Local Guides: New York City

Local Guides: New York City


Body: Work out 
Beauty: Gorgeous Sights to See 
Break: How to Relax
Caffeine: Where to get the Best 

New York has a vibrancy that is unequaled. You go here, you'll feel alive. You'll also feel squeezed, smashed and probably get more aggressive - but the discomfort and any personality shifts are worth it.

This is the toughest mini guide for me to write because well...New York has my soul (Rio still has my heart of course.) After living there for several years, I came to know many places - each of them unique, exciting or unforgettable in some way. I plan to release a full guide on all of these next year but for now I'm going to give you something different...a guide without any real tourist attractions. I'm going to give you suggestions on enjoying New York City like an active local.


Top 5 local experiences in New York
  1. Biking along the West side of Manhattan 
  2. Relaxing in Brooklyn Bridge Park on a Sunday 
  3. Exploring Harlem - especially the food and street art 
  4. Trying out top boutique fitness studios 
  5. Morning Bagels & Coffee at a corner shop



You can visit many times and never truly know New York. It's a place that has so many subcultures that there are multiple versions of the same city for different people. Talk to a musician and you'll hear one thing. Talk to a marketing exec and you'll get another. So rather than focus on too many specifics of where to shop, eat or drink, I'm going to share things that most New Yorkers do or have done in a daytime-daily-life kind of way.




Bike riding on the west side

Most people who visit New York will bike across Brooklyn Bridge. That's an iconic trip and you'll take some lovely photos but you'll also be squeezed between hundreds of other tourists with the exact same idea. By all means, make sure to see Brooklyn Bridge but just do it another way, it's not an enjoyable ride (unless you're prepared to go at dawn.) 

Instead, opt for a bike ride along the Hudson River Greenway. This path stretches along the westside of Manhattan from Battery Park to Dykman street. It's busy, yes. But it's also the longest path with lots of stopover points along the way that help to minimize congestion (e.g. Riverside Park) Choose a non-peak time (e.g. late morning or early afternoon) in order to maximize free movement. 

You can rent city bikes for shorter trips or go into most bike shops on the west side and rent them for the day. Remember to include a detour walk along the The High Line if you haven't seen it yet!


Experience the top level of fitness at boutique studios

At $30 to $36 dollars per class, boutique fitness in New York City is not cheap BUT it's also world-class. Every year, I make it a mission to do at least three classes here (even if I only have 4 days and jetlag.) Why? The fitness industry here is highly respected; it's considered a real career to be in it and not just something you do on the side. Fitness coaches refine their craft. They innovate. They work on every element involved in giving a class or personal training session. They're also competing with some of the best talent in the world so there's no room for slacking. Classes will be among the toughest you've ever done but you'll feel motivated and glad you made the commitment. 

New places pop up every six months (and others close) but these are my three classic favorites: 

Yoga to the People (I prefer the 38th street location)


I've also tried and would recommend: Y7 Yoga + Project by Equinox




Central Park at Sunset or Sunrise

I started my fitness career with a bootcamp in Central Park. I'd arrive before the sun for morning sessions which clients faithfully came to (well done you guys!) I had to slug out of bed and sometimes I'd do it 15 minutes before start time. I'm not a morning person. However, there was always one compensation: sunrise. 

This is not a typical sunrise experience. You won't see it properly with all the trees and skyscrapers in the way but there's something magical about not having a single person in sight and watching the light slowly creep into the park. Stay long enough (until about 7:30am, 8am) and you'll see the Park come alive with dog walkers, vendors, kids and tourists. Now, probably most locals won't wake up and go see sunrise at the Park but many of them have will have experienced that rare occasion when it wasn't crowed, when they could just relax. A sunrise trip is the closest that you can get to a guarantee for the same experience. I like to grab a coffee and watch from the fountain at Bethesda Terrace because it's gorgeous here but usually crammed with people at all other times of the day. 

If you don't think you can make it for sunrise, sunset is also lovely. It's busier but less so than during peak tourist hours. Find a spot on the west side for best viewing. 


