40 Best Non-Touristy Things To Do In NYC: A Local’s Guide to Hidden Gems

New York City is undoubtedly a city that never sleeps, but beyond its bustling streets and towering skyscrapers, there’s a whole world of lesser-known attractions waiting for you to explore.

This list of 40 best non-touristy things to do in NYC will take you off the beaten path and help you create unforgettable memories.

Uncover captivating art, indulge in scrumptious food, or simply take in the city’s untold beauty.

So gather your travel buddies and let’s embark on an extraordinary journey to discover the real New York City together.

1. Visit the Cloisters

For a tranquil retreat away from the city’s hustle and bustle, head to the Cloisters.

The Met Cloisters

Located in Fort Tryon Park, this part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is dedicated to the art and architecture of medieval Europe, offering a serene atmosphere to relax and appreciate the incredible history.

Take time to stroll through the lush gardens and enjoy the stunning views of the Hudson River at this special place.

Be sure to check out the experience of a TripAdvisor user: “The Cloisters is an oasis in Manhattan. The architecture, the exhibits and the gardens transport you to another time and place. Breathtaking!”

2. See Street Art in Bushwick

Bushwick, a Brooklyn neighborhood, offers an incredible array of street art for you to explore.

Bushwick

Wander through the vibrant murals found at Seigel, Moore, and Varet streets and discover the artistic expressions of the talented artists involved with the Bushwick Collective.

By strolling through the dynamic streets of Bushwick, you’ll be able to appreciate the real New York City and its unique, flourishing art scene.

3. New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

If you’re looking for a non-touristy experience in NYC, consider visiting the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library.

Stephen A. Schwarzman

This architectural marvel isn’t just a place for scholars; it’s a sanctuary where you can explore its captivating history and grandeur.

Wander through the library’s various wings, discovering the richness of its research centers. A Tripadvisor review praises its serene ambience and collection of rare books.

Enjoy your time in this magnificent space, allowing yourself to get lost in its silent corridors and lose track of time.

4. Feast at Smorgasburg

Are you a food lover? Visiting Smorgasburg is a must for you then!

Smorgasburg

This incredible weekly open-air food market is the largest in America and offers a mouthwatering selection of dishes to relish. Stroll the market and treat your taste buds to a dazzling array of culinary delights.

In this food fair, you will find everything from creative fusion dishes to traditional and modern cuisine handcrafted by passionate vendors. One visitor on Yelp raves about the mind-blowing flavors and unique dishes that make the experience truly unforgettable.

5. Visit Snug Harbor Cultural Center

Looking for a unique, non-touristy experience in NYC? Snug Harbor Cultural Center is the perfect spot for you! It offers an array of vibrant and intriguing activities housed in its Greek Revival buildings and historic grounds.

Snug Harbor Cultural Center
Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden” by Daniel G. Rego is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

One TripAdvisor traveller said, “Snug Harbor is a beautiful place to explore, and even just wander around. There’s so much to see and do. I highly recommend a visit here.” Don’t miss your chance to discover this unique destination the locals love.

6. Look for the Whispering Gallery

Located in the iconic Grand Central Terminal, there is a unique acoustic phenomenon known as the Whispering Gallery.

This whimsical space allows you to stand at opposite corners of a specific archway and whisper into the wall, allowing your companion to hear your words perfectly clear on the other side.

It is an amusing and friendly experience that brings a sense of wonder to all who try it.

A fellow visitor on TripAdvisor says, “The Whispering Gallery is a true marvel in the heart of Grand Central Terminal. It’s amazing how clearly you can hear the whispers from the other side of the arch.”

7. Visit Roosevelt Island

Roosevelt Island offers a peaceful getaway from the bustling city, with unique attractions for you to explore.

Roosevelt Island

Take a ride on the Roosevelt Island Tramway, offering stunning views of Manhattan and the East River, before discovering the island’s rich history and green spaces.

Bask in the tranquility of Four Freedoms State Park, an unconventional presidential memorial honoring Franklin D. Roosevelt, or wander through the island’s streets to unveil its fascinating past, including a former smallpox hospital and a nursing training school.

Don’t forget to capture memories of your visit with some gorgeous skyline snapshots!

8. Explore DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass)

DUMBO, which stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, is a vibrant neighborhood in Brooklyn, famed for its stunning skyline views and artistic vibe.

Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass

While strolling its streets, you will find various art galleries, unique shops, and delicious eateries. A great option is to grab a sandwich from Bread and Spread and relax on the lawn at Main Street Park.

