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New York: Like a local

Nobody knows New York like a New Yorker. Three locals wax lyrical about their city — from the most common misconceptions, to the best places to brunch.

New York: Like a local
Image: Getty

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Brandon Fay

General manager of Trattoria Dell’Arte, and host of Cooking with Brandon on CBS

The best thing about living in New York is you can order pizza whenever you want — even in a blizzard.

It’s a safer city these days. I’m a born-and-raised New Yorker. When I was a kid, one of my biggest concerns was crime. Then 9/11 happened. Things went from beat cops arresting petty thieves on the street to anti-terrorism task forces in Times Square. 

Tourists think New Yorkers don’t like outsiders. That’s a myth. New Yorkers love tourists. We like diversity.

I like to restaurant hop on Sundays. I’ve gone to as many as 12 in a day. I order a few appetisers, then ask the server where they like to go. You’ll find some cool late-night spots, because waiters in NYC have wacky hours.

One of my favourite haunts is Neary’s. It’s a true NYC Irish watering hole with an old-school feel. Jimmy Neary is always quick to give you a smile. He’ll sit with you and share a laugh.  

I love running with the New York Road Runners. You can meet someone from another country, run a race together on a Sunday morning and become friends for life.

Cynthia von Buhler

Nightlife impresario, currently hosting The Illuminati Ball on select weekends in Brooklyn

New York City is the centre of the universe. We all come here to become the best at what we do. Frank Sinatra had it right: if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. You can be out having dinner and there could be a television producer or the editor of your favourite magazine at the next table.

I’ve lived in NYC since I moved into a loft in the Meatpacking District in 2001. I held gallery shows and incredible parties there to offset the rent. I used to sleep after 4am because the music from nearby nightclubs was so loud. Eventually, the area became so swanky that my rent doubled and I had to move.

My husband and I go for brunch on Sundays.
We usually go to Maison Kayser, which has almond croissants to die for. Then we walk around Central Park. If we want to get a drink we head to Angel’s Share, a speakeasy hidden behind a restaurant in the East Village. Otherwise, I love going for a massage at Juvenex Spa in Koreatown. They have two types of steam huts and wading pools filled with fresh lemons.

If we really want to treat ourselves we go to Kajitsu in Murray Hill for dinner. They have an incredible vegan tasting menu that’s paired with sake.

David Burr Gerrard

Author of Short Century and The Epiphany Machine

The best thing about NYC is also the hardest thing about NYC — that so many smart and talented people are doing so much; there’s so much to do on any given night that it’s often too stressful to choose one event.

I was born in Queens, where I still live. In that time, more places across the city have opened and closed than could be visited in 20 lifetimes. My favourite is Brazenhead Books: a secret bookstore on the Upper East Side. My wife and I were married there. Then it closed. Now it’s open again, in a different location.

Tourists forget that Queens exists. They miss some of the best food in the world. The unforgettable Thai restaurant SriPraPhai, for instance, is only nine minutes by car from LaGuardia.

My ideal Sunday is the Venn diagram overlap between tourist and local NYC: a morning at the Met, followed by a picnic in Central Park, a long walk, then sitting on the grass with a good book.

I mark time in my life by Film Forum’s periodic revivals of my favourite films, particularly Taxi Driver. If you see New York in an old movie, then see the same streets [that gentrification can’t quite change], you’ll feel like a New Yorker. At least until one of us yells at you to stop blocking the sidewalk.

Published in the Trips of a Lifetime guide, distributed with the Jul/Aug 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)