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Ask Approved: Our Top Picks for Must-Visit City Parks in the United States
There’s no doubt about it: New York City’s Central Park is impressive. An 840-acre slab of green space, right in the heart of Manhattan. But while Central Park may be the most famous of urban parks, that doesn’t mean it’s the only one worth visiting. From San Francisco to Boston, some of the United States’ most metropolitan areas are also home to some of the country’s most breathtaking bits of nature. Excluding the all-too-obvious Central Park, here are our favorites.
30. Dolores Park, San Francisco, California
Located in the Mission District’s sunny microclimate, just two blocks from the iconic Mission Dolores, this San Francisco park is a long-standing favorite amongst Bay Area locals. In recent years, foot traffic has bloomed with roughly 7,000 to 10,000 people flocking to Dolores Park on a sunny weekend day.
The city’s Recreation and Parks department notes that the nearly 16-acre park is “one of San Francisco’s most popular parks” and serves as “the vibrant heart of its equally vibrant, culturally diverse neighborhood.” With stunning views of the city, off-leash dog areas, playgrounds, tennis courts and plenty of green space to unroll a beach blanket on, Dolores Park is an all-occasion hangout spot.
29. Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C.
Located in the northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C., this park dates back to 1890. In fact, Rock Creek Park was just the third national park established by the United States government, following in the footsteps of Yellowstone and Mackinac National Park. In autumn, the valley puts on a stunning foliage show — all within miles of the National Mall.
In total, Rock Creek Park encompasses roughly 2,000 acres, and all that acreage is filled with equestrian and hiking trails, sports venues, an amphitheater, an outdoor concert venue, a golf course, a planetarium, a picnic area and more. Cultural and historic landmarks are also scattered throughout the park, with the most notable being the water-powered grist mill, Pierce Mill.
28. World’s End, Hingham, Massachusetts
Okay, so admittedly some people might consider this one a bit of a stretch. Technically, the ominously named World’s End isn’t located in Boston proper. Instead, it lies just across Boston Harbor in Hingham, Massachusetts. That means this park offers some of the best views of the Boston skyline and Emerald Necklace.
In 1889, renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted was asked to design a residential subdivision on the peninsula. As such, the park includes carriage paths — though no homes were ever erected. Composed of drumlins — elongated hills formed by the movement of glacial ice — World’s End offers sweeping grasslands and nearly five miles of tree-lined trails.
27. Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia
Occupying 30 acres of Savannah, Georgia’s historic district, Forsyth Park is perhaps best known for its fountain in the park’s north end. Added in 1858, the fountain is similar to the one located in Paris’ Place de la Concorde — probably because Parisian urban planning was all the rage at the time of the park’s construction.
Featured in films like Cape Fear (1962) and The Longest Yard (1974), the fountain’s water is dyed green each St. Patrick’s Day in honor of the city’s Irish heritage. In addition to the iconic fountain, Forsyth Park contains numerous walking paths, play areas for kids, various courts and fields and the Fragrant Garden for blind visitors.
26. LeBauer City Park, Greensboro, North Carolina
Although Greensboro’s LeBauer City Park is a mere four acres, it cost a whopping $10 million — a gift from the will of the late Carolyn LeBauer, for whom the park is named. The park’s project coordinator remarked that the new space, located near the city’s cultural center, history museum and public library, would serve as “an anchor for the cultural campus.”
Perhaps the most stunning — and recognizable — feature of the park is the Janet Echelman sculpture titled Where We Met . Hailed as the largest outdoor art installation in the Southeast, the grant-funded sculpture looks like a net of colors, measuring 200 by 130 feet, and is suspended over the park’s main lawn. Although the sculpture is made of various stronger-than-steel polyethylene compounds, it was inspired by the city’s vibrant textile industry.
25. Scioto Audubon Metro Park, The Metro Parks, Columbus, Ohio
Columbus, Ohio’s, Metro Parks are made up of 19 sprawling urban parks in and around the city. In total, the Parks encompass a staggering 27,500 acres of both land and water and touch over seven counties in Central Ohio. Chock full of trails, educational facilities and land for resource management and recreational activities, the parks system is diverse.
Although all of the parks have a unique vibe, the most metropolitan of them all is the Scioto Audubon Metro Park, which is located near Downtown Columbus in the Brewery District. As a major stopover for bird migration, the park features wetlands, in addition to a climbing wall, trails and an old water tower that melds the natural and manmade.
24. Container Park, Las Vegas, Nevada
Located in Downtown Las Vegas — the old Vegas — this park is part of the city’s ongoing effort to revitalize some off-the-Strip locales. Built using around 30 shipping containers and 41 modular cubes, the park is filled with kid-friendly play areas and 39 boutique shops, restaurants, cafes and bars.
Although it spans just 19,000 square feet, which doesn’t feel like a whole lot in the ever-expansive desert, Downtown Container Park certainly makes an impression. That impression is, in part, thanks to the reclaimed shipping containers — and thanks in part to the 55-foot-tall steel praying mantis sculpture at the entrance.
23. The Lawn on D, Boston, Massachusetts
Located on the city’s thriving waterfront, Boston’s Lawn on D bills itself as “an unforgettable venue that’s full of life.” In a sense, the Lawn has rebranded itself — more of a gathering place than your typical park. The outdoor venue boasts a pavilion, tons of green space and quite a few innovative features.
In addition to solar-powered phone chargers and food trucks, the Lawn on D provides visitors with lounge chairs, interactive art exhibitions, bocce, table tennis and free Wi-Fi. Perhaps the most recognizable (and Instagrammable) element of this South Boston staple, however, is the light-up swings, pictured here. Ever-popular, the installation, called Swing Time , is a set of swings “outfitted with solar-powered LED lights that change color when swung at varying speeds and heights.”
22. Maggie Daley Park, Chicago, Illinois
This 20-acre park is located near the shores of Lake Michigan in northeastern Grant Park and connects to Chicago’s Millennium Park via a pedestrian footbridge. Named after the city’s former first lady, the park was built where the Daley Bicentennial Plaza once stood.
In remaking the park — a process that took two years and $60 million — the city created an ice skating ribbon, climbing walls, children’s play area (complete with water features) and a garden that honors cancer survivors. One of the most stunning features of the park? The Enchanted Forest. The interconnected network of footpaths is flanked by upside-down trees and archways and features a mirror maze.
21. White River State Park, Indianapolis, Indiana
Covering 250 acres of Indianapolis, White River State Park is also in one of the city’s seven cultural districts. The park boasts the Indiana State Museum, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, the Indianapolis Zoo, beautiful gardens, sports and entertainment venues and even an IMAX Theater.
The area on which the park now stands was revitalized in the 1980s, when the good people of Indianapolis realized the Indiana Central Canal, which was never properly finished, was just sitting there, partly dug. Soon enough, the area was restored, becoming the multi-faceted park it is today. Originally, folks behind the project wanted to add something special to the park to complement the city’s skyline. Although plans for what was dubbed the Indiana Tower were drawn up, it was never built.
20. Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Featuring public art and historic homes, Fairmount Park is split into two sections — the oh-so-creatively named East Park and West Park. The Schuylkill River bisects the two sections, which together compose an area totaling a whopping 2,052 acres. As Philadelphia’s first park, Fairmount is also rich in history.
Originally, the park was divided into three sections: South Park, known for its gardens; Old Park, which encompassed several estates; and West Park, the area that contained the Philadelphia Zoo and played host to the Centennial Exposition — also known as the 1876 World’s Fair. That means it was on the grounds of Fairmount Park that such iconic items as Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, the Remington typewriter and Heinz Ketchup first debuted.
19. Queen Kapi’olani Regional Park, Honolulu, Hawaii
Known as the largest and second-oldest park in Hawaii, Queen Kapi’olani Regional Park is located in Honolulu near Kuhio Beach Park. Named after the Queen consort of King David Kalākaua, the park contains everything from soccer fields to archery ranges and hosts international rugby and lacrosse tournaments annually.
The Honolulu Cricket Club, also nestled in the park, is noted by Guinness World Records as being the oldest sporting club in the Pacific, dating back to 1893. Beyond its natural beauty and incredible vistas, the 300-acre park lures locals and tourists alike thanks to attractions such as the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Shell, an outdoor concert venue.
18. Falls Park on the Reedy, Greenville, South Carolina
In downtown Greenville’s historic West End district, outdoor enthusiasts will find themselves mesmerized by Falls Park on the Reedy, so named for its location on the Reedy River. Known as the birthplace of Greenville, the park was officially founded in 1967 when a local garden club reclaimed 26 acres of green space that’d previously been used by textile mills.
Featuring public gardens, the wall from an 18th-century grist mill, public art and even a restaurant, Falls Park offers visitors a unique mix of history and nature. Of course, the park’s namesake is also its most striking feature: The falls are made even more impressive thanks to the Liberty Bridge, a 355-foot-long suspension bridge that curves around said falls.
17. City Park, New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans’ 1,300-acre public park is reportedly the 20th-most-visited urban public park in the country. To put its size in perspective, City Park is roughly 50% larger than Central Park. Other stats? Well, the park is the 48th oldest in the United States, dating back to 1854 — although some of its residents are even older.
Known for housing the world’s oldest collection of mature oak trees, City Park’s oldest oaks are over 600 years old. That’s a lot of rings. Unfortunately, hurricanes have posed a huge threat to the green space: In 1949, one of the two “dueling oaks,” which derived their name from the fact that men would literally duel each other beneath the trees back in the 19th century, was decimated by a storm.
16. Theodore Wirth Regional Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Shared by the city of Minneapolis and the suburb Golden Valley, Theodore Wirth Regional Park is the city’s largest green space. The park was named after the former superintendent of Minneapolis parks, who served in his position for 30 years. Although Minnesota is the land of a thousand lakes, Theodore Wirth Regional Park contains just one lake, Wirth Lake, and one pond.
Its original 66 acres grew to a whopping 759 acres — and, now, it even contains two golf courses. As part of the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, the park also links the Chain of Lakes area with one of the state’s larger parkways. On the grounds, sharp-eyed visitors can spot a plaque that marks the 45-degrees latitude line, which demarcates the halfway point between the North Pole and the equator.
15. Zilker Park, Austin, Texas
Situated at the juncture of the Colorado River and Barton Creek, Zilker Park is made up of roughly 350 acres of green space that were donated to the city of Austin by a wealthy benefactor in 1917. The park’s size makes it a fitting venue for large-scale events like the ever-popular Austin City Limits Music Festival.
As more and more tech companies set up hubs in the city, Zilker is quickly becoming city-dwellers’ go-to escape. Filled with hiking and biking trails, Zilker Park also features sports fields, picnic areas, the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum and the Austin Nature & Science Center. Looking to soak your feet after a long trek? Barton Springs pool offers public swimming — and a lovely look at Austin’s growing skyline.
14. Lands End, San Francisco, California
After the Gold Rush in California, entrepreneurs designed the Cliff House — a resort for the wealthy — on the very edge of San Francisco. Every Sunday, a horse-drawn stagecoach carried visitors from downtown San Francisco to the Pacific’s shores at Lands End. Eventually, millionaire Adolph Sutro built a steam train to transport guests and constructed an enormous bathhouse on the beach.
These days, a version of the Cliff House still stands, but the Sutro Baths are ruins of a bygone era. Situated right at the mouth of the Golden Gate, Lands End is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and offers views of San Francisco’s most iconic bridge. The old rail beds have been turned into hiking trails, allowing visitors to explore the rugged coastline, public art installations and more.
13. Lincoln Park, Chicago, Illinois
Chicago’s Lincoln Park takes up an impressive 1,200 acres, bordered by Lake Michigan as well as quite a few of the city’s neighborhoods — Edgewater, Uptown, Gold Coast, Lakeview, Streeterville and, of course, Lincoln Park. The park’s Lakefront Trail offers up a scenic 18-mile-long stretch that’s perfect for joggers, strollers and cyclists alike.
During the summer months, the park’s beaches are a popular destination. And, during the winter, folks only pop up on the sandy shores to snap a cool picture or two of the city’s skyline. For those who’d rather not lounge on the lake, Lincoln Park also offers a nature boardwalk, conservatory, history museum and zoo.
12. Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California
Located in Los Angeles, Griffith Park is an impressive 4,310 acres, which means it’s one of the largest urban parks in North America and the second-largest urban park in the state after San Diego’s Mission Trails Preserve. Although it’s more rugged than Central Park, Griffith Park is almost as iconic, especially when it comes to filming locales.
One of the most iconic movie moments filmed at the park? In The Terminator , Arnold Schwarzenegger arrives in 1984 and emerges from the Griffith Observatory. (Nice night for a walk, eh?) We could go on about the park’s movie connections, but there’s so much more to it than that. With equestrian trails, hiking paths, a zoo, an art museum and a train enthusiasts’ club with connections to Walt Disney, Griffith Park is certainly one of the more unique places on our list.
11. Forest Park, St. Louis, Missouri
Although it opened in 1876, Forest Park hosted two of its most significant events in its history in 1904 — the Louisiana Purchase Exposition and the Summer Olympics. At 1,326 acres, locals have dubbed the park the “Heart of St. Louis” and, as such, it features quite a few big-name attractions, including the St. Louis Zoo, the St. Louis Art Museum and the St. Louis Science Center.
About two decades ago, the park began a restoration project that ended up totaling $100 million. This pricey facelift improved Forest Park’s landscaping and habitats, such as meadows, a variety of ponds, wetlands, prairie land and freshwater streams, all of which provide a wonderful home for migratory birds and animals. One of its most iconic features? The Jewel Box, an Art Deco-style greenhouse.
10. The Gathering Place, Tulsa, Oklahoma
The Gathering Place stretches over 100 of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s, precious acres. Thanks to the George Kaiser Family Foundation and 80 other private contributors, the largest private donation — a whopping $465 million — to a public park in America’s history was made to this unique green space. According to Thrillist, the chairs at The Gathering Place cost a whopping $5,500 apiece.
The vision? “A Park For All.” That means the organizers of The Gathering Place were keen on putting diversity and equality first, meaning the park and its many features value accessibility. From playgrounds and lawns to wetlands and a skate park, this park is clearly the Place to be. In fact, National Geographic listed it as one of the world’s 12 most mind-bending playgrounds, while Time magazine dubbed it one of The World’s 100 Greatest Places of 2019.
9. Balboa Park, San Diego, California
Home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park covers 1,200 acres of open spaces, gardens, paths, museums, restaurants and theaters. Dating back to 1835, the site of the present-day park is one of the oldest areas in the country to be dedicated solely to public recreational use. But that’s not where its rich history stops.
In 1915–16, the park hosted the Panama–California Exposition and, two decades later, it housed another world’s fair — the California Pacific International Exposition. As is the case in cities the world over, these fairs were the cause of several of Balboa Park’s most recognizable landmarks, including the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, an outdoor concert venue, and the Botanical Building (pictured), which houses the park’s beautiful gardens.
8. South Mountain Park, Phoenix, Arizona
Phoenix’s South Mountain Park wins the title of largest municipal park in the country — and it nabs a spot on the list as one of the largest urban parks in the world. Encompassing a truly astounding 16,283 acres, the mountainous park is chock full of desert vegetation and the native chuckwalla, a large lizard that loves arid climates.
The park was established in 1924 when President Calvin Coolidge sold the city the park’s then-13,000 acres for a mere $17,000. Although a bit of suburban sprawl flanks the park land, visitors are still utterly transported to a place that feels anything but metropolitan. With over 58 miles of trails, a 1,000-foot-tall lookout point and a landmark known only as Mystery Castle, South Mountain Park is definitely worth a visit.
7. Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York
As we’ve previously noted, Central Park is great and all, but, if you find yourself on the other side of the river, we highly recommend Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Situated near quite a few popular neighborhoods, including Park Slope, Flatbush and Prospect Heights, the park encompasses an impressive 526 acres, making it the borough’s second-largest public park behind Marine Park.
Laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who also helped design Manhattan’s Central Park, Prospect Park opened in 1867. The nearby Brooklyn Museum, Grand Army Plaza and Brooklyn Botanic Gardens are all located just outside the park’s grounds, but this green space still has a lot to offer, from a zoo and outdoor concert venues to a Quaker cemetery. In fact, the park boasts the borough’s largest remaining forest and its only lake.
6. Forest Park, Portland, Oregon
If you still have time to kill after checking out Portland’s oh-so-tiny Mill Ends Park, we highly recommend Forest Park, which stretches an impressive eight miles across the city’s hillsides. Unsurprisingly, this scenic stretch offers quite the view of the Willamette River and makes the park one of the country’s largest urban forest reserves.
