Conventional travel guides are good for newcomers or people who have limited time to explore such a big city like the Big Apple. But many travelers pursue off the beaten track tips. They desire to experience a true New Yorker life. That being said, once (in fact, around seven times) a tourist and now living here for a while I can compare the two worlds. There’s no right or wrong, but this article might be helpful for those who seek a native-like journey.

Tourists: Magnolia Bakery
Locals: Eileen’s Special Cheesecake

Don’t get me wrong, I also love Magnolia Bakery and all the buzz created around it because of Sex and The City. But it’s often so crammed with visitors that you might as well try somewhere else. So why not go shopping in SoHo and stop by at this traditional and long-standing paradise? If you’re lucky you can even meet Eileen herself – the woman behind this pricey but oh-so-worth-it tiny cheesecake shop. You can get small portions or even order a big pie to eat on the go! The only problem now is to choose which one(s) you will pick.

Tourists: Grimaldi’s, Giuliana’s or Joe’s Pizza
Locals: L & B Spumoni Gardens (or any decent pizza place nearby).

Search for best pizza in the Big Apple and you will most likely find the following results: Grimaldi’s, Juliana’s or Joe’s. But honestly, New Yorkers are all about practicality. As long it is near home or work, has pictures of famous people on the wall and checked table cloths it is a valid pizzeria. Jokes aside, I’d recommend L & B Spumoni Gardens –  even though the restaurant was featured in a movie, it’s not that known among foreigners. The Sicilian pie is to die for and it’s not very far from Coney Island and New York’s Aquarium!

Tourists: Outlets
Locals:  Thrift shops

Tourists absolutely love to spare one day just for outlet shopping. New Jersey Gardens or Woodbury Commons attract thousands of people. Even though every now and then sales can be appealing, these shops are inconveniently far from the city. There’s no reason to travel so much if you can find low-cost and one of a kind items in thrift stores. Most products you’ll find have some history, plus by doing so you’ll help the environment.

L&B Spumoni Gardens in Brooklyn

Tourists: Midtown rooftop bars
Locals: Dive bars in the Lower East Side or Williamsburg

There’s something about Midtown that fascinates whoever comes to visit New York. I get it because I once fell on the same trap. Broadway shows, Irish pubs around Times Square and incredible rooftop views are easily accessible. However, if you want to escape overpriced spots take the train downtown. Go for a drink or make a reservation in one of the many Lower East Side dive bars or restaurants. If you’re looking for something more rainbow-friendly (if you know what I mean), head the other way: West Village’s adventures await! Feel like crossing the bridge? No problem! Williamsburg’s scene won’t let you down.

Tourists: Central Park
Locals: Prospect Park

Yes, Central Park is still amazing and you must visit it. So many shooting locations and so much green in the heart of the concrete jungle. Nevertheless, it’s worth saving time to check Brooklyn’s flagship park. During summer, Prospect Park holds an event called Smorgasburg. It happens all Sundays and it’s mainly a festival for foodies. What’s more, you can even go horseback riding or check the Prospect Park Zoo!

Fast food
Tourists: Shake Shack
Locals: Shake Shack

Mc Donalds? Burger King? Five Guys? Not really. Shake Shack is both a local and international passion. No wonder why it’s forever busy. But there’s a way to skip the endless lines: order online or avoid touristy locations. I personally recommend going to one in Manhattan’s Upper West Side or the one by Atlantic Avenue, in Brooklyn. Both are usually crowded but while the first has Central Park around the corner, the second is close to Barclay’s Center and Target. After all, there’s only so much obvious things you can ignore!

* Looking for traveling consultancy or a NYC personalized itinerary? Send me a message here.