Non-Touristy Things to Do in NYC

Are you planning a trip to New York City? If so, you’re likely trying to figure out what you’ll do during your stay. You might be looking into some of the great sightseeing tours or planning to head to some of the city’s most popular destinations. And if so, that’s great! However, if you’re looking for non-touristy things to do in NYC so you don’t have to fight through crowds or pay and arm and a leg, you’ve come to the right place.

To make your stay more enjoyable, we’ve rounded-up some of the best things to do in New York that won’t have you fighting a ton of tourists. So, be sure to add these things to your itinerary for your next stay in the Big Apple… 

Head to the community gardens in the East Village.

While spending time in the city is great, sometimes you just need to get away from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets. One of the best ways to do that is to take in some gorgeous scenery. If you head over to the community gardens in the East Village at 6th Street and Avenue B, you’ll find one of the city’s largest gardens. It’s a beautiful sight to see and truly a breath of fresh air when you want to take a break from the city. It’s a great option if you’d like to avoid busier hotspots like Central Park or the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Get some exercise by biking the Williamsburg bridge.

There’s truly no better way to explore the city and get a feel for what New York is really like than by just getting outside. You could do this by just walking around and taking in the sights or you could bike across the Williamsburg bridge. There are designated lanes on the bridge for both bikes and pedestrians, making it a safe place for you to cross. If you’re traveling to the area, you likely won’t have a bicycle with you, so you can rent one at either end of the bridge. It’s convenient and your body will appreciate the exercise and fresh air!

Visit The Whitney for amazing artwork.

When people visit New York, there are quite a few museums that are at the top of their must-see list, including the Museum of Modern Art. While it’s certainly worth a visit, you’ll likely be faced with long lines and a lot of tourists checking out the very same exhibits. Instead, you could head to The Whitney, which features some amazing contemporary artists. The best part is that you likely won’t have to deal with the crowds you’ll encounter at the MoMA.

Although most of the artists who are featured in The Whitney are lesser-known, they’re still very talented and you’re sure to see some fantastic work here. So, if contemporary art is your kind of thing, you need to make this a stop on your New York itinerary.

Check out the Washington Mews.

For nice change of pace from the skyscrapers you’re used to seeing line the city streets, you should check out the Washington Mews. Not familiar with it? It’s actually a cobblestone street with converted 19th-century stables. It’s a gorgeous sight to see that you can find tucked away in Greenwich Village. The street is accessible to pedestrians, so make sure you wear some comfortable shoes to walk those cobblestone streets!

Grab some delicious food at Smorgasburg.

New York may be known for having some of the finest dining in town, however those restaurants are usually crowded with travelers. They can get very busy and in many cases, it’s hard to even secure a reservation for the night you’d like to go there. Instead of dealing with all of that hassle, experience a new kind of dining at smaller restaurants or food fairs like Smorgasburg.

Smorgasburg is a food fair that happens in Brooklyn on the weekends. It’s located in the East River State Park and the Brooklyn Bridge Park. You can find amazing food there for under $10, but you’ll find some pricier eats that are amazing as well. No matter what you’re looking for, you’re sure to find something tasty to eat. However, heading to a food fair isn’t just about getting something good to eat. It’s all about experiencing a culture and really getting to see a different side to the city. If you’re interested in heading to Smorgasburg, check out their website for all the details and stop by on a Saturday or Sunday when they’re open.

Shop the Brooklyn Night Bazaar.

While many people long to shop the stores lining Fifth Avenue when they visit New York City, there are plenty of other amazing places to shop as well. You can check out the Brooklyn Night Bazaar, which is open on Friday and Saturday nights. There are goods made by independent artists, plus options for food and drink. You can even take in some live music or play a few games. There’s a lot to do here, making it much more than shopping. It’s truly a great place to socialize and connect with some of the locals.

Skip the Empire State Building in favor of Sunset Park.

One of the most common things for tourists to do in New York is to take in the city skyline at the Empire State Building or at the Top of the Rock observation deck. Going to either one of these locations guarantees you’re going to encounter a ton of tourists. Instead, you should head to Sunset Park, which is located in South Brooklyn. From here, you’ll have an amazing view of the Manhattan skyline. It’s actually a much better way to view the skyline since you’re able to see a lot more of it from the highest point in the park.

If it’s winter, go ice skating at McCarren Park.

Usually, the go-to place for ice skating is at Rockefeller Center. However, the crowds that gather around this famous ice skating rink will have you waiting a while to actually get in. Instead, the non-touristy choice is to head to McCarren Park. You’ll find this ice skating oasis in Brooklyn and they even have affordable rates for rentals. You can get in a good ice skating session and then refuel with some food right after. Without all the tourists around, it’s sure to be a much less hectic experience. You’ll be able to savor the moment instead.

Take a ride on the East River Ferry.

If you want to take in the Manhattan coastline and get a great view of the Statue of Liberty, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the Circle Line boat tour. While it’s certainly a great option, it’s usually packed with people. To avoid the crowds of tourists, go for the East River Ferry instead. You’ll actually get to see the same views that the Circle Line tour provides, but for a much more affordable price. You really can’t beat that! This ferry will stop at midtown, Long Island City, Greenpoint, North and South Williamsburg, Dumbo, and Wall Street.