Ascending the Empire State Building, ferrying over to Ellis Island, and dashing around all the museums feels obligatory for a nyc tourist, but I don’t think it gives you a real feel for the city. The best way to experience the flavor of nyc is through all the crazy characters that populate it. When you have so many different worlds jammed together on one island you’re always bound to have some good people watching. (See: Humans of New York)
I’d tell nyc tourists they’d likely have the most fun spending a few hours just sitting on a park bench reading or writing in a notebook. Nine times out of ten someone will amble over and strike up a conversation with you. They’ll have some crazy stories (often dubious) or they’ll listen to your rattle on about some topic your friends have long wearied of.
Or, if you aren’t interested in some man’s story about the East Village in the 70’s or another’s claim that they grew up with Lena Dunham—simple people watching never fails to be entertaining.
Recently I was reading and a fellow in a wheelchair came up to talk. However, he was only able to communicate by typing into a computer, which vocalized his questions in a woman’s english accent. The conversation didn’t have the best flow, but it was definitely unique.
And a weathered old bench to watch it all go by.