Covering 5,100 acres, the park is mainly composed of second-growth forest and features over 70 miles of trails. Thanks to civic leaders back in 1860s who wanted to preserve the woods near the city, the Olmsted brothers — sons of the prestigious Frederick Law Olmsted — were brought in to develop a plan for Forest Park. Thanks to these early conservation efforts, more than 122 bird species and over 60 mammal species enjoy the park alongside human visitors.
5. Falls Park, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
While South Dakota is certainly known for national parks and your typical natural sprawl, folks don’t always associate city life with the state. Likely, visitors think of the Black Hills and the sacred Tunkasila Sakpe Paha , or Six Grandfathers Mountain , formation. But, as the park’s name suggests, it is centered around a beautiful splay of falls on the Big Sioux River.
There’s no admission fee to see the 123-acre park’s namesake. The falls themselves cascade 100 feet over the state’s famous black rock formations. And if that isn’t enough for you, other highlights include tons of outdoor sculptures, an observation tower and even the remains of the old Queen Bee Mill, which was built in the late 1800s.
4. Gas Works Park, Seattle, Washington
With just 19 acres under its belt, Seattle’s Gas Works Park may not be as large a green space as some of the other public parks on our list, but it has a lot of personality. And by that we mean it would play really well on your Flickr account. Home to the Seattle Gas Light Company’s old coal gasification plant, the park brings urban decay right to the shores of Lake Union.
The plant operated for a good 50 years before shuttering in 1956 and, by 1962, the city scooped up the land with plans to give it a second life as a public green space. Richard Haag, the landscape architect behind Gas Works, won an award for design excellence, highlighting the way in which cities have the ability to meld the old and new — the manmade and the natural.
3. Belle Isle, Detroit, Michigan
Located in the Detroit River, this 982-acre island park is owned by the city of Detroit — though it’s situated quite close to our Canadian neighbors. After Grosse Ile and Fighting Island, Belle Isle is the third-largest island in the river — and it’s the largest city-owned island park in the United States. Both a cool and very specific feat.
A quick drive across the MacArthur Bridge will land visitors on the isle, which is home to an aquarium, a conservatory, a golf course, a nature center and the Dossin Great Lakes Museum. If you choose to swim along its half-mile stretch of beach, you’ll most likely spot the island’s Coast Guard station and Detroit’s Yacht Club. But our favorite landmark on the island is the William Livingstone Memorial Light, the only marble lighthouse in the United States (pictured).
2. High Line, Manhattan, New York
Built on a disused section of the New York Central Railroad line known as the West Side Line, the High Line is a 1.45-mile-long elevated park that runs from the Meatpacking District (a few blocks below 14th Street) through Chelsea and to the West Side Yard on 34th Street. In the old days, freight trains got into so many collisions with traffic on 10th and 11th Avenues that the area was nicknamed “Death Avenue.”
Now, the High Line, which opened in 2009, is considered a remarkable feat of contemporary landscape architecture. Filled with plant and animal life, it’s becoming its own ecosystem — and, certainly, anything but another Death Avenue. This park in the sky welcomes over five million visitors each year, and it nabs such a high spot on our list for inspiring countless other cities in the United States to reclaim abandoned infrastructure in order to create public spaces.
1. The Presidio, San Francisco, California
In 1776, Spain gained a foothold in California and colonized the area, setting up a military base — or presidio — right on the San Francisco Bay. Later on, the United States used the area as an army base, building barracks, hospitals and weapons stores. In 1989, Congress voted to end the Presidio’s status as an active military installation, and by 1994 the National Park Service took over the land.
Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the Presidio is one of the world’s largest national parks situated in an urban setting. In addition to offering camping sites, extensive trails, public art and unbeatable views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the park is also home to many businesses, from nonprofit organizations and private residences to restaurants and museums. With an eye toward ecological restoration; honoring the Ohlone and Costanoan people who lived on the land before colonial invaders ; and reclaiming abandoned infrastructure, the Presidio proves just how amazing it is to have a national park folded into one of the country’s most iconic cities.
Honorable Mention: Mill Ends Park, Portland, Oregon
Okay, so this park doesn’t involve any hiking — nor can you sunbathe or fire up a grill. Instead, Mill Ends Park in Portland, Oregon, is one of those bucket list-type attractions. And why’s that? Well, at two feet across — with a total area of 452 square inches — this little circle of a spot is the smallest park in the world.
Given its unique distinction in 1971 by the Guinness Book of Records , Mill Ends Park was initially meant to be the site of a new light pole. When construction came to a standstill, Oregon Journal columnist Dick Fagan planted flowers in the hole and dubbed it Mill Ends. Now, tourists flock to the median strip near the Willamette for a chance to spot this record-setting park.
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Must-see's and Must-do's!---
How the subway works: To go to all these places,(below) the subway is best. If you are brand new to the subway--
(a) Access any subway station, go to the purchase booth and purchase a "multi day unlimited Metro card"-for the amount of time you will be visting NYC. Get a couple of subway maps and keep with you.
(b) There are Two types of subway trains. (1) The LOCAL-- our's was the #1 red train (2) the EXPRESS -- our's was the #2, #3 red train. if you are going a long distance- such as from upper west side to times square--look at the map, you will see that the #2, #3, do not stop at every stop and are express trains, the #1 will also go the same place(s) , but will stop at every stop.Thus for a short trip take the "local"..
(c) It helps to "kinda" know new york city, if not, do not be afraid to ask somebody. hope that helps, took a day to figure it out...
A list of the most popular sights in NYC
One of the most popular questions locals hear is, "what should I not miss when I come to NYC?"
Here's a list of the most popular sights and what gets mentioned the most on the NYC forum.
Empire State Building or Top of the Rock or One World Observatory Observation Decks. See Manhattan from all sides. If you do Top of the Rock, get there early and watch the Today Show being filmed.
- Wall Street is perhaps the Financial Capital of the world. From the New York Stock Exchange to the Charging Bull to the Federal Reserve, they are all in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan.
- At least one major museum - The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Natural History or the Guggenheim. Don't forget to check the Pay-As-You-Wish Days and Times at the museums.
- Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island - plan a visit to both islands, or just view Lady LIberty at a moderate distance from the free Staten Island Ferry. Statue Cruises is the official provider of tickets and tours, and operates the only ferries authorized to transport passengers to the islands. Tickets to climb to the Crown are limited and sell out quickly. Pedestal access tickets should also be booked in advance. (Note that while Ellis Island is open after storm-damage repairs, some of the exhibits are still closed as of early 2014).
- Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge - Well worth a walk across this famous bridge. Walk from Brooklyn towards Manhattan for best views.
- Eating! - Eat at any of the hundreds of great mid-range restaurants in the city, and have at least one blow-out top-notch dinner.
- Battery Park- Wall Street- 911 memorial/WTC-St. Paul's Chapel - is well worth a walk through. The 911 memorial is now open access (reservations not required). St. Paul's Chapel is open as well. Tribute Center on Liberty Street offers guided tours at http://www.tributewtc.org/walktours/ i...
- Central Park ( 59th to 110th Street ) - Plenty of space to explore in this famous green oasis. The park is run by a not-for-profit organization and it has a $50 million annual operating budget - please consider a donation of any size to help with upkeep of this oasis. http://www.centralparknyc.org/donate/
- Circle Line Cruise - The 90 minute, 2 hour and 3 hour tours provide an excellent comprehensive tour of Manhattan.
- A Broadway show - With so many choices and ways to get discount tickets, don't miss it! There's nothing like live theatre.
- Times Square - Worth a visit at any time of the day or night, although night accentuates the neon effect.
- The Subway - The people ride in a hole in the ground! The best deal in town. Even if you take it for only one stop, ride it!
- At least one "smaller" museum - Many of the less famous cultural institutions are the best kept secrets. Examples: The Frick Collection, NEUE Galerie, The Morgan Library, The Cooper-Hewitt, The Rubin Museum of Art, The New-York Historical Society, The Museum of The City of New York, International Center for Photography. Try a museum that focuses on a particular nationality, ethnic group or art movement (Asia Society, Jewish Museum, Studio Museum of Harlem), or explore small private contemporary galleries in West Chelsea. The Lower East Side Tenement Museum is an interesting introduction to the life of early immigrants.
- Shopping - Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue for bling / SoHo, Union Square or 34th Street for pop / Noho, Lower East Side and Williamsburg for indy boutiques.
- Grand Central Terminal - Visit this famous & restored station complex. Go at rush-hour and people watch. Penn Station is also a great place to people watch although it lacks the grandeur of GCT. Look into the Free Grand Tour Powered by NYC.com.
- New York Public Library 42nd Street branch - The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Library - Take a quick walk through this famous building. Don't miss the two lions and the Reading Room.
- St Patrick's Roman Catholic Cathedral - Explore this famous building on Fifth Avenue.
- United Nations building on the East River. Guided tours are provided on a regular basis.
- Explore a "real" neighborhood like Greenwich Village (East or West), Chelsea, or Chinatown.
- People watching in one of the smaller parks : Washington Square, Union Square or Bryant Park.
- Visit another borough - See The Panorama in Queens, or Brooklyn Heights in Brooklyn, or Brighton Beach in Brooklyn.
- See a sporting event - Baseball, basketball, ice hockey and more! In Yankee Stadium, sit with the "Bleacher Creatures" for a slice of baseball fan insight. Stub Hub works well for last minute tix.\
- Take in some music - The 'best of the best" play the Big Apple on a very regular basis; rock, jazz, classical, rap, indie, you-name-it.. On-line versions or print editions of the Village Voice or the Post are your best bet for the latest gigs. Be prepared to stay up late, though, because the opening acts usually don't start until 11:30 PM.
- National September 11 Memorial ("9/11 Memorial"). Tremendously moving. The 911 memorial museum is now open and can be reserved in advance. More info at http://www.911memorial.org/ .
- Take in a tour , it's a good way to see New York City for first timers but not recommended as a mode of transportation. Tours and Tour Companies . Visit the forum for recommendations.
These are a few places to visit to experience some great views and photo opportunities:
- Battery Park Promenade
- Hudson River Park ~ Promenade or Walkway. It extends from 59th Street down to Battery Park.
- Brooklyn Bridge in daytime & nighttime
- Empire State Building Observation Deck
- Rockefeller Center - Top of the Rock Viewing level
- One World Observatory 100th Floor Observation Deck
- Staten Island Ferry
- Times Square
- Brooklyn Heights Promenade
- Gantry Plaza State Park in Queens
- Roosevelt Island
- Governor's Island
Here is an information link about: World Trade Center Progress and One World Observatory
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New York , North America
Visiting new york for the first time: the ultimate beginner’s guide to new york city.
The Impressive skyscrapers that form a fantastic skyline together, a mix of architecture where historic buildings and futuristic design go hand in hand, the city that never sleeps, … You probably already guessed it? This blog post is about New York City. There is so much to experience in this huge metropolis, that visiting New York for the first time definitely requires some preparation. To help you, I bundled all my tips in an ultimate beginner’s guide for a successful first visit to The Big Apple.
In 2022 I traveled to New York City for the second time. After 8 years I was super excited to visit this fantastic city again and especially surprised, because so much had changed. Although it was my second visit, it still felt like my first time. I had to get to know the city again. And soon New York City stole my heart once more.
** disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means we can receive a commission if you buy something that we really recommend. There are no extra costs you and it supports our blog. Thank you. **
How to travel to New York City?
Traveling to this metropolis is possible with a direct flight from Brussels Airport. There are several airlines that offer tickets to New York. If you search and compare well you can even find very affordable tickets. In barely 8.5 hours or 2 to 3 films on your airplane screen later, you reach The Big Apple.
We landed at JFK airport where we boarded a private transfer to the city center provided by the travel agency where we booked our trip. Frankly, this service was very expensive for a driver who came to pick us up 2 hours late. “Traffic,” he said. Of course, traversing New York City by car is no easy task, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. There are many other options to get to Manhattan from the various airports in New York. One of them is an external service that offers shared transfer at democratic prices
You can also travel to Manhattan from the various airports with a large shuttle bus. If you prefer a little more privacy, you can opt for the taxi. This may be a bit more expensive, but the taxis are available at all terminals at the airport itself. You don’t lose time waiting for a driver to pick you up. You do have to watch out for ‘pirate cabs’ though. These are not official taxi drivers trying to trick you into riding with them.
Traveling by train is also an option. From JFK and Newark you can reach several major train stations by train. You can also take the airtrain in JFK. This is a kind of monorail system that connects the airport to the New York subway. That way you can continue your journey by metro.
In short, there are plenty of options to travel from the airport to your destination.
How to get around in New York City ?
The yellow cabs have become one of the trademarks of New York City. They are therefore often seen as the means of transport par excellence to move through the city. The taxis are not super expensive, of course this depends on the duration of the ride. Because traffic is often congested during peak hours, the taxi is not always the most appropriate option to get around the city center quickly. Taxis can be hailed all over the city if they are not occupied. You can see this by the light.
You can also use an uber. Unlike a taxi, an uber has a fixed price. But I’ve heard several times that this price can be high, especially during peak hours.
The subway is a fast and cheap way to move around the city. The cheapest method of using the metro is to buy a reloadable ‘Metro Card’. This way you can always reload a certain amount on your card. A ride with the Metro Card costs $2.75 regardless of destination. I’m not lying when I say that New York’s subway traffic is very chaotic. When you travel by metro you sometimes have to search a bit and especially stay attentive. Make sure you always have a plan at hand or on your smartphone. The disadvantage of getting around with the metro is that you don’t see anything of the city while you’re on the way.
A pleasant alternative is the red Hop-on-Hop-off bus. This is a bit more expensive, but it drives past the most popular sights in New York City. Because you can get on and off at any stop, you can easily move between the different attractions while enjoying the city. These bus rides are offered by various companies, but tickets are cheaper to book online.
Walking and cycling
Exploring the city by bike is always fun and is certainly possible in New York City. Although this is not the safest and most relaxed option. Don’t get me wrong. There are many neighborhoods that are great to discover by bike, such as Central Park, DUMBO, … However, New York’s traffic is so chaotic that you need your full focus when cycling and can’t fully enjoy the beautiful city. It’s therefore better to opt for an organized bicycle tour with a guide.
I myself planned our visits for a certain day in the same neighborhood so that we had to use the metro as little as possible and could mainly walk from one sight to another. I found the combination of walking and riding the subway to be the best option. This allowed us to move quickly and economically, but this way we could also see a large part of the city.
The best time to travel to New York City?
The climate of New York City is somewhat similar to our climate, only with more extremes. It can get very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. Yet visiting New York in all seasons has its charms.
The most attractive period is the Christmas period. During these magical weeks, the city is beautifully decorated and the shopping paradise par excellence for buying the best Christmas presents. Then you can also admire the imposing Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center and try the accompanying skating rink. You can also skate in other places in the city, such as Central Park. In short, New York City is the perfect Christmas destination.
Don’t worry too much about the weather. T here are plenty of things to do indoor during cold and rainy days. You’ll find numerous impressive museums such as the MoMa, The National 9/11 Memorial & Museum, various indoor observaties such as Summit One Vanderbilt and many covered markets such as the Chelsea market where you can relax and taste some New York delicacies .
When winter gives way to spring, New York City brightens up with colorful, fragrant blossoms. In addition to the soft pleasant temperatures that already make it possible to enjoy the outside terraces, it is the ideal time to discover the parks such as Central Park or The Brooklyn Botanic Garden. I was there in May and this was an excellent time to visit New York.
During the summer months, the real New Yorkers flee the city because of the heat. My first visit to New York City was in July and yes, it was very hot. But I liked those summery sultry vibes, especially the 4th of July festivities. On the other hand, the heat also hampered some activities such as cycling in Central Park.
The best time to visit New York definitely depends on what exactly is the purpose of your trip.
How many days do you need to visit New York City ?
When visiting New York for the firt time, I advise you to really take your time. This city is so overwhelming and there is so much to experience, so there is a great danger that you will run from one sight to another without really experiencing New York City. Therefore, be sure to book a minimum of 5 nights so that you have at least 5 to 6 full days to fully enjoy The Big Apple.
Important tips before visiting New York for the first time
If you plan to travel from Belgium to the United States, you will need an international passport and an ESTA travel authorization or visa .
Also, don’t forget that New York City is in a different time zone. It is 6 hours earlier than in Belgium. This way you save a little time when you depart. The disadvantage is the jet lag that causes you to wake up very early the first few days.
Make sure you also bring an international plug, otherwise you will not be able to use or charge your electrical appliances.
In New York, a different currency is used, USD. That may seem obvious, but it is not like in some countries where they still accept euros. It is therefore best to change some money before your trip or at the airport. The cheapest way to exchange Euro into USD is through an exchange office. First compare the prices and choose the exchange office where you have the least loss.
