New York Hidden Gems

by Sarah de Winne
Published: Updated: 10 comments

A Local’s Guide To New York Hidden Gems

New York City is one of the most instantly recognisable cities on the planet.  Surrounded by the Hudson, Harlem and East Rivers, an impressive skyline of skyscrapers and iconic buildings rises from Manhattan island which is the most densely populated of the 5 boroughs of New York City.

Dubbed as ‘The City That Never Sleeps’, Manhattan is full of well-documented New York tourist spots, but this city has a resident population of 1.7 million people who call this metropolis their home.  One of those residents is an old school friend of mine who left the UK to follow an acting career in New York.  On a recent trip back to the UK, she shared some New York hidden gems with us.

In this post, we want to help you discover New York off the beaten path by experiencing what locals consider to be some of the best places to visit in New York.  So, if you are looking for some cool things to do in New York which are often missed by tourists, then read on about the hidden places in New York that only locals know about.

What To See In New York?

Of all the New York city sights, I recommend that you go up to the Top of the Rock rather than the top of the Empire State Building because you can see the view up to Central Park and look back on the Empire State Building.  Take the combined sunrise/sunset ticket for great photo opportunities.  Click here for the best prices on a New York City Pass as it includes entrance to the Top of the Rock. If you want to visit the Empire State Building, you can enter the ground floor for free and admire its amazing Art Deco lobby.  Obviously, one of the top tourist places to visit in New York City and one of the famous landmarks in New York is the Statue of Liberty, but what most tourists don’t know is that you can get a great view of her by taking the Staten Island Ferry for free from the Whitehall Ferry Terminal (South Ferry) on Manhattan.  If you want a great night view of all the city, one of the best bars in New York for this is the revolving Marriott Marquis bar on Broadway.

Empire State Building
Empire State Building

The Upper West Side of Manhattan which lies between Central Park and the Hudson River is lovely too.  This area is regarded as the cultural and intellectual hub of the city and here you will find the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts.

What I really recommend to visiting friends is that they get out of Midtown and explore the villages because they offer some of the best spots in New York and here you will find many of the cool places in New York, especially places to eat.  This is the real New York.  The buildings are lower and it’s like being in a Michael Hopper painting.

central park new york
central park

Central Park is another of my recommended places to go in New York.  However, I love the wildness of Prospect Park in Brooklyn which was created afterwards by the same designers (Olmsted and Vaux).  If you like the outdoors and are looking for more unusual things to do in New York, you can also find great bike tracks on the edges of Manhattan island away from New York City tourist attractions.

Where To Shop in New York?

Some of the best places in New York City for shopping are TJ Maxx and Nordstrom Rack which is a high-end Designer store.  You do not need to pay full price in America for anything because there are so many Designer discount stores with great bargains.  Macy’s does good deals but also check out the Marshalls’ stores and Burlington which took over from Filene’s Basement on Union Square.  You don’t need to walk up 5th Avenue and spend a fortune!

If you are looking for outlet shopping, head to Woodbury Common Premium Outlet which has all the big Designer stores at outlet prices.  Woodbury Common is about an hours’ drive from New York City and you can also take the bus.  Don’t forget to Google for coupons before you visit the outlet centre and always ask at the Information Desk as they always have coupons too.

Quirky things to do in New York could include checking out where locals shop.  Whole Foods Market and Fairway Market are my choice of good quality food stores.  Of course, there are little New York delis everywhere, but they are often expensive, and the quality of food varies.

Where To Eat In New York?

Realistically, there are no cheap eats in New York, but diners are often reasonably priced.

One of my favourite restaurants is a French-Moroccan bistro called Café Gitane which is situated in Nolita (North of Little Italy) on Mott Street just above Prince Street.  It serves a great breakfast, lunch and dinner with proper pressés and Moroccan mint tea, fresh melon juice water, amazing chicken satay and Moroccan couscous.  You get great quality and the food is a good price.

If you love Italian food, I would recommend two authentic Neapolitan pizza restaurants which are both excellent: Motorino (East 12th, just off 1st) and Luzzo’s (1st Avenue between 12th and 13th) in the East Village.  Otherwise, you need to head to Brooklyn!

At the moment, Ramen is a big thing in New York and you can get great Ramen in a place called Rai Rai Ken on East 10th between 1st and 2nd.  They do an amazing lunch special for about $10-15 with a choice of dishes and a beer.

For a great craft burger and a shake which is a work of art in itself, check out Black Tap on 136 West 55th Street.

If you want to save money on drinks, always look for happy hour in New York which is generally from 4-7 pm.

More expensive Downtown restaurants I go to and would recommend include Marea on Central Park South which is an amazing seafood restaurant.  Others include Per Se which serves French-American food in the Time Warner Center and Grammercy Tavern which offers great American cuisine a few blocks up from Union Square.  Alternatively, Bond 45 is another great choice.  This is an Italian trattoria found on 46th Street between 7th and 8th.

american diner
american diner

What Can You Buy From Street Stalls In New York?

I actually like buying hot dogs (or ‘street meats’) from the street vendors.  Although they are smaller than Nathan’s Hot Dogs (which are the best!), they usually cost $2-3 and are still really good.  However, even I disguise my English accent in Midtown as they can charge more for tourists.  Also, look out for street stalls selling handbags and Pashminas.  I buy the Pashminas which are about $10.

hot dog
hot dog

What Are The Best Places To Visit In New York At Night?

My recommendation would be to have dinner and then head to the theatre.  The Lincoln Center is one of my best places to go in New York at night to see classical music, the Met opera and ballet.  It’s a real American icon with a dramatic fountain show in the middle which takes place half an hour before performances.

One of the must see places in New York is the Theatre District and seeing a Broadway show is amongst one of the special things to do in New York.  When I go to the theatre, I like to head to Joe Allen’s on Restaurant Row (on West 46th Street between 8th and 9th) for pre-theatre dinner but always book a table in advance.

On the day you want to see a show, I advise heading to the TKTs booth in Times Square for daily 2 for 1 offers.  Alternatively, look at these websites for deals:  and  You could also download an app called TodayTix.  They offer a reliable service, but charge booking fees and you need to meet a representative outside of the theatre to collect your tickets.  Other ways to get tickets to popular shows in New York include checking out online lotteries via Google or going to the theatre and enquiring about RUSH tickets (last minute tickets which the theatre may hold back).  I recommend calling the theatre box office as each theatre does this differently.

New York Nigth
New York Nigth

What To Visit In The New York City Area?

When I want to head out of the city, I head to Long Island for the beach or to Montauk with its famous lighthouse and it’s also one of the fun places in New York for surfing.   I also love to travel to the Catskills in Upstate New York with its mountains and surrounding towns or to the Hudson River Valley.  There are many beautiful places near New York.  When you’ve finished all the places to visit in New York City, why not jump on Jet Blue and fly to Florida, Key West or even Mexico because flying internally in America is generally very reasonable and these places are very close!

What Do You Love Most About New York City?

There is no other city like it in the world, but this is hard to quantify.  There’s everything in New York you could ever want to do, and everything comes here from all over the world.  There are so many places of interest in New York, so many cultural things to do including all the museums, great music events, sporting events and every kind of cuisine you could ever want.  New York is a city of culture and the quality of life her is very good.

What Is Your Top New York Hidden Gems Tip For Visitors To New York?

The unwritten rule in New York is to keep to the right!  So, when you are visiting all the places to see in New York, keep to the right up and down stairs and on the sidewalk!  New Yorkers will appreciate you for this and you will get about the city more quickly!

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