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The “off the beaten path” NYC is quite a trip. You can find some crazy, weird, and beautiful sites. Everyone knows about the touristy sites like the Empire State Building, The Freedom Tower, The Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Rock Center, or 5th avenue. NYC is so much more than that. In fact, I avoid most of these areas since they are so commercialized and busy. The true NYC is outside of these areas. It is the spots and streets that locals flock to. This part of my NYC Training and Travel Guide gives an insider perspective to NY.

 

This is part two of my NYC training and travel guide. This part will lend an insider perspective on the best spots and food. Part one concentrates on how to plan your trip to the city and how to train while there. In this post, I have not included the typical touristy sites on purpose. You can find how to do those best with the hundreds of other NYC guides. My guide aims to help you experience NY as a local. I also want to show some healthy and sustainable ways to experience the city.

 

Experience the DIVERSITY in NYC Cuisine

NYC has every food imaginable. You can find anything you want. There are some INSANE dishes to try. NYC is the hub of diversity. It offers a unique experience to try some new culinary delights. You can find ANY food from around the world. Try some Italian food at Pepe Rosso Social in Little Italy. Get the best Shawarma at The Halal Guys Food Truck (this is one of my favs). Big Wong in Chinatown is known for its Chinese food. Around the corner is The Bhakti Center, a hub for good Indian food. These are a few of the diverse options available. Your best bet is to head to NYC and look up what’s around. It can be super overwhelming, but simply pick something new and eat it! Check out this list for the top international offerings in the city.

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There are some NY institutions that are a must. I haven’t been to them all, but they embody the classic NY taste. Check at least a few out. I highly recommend Peter Luger’s Steakhouse. It is very expensive, but well worth it (also cash only). Katz’s Deli is the classic spot for Reuben’s. I recently had an incredible NY hot dog at Crif Dogs in the Lower East Side. Their hot dogs have a variety of toppings and are a must try. There is even a speakeasy inside (enter through the phone booth).

 

Avoid the Fried Food and Experience a REAL NYC Food Experience

Real food in NYC is cooked with love and care. There are hawkers, food courts, and restaurants trying to sell you a meal at every second of the day. The best food in NY is the local and fresh food. Restaurants where they make real food. Avoid the tourist hype and get some healthy, real food.

 

Finding healthier food in NYC is not an issue. Like the confluence of other foods, there is plenty of healthy options. I could list some of my favorites, but Thrillist already has a superb list. Look for anything farm to table or with lots of vegetables. My goal in NYC is to find something mostly vegetable. This usually equates to healthier options than the fried stuff they sell on the street. Stay away from starchy carbs for the majority of your meals and you will do yourself a big favor (unless you’re training like an animal).

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Finding local favorites means getting out of Midtown. The bright lights and glitzy shops trap most tourists. Go explore the other neighborhoods. The upper west and east side have some amazing restaurants. Chelsea and the lower east side have new and better options every day. Better yet, get out of Manhattan and go explore the other boroughs. They have some true local food experiences.

 

You Can’t Go to NYC without Grabbing a Slice

I still find it hard to head to NY without grabbing a slice. It was a tradition my Dad established every time he took me to the city. We would always go grab a slice from Pronto’s Pizza right near his company. Pizza is as traditional to NYC as the Empire State Building. Pizza is something New Yorkers are proud of and they do it well. The options and styles are endless. The NY style pizza is thin crust with marinara sauce. There are options for all palates and preferences.

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Personally, I have gone back and forth on my favorite pizzas over the years. Often the best option is that 99 cent pizza on every other block (literally 99 cents a slice). My favorite right now is John’s of Bleecker Street. It is perfect. Brooklyn is well known for creating the best coal oven pizzas. Head to Di Fara Pizza for an iconic Brooklyn Pizza. The owner has been making pizza since the early 60s. The lines can be very long, but it is so worth it. Pizza is an experience in NYC and something that you must experience. It may not be the healthiest option, but it has to be eaten. Check out these other spots recommended by top chefs.

 

Splurging on Some Sweets and Treats

Hopefully, you have been keeping your training up while in NYC because the city has some of the best sweets. Don’t use this as an excuse to splurge, but don’t be afraid to indulge a little. You can find something on every corner, so moderation is key. Split things with friends and try a little bit. It can be tempting to try every flavor, but you will feel so much better having a little.

 

With these guidelines in mind, go explore the sweeter side of NY. My Italian heritage has given me a soft spot for Italian desserts. My namesake, Ferrara Bakery in Little Italy is my go to. They have incredible cannolis, carrot cake, and countless Italian desserts. The line can be long for takeout, so eat in if that’s the case. Around the corner is Eileen’s Special Cheesecake. Cheesecake has been my favorite dessert ever since my Grandma made it for me homemade as a kid. I still remember the delicious and flaky crust. Eileen’s is just as good. They have a variety of different toppings and types of cheesecakes.

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Cheesecake from Eileen’s

 

Baked by Melissa are all over the city. They are bite-sized cupcakes perfect for getting a taste of diverse flavors. Big Gay Ice Cream is an innovative ice cream shop in the East Village. They take an interesting approach to soft serve layering it with dulce de leche, sea salt, and chocolate dip. Fat Witch Bakery in Chelsea is a good stop for some baked goods. NY desserts can be expensive and packed with calories. Lines can also be super long. Enjoy them, but eat them in moderation! Check out some of the other top spots around the city.

