Beyond the splendor of the Empire State Building, bright lights of Times Square or the stoic grandeur of the Statue of Liberty there is so much to experience in New York City. Meeting a local can lead to memorable experiences during your time in the Big Apple. In a city as dynamic as NY, being able to spend time with someone who lives here can lead to invaluable insider tips to add an extra dimension to your trip. New Yorkers have a reputation for being rude and unfriendly; here are tips on where to meet locals and discover first hand that that is far from true!
Flushing Meadows Park
On any given day, it's full of families from the neighborhood enjoying the outdoors. There are many games of football (soccer) taking place, impromptu photo shoots, softball games -- you name it. You could substitute Flushing Meadows Park with Astoria Park and experience the same sense of community. And Queens being the most ethnically diverse borough in NYC, don't be surprised if you meet people from your hometown!
Many a New Yorker prides themselves on being an oenophile... or just someone who loves free booze. Many neighborhood liquor stores and wine shops host wine tastings to promote a new wine or to boost sales. I've arranged wine pairings for my clients with an urban winemaker and a visit to a wine shop in Brooklyn which turned into an impromptu tasting with the manager and a local who happened to be in at the time. Wine tastings are usually held between the hours of 5 and 9 PM. Keep an eye out for the chalkboard announcements. A wine tasting is a great place to meet neighborhood locals and chat up the wine shop owner. Small business owners have a great vantage point to what's going on in a neighborhood.
Dunkin Donuts or local coffee shop
Skip the Starbucks - Now, my suggestion here is a bit tainted because I'm not a coffee drinker and I usually only go to Starbucks when I'm meeting someone or need to charge my cell phone. Many New Yorkers use Starbucks the same way. In the middle of a business meeting, on first date or while standing in line to use the restroom probably isn't the best time to meet someone new. But if you venture to Dunkin' Donuts or smaller non-chain coffee shops, you up your chances of meeting NY locals and having a meaningful connection.
Gym or health club
If you're in New York for a few days, your hotel's fitness center isn't the only option for getting a workout. Many of the gyms and fitness centers offer free guest passes including the YMCA and Crunch. New York Sports Clubs offers 5-day passes for $5. Classes at Yoga to the People are donation-based; pay what you can afford while you get your ohm on. It's not recommended that you strike up conversation with someone who is clearly in the zone with their earbuds in but solo exercisers open to getting a spot from a new friend or group fitness classes are opportunities to meet someone new.
One of the most common requests I receive from clients is for a slice of real NY pizza. I love sharing my go-to shops for delicious slices to eat on-the-go or pizza restaurants that offer delicious gourmet options. New Yorkers love pizza. We buy and (sometimes eat) pizza at a pizza shop. So that's where you should go to meet locals. If you see a long line of tourists or lots of bearded faces (ie. hipster transplants) you may have stumbled across a place where New Yorkers don't go. Dollar pizza on the other hand attracts New Yorkers from all walks of life. Bonding over food is a given.
Abigail is a Native New Yorker and considers herself a traveler's BFF in NYC. She leads personally curated private excursions for travelers through her company, Native Creative Concierge. She's an unashamed people-watcher, loves chocolate and ice cream, has a soft spot for mango and still gets excited when the trains go above ground.