What to See (And Skip) in New York City

New York City is one of those places that overflows with possibilities. How do you choose between a Broadway show or a local jazz club; a classic slice or a trendy new restaurant; a historic museum or a cool new gallery opening? In a city with so many options, here are a few suggestions for what to do and what you can reasonably skip.

Instead of: The Empire State Building

The famed art deco landmark is a sight to behold, and well worth a visit. But if you’re looking for views of the city skyline without the wait and the crowds (for the most part), you might be better off heading to…

Try: A rooftop bar

New York city skyline at sunset
Watch the sun set over the city from a rooftop bar. Photo © Beboy_ltd / iStock.

When the weather’s nice enough, there’s nothing quite like kicking back at a rooftop bar in New York. Sip a refreshing cocktail, mingle with visitors and locals alike, and soak up breathtaking views of the city.

Instead of: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

If you’ve already been to the Met and explored the history and fine art along Museum Mile, consider one of the equally amazing spots downtown.

Try: Gallery-hopping in Chelsea

Chelsea has the densest concentration of art galleries in the whole city, and they’re all open to the public and generally free to enter. Popping in and out as you stroll through the neighborhood is a great way to spend a day; some favorites include Gagosian, Petzel Gallery, and the Paula Cooper Gallery.

Instead of: The High Line

The industrial railway turned urban green space is absolutely worth a visit, for the unique experience, expansive views, and breath of fresh air. But if you’re in the market for another amazing stroll…

Try: Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn bridge in New York City
Enjoy a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo © MariaUspenskaya / iStock.

While several bridges connect the island of Manhattan to its surrounding boroughs, this is sort of the OG: it was the first to connect Manhattan to Brooklyn. Around sunset and early mornings are the best times for avoiding crowds. As you take in the views, be sure to look up and admire the architecture of the historic bridge itself, too.

Instead of: Shopping on 5th Avenue

A walk down 5th Avenue will provide you with plenty of entertainment, whether you’re gazing up at the Flatiron Building or admiring the historic mansions on Millionaire’s Row. But if it’s shopping you’re looking for, you won’t find much beyond big chains and high-end department stores.

Try: Strolling through the Village

From custom candles and gourmet cheeses to vintage threads from the 1940s, this downtown neighborhood’s small, tree-lined streets make for a more unique shopping experience. Be sure to check out Murray’s Cheese on Bleecker and Three Lives & Company on W. 10th.

Instead of: The Statue of Liberty

If you’ve already hit up the Statue of Liberty (and hopefully visited Ellis Island, too!), consider visiting some of the other landmarks that tell the story of New York City.

Try: The Tenement Museum

Before it was a trendy part of town, the Lower East Side was a first home for many of the city’s immigrants, who lived in tenement buildings—with multiple generations often crowded into a small apartment. While most of these have been transformed into modern apartment buildings, the Tenement Museum at 97 Orchard has been preserved, offering visitors a vivid glimpse at what life was like here in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Instead of: Times Square

Times Square is something to check off your bucket list—for the bright lights, the hustle and bustle, and the fact that it really does never sleep. That being said, just about every local will tell you to steer clear of it if you’re after an authentic NYC experience.

Try: Washington Square Park

Washington Square Fountain, New York City
Kick back and people-watch at Washington Square Park. Photo ©peterspiro / iStock.

As one of the city’s most well-known spots, this downtown park offers excellent people-watching, particularly near the beautiful central fountain. Pick a place to sit, watch the chess hustlers play an intense round, and admire the iconic arch, built in 1895 and inspired by Paris’s Arc de Triomphe.

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