When you visit DUMBO, don’t forget to take your camera and capture the remarkable scenery down by Pebble Beach where it’s common to see people skipping stones.

9. Attend a Live Jazz Show

New York City is known for its vibrant jazz scene. Immerse yourself in the classic sounds of the city by attending a live jazz show.

From smaller, intimate venues like Pier 84 to the world-famous clubs that have hosted legends like Miles Davis, you’re sure to find a spot that resonates with your soul.

Enjoy the soothing music set against a backdrop of amazing company and fantastic atmosphere.

To make the experience truly memorable, check out some insider reviews and recommendations to help you find the perfect jazz club for your NYC adventure.

10. Fort Tryon Park

At the northern edge of Manhattan, you’ll find Fort Tryon Park, a serene oasis away from the bustling city. With beautiful gardens, expansive lawns, and stunning Hudson River views, it’s a perfect place to unwind.

Fort Tryon Park
File:2014 Fort Tryon Park Heather Garden.jpg” by Beyond My Ken is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr, this park offers much to explore, such as playgrounds, volleyball courts, and the picturesque Heather Garden.

Why not roll out your blanket and enjoy a picnic while immersing yourself in the lush green surroundings? Plus, the park is home to The Met Cloisters, a museum showcasing medieval European art.

11. Museum of Mathematics

If you’re looking for something truly unique during your visit to NYC, consider stopping by the Museum of Mathematics.

Museum of Mathematics
File:National Museum of Mathematics 11 East 26th Street.jpg” by Beyond My Ken is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

This interactive museum offers various hands-on exhibits and activities that will amaze you, regardless of your age or math skills.

At MoMath, you can explore mathematical concepts through engaging exhibits such as the square-wheeled tricycle, the human tree fractal generator, and numerous puzzles that will challenge your problem-solving skills.

To read about a great experience in the museum, check out this positive review:

This is the first museum ever to be dedicated only to math. It’s not like you enter and see arithmetic all over the walls. No, this place conveys math in both abstract and concrete ways. If you love math, and even if you don’t, this is an interesting and quick museum visit unlike any other.

12. Attend Off-Broadway Shows

New York City is known for its incredible theater scene, but why not step away from the bright lights of Broadway and explore some equally amazing Off-Broadway shows?

This way, you get to experience fantastic productions at smaller venues, often with more affordable ticket prices.

Some must-visit Off-Broadway theaters include The Public Theater, BAM, and St. Anne’s Warehouse. Next time you’re in NYC, give these theaters a chance and immerse yourself in the captivating world of Off-Broadway performances!

13. Watch a Free Comedy Improv Show

Looking for a fun, affordable night out? Treat yourself to a laughter-filled evening at one of the many free comedy shows in NYC.

These entertaining events feature talented performers from HBO, Comedy Central, and MTV, providing an excellent opportunity for you to enjoy some high-quality comedy without spending a dime.

One must-visit spot is the weekly comedy show held every Wednesday, featuring the musical improv troupe Vern.

With a friendly atmosphere and a charming cocktail or beer in hand, you’ll find yourself captivated by the humorous tunes and witty banter.

14. Stroll Along the High Line

The High Line is an enchanting park built on a former elevated railway that stretches about 1.45 miles from the Meatpacking District to Hudson Yards in Midtown.

The High Line

As you walk along this unique green space, you’ll be treated to fantastic views of the city and its vibrant neighborhoods.

Your journey along the High Line offers various art installations, lovely gardens, and cozy spots to relax or people-watch.

In the Chelsea neighborhood, don’t miss the chance to grab a bite at the popular Chelsea Market.

15. Check out the Tenement Museum

Discover the rich history of New York City’s immigrants at the Tenement Museum.

This fascinating destination transports you back in time to the lives of more than 15,000 immigrants from over 20 nations between 1863 and 1935.

The museum consists of two historic buildings, making it a must-see for anyone interested in the city’s diverse and captivating past.

While exploring the museum, immerse yourself in centuries-old narratives and personal stories of those who once called these buildings home. A TripAdvisor review mentions that the Tenement Museum offers an “engaging, informative, and moving experience.”

16. Go to Van Cortlandt Park

Van Cortlandt Park is a refreshing escape from the bustling city landscape. With over 1,000 acres to explore, you’ll find a diverse array of activities and attractions to enjoy.