Keep in mind that the prices on the menu when you’re going to a bar or restaurant don’t include a tip. At the end of the ride you still have to pay 18%, 20% or 22% extra tip. Even when someone provides you with a service, for example the driver, the bellboy in the hotel, … you are expected to tip.
Where to stay in New York City?
When looking for a place to stay in New York City, Times Square is often put forward because this neighborhood is centrally located. I too have stayed around Times Square twice. Personally, I think it is one of the less cozy neighborhoods in New York. It is perhaps the one that is located the most central in Manhatten, but via the metro you can also move very quickly from another location.
On my next visit to New York I will definitely choose to stay in a different neighborhood. I already an overview of 15 gorgeous boutique hotels where to stay when visiting New York . But also via the map widget of Booking you can easily find a stay near your preference.
The best things to do when visiting New York for the first time
New york city card .
New York City is an immensely large city. And if you are there only there for a few days, then of course you want to see and experience as much as possible. Therefore it necessary to prepare well for your city trip in the Big Apple.
Do you want to visit many sights? Then I advise you to take a look at a New York city card. This allows you to visit some of New York’s highlights at a cheaper rate. There are different types of city cards. Below you will find an overview. The best thing is that you look at them all and choose the city card that best meets your needs.
We opted for a Sightseeing Flex Pass with which we could visit no fewer than 7 sights. The advantage was that we not only saved money on the entrance fee to the attractions, but with this ticket we didn’t have to make reservations anywhere. This way we could decide for ourselves during the trip when we wanted to visit which sights. It’s useful to be able to adjust your itinerary last minute when the weather is bad or not…
New York, New York
One of the reasons why visiting New York City should be on your bucket list is of course, the impressive skyline. This is formed by the mix of beautiful buildings in different architectural styles. The first skyscrapers were built in the early 20th century during a period of economic prosperity. Just think of the roaring twenties. You can still admire many buildings in this typical Art Deco style, such as the Empire State building, Chrysler Building and Rockefeller center.
In this neighborhood you can still find some gems from the past, such as Grand Central Station, the New York Public Library and the Flatiron building.
But time does not stand still and certainly not in New York City, the city that never sleeps. In the meantime, you can also see many hypermodern complexes, such as the recent sustainable construction project Hudson Yards, where you’ll find The Edge and The Vessel, among other spectacular skyscrapers. And there are also some beautiful parks here such as the High Line and Little Island.
Of course there are many more other modern buildings in the city center to admire, such as the One World Trade Center, One Vanderbilt and the Oculus Center.
Both the older and the newer generation of buildings together form the impressive skyline of The Big Apple. You can admire this beautiful skyline from one of the five observatories in New York City or from some other viewpoints that I will discuss in more detail later in this article.
Must visit Museums in New York City
When you plan to visit New York City for the first time, there are bound to be a number of museums on your to-do list. This city has so many museums that it is impossible to visit them all. That is why I am listing a few of them below that are definitely worth a visit.
MoMa is the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Here you can, as the name says, admire modern and contemporary art. It is one of the largest museums in the world and the modern art collection of the MoMa is also considered one of the best collections in the world.
In the permanent exhibition you can admire pieces from 1880 to the present. These are artworks from big names such as Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Gustav Klimt, … It’s therefore a very varied collection that is definitely worth a visit.
Besides the permanent exhibition, there are also changing exhibitions. This allows you to visit the MoMa again and again and be surprised by works that you have never seen before.
Just like the MoMa, the Guggenheim is a museum with a beautiful Modern art collection, including some works that fall within the Impressionism and Expressionism movement.
In addition to the impressive art collection, the building is actually a work of art in itself. It was designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright and consists of a spiral shape that can be seen both inside and outside. This way you can admire the artworks as you make your way along the spiral ramps that run through the entire building.
If you are not planning to visit the Guggenheim, it is definlitely worth just taking a walk past the building.
9/11 Memorial museum
An tragic event New York City will never forget is the 9/11 attack in 2001, when two planes flew into The Twin Towers. This disaster was worldwide on the news. More than 3000 people lost their lives here.
Today this place is referred to as Ground Zero. On the exact spot where the Twin Towers stood, there are now two monumental pools with the names of all the victims engraved in the rim. It’s quite impressive, but at the same time also captivating to see.
Be sure to visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum where you can learn everything about this terrible event, but also how New Yorkers experienced this attack through their personal stories of loss, recovery and hope. You will also find remnants of the old structures of the Twin Towers as well as objects that have been recovered from the rubble. This makes it easier to imagine how terrible this event was. Let me tell you that a visit to this museum is sure to leave a deep impression on you.
A touch of green New York City
Visiting New York City for the first time is intense. New York City is referred to as the city that never sleeps for a reason. The sounds, lights, the city in constant development… That sometimes causes a little overstimulation. An occasional moment to take a breather is not an unnecessary luxury here. Fortunately, The Big Apple has numerous beautifully landscaped city parks where you can relax or enjoy New York City in a green setting.
The most famous park in New York City with about 25 million visitors annually is Central Park and is also called the green heart of Manhattan. The large, rectangular domain stretches from 59th to 110th Street and from 5th to 8th Avenue. From Top of The Rock you can admire the park very well from above. That’s where you see how big it really is.
The construction of Central Park took no less than 16 years. When you walk through the park, you will not be surprised that it took so long. It’s a beautiful natural environment consisting of wide avenues, smaller hiking trails through the woods, several lakes, impressive monuments, sunbathing areas and a few restaurants. You can also spot some sights here such as the Belvedere castle and the famous Bethesda fountain. The park also houses a zoo called “Central park zoo.”
Around the park is a 10 kilometer long road where car traffic is banned during weekends and after 7 pm. Then it is a real paradise for active New Yorkers, but also the perfect time for tourists to explore Central Park by bicycle. Rent a bike or opt for a guided bike tour. Not an avid cyclist? Then take a nice walk or go for a romantic ride in a horse-drawn carriage.
Last but not least. If you plan to spend some time in Central Park, it is also nice to have lunch on the beautiful terrace of The Loeb Boat House when the weather is nice. Don’t forget to make a reservation! Here you can also rent rowing boats to go out on the lake.
The High Line in a beautiful park that stretches for 2,3 kilometers from the Meatpacking District to Hudson Yards. This park was built on an old elevated railway that was used for the transport of meat and poultry until 1980. This piece of green runs above the streets between the buildings. It is a unique experience that attracts millions of visitors every year.
During the walk you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Hudson River, the typical New York industrial environment, the mix of different architectural styles and art. Yes, you heard that right. Artworks such as statues and murals are exhibited in the park. There are also occasional shows.
If you’re in the mood for a refreshing drink or snack, head down between 15th Street and 16th Street for a break at the Chelsea Market. This former biscuit factory has been transformed into a cozy food hall. Today you can find numerous food stalls and restaurants.
Besides that the High Line is close to some popular attractions. You can combine a walk through the park with a visit to The Vessel and The Edge.
You can also opt to walk the High Line as part of a guided tour. This way you will learn even more about the history of the park and the surrounding area.
Little Island is, as the name suggests, an island that floats above the Hudson River. It is a city park that only recently (in 2021) opened its doors. So it probably won’t surprise you that it’s located near the Meatpacking District and Hudson Yards. You can also admire this impressive park with several height differences from the High Line. It’s quite unique to see.
Would you like to visit Little Island? Then you can reach it via one of the two pedestrian bridges, the North Bridge or South Bridge. Both bridges are located on the Hudson River Greenway at Pier 55.
From Little Island you can enjoy a green urban oasis with beautiful flora and an impressive view of Manhattan, New Jersey and the river around you.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Want to escape the city for a while and relax in an oasis of peace? Then be sure to visit the beautifully landscaped Brooklyn Botanic Garden . This park consists of no less than 12 different gardens.
The best time to visit Brooklyn Botanic Garden is during the spring when most of the flowers are in bloom. In April you can admire the lush cherry blossoms. We were only there at the end of May and could enjoy a beautiful setting full of colorful and fragrant flowers. The biggest draw was the vast field of purple bluebells.
Nice neighborhoods to explore in New York City
New York City is divided into several neighborhoods that overlap. The nice thing is that every neighborhood has its own identity. When visiting New York for the first time you will get to most neighborhoods anyway when you go sightseeing all over the city. I already mentioned some neighborhoods under the other topics in this article. But here I list a few more that should certainly not be missing from your itinerary during your city trip in The Big Apple.
Let’s start with the most trendy neighborhood in Brooklyn. Just across the Manhattan Bridge you will find the DUMBO neighborhood which literally means “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass”.
It’s a super fun and creative area to explore. You will find various art galleries, coffee bars, bakeries and also very photogenic places.
The most famous photo spot is perhaps the one on Washington Street where you can see the Empire State Building through the pillars of the Manhattan Bridge.
From Brooklyn Bridge Park you also have amazing views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the spectacular Manhattan skyline.
The best day to visit DUMBO is definitely Sunday. Then there is a flea market where you can find nice things.
Lower Manhatten and the Financial District
Even though the name ‘Financial District’ sounds rather boring, I still found this a super fun area to explore. You walk in between the most impressive skyscrapers that serve as offices for the most prestigious companies. You will find, among other things, the world-famous stock exchange and the One World Trade center.
Other special monuments are the beautiful Trinity Church that suddenly appears between the skyscrapers of Wall Street.
Near Wall Street you’ll also find the famous statue The Charging Bull. If you rub the nose, horns and yes, the balls of this statue, it supposingly brings good luck. Another famous statue in the area is The Fearless Girl. The statue was made in honor of International Women’s Day and stands in front of the New York Stock Exchange.
China Town en Little Italy
Nice neighborhoods to stroll through are China Town and Little Italy. This name already tells you that these are the neighborhoods where mainly Chinese and Italian immigrants settle. Meanwhile, the boundaries between the two neighborhoods have become blurred. China Town is growing while Little Italy is shrinking. This is because many Italians are moving away from the area. Yet you can still find the authentic atmosphere in both neighborhoods. There are also still many traditional restaurants and boutiques.
Times square and Hell’s Kitchen
Although I certainly don’t think Times Square is the nicest or coziest neighborhood in New York, it is of course something you should see at least once. The immense advertising screens, the colorful neon lighting, the many street performers, the gigantic shops, the masses of tourists… It has something, especially when it’s dark.
You can combine your visit to Times Square with a theater performance on Broadway or a snack and drink in Hell’s kitchen. Hell’s kitchen used to not have the best reputation, but today you will find many trendy bars and eateries there.
Below you will find some amazing guided tours from Getyourguide. These are perfect if you want to explore different neighborhoods in an original way.
The best views in New York City
I personally think the best views of New York City are the places where you can admire the city from a distance or from above. Then you can completely soak in that beautiful skyline consisting of the most impressive buildings.
Admire New York City from above
Visiting one of the 5 observation platforms in New York should not be missing on your New York itinerary. These 5 viewpoints are located on the roof of some of the most impressive skyscrapers in New York . I will briefly go through them all here. An extensive report full of tips for visiting one or more of these phenomenal observatories can be found in my blog post about the 5 observatories with the best view of New York .
Empire State Building
Empire State Building is the oldest observation platform and therefore a true classic. In addition to the beautiful view, you also have access to the interactive museum where you can experience the evolution of the building, including a tribute to its film history. The building served as a film setting for several blockbusters such as King Kong and Sleepless in Seattle.
Top of Rock
You have the best outdoor view from Top of Rock. This observatory is located on the roof of Rockefeller center. Here you can admire the iconic skyline in all its glory with highlights such as the Empire State Building, Chrysler building, Statue of Liberty, One World Trade Center, but also Central Park.
One World Trade Center
The tallest skyscraper in New York City is One World Trade Center. The top floor, One World Observatory is open to visitors. There you have a phenomenal 360 degree indoor view of the city. The highlight of our visit was definitely the elevator that took us to the 102nd floor in 47 seconds. Not because it was so fast, but because we could see the entire evolution of 500 years of New York City on the walls of the elevator during the ride.
One of my favorite viewpoints is The Edge. The observatory is unique in that way it’s an angular platform suspended from a skyscraper, hence the name: The Edge. So there is no building under the outdoor zone. Some bits of the floor have been replaced with glass that literally allow you to see 100 floors down. The unique shapes and the use of these different materials ensure that this is a very original photo spot.
Summit One Vanderbilt
If you want to be surprised by design, art and special effects in addition to the view, then you should definitely visit Summit One Vanderbilt. The visit is such an amazing experience that sometimes you forget that you have to enjoy the view. This because you are so absorbed in everything that happens in the spaces. Moreover, it is also a very photogenic place.
Do you want to admire New York City from even higher. Then you can also book a helicopter flight. Impressive views guaranteed!
Walk towards the skyline on Brooklyn Bridge
One of the most famous landmarks in New York City is the Brooklyn Bridge. It opened in 1883. This iconic steel-constructed bridge was long the only connection between Manhattan and Brooklyn. It’s definitely a must-see when visiting New York for the first time.
The bridge is not only very impressive to look at. When you walk it from Brooklyn towards Manhattan you also have a great view of the New York skyline. You literaly walk towards it.
Soak in the skyline from on the water
Since Manhattan is completely surrounded by the Hudson River and East River, it is really worth admiring the city from the water.
You can do this by taking a ferry from Battery Park to Liberty Island where you can see New York City’s most famous woman up close, Lady Liberty. In addition to the Statue of Liberty, you will also find the Statue of Liberty Museum with information and exhibitions about everything related to the Statue of Liberty. This museum is free for all visitors to the island.
You can also take the ferry to Ellis Island. This island served as a border post for immigrants who wanted to settle in America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today you can visit the Ellis Island Immigration Museum where you can see several exhibits, each highlighting a different aspect of immigration. The personal stories are especially touching.
You can enjoy a beautiful view of the New York skyline from both the ferry and on both islands.
Besides the ferry, you can also opt for another type of boat trip, such as a cruise with or without extras.
Where to go shopping in New York City?
Soho (south of houston street) and nolita .
What used to be an industrial district, dotted with factories and warehouses, is now a true shopping paradise called SoHo. These old buildings were restored into shops with luxury apartments and lofts above them. Because the historical elements have been preserved, it is still a very pleasant neighborhood to walk through.
Start your shopping adventure at Broadway and get lost among the 25 blocks of shopping district. You will find a mix of unique boutiques, large department stores and high-end luxury designers.
Do you need a break? Then visit Balthazar Bakery . A beautiful place completely in Art Nouveau style where you can go for a snack or drink. And not unimportantly one of the best bakeries in New York City.
Haven’t shopped enough yet? Then walk on to the adjacent neighborhood of Nolita where you can find even more beautiful shops and unique boutiques.
5th Avenue and Madison Avenue
The most legendary shopping street is of course 5th Avenue. There you will find all the famous luxury brands. They are characterized by most impressive shop windows. It is not for nothing that 5th Avenue is called the most expensive shopping street in the world.
Within walking distance is Madison Avenue, which is part of the Upper East side. Here you can also find several high-end shops. In addition, this street is also known because some of the most expensive real estate in the world are located here.
If budget is not an issue, 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue are the places-to-be for shopping. Otherwise you stick to window shopping, like me.
Impressive shopping malls
The United States is known for its gigantic ‘Shopping Malls’. You can also find some impressive ones in New York City. Two of the most famous shopping centers, Brookfield Park and The Oculus, are within walking distance of each other in Battery Park. Brookfield Park mainly houses luxury shops, while you can find more affordable brands in The Oculus. If you don’t like shopping, The Oculus is still a super impressive building to visit.
Another one that you absolutely cannot miss is the famous American department store Macy’s on Herald Square. This branch is according to the Guinness Book of Records the largest department store in the world.
Of course there are still plenty of nice places to shop in New York City. You also have the vibrant Bleeker Street in Greenwich Village and the charming streets of the West Village. For nice vintage stuff you have to be in the East Village. And some more high-end fashion houses and shops can be found in the Meatpacking District.
Not to miss specialties New York City
Hot dogs are an indispensable part of the New York street scene, at least the numerous hot dog stalls that you will find on every corner of the street. It is therefore a must-do to order a hot dog at such a typical food truck during your trip to the Big Apple. There are now also many vegetarian alternatives. I was told that you can taste the best hot dogs at Gray’s Papaya .
You may have seen them appear in a couple of films or television show, but these little stacked pancakes are a true breakfast classic in the United States. In New York City you can order these typical American pancakes in different ways. The most famous are the bleuberry pancakes made with blueberries. When you order them you usually get a jar of blueberry jelly and one of maple syrup with your pancakes. I first tried to carefully put a piece of pancake in both jars and then eat it, until the waiter convinced me to empty both jars at once over my stack of pancakes. And believe me, it tasted heavenly! The best blueberry pancakes can be found at the Clinton St. Baking Company .
