Best Non-Touristy Things To Do In NYC From A Local

I grew up in New York City, but to the shock of many, I’m not a fan. I am the last person to speak highly of the Big Apple. I'm very critical of the city, which means that when I love something about it, it really does deserve that love. 

While I was never attached to New York, there were some things I loved to do and would all the time. While tourist attractions, such as the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, might be worth a trip, they aren’t the heart of the city. My favourite part of exploring somewhere new has always been focusing on local attractions and really getting to know the city.

So, these are my favourite not-super-touristy things to do.


                                                                           Image: Pexels

  1. 1. Washington Square Park

    Washington Square Park is in the center of New York University (NYU) territory. It’s filled with cool people and performers, and someone occasionally rolls a piano into the park to play. It’s filled with classic New York vibes and it’s a great place to get a cup of coffee, grab something to eat–it’s the West Village, so there are a ton of not-too-expensive options–or just relax for a bit and enjoy the park. During Christmas, there’s also a tree in the park, which is super pretty.

  2. 2. Strand Book Store

    Strand has six floors and eighteen miles of books on any topic you could possibly imagine. It is a glorious haven for book lovers and a must-see if you even remotely like reading. If you’re on a budget, they often have discounts and there are sections where books are only a few dollars.

  3. 3. The Whitney Museum of American Art

    I know most museums are quite touristy, but this is a slightly lesser-known one and definitely worth a visit if you have any interest in modern art. Their exhibits are constantly changing, so there’s always something new to see. A favorite of mine was their History of Protest collection, which they’ve exhibited a couple of times.

  4. 4. Black Cat LES

    This cafe was one of my favourite places to hang out before moving. They have good coffee–and cheap for Manhattan–comfy couches and it’s a hotspot for students, activists, and locals of all kinds. A few nights a week, they also have free comedy nights, which are usually pretty good.

  5. 5. Vintage shopping in the Villages

    Fifth Avenue may be famous for shopping, but if you love vintage clothes and want a more budget-friendly alternative, the East and West Villages are littered with cool vintage shops to wander through.