What kind of things to do in New York City do you expect from the world’s most global city? Our guess is – something more than just NYC tours around the city.
For insider’s tips we asked a professional local guide Michael Pellagatti, who has been a life long local. Along with being a tour guide; he is also a historian and a local activist who was involved with Occupy Wall Street back in 2011. He has articles in New York Times, conducted a tour for a class from Yale University, and has one of the higher test scores for a licensed tour guide in New York! (137/150)
1. Best things to do in NYC
I will pick my favorite place in each borough.
- Washington Square Park, Greenwich Village: There is always an eccentric local vibe about this place. The music; the performance artists; the occasional protests and rallies; the NYU students; the children playing in the fountain. Washington Square Park is the heart and soul of New York.
- Coney Island, Brooklyn: Old fashioned Americana. The original boardwalk and amusement park. The wonder wheel and the cyclone have withstood the test of time and entertain locals and tourists alike multiple decades after their inception. There is also the Mermaid Parade in June, which can be compared to hybrid between Tampa’s Gaspiralla festival and New Orleans’ Marti Gras. Also the 4th of July Nathan’s hotdog eating contest can be quite the spectacle.
- Citi Field, Queens: To be honest, I am a Mets fan. What can I say? Citi Field is a modern ballpark with an early 20th century vibe to it. It is well worth riding the 7 line with rowdy Mets fanatics during baseball season.
- Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx: What, a cemetery? Really? Yes. Really! Walking through Woodlawn Cemetery is like walking through New York’s acropolis. The beautifully designed mausoleums in some cases are larger than small houses. The rolling hills create a serene ambiance that shields this cemetery from the noise and din of the Bronx. Notable burials include: Frank Woolworth, former mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, former congressman Vito Marcantonio, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Nelly Bly, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington.
- St. George, Staten Island: Most tourists will ride the Staten Island ferry to Staten Island, and then re-board the ferry en route back to Manhattan. This does not do St. George proper justice. Staten Island’s ferry terminal is being renovated and retrofitted to have a rooftop garden, and already hosts a wonderful seafood restaurant. The Staten Island Museum and the National Lighthouse Museum are both 5 minutes walking distance from the ferry terminal; in addition to the New York Yankees minor league affiliate Staten Island Yankees that call the area home as well. Finally, the view of the harbor is the best in the city from St. George.
2. Three days in NYC
If I had friend from out of town and they only had three days to see NYC then they are sticking to Manhattan. Day 1: Downtown & Greenwich Village. Day 2: Midtown & Central Park. Day 3: The Upper East Side & Harlem.
If my friends woke up at 7am and returned to their hotel by 10pm for all three of those days then they will have seen: The World Trade Center/911 Memorial, Wall St, Chinatown, Little Italy, the LES, Washington Square Park, Union Square, The Empire State Building, Grand Central, 5th Ave, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, St Patrick’s, Central Park, The Dakota, The Apollo, and Museum Mile.
If you hire a professional guide, s/he will make sure you see all the top attractions on your New Your City tour.
3. Best food to try in New York City
New York is legendary for two popular staples in American cuisine: Pizza & Bagels. For pizza; well there are so many great places to choose from it gets a little overwhelming — however — Lombardi’s Pizzeria off the corner of Spring & Mott streets has the honor of being the first pizzeria in the history of the United States, dating back to 1905. However, TripAdvisor has rated Juliana’s Pizza in Brooklyn as the best pizzeria in the United States. I can’t argue with that one, it’s pretty formidable.
With bagels, one cannot go wrong with Russ & Daughters appetizers off Houston Street.
4. Best restaurant in New York City
Cafe Napoli in Little Italy has wonderful Italian cuisine. Ferrara’s (also in Little Italy) is the first espresso bar in American history dating back to 1892, and currently holds the world record for largest cannoli ever made.
When in midtown, I typically like to direct tourists to Ichiumi, off of E. 32nd St. & 5th Ave. Ichiumi is a fancy (but moderately priced) all you can eat sushi and seafood buffet.
5. Best places for sunrises and sunsets in NYC
SUNRISE: The Staten Island Ferry Terminal in St. George.
Also, while not specifically in New York City, the Jersey City waterfront at Exchange Place (one stop away from the World Trade Center PATH station) offers an incredible view of the sunrise over lower Manhattan.]
SUNSET: The Brooklyn Promenade overlooking Brooklyn Bridge park, via Brooklyn Heights.
6. Architecture photo shoots in NYC
Preferably somewhere that is not blocking or obstructing the sidewalk; otherwise the 9/11 Memorial offers impeccable shots of the World Trade Center from the ground up. Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center) is the best for aerial shots.
7. One day in New York
That depends on the time of year. Spring, Summer, Fall, one can not go wrong at all with spending a day in Central Park. In the Winter, New York boasts several world class museums — including the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
8. Ideal Sunday morning in New York
A quiet stroll in Lower Manhattan, having the city all to yourself. That is a pretty amazing feeling to see that the most populated city in the United States can be so sparsely populated at 6am.
9. Most romantic places in NYC
The Brooklyn Promenade at sunset; Belvedere Castle (Central Park); Grand Central Terminal.
10. Best breakfast or brunch in NYC
If this question is asked to a local, they might say that the best breakfast is one that can be grabbed at a food truck in record time. Otherwise, Sylvia’s in Harlem has a Sunday Brunch that is world famous and has been a tradition for decades.
11. Perfect cup of coffee in New York City
It will be mentioned again. Ferrara’s in Little Italy has the best coffee in New York — their espresso is out of this world!
12. Best city views in NYC
This is a good question. The view from Roosevelt Island of midtown Manhattan is a wonderful. Tourists usually do not go to Roosevelt Island, so it’s relatively quiet.
13. The most under-estimated place in NYC
Inwood Hill Park, Manhattan: At Manhattan’s northern most point in a natural preserve and save for some of the paths, the place looks as it would have looked before Europeans colonized the Americas. In fact, caves that Native Americans sought refuge in during the winter months have been preserved at Inwood Hill Park. Anyone who admires natural topography will admire this park!
14. Best walking trail in New York
Walking on Broadway from the southern-most point in Manhattan (Battery Park) to its northern-most point in Manhattan (Inwood) is a life changing journey and one can see just how diverse Manhattan is by walking on one road.
15. Best souvenir from New York City
New York’s signature souvenir (and dead giveaway if you are tourist) is the all too infamous “I Love NY” shirts. However, in terms of something one can only obtain in New York… if one is looking for true “street cred” then bringing home that yellow and blue MTA metrocard is nifty way to show folks back home that you took a ride on the subway and lived to tell the tale!
16. Local thing in NYC
This one is easy: BODEGAS! The marriage between a local convenience store and a deli; offering affordably priced breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Another local secret is our “Egg Cream” basically it’s a creamy chocolate soda that one can find at the old school Jewish delicatessens in New York.
17. What do you know about NYC that most locals do not know about?
Where do I begin? I’ll name a few. know the heights, architects, and years behind when most major skyscrapers were built. I know what institutions existed on the sites where major skyscrapers are before the skyscrapers were even built; I know there are more Duncan Donuts than Starbucks in New York (537-293)
While I do not know everything, I would say that I know more about New York than the average New Yorker does! 8,000+ hours worth of studying helps.
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