How to go to New York City and look like a local

There is something very special about New York City. Going there could be likened to visiting a fun park, there's a fantastical array of rides and thrills to tickle your fancy and ignite your senses.

However, first timers can fall into the perils of discovering this city in too much of a touristy fashion, belt bags at the ready and with a fierce determination for a selfie in front of the Statue of Liberty.

So we thought it might be nice to create a 'Top 50' guide to discovering New York City and still look like a local. It includes suggestions from where to sleep to where to shop and everything in-between. Because, if you can make it here (as a visitor) you can make it anywhere!

Top 50 of New York City

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AA Travel Insurance Top 50 of New York City

 Where to stay 

Holy moly, hotels in New York City are expensive! Even post-COVID, the shoebox room you just coughed up for comes at an eye-watering price. We recommend you think carefully about where you stay, as you won't really be there much. All you really need is a clean bed to put your worn-out feet on, in a location that suits you.   

If you do have the cash to splash on accommodation, here are our top picks by neighbourhood.


 Broome Located smack bang in the (sophisticated) heart of Soho. Broome is a peaceful, hidden gem with an inviting Moroccan courtyard. It has a farm to table breakfast each morning and rooms that sing from the ‘Parisian guesthouse’ songbook.

 Solita Soho This hotel is real bang for your buck in this big town. Rooms may be boxy, but are clean and pleasant. Plus, the price won’t have you taking out that second mortgage on the house. We would highly recommend this place.


East Village and Lower East Side

 The Bowery Hotel  If you are going to do New York in fashionable style, do so at The Bowery Hotel. Rub shoulders with culture creators and fashion makers and soak up the decadent and delectable vibe of this (so hip-it-almost hurts) hotel. 

 East Village Hotel This hotel does small spaces well…very well. You can really feel like you are living like a local in this boutique hotel with a fantastic location.


Chelsea/Meatpacking District & the West Village

 Marlton Hotel This little gem has small rooms but is big on charm. Think rustic French chic meets artistic flare. Plus, it has some glorious common areas. You can take your morning coffee at the espresso bar, then later on sip on a tipple at the delightful cocktail bar.

 High Line Hotel It’s very easy to see why this hotel gets plenty of press. Housed in a glorious Gothic building, it features an outdoor cocktail garden, which serves cocktails and bites from a 1957 London double-decker bus! Each of the hotel’s 60 rooms are a nod to the bygone era of beautifully decorated guesthouses.


Upper East Side

 Loews Regency Sitting prettily on Park Avenue, this luxury hotel exemplifies Manhattan's Upper East Side. It feels like a glamorous meeting of iconic Art Deco design with modern sensibilities. And with over 50+ years of service thrown into the mix – they might possibly know what you want before you do.

 The Mark Hotel Just in case you have an exorbitant amount of cash to splash, you can stay at The Mark Hotel. Self-described as ‘New York’s most boldly lavish hotel’. This hotel, designed by French visionary, Jacques Grange is the epitome of elegance, glamour and grace. It also features a stellar culinary line up with all restaurants and in-room dining offerings concepts coming from globally-acclaimed Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Go on, take a look at the website, even just for a nosy.


Henry Norman Hotel Alt

© Henry Norman Hotel, New York City

 Henry Norman Hotel Get your art on at this creative and eclectic boutique hotel which was once home to a 19th century textile warehouse and artists lofts. It sits so nicely against the glorious NYC skyline in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and offers large loft style suites and bountiful amounts of creativity and style.

 Williamsburg Hotel Fancy a rooftop pool with your hotel room? Thought so! This industrial chic hotel is the epitome of Brooklyn cool and oozes culture and personality. Rooms feature floor to ceiling windows and private balconies so you can drink in those glorious views of the Manhattan skyline. Their prices match their views though, but you’d be hard pressed to find something this slick and funky in Williamsburg – plus – don’t forget – the pool!


 Where to shop

 Argosy Book Store This six-story bookstore stocks an enormous array of old and rare books.

 Nordstrom Rack Style meets savings at this discounted luxury department store.

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© MoMA Design Store, New York City

 MoMA Design Store Shop curator-approved product for everyday living, where every purchase supports MoMA's programming.

 & other stories Create your own shopping story at this pretty (but still funky) women's clothing store.

 Anthropologie (Chelsea) Enter a bohemian dream and shop till you drop at this popular US fashion retailer.

 Zabars Sample the delights of this gourmet food emporium, which specialises in fish, cavier, coffee and cheese. 

 Bloomingdales Step into the world of ‘bloomies’ and become lost for days at this upscale department store (as your credit card winces in your wallet).

 Uniqlo Think funk meets clean lines at this large Japanese fashion retailer.

 Mary Arnold Toys Spoil your own (and inner) child at New York’s oldest continuously running toy store.