 

NYC is the Brunch Hub

I would be doing you a disservice if I did not mention the diverse breakfast options in NY. Brunch on the weekend is extremely popular. You can even do “bottomless” which usually means 2 hours of all you can drink mimosas, Bloody Mary’s, and other concoctions. This involves a hearty meal and usually costs $30-$50. It’s not a bad deal considering what you get. I like to go to these brunches and enjoy myself after training hard all week. Agave in the West Village is always crowded and tasty (margaritas are included). The Randolph in Brooklyn is a good choice for its variety of drinks. You can get drinks like the Porch Sipper (honey, juice, and lemon). Here are the other spots to check out.

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Bagels are also a must eat in NYC. I grew up eating bagels every Sunday. Since then, I have scaled back my bagel consumption. However, I cannot resist their fluffy goodness when I head to the city. Bacon, egg, and cheeses are NY classics. Expect typical NY brash service. My friend once tried to order an extra sandwich for his girlfriend. The cashier exclaimed, “You want TWO Bagels???” (Yes I want to pay you more money). You will have to wade through this and the lines to enjoy the fluffy goodness. Get flagels (hollowed out bagels) and whole wheat to decrease the carb load. These spots are known as the best in the city.

 

NYC: The City That Never Sleeps

Everybody has heard this, but it’s so true. The subway runs 24/7, there are countless 24/7 restaurants, and bars are open until 4 am. You can spend a significant amount of time enjoying the nightlife. Yet, I recommend taking it easy most days. You will want to go explore and exercise in the morning. Don’t let a long night out ruin the next day. You should experience the NYC night life at least one or two days on the weekend. Also, you don’t need to wait until nighttime to enjoy some beverages. Check out the breweries (Bronx and Brooklyn breweries are awesome). Most bars will actually be quite happening during the day.

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My favorite local spots at night are in Lower Manhattan. You can get an expensive cocktail in midtown, but Lower Manhattan is a much more authentic experience. Drinks are cheaper and the people are much livelier. Take a walk down Houston Street on the East Side for bars that have a dance scene as well. My favorite is Bowery Electric. They play throwback 90s music in the basement that brings me back to my high school years. Keep wandering towards Greenwich Village to find a lot of cool spots. If you venture a little further uptown you can find some rooftop bars like Rare View Rooftop in Chelsea.30068087496_50e2c9c680_o-225x300

 

 

The club scene centers on the meat packing district. NYC has a lot of clubbing options, but all of them are super expensive. If you haven’t had the experience it is worth it. Keep in mind a lot of the bars in Lower Manhattan will be a better bargain. There will also be less creepy club patrons. Get out and explore NYC at night; it’s a whole different experience.

 

Catch Some Live Music

NYC is a hub for live music. I have seen some amazing shows at some amazing venues. There are the large concerts at Madison Square Garden to small intimate shows at Webster Hall. Other popular venues include Irving Plaza, Pier 13, and The Playstation Theater. Every artist makes their way to NYC at least once a year. Look up what is going on when you are in the area. NY also hosts many “secret concerts” in intimate venues. Hopefully, you can get lucky and find one!

 

Summer in NYC is a great time for exploring outdoor concerts. Summer Stage in Central Park is an amazing outdoor venue hosting the best artists. The concerts are outdoor and incredibly fun. New York also hosts a lot of free concerts during the summer. It is the best way to see new artists and even established ones.

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Some live music in the city

The West Village is a music hub. The Fat Cat NYC is a superb jazz bar. Head in for live music every night. There are a bunch of other live music venues in the area to check out as well. Much of NYC was built around live music. Check out the multitude of offerings while you’re in town.

 

Explore Like a Local

There are plenty of touristy spots that everybody visits. However, the real NYC experience is outside of these areas. The Highline is a raised train track converted to a walking path. It is a beautiful walk surrounded by flowers and sculptures. It can be very busy in the warmer months, so try to go at off times. Walking along the greenway is a less known experience which offers outstanding views of the East and Hudson Rivers. Central Park is a tourist destination, but people don’t explore all the fun nooks and crannies. Walk farther north into the park to find the cool spots. A nighttime cruise down the Hudson River is also a must do. People forget that you can spend a fun night enjoying the NYC skyline.

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Sculptures near the battery

 

Wandering through Little Italy and Chinatown is an authentic experience. You can feel the culture vibrating through the shops and businesses. Wander around Lower Manhattan in general, for some local experiences. You will find pop up shops, local dives, and street festivals. Head to Brooklyn and Queens for an even more raw experience. This is where a lot of New Yorkers live. You can get much more of a neighborhood feel while escaping the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. This can also give you an opportunity to check out a Yankee, Nets, or Mets game. Check out a few other local experiences.

 

Make Your NY Trip DIFFERENT

You can head to NYC and explore all the touristy sites battling crowds and traffic. These sites are worth checking out, but you need to find some local haunts. I specifically have not included all the touristy sites in this guide. I am not saying do not do these things, but you should also connect with the “local” New York. New Yorkers are often seen as brash and rude. They will tell you what’s on their mind and talk your ear off. However, they are authentic and diverse people. I have never met a “typical” New Yorker. They all come from such diverse backgrounds and upbringings. They are some of the most interesting people I have ever met. Head to the local NY spots to connect with locals to enjoy a better experience in the city.

 

Explore the diversity in food, events, and culture NY has to offer. To travel NY like a local:

  1. Try a new type of food from the diverse options from around the globe
  2. Experience the health and whole food craze
  3. Grab a slice of pizza and a dessert after much walking and training
  4. Grab an amazing brunch (bottomless) and a bagel
  5. Check out the nightlife and lively bar scene
  6. Catch a live concert
  7. Get out of the touristy areas and find the local spots

 

Don’t fall into the trap of only having the typical tourist experience. NYC has a diverse culture and people who can give you a truly local experience. Branch out and explore.

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Have you visited NY? What were your favorite local spots? Where do you want to visit in NY? Let me know in the comments. As always email me with any questions.

 

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