Another real New York specialty is the bagel. These round buns with a hole in them, not to be confused with the donut, originally come from Poland. The bagel was introduced to New York City by Jewish immigrants. These delicious sandwiches became a hit and today they are the favorite breakfast or lunch choice of many New Yorkers. The classic New York bagel is topped with cream cheese, smoked salmon and onion and is highly recommended. You can order delicious bagels at one of the many Black Seed Bagel locations.
New York Pizza
Everyone knows that pizza is an Italian specialty. The New Yorkers gave it their own twist, partly influenced by their fast-paced and busy lifestyle, and that is how the famous New York pizza slices came about. Where you normally have to wait for your pizza to be baked, you can have a delicious pizza slice within just 2 minutes in one of the many pizza places all over New York City. The perfect snack for a quick and cheap bite while discovering the city.
Are you a foodie and want to discover even more delicious New York City specialties? Then opt for an organized food tour with a guide from Getyourguide. You will not only discover the different delicacies, but also the best places to eat them.
Where to eat New York City?
New York City has a lot of restaurants. Like its inhabitants, the restaurants are a melting pot of cultures. And that’s nice, because you can really find all kinds of cuisines there. It’s a true foodie paradise! The only thing you need to know is that the good restaurants are in demand and that it is therefore best to reserve a spot in time. Sometimes it can be hard to get a table in New York’s best restaurants .
Of course it was impossible for me to try everything, but below is a small summary of the restaurants and cozy neighborhoods to eat that personally appealed to me the most.
The bleu dog NYC
Do you want to start your day of sightseeing off right? Then go for brunch at The blue dog NYC. . This address is one of the best. We even went there twice because it was so good. The specialty of the house are the egg-o-holics on bread, a hearty breakfast that will keep you going for a few hours. The blue dog is popular, so book a table in time.
South Street Seaport
A super cozy neighborhood where you can find a lot of nice restaurants is South Street Seaport. This former harbor is home to some of the oldest buildings in Manhattan. Many of these historic buildings have been completely restored and house authentic boutiques, trendy bars and cozy restaurants. You will also find pier 17 an events center that hosts a series of concerts on the roof terrace in the summer. On the ground floor of pier 17 there are still plenty of restaurants where you can dine with a view of the Brooklyn Bridge. We dined at Malibu Farm New York and can definitely recommend this restaurant.
If you then walk further along the waterfront towards Battery Park, you will pass Industry Kitchen where you can also enjoy a delicious lunch or dinner.
Chelsea & Meatpacking Disctrict
Adjacent to the Chelsea district, we find the Meatpacking District where many slaughterhouses and packaging companies used to be located. Today this is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in New York City where you can also find numerous elegant bars and delicious restaurants such as Fig & Olive , Pastis , Catch and Buddakan .
Nearby you can also visit the Chelsea market , a former biscuit factory, which was transformed into an impressive food hall. You will not find many different types of food stalls and restaurants here, but the interior is also really great.
With this comprehensive beginner’s guide to New York City, I’ve tried to give as many tips as possible for visiting New York for the first time. I hope that with my tips you will have an unforgettable first New York experience.
Are you visiting New York for the first time? What would you definitely not want to miss on your this trip to The Big Apple? Let me know below in the comments.
If you are planning a city trip to New York City, then definitely read 5 best observatories in New York City where I share my experiences visiting the all of New Yorks’ observatories and my overview of 15 gorgeous boutique hotels where to stay when visiting New York .
Wanna visit more of the United States? Then check my travel guides below:
- The ultimate Deep Road trip
- How to spend the perfect day in Miami
- What to expect from an airboat tour in the Everglades
- The most beautiful beaches in Sanibel
- How to plan a 3 days city trip in New Orleans
Thank you for reading.
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Girl Eat World
A girl's adventure in food and travel around the world, new york itinerary: an efficient plan for first timers in new york city.
New York City – A city that is amazing, endearing yet overwhelming all at once. As a first-time visitor to this amazing place, I can understand how intimidating planning for your NYC trip can be with so many activities and places to check out.
So, I’ve put together an efficient NYC itinerary that is easy to follow for you, whether you’re spending just a weekend in NYC, or a whole week and even more.
Tips for visiting NYC for the first time
How to get to manhattan from the airport.
- Taking public transportation in NYC
How much time should I spend in NYC?
When is the best time to visit nyc, where to stay in nyc.
- Day 1: The New York Essentials
- Day 2: Midtown
Day 3: Museums and Central Park
- Day 4: Brooklyn, DUMBO, and Lower East Side
Other things you can do in NYC
- Where to eat in NYC
- Is getting the New York Pass worth it?
1. Get a travel pass to save money! There are lots of things to visit and do in NYC, which means you’ll spend money on those activities. Getting a travel pass could ease the pain! Here are a few travel passes you can consider:
- New York Pass by Go City – This is an all-inclusive pass that allows you to visit as many attractions as possible during the duration of your pass. I’d recommend this if you’re an active traveler who wants to do everything
- Go City New York Explorer Pass – On the other hand, if you want to take a slower approach and only want to visit select attractions, this is the pass for you. Explorer pass allows you to get discounts on selected attractions.
I will go over in detail whether it’s worth it to get these passes in the “ Is getting a travel pass worth it in New York? “ section below. Or, you can see attractions included in the passes to determine whether it’s something you want to do.
➡️ Book in advance for New York Pass holders: If you are going during the peak holiday season (such as the June-July summer holidays), an advance booking is still required on top of buying the pass, because some attractions are very popular and might be sold out.
2. Get the 7-day unlimited Metro pass or pay with OMNY – The easiest and most cost-effective way to get around NYC is by using public transport, or more specifically the subway. Read more on this in the public transportation section below!
3. Download CityMapper App – the subway will sometimes have route diversion, outage, or just simply not running on certain days. It helps to have CityMapper handy as the app will warn you of these disruptions.
4. Download the NYC Google Maps to your phone – by this, I don’t just mean download the Google Maps app. You can download the whole NYC map to your phone so you can peruse the map when you don’t have data connections (you’ll lose connections in certain spots while taking the subway). You’ll also use less mobile data when browsing the maps! Here is how to download Maps to your phone .
5. Wear comfortable shoes because you’ll be walking a lot – I averaged 22,000 steps a day for the entire week I was in NYC. If it sounds like a lot, that’s because it IS! So when I say comfortable shoes, I don’t mean any flat shoes, I mean REAL comfortable shoes that are made for walking. I stupidly wore my Superga sneakers thinking I’ll be okay… but by day 3, my feet were so swollen and in pain that I had to buy emergency walking shoes – a pair of Puma trainers with proper cushions for my sore feet.
6. Learn about the local quirks – Jaywalking, neighborhood nicknames, why the city steams, how to pronounce “Houston” (it’s not like the city in Texas!)… I wrote an entire blog post with stories from my trip to NYC . Check it out!
7. Learn how to tip the American way – yes, I know, the tipping culture in the US baffles every visitor. It’s confusing! But, you don’t want to shortchange someone just because you disagree with this social norm. The most common instance where you’ll need to tip is when eating at a restaurant. The general rule of thumb is to tip 15% for average service, 20% for great service, and 25% for exceptional service. You don’t need to tip at establishments where the food is not served to you. Fast food, bakeries, or dessert places are examples of these types of establishments, but it certainly would be nice if you feel the staff did an exceptional job. You also don’t need to tip ride-sharing drivers (but again, it is always nice to), but you must tip taxi drivers.
8. Prices do not include sales tax – If you go to a store to buy something, be mindful that the price you see does not include tax. It will be added when you pay at the cashier. This applies to tours and tickets too! But you might be happy to know that clothing and shoes below US$100 are not subject to sales tax, so the price you see is what you’ll pay for those items.
9. Learn the Manhattan grid system and areas – Manhattan contains 214 numbered east-west streets ranging from 1st to 228th, ascending from south to north. Generally speaking, Manhattan is divided into three parts: Uptown, Midtown, and Downtown. Uptown is anything north of 59th Street, Midtown is from 14th to 59th Street, and Downtown is anything south of 14th Street. Then, the areas are further divided into neighborhoods with funky abbreviations, as I’ve talked about in my stories from my trip to NYC . I recommend watching this Manhattan Grid youtube video by Bright Trip to understand Manhattan better.
10. “Downtown” and “Uptown” can also refer to the direction of travel. For example, you’ll say the train is going uptown if it’s going north, and downtown if it’s going south.
11. Wise Card worked super well in NYC – as well as the rest of the US, really. If you’re an international visitor like myself, definitely get yourself a Wise Debit Card . You’ll save the foreign transaction fee with it. I never had to use cash when I was in NYC and San Francisco !
Getting to Manhattan from the airport greatly depends on where you’re staying in Manhattan and which airport you’re coming from.
1. From Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
You could take public transport all the way, but I find it is easier to just take Uber or Lyft from the EWR airport to Newark Penn Station . From Newark Penn Station, you can either:
- If you’re staying in Midtown , take the NEC/NJCL train to Penn Station on 34th Street
- If you’re staying in Lower Manhattan , take the PATH train to World Trade Center, or
Whichever is closest to your accommodation. Then you can resume via Metro to your accommodation. The last time I did this, it cost me US$ 21 for Uber and US$ 2.75 for the PATH train. Pretty affordable!
2. From John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
From the JFK Airport, you can either:
- If you’re staying in Midtown , you’ll want to take the AirTrain Red (US$ 8.25) to Jamaica Station and switch to Long Island Rail Road to Penn Station or Grand Central.
- If you’re staying in Lower Manhattan , you can take Airtrain Green and switch to A train at Howard Beach Station.
Whichever is closest to your accommodation. Then you can resume via Metro to your accommodation.
How to take Public Transportation in NYC
NYC is a city with amazing connectivity – their public transportation will take you places for an affordable price. The subway is the best way to get around NYC, but you could take the bus, Taxi, or Uber.
🚌 Tip: The Big Bus hop-on hop-off 1-day ticket (worth $60) is included in the New York Pass
Here are your options to pay for public transportation in NYC as a short-term tourist:
- Single-fare ticket / Pay-per-ride ($2.75 per ride) – A subway ride in NYC costs $2.75 per ride, which I think is quite pricey. That’s why when my 7-day pass ran out, I mostly walk on foot in NYC unless I’m going somewhere far that was worthwhile for a subway ride. You can simply tap any contactless credit card you have at the turnstile, or purchase a ticket at ticket vending machine in any subway station.
- 7-day Unlimited ride using MetroCard ($33) – You can buy the MetroCard from the vending machine at any subway station, which you can then reload. A 7-day unlimited Metro pass ($33 per 7 days) costs $33.
- Contactless payment with OMNY (capped to $33 from Mon-Sun) – With this method, you get to use your contactless debit or credit card using OMNY – No additional actions are required on your part, just tap the card at the turnstile! OMNY stands for One Metro New York, the MTA’s answer for contactless payment. You simply use whatever contactless payment method that you’re already using on the OMNY reader (be it ApplePay, Google Pay, etc). When you use this method, you will not pay more than $33 in total fares from Monday and Sunday – it’s capped to $33!
Unlimited MetroCard vs OMNY: Which one should I use for taking the subway in NYC?
If you think you’ll be taking less than 12 subway rides during your time in NYC, then any of the above methods work. You can buy a single-ride ticket or you can use OMNY.
But, if you have decided that you’ll be taking at least 12 subway rides during your stay in NYC, you might be wondering… which method should you use? The answer is: It depends. It depends on exactly how long you’ll be in NYC, the device you have, how much you plan to take public transportation, and your personal preference!
So here’s the deal – OMNY and the 7-day unlimited metro costs the same at $33, but look closer and you’ll notice that OMNY is capped only from Monday to Sunday, while the unlimited metro card is good for the next 7 days after activation.
The seven-day period for OMNY weekly cap begins at midnight on Monday and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday. Unlimited MetroCards expire at midnight on the 7th (or 30th) day from the day you activated it, regardless of the time you activated the card on the first day. For example, whether you bought and activated the unlimited card by taking a subway ride at 3 pm or 11 pm on Monday, then your card will expire on Sunday at midnight.
Here are some tips to help you decide:
- First of all, contactless payment with the OMNY method requires you to either have a card that can do a contactless payment or a smart device that is compatible with contactless pay, such as an iPhone, Apple Watch, or Android phone. If you do not have these devices, then you’ll be better off buying the unlimited MetroCard.
- If you’re arriving in the latter half of the week (say Thursday or Friday), and you’re planning to do more than 12 rides within 7 days, then go with the 7-day Unlimited MetroCard. Given that each ride already costs $2.75, you just need to take the subway more than 12 times to make it worth it – that’s less than twice a day, and trust me, you’ll ride the subway more than that.
- If you’re arriving earlier in the week (Monday – Wed) and plan to do more than 12 rides within 7 days, then go ahead and use OMNY!
- OMNY method is more restrictive in terms of the weekly cap, but it’s way more convenient to use, as you do not need to fuss with yet another card – you can just use your phone or watch to tap into the subway.
- The unlimited MetroCard is refillable. Don’t throw away your card after you’re done using it, because you can always reload the card! Otherwise, you’ll have to pay $1 for a new card.
If it’s your first time in NYC and you want to see everything possible, I recommend spending at least 4 days here. There are so many things to see and do in NYC! I stayed for a week and I still didn’t run out of things to do.
Generally, Spring and Fall are great times to be in NYC. Summer could get hot and humid and Winter can get very cold. I think April and May or September to November are all great times to visit NYC. I have visited NYC in May and September and can vouch that the weather was great on those months.
However, if you’re a fan of the Christmas season then you’ll want to visit the city in December . The city would be decorated with beautiful lights and Christmas trees – it’s truly a magical time to be in NYC. My very first-ever visit to NYC was in December and I still fondly remember that trip, even though it was nearly 15 years ago.
Tip 💡: The holiday market tour (worth $45) and Christmas Lights walking tour ($25) is included in the New York Pass if you are visiting during the holiday season!
If it’s your first time in NYC, you’ll want to stay in Manhattan – just because… it will make your life so much easier. However, accommodations in Manhattan do tend to be more expensive.
If you want to save some money, you could stay off Manhattan and stay in Brooklyn, but you’ll probably spend more time and money commuting. It’s up to you which pro and con suits you better!
I stayed in Manhattan both times I visited NYC. Here are some hotel recommendations I’ve stayed at:
- NoMo in SoHo – Located in SoHo, this hotel is within walking distance of many good restaurants and bars in NYC. It’s also conveniently within walking distance of many subway stations.
- New York Hilton Midtown – I stayed here on my first-ever visit to NYC. It’s located within walking distance of Times Square, MoMA, Central Park, and best of all, right across from the OG Halal Guys!
The NYC Itinerary Overview
OK, so we’ve talked about all the important things about visiting NYC. Time to talk about what to actually do in NYC!
Below I’ve arranged daily itineraries you can do in NYC. Note that you don’t need to do the itinerary in the same order as I’ve outlined below, however, I’ve grouped the activities and attractions that are close to each other so that they can be visited together. That’s why I call this my efficient NYC itinerary!
My NYC itinerary can be divided as follows:
To visualize this NYC itinerary better, I’ve created a Google Maps link that marks all the routes and landmarks I’ll mention in this blog.
🗺 Save this map to your phone! If you are a Google user, click on the image of the map above. The map will then be saved to your “Recent” maps viewed. Click here for instructions on how to view the map later . It will work from your phone too.
Day 1: The New York Essentials in Lower Manhattan
As a first-timer in NYC, you’ll want to start your visit by seeing all the must-see attractions. Let’s do that today! Most of the attractions of today will be located in Lower Manhattan and within walking distance of each other.
➡️ PS: The 9/11 Memorial Museum is closed on Tuesday and it’s something you definitely want to visit if you haven’t, so I recommend doing this itinerary on other days that are not Tuesday !
1. Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
What’s a first-time visit to NYC without visiting the Statue of Liberty? Of course, this is a must! Not only do you get to see the Lady Liberty up close, but you’ll also get to take a little trip on a ferry to Ellis Island . Ellis Island was the entry point for many immigrants in the mid-1800s to early 1900s who shaped NYC into the city it is today.
Make your way to Battery Park to board the ferry, which departs every 25 minutes from 9:25 am to 4:30 pm.
🗽 Tip: Round trip ferry ticket to Ellis island, entry to the Statue of Liberty, and admission to the Immigration museum (worth $24) are included in the New York Pass .
