How to Explore New York City Like a Local
It’s the subject of Jay-Z’s billboard hit, the stomping ground for Carrie Bradshaw, and the birthplace of Madonna. It’s a city that needs no introduction, and one that boasts an unrivalled reputation. If New York isn’t on your list of places to see, it should be. And for those who are already planning a trip to this magical city, I’ve got the best advice on how to do the must-dos better, as well as discovering things that you’ve never heard before. So, read on and learn how do it like the locals...
See a Broadway show
Everyone knows you can get half-price tickets to brilliant Broadway shows at the ticket office in Times Square but with the queues lasting hours it can be valuable time wasted. Instead, catch the subway down to the ticket office in the Financial District where the lines are shorter – if there's any at all. Both ticket booths sell the same tickets but at FiDi you’re getting them fast.
Enjoy a cocktail with a view at NYC's highest outdoor terrace bar
You know those brilliant vistas of New York’s skyline that occupy your Instagram feed? Well, I’m about to drop a giant hint on how to get the most picturesque photo of your trip that will have your Instagram followers green with envy, while doing it for free, AND with a drink in hand.
It’s probably New York’s worst-kept secret that you can head up the Empire State Building or to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck for the aforementioned dazzling view and photo opportunity. Both options are US$34 and are buzzing with tourists. Instead, go to Bar SixtyFive in the Rockefeller Center. This snazzy watering hole sits just three floors below the Top of the Rock but has no entry fee so you can spend your hard earned cash on a Manhattan cocktail, while drinking in Manhattan’s best vista, without bumping elbows with tourists.
To score a table on the terrace make sure you greet the hostess at 4.45pm (15 minutes before opening). Also, dress up. The hostess will turn you away if you’re wearing anything less than business-casual.
Visit the world's largest rooftop farm
Enjoy a little slice of greenery amid the concrete jungle. The Brooklyn Grange is leading the way in urban farming with two rooftop locations spanning a combined area of 2.5 acres – huge! The farms grow over 50,000 lbs of organically cultivated produce per year and operate an apiary, keeping bees in over 30 naturally managed honey bee hives on roofs dispersed throughout NYC. Not only is this farm doing good for the environment and the community, but it also boasts an incredible view of the Manhattan skyline, served with a totally unique experience. Tours must be booked in advance (US$10pp) and happen every week (May-Oct). Tours at the Brooklyn Navy Yard location run on Wednesdays, 10am and 11.30am, and the Long Island City location runs tours Saturdays at 11am and 12:30pm. Pick up some honey and other sought-after sustainable goodies post-tour or, if you don’t get a chance to go, the team sell their produce at weekly markets and to retailers across the city.
Once the espresso machine gets shut off for the day, the red light flicks on, and the bouncer steps out onto the street, the real fun begins at Stone Street Coffee’s “secret” bar. Bathtub Gin is a speakeasy cocktail lounge found behind the café’s facade in Chelsea, where upscale cocktails are served by alluring women. Every Sunday (2.30pm or 9.30pm) and Tuesday (10pm) Bathtub Gin hosts a complimentary burlesque show, brought to you by the women of Wasabassco (NYC’s world-renowned striptease and top-tier variety entertainers). It’s US$40pp for two drinks and a free show, and I highly recommend reserving a table two weeks in advance.
Step into the Caribbean at Miss Lily’s
With too many food haunts and too little time, you’ve got to get serious about prioritising your meal destinations while in NYC. At the top of that list should be Caribbean oasis, Miss Lily’s. It’s a colourful retro space cooking up modern renditions of Jamaican specialties like jerk chicken, oxtail, and curried goat, served by effortlessly cool staff. Testament to its delicious success is the fact this little eatery started out with one location in Soho, expanded to its second location in East Village, and now even has an international outpost in Dubai.