Your best friend, mom or long-lost cousins are coming to town and you’re feeling the pressure to show them a good time. We know the feeling! Rest assured, we’re here to help you prove that you’re the cool, in-the-know New Yorker they think you are. As much as they might beg you to show them Times Square, gently guide your guests in the direction of less touristy New York attractions. Some of the best museums in NYC don’t have mile-long ticket lines, while NYC parks offer a welcome respite from the crowds. While your visitors might protest your suggestions at first, they’ll certainly thank you for taking them to these local favorites by the end of their trip.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide the best New York attractions
Best places to take out-of-towners
You may want to invent an excuse to stay home when your guests decide they want to brave the crowds at Time Square, but make sure to join them when they head off to Central Park. No matter how many times you’ve been, the 840 acres of sprawling greenery always offer a fun and relaxing escape from the concrete jungle. During the summer, treat your tourists to a picnic in Sheep’s Meadow and during the winter, throw on a pair of ice skates and hit the rink.
If your guests are insistent upon visiting one of New York’s open-to-the-public skyscrapers, this one is likely your best bet. Despite occupying floors 100 through 102 of the tallest building of the Western Hemisphere, the observation deck can be reached in just 60 seconds via a set of visually immersive ‘Sky Pod’ elevators. During the interactive tour experience ($34, seniors $32 and children $28), walk through some of the bedrock on which the building is built before entering the elevators, which are fitted with with floor-to-ceiling LED screens showing a video of the the city and buiding’s history. Once at the top, the video concludes as the screen lifts up to reveal stunning 360-degree views of the Manhattan skyline.
Garden geeks will appreciate this lush expanse in the Bronx, which boasts an array of landscaped flora as well as a 50-acre forest featuring some of the oldest trees in the city. A rotating roster of shows that nods to the world’s most cherished green spaces, such as the regal grounds of Spain’s Alhambra palace and Monet’s alfresco sanctuary at Giverny. During holiday season, visit the garden’s festive Holiday Train Show, featuring a model train that zips through 150 NYC landmarks recreated using bark, leaves and other natural materials.
One word: pastrami. Queue up and flag down a meat cutter to order the legendary sandwich, stacking the thick-cut meat between slices of rye. Still hungry? Try the crisp-skinned, all-beef hot dog for just $3.10 and wash it down with a glass of the hoppy house lager. The cavernous cafeteria is also a repository of New York history—glossies of celebs spanning the past century crowd the walls, and the classic Jewish deli offerings are nonpareil.
It’s always worth making a trip down to Chinatown for soup dumplings and dim sum, but out-of-towners especially will enjoy perusing the array of jewelry stores, fresh fruit stalls and shops hawking cultural curios lining the street. Do a little restaurant-hopping or head to mainstays like Nom Wah Tea Parlor and Jing Fong to show your guests you know the best spots in the neighborhood. After all the walking, cool off with some ice-cold bubble teas at Kung Fu or Chatime.
Sure, you could take out-of-town friends to the Metropolitan Museum flagship for a day of art-gazing, but the Cloisters offers a unique and impressive way to experience museums in an orthodox setting. Set in a lovely park overlooking the Hudson River, the museum houses the Met’s medieval art and architecture collections. A path winds through the peaceful grounds to a castle that seems to have survived from the Middle Ages. (It was built less than 100 years ago, using material from five medieval French cloisters.) Be sure to check out the famous Unicorn Tapestries, the 12th-century Fuentidueña Chapel and the Annunciation Triptych by Robert Campin.
When President Woodrow Wilson flipped a switch to turn the Woolworth Building’s lights on in 1913, it became the tallest building in the world. It has since been surpassed several times over, but the height isn’t the only draw: The building’s elaborate gilded lobby lined with ornate murals and Byzantine mosaics is well worth a visit. Book a guided tour to get an up-close look at this architectural masterpiece.
There are few places more pleasant than a sunny afternoon on the High Line. NYC’s only elevated park is one of Manhattan’s most popular destinations, and it’s easy to see why. A rail track that went out of use in 1980, the High Line was resurrected as a 1.45-mile-long green space in 2009, running from Hudson Yards to the northern edge of Chelsea. Today it’s an urbanite’s playground planted with wildflowers and grasses, offering walkers some of the best views in NYC, and that makes the park simultaneously removed from the city and an inextricable part of it.
What would a trip to New York even mean without tasting the city’s signature bagel and lox? Russ & Daughters has been serving lox, herring and other specialty foods since 1914, and its Super Heebster of horseradish cream cheese, wasabi-flavored roe and sublime whitefish salad form a holy trinity with an unholy name.
If for no other reason, it’s worth visiting Washington Square Park to take a look at the iconic 1895 arch. Once your guests have snapped the obligatory photo, find a sunny patch of grass and watch the world go by. The park attracts a cross-section of the city—college kids, dog-walkers, street musicians, moms with strollers, outdoor yogis—and is a true delight for people watchers.