Van Cortlandt Park

Visiting this park will give you a taste of nature while offering a reprieve from the tourist-laden areas of New York City. Some popular park features include the Native Plant Garden and the historic Van Cortlandt House Museum.

As you wander through the park’s lush landscape, you’ll come across picturesque spots such as the Van Cortlandt Lake and numerous sports facilities. It’s an excellent place to unwind, have a picnic, or simply get lost amid the verdant scenery.

17. Take the Staten Island Ferry

One great non-touristy activity to do in NYC is taking a relaxing ride on the Staten Island Ferry.

Staten Island Ferry

This delightful journey offers one of the best views of the Statue of Liberty, making it a must-do for both visitors and locals alike.

The experience is even more enjoyable when you know it’s completely free! Don’t forget to bring your camera and enjoy the breathtaking scenery as you gently sail by.

18. Visit Prospect Park

Prospect Park is a delightful oasis in Brooklyn where you can escape the city’s hustle and bustle. This expansive green space offers activities such as boating on the lake, bird-watching, and picnicking.

Prospect Park

While strolling through the park, don’t forget to explore the beautiful botanic garden and picturesque trails.

One visitor on Reddit mentioned, “I was impressed by how much there is to do and see in Prospect Park.” Enjoy your visit and make unforgettable memories in this charming urban sanctuary.

19. Get Drinks at a Hidden Speakeasy

Step back in time by visiting a hidden speakeasy in the city that never sleeps.

These secret bars bring the Prohibition era to life and offer a unique experience for you and your friends to enjoy crafted cocktails in an intimate setting.

One such place is the Raines Law Room in Union Square. With its cozy atmosphere and extensive cocktail menu, you’ll feel like you’ve discovered a special piece of New York City history.

Don’t forget to ask the knowledgeable bartenders for their recommendations to make your night even more memorable!

20. Have a Sushi and Sake Lunch in Sakagura

Sakagura, a subterranean sake bar in New York City, offers a delightful break from touristy spots.

When you’re there, indulge in their exquisite sushi and sake options, soaking up the captivating atmosphere in this unique location.

With an expansive wall of sake bottles and quality dishes, you’ll feel like you’ve discovered a secret corner of the city.

On Reddit, a satisfied visitor recommends having a sushi and sake lunch at Sakagura, describing it as a midtown basement gem.

21. Arthur Road, The Genuine Little Italy

For a truly unique culinary experience, stroll along Arthur Road and discover the real Little Italy of NYC. You’ll find a range of traditional Italian delicacies, along with an authentic atmosphere that transports you straight to Italy!

Indulge in mouth-watering cannoli and savor the aroma of freshly-baked bread at local bakeries.

Enjoy a meal at Da Nico Ristorante, where a TripAdvisor review highlights their “friendly staff, excellent pasta, and wonderful atmosphere.”

By exploring Arthur Road, you’re immersing yourself in a cozy corner of the city that truly captures the essence of Italian culture.

22. Enjoy a Scenic NYC Picnic

One delightful activity to try in the city is having a scenic picnic in one of NYC’s beautiful parks.

Turtle Pond Central Park

A few fantastic spots for picnicking include Turtle Pond in Central Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park, which both provide stunning backdrops for your outdoor meal.

Pack your favorite foods, a cozy blanket, and enjoy New York City’s green spaces amidst its urban landscape.

Make your picnic even more memorable by exploring the nearby sights in the parks, such as Central Park’s Turtle Pond, home to a variety of wildlife, or the magnificent views of Manhattan’s skyline from Brooklyn Bridge Park.

23. Go for an Urban Hike

New York City offers some fascinating urban hikes for those who want to explore the city on foot. Wander through diverse neighborhoods and parks, discovering unique and memorable sights along the way.

Brooklyn Bridge

One recommended route takes you across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, offering fantastic views of Manhattan’s skyline.

Then, stroll through the charming streets of Brooklyn Heights, immersing yourself in the area’s rich history and architecture.

24. Browse for Books at Albertine

Tucked away on the Upper East Side, Albertine is a charming French bookstore that offers a unique and friendly browsing experience.

Lose yourself in the delightful world of French literature as you explore their curated collection of rare books, contemporary fiction, and memorable classics.

Inside, the bookstore’s elegant yet cozy atmosphere invites you to sit down and stay a while.

As one TripAdvisor reviewer mentioned, Albertine is “a quiet oasis in the bustling city”, so take advantage of the tranquility to find your perfect read that could transport you to the heart of Paris or beyond.