2. Charging Bull and Fearless Girl at Wall Street
Once you’re done with Ellis island and back at Battery Park, make your way down to the edge of the Financial District to see the Charging Bull , a famous bronze statue that is an iconic symbol of Wall Street, depicting the “bull” period of the stock market which means optimism and prosperity.
This bull was first illegally dropped outside of New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Wall Street by its artist, Arturo Di Monica, as part of guerilla art in 1989. The bull was then moved to its current location later that year. There is a tradition to rub the bull’s… erm, scrotum when you visit, so you’ll notice that part of the bull is lighter in color compared to the rest of its body. It has also been subject to vandalism, being painted blue during the financial crisis of 2008.
After the bull, you can make your way to the Fearless Girl , a statue by Kirsten Visbal to promote female empowerment, which was installed in 2017 and was originally placed facing the Charging Bull. The placement of the girl caused some controversy and complaints from Di Monica as he feels that it changed the meaning and intention behind the Charging Bull. Since then, The Fearless Girl has been temporarily moved to face the NYSE building in 2018. As of 2022, the statue is still there, but it’s unclear how long it will remain.
Right next to the girl is none other than the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) , however there is not much you can do here aside from observing from the outside. The building is not open to the public.
2. Ground Zero, 9/11 Memorial and Museum
Tip 💡: The 9/11 museum is closed on Tuesdays!
From the statues, you can walk over to Ground Zero – the site of the 9/11 terrorist attack. Here, you can see where pools where the two World Trade Center towers used to stand, as well as a memorial that lists the names of all the victims of the September 11 terrorist attack on NYC.
There is the 9/11 Museum on site and this is a MUST visit – the 9/11 incident has shaped NYC (and arguably the world) today. The museum did a great job collecting photos, personal stories, and even soundbites from that day. I didn’t expect to cry in a museum, but there I was, sobbing in the middle of the memorial. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one crying.
It was difficult to go through but necessary and very highly recommended.
➡️ Tip: The 9/11 memorial, museum, and a tour are included in the New York Pass (worth $30)
3. The Oculus at One World Trade Center
Once you’re done with the museum, make your way to see The Oculus . Opened in 2016, you can’t miss this white structure from the outside as it is very eye-catching. It looks like large wings on the outside, and once inside it looks like gigantic rib cages and a spine.
The Oculus is actually a shopping center and a transport hub. You can go inside to take that iconic shot from the middle of the shopping center – it is truly something else.
4. See the city from above
NYC is known for its iconic skyline, so as a first-time visitor, you must visit one of the skyscrapers to enjoy the view. I recommend doing this closer to sunset so that you get a nice light. Take note that you might have to reserve if you come during peak hours.
There are many options if you want to see the city from above. Here are the options:
- Empire State Building Observatory – This building needs no introduction, it’s the most iconic building in NYC. You have the option to go to the 86th floor or go even higher to the 102nd floor (though I think 86th is enough). Tickets cost $44-77 depending on which floor you want to go to.
- Top of The Rock Observatory at Rockefeller center – Tickets cost $40. I think this is the best option to see NYC from above!
- One World Observatory – Tickets cost $53-63 depending on the package you choose. This observatory is the highest point in NYC, located on the 100-102nd floor of One World Trade Center.
- Edge in Hudson Yards – Tickets start from $38-42. This is one of the newer buildings in NYC.
- Summit One Vanderbilt – The only one on this list not covered by New York Pass . But you can still get your ticket ahead of time here for cheaper. Tickets for adults start at $39-45 via the online website, but they will add tax and processing fee and varies depending on the day and time of day. So it’s still a few dollars cheaper to book through my link .
For this itinerary, One World Observatory is the most convenient as you would already be in the area (It’s right on top of the World Trade Center). But I personally think Top of The Rock has the best view – you can see the Empire State Building and the entirety of Central Park from here!
Tip 💡: If you’re having issues choosing, you could consider getting New York Pass because ALL of the options above, except Summit One, are included in the New York Pass . You can visit even all of them if you want!
Day 2: New York Landmarks in Midtown
On this itinerary, you’ll get to explore Midtown, which as the name might have implied… is the middle part of Manhattan, between Downtown and Uptown. Generally speaking, Midtown is from anything between 14th to 59th street. And you bet there is a lot to do here! You’ll be walking plenty, so definitely put on your most comfortable shoes.
1. Best of NYC Cruise
The Best of NYC Cruise is a 2.5-hour cruise that loops around the entire Manhattan island, starting from Pier 83. They have 4 timings a day, at 10 am, 12 pm, 1:30 pm, and 3:30 pm. During the cruise, you’ll see many of New York’s most famous landmarks, including a few that are out of the way and first-time visitors wouldn’t normally see, like the Yankee stadium. It’s a great way to kick off a busy day!
💡 Tip: The cruise is included in New York Pass (worth $40-46)
2. The Vessel
After the tour, take a walk down to The Vessel – one of the newer attractions in NYC, built as part of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project. You would have seen The Vessel all over Instagram, with its unique architecture that resembles a honeycomb.
You can access the ground level of The Vessel for free on Monday through Saturday 10am-8pm and Sunday 11am-7pm, with no reservation required ( check the opening time here ). Unfortunately, the other levels of the Vessel are not open to the public due to suicide cases that have happened too frequently since its opening in 2019 and again after it tried to reopen in 2021.
If you want to see the city from above, this is another chance! Edge is an observatory with 360 views from the 100th floor, which also includes an outdoor sky deck. It is one of the newer observatories in the city.
💡 Tip: Admission to Edge (worth $38-42) is included in the New York Pass
4. High Line Park
The High Line park is a scenic 2.3km elevated trail built on a former New York Central Railroad.
From Edge, you can take a walk to High Line park. You can enter the High Line park from the very beginning near the W 34 St & 12 Ave corner , or if you don’t want to start from the very beginning, you can enter from the entrance next to Bloomberg Building which would be very convenient from the Edge.
The elevated platform means it’s possible to have a nice peaceful walk through the city. For once, I was able to walk around in NYC without the anxiety that some biker is going to run me over or piss someone off for not knowing how to walk like a New Yorker .
Walking from one end of the High Line park to the other should take about 20 minutes.
🚶🏻♀️ Tip: Highline & Chelsea walking tour (worth $39) is included in the New York Pass
5. Chelsea Market
The High Line park goes under Chelsea Market, so as soon as you see signs for Chelsea Market you can simply follow it.
And it’s time for lunch! There are tons of options at Chelsea Market, but the crowd’s favorite is Los Tacos No. 1 . It’s super worth a visit! You can read more about it in my food recommendations below.
6. Iconic buildings in Manhattan
After you’re done exploring Chelsea Market, walk over to the west side of Midtown, which should take about 20 minutes. Architecture buffs would be ecstatic about this part of the itinerary! I’ll highlight three of the most popular buildings in NYC if you want to check them out, and in this exact order, for more efficient use of your time:
- Flatiron Building – You should already be familiar with this building. The name of this building gives away its shape – sharp triangular, like a flat iron.
- Chrysler Building – One of NYC’s Art Deco skyscrapers with a distinctly pointed spire and arched crown. I was especially fond of this building as it is the location of one of my favorite video games – Parasite Eve.
- Empire State Building – This 102-story Art Deco skyscraper is a cultural icon that has appeared in many classic movies, most notably in the 1930s King Kong movie where Kong climbed the building.
💡 Tip: If you’d like to go up to the Empire State building, admission to the observatory (worth $44) is included in the New York Pass
7. Grand Central Terminal
From the Empire state building, Grand Central Terminal is a mere few blocks away. Grand Central Terminal is a recognized National Historic Landmark. There are tons of things to see here, but here are my favorites:
- Main Concourse – Look up and you’ll see the 12 constellations painted in gold leaf on a Tiffany blue background. You can also check out the Apple store on the east balcony if you’re an Apple fan, one of their most unique stores.
- The Whispering Gallery – The ceramic arches next to Grand Central Oyster Bar is an acoustical phenomenon that will let you talk to other people on the opposite ends of the corner!
After checking out the whispering gallery, you can go to Grand Central Oyster Bar for some Clam Chowder. It is the oldest restaurant in Grand Central. At the dining concourse, there are plenty of food options too! You can get a burger from Shake Shack or try Magnolia Bakery ‘s famous banana pudding.
Click here for more things to do at Grand Central Terminal.
Now that you’ve done all the New York City essentials and must-sees, I thought it would be fun to highlight yet another different side of the city. We’ll be visiting a few notable museums today. You’ll still be walking a lot, but at a more chilled-out pace than the other days. Most of these museums are located in the upper east side, in the vicinity of Central Park, on a stretch of fifth avenue called “Museum Mile”.
I’ll be recommending some museums to visit today, but of course, you can feel free to not visit all of them – only the ones that interest you! While visiting all of them is possible, it would be quite a rushed visit to do in one day. Also, take notes on the days the museums are closed. Museums in NYC are sometimes closed for one day in the middle of the week.
1. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (The Guggenheim)
If you appreciate modern, contemporary art and architecture, you’ll want to start your day at The Guggenheim. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, it has one of the most unique museum designs, spiraling upward in a cylindrical building, with artwork lining up the walls as you continue to walk up.
The Guggenheim isn’t a big museum and there aren’t many permanent collection, so be sure to check what’s on view to see if it interests you. I think the museum is worth checking out once for its unique architecture.
The Guggenheim is closed on Tuesdays
🏛 Tip: Admission to Guggenheim Museum (worth $25) is included in the New York Pass
2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met)
Just down the street from The Guggenheim is a name you should already be familiar with. The Met is known around the world not just for its annual star-studded Met Gala, but also for housing over two million artworks.
I loved everything about this museum, especially the Sackler Wing – such a beautiful, photogenic, and serene space. And if it’s a good day, don’t miss The Cantor Roof Garden Bar on the rooftop!
The Met is closed on Wednesdays
3. American Museum of Natural History
If you are interested in this museum and you’re coming from the Met, I recommend walking through Central Park from the Met and visiting Belvedere Castle on the way (see my map itinerary!)
Those who are interested in dinosaur fossils (real ones!), animals, and gems could spend all day here. Take note that the museum is open every day from 10 am to 5:30 pm .
🏛 Tip: Admission to the American Museum of Natural History (worth $23) is included in the New York Pass
4. New-York Historical Society
So I have a confession to make… I haven’t actually been to the Museum of Natural History, partially because of New-York Historical Society. You see, on my last visit to NYC, I was well on my way to visit the Museum of Natural History. New-York Historical Society is located right next to the Museum of Natural History, and in my jetlagged state, I walked into the New-York Historical Society and paid for the ticket, thinking it was the Museum of Natural History. I realized my mistake way too late and went along with it anyway.
And I’m so glad about that mistake! New-York Historical Society exceeded my expectations. There were so many interesting arts and paintings related to New York City, but the standouts for me were the replica of the oval room of the White House and the large collection of breathtakingly beautiful and very priceless Tiffany lamps, made by Tiffany Studios (yes, THAT Tiffany).
If you can, please do the museum tour at 2 PM. I think it greatly enhanced my experience visiting the museum.
The New-York Historical Society is closed on Mondays
🏛 Tip: Admission to the New-York Historical Society (worth $22) is included in the New York Pass
5. Central Park
The Met is already on the fringe of Central Park, so I think I don’t need to tell you how to get there. Central Park is a massive park in the middle of Manhattan. And allegedly, it is the most filmed location in the world!
There are tons of things to do here and the park is massive, but here are a few things I think are worth checking out at the park:
- Sakura / Cherry Blossom Trees – If you’re visiting NYC in April or May, you might be interested in viewing the Cherry Blossom trees. Here is where to find the cherry blossom trees in Central Park .
- Bethesda Terrace – One of the many architectural features in Central Park. I’m a huge fan of the ceramic tiles that form a pattern on the ceiling of the terrace.
- John Lennon tribute – In the eastern part of Central Park is a small tribute to John Lennon. You can start at the Dakota Apartments on 72nd Street, where he lived with Yoko Ono. It was at the entrance to the apartment that he was killed. In front of the Dakota on the Central Park side, you’ll find the Imagine Mozaic on the floor, a tribute to Lennon’s most popular song, and Strawberry Fields, a tribute to The Beatles’ song he wrote.
- Sheep Meadow – excellent for a picnic with friends or a solo afternoon nap
🚲 Tip: If you have the New York Pass , a Central Park bike tour (worth $52), a walking tour (worth $27), TV & movies tour (worth $36), and a bike rental (worth $46) is already included.
6. Museum of Modern Arts (MoMA)
From Central Park, head towards the South end of the park and you’ll find MoMA just a few blocks down.
MoMA is the mother of all modern and contemporary art museums, and it’s a must-visit. MoMA houses some of the most recognized artworks of our lifetime, including The Starry Night by Van Gogh, The Dance by Henri Matisse, Water Lillies by Monet, The Persistence of Memory by Dali, Campbell Soup by Andy Warhol as well as works by Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jackson Pollock.
MoMA is open every day
🏛 Tip: Admission to MoMA (worth $25) is included in the New York Pass
7. Times Square and Broadway
Finally, when you’re done with MoMA, it’s time to walk over to Times Square at Broadway and 42nd Street. Times Square is arguably the most touristy yet must-visit site in Manhattan. Just avoid going there during New Year’s Eve, it’s just not worth it when it’s that crowded.
Times Square is better to visit at night or as the sun is about to go down so that you can see all the billboards and LED signs lit up into the night. I recommend having some hot dogs straight from the street vendors at Times Square, not necessarily for their culinary value, but more for that quintessentially New York experience. Hot dogs were brought to NYC by German immigrants, in the form of push carts in the 1860s. In NYC, the sausages used are made from all beef.
Here is a cool photo I took at (almost) the same place in Times Square, a decade apart. Can you spot some differences?
Times Square is also in the Theater District. You must check out some Broadway shows while you’re in the city, such as Hamilton , Lion King , Phantom of the Opera , Wicked , and Book of Mormon are some of the most popular shows.
🏛 Tip: A Broadway and Times Square walking tour (worth $39) is included in the New York Pass
Day 4: Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Lower East Side
Congrats! you’re pretty much almost done with all the must-sees in Manhattan. But you’re not done with New York, so it’s time to cross over to the other side for a more chilled-out day of arts, food, and walks by the river.
💡 Note: This itinerary is best to do on a Saturday
1. Explore Williamsburg
Williamsburg is a gentrified neighborhood in Brooklyn, filled with things to do and shops to check out. You can start your way from Metropolitan Av station. Here are some recommendations on what to see and visit here.
- Quimby’s Bookstore – Indie bookstore providing curated titles
- The City Reliquary – A small non-profit museum where you can see memorabilia of the city. They have both permanent and rotating exhibitions. See what’s on at City Reliquary here .
- Joe’s Pizza Mohammad Ali Mural – PS: Joe’s Pizza is also not a bad place to grab a bite unless you’re here on a Saturday in which case you’ll want to check out Smorgasburg.
- Artists & Fleas – A marketplace for craft makers, where you can shop goods from local small businesses. Only open on weekends.
- Smorgasburg – If you’re here on a Saturday, you might want to check out Smorgasburg , a large open-air food market that started at Williamsburg but has now opened up in many other locations in NYC.
- Domino Park – A nice park to chill by the east river
- Mona Lisa of Williamsburg – One of the most famous murals in Williamsburg.
- More street art – If you are interested in street art and murals, you can see more on my NYC map .
From Williamsburg, you can continue to walk down south for 1 hour. If that sounds crazy, you could take the East River (ER) ferry from South Williamsburg to DUMBO for $2.75 and 12 minutes of your time – click here for the ferry route info . I say, take the ferry.
DUMBO is an abbreviation of “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass”. NYC is full of these amazing acronyms! You can read my NYC stories post for more NYC anecdotes like this.
In DUMBO, you must stop by to take one of these shots:
It’s the spot where you can see the Manhattan Bridge, along with the Empire state building perfectly framed in one of its lower arches. There will be tons of people here, but if you come early enough in the morning then I reckon you’ll get a pretty nice photo.
Aside from the viewpoint, there are also plenty of places to eat at DUMBO. My recommendation is Juliana’s which is a very popular pizzeria or Shake Shack if you have yet to give it a try by now.
3. Walk on the Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan
Once you’re done exploring DUMBO, make your way to Brooklyn Bridge. If you have time, you can stroll along the river at Brooklyn Bridge Park first before going to the bridge itself. You’ll get this nice view of the Brooklyn Bridge set against Manhattan.
Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the US, connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn. Most visitors walk or bike through the Brooklyn Bridge. You can walk across the bridge, which will take you approximately an hour, or you can rent a bike. Either way, there will be a lot of people on the walking platform!
