It’s massive tourist season in New York. Friends who grew up elsewhere have relatives visiting, and those relatives demand the experience of NEW YORK! I’ve lived in New York City my entire life, and I’ve taken in my fair share of exciting things that New York has to offer.
Growing up, I experienced a lot of what most tourists (and websites) would consider MUSTS. By the end of high school, school trips had taken me to The Museum of Natural History multiple times, the Bronx Zoo, the Brooklyn and New York Botanical Gardens, Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the New York Aquarium, Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, the Met, MOMA, the Frick, the Metropolitan Opera House, and many other destinations, including a Broadway show or two. With my family and friends, I’d seen the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral, seen the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and gone ice skating, wandered through the East and West Village, seen other Broadway shows, visited the World Trade Center, and window-shopped at Bloomingdale’s.
There are still many things considered must-dos in New York that I haven’t done, and visitors are always shocked at this, but as an adult, the last thing I want to do is take a crowded elevator to the top of the Empire State Building. I don’t want to battle the tourists waiting in line at TKTS or for tickets to see Shakespeare in the Park. I’m not about to be corralled like livestock while waiting to watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve in Times Square. And I don’t want to ride the Staten Island Ferry because I’ll wind up in, well, Staten Island.
There are some nice, quiet things I’ve done in New York City that most tourists would probably never even think to do. I’ve walked the Salt Marsh Trail in Marine Park. I’ve collected old bottles at Dead Horse Bay. I’ve gotten lost in the ravine at Prospect Park. I’ve kayaked off of Valentino Pier in Red Hook. I’ve taken my bike for a ride downtown and returned via Furman St, a quiet artery that runs under the BQE along the water, before there was a new park right alongside it. I’ve also climbed the Alpine Tower at Floyd Bennett Field, strolled the Highline, and viewed the Bronx from Inwood Hill Park. I’ve even spent many afternoons strolling through Green-Wood Cemetery.
You’ll find some of these things on “Best Things to Do in NYC” lists, but the ones you don’t find on those lists are the ones you should definitely do if you ever visit.