25. Eat Your Way Through Harlem

Exploring Harlem is an exciting culinary adventure, with its rich history and diverse food options.

Indulge in delicious soul food or try some Caribbean flavors, giving your taste buds a treat during your non-touristy NYC experience.

One must-try spot is Red Rooster, where a Yelp reviewer raves about their mouthwatering “fried yardbird” and “sticky toffee pudding.” Get ready to savor every bite as you immerse yourself in Harlem’s vibrant culinary scene.

26. Walk Around and Find a Fashion Dump at Fashion District

Searching for a unique shopping experience in NYC?

Fashion District
The Fashion District giant button and needle, New York” by Ben Sutherland is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

Take a leisurely stroll through the Fashion District, where you can find incredible bargains on designer clothes and accessories. Get ready to be entertained by the creativity displayed at this trendy hub!

While wandering around, keep an eye out for incredible fashion dumps where you can score one-of-a-kind pieces for your wardrobe.

Enjoy the lively vibe and friendly ambiance that makes this location a favorite for fashion-conscious locals and visitors alike.

27. Check Out Green-wood Cemetery

While visiting New York City, take some time to explore Green-Wood Cemetery, a unique and historic attraction in Brooklyn.

Green-Wood Cemetery

With its gothic gate, ornamental pond, and lush greenery, it’s a serene spot for a leisurely stroll.

Don’t miss the chance to see the stunning Japanese cherry-blossom trees and the colony of Argentinian monk parrots that reside near the cemetery’s magnificent Gothic revival gates.

28. Visit a Rooftop Farm

Have you ever imagined a farm in the middle of a bustling city like New York? Well, your dreams can come true at the Brooklyn Grange.

Rooftop Farm
rooftop farm ii” by srslyguys is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

This innovative 5.6-acre rooftop farm not only captivates your imagination but also showcases both traditional soil-based practices and state-of-the-art hydroponic systems.

Consider participating in one of their educational workshops to learn about diverse rooftop farming techniques. As you explore and learn, you’ll be contributing to a sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle, right in the heart of NYC!

29. Explore City Island

City Island is a delightful spot in the Bronx that offers a small-town feel within the bustling city.

Strolling through its quaint streets, you’ll be mesmerized by the charming marine atmosphere and historic homes. Enjoy local seafood at one of the many restaurants, or simply revel in the serene shoreline views.

Fishing enthusiasts will also appreciate City Island’s various waterfront parks and piers. So don’t hesitate, go ahead and treat yourself to a peaceful getaway amidst the urban jungle!

30. Attend a Hidden Concert by Sofar Sounds

If you’re seeking a unique and intimate musical experience in NYC, Sofar Sounds should be on your list. This innovative platform organizes secret concerts in everyday spaces, transforming them into captivating, cozy venues.

From living rooms and rooftops to boutiques and museums, you’ll never know where the next enchanting performance will take place.

As a music enthusiast, you will love discovering new artists and enjoying an inclusively entertaining experience that brings people closer together.

31. Visit the Museum of Moving Image

If you’re a film buff or a lover of television and digital media, don’t miss the Museum of Moving Image in Astoria, Queens. It’s a fascinating space dedicated to the history and art of moving images.

Museum of Moving Image
File:Gallery of historical television sets in the Museum of the Moving Image, New York City.jpg” by MusikAnimal is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

You’ll be captivated by exhibits that trace the evolution of film and television, including early cinema projectors and modern digital art. The “Behind the Screen” section offers interactive experiences like exploring green screen technology and experimenting with stop-motion animation.

The Museum of Moving Image also boasts a rich collection of artifacts, from vintage cameras to iconic movie costumes, and an array of classic video games.

\Make the most of your visit by checking their schedule for special screenings and presentations, which often feature rare films, documentaries, and insights from industry experts.

32. Get Some Sun at Coney Island

Coney Island, a beloved destination for over a century, offers a wealth of activities to enjoy. From thrilling amusement park rides at Luna Park to savoring the iconic Nathan’s Famous hot dogs, it’s the perfect spot for a fun-filled day.

Coney Island

Take a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk, let loose on the beach, or immerse yourself in the marine life at the New York Aquarium.

Whatever your preference, Coney Island will certainly leave you with a smile on your face and lasting memories.

33. Surf at Rockaway Beach

Ready for a non-touristy adventure in NYC? Head over to Rockaway Beach, the heart of surfing in New York City.

