Interning in New York: How to navigate NYC like a native

Interning in New York: How to navigate NYC like a native

Contributor and New York native Julia Donheiser shares some of the best, low-key places in New York that won't break your intern budget.

The Big Apple. Photo by Julia Donheiser. 

I’ve grown up in New York City my entire life – yet that name only seems to apply when the summertime heat hits and suddenly you find yourself in an overheated train station and the trash actually smells like a heap of big, rotting apples.

Perhaps the romanticism of a summer in New York overshadows the pricey avocado toast and NYU student housing. It’s easy to get caught up in the trendiness of city life when your Instagram feed and Facebook events dictate your day to day activities.

But there are still a handful of places and activities that haven’t been touched by the seasonal influx of people. And, like most good things in life, they’re all (almost) free. From one New Yorker to you, here are some suggestions on how to get away from the crowd and enjoy five boroughs on the intern budget you’d rather not think about.

The Lot Radio

The Lot Radio is an independent radio station broadcasting out of a reclaimed shipping container on a triangular plot of land in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. That might not sound like much – but they’ve filled the space with chairs, a refurbished school bus for chilling inside on rainier days and fire pits. They also operate a café out of half the shipping container.

They have DJs 24/7. It’s a great spot for discovering new music and DJs (they’ve featured people like Nina Kraviz and Four Tet). Unlike most music venues in the City, the Lot is completely free (save for food and drinks) and you’re still able to have a conversation during the show.

Yoga to the People – St. Mark’s Place

Regardless of your athletic abilities, Yoga to the People on St. Marks Place is a great place to experience the communal relaxation the activity brings. Instead of strictly focusing on alignment and technique, instructors emphasize finding some piece of mind by the end of the hour.

The donation-based studio tends to be packed to the walls, lending way to a humbling practice where you learn to embrace your sweat as well as your neighbor’s. The Vinyasa Flow classes are as much about focusing your own thoughts as they are about building a community.

Zaragoza Mexican Deli & Grocery

A meal from Zaragoza Mexican Deli. Photo courtesy of Jennie C. from Yelp

If you want amazing Mexican food for under $10, check out Zaragoza Deli off 13th Street and Avenue A. The bodega is an East Village staple that hasn’t been fully discovered by the wave of young people moving in – which means you’ll get fast service and a seat inside. You can also opt to get your food to go and eat in Tompkins Square Park a couple of blocks downtown.

Day Hike to Breakneck Ridge 

Just one of the panoramic views of the Hudson River from during Breakneck Ridge hike. Photo by Julia Donheiser.

Breakneck Ridge is an awesome weekend trip only an hour and a half from the city. Metro North, the trains that operate out of Grand Central, stops at the trailhead on weekends. The four-mile hike in Cold Spring, New York involves lots of scrambling up rocks and insane views of the Hudson River. Be sure to wear layers and pack a lunch (or two, or three) since you’ll want to rest at each of the view points as you make your way up the 1,442-foot ascent.

Ray’s Candy Store

A photo of Ray, the owner of Ray’s Candy Store. Photo courtesy of Ray’s Candy Store.

 Another East Village classic, Ray’s Candy Store is run by an Iranian immigrant with a big heart. I must disclose that I’m biased towards the shop’s pistachio and strawberry soft serve, as most of my friends have worked late night shifts and given me free heaps of the stuff.

Still, it’s hard to argue against the 24-hour store covered in photos of Ray throughout the years. (There are even some photos from the time some customers hired dancers for him on New Years Eve and danced on the counter.) Hot dogs, beignets (the smallest order is 12), ice cream – this place hits the spot. And the staff is great.


Of course, there are tons more things to do in New York City over the summer. These are just some of the places I hold close to my heart – both because of their authenticity and prices. The only other advice I can give is to get an unlimited MetroCard or a bike and explore.

Julia Donheiser

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