➡️ Tip: If you have the New York Pass , a Brooklyn Bridge, and DUMBO tour (worth $35), Brooklyn Bridge Bike Rental (worth $40), and Brooklyn Bridge Walking Tour (worth $27) are already included.
4. Explore the rest of Manhattan
Once you’ve crossed the bridge, you’ll find yourself in Lower Manhattan. You can explore the rest of Manhattan according to your interest. I’ve marked a bunch of restaurants, bars, and points of interest on my NYC map . Or, read on to find more things to do in NYC below!
Things to do in Lower East Side
Lower East Side is one of Manhattan’s most happening neighborhoods. Take your time to enjoy Manhattan’s best food, art, and music scene.
- Hester Street Fair – If you are here on a Saturday, you can check out this open-air street fair, where you can hunt for vintage goodies.
- Katz Deli – A famous deli serving Jewish American cuisine. You can read more about it in my food recommendations below.
- The Bowery Ballroom – Fans of indie music can catch a show at this intimate venue. See what’s on at Bowery Ballroom
- Alphabet City – This area is a small portion of the east village where the streets are named Avenue A, B, C, and D. You can find restaurants and Bars here.
More things to do and places to visit in Manhattan
- Comedy Cellar in West Village – A comedy club in West Village. You won’t know the lineup until you show up, but many famous comedians (such as Dave Chapelle) have been known to make a surprise appearance. It’s considered to be the best comedy club in the country. Make reservations here .
- Sleep No More in Chelsea – An immersive theater experience, based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, that I can’t describe with words. Even if I try, you’ll likely have a different experience than me, due to the flexible, “choose your own adventure” format of Sleep No More. You just have to experience it yourself and go with the flow. As it is located near Chelsea in Midtown, I would suggest fitting this on the Day 2 itinerary above. Buy tickets here .
- Amateur night at The Apollo in Harlem – This requires traveling uptown to Harlem and only happens on Wednesdays, but it was worthwhile to make the trip out there! Similar to Comedy Cellar, you just never know which future superstar is making their debut night here, which has included names like Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonders, Lauryn Hill, and Michael Jackson & The Jackson Five. Buy tickets here .
- Bohemian in NoHo – An exclusive restaurant in NoHo, located in Andy Warhol’s former studio site. You can only dine here if you know the name of someone who has been here before.
- Strand Bookstore in Union Square – A large bookstore specializing in used and rare books.
- The Django in Lower Manhattan – A Jazz Bar in Roxy hotel. Good for drinks and live acts.
- The Back Room – One of the original speakeasies from the prohibition era still in operation today. They serve drinks in unassuming white tea cups, just like how people used to do back in the prohibition days!
Other things to do in New York
- Coney Island in Brooklyn – If you’re visiting New York during summer, you can check out Coney Island in the southwestern part of Brooklyn. It features a whimsical seaside amusement park close to the beach, with games, food, and fairs.
- Brooklyn Bowl
Where and What to Eat in NYC
There are many good places to eat in NYC, and I enjoyed eating my way through NYC during my stay. Here are a few standouts that I truly enjoyed during my stay:
Los Tacos No.1 – Yes, I queued for this. Yes, it is located in the extremely touristy Chelsea Market. But YES, it was worth it. They only serve 4 types of tacos. I tried cactus (nopal) tacos for the first time here – while this was not my cup of tacos, I do recommend trying it at least once and highly recommend the other three tacos.
Levain Cookies – Worth. the. damn. hype. Just go get yourself their walnut chocolate chip cookie and you can thank me later. If there is a line, don’t fret because it moves super fast… so there is no reason why you shouldn’t go! I originally planned to buy the cookies and then walk over to Central Park to eat them, but let’s be honest – they only lasted a few steps outside the bakery * mouth waters from thinking about their cookies *. The original branch is on Upper West Side, but you can find Levain in many parts of NYC now.
Kosher American Jewish Deli – Comprising approximately 13% of NYC’s population, the Jewish community in NYC is the largest in the world outside of Israel. The Jews immigrated to NYC from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, and these immigrants created what is now known as a Jewish delicatessen (or deli for short). At these delis, you can find the classic pastrami on rye and my new-found love: Matzo ball soup, among other dishes – some of which are unique to Jewish Americans.
Here are a few delis that I loved when I was in NYC:
- Katz Deli (in Lower East Side) – This is the place that introduced me to Matzo ball soup, so they needed to be mentioned. The Harry Met Sally thing is pretty cool too, I guess.
- Sarge’s Deli (in Midtown) – Out of all the Jewish delis I tried, their pastrami sandwich is the best! They also have the most homely ambiance, and their Matzo ball is pretty good.
- 2nd Ave Deli (in Upper East Side) – OK, by now you guys have probably caught on that I visited all the famous delis because of my Matzo ball soup obsession… and the one at 2nd ave deli was my favorite Matzo ball soup out of them all. It comes with carrots! and a choice of 3 types of carbs!
Babka – A type of bread swirled with chocolate and cinnamon, popular with the Jewish community in eastern European countries. Many have said babka is the best sweet to get in NYC. Breads Bakery is a popular place to get Babka from in NYC.
The Halal Guys on 53rd and 6th – Because you haven’t been to NYC without tasting that magical secret white sauce, made popular by none other than the New York cabbies themselves. They have carts all over the city now, but the OG one is this one on 53rd and 6th.
When I first came to New York, I stayed at the Hilton, which you can see in the background of the photo below.
Each time we pass by this corner around dinner time, this one food cart would have a long line snaking out. So one night just before flying back, I decided to join the line – and then I understood why. Their gyro platter with the white and red sauce is SO delicious and relatively affordable for New York’s price. I liked it so much that I hand-carried one on a flight back to LA for my family to try!
Is getting a travel pass worth it in New York?
(All currency in this calculation is in USD)
The New York Pass allows you to visit as many attractions as possible during the duration of your pass. Sounds good? Well, it depends. I would only recommend this if you’re the type of traveler who likes to move fast and want to see everything.
If you follow my itinerary above, your New York Pass utilization could look like this :
And if you decide to take the Big Bus Tour on one of the days, it would add even more to the total value of the pass to be $427. A 3-day pass costs $249 at the time of writing, so you could potentially be saving $118-178 with the New York Pass .
Of course, this is all dependent on your planning ability to use up the pass to its full potential. This is why even though the New York pass is available for up to 7 days, I can only advise getting the 3-day pass and doing as many things as possible during those days to make it truly worth it.
However, if you decide that you want to chill and only visit a few select attractions, you can consider Go City New York Explorer Pass instead. You’ll save money through this pass, provided you pick high-value attractions that cost $35 or more. The pass is good for 60 days after activation so that you can take your time!
My recommendations for such attractions:
- Top of the Rock – $40
- Central Park Bike Tour – $52
- Best of NYC cruise – $47
- The vessel – $39
- Edge – $42
- High Line Tour – $39
Okay, that was one long post on everything I know about NYC! I hope this post has been useful to you. And as usual, if you have any questions, please feel free to comment below.
- August 12, 2023
Hi Melissa! Thank you SO much for making this- it’s extremely helpful as it will be my sister and I’s first time in NY! I was wondering if you had a pdf or printable version of this?
Hey Jazmin, I don’t have a printable version but that’s a great idea – i should make one! I hope you have fun with your sister 🙂
- May 20, 2023
Just wanted to drop a message here saying that your blog for first-time visitors of NYC has proven to be spot on. My family and I had a blast during our 4 days in The Big Apple. Many thanks!
Nico, thanks for taking the time to write this!
- March 1, 2023
im travelling this summer and so excited to do this itinerary.. thanks a million
- February 15, 2023
Hi! Your blog makes me want to book a flight to New York!
- February 4, 2023
I just wanted to say this was incredibly helpful, and thank you so much for writing it! It’s been surprisingly difficult to find solid travel itineraries for NYC so I really appreciated how thorough and detailed this was. Thank you!
- February 5, 2023
Thank you Aleesha for taking the time to write this comment. I appreciate it!
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Our mission is to serve the 50+ traveler who's ready to cross a few items off their bucket list.
7 Key Things To Know Before Your First Trip To New York City
- New York City
- United States
New York City is diverse, lively, dense, and home to iconic sights and symbols like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. Streets are filled with skyscrapers. It’s a mix of cultures and foods and world-class art. Theater is top quality here. You can shop till you drop. At Times Square, you will marvel at the oversized flashing lighted signs that surround the crowds below. And when you are tired of the bustle, escape to the wonders of Central Park with its lakes and trees and grassy hills.
With all New York City has to offer, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when planning a trip, especially if it’s your first time in NYC. Here are some major things to know that will help. Be flexible once you get to New York, but at least have a game plan ahead of time so you can best enjoy this wonderfully complex city.
1. New York City Is Manhattan And More
New York City is made up of five boroughs, with Manhattan at its core. While you can venture to Brooklyn , the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island, you will want to center your first trip in Manhattan. This is where you’ll find the Empire State Building , Times Square, Broadway shows, and Central Park . If you have time, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge or take the subway to the Bronx. If you have only a few days, plan to spend most of your time in Manhattan.
2. Sleep In Manhattan But Not In Times Square
Staying in Manhattan on your first trip allows you to fit in the most sightseeing. That doesn’t narrow it down a lot, though, as Manhattan is large and there are hundreds of hotels. Many people book a hotel in Times Square because they’ve heard of it and seen the ball drop on TV on New Year’s Eve. But I recommend staying at least a few blocks away from the chaos and noise and giant neon signs of Times Square. Choose a place in your budget and preferences at least a few blocks away.
I like staying near Grand Central Station on East 42nd Street. This puts you at a transportation hub within walking distance of Rockefeller Plaza, Bryant Park, Times Square, and Central Park. I can recommend the Hyatt Grand Central as a mid-priced, clean, attractive option.
If you’re after lower prices, you can opt to stay in New Jersey or Brooklyn, or anywhere outside the middle of Manhattan. The trade-off is more time spent on the train or subway. I like to pack my sightseeing days full of sights, walking out the door of my hotel and being right in the middle of the hustle and bustle. Figure out what’s best for you.
3. Decide On The Iconic Attractions You Want To See
While your interests will determine how you fill your time in New York City, there are three iconic sights that will top your list on your first trip.
The Statue of Liberty National Monument . Lady Liberty, recognized around the world as a symbol of freedom, stands waiting to welcome you to New York. Before you go, think about whether you want to take the boat out to the island and see the statue from her pedestal. Or are you fine with taking the free Staten Island Ferry and getting a close-up view from the water? Do you also want to go to nearby Ellis Island, where immigrants were brought and processed into the U.S. for years? You can get tickets to see both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Allow basically a morning or afternoon to do the joint tour.
The 9/11 Memorial and Museum
Built where the Twin Towers once stood, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum honors those lost in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Be prepared for an emotional experience .
If you are short on time, you can visit just the memorial pools outside the museum. Allow at least 2 hours for the museum.
This famous green oasis covering more than 800 acres calls to visitors and locals alike. Stroll along the tree-lined paths or relax on the grassy lawns of North Meadow and Sheep’s Meadow. Marvel at the lovely curves of Bow Bridge. And visit the Imagine memorial to John Lennon.
If time is limited, enter the park at the south end and wander as long as you can. There’s more to see than at the north end of the park. Download a map or app of the park so you can easily find the points you most want to see.
4. Discount Passes May Save You Money
For your first trip to New York City, consider an attractions pass. This can save you money, especially if you plan to visit the most popular places. Basic options include:
These are for a set number of days. Fit in as many attractions as you like in that time. Some come with skip-the-line perks. Two to look into are the Sightseeing Pass and the New York Pass .
Number Of Attractions
These are for a set number of attractions, such as three or five choices from the options given. If you know what you most want to see, these are a good kind of pass. One to consider is The Explorer Pass .
You don’t have a choice of which attractions are included. But many of the most popular are included. Check out the CityPass , which is a booklet of six tickets
Do a cost comparison with what you want to see between having a pass and no pass to find out whether you want to invest in one.
5. Choose Where You Will Take In The City Views
The vastness of New York City never ceases to amaze people. And taking in a view of the city from above is a must when you visit. Not only do you see the density of the buildings but you have the water, Central Park, and the Statue of Liberty to spy on from up high. Here are four main places that feature a panoramic view. Book tickets ahead of your visit to get the time of day you prefer. If you can choose two of these viewing sites, book one in the daytime and the other at sunset for views of NYC in all lights.
The Edge is an outside platform 101 stories up, and it literally hangs off the edge of the building. You see West Manhattan and south to the Statue of Liberty. The angled glass walls allow you to lean out over the city. And there’s a glassed section of ground where you can stand and look straight down at the city below.
This is my favorite of the city view places. After you get over the strange sensation of feeling like you’re on the brink of falling 100 stories to the sidewalk, it’s quite exciting. And the views are certainly breathtaking.
Top Of The Rock Observation Deck
From the top of Rockefeller Center, you can take in views of Central Park and Manhattan Midtown from 70 floors up. And from the Top of the Rock you can clearly see the Empire State Building. That’s one reason some people recommend this one if you are choosing just one view site. And with indoor and outdoor viewing decks, you can stay inside if it’s cold or rainy.
Empire State Building
This grand symbol of New York, the Empire State Building , is billed as the “world’s most famous skyscraper.” Get your ticket and ride the elevator to the 86th floor, where you can look out at the city from the 360-degree observatory. See the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, and the Statue of Liberty.
If you choose, you can include a visit to the 102nd floor as well. Here are floor-to-ceiling views that can cover up to 80 miles away on a clear day.
Summit One Vanderbilt
The newest entry into fantastic NYC viewpoints is the Summit . The entrance is inside Grand Central Station. It does have a view of the city, and it also has other floors with mirrors and shiny objects. It’s an experience that goes beyond taking in the city sights. Take a look at the website and see if it’s something you want to do.
6. It’s Okay If It’s Rainy Or Very Cold
As your trip gets close, check the weather. If it looks like a day of rain or extreme cold is coming, no problem. Plan for amazing indoor options. A few top picks:
Metropolitan Museum Of Art
This world-class art museum offers so much to see that you could easily spend days here. Not only does it display art from different historical periods and countries, but also the architecture of the building alone is worth a visit.
Like the Louvre in Paris and the British Museum, the Met can be enjoyed in short sessions. Plan for a morning or a few hours. Then, look at the online information about the exhibits. Choose two or three areas that fascinate you and start there. You will likely want to return to see more!
American Museum Of Natural History
This grand museum has been around for 150 years. While it’s a great way to keep young ones in your party busy and happy, I’ve found as a grown-up that I love natural history displays.
Popular exhibits include the brown bears in the North American Hall of Mammals, the massive blue whale model that measures 94 feet, and the huge Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton.
New York Public Library
This imposing building is a great place to shelter from the weather. The stately lions standing guard on the front steps are named Patience and Fortitude. The architecture inside the library is noteworthy. And it’s free.
7. Wear Comfortable Shoes
You may think of New York City as a fashion mecca and figure you need to dress up. But while there are upscale stores and elegant restaurants, for sightseeing, you don’t need to be fancy. You will walk and walk and walk. And that’s the best way to experience New York. So, wear comfortable shoes or flat-heeled boots. And it may be surprising but rest assured that casual clothes are fine for Broadway shows and most restaurants.
These tips touch on some things that can make your trip easier and more fun. With a bit of planning, you will enjoy your time in New York. I’m betting you’ll want to return for more incredible experiences in this fascinating city.
Go over to our New York City category to find out more about the Big Apple:
- 9 Best Places In New York City To Escape The Crowds
- 10 Best Spots To Try New York City Pizza, According To The Locals
- 10 Luxe Lounges To Visit In New York City
As the owner of the travel blog, Exploring Our World , Sharon enjoys taking her readers on a journey with her. Articles often delve into the history of a place, and by adding in a generous number of photos, she inspires others to explore for themselves. In her early travels, she was most frustrated by coming back home and learning that she had missed a fascinating sight or a hidden gem. Now she helps travelers prepare for a trip by passing along travel tips, pointing out lesser known things to see, and alerting them to enjoyable day trips from major cities.
Her travel articles have been published by Stripes Europe Newsletter and the World War 2 Writing and Research Center. Whether she's discovering more about her hometown of San Diego, California or flying to faraway places, she enjoys sharing with travel lovers around the world.
- ©Copyright 2023
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Feel rich living within your means
First Time in New York City? 15 Essential Travel Tips
By Eden Ashley MintNotion.com is reader-supported. When you buy through links on this site, we will earn a commission at no added cost to you. This helps keep the content on this website free for everyone to enjoy. Disclosure Page
Traveling to New York City for the first time? Here you’ll find tips on where to stay, things to do, how to save money on New York’s top attractions, and how to prepare for your first trip to New York.
