The most remarkable thing about New York—and there are many remarkable things about this wonderful city—is that it can be anything to anyone and everything to everyone. It’s a shapeshifter, a chameleon, the ultimate democratic destination where no matter who you are, you can find somewhere to feel at home. And it’s all due to its dizzying concentration of neighborhoods.
For a sample of just how quickly the NYC landscape changes, start at Exclusive Resorts’ Park Avenue Place vacation residences in Midtown East (all 14 of which are fresh off a renovation) and go a few dozen blocks in any direction to find yourself in another world. Head south and you’re in Murray Hill, dining on the best Indian food you’ve ever had outside of India; go north, and you’re on the Upper East Side, strolling Museum Row and sipping martinis at Bemelmans Bar; head west and you’re in Columbus Circle at the edge of Central Park; and if you’re traversing east, you’ll end up in another borough entirely, crossing Roosevelt Island to the cool Queens neighborhood of Long Island City (more on that later).
Of course, for the nascent New York visitor, there’s a certain migration that takes place in this sea of mini-districts, from Midtown to Flatiron, up to Fifth Avenue, and down to the Village and Soho. But what happens when you’ve been to New York more than a few times, and you’re looking for that elusive, local, “secret New York” experience? Truth be told, there are hardly any secrets in New York anymore—not for always-in-the-know New Yorkers anyway. But for even the frequent visitor, there’s a whole world of memorable surprises to be uncovered. Secrets like the best place for dinner with a view (no, it’s not the Rainbow Room anymore) or the best sweets to indulge in (cronuts are so five years ago) or the museums you have to visit to discover the next big artists (we’re not talking about MoMA). Once you’ve been around the block a few times, you might just be ready to check out a brand new range of neighborhoods that will have you loving NYC in a whole new way. Here, with the help of Exclusive Resorts’ all-knowing Concierges, we take you on four perfect days in four neighborhoods you’ve probably never seen before.
Long Island City
Just one subway stop from Grand Central Station, Queens’ most dynamic neighborhood has gone from industrial desert to artistic epicenter in a single decade. “Long Island City has a whole vibe of its own,” says Sergio Martinez, an Exclusive Resorts Concierge who was born and raised in Queens. To experience this vibe at its best, we start at PS1, MoMA’s smaller, cooler art museum set in a former public school. During summer weekends, its giant courtyard turns into one big party, DJs and all; year-round, its exhibits span everything from contemporary paintings and sculptures to architecture and design. It’s a perfect intro to this neighborhood, which has, in the last few years, seen so many chic—and diverse—restaurants and bars that even the locals have a hard time keeping track.
“Just walking down my street, I can pick from Argentinian arepas, Brazilian food, Colombian, French, and a fish market,” says Septimia Lechintan, Regional Residence Manager and Park Avenue Place Concierge, who has lived in the diverse neighborhood for nine years. From PS1, we head west to Vernon Boulevard, where we struggle to decide between authentic Italian at Manducatis, magnifique French fare at Tournesol Bistro, and Michelin-starred Mexican at Casa Enrique. We opt for Chef Cosme Aguilar’s south-of-the-border spectacular and don’t regret it for a minute as we dig into mole de Piaxtla—a rich sauce originating in the town of Puebla and made from seven different chiles, plus raisins, chocolates, and plantains—and sip on spicy Chimbobo margaritas.
Heading farther west we arrive at LIC’s most postcard-worthy site: Gantry Plaza State Park. It’s hard to imagine this pristine stretch was once a blighted industrial complex. Today, it’s surrounded by brand-new glistening towers and overlooks Midtown Manhattan across the East River. A giant Pepsi sign—a beloved landmark for many New Yorkers—is the last remnant of the warehouses that once lined this picturesque coast now covered in greenery and teak lounge chairs for sun-soaking all year. As the shadows grow long, however, we have one more view to check out: the cityscape from the rooftop bar at Boro, a trendy new hotel just a handful of blocks away where we sip Negronis and pick out our favorite Manhattan landmarks—from One World Trade to the George Washington Bridge—as the sky falls dark.
Surf City, U.S.A., might sound like California, but turns out New York City has a beach bum’s paradise all of its own. Of course, the sand at Rockaway Beach has always been there, but only recently has this coastal Queens neighborhood become the daycation getaway New Yorkers crave. To get there, we skip the train or traffic-jammed drive and hit the water right away by taking the hour-long ferry ride from Wall Street. We pass the Statue of Liberty and Governor’s Island, zip under the enormous Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and speed past Coney Island before we land on the sands of Rockaway.
