Where To People Watch And Soak Up Local Culture In New York City
New York City is filled with interesting people going about their interesting lives. If you need a break from the typical sightseeing and want to catch a glimpse of daily life in the city, head to these interesting spots and immerse yourself in the world around you.
The heart and lungs of New York City, the famous, expansive, and huge Central Park is an iconic destination in the city featuring a variety of smaller attractions and features within itself. From ball fields and jogging paths to botanical gardens, concert spaces, cafes, ponds, playgrounds, and more, the park offers something for everyone. Don't forget to take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the park - one of the quintessential tourist activities in the city.
New York City, New York
Bryant Park, located between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and between 40th and 42nd Streets in Midtown Manhattan, is situated next to the Main Branch of the New York Public Library. Featuring a large field in the summer, and a very popular ice skating rink in the winter, this community park is a nice spot to relax, enjoy a quiet setting, have a picnic, or go for a walk.
6th Ave at 41st Street, New York, New York, 10018
Fifth Avenue is a world famous shopping street that is recognized for its high end flagship designer stores which include Cartier, Tiffany, Bergdorf-Goodman, and Saks Fifth Avenue. The street is an interesting place to wander, whether you're in to high end fashion, or simply want to take in the sites. For the most interesting stretch, explore between the south end of Central Park and the New York Public Library, with the blocks between 60th Street and 40th Street offering the most.
Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Lower Manhattan is one of the city's most famous public parks. Visitors here can find the huge Washington Arch which is a large, marble triumphant arch which serves as a landmark and honors the nation's first president. In front of the arch is a nice fountain. The arch also serves as the terminus for 5th Avenue. Also located in the square is a monument to Alexander Lyman Holley, along with some walking paths, benches, and shaded tree areas which make for a nice and relaxing picnic spot.
Washington Square Village, NYC, New York
Times Square is one of the most famous areas in New York City. It's known for its brightly lit billboards which really brighten the city at night. But even if you visit during the day you'll find the area filled with energy, activity, and people. If the crowds get to be too much, there are bleachers set up on one side where you can sit and take a break. Times Square is also recognizable as the location of the iconic ball drop on New Years Eve. It's also an entertainment center for the city.
Times Square is in the Midtown Manhattan neighborhood at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue.
The Rockefeller Center
New York's iconic Rockefeller Center is a must-see for visitors. It is a large complex that includes 19 commercial buildings and spreads out over 22 acres in Midtown Manhattan. There's an observation deck called Top of the Rock that offers beautiful views from a tower that stands 70 floors high. It has been the home of NBC Studios since 1933 and is open for public tours.
The Rockefeller Center is a quintessential destination during the Christmas season when the iconic Christmas tree is lit and the ice skating rink is opened in the plaza.
45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY, 10111
Prospect Park is located in Brooklyn and is a family-friendly place to explore with a carousel, a zoo, and Greenmarket. There's plenty of grassy areas and green space where you can enjoy a picnic or meet some friends at the ball fields for a pick-up game. During the warmer months you can also catch some outdoor music or even a show at the Prospect Park Bandshell.
Flatiron Plaza is a triangular pedestrian plaza that offers a great view of the famous Flatiron building. It's also right by Madison Square Park. During the warmer months, this plaza comes to life with live music or other forms of entertainment, but it's a nice place to relax and people watch any time of the year.
Artists & Fleas at Chelsea Market
Located inside Chelsea Market, this pop-up style market offers independent Brooklyn art, design, fashion, and vintage items. There are more than 30 sellers that change frequently to keep the selection interesting and dynamic. If you're looking for an alternative to the typical retail experience, then this market is a nice option.
88 10th Avenue @ W. 15th Street
Hudson River Park
Stretching from Battery Park to 59th Street along the river, this is a nice grassy spot with bike and running trails. You can bike or jog along the waterfront looking at the river and across to the NJ side. You'll also find a playground here as well as some nice picnic spots in the grass.
Battery Park City to 59th St, Manhattan, New York City, NY
The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
This museum was built in the style of a hillside Tibetan monastery. It maintains the largest private collection of Tibetan art in the country, and the complex offers a peaceful and beautiful setting where you can explore, sit bay the goldfish pond, or look out at the water. There are often Sunday programs and shows with music, dance, and art, that are perfect for families.
338 Lighthouse Ave, Staten Island, NY, 10306
This is the largest weekly open-air food market in America, attracting 20,000-30,000 people to Brooklyn each weekend. There are more than 100 local vendors to chose from and this is the perfect place to enjoy New York City's local culture. You can experience the diversity of its culinary scene, try new and diverse foods, and step away from the typical tourist's circuit. This is also a great place to interact with locals, people watch, and see New York from outside of the tourist's perspective.
Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway
From Greenpoint Park to Sunset Park, this 26-mile route follows greenway paths around and on the East River so you don't have to worry about traffic. The views are also quite nice as you'll see greenery as well as the New York City skyline. It passes by Red Hook and the Bay Ridge neighborhood, too.
Brooklyn, New York City
Queens Night Market
This family-friendly night market not only has vendors that sell art, food, and antiques, there are also cultural performances and fun activities that everyone can enjoy. This is an open-air market that's found in Queens and it's an interesting place to wander and experience local New York culture.
Flushing Meadows, Corona Park, Queens, New York City, NY
Union Square Park is a popular place to tourists and locals alike. The park is a hub of activity and there always seems to be something going on. Locals are often in the park playing chess, and there are performers that entertain tourists and those passing by. The park also has lots of public artwork as well as the Metronome and Countdown Clock, which shows 24 hour time from left to right and also counts down the time that's left in the day. Various markets are also held here at different times of the year, such as Christmas.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park
This beautiful park has many flowers, green spaces, outdoor art, and cultural institutions. There's also a lake, historical walks, sports fields, a skating rink, marina, and carousels. It's the perfect place for a family to hang out and there's entertainment here for kids and adults of all ages.
Brooklyn Bridge Park
Sitting on the edge of the water between DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights, this park offers a number of great facilities and recreational activities. There's a bouldering wall, a roller skating rink, a pop-up pool during the summer months, and bocce courts. This is the perfect park to enjoy a run or a bike ride. The park also offers stunning views of the Manhattan skyline as it meanders along the waterfront, with the most spectacular spot being by Jane's Carousel, between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge.
Battery Park is most notable for its beautiful views that look out over the water towards the Statue of Liberty. This is a larger park that can offer a quiet retreat from the chaos of the nearby Financial District. But it also serves as the departure point for the ferries to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, so there can be crowds of tourists in certain areas. Street performers are common in the park as well, but be prepared because watching for too long will likely come with a high price tag.
St. Vincent's Triangle Park
This triangular plaza is in the middle of Greenwich Village and is the location of the New York City AIDS Memorial. The park also has beautiful vegetation and plenty of seating where wanderers can rest their weary legs. Whether you want to watch the people passing by or just take a moment to reflect to yourself, this is a nice space to spend some time.
Bronx Night Market
This is the first open air food market in the Bronx. Featuring a large selection of vendors that sell food, drinks, and artisan goods, this market is popular during the warmer months. It's located in Fordham Plaza from April thru November every Saturday night. If you want to get outside of Manhattan and see a bit of the local nightlife, then this street market is fun to explore
LIC + Astoria Flea & Food
This is a weekend market that is a favorite of locals and tourists alike who are headed to Queens. The market has a number of food and beer vendors as well as vendors that sell antiques, art, fashion, furniture, jewelry and more.
5-25 46th Avenue, Queens, Long Island City, NY, 11101
Silver Lake Park
This park spreads out over 200 acres and it offers an excellent spot to run, bike, or explore. There's a large lake that's perfect for bird watching, and several great spots where you can enjoy a picnic. There's also a nearby 18 hole golf course. Kids will love the playground and scenic bridge.
Roosevelt Island is a great place to hang out with a family. There are two miles of waterfront that you can explore with impressive views of Manhattan and Queens. There is also plenty of green space, parks, and a playground. For a picnic, head to the southern tip of the island and grab a spot at Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, which has views of both Manhattan and Queens.
Gantry State Park
This 12 acre park runs along the East River and has a unique mix of industry and nature. There are abandoned steel structures, but also natural green spaces, a playground, a water play, area, and a concession stand.
4-09 47th Rd, Queens, NY, 10007
Located on 33rd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, this square has a public amphitheater, some green space, and one of the Roy Lichtenstein Brushstroke Group sculptures. There are wooden bleachers where you can relax and there is often music or other activities going on by the amphitheater.
This small "vest-pocket" park on E. 51st Street between 2nd & 3rd Ave is a nice spot to relax. While it's small, it features a beautiful waterfall surrounded by shade trees, tables, and benches. Locals use it for a place to escape the office and enjoy the outdoors in the busy city for a lunch break or a quick coffee.
225 East 51st Street, NYC, New York, 10022
How much does it cost?
Prices for activities, things to do, and tours range from $5 to $514. The average cost for a tour or tickets is $76. A few of the best options are below.
Where to Stay in New York City
More Ideas for New York City