Ten Alternative Things To Do In New York City (Once You’ve Hit The Tourist Spots)

New York feels like home. There’s something so charismatic and warming about this iconic city that it seems to welcome so many of us into its arms as soon as we step out of JFK and breathe in the (slightly dirty) air; it feels instantly comfortable and really is the ultimate location for those chasing dreams or wanting to start anew. I’ve visited the bustling streets of Manhattan four times now, and every trip I discover something even better than before – there’s always a different area to walk through, a new restaurant to try out or a hidden gem to stumble across. Although the iconic tourist hotspots are a must for those on their first trip to NYC, upon your return visit you’ll inevitably want to see something raw and real via the eyes of a local, or simply discover must-see spots that are undeniably instagrammable. I’ve pulled together a list of hotspots that will give you an alternative view of the city, and pull at your heart strings even more than the view from the Empire State.


One of my favourite things to do in New York is walking the High Line on a warm summer’s afternoon. This disused and converted railroad was used to transport goods across the city, but in the 1980’s it was closed for good and left to become overgrown and unloved. Skip forward to 1999 and a project began to restore it and re-launch this iconic landmark as a public garden; it officially launched in 2009 but it continues to evolve, so there’s always something new to see. It runs down the west side of Manhattan and offers fabulous views over the city, as well as boasting a viewing platform that puts you right in the action via a transparent dropped section of the bridge. You can discover artisan coffee, experience local cuisene, view artwork and even channel your inner gardener – it’s one of New York’s most secret of hideaways.
(More info: www.thehighline.org)

The first few times I visited New York I simply approached the bridge, took some snaps and walked away; little did I know actually walking across the bridge was a totally different (and 100 times better) experience. There’s a reason every alien invasion movie sees this iconic landmark destroyed: the views are vast and you feel very exposed, in a refreshing kind of way, when standing over the water. My advice is to start Brooklyn side (take the subway to York St) to get the best views of Manhattan and some incredible photo opportunities, avoiding hitting a huge tourist rush the other side; if you don’t fancy the hour long walk, just wander to the first bridge and take in the views across the water (including the Statue Of Liberty) and turn back for a cup of cwoffee and a slice of pizza.  

Our perception of living in Manhattan is a little skewed, particularly as all the sitcoms seem to be set in the same place: The Village. This small suburban area of the city is completely different to what you may experience uptown, providing boutique shops and a leafy backdrop amongst the tiny cafes and eateries. Although it’s good to google a view places before you go (as it all tends to look the same and it’s easy to wander without any real destination,) you can easily stumble across some absolute gems. If you get the subway to Christopher St. station you’ll be surrounded by the best bits – and you’re only a short walk away from Carrie Bradshaw’s pad (on Perry Street) and the external building of the Friends apartments (on the corner of Bedford Street.) 

It’s an Instagram hotspot for a reason. This incredibly simple concept has yet to be replicated elsewhere, providing five minutes of pure joy and a great photography moment. You simply select your cupcake, pay for is using a card (be prepared as you can’t use cash) and it’s popped into the ATM window within a minute or two for you to enjoy; we all know it’s a dude on the other side just putting it in the slot, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less fun. The cupcakes themselves are incredible, offering up the most delicious vegan version of Red Velvet I’ve ever devoured. (Address: 780 Lexington Ave.) 

I’m such a water baby that any opportunity to get close to a river, lake or the sea is taken with both hands. The boat house in Central Park lets you hire classic little rowing boats to take out onto the lake for only $15.00 an hour, allowing you to feel like you’re a world away from Manhattan instantly; take your time to discover a totally different side to the usually noisy and busy city and burn off those previously consumed cupcakes simultaneously. Just be warned: the queue for the boats does get long during peak season, so just make sure you allow ample time in your day and counter in the thirty-ish minute walk it takes to wander in from most angles of the park. (More info: www.thecentralparkboathouse.com)

It’s played a starring role in everything from the opening credits of Friends to the dance scene in Enhanted, so the Bethesda Fountain is a must-see on a warm day. Set just in front of the iconic steps and arches that were the location of Blair and Chuck’s wedding (Gossip Girl fans will know what I mean!) this fountain is mesmerising; sit around the edge of the water with an ice cream and do some people watching, or sit aside the river and watch the boats row out from the boathouse. 

A full blog post on this is to come, as there’s so much to share, but this vibrant and colourful beachside destination is the perfect way to spend a day – no matter your age. Around a 45 minute subway journey from central Manhattan, you’ll arrive right in the middle of the action and find your way to the beach front in next to no time. With colourful murals, buzzing bars that serve the best frozen mojitos, rides for all ages and a beach that couldn’t be less Southend if it tried, this is a blogger’s paradise. 

This enclosed market is said to be one of the most celebrated food halls of the world, offering all manner of ‘homemade’ delicacies and treats for the tastebuds. Whether you’re a foodie or not, it’s a delight to wander around the stalls to take in the sights and scents – as well as trying a few cheeky sampls for yourself. Although you can’t bring anything back with you due to import laws, that doesn’t mean that you can’t fill your face and enjoy what’s on offer while you’re there. Over the last ten years the market has also evolved into a place for local businesses to sell their wares and for artisan bookshops to pop up with their hispter recommendations; it’s a delightful way to spend a Sunday morning, before hitting up a local cafe for a New York style lunch date with a burger.  (More info: www.chelseamarket.com

You’re not a proper New Yorker if you don’t regularly frequent one of the city’s many blowout bars. Some ladies admit to not having washed their own hair in years, as they prefer to visit their favourite stylists two or three times a week instead. The prices are affordable (around $30-45) and many also include free refreshments (an excuse to hit up the champagne,) leaving you with a bouncy ‘do and a spring in your step within the hour. If you’ve been battling with the rubbish hairdryers that you find in your hotel room, this is a welcome way to spend an early evening ahead of a big night out; with a portfolio of looks to choose from and experts to help you make the most of it for the days to come, it’s a worthwhile investment. It’s also important to note that you can’t make a reservation online with a UK bank card or postcode, so it’s worth ringing ahead to check availability. (My personal fave: www.thedrybar.com)

Nowhere does rooftop views
like New York, and there are ample places to choose from to take in a
different view of the city – particularly by night. My personal
favourite is 230 Fifth Avenue, which is a stone’s throw from the
Flatiron Building, as the beautifully lit Empire State Building sits
right in the middle of the view. The leafy roof terrace is full to the
brim with palm trees and firs, providing a complete contrast to the
built-up city around it; with delicious cocktails on offer to sip while
you take in the view (and no entry fee) this is the ultimate way to
finish a great day out. If you prefer to take in the views by day, like
many of the rooftop locations in Manhattan, they offer a range of brunch
and (More info: www.230-fifth.com)

Do you have any other top tips or must-see destinations you think NYC visitors should add to their list? 

Features PR samples unless otherwise stated. To read my full disclaimer, click here.  



    • Hayley Carr
      October 25, 2016 / 1:22 pm

      I wish they had them in the UK! SO much fun.

  1. Katie
    April 5, 2018 / 1:34 pm

    Thanks for this! I was looking for some alternative things to do in NY on our honeymoon 🙂 Take a look at my blog for some British jollies… x

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