels between Manhattan and Staten Island. You can even bring your own beer for a DIY cruise experience.
New York City Itinerary

Tips for Finding the Best Non-Touristy Things to Do in NYC

While this comprehensive guide covers a wide range of offbeat experiences in New York City, here are some additional tips to help you uncover even more hidden gems:

  • Subscribe to New York City Newsletters: Local newsletters like The Skint, Secret NYC, Bucketlisters NYC, and Nonsense NYC are goldmines for discovering unique events, pop-ups, and non-touristy activities in the city.
  • Research Your Interests: No matter your niche interests, New York City likely has a museum, class, or experience catering to it. Embrace your passions and seek out alternative ways to explore them in the city.
  • Look for Alternatives: If everyone is flocking to the Brooklyn Bridge, consider walking the Manhattan Bridge or Williamsburg Bridge instead. Seek out lesser-known alternatives to popular attractions for a more authentic experience.
  • Wander Without a Plan: New York City is a city of endless surprises, so sometimes the best way to discover its hidden gems is to simply wander without a set plan. Explore neighborhoods like SoHo or Long Island City and let your curiosity guide you.
  • Book a Custom Travel Planning Service: If you want a truly personalized and localized experience, consider booking a custom travel planning service with a New Yorker, like myself. As a licensed sightseeing guide and resident, I can curate an itinerary that blends iconic attractions with offbeat experiences tailored to your interests.

Helpful Resources for Your Non-Touristy NYC Adventure

To make the most of your offbeat New York City adventure, here are some helpful resources:

New York City Travel guide & articles

Here are my top travel resources and helpful travel articles & tips to help you get started with traveling.

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By embracing these non-touristy experiences and resources, you’ll create lasting memories and gain a deeper appreciation for the authentic soul of New York City. So, step off the beaten path and embark on a journey that goes beyond the guidebook, revealing the city’s true essence.

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