While New York is the largest city in the USA and has plenty to offer, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when planning your trip.
Use this first timer’s guide to take the stress out of organizing your vacation so you can best enjoy this diverse city!
*** Please bookmark this page because I’m constantly updating it to help you get the most up-to-date information about traveling to New York ***
Table of Contents
Where should I stay in New York City?
After visiting New York City several times and staying in different neighborhoods, I recommend staying in one of these six areas:
- Midtown – The BEST neighborhood for first-timers
- Times Square – The heart of Manhattan. You can’t beat its location.
- Upper East Side – Ideal for museum lovers and close to Central Park
- Lower East Side & Soho – Ideal for shopping
- Greenwich Village & Chelsea – Lots of great restaurants
- Brooklyn – Ideal for travellers on a budget
AVOID staying at Airbnbs in New York since they are illegal . You’re better off booking a hotel for the ease and comfort of your trip.
I like using Booking.com to find the best price on hotel accommodations. I’ve also had good luck using Hotwire to score 4 or 5-Star hotels for cheap.
Best hotels in New York City for every budget
If you’re traveling on a budget, these are the best affordable hotels in NYC:
- CitizenM New York Times Square
- Hotel Scherman (Located in Midtown close to sightseeing and restaurants)
- Artezen Hotel (Close to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum)
If you have some more wiggle room in your budget, below are some of the best mid-range hotels in New York:
- Courtyard by Marriott New York Manhattan/Midtown East
- Fairfield Inn & Suites New York Midtown Manhattan/Penn Station
- AC Hotel by Mariott New York Times Square
If you want to splurge on your accommodations, below are some popular luxury hotels in New York:
- The Standard, High Line
- The Beekman A Thomspon Hotel
- New York Marriot Marquis (Time Square)
What do I need to know about traveling to New York City?
Best time to go : Spring (April to June) and Fall (September to November) are the best times to visit New York City. This is when the weather is mild and there are less crowds.
Best area to stay : Midtown , Upper East Side , and Times Square are the best areas to stay if you’re visiting New York for the first time and plan to do a lot of sightseeing.
If you’re traveling on a budget, some good areas to stay for tourists include Queens and the Bronx .
Best way to get around : Walk or ride public transit. New York City has an excellent public transit system that will take you anywhere you need to go.
Another option is to take the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour , which can be a great way to get familiar with the city and see the main landmarks and attractions.
Top 5 things to do in New York : The 9/11 Memorial & Museum , The Metropolitan Museum of Art , Empire State Building , Top of the Rock , and Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island .
Best way to save money on New York attractions : Purchase a city pass, such as the
- New York Pass *MOST POPULAR* – (Save 50% on over 100 attractions)
- New York CityPASS (Save 40% on the top 5 attractions)
- New York Explorer Pass (Save up to 50% of your choice of attractions)
- New York Sightseeing Pass (Save up to 70% on over 150 attractions)
What’s New York City known for? As one of the most famous cities in the world, New York City is known for its Broadway shows, Central Park, Grand Central Station, Times Square, and the Statue of Liberty.
To help you get the most bang for your buck, here’s some tips for visiting New York City for the first time, including common tourist mistakes to avoid.
- How to visit New York on a budget
- New York CityPASS vs. New York Pass – Which is better?
- New York Pass review – Is it worth it?
1. Avoid taking a taxi or Uber to get around New York
Taking a taxi or Uber to get around the city is expensive. And let’s be honest – you don’t want to waste your precious sightseeing time stuck in NYC’s busy traffic?
W hat is the best way to get around New York?
Use public transportation . Riding the subway is the quickest and cheapest way to get to all the attractions on your itinerary.
You’ll want to get MetroCard to make it easy. A MetroCard is a magnetic stripe card that you’ll use for fare payment on public transportation in the NYC area.
You can get a Pay-Per-Ride card which is good if you’re staying in the city for a few days. Or you can get a 7-day Unlimited MetroCard if you’re staying for a week.
My husband and I bought a 7-day unlimited ride MetroCard during our trip.
We had so much freedom with the metro card because it was a stress-free way to get around town. Plus it saved us A LOT of money.
New York is a BIG city, so even if you’re staying in a central location, you’ll save a lot of time sightseeing by using the metro. This is the best way to visit New York City.
I know the subway map looks like a giant spider web, but you’ll discover that it’s surprisingly easy to navigate.
Whenever you visit a new city, watch a YouTube video about how to use their public transit system. This can help you know what to expect when traveling and gives you peace of mind.
You can also download an app, such as CityMapper , which will show you train schedules, any service interruptions, alternate routes (if necessary), and which exit to take.
Other ways to get around New York:
Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour – Yes, it’s a little touristy, but this is a great way to experience New York for first-timers. This is also a great option to get familiar with the city.
It’s super convenient because you can jump on and off the bus tour at any of their 35+ designated stops in the city, as many times as you wish.
Plus you can listen to their digital commentary and learn more about New York’s top sights.
Walk – New York is one of the world’s most walkable cities. It’s laid out in a grid pattern, which makes it easy to find your way around.
Streets run East-West and Avenues run North-South. Just make sure to wear a comfortable pair of walking shoes .
SIDE NOTE: I don’t recommend wearing sandals when walking around New York. The city is super dirty and it’ll take forever to wash the dirty and grime off your feet.
2. Save money with the New York Pass
If you want to visit New York’s most popular attractions, I highly recommend getting a city pass. This allows you to save up to 50% off the city’s top attractions, tours, and landmarks.
While there are many different New York city passes to choose from, the most popular one is the New York Pass , which is great for those who want to visit a lot of attractions.
What’s the best way to save money on New York attractions ?
Use the New York Pass .
Getting the most bang for your buck is my #1 priority when planning a vacation and the New York Pass was rated the #1 NYC city pass by TripAdvisor.
FLASH SALE! Save up to $145 off the New York Pass . Offer ends October 29th! You have 2 years to activate the pass.
They’re also recommended by Expedia and the New York Pass currently have a TrustScore rating of 4/5 on Trust Pilot .
Over 3.5 million travelers have used the pass and 9 out of 10 customers recommend the New York Pass to their friends. This is the most popular New York tourist pass.
With the New York Pass, you can save time, money, and enjoy stress-free sightseeing. This is your one-stop shop for the ultimate New York sightseeing experience!
But don’t just take my word for it. Check out these Trust Pilot reviews below.
PRO TIP: Buy the pass online to save time and hassle. Plus, you’ll save extra money off the retail price. To buy the New York Pass, click here to go to the official website.
What’s included in the New York Pass ?
✓ Pick from over 100 NYC attractions ✓ Valid for up to 10 days ✓ Save up to 50% compared to purchasing tickets at each attraction ✓ Visit unlimited amount of NYC attractions each day
The New York Pass is a prepaid sightseeing card that can be used to get FREE fast-track entry to over 100+ attractions , museums, and tours in the city.
Below are some of my favorite attractions included in the New York Pass.
Must-see observation decks in NYC:
- Edge NYC ($43.55 value)
- Empire State Building ($47.91 value)
- Top of the Rock Observatory ($43.55 value)
Popular museums in NYC:
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum ($28.00 value)
- American Museum of Natural History ($28.00 value)
- Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) ($25.00 value)
Best tours in NYC:
- Big Bus Hop-On Hop-Off tour ($59.99 value)
- Statue of Liberty Ferry and Ellis Island Immigration Museum ($24.00 value)
- Best of NYC Cruise by Circle Line ( $44.00 value)
Once you’ve bought the New York Pass, you can visit as many attractions as you want. The more sights you visit, the more money you save!
I found that using the pass allowed me to check out more attractions and tours that I wouldn’t normally think of doing .
For example, small walking tours. The New York Pass offers free access to a variety of walking tours in NYC. I really enjoyed this!
Is the New York Pass worth it? Check out my honest review of the New York Pass here.
How to buy your New York Pass:
STEP 1: Choose which pass duration you want to buy (1, 2, 3, 5, 7, or 10-day). You can click here to purchase your New York Pass from their official website.
Why you should consider buying the pass online:
- When you buy the pass online, you can take advantage of online discounts .
- They offer a 365-day money-back guarantee , so you can get a full refund just in case your plans change.
- You can activate your pass anytime within two years from the date of purchase.
STEP 2: Download your mobile pass instantly using the New York Pass app.
If you prefer a physical pass, simply print your pass and guidebook at home. Links and easy-to-follow instructions for both options will be in your confirmation email.
STEP 3: You now have FREE access to any of the 100+ top NYC attractions included for the duration of your pass.
How to activate the pass : It will activate once you visit your first attraction and can then be used on consecutive calendar days for the number of days purchased.
You’ll also receive a free guidebook , which is included with your purchase. Use this book to help you easily plan your itinerary.
3. Make time to visit Brooklyn
During my first trip to New York City, I spent the whole time in Manhattan. I had no idea there were so many other great places to visit in the boroughs.
I encourage you to make time to visit Brookyln. This a fun escape from the big city and you’ll be treated to spectacular skyline views of Manhattan.
If you’re using the New York Pass , below are some of the attractions and tours you can check out in Brooklyn for FREE using the pass:
- Brooklyn Bridge Bike Rental by Unlimited Biking ($51.69 value)
- Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO Neighborhood Tour ($35.00 value)
- NYC Bus Tour of Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens ($79.00 value)
- Brooklyn Museum of Art ($16.00 value)
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden ($18.00 value)
- Graffiti and Street Art Walking Tour of Brooklyn ($32.00 value)
- Brooklyn Bridge Walking Tour ($27.57 value)
PRO TIP : The best photos of the Manhattan skyline are from DUMBO in Brooklyn.
Now whenever I’m in New York City, I always make time to visit Brooklyn . Some of my favorite things to do in Brooklyn include walking across the Brooklyn Bridge (you’ll love the NYC skyline view), eating pizza at Roberta’s, enjoying the best hot chocolate at Jacques Torres Chocolate, and exploring the NY Transit Museum.
Prep for your New York trip
4. Don’t pay full price at New York City museums
There’s no reason to pay full price to visit museums such as The Met , MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), or the American Museum of Natural History .
Instead, there are several ways you can get discounted entry tickets or even visit them for free. This is one of the best things to know before going to New York.
Take advantage of free museum days
You can visit some of New York City’s museums on free days, which makes this a great option to save money.
The only down side is free museum days are always busy . This is why I recommend arriving BEFORE the museum opens to avoid long wait times.
Side Note: For New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut residents ONLY , some museums (such as The Met) offer “pay what you wish” admission. A valid form of ID is required.
In the past, some New York museums offered “pay what you wish” admission for everyone.
But now it’s ONLY offered to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut residents . You’ll need to show a valid form of ID.
If you don’t live in one of these states , the best ways to save money on attractions is to try visiting on free days or using one of the following New York sightseeing passes.
Save money with one of these New York sightseeing passes :
New York Pass – Using the New York Pass is a no-brainer if you want to avoid paying full-price at NYC’s top attractions.
With the savings you gain from using the New York Pass, you can put that extra money towards a nice dinner, a fancy hotel, and so on.
BEST FOR : You want to hit all the major attractions in a short amount of time. You’ll save up to 50% off vs. paying for individual entrance tickets.
New York CityPASS – If you just want to visit the city’s most popular attractions and aren’t interested in tours, then you may want to consider getting the New York CityPASS.
BEST FOR : You want to visit the top 5 attractions in New York. You’ll save 40% off vs. paying the regular admission price. This includes:
- Empire State Building
- American Museum of Natural History
- Top of the Rock OR Guggenheim Museum
- Ferry Access to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
- 9/11 Memorial and Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
New York GO City Pass – And if you just want to visit a few attractions at your own pace, then I recommend checking out the New York GO City Pass.
BEST FOR : You have more time to spend in New York to see the city’s top attractions. You’ll save up to 50% off vs. paying the regular admission price.
The New York CityPASS and GO City Pass DON’T offer as high of a discount on sightseeing as the New York Pass , but they are still excellent ways to save money when visiting the city’s top attractions.
Below you can read my post sharing tips on how to choose the best sightseeing pass for your trip to New York.
What is the best sightseeing pass for New York?
5. D on’t spend all your time in Midtown and Times Square
Midtown is great, but there’s SO much more to do in New York City. It would be a shame if you spent all your time in Midtown or Times Square.
Many tourists make the mistake of spending their entire trip only visiting these two areas. They miss out on all the wonderful things that New York has to offer.
DO THIS INSTEAD :
Even if you’re visiting New York City for the first time, try to schedule time in your itinerary to explore some less popular, but equally amazing neighborhoods in NYC.
Some of my favorite neighborhoods to explore are the Village, Upper East Side , Union Square, Lower East Side , Lower Manhattan, and SoHo (where you’ll find the Musuem of Ice Cream ).
If you’re using the New York Pass , below are some more great things to do outside of Midtown and Times Square. All attractions are free when using the pass.
- 9/11 Memorial and Museum
- One World Observatory
- Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Immigrant Museum
- Best of NYC Cruise by Circle Line
- Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
- Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
- Whitney Museum of American Art
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden
- The Highline
- Flatiron Building
- Central Park
- Washington Square Park
- Coney Island
- Brooklyn Bridge
6. Don’t eat in Times Square
This spot may be great for a photo or to watch a Broadway show, but you don’t want to eat here. The food in Times Square is usually expensive and doesn’t offer good value.
If you’re hungry when visiting Times Square, try to walk at least 3-5 blocks east or west to find more affordable restaurants with better quality food.
Instead, my favorite neighborhoods to find good food in New York include Chinatown, West Village, SoHo, Chelsea, Flatiron, Lower East Side, and the East Village.
PRO TIP : Traveling can be expensive. One way I like to save money is to get FREE gift cards from Swagbucks . You can get free gift cards to Starbucks, which can be used to cover coffee or breakfast while traveling. Instead of paying out of pocket, this can be a great way to cut back on travel costs. Join Swagbucks for free here.
7. Check out at least one observation deck in New York City
Yes, this is a little touristy, but the views of New York City are absolutely incredible. To get a true feel for New York, you need to see it from above.
If you decide to splurge on one thing, THIS should be it!
My personal favorite is the view from the Top of the Rock . I’ve been several times and never get tired of it. Just make sure to buy your tickets in advance. This will save you money and disppointment if tickets sell out the day you want to visit.
Below are some other popular skydecks to check out. You can visit them all for FREE with the New York Pass .
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt Experience – Very new and exciting.
Empire State Building – A must if you like the movie Sleepless in Seattle. Visit the 86th floor observation deck, or if you can check out the 102nd floor to get 360-degree views of the city.
New York One World Observatory – The One World Trade Center is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.
New York Edge Observation Deck – The highest outdoor skydeck in the Western Hemisphere.
8. Avoid eating at chain restaurants
Don’t tell me you came all the way to New York City to eat at Sbarro Pizza, like Michael Scott did in The Office TV show!
If you’re visiting New York City for the first time, you’ll want to take advantage of the city’s diverse selection of restuarants and ethnic eats.
Whether you’re craving an authentic slice of New York-style pizza or a gourmet meal prepared by some of the top chefs in the world, you’ll find everything your taste buds desire here.
If you’re a foodie like me, consider taking fun Manhattan Food & History Tour with a local guide. You’ll get to hear stories of the millions of immigrants who settled in New York and taste incredible Chinese, German, Dutch, Italain, Jewish and other dishes.
9. Don’t pay full price for a Broadway show
One of the most popular things to do in New York City for the first time is to see a Broadway show. Instead of paying full price for tickets, you’ll almost always be able to find a discount.
How to save money on theatre tickets:
TKTS Ticket Booths sell discounted tickets to see most Broadway musicals, plays, and dance productions. You’ll be able to score same-day tickets at up to 50%, which is a huge savings!
I recommend arriving early in the day, as it tends to get busy and some shows can sell out quickly.
Their flagship location is in the heart of Times Square. You can also check out their booth at South Street Seaport or Lincoln Center.
What are the most popular Broadway shows in New York?
- The Lion King
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
- Moulin Rouge! The Musical
- MJ Broadway
- The Book of Mormon Musical
- Blue Man Group
10. Don’t support horse carriage rides in Central Park
Riding a horse-drawn carriage sounds like a fairy tale. But the reality is, carriage horses often live and work in inhumane conditions.
Horse-drawn carriages shouldn’t share the same roadways as honking cars and cyclists as it puts both the animal and the public at risk. These horses work long hours (rain or shine) and even when the weather is unbearably hot or freezing cold.
