Spring is a traditionally popular season to visit New York City after it’s thawed from winter but before the infamous summer humidity sets in. Pre-pandemic, this seasonal shift marked the annual uptick of tourism in the Big Apple, but 2021 looks different, of course. Much of the city has reopened after shuttering for safety just over a year ago, and today it is once again home to thousands of businesses and attractions ready to welcome visitors. But with many travel restrictions still in place all over the world, the tourists aren’t here to be welcomed just yet.
Luckily, this presents a very rare opportunity for New Yorkers: a much emptier city to enjoy on our own. And with some experts predicting a slump in the city’s tourism until at least 2025, it’s our job as locals to help our neighbors survive and the culture thrive. So if you’re looking to get off Zoom and get out of your apartment, here are a few classic New York City attractions and events to help you play hometown tourist:
Get a Bird’s Eye View of Manhattan
Lines for the Top of the Rock Observatory at Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building’s observation decks usually snake around the block, but right now you can book tickets in advance and take in breathtaking panoramic views up to 102 stories above the sidewalk without the out-of-town crowds.
Book a Staycation
We’re all craving a getaway after spending so much time at home this past year, and New Yorkers are especially lucky to share a city with many fun, luxurious hotels. The historic lack of bookings from tourists means you’ll find low rates for nights at favorites like The Standard High Line, or you can try new ones for your friends before they come visit like the almost-open Ace Hotel in Brooklyn.
Take In the Great Works
Most of us avoid the crowds that wash over Manhattan’s Museum Mile when the weather warms but now is your chance to see some of the world’s most-famous works without craning your neck. The Met, Guggenheim, and dozens of other art institutions all over the city currently require reserving tickets online and are operating at limited capacities for safety, in turn making it easier to snag a prime view of your favorite Picasso.
Stop and Smell the Cherry Blossoms
It’s cherry blossom season at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and while the Sakura Matsuri festival appears to still be on hold this year, that won’t stop Mother Nature. Go a few times throughout the month as the trees bloom all April and peak towards the end of the month, and be sure to explore what else is in bloom.
Plot Your Own Food Tour
Peter Luger’s. Balthazar. Katz’s. Come spring most locals wouldn’t dare brave the crowds at these high-profile eateries, but now you’ll just be sharing socially distanced space with your fellow New Yorkers. Make an afternoon of it and take a friend on a food tour of some favorites—we suggest one for your sweet tooth that will take you from the original Magnolia Bakery, to Dominique Ansel, to Levain.