Explore Harlem

Harlem is among the most underrated tourist destination in Manhattan...and I hope it stays that way. I feel conflicted about including it in the guide so please if you go, be respectful. Don't pop out your camera at every chance. Also make a real effort to try the local businesses and not just the hipster cafes. 

Get off at 103rd on the east side or 110 on the west and walk your way up. Try different foods as you go. Check out the architecture and street art. Culturally, this is one of the most iconic and interesting areas in New York. (Note: if you're traveling alone or feel uncomfortable, you can always choose to stay below 140th.) 



Sunday Brunch

Brunching is a social sport in New York. It can last HOURS with people catching up over amazing food and unlimited cocktails (although this is sadly being restricted more and more.) New Yorkers don't have a lot of free time but they can usually make time for brunch.

To get the full experience, go on a Sunday between 1pm and 3pm. Most of the trendier places will be in Chelsea, Soho, Williamsburg etc. You can find less crowded and more local ones in the Upper East Side. (Upper West Side also has many places but they get busy with families.)


Sundays at Brooklyn Bridge Park

Most people think of going to Central Park when it comes to seeing the skyline among the trees but in fact a better city view is right across the water at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Go on a Sunday for a lazy afternoon of cityscape gazing. If you get hungry, there's loads of pizza places en route back to the subway.



Coffee as an art 

Coffee in New York is like tea in England; it's a sacred ritual. Every morning and late afternoon (aka 2-3pm coffee rush) you'll see most New Yorkers with a takeaway cup in hand. Most of this coffee is garbage; it's the cheap, quick stuff from around the corner at a cart or local stand (although I've have been surprised by high quality before!)

However, you can find some of the finest coffee brewed outside of Italy in the city. As someone who has traveled all over Manhattan with at least a cup a day, one of my favorite spots for a caffeine fix is called Joe on the Upper East Side. It's absurdly expensive and comes in ridiculously small cups but take one sip and you won't care. 


Morning Bagels & Coffee

Many New Yorkers will have a morning coffee in hand and a bagel in the other. This is also a sacred tradition. As long as you're not gluten intolerant, don't pass these up. The temptation might be to google the best place and stand in a long cue with other tourists. Don't do that. Instead, find an obscure local shop and order there. You might not get the best bagel, but you will get the best experience. The further uptown you go (e.g. past 60th street) or downtown (below 14th,) the more authentic your experience will be. If they have seats, it's even better because people watching is another favorite activity to take off your list!





This really depends on when you come during the year. New York is fashionable but there's every type here, so bring your own style! Heels only recommended for going out in the evenings. 


When to go
Anytime! I'm serious about this. Spring is gorgeous and usually the right temperature. Summer is steaming hot but great because it's less crowded (many locals leave to escape the heat.) In Autumn/Fall, you can see the lovely changing of leaves and experience the full bustle of the city without the snow. (Halloween is epic in the city and not to be missed!) Winter is freezing but feels magical with all the Christmas decorations. Personally, the only months that I find miserable are January and February but if it's your first time in New York, you're not going to care. 


I would have never advised to stay in a hotel but regulation is now stricter on Airbnb so be sure to do due diligence on your host if you go that way; do they own the place they're renting, is it a co-op, etc.? If you go the hotel route, try to choose a more residential area (somewhere above 65th and below 30th in Manhattan or in Brooklyn and Queens.) 


Eating well 

My favorite healthy place to this day is Hu Kitchen. It's quick and has options for every kind of eater. They also have a coffee bar there (double points.) You can find some of the best healthy restaurants in the world in the city but I wouldn't restrict meals to just that because you'll be missing out.

New York is a foodie capital. Listing every one of my local recommendations wouldn't do justice to all the other places out there so instead I'll just give a quick food type checklist: Pizza, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Russian, Raw food (this can be incredible) and Chinese. This is by no means an exclusive list so go out and explore as your taste buds command!


Bring cash everywhere with you. Many establishments will not accept cards. The subway is the easiest way to get around and operates 24 hours but cabs/uber are not too bad outside of rush hour. Tipping has been written about so much so I won't delve but please please tip your servers a minimum of 20% if they do a good job and ideally in cash. 



Follow my travels on Instagram: @corpaofitness



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