It's summertime and all your colleagues and family members have already come back and bragged about their cruises through the Caribbean, flights to Europe, road trips across America, and trips to many other exotic and beachy locales. While those are all fantastic, why not take your own vacation in your hometown and make New York your playground? Here's your guide to the best staycation-worthy spots in the city with the best bargains.
Downtown - all the way downtown - has some of the best tourist and non-tourist spots in all of New York. Start your day in Battery Park and take the Staten Island ferry (for free!), where you'll enjoy the best free view of the city and Lady Liberty. If you're so inclined, get off in Staten Island and spend more time than most people - there actually are things to do if you look! Once you're back in downtown Manhattan, head over to the West side and visit the generally tourist-free Robert F Wagner Junior Park, which also provides brilliant views of the Statue of Liberty and sailboats out on the water. The esplanade provides an especially lovely walk. Abutting the park is the Museum of Jewish Heritage, one of the best museums in the city, with special exhibitions, a moving and educational permanent exhibition focused on the Holocaust, and more great views of the harbor from the top floor. If you're still itching for more art and history, head East to the National Museum of the American Indian, a free museum that is housed in the old Customs House - it's worth the visit as much for the artifacts as it is for the architecture. To complete your day, head northeast to Pier 17 where all the old boats from the South Street Seaport Museum are housed - check them out then find some good eats in the area. If you're really adventurous, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, or at least get halfway and look out over the water. Once you're finished, pay your respects at the 9/11 Memorial Plaza and Museum.
SoHo, NoHo, the Flatiron District, Lower East Side, Tribeca, Chinatown, and Little Italy provide a wealth of opportunities for a staycationer. Make sure you've got you're walking shoes on to adventure around this part of the city! Some of the highlights to include in your wanderings should be the African Memorial Burial Ground, Union Square shops, the Merchant's House Museum, Greenwich Village eateries, and the High Line. Lower Manhattan is home to historic and beautiful architecture so be sure to look up as you walk around. The area around Washington Square Arch and New York University is usually teeming with creative individuals who are often displaying their artwork or offering impromptu dance performances. The New York City Fire Museum on the West side is a great way to spend an hour either with the kids or with other adults. For a real treat for readers, head to the Strand bookstore at Union Square, where you'll revel in the thousands of low-priced new and old books or breathe in history on the top floor with the rare books section. If you can't travel abroad this summer, travel to another country right in your own city - check out Chinatown and Little Italy for some real culture.
Moving on up into the heart of the city, midtown, you'll find your walk to be far more crowded, but there are certainly reprieves. Start the day with a strut through the Fashion District - the Museum at FIT is free and always has a great exhibition on display. In Midtown East, you'll find the United Nations right on the East River, and New York's famous Grand Central Station. If you can get a tour of the station, you'll appreciate the planning of it even better. The Chrysler Building, while unavailable for tours, is open on the first floor to the public and is worth a quick look in. For views of the city from on high, check out the iconic Empire State Building or Rockefeller Center (Top of the Rock). Fifth Avenue has many impressive buildings, from Saint Patrick's Cathedral, St. Thomas Church, the New York Public Library, the Plaza Hotel, and the many shops that Fifth Avenue is known for - like Tiffany's. There's no cause for boredom in midtown! To end the night, check out what Madison Square Garden has to offer - from sports games to glitzy concerts, there's always something going on there.
The Upper East and Upper West sides are far more manageable than other areas of the city. Attractions are more spread out and the streets are far less crowded, giving you more time to appreciate your surroundings. Start on the East side, where you'll get your shopping fix early at the famous Bloomingdale's, then pick up some edible delights at Dylan's Candy Store, right across the street. For a historic site that many tourists tend to miss, check out the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum, which takes you through the halls of a 19th-century day hotel. Further up on the East side, you'll find every art you were hoping to see with galleries dotting the area and famous museums like the Whitney, the Frick Collection, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Guggenheim. Once you've gotten your art fix for the day, wander into Central Park, which you could probably spend an entire day and more in, wandering its trails and contemplating its many statues. Break through the park to the West side, where you can get some more history and science at the Natural History Museum and its next-door neighbor the New-York Historical Society. There are some great restaurants on both sides of the park, so just wander and you're sure to hit something that sounds delicious. End your night at Lincoln Center, where you can take in a ballet, or at the Metropolitan Opera. Dizzy's Jazz Club at Columbus Circle is also a fun way to find drinks and music.
The very top of Manhattan is the least inhabited with tourists, but that doesn't mean you can't spend part of your staycation around there. One of the best parks in the city is Riverside Park, which runs along the Hudson River on the West. If you're feeling contemplative, head to Riverside Church, which is another historic building with grand gothic architecture. Another church in the area is the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, the largest cathedral in the world. If your interests are more academic, Columbia University and the City College of New York are both within walking distance of one another and also display grand architecture while offering quiet walking space; you might even get to take in a free lecture or performance at one of their auditoriums. There are also some museum sites to visit - just because they're out of the way doesn't mean they're not worth the trek: the Cloisters is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art featuring Medieval arts, the Morris-Jumel Mansion is the oldest house in Manhattan, and the Dyckman Farmhouse is from the colonial era. If you head to Harlem, you can discover the Apollo Theater, the Jazz Museum, and the Studio Museum, plus some delicious eats.
There's nothing wrong with taking a staycation and after you've traversed the entire city, you'll learn so much more than you ever thought you could about your hometown. Try not checking your map on the phone for a while and head through the streets blind - sometimes the best surprises happen when you're not expecting them. Have you ever taken a staycation in the Big Apple? Let us know and tell us your thoughts in the comments box below!