5 Underrated New York Neighborhoods

Every once in awhile I feel especially inspired to write about my home away from travel. That would be New York City, where I’ve been based for just over three years now. I’ve lived in a few different neighborhoods but some of my favorite NYC spots are rather underrated, even among locals.

Here are 5 Underrated New York Neighborhoods Worth a Visit

1) SoHo Beyond Broadway

I have to specify the “beyond Broadway” part because many tourists identify SoHo with shopping and most of the mass-consumer clothing and accessories stores are conveniently located along Broadway. However, if you walk west you will reach West Broadway in about 5 minutes depending on your speed. This is where my favorite part of SoHo begins. There is less foot traffic here and you are more likely to score bargains from outdoor vendors. It’s the perfect combination of shopping, international cuisine and party venues.

up-and-coming new york neighborhoods

2) NoLIta

To say that I’m slightly obsessed with NoLIta is a major understatement. It’s been one of my favorite neighborhoods since I moved here in May, 2009 and I have yet to outgrow it’s quiet charm. Unlike Little Italy and Soho, NoLIta gets far less foot traffic, which is hard to come by in the intimidating concrete jungle. It’s close to several other downtown neighborhoods including East Village, West Village and even Union Square. My favorite time to stroll through this area is during the day when most people are either at work or out to lunch.

3) The Upper (Upper) West Side

I’m adding an “Upper” because I’m talking about an area that often goes by two names. The the top area of Central Park on the Upper West Side (110 and below) and the Columbia area, which extends to Morningside Heights. I lived on 109th and Amsterdam for about a year and it was amazing to have Riverside Park to my left and Central Park to my right. Columbia was steps away so always had plenty of food and coffee options. It is much quieter than any of the downtown or midtown neighborhoods and is still accessible to multiple subway lines.

5 Underrated New York Neighborhoods

4) Alphabet City

It took me a good six months to fully appreciate Alphabet City but it is now a neighborhood I recommend to other travelers visiting New York. Besides being a short walk from both East Village and the Lower East Side, Alphabet City has its own vibe which is seen through their weekend brunch party spots, international restaurants and local bars. Alphabet City has a very “bohemian” history and plays a major role in the popular 90’s musical “RENT”. Most the the action these days centers around Avenues A and B and Tompkins Square Park.

5) DUMBO/Brooklyn Heights

Some people hear the word Brooklyn and immediately shut down. For hard-core Manhattanites, Brooklyn is a place that makes no sense but for a bohemian traveler, Brooklyn is a prime destination for global art and culture. I’ve decided to combine these two neighborhoods into one because of geographical location. Dumbo has more of an urban set-up with the Brooklyn Bridge Park as a scenic backdrop. Brooklyn Heights is much more family oriented with a view of South Street Seaport. The brownstone buildings are stunning and the neighborhoods is fairly quiet.

guide to DUMBO

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  1. Antoinette | love.antoinette@gmail.com September 3, 2012  4:29 pm Reply

    I think all those neighborhoods you mentioned are actually rather popular in terms of New Yorkers, and even travelers alike - those neighborhoods where everyone seems to flock to. When I think of "underrated" in terms of NYC neighborhoods, I think of Inwood and the area around Fort Tryon Park in upper Manhattan, Riverdale and Pelham Bay in the Bronx, Astoria and Sunnyside in Queens, Red Hook, Bay Ridge, and Greenpoint in Brooklyn. These neighborhoods are true gems within NYC as well that not a lot of people are willing to venture out to.
    Oh and the main Columbia University campus is still considered part of the UWS. Washington Heights usually starts way higher. Some argue it's after 145th Street, others say it's after 155th Street.
    Antoinette | love.antoinette@gmail.com recently posted..Significantly Changing My Spending HabitsMy Profile

    • Megan Eileen McDonough September 4, 2012  9:22 am Reply

      Hey Antoinette, thanks for your feedback. I do agree with you on the underrated neighborhoods you mentioned for sure. I was sort of aiming this piece toward people who have never visited NYC at all. You are right about Columbia - that was actually a huge type and I fixed it :)
      Megan Eileen McDonough recently posted..5 Underrated New York NeighborhoodsMy Profile

  2. Cathy Sweeney September 7, 2012  12:29 pm Reply

    NYC neighborhoods are so wonderfully distinctive, aren't they. I love hanging out on the Upper West Side and in the past couple of years have explore the LES and surrounding areas more. Next time, I want to get over to Dumbo!
    Cathy Sweeney recently posted..Ghost on the CoastMy Profile

  3. Pete September 7, 2012  8:14 pm Reply

    DUMBO and the UWS underrated? I find that somewhat hard to believe...
    Pete recently posted..Munich in PhotosMy Profile

    • Megan Eileen McDonough September 9, 2012  8:13 am Reply

      What I mean is - these are specific areas of otherwise popular neighborhoods that people tend to skip over...probably should have made that more clear! So what I call the Upper Upper West Side is in the early 100s, where most travelers to NYC may walk through the 70s or go straight to Harlem :)
      Megan Eileen McDonough recently posted..Awesome Norwegian Art OdditiesMy Profile

  4. Pingback : The Radar: Under-appreciated NYC Neighborhoods, The ‘Real’ Cape Town, Staying Healthy Abroad – Intelligent Travel

  5. Abby September 15, 2012  8:11 pm Reply

    Good ones! I went to grad school at Columbia and lived at 119th and Amsterdam. I loved it up there! And I love NoLita.

  6. Adama Sesay November 1, 2012  10:16 pm Reply

    Definitely love DUMBO/Brooklyn Heights...so pretty

  7. Jeremy December 14, 2012  9:43 am Reply

    I was just in NYC for a couple of days and was staying in East Village which I always enjoy. I used to stay at numerous friends' places in Mid Town but I hate it there, too crazy.

    I like Brooklyn a lot and haven't made it to Dumbo yet but it's on the list for my next New York Minute. Great post!

    • Megan Eileen McDonough December 16, 2012  2:32 pm Reply

      I live in East Village Jeremy so you were in my neighborhood :) I agree, I'm not a fan of midtown. Good for you for branching out and exploring new areas.
      Megan Eileen McDonough recently posted..Sunny Sightings in IrelandMy Profile

  8. Caro January 21, 2013  12:14 pm Reply

    Wow, looks like one needs a thesis to keep up with all the ins and outs of NY neighbourhood; I love it! Planning on going in the fall, this post is definitely bookmarked!

  9. James January 21, 2013  4:30 pm Reply

    I love the NYC poetry scene. Have you been to any of the slams? Also goveners island is worth a visit

    • Megan Eileen McDonough January 22, 2013  9:35 am Reply

      I went to Gov Island for the first time this summer. It's such a great spot for biking!

  10. Will Wolf March 26, 2013  11:39 am Reply

    As much as we all enjoy travel, I think most Americans eventually realize: NYC is probably the best city there is. Nice post!
    Will Wolf recently posted..AbandonedMy Profile

  11. Hogga July 22, 2013  4:42 pm Reply

    i'll have to check these neighbourhoods out the next time im in NYC. Thanks for the tips!

    • Megan Eileen McDonough July 27, 2013  8:33 am Reply

      LES is so cool! Very glad to actually live in this hood. I'd love to know your favorite spots!


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