There is no other city like New York! As a former resident, I have plenty of tips if you’re planning a visit. This is not a tourist guide -- there is so much more to New York besides Times Square. (And truthfully, as a resident, I avoided Times Square like the plague because it’s always crowded with tourists). New York is made up of many unique neighborhoods (it has five boroughs after all: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island) filled with great things to do, see, and eat. Here is a list of some of my favorite spots and small businesses you can visit if you’re looking for a more authentic visit. I hope you enjoy this girl’s guide to New York City!
If you’re into crystals or anything metaphysical, this place is chocked full of all things spiritual. Namaste Bookshop has a wide selection of crystals, spiritual books, jewelry, statues, candles, incense, and more. They are located about a block west of Union Square on 14th Street.
Speaking of bookstores, this New York institution has been in the East Village for over 90 years! They have a huge selection of curated new and used books and gifts. Most independent bookstores took a hit during the pandemic, but thankfully the Strand is still thriving!
Chelsea Market is an amazing food hall with food samples from around the world. I added it to this section because of it's Artists & Fleas makers market located on 88 10th Avenue at West 15th Street in Manhattan. Artists & Fleas is an open marketplace of artists, designers, and creators. A lot of emerging clothing designers and artisans set up shop here to sell to the public and get discovered. While I was here, I got a custom necklace made from the Brooklyn Charm booth. I selected a stone in my favorite shade of teal with a silver chain and they put it together for me.
FYI: There is also another Artist & Fleas NYC location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
If you want to see a Broadway show and you are flexible with what you see and where you sit, the TKTS booths can be a great option for you. This booth is located at the red stairs in Time Square. They usually open in the morning and there is a line of people waiting to purchase same-day tickets for a show that evening at a discount rate. This can be hit or miss -- sometimes the seats are great, and sometimes they aren’t. If you’re ok with being seated anywhere and have the patience to wait in line in the morning, then this can be a good option for you.
I was able to see Mamma Mia, Jersey Boys, Aladdin, and many other Broadway shows this way when I was in grad school and on a student budget.
Stop by this world-famous farmer’s market on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday all year, and get your fill of everything from flowers, to produce, to farm-fresh meats.
One of my favorite vendors at the Union Square Green Market is the Millport Dairy, which sells raw milk cheese fresh from their Amish farm in Leola, Pennsylvania (their raw milk cheese from grass-fed cows is much easier for me to tolerate with my lactose intolerance). I also love browsing all the fresh flowers and homemade soaps here. I came away with some lovely sachets of lavender from the Lavender by the Bay booth.
This park in the heart of Greenwich Village is one of the most recognized public spaces in NYC with its iconic Washington Arch. This is the perfect spot to relax on a bench with a coffee, lay in the grass and bask in the sun, or jam along to the various musicians and street performers who play in the park.
Washington Square Park also hosts several events all year long. In the summer season, there are plenty of things to do, like the Washington Square Music Festival every Tuesday in June, movies under the arch, and the Washington Square Art Exhibit in May and September. Fall and Winter season bring the Dog Run Halloween Parade and Costume Contest in October and the Christmas tree lighting ceremony in November/December.
This beautiful green space in Chelsea used to be an abandoned rail yard. In 2006, it was transformed into a beautiful public park that is elevated 30 feet above the ground. The High Line stretches almost one and a half miles long through the West side of Manhattan. The High Line is absolutely beautiful in the spring when the flowers bloom, and it has gorgeous views of the city and street art along 10th Avenue.
This park boasts some of the best skyline views of Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. Not to mention, there are tons of activities to do here in the summer months. Check the Brooklyn Bridge Park events page for all of their attractions and activities offered, from flea markets to kayaking to concerts.
Central Park is a classic -- it's one of NYC’s biggest attractions. There is plenty to do in this massive park throughout the summer and winter months. It’s best to grab a guide from the visitor’s center and plan your visit over a few days. My favorite is grabbing ice cream on the Great Lawn on a hot summer day.
Smorgasburg is a foodie’s delight and one of the largest open-air food markets in the country. NYC has three locations: The World Trade Center in Manhattan on Fridays, Williamsburg in Brooklyn on Saturdays, and Prospect Park in Brooklyn on Sundays. I’ve been to all three, and they’re all great, but I would especially recommend visiting Smorgasburg WTC on Fridays. It’s right next to the Oculus at the World Trade Center, which may be on your to-do list. My favorite vendor at Smorgasburg is the Bona Bona Ice Cream truck and their s’mores cone.
This little shop in the trendy Dumbo section of Brooklyn has some of the best baked desserts in the city! If you’re treating yourself, the carrot cake is delish. They have three locations in Brooklyn: Dumbo, Cobble Hill and Industry City. One Girl Cookies also caters to food allergies with great vegan and gluten-free options.
This cute little chocolate shop in Greenwich Village serves handmade chocolates to satisfy your sweet tooth. I bought several from here as gifts, and the owner helped me put together a lovely gift box. Of course I had a few myself, and they were delish. Varsano’s Chocolate is one of the few independent chocolate shops left in the area, so it’s a great place to support an NYC small biz.
Originally Posted on Aliya's blog.