When exploring a new city, there's nothing quite like getting tips and advice from someone who calls it home. That's why, in this series, we turn to the locals who know just as much about what can't be missed as they do about the unexpected delights that make a place so special.
It can be hard to stand out in a city of more than 8 million people, but not for Gil. A veteran USA Guided Tours NY tour guide with over a decade of experience, Gil has lived in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood for 20-plus years and wouldn’t have it any other way. He can typically be found wearing his signature backwards newsboy hat and Doc Martens, radiating classic New York cool.
Gil spends his days getting visitors acquainted with the Big Apple, spilling anything a traveler might want to know. On his tours, he shares little-known facts about the city, recommends local seasonal events, explains how to score discount show tickets, and even lets travelers in on well-kept secrets.
Top Picks (Plus How to Visit)
Central Park: Covering 6% of all of Manhattan, Central Park has something for every traveler. “From kid-friendly areas like the sailboat pond, the petting zoo, and more than 25 playgrounds, to a bike route around the inner circumference where no cars are allowed, there’s so much to do,” Gil says. His personal park favorites include Belvedere Castle and the Falconer statue.
The Statue of Liberty: Lady Liberty is considered a must-see, and Gil agrees. It’s best to book tickets up to four months in advance to climb up to the crown, but for a last-minute viewing, Gil recommends going as early in the day as possible to beat the crowds and warmer afternoon weather.
Broadway: “There’s only one Broadway in the world,” Gil says. “With about 40 Broadway theaters in the Theater District, every night there’s a show going on.” For discounted rates or last-minute tickets, he suggests checking out show lotteries online or hitting up one of the three TKTS ticket booths in the city.
The Brooklyn Bridge: While this East River icon offers a great way to see the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, and other landmarks, the bridge’s popularity draws big crowds. “It gets ridiculous,” Gil says. “Head over in the early morning, or you can do it late at night—remember, it’s open 24 hours a day.”
Flushing’s Chinatown: Somewhat of a hidden gem, the vibrant Chinatown in Queens’ Flushing neighborhood is almost always passed up for Manhattan’s version. “Queens is probably one of the most ethnically diverse boroughs in the city, and the Chinatown over there is incredible.”
The Hudson River: Taking a bike ride up the Hudson River is one of Gil’s favorite ways to take in the city. “Just rent a bike and ride! Go all the way to the tip of the island, under the George Washington Bridge, and up north. The bike paths are well maintained, and it’s a beautiful trip.”
Coney Island: This beachside Brooklyn amusement area is just a subway ride away from downtown and Gil always recommends spending a day here. “See the boardwalk, take a dip, put your feet in the Atlantic Ocean, ride the Cyclone Roller Coaster. Just go!” You can also grab a bite to eat at the original 1916 Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand.
Gil highlights the diversity, convenient transportation, and the arts as main reasons why NYC is unlike anywhere else in the world—but even aside from all of that, the city’s food scene really sets it apart. “Imagine all the different types of foods you could try,” Gil says of New York, believed to be home to speakers of about 800 languages.
Some of Gil’s go-to foodie spots include 9th Avenue, where you can walk up the street and find 20 different types of food in one stretch; the Tex-Mex fusion of El Centro in Hell’s Kitchen; the Spanish tapas at Boqueria in Soho; East Village’s low-key sushi spot, Takahachi; and the well-known Dosa Man of Washington Square Park. He’s also a big fan of his own neighborhood bodega (every NYC local has one), the Amish Market.
Scoring tickets to live TV tapings: “People don't realize most TV-show tickets are free,” Gil says. Check online in advance, or visit studios in-person to score tickets to The Daily Show, The Rachael Ray Show, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and more.
Planning around free museum entry: Many museums offer free admission on certain days, including the Museum of Modern Art (Fridays 4 to 8pm) and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum (Tuesdays 5 to 8pm).
Getting around: Travel by bus or subway, and when in doubt, ask a local for directions. “Don’t believe everything you see on TV,” Gil says. “New Yorkers can be very kind and helpful.”
Explore NYC with an expert
With Gil or another in-the-know pro, you'll see the best of the city.
Make the most of your time in the city that never sleeps on a guided tour of NYC’s top attractions. Travel by both boat (seasonal) and bus as you swing by the 9/11 Memorial, Central Park, Rockefeller Center and more. Then hop aboard a luxury boat for a sightseeing cruise past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, complete with stunning views of the world-famous skyline and Brooklyn Bridge.
Diana Fleming is a copywriter at TripAdvisor who’s been writing professionally for more than 10 years. She recently moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to a quiet Northern California mountain town, and as the mother of a curious toddler, she’s always looking for fun, creative ways for her family to experience the world—in places big and small.