Nearly everything here is accessed by a casual saunter along the boardwalk, which stretches for miles along the coastline. First, it’s a stop at hang-ten hangout Locals Collective, a café, surf shop, and art gallery all in one. We sip watermelon juice and browse the surfboard selection while plotting out our day before heading back into the sun and walking a few blocks to Rockaway Brewing Co.—a favorite haunt during all seasons for its amber, stout, and fruity beer (the brewery also has an outpost in Long Island City). Back on the boardwalk, we head south among a sea of bikinis, bicycles, surfboards, and sandals to arrive at Ripper’s, an al fresco burger joint where the “beach juice” (a frozen concoction resembling sangria) is sweet, the picnic tables are electric pink and blue, and the vibes are always cool.
You know Soho. You know NoMad. But do you know Dumbo? According to Lechintan, the nascent Brooklyn neighborhood is one of the insider NYC destinations she sends venturing Members to most. “It’s one thing I always tell people to put on their to-do list,” she says. “It’s a really cool experience.”
It starts with a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge—an iconic New York experience if ever there was one. Then, a short walk east takes us toward the Manhattan Bridge, which is where Dumbo gets its name from: the acronym means “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.” Here, the neighborhood has been revitalized, yet retains its quintessentially Brooklyn vibe, brownstones, cobblestone streets, and all. We can’t help but take a few selfies on Washington Street, where the rows of red-brick buildings perfectly frame the bridge—a favorite on Instagram—before we cross over to the waterfront, where Empire Stores, an old warehouse turned new shopping complex, has everything you could want to eat, drink, or buy: jewelry from local designer Miansai, watches from Detroit game-changer Shinola, and an upscale food hall featuring stalls by celebrity names like David Bourke and Pat LaFrieda from the New York know-it-alls behind Time Out magazine. We linger on the Time Out terrace, admiring the views of Manhattan and Jane’s Carousel (a historic landmark that will soon celebrate its centennial), before heading over to Cecconi’s for upscale pizza and old-school charm.
Our bellies stuffed with burrata, wild mushrooms, and parmigiano, we walk off some calories with a leisurely stroll to 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. Opened in 2017, the hotel is a gathering place for locals and travelers alike—it put this neighborhood on the map when it debuted its rooftop terrace and excellent collection of restaurants that even includes a lobby farm stand. But this day, like any good day in New York, is all about views so we head straight to the top to Harriet’s Rooftop & Lounge to order a round of “wellness cocktails” (concoctions like vodka-cucumber-lime and tequila-watermelon-jalapeño have us almost feeling like we’re being healthy) and watch the Brooklyn Bridge and, just across it, Manhattan, abuzz with energy.
Exclusive Resorts Members rarely make it north of Columbus Circle, Sergio Martinez tells us. But there’s one memorable neighborhood near the tip-top of Manhattan that is a must for those in search of a perfect “local’s day.” Washington Heights has long had plenty worth heading north for—culture, history, and spectacular views—but with the forthcoming release of local resident Lin Manuel-Miranda’s film, In the Heights, based on the Hamilton creator’s 2005 musical, the neighborhood is suddenly on everyone’s radar.
We emerge from the A train at 190th Street to find a charming tree-lined neighborhood—like the old New York you see in movies. “There’s a real sense of quiet up there,” says Jeffrey Behrens, an Exclusive Resorts Concierge who has lived in WaHi, as it’s known to locals, for five years. “But you still get the sensibility of being in a classic New York setting.”
We’re at the southern entrance of Fort Tryon Park, a spectacularly verdant retreat created by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in the early 1900s and designed by the Olmsted Brothers (better known for their work as the architects of Central Park). We walk north through the garden’s rows of giant hibiscuses and violet crocuses and roses in every shade of red and pink, then wind through towering linden trees with views over the Hudson River and across to the Jersey Palisades, a lush stretch of land that Rockefeller also purchased to forever preserve the views.
Farther north in Fort Tryon, we find a medieval structure right in the middle of the trees. Yet another Rockefeller creation, it’s the Cloisters, the Metropolitan Museum of Arts’ branch housing more than 2,000 works of medieval European art and artifacts. We linger in the museum’s gardens—themselves a display of medieval horticulture—before grabbing a quick cab down to 181st for speakeasy-inspired sips at Uptown Garrison, like the Business (a riff on the Prohibition-Era Bees Knees gin cocktail using lime instead of lemon) and the Oaxacan Old Fashioned (a twist on the bourbon classic using mezcal). Then it’s one last view to top off our day: Down to 175th to cross the High Bridge on foot. New York’s oldest standing bridge, built in 1839, it was closed for 40 years, until in 2015, when it opened as a pedestrian walk across the Harlem River. It’s a little-known stretch of past and present—some even say it makes for better photos than the Brooklyn Bridge. And it’s one of the city’s most magnificent secrets—whether you’re a local or a visitor who truly loves New York.