Ever wonder where New Yorkers go when they want to meet up with family and friends or make new connections? Whether you’re looking for activities the kids will love or a fun workout beyond the hotel gym, here are some creative ways to experience New York City as locals do.
To get the kids outside and moving, skip the regular neighborhood playground for this sculptural Hell’s Kitchen play set. For a greener experience, pack a picnic and take the kids to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which offers free admission for visitors under 12. The kids can run wild in an educational environment void of selfie sticks and beloved by Brooklynites and botanists alike. Don’t miss the hands-on activities in the Discovery Garden—like building a bird’s nest and planting vegetables—or the beautiful Japanese Hill and Pond Gardens that couldn’t feel further from NYC.
On a Hike it Baby excursion, you can connect with other active families during free scenic park strolls throughout Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. If the weather puts a damper on outdoor fun, the Museum of Modern Art offers a range of weekend family programming, from private tours tailored to young cultural enthusiasts to kid-centric art workshops on designing contemporary interiors.
After a long day of sightseeing, don’t sacrifice precious vacation time at a chain restaurant with sticky tables and screaming children; you’ve earned a night out that will work for grownups, too.
Head to an unexpected local family joint like the Brooklyn Brewery or Franklin Park, where a photo-booth, skeeball, Pop-A-Shot basketball and the crowd pleasing “Dutch Boy Burger” menu will score you serious cool parents points.
Traveling on two wheels
While New Yorkers love to walk the city as if no other form of transportation exists, they also have adopted the bicycle as a vehicle of choice—New York has been hailed as the fourth most bike-friendly city in the U.S. by Bicycling magazine. For a leisurely spin, take advantage of Kimpton’s complimentary fleet of PUBLIC bikes or rent a Citi Bike from the citywide bike-share program and join the locals at daybreak on the Hudson River Greenway.
More serious road cyclists might consider rolling out on a friendly bike shop ride with NYC Velo’s Adventure Series, featuring routes that often lead from Hell’s Kitchen to the Hudson Valley, or Rapha Cycle Club‘s Wednesday and Saturday outings that always begin at the Soho clubhouse with a perfect cup of La Colombe coffee.
Travel to eat
If you live to eat, look for food purveyors, where the experience rivals what’s on the plate. Intimate experiential pop-ups like the Victory Club and Spring Street Social Society create unique culinary extravaganzas that make it easy to engage with the bon vivant sitting next to you.
On any given night, you can find locals in the East Village devouring Crif Dogs, dependably delicious and inventive bites in a bun—order the Tsunami, a bacon wrapped hot dog with teriyaki, pineapple, and green onions. Afterwards, you can step through a phone booth and into the reservation-only speakeasy Please Don’t Tell, where taxidermy art and potent drinks make quite an exotic pairing.
The Mulberry Project in Little Italy is another speakeasy beloved by locals for its buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, artistic subterranean space, and creative cocktails.
With its vast number of innovative startup hubs and public tech meetups, New York’s flourishing “Silicon Alley” scene has figured out how to successfully mix business with pleasure.
There are myriad (and free!) ways to plug in to the local tech community while mingling with New Yorkers in the coolest places. Consider trading tips with travel bloggers over complimentary cocktails at the always-free-to-attend Travel Massive NYC, which is often held at iconic New York venues like The Plaza, Madame Tussauds or moving attractions like the Circle Line. Travel Massive is strictly for travel industry professionals, PR and travel bloggers. Take in the sights of Times Square from a unique vantage point, like Microsoft’s offices, while enjoying delicious donuts and coffee at the country’s largest morning “Show and Tell for Adults” tech meetup at NYCBreakfast.
Digital NYC is a reliable resource for fun and informative events taking place every day throughout the city, be it a rooftop party with bright tech minds at Hudson Terrace, a popular locals hangout in Hell’s Kitchen, or an immersive tour at the tech startups and artisans working at the revitalized Brooklyn Navy Yard.
You may feel like a local now, but you still need a hotel room. Discover IHG hotels in New York City and book our special rate today.