Things to Do for New NYC Residents - Beyond the Tourist Traps
Ah, New York City - it can be intimidating to a new arrival. It's huge, it's always lit up, and it's never, ever quiet. If you're living in New York for the first time, I'd bet you've never lived anywhere quite like this. You might feel like a tourist at first and will probably feel obligated to visit at least a couple of the uber-sights, but it won't be long before you're looking beyond the tourist activities for your entertainment needs.
After all, NYC is one of the biggest cities in the world, and it's so full of things to do and places to see that even long-time New York natives haven't seen it all. New Yorkers have to do something for entertainment, and they can't all go to places like the Empire State Building or Statue of Liberty. If they did, the wait would take days instead of hours. Real New Yorkers know that only a tourist would wait in line half the day just to spend a little time on the observation deck. It's really just one more tall building - what's the big deal?
So yes, if you really want to go beyond the tourist activities in New York, perhaps you ought to avoid the most heavily trafficked attractions. Remember, though, that it's still NYC. Even the non-touristy places are likely to attract a few visitors. Take Chinatown and the Theater District, for example: located in Manhattan as they are, they attract lots of tourists but still offer a lot to locals as well. Let the Midwesterners shell out for the high-priced Broadway shows; that's just the beginning of New York's theater options.
Beyond the hype of the huge shows, you have a vast array of options. Off-Broadway shows are held in theaters with 100-500 seats, and the Off-Off-Broadway designation covers theaters with 100 seats or less. This is where you'll find the real deal, and you'll save a pretty penny doing it. Off-Broadway often provides more intellectual fare than you might find in the heavily hyped venues. You'll find improv troupes, small indie theaters and lots more. Some might be funny, some might be bawdy, and some might even focus on serious dramatic works. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is another tourist hotspot that's definitely worth a visit. If you journey a little further than most tourists end up doing, you can also visit the Cloisters at the north end of Manhattan. This subsidiary of the Met holds the museum's collection of art and relics from the Middle Ages in a beautiful recreation of an Medieval monastery.
But the most important step of all is that first one off the island. Manhattan Island, that is - many tourists visit New York City and never set foot into the outer boroughs. It's a shame, because each one of them is interesting and could be considered a big city in it's own right. Getting around may prove to be a challenge, though. New York's subway system is huge, and it can seem daunting to newcomers. You'll probably have to use it eventually, though - even if you can afford endless cab rides, the cabbies don't like crossing bridges. The first thing to remember is to navigate by the letter or number of the subway line - if you focus solely on the color coding, you're much more likely to get lost.
But where to take that subway? Now that you're an official NYC resident you have five boroughs and hundreds of unique neighborhoods at your disposal, and that's not even counting New Jersey. Just look at the Bronx. This is actually the only borough that isn't on an island. True, it had a somewhat seedy reputation once, but the borough has been cleaned up a lot. It may occupy a low spot on some tourists' itineraries, but the Bronx is like Mecca for Yankees fans. They're called the "Bronx Bombers" for a reason - this is home base and the location of Yankee Stadium.
The Bronx is especially great for outdoor pursuits - it started off as a rural outlier to New York City, so it holds more parkland and green spaces than most of the other boroughs. There's the "Bronx Riviera," also known as Orchard Beach in Pelham Bay Park. If you get up this way, don't miss the Bronx zoo or the nearby New York Botanical Garden.
Then you have Long Island on the east side of Manhattan. The high finance may be on Manhattan, but it's Queens and Brooklyn that form the geographical and artistic center of NYC. You see, everything in Manhattan has been packed in and crowded since he city's earliest days, but Long Island has much more room for cool space-intensive things like Coney Island or Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, former site of the World's Fair.
Queens is known for being home to many ethnic neighborhoods - and the delicious foods of their native lands. Astoria has a dense Greek population and is one of Long Island's prime shopping districts. Latinos have settled Corona and Elmhurst, Flushing has a large East Asian population and Jackson Heights is home to people from India and other parts of South Asia. It even has a Bollywood theater, so head here when you're craving some fiery vindaloo.
Brooklyn has some of New York's favorite areas. On the southern tip of Long Island are Coney Island amusement park and the beautiful Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Brooklyn is also home to New York's art community - if you're so inclined, the art galleries of Williamsburg and Red Hook will make for a fun day. The centrally located Prospect Park area has another botanical garden and the Brooklyn Museum.
For art of a different sort, how do you like comic books? It's ok; we all have that inner nerd who needs to be indulged from time to time. If the X-Men or even the dastardly Cock-Knocker are what do it for you, a little bit of travel time brings you to one of film's most famous comic shops - Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash in Red Bank, New Jersey.
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