New York City Travel: How to stay like a local

As I continue my focus on quality travel experiences, including travel that emphasizes the slow, experiential, and mindful, I am highlighting off-the-beaten-path choices for well known destinations. I have always tried to get off the main tourist path to discover the real beat of a place, and in some destinations (Prague, Florence), I couldn’t imagine traveling without getting away from the most popular tourist attractions.

Previous posts in this series were about Prague, Thailand, and Toronto. Today’s post is from Kate from 30Traveler and RTW Travel Guide, who rents an apartment in New York for a few months each summer. How fun would that be?! Here are her tips for New York City travel and how to have an authentic travel experience. What do you think–would you like to live in NYC for a summer and experience life there as a local?

new york city travel

1. The best apartment deals are in Brooklyn.

I pay $1500/month or less for a 1 bedroom apartment in a nice part of Brooklyn (less than 20 mins by subway from Manhattan). I wrote an apartment finding guide to help you do what I do and avoid the ridiculous prices listed on sites like airbnb.

In Manhattan you’d probably pay closer to $2500/month. These are local rates for apartments (I always sublet from an ordinary NYer who is going on vacation and just pay their rent).

Stay at least 30 days because sublets less than 30 days are generally illegal in New York.

I had always dreamed of living in New York. This approach gives me a similar experience without going through bitterly cold New York winter or having to meet the New York expectation that everyone will be a workaholic.

new york city travel like a local

2. Get an unlimited ride metro card.

One of the best things about NYC is that you can get an unlimited ride metro card (for just over $100/30 days) that can be used for both the subway and bus and doesn’t have any zone restrictions.

If you want to head all the way to a far flung area of Queens for some authentic ethnic food, you won’t need to pay any extra.

new york city travel like a local

3. Find your tribe.

A huge number of New Yorkers have moved to the city from other parts of the U.S. and are faced with the task of making friends in the big city. There is a massive variety of meetup groups and inexpensive classes you can take.

One of my favorite meetup groups is the Apartment Therapy meetup group (which is the meetup group for the Apartment Therapy blog). Whatever your interests are, you’ll find like minded people in New York.

If you’re a crafter, you can even go to the weekly Esty meetup group at Etsy HQ.

Consider hiking groups etc for day trips out of the city.

Go to events aimed at locals rather than tourists.

4. If you’re traveling with kids, choose an apartment near a park.

Last summer, my apartment was right next to a local Brooklyn park. It had a weekly farmers market, a children’s playground, and was generally a hive of local activity.

If your kids get culture shock from how crowded NYC is, a park will be a refuge. (Trips to Governors Island via the free ferry are also a great summer weekend option).

new york city travel like a local

5. Ride your bike.

I have a folding bike that I take with me when I travel. It’s easy to ride over the bridges from Brooklyn into Manhattan or take your bike on the subway (this is completely allowed!).

New York has good bike lanes and finding good bike routes via the “bike” option on Google maps usually works well.

My folding bike rides just like a regular bike and is just as fast.

folding bike travel

6. Go to free events.

There are awesome free events happening every day in New York. For example, author/book talks, public lectures, free dance classes, art openings, free writing classes, and free concerts. Websites like have details. Prior to your trip, check out a few different free events listing websites. If you’re staying in a Brooklyn neighborhood, check out the blogs for your neighborhood and sign up for email newsletters specific to your neighborhood for a hyper local experience.

Do you have any tips for traveling slowly and getting off the beaten path in New York City?


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