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By Sarita Dan

There’s a lot to do in this City for New Yorkers and visitors alike…no doubt about it.

Guide books are filled with requisite sites that tourists are supposed to visit–and that few residents actually ever go out of their way to experience, unless they have friends or family in from out of town.

Seriously, when was the last time you went to the Statue of Liberty? I haven’t been there since maybe the second grade. Empire State Building? Times Square? Only when I pass by to get from point A to point B. Even walking the once exhilarating High Line has become so 2010 to me. Does this make me a jaded New Yorker? I think not.

There are things to experience here that are so uniquely New York, they never lose their luster for me and my friends; experiences we love sharing. So for those visitors and even residents who crave authenticity, I’ve put together a few of my favorites. What makes them special is the undeniably native vibe that’s guaranteed to put you in a New York State of Mind.

Take a Fad Exercise Class

Image courtesy of Pari Dukovic

Image courtesy of Pari Dukovic

Fad exercise classes are not exclusive to New York by any means. But here, they take on an intensity that’s off the charts. Just picture all those super-focused, put-together, revved-up New Yorkers you see whizzing down the street, making deals on their cell phone while juggling the paper, eating breakfast and gulping down a cup of coffee, all at a record breaking pace. Now try to imagine those same hype- kinetic people in work-out clothes, sweating their butts off as they spin away to the latest techno beats. Yeah…it’s that intense!

This City is all about intensity, and nowhere is that more evident than at one of the many trendy work-out classes that have cropped up over the last few years. Sure you can take a Bar Method, Zumba or spin class in your own hometown of who-knows-where. But I guarantee your energy will be kicked up to levels you never imagined when you work out New York style.

There are hundreds of $30+ per class exercise studios in NYC and usually all with a waiting list that possibly exceeds the number of people in your hometown. To really witness this unique level of NYC energy, I suggest signing up to take a SoulCycle spin. That is, if you can actually get in.

Not Your Childhood Roller-skating Experience

Image courtesy of All Posters

Image courtesy of All Posters

Any guide book worth its salt will tell you to go to Central Park when visiting here. This iconic “must-see” is truly one of New York’s, if not the country’s, great treasures. But my favorite part of Central Park is not the ever-popular pond, or the band shell or the infamous Sheep Meadow. What I love most is the kick-ass roller-skating circle that really gives the Park some authentic City soul.

Every Sunday–from Spring through Fall–an incredibly eclectic group of New Yorkers gather together to roller-skate, dance and just celebrate the day from dawn to dusk. The cast of characters is straight out of a movie. It’s a scene unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed anywhere I’ve traveled to…and I mean anywhere. There’s no way to do it justice—it has to be experienced. The absolute abundance of joy that emanates from this makeshift rink is intoxicating and infectious. The last time I went to see the roller-skating spectacle I planned to stay only a few minutes. Three hours later, I was still rocking and rolling.

Chinatown on Christmas Eve

Image courtesy of the Chinese Restaurant Association of the United States

Image courtesy of the Chinese Restaurant Association of the United States

It’s no secret that Jews and Chinese food go together like peanut butter and jelly. These two completely divergent ethnic groups have managed to form a unique cultural bond. For many a Jewish family I know, including my own, ordering Chinese food for dinner is a more than a weekly staple.

However, on Christmas Eve when the rest of the world is celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the Jews and Chinese come together for their own celebratory feast. While this phenomenon is not restricted to New York City, I think we’ve managed to elevate this tradition to Family Holiday status.

Just try getting a table at Fuleen Seafood or Joe’s Shanghai on Christmas Eve; your chances at winning the Powerball are better! Even if you don’t like Chinese food, it’s worth a visit to Chinatown on Christmas Eve. It’s more of an authentically New York City experience than going to see the gigantic twinkling tree at Rockefeller Center.

Bagels + Lox

Image courtesy of Ink and Voice

Image courtesy of Ink and Voice

Yes, most guidebooks suggest you try a bagel and lox when in New York… and this recommendation is one I think is 100% right. But I suggest doing what a lot of carb-conscious locals do: Get your bagel “scooped”, with schmear and all the trimmings. Trust me on this…just go ahead and order it this way.

Scooped or not, New York City is world renown for having the best bagels…. and that is just a simple fact.

 Featured image courtesy of Andriy Prokopenko

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