Ah, New York, New York! A city that truly lives up to all of its nicknames – from the city that never sleeps to the concrete jungle! While we’ve all heard of the beloved Central Park, Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, and, of course, the glitzy Times Square, there is so much more to the Big Apple. Seriously, take it from a local (that’s me!). Native New Yorkers won’t be found amongst the crowds but, rather, at the hidden gems peppered throughout the city.
Interested in learning more? Check out the best local finds this city has to offer below!
Located all the way on New York’s west side, Underwest Donuts is a spot that is quite hard to find if you don’t know where it is. Why? Because this cozy little donut shop is actually located inside of a car wash of all places! That’s right! Enjoy a cake-like donut as you watch the sudsy cars roll by. My personal recommendation? The maple waffle donut. There’s also a carwash-flavored donut– don’t worry, there’s no soap in the ingredients! Just a hint of vanilla and lavender. Other flavors include banana milk, milk and honey, espresso bean, and more!
Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park
Sure, New York is home to Central Park, Bryant Park, Madison Square Park, and more than 1,500 other parks, playgrounds, and recreation facilities. But, in 2012, a new park opened – the FDR Four Freedoms Park. Located on NY’s Roosevelt Island, this park is open daily (except Tuesdays!) and offers stunning views of the city’s east side. This park is a not-so-hidden hidden gem. It’s often uncrowded and is the perfect spot to spend an afternoon reading, napping, or catching up with a friend. Plus, the park often hosts fun events; anything from Summer Sunset Sundays to the Kite Flight For Peace! Roosevelt Island is a cool spot to hang out aside from the park as well. Be sure to walk by the Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital Ruins!
Brooklyn Bridge Park
Just a hop, skip, and a jump from Manhattan you’ll find Brooklyn Bridge Park. Located on the Brooklyn side of the East River, this 85-acre waterfront park offers stunning views of the Manhattan skyline. The park is home to a variety of fun events and six different piers that offer everything from playgrounds and basketball courts to a roller rink and dog run. You could easily spend your morning, afternoon, and night at Brooklyn Bridge Park. There are plenty of great local eateries around here as well! Be sure to grab an ice cream cone from the nearby Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.
A barbershop by day, a hidden speakeasy by night! The Blind Barber is a favorite among locals who flock to this spot on Manhattan’s Lower East Side for a drink and a bit of dancing. Open 7 days a week (this is the city that never sleeps, after all), the Blind Barber boasts some unique signature drinks. Try “The Batman” or the “Smoke & Dagger” for a spicy kick!
Yet another speakeasy, Fig. 19 is one that actually doubles as an art gallery! Located on Chrystie Street, this hidden cocktail bar is a favored date spot among locals. It’s unique, charming, and home to some delicious signature drinks. From the red leaf to the Fig. 19 Blackberry Margarita, you’ll be happily surprised by this hidden gem. If you’re planning a visit, just be aware that this hip spot is open daily, except for Mondays!
This isn’t a spelling error, just one of NYC’s most unique art exhibitions located downtown at 4 Cortlandt Alley! This hidden find is actually located in an old freight elevator; only 20 square feet in size and big enough for just three visitors at a time! Filmmakers Alex Kalman and the Safdie brothers created this space to highlight the “overlooked, dismissed, or ignored.” The space is also sponsored by Kate Spade– yes, as in the fashion icon! The quirky artifacts are always changing, but have included: the shoe thrown at George W. Bush at his press conference in Baghdad, ISIS Currency, and a plastic glove from Paradise Valley, Montana. Be sure to follow the museum’s curators on Twitter for updates. As of now, this spot is only open for visitors on the weekends!
From delicious donuts housed in a carwash to the coolest parks and hidden speakeasies, New York is home to so much more than shopping along Fifth Avenue and trying to hail a taxi. If you’re truly interested in the New York that the locals know and love, you’ll definitely want to check out the spots above. There’s always something quirky and fun happening in the concrete jungle; you just have to ask around or stumble upon it yourself! Pro tip: New Yorker’s aren’t as mean or rude as they’re made out to be! We’re always happy to help a traveler in need of inspiration. I hope you enjoy visiting this city as much as I love living here — happy travels!