If you’re determined not to spend all of your time in Manhattan playing tourist, you’ll appreciate this insider information on where to find New York City neighborhood favorites that don’t attract a lot of outside attention. Navigating your way through the tourist traps in this metropolitan maze requires a coherent game plan, so focus in on these little known enclaves to get in the zone and become part of the flow of the diversified Manhattan lifestyle.
The fascinating thing about Manhattan is how many different personalities it embraces so seamlessly. From the frenzied energy of Wall Street to the laid-back open-air concerts in Central Park, this action-packed island can take you from the heights of fashion to the depths of slumming in record time. China Town, Little Italy, Harlem, the Meat Packing District, Broadway and Madison Avenue are all examples of Manhattan’s multiple personalities that beg for attention, all you have to do is decide which one to explore next.
Savvy travelers who take advantage of Hostelbookers.com know that Hotel 17, just a few blocks from Union Station, is the place in Manhattan to hang your hat without emptying your wallet. Their comfortable air-conditioned rooms have personal wash basins and the shared bathrooms are kept spotlessly clean. The front desk is open 24-7 and you can use the self-catering facilities to warm up some leftovers or whip up a little breakfast.
Exotic Budget Dining
Rumored to be as addicting as crack, the authentic Belgian fries served by Pommes Frites at 123 2nd Avenue on the Lower East Side should come with a warning label. Their double-fry technique creates a potato wedge that’s crispy outside, creamy inside and utterly irresistible. Forget the ketchup, these delicious creations are fit to be dipped only in such exotic condiments as spicy mustards, tart vinegar dressings, sweet /sour peanut satay and spicy hot Thai sauce. Since there are so few seats at this always crowded neighborhood favorite, take a stroll up the street to Cooper Square where you can indulge in some first-rate people watching while devouring your delicious discovery.
In the midst of Manhattan’s concrete jungle you’ll find an oasis of farm fresh bounty every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at the Union Square Greenmarket. Open from 8 AM to 6 PM, you’ll find more than juicy produce, there are divine offerings from bakers, winemakers, florists, ice cream vendors and gourmet cheese producers all arranged in colorful displays that are a feast for the senses.
The Neighborhood Late-Night Hangout
Unlike most of the snazzy bars in the Meatpacking District, the Gaslight Lounge has no line, no entrance fee and no dress code, but it does have tasty nibbles and a swinging happy hour from 5 to 7. An ideal place to start and/or finish an evening on the town, you can curl up on an overstuffed couch between dances and stay as late as you like. The frivolous theme and avant Garde atmosphere conjures up images of partying in Manhattan during the Roaring Twenties.
Laugh till you Cry
Don’t leave Manhattan without spending an evening at the National Comedy Theatre where audience participation brings improvisational comedy to a new level. Fun but never raunchy, these performances are suitable for all ages and it’s only $15.00 entry fee with no drink minimum. The audience is encouraged to pick the games, call the fouls, decide the winners and award the prizes in a zany format that resembles “Who’s Line is it Anyway?”
EDITOR’S NOTE: I am very excited to read all these insider’s tips to traveling around Manhattan on a budget since I will be making my first trip to New York City in late 2013! Can’t wait to check out some of these amazing, budget-friendly places!