BY SUZANNE ZUPPELLO
People have written volumes about the New York of yore (the one that went untouched by tourists and real estate developers alike), each one a lament for a bygone era, a tragic declaration that New York—their New York—is gone and never coming back. Ask any lifelong New Yorker—they’re bound to have a litany of gripes about the current state of the city. But hey, that’s part of the charm of living in the Big Apple! (...Or so we tell ourselves while jostling through rush hour subway stations.)
While it’s true that guidebooks–even those Not For Tourists versions—have found some of the city’s hidden gems and brought them into the light for out-of-towners to enjoy, there still remain a few areas you can explore and claim as your own during a visit to NYC. From stellar things to do in in the city at night to a surprisingly transportive day trip that affords a seaside small-town experience within city limits, there’s something for everyone.
As for your cannabis plans to elevate your experiences in the bustling metropolis, you’re probably wondering: Is weed legal in New York City? Only with prescription (for now), but if you have a medical marijuana card, you can hit up the MedMen dispensary on 5th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.
So, what do the locals do in New York City? Unsurprisingly, there are millions of ways to answer that question. This list is not not for tourists, but a compilation of New York’s best, unofficial landmarks that only a local would know about.
Search & Destroy
CBGBs may have been turned into an upscale clothing store, but remnants of the East Village’s punk rock history live on at Search & Destroy, a second-hand store filled with vintage tees and some of the weirdest (in a good way) ephemera you’ll find anywhere. The shop is located on the now-cleaned-up St. Marks, up a few steps in a narrow building where the racks are filled with everything you can imagine. Seriously, this is not your local Salvation Army—the patience of a monk is required to sift through each hanger as you search for that perfectly broken-in ‘80s t-shirt. (And let’s be real, it’s a very zen moment when that happens.) Whoever is behind the counter will not be friendly, but they (probably) won’t chase you out of the store, either. Grab a bottle of water to keep hydrated during your thrift quest, and stay awhile.
25 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003, (212) 358-1120
A half block from Search & Destroy is B&H Dairy, the less crowded and far cheaper version of Veselka, which you’ve probably read about already. B&H is tiny, but their breakfast is substantial. The NYU students living nearby love it because they can get a meal for under $10, and locals love it for the same reason. B&H leans more Parts Unknownthan Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, and the best-kept secret is the challah bread. Slide onto a stool and satisfy your craving for latkes topped with applesauce, and be sure to order some cheese blintzes, too. You’ll have a more satisfying meal than your friends who visited the restaurant across the street, and your wallet won’t suffer, either.
127 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003, (212) 505-8065
In keeping with the slightly grungy East Village theme, it’s only fitting you make a pit stop at Sophie’s, just off Avenue A. It’s one of the last true dive bars in the neighborhood, especially since the area’s beloved Mars Bar lost its battle against commercial realtors in 2011 and shut its neon doors for good. Sophie’s isn’t a big space, but there’s a lotto take in. On a weekday, it’s a mellow spot to grab a beer for a few bucks (cash only) and play a few games of pool. Weekends, on the other hand, can be overwhelming. The place gets so packed, it can take 20 minutes just to order a drink. Like Search & Destroy, the service at Sophie’s is nice enough, but don’t expect to chat up your bartender if you’re hanging out on a Saturday night.
509 E 5th Street, New York, NY 10003, (212) 228-5680
So many visitors to New York come for sights like the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings, or Top of the Rock. But in lower Manhattan, across the park from City Hall and two blocks from St. Paul’s Chapel of Trinity Church, is the Woolworth Building. Built in 1912 in a neo-Gothic style, it was one of America’s first skyscrapers, and was the tallest building in the world until 1930. Today, the original building is attached to more modern structures, encompassing classrooms and corporate offices, but the original lobby remains intact, including a buttress of Cass Gilbert, the building’s original architect, cradling the building in his arms. You can sign up for a tour, or sneak past the guards for a few quick photos before they realize you ignored the “No tourists beyond this point” sign.
233 Broadway, New York, NY 10007
NYC Ferry and Brooklyn Bridge Park
Further downtown, at Wall Street and Pier 11, is where you can catch the NYC Ferry, which, over the past few years, has gotten a sleek facelift, complete with a lower price per ride, more stops along the way and a fleet of spiffy new boats (complete with creature comforts like rosé on tap). It runs from 34th Street across the East River to Queens and Williamsburg, before turning back to Lower Manhattan. You can take the four-minute ferry ride from Wall Street to DUMBO, which marks the beginning of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Central and Prospect Parks have man-made lakes to enjoy, and Brooklyn Bridge Park has the East River, across from which you can enjoy the Manhattan skyline, as well as views of the Statue of Liberty and Staten Island on a clear day. In the park, you can lounge on the grass with a book and drink from one of the vendors peppered along the main walkways, or get in on a game of pickup basketball, if you’re feeling yourself. There are even spots designated for fishing, complete with cleaning stations in case you’d like to bring the bluefish, flounder, or fluke you were lucky enough to catch back to your Airbnb, where a New York experience that most locals don’t even partake in awaits you.
NYC Ferry’s Wall Street stop, Gouverneur Lane at South Street, F.D.R. Drive, Manhattan, NY 10005
NYC Ferry’s DUMBO stop, 34 Furman Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201
On the border of Carroll Gardens and Red Hook, on a block which is otherwise not a destination for fun, is the Jalopy Theater, home to community-run, quirky performances and open-mic nights. On Wednesdays, they host Roots ‘n’ Ruckus, a motley group of musicians playing everything from a banjo to a metal washboard. The space is intimate, and there’s an even smaller concession area. Unlike most venues with live music, the Jalopy remains affordable and under the radar, making it the perfect place to experience unique entertainment alongside some tried and true local New Yorkers. If you’re in the market for a souvenir, they also sell instruments, and they offer music lessons!
315 Columbia Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231, (718) 395-3214
It’s impossible to pinpoint one specific place in Flushing to visit, so it’s best to take the 7 train or Long Island Railroad to Flushing-Main Street and let yourself wander. You can have your aura photographed at Magic Jewelry, and enjoy dumplings around the corner at White Bear. Stop inside the shops in Golden Shopping Mall for every type of dried herb (...that’s not cannabis) and sauce to take back to your Airbnb’s kitchen, or enter on 41st Street to navigate the basement-level food stalls serving noodles, dim sum, and rice dishes. The New World Food Court, on the lower level of the mall of the same name, is overwhelming in the best sense of the word. Dishes you’ve never heard of will make your mouth water, and you’ll find yourself taking the escalator upstairs to purchase a pair of bigger pants so you can continue your food tour.
LIRR: Main Street and 41st Avenue, off Kissena Boulevard, 7 Train: Flushing-Main Street stop, off Roosevelt Avenue
No, we’re not suggesting you rent the 2009 film of the name, starring Andy Garcia and Julianna Margulies (though you really should, it’s wonderful). We mean the actual island in the Bronx that’s a mere subway and bus ride from Manhattan. When you think of New York City, your mind probably doesn’t picture a small fishing village, but that’s exactly what City Island is. Restaurants like Sea Shore Restaurant, Marina, and Original Crab Shanty serve freshly caught seafood with the perfect lack of fanfare you’d want from a low-key town like this. You can also rent boats and fishing rods from Jack’s Bait and Tackle—although the number of boats is limited, so arrive early if you plan to spend the day on the Long Island Sound. If fishing or water sports aren’t your thing, walking around the historic island is a beautiful and serene way to escape the city while still remaining within the five boroughs.