What is the most non-touristy thing to do when visiting New York City?
Answer: A visit to the Cooper Hewitt Museum is an absolute must. It's probably well known to locals, but it was very sparsely attended during my recent visit and we had a tour guide all to ourselves for free.
It has many fascinating features and inventive ways to think about sustainability. For example the decomposing burial suit. It might be grim to think about it but we're not exactly eco-friendly when we commit ourselves to the ground.
I also loved this electronic wallpaper room that allowed you to create your own designs and logos. It's quite simplistic. The 007 wallpaper took me all of 20 seconds to make (as I'm sure you can tell) but the effect is fantastic and makes for a great Instagram photo.
Best Non-touristy places to Eat in New York
If you're looking for a place to eat near the Cooper Hewitt Museum then the Le Botaniste at 833 Lexington Ave is great value for money. It's also not at all over-crowded and I have no idea why. We went twice and it was empty.
However, the food was delicious made of plant-based prescriptions bowls with combinations of cereals, veggie proteins, seeds, and vegetables.
Surprising not overly busy: Central Park
I was surprised at how empty Central Park was. We went round on the weekend, the weather was great and there was still plenty of room to set up a picnic. Dogs are kept on a leash between 9am and 9pm, so you won't have to compete with animals and owners sprinting around chasing frisbees.
Good to know:
If you're traipsing back to the hotel after hours be mindful the gates at Central Park close at 1am.
Place to ourselves
If you're looking for a quiet, non-touristy hotel in NYC, but would like to stay fairly central, then I can recommend the Freehand Hotel. It's capacious, with multiple communal rooms and bars. Even a rooftop bar. But a lot of the time it felt deserted.
It has a wonderful artisan feel. You can tell it's made by a team of creatives, for creatives.
And why not while you're there
Visit Trump Tower. Believe it or not you can just walk in. You'll have a mandatory back check but I was surprised at the ease of access. Again very few people around.
There's not much to see that's open on the ground floor. A couple of gift shops and a restaurant. But it was en-route and free. You may as well whilst you're in the neighbourhood.
Places we went to that were crowded
Grand Central Station
Grand Central station is very busy. Imagine Liverpool Street during rush hour but bigger and more aggressive. All the pubs and bars within a stone’s throw are equally busy around 5-7pm. I'd avoid that area if you're looking for a quiet drink or meal.
The Guggenheim Museum
Whilst it wasn't too busy, I found that it was quite noisy for an art gallery. The building is impressive (if you've seen Mr Poppers Penguins you'd be familiar with the elliptical stairwell that runs serpentine up 4 floors.
The Natural History Museum
Again it's a museum that's a huge tourist attraction. Sadly a bit outdated compared to modern museums. However, the dinosaur exhibit is worth the price of entry alone.