 Pearl River Mart Marvel in this eclectic emporium that features a wide variety of Asian-inspired gifts, fashion, ceramics, snacks, and everything in between.


 Where to eat

 Thai Diner Think your classic Thai dishes meets a kitschy-cool, diner-style setting. Good times all round.

 Wayan Sample the delights of Cédric Vongerichten’s famed Indonesian cuisine served with a modern French twist, in one very sleek space.

 The Grey Dog (Chelsea) Woof woof, paws up to this place that serves modern wholesome American classics that will warm your belly and your heart.

 The Butchers Daughter This plant-based restaurant, café and juice bar is self-described as a ‘vegetable slaughterhouse’, they treat vegetables like a butcher would meat. You’ll be very healthy and very happy.

 Nom Wah Tea Parlor Take yourself into the heart of Chinatown at this vintage dim sum and dumpling parlor which opened in 1920.

 Little Cupcake Bakeshop Sweet toothers unite! This Manhattan offshoot of the original Brooklyn bakery, serves wholesome traditional American desserts that will surely satisfy sweet cravings.

 Canal St Market Support small businesses at this curated retail market, food hall and community space which is open year-round.

 Balthazar Buzzing and bustling in the heart of Soho, you can enjoy traditional French fare all day long in this gorgeous brasserie.

 La Esquina Serving up the freshest authentic Mexican food in some super-cool surrounds. 

 Eleven Madison Park The holy grail of NYC fine-dining.  It’s breath-taking art deco surrounds are equally matched by the plant based menu from celebrated chef Daniel Humm. 


 Where to be entertained

 The Metropolitan Opera House See and feel the power of opera in this home for the worlds most talented and creative singers, musicians and designers.

 Brooklyn Academy of Music This performing arts venue is well-known and respected for its progressive and avant-garde performances.

 Richard Rodgers Theatre Opening in 1924, this Broadway theatre was renamed in 1990 to honour the legendary composer. It is currently the home for Broadway smash hit Hamilton.

 Carnegie Hall Carnegie Hall this world-renowned classical music hall, designed by William Tuthill, presents the most extraordinary music and musicians in a homage to the transformative power of music.

 Madison Square Garden Aptly copyrighted as "The World's Most Famous Arena®. You can experience all the big music shows and sports games in this large-scale indoor arena.

 Jazz at Lincoln Center Jazz aficionados unite at this performing arts organisation that celebrates the power of jazz to uplift and inspire.  

 Sleep No More Get ready for a full immersive theatre experience. This is like being in a choose-your-own-adventure of Shakespeare’s tragedy, where you are free to wander the elaborate rooms of the ‘McKittrick Hotel’ (housed in a Chelsea Warehouse) and follow or even interact with the actors.

 Comedy Cellar Widely considered to be the best comedy club in the country, this is where to go to get your laugh-on with New York’s top comedians.

 The Flea Theater This Off-off broadway performance space predominantly showcases new American theatre and often has film stars revelling in the opportunity to act on a small stage.

 New York Live Arts Led by artistic director Bill T Jones, this swish dance centre offers over 100 experimental and contemporary performances a year.


 What to see

 The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York City Colloquially called "the Met", this is the largest art museum in the Western Hemisphere, with its permanent collection housing over two million works.

 Central Park Blink and you might miss this (3.41 km2) park tucked away in New York City. Visit the link above to find out about tours, activities, attractions, and events currently on.  

 Frick Madison The Frick Collection's historic buildings are currently closed for renovation however you can visit its temporary home at the Frick Madison. The permanent collection features Old Master paintings and European fine and decorative arts.

 Hudson Yards This new neighbourhood in Manhattan’s West Side is a curated collection of restaurants, galleries, boutiques and progressive architecture and includes ‘The Vessel’, the honeycomb style structure of 154 interconnecting flights of stairs by Thomas Heatherwick.

 Guggenheim Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright this spectacular art museum is a significant architectural icon in New York City. You can experience special exhibitions of modern and contemporary art plus lectures, classes, and tours.

 The High Line Take a little stroll through this 1.45-mile-long elevated linear park, greenway, and rail trail, which was created on a former New York Central Railroad spur.

 The Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) This free museum focuses on fashion and offers innovative and award-winning exhibitions, plus a permanent collection of more than 50,000 garments and accessories.

 Museum of the Moving Image Here you can discover the past, present, and future of film, TV, video games, and digital culture at this Queens located Museum.

 Museum of Natural History This huge museum showcases natural wonders from dinosaurs to outer space (and really everything else in-between).

 Taking a helicopter ride of New York City  Taking a helicopter ride of New York City is simply the best way to fully understand the scale and majesty of this city. It may be pricey, but the experience will cement a spot in your ‘treasured-memory’ bank.

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