You don’t have to be a native New Yorker to enjoy authentic, in-the-moment experiences in the Big Apple. In fact, locals would point you to a few of the simpler pleasures on offer in the eclectic, hectic, international megacity. To best immerse yourself in bespoke New York atmospheres and environments, kick the glitz and glamour to the curb. There’s obviously a place for Times Square schlock and the Empire State Building view, but not in the search for the true New York beneath the sheen. Instead, check out these three samples of sublime city life.
Dine at a Neighborhood Deli
Of course there is the iconic and always packed Katz’s Delicatessen, and you should check it out for an authentic New York deli experience, but finding a small, mom-and-pop local spot while wandering a neighborhood better fits the bill for a dive into New York culture. Strolling past old brick storefronts with canvas awnings shading bins of fresh produce and flowers, you might stumble upon a tucked away gem such as Di Palo's Fine Foods. Still owned and operated by the fifth generation of the Italian-American Di Palo family, the now-modern deli and grocery occupies the same Little Italy building originally opened as a small, neighborhood dairy store in 1925. The Di Palo brothers keep alive the tradition of good food and conversation from behind the counter as they chat with customers while making fresh mozzarella, cutting parmesan and serving prosciutto di Parma in thin, unctuous slices. If you don’t care to leave things to chance, numerous companies offer guided food tours of Little Italy.
Look for Local Lodging
You can’t really connect with a place more than by staying in a piece of local history. By checking into a bed and breakfast with lore tied deeply to the neighborhood, you put yourself in position for local flavor beyond the bounds of a big-name, downtown hotel. For example, 1871 House is an Upper East Side brownstone in Manhattan that offers short-term, furnished apartment rentals in an elegant setting, allowing you to “live” amidst the bustle of a New York neighborhood during your stay. Redesigned inside to offer the feel of an upscale English bed-and-breakfast, the historic building promises a “cozy-chic” ambiance just blocks from Central Park. Other nearby attractions include the Empire State Building, Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Meanwhile, Mount Morris House is a refined, 1888 brownstone that will steep visitors in Harlem history. The bed and breakfast sits across the street from Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park and is a 12-minute walk from the iconic Apollo Theater. Within, sophisticated suites are appointed with period fireplace mantels, intricately carved moldings and parquet floors, private baths and flat screens. You can really settle in with amenities such as a garden, a butler's pantry and a library-lounge area.
Plan a Day in Central Park
In the middle of one of the world’s biggest cities, New York’s Central Park offers refuge in acres of a green oasis in the middle of the city. Acres of sports fields, courts, trails, ponds, and open lawn call to play, unwind, and de-stress in the ultimate urban park. Just more than 1.3 square miles in size, there is plenty to see and do in the park, which is located in the borough of Manhattan.
A great experience would simply entail strolling and picnicking in the park like a local while lazing in the sun and communing with nature. Or, add other attractions to your day, taking in some of the Central Park’s most iconic points of interest. Check out Strawberry Fields, the Central Park Zoo, Kerbs Boathouse and the Conservatory Garden. Perfect picnic and people-watching spots include the Great Lawn, near mid-park, and the Sheep Meadow at the south end.