Rockaway Beach

This serene East Coast beach resort is located in Queens and is perfect for catching some waves.

At Rockaway Beach, you’ll find a vibrant surfing community, plenty of space for lounging, and gorgeous views of the Atlantic Ocean.

So grab your board and make your way to 67th Street for a chill vibe – it’s truly an NYC experience you won’t want to miss.

34. Explore the Flushing Chinatown

Venture off the beaten path and immerse yourself in the rich culture of Flushing Chinatown, the largest urban center in Queens and home to the second largest Chinatown in New York City.

Flushing Chinatown
Chinatown” by chaddavis.photography is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

With countless authentic eateries, bustling shops, and vibrant street life, you’ll easily find yourself delighting in delicious cuisine and observing the unique local customs.

To make the most of your visit, savor a plate of mouthwatering dumplings, sample some bubble tea, and explore the various exciting attractions this fascinating area has to offer.

35. Visit the Noguchi Museum

While exploring NYC, make time for a visit to the Noguchi Museum, where you’ll find 13 galleries and an outdoor sculpture garden displaying the work of Japanese American sculptor Isamu Noguchi.

Noguchi Museum
The Noguchi Museum” by shinya is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

In this creative space, you’ll be immersed in a stunning collection of art and sculptures, celebrating the talent and vision of the artist.

One TripAdvisor reviewer says, “The Noguchi Museum is a must-see for art enthusiasts visiting the city.”

36. Visit the SeaGlass Carousel

If you’re looking for a magical experience in New York City, check out the SeaGlass Carousel. This unique attraction, inspired by the underwater world, offers an enchanting escape from the city bustle.

SeaGlass Carousel

With glowing fish-shaped cars and soothing music, you’ll be transported to an aquatic wonderland.

One visitor on TripAdvisor described their experience as “a peaceful and mesmerizing ride in the heart of Battery Park”.

37. Relax at Wave Hill

Wave Hill, a public garden and cultural center in the Bronx, is where you can bask in the beauty of nature as you stroll through lush gardens and take in breathtaking views of the Hudson River and Palisades.

Wave hill
Wave Hill Garden and Cultural Center – Bronx NY” by David Berkowitz is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

One visitor shares their experience on TripAdvisor, saying “the combination of gardens, greenhouses, and fabulous views makes Wave Hill a perfect spot for relaxation.”

So, take a break from your usual NYC itinerary, and let yourself unwind in this tranquil haven.

38. Enjoy the Cooking of Global Grandmas

If you’re looking to explore the diverse culinary scene of NYC, head to a quaint eatery called League of Kitchens, where “global grandmas” serve up authentic dishes from their native countries.

You’ll be able to savor mouthwatering recipes that have been passed down through generations.

In this interactive dining experience, you have the opportunity to not only taste the delicious food but also learn the stories and traditions behind each dish.

It’s a unique way to immerse yourself in the rich cultural tapestry of NYC, and you might even pick up an insider cooking tip or two!

39. Visit the Alphabet City Bars

If you’re looking for a local experience in NYC, consider exploring some of the best bars in Alphabet City. This vibrant neighborhood is home to an eclectic mix of speakeasy bars, pubs, and wine bars where New Yorkers love to hang out.

Dive into the lively atmosphere of this area and savor delightful drinks while meeting new people.

One NYC visitor on Tripadvisor mentioned, “Alphabet City has some really cool bars – love the vibes!”

40. Wander Around the Lower East Side

If you’re looking for an authentic New York City experience, Lower East Side is the place to be.

With its rich history, vibrant arts scene, and local shops, this neighborhood will captivate your senses.

Take a leisurely stroll and discover charming cafés, unique boutiques, and incredible street art. As a friendly traveler, immerse yourself in the community’s spirit and make lasting memories in this iconic NYC locale.

40 Best Non-Touristy Things To Do In NYC: Key Takeaways

There’s a whole world of non-touristy experiences waiting for you in New York City.

One way to immerse yourself in the authentic NYC vibe is to visit the Snug Harbor Cultural Center or take the Staten Island Ferry.

For the artistic souls, wandering through the street art in Bushwick can be an exhilarating experience!

Don’t miss your chance to feast at Smorgasburg, or explore Harlem for an exciting culinary adventure.

So next time you’re in NYC, get off the typical tourist trail, and immerse yourself in the offbeat side of one of the world’s most iconic cities.

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