Paying for a horse-drawn carriage ride continues to support the industry. So while it might sound like a nice way to experience Central Park, you’ll want to pass on this idea.
There are many other great ways to explore NYC. Some of my favorite ways to get around the city include taking the metro or walking.
If you want to relax and soak up all the sights, then you’ll definitely want to ride the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour .
They provide digital commentary sharing exciting stories about NYC’s iconic landmarks and attractions.
Ride the metro – Besides walking, this is the fastest and most cost-effective way to get around New York City.
Staten Island Ferry – It’s free to ride and it’s a fun way to see the Statue of Liberty (Lady Liberty) from a distance.
Walking – Put on your walking shoes and explore the city. This is my favorite way to get around and sightsee.
To make it more fun, consider joining a local walking tour . If you’re using the New York Pass , there are several walking tours available for every interest.
By bike – Explore New York City by bike. Check out the city’s urbans parks or ride along the dedicated greenways.
If you’re using the New York Pass , you can rent bikes for FREE in Central Park – a $54.44 value!
Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour – See all the top sights in NYC with the Big Bus Classic panoramic tour. Free bus tour included with the New York Pass – a $59 value!
New York City helicopter tour – If you have some extra money to spend and want to create an unforgettable experience, consider this helicopter tour.
You’ll get a bird’s-eye view of New York’s Manhattan island and enjoy 180 degree views of the city’s sights.
New York Cruise – If you’re pressed for time, this can be a great way to see New York City.
This 90-minute cruise allows you to experience lower and midtown Manhattan in a unique and exciting way. You’ll also get a close-up look at the Statue of Liberty and other popular landmarks.
11. Some NYC attractions require advance booking
If you’re traveling to New York City soon and plan to visit some of the city’s popular attractions, I HIGHLY recommend making reservations as soon as possible .
Some of the popular attractions, such as the Empire State Building, may sell out or require a wait for the next available entry.
If you’re using a sightseeing pass, such as New York Pass , New York CityPASS , or the GO City Pass , you’re already one step ahead of everyone else because you can skip the long ticket lines.
Then once you’ve planned your New York itinerary, you can make your reservations through their website after purchasing your pass.
Below are some popular attractions that require or recommend advance reservations:
- Top of the Rock observation deck
- Guggenheim Museum
- Ferry Access to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
- Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
- Edge Observation Deck
12. Learn how to find cheap eats in NYC
NYC is an expensive city and the price point at its restaurants are higher than other large cities, such as Toronto. However, with some careful planning, there are plenty of great ways to save money when eating in New York City.
Get the lunch special
Many popular NYC restaurants offer affordable lunch specials. This can be a great way to enjoy a tasty meal for cheap.
Eat and drink during Happy Hour
If you don’t mind eating a little early (or late at night), I highly recommend taking advantage of New York City’s happy hour specials. Enjoy discounted menu prices on a selection of both food and drinks.
Dollar pizza slices
OK, we can’t be healthy all the time. Grabbing a slice of New York pizza is one of my favorite meals when I’m on-the-go sightseeing in the city. If you’re visiting New York City for the first time, getting NYC-style pizza is a MUST!
Find cheap eats in the Village, Lower East Side, and Chinatown
Think everything in NYC is expensive? Think again. There are plenty of delicious restaurants with affordable eats in these neighborhoods.
Check out New York Diners
Diners can be a great way to enjoy an affordable breakfast or lunch in the city.
Try Street Food
From ethnic food trucks to hot dog carts and bagels, there’s lots of street food options to choose from in New York.
No matter where you decide to eat in New York, make sure the restaurant has an “A” rating from the NYC Health Department .
If you don’t see an “A” rating posted outside the restuarant, find a different establishment to eat at.
If you want to eat at the city’s most popular restaurants, try to make a reservation or expect long wait times. Not all restaurants take reservations. In this case, aim to visit during off-peak dining hours.
13. Don’t rent a car in NYC
One of the most common travel mistakes is renting a car in New York City. Parking is expensive and traffic is a nightmare, especially if you’re not used to driving in a big city.
Even if you’re driving to New York, I recommend leaving your car at your accommodations for the duration of your trip. The city’s metro system is easy to navigate and one of the quickest ways to get around town.
14. Follow this basic New York City etiquette for first-timers
Many people expect New Yorkers to be rude, but I found that most people were pretty friendly in the city. To help you enjoy your trip and even befriend a New Yorker, it’s a good idea to grasp the follow NYC etiquette.
Tips for riding the NYC Metro:
- If you have trouble swiping your Metro card at the subway station, step to the side to let other people behind you go through first. Then try again when it’s less busy.
- Unless you’re getting off at the next subway stop, don’t block the subway doors because people might be trying to exit.
- Let people exit the subway / bus before you get on.
- Avoid wearing a backpack when the subway / bus is crowded. Carry it in your hands or put it in your lap instead.
- Give up your seat for pregnant women, elderly, or disabled passengers.
Tips for walking around NYC:
- Don’t stop in the middle of the sidewalk , street, or stairs to look up / take photos / check your phone / look at a map. Instead, step to the side so other people can pass.
- If you’re with a group, don’t walk together in a row blocking other people from passing you on the sidewalk. In some cases, you may have to walk single file.
- Stick to the right when walking on the sidewalk or riding the escalators. This allows people who are in a rush to pass on your left.
- Pay attention to bike lanes when walking through the park or crossing the street.
- Real New Yorkers don’t wait for the walk sign to turn green . Most streets are one-way in NYC, so you may notice locals like to cross the street when there’s no oncoming traffic (even if the pedestrian light is red).
- If you’re using an umbrella , be mindful of others around you. Move your umbrella up, to the right or left when passing others.
- Wear comfortable shoes . You’ll see many locals wearing sneakers with their suits and changing into dress shoes once they reach the office. If you want to wear high heels for photos, put them in your bag and change once you’re at your destination.
Tips for talking like a New Yorker:
- “Houston”, the street in Lower Manhattan is pronounced as “HOW-stun” instead of “HUE-stun” (like the city in Texas). If you’re in a taxi and need to get to Houston Street, make sure to pronounce it as “HOW-stun”.
- New Yorkers call it “the City” . They don’t call it NYC or Manhattan.
- If you want to ask someone for directions, keep it short and sweet. There’s no need to make small talk. Just ask, “Can you please tell me how to get to The Met from here?”
Tips for staying safe in New York City:
- Stay away from platform edges on the subway . Stand away from the platform edge so you’re not at the risk of accidently falling on the subway tracks or being pushed.
- Be aware of pick pockets . Keep your valuables close to you and within your sight at all times, especially in subway stations.
- Don’t walk with earphones in (esepcially at night). Walking alone with your earphones in at night can make it difficult to be aware of your surroundings. This can make you an easy target for getting mugged.
- At the airport – Never leave your bags unattended or let a stranger offer to carry your bags for you / offer you a ride into the City. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s because it probably is.
- Taxi – Never get into an unmarked cab. All NYC taxis will be clearly identified. They are usually yellow with a light on the roof which displays the cab driver’s medallion number.
- Disney and superhero characters in Times Sqaure – If you take a photo of them without their permission, the characters may demand payment. Make a plan in advance if you have children when walking through Times Square.
- Avoid walking alone at night or riding the subway late a night . Try to ride in subway cars with others (as opposed to vacant subway cars) or walk in busy areas. Central Park and the Financial District are quiet at night and should be avoided if you’re walking alone.
15. Public bathrooms are hard to find
If you need to use the public restroom, I always recommend using the one at the next restaurant you eat at or museum / attraction you visit. Unfortunately, most places will not let you use their restroom unless you’re a paying customer.
Sometimes you might have some luck using the public restroom at Starbucks . You might need to ask an employee at Starbucks for the restroom door code first.
I’ve also had good luck by using the restroom at hotels. You have to walk into the hotel as if you were already staying there and look for the sign to the restroom. It’s usually in the lobby.
Some hotels during the busy holiday season will ask to see your room key before entering the lobby, so keep this in mind.
Ready to plan your NYC vacation? See what hotel deals are available in the area thanks to Booking.com
First Time in New York City FAQs
What is the best month to visit new york.
The best time to visit New York City is in the spring (April to June) and fall (November to December). This is when the weather is mild and there are fewer tourists.
What is the cheapest month to visit New York?
If you don’t mind braving the cold, early spring (February and March) can also be a great time to visit New York. This is often when I find cheap flight tickets and affordable hotel accommodations.
What should I do on my first trip to New York City?
Below are my top 10 things to do on your first trip to New York City:
- Visit Central Park . (it’s free and one of the most beautiful spots in New York)
- Check out Times Square at night. (Yes, it’s touristy. But it’s worth going at least once)
- See the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (If you’re using the New York Pass , it’s free)
- See the views from the Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center. (It’s free with the New York Pass )
- See Eygptian mummies at The Met . (It’s free with the New York Pass )
- Visit the 9/11 Memorial and One World Observatory . (There’s also the 9/11 Memorial Museum which is worth visiting. It’s free with the New York Pass )
- Walk the High Line and check out the observation deck. (This urban walking trail above the city streets is a nice break from the hustle and bustle of NYC)
- Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge . (This is one of my favorite FREE views of the New York skyline )
- See a Broadway show . (Popular shows book up in advance or you can find deals on same-day tickets)
- Eat food from around the world. (New York is famous for bagels, cheesecake and pizza. But you can also try authentic food from this city of immigrants)
How many days do you need to see New York?
If you’re visiting for the first time, I recommend spending at least 5 days in New York. This will give you enough time to see the main attractions and neighborhoods of Manhattan.
Depending on what you want to do in New York, you can visit for 3 days. But you’ll need to spend longer if you want to cover the top sights.
Should I stay in Times Square?
Times Square is the heart of Manhattan and the cetner of all the top attractions in New York. This is a great neighborhood to stay for first timers. If you want to escape the crowds, consider staying in the Upper East Side or the Greenwich Village .
What is the easiest way to get around New York?
The easiest way to get around New York is to ride the subway. It’s often faster and cheaper than driving or taking a taxi. You’ll also feel like a local when riding the subway. Another fun way to get around New York is to ride the Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour .
Is New York City worth visiting?
Yes, you have to visit New York at least once in your life, especially if you love big cities. It’s the most visited city in North American and often appears in major motion pictures. New York City is known for its world-class Broadway performances, its history, museums, skyscrapers, and diverse population.
About Eden Ashley
Eden has an MBA and a degree in Psychology. She wants to show you how to use simple tools to help you take back control of your spending so you can live a more authentic and abundant life. When she is not writing, Eden enjoys traveling and exploring the outdoors. Click here to learn how to create a better budget!
May 22, 2017 at 5:06 pm
Thankyou so much for all the wonderful tips! My fiance and I are heading to the US for the first time from Aus next month and first stop is NYC, this has honestly been the most helpful post i’ve seen whilst researching and has made me soooo excited for next month! Xx
Tips for Visiting New York City for the First Time
New York City is truly one of the most exciting cities on the planet. That famous skyline, the history, the food, the shows; it’s a place unto itself, with something for everyone of nearly every age. As one of the world’s great cities and with so many things to do in New York, the city can be a bit intimidating for newbies interested in taking a bite out of the big apple.
But don’t worry, we’ve got you.
We love New York, and have managed to spend a fair amount of time in the city over the years. We’ve finally put our best tips and advice into our guide for anyone who’s looking to plan their first time in New York City. So start spreading the news and get ready to leave – if not today – then whenever you’re ready to hit the town and be a part of it.
A First Time Guide to New York City
Basic nyc tips for first timers.
Let’s begin with some tried-and-true advice. Don’t think you can do it all in one visit . It ain’t gonna happen. New York City is HUGE. And it’s packed to the skyscrapers with things to see, do and experience.
Choose your activities based on the length of your stay, whether it’s a long weekend, one week, or ten days. Choose your top 5-10 activities (we’ve got tips!) and plan your schedule accordingly.
Do not overbook activities or think you can do 4 museums a day. You can’t, and even more, you shouldn’t, it’s just too much. Same is true if you’re assuming that the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island won’t take most of the day. It will if you choose to visit both attractions.
The best way to get around is by walking or by taking the subway . Purchase a reloadable Metro Card at any subway station. NYC’s subway system is convenient and cost effective. You can get anywhere you need to go via the subway and borough transit lines. The bonus? Avoiding the worst of NYC’s traffic gridlock.
Buy a CityPASS if you’re going to visit many of the city’s major attractions. It’s one of our favorite travel hacks , as the NYC CityPASS includes entry to the Met Museum, Natural History Museum, Empire State Building, 9-11 Memorial, Top of the Rock, and the Intrepid Air, Sea and Space Museum. It will save you money and help you skip the long ticket lines.
Wear good walking shoes . On our recent visit we clocked nearly 30,000 steps per day. You will be walking to places, from places, and in places. Don’t ruin your visit by ruining your feet with bad footwear.
Book tours, hotels and shows as soon as you book your dates.
Go see a Broadway show or play . Even if you don’t love musicals or theatre, Broadway is the best in the world. Don’t give away your shot of seeing the best there is – there’s a show for every taste.
Top New York City attractions for first time visitors
Remember my advice in the first section? Depending on the amount of time you have on your first visit in NYC, choose your attractions wisely. You can’t do it all on a first time visit to the city, so pick from this list of 12 attractions for a great first taste of things to do in New York.
I can hear some of you asking, ‘ Can you combine attractions? ‘ Absolutely! You can do the Empire State Building in the morning, then visit Times Square and Rockefeller Center after lunch in the afternoon.
Be sure to stop in to Magnolia Barkery for a snack, then see a Broadway show in the evening. The option to return to Empire State to see the city lights at night is up to you.
Must see NYC attractions
The Empire State Building – This towering world icon Empire State Building offers breathtaking 360-degree, open-air views from its famous 86th floor observatory. Immersive and interactive new exhibit galleries on the second floor invite guests on a journey from the building’s construction to its current place in pop culture. If you get a CityPASS ticket , it gets you in twice. First visit during the day and again at night for incredible views of the city skyline during the evening.
Visit Times Square . It’s one of the best free things to do in New York . everyone needs to see it at least once, kitschy and crazy as it is.The center of it all. Times Square has changed a lot since we first visited in the 1980s, and for the better. It’s free and very pedestrian-oriented, which is good as it’s consistently crowded.
Go during the day and again at night if you can. Enjoy the vibe and be gobsmacked (and blinded) by the advertising and light displays. Tip: Stay away from the mascot figures roaming around the square. They’re not free and will charge for photos.
Walk through Central Park . New York City’s green heart is bordered by the expensive coops and skyscrapers of the Upper West and Upper East Sides. But anyone can enjoy a stroll through the Park for free, enjoying the playgrounds, ponds, castle, zoo, plays and attractions.
Central Park is a wonderful natural oasis. It helps visitors and residents escape from the concrete jungle that is New York City.
But wait, there’s more!
See a Broadway Show – Be sure to book tickets for a musical or play. See my tips below on how and what Broadway shows to book.
Metropolitan Museum of Art . Consistently voted as one of the top museums in the world . The Met is New York’s most visited museum and attraction. The Met presents over 5,000 years of art from every corner of the world for everyone to experience and enjoy.
If you’re visiting New York with kids , consider taking a special Fable and Lark tour of the Met to keep them engaged and having fun.
Natural History Museum . Explore human cultures, the natural world, and the universe. All with a visit to one of the world’s most famous natural history museums. Meet the Titanosaur, one of the largest dinosaurs ever discovered, in the museum’s fossil halls.
See world-renowned dioramas, the 94-foot-long blue whale, and the stunning Rose Center for Earth and Space. It features an 87-foot-diameter sphere that appears to float inside a glass cube.
The Guggenheim – The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum celebrates 60 years as an architectural icon in 2020. Visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s “temple of spirit,” where radical art and architecture meet. Daily tours included with admission. Open seven days a week.
And we can’t forget these
9/11 Memorial & Museum . The powerful and emotional 9/11 Memorial and Museum is a somber place of respect and reflection. Experience a moment of quiet at the twin reflecting pools. Here, the names of every person who died in the 9/11 attacks are inscribed.
Examine the history and impact of the events and learn stories of loss and recovery. Note: This is an intense and emotional museum experience that may not be suitable for young children.
Rockefeller Center . John D Rockefeller was once the richest man in the world, and he built his complex in midtown Manhattan as an ode to his success. It’s the headquarters for entertainment giant NBC and many other corporations.
The Rock is also home to NYC’s famous Christmas tree, skating rink, and many other fun things to do in New York in December .
Entrance to Rockefeller Center’s Top of the Rock is included with a CityPASS. Here you can experience breathtaking 360-degree panoramic views of New York City and beyond.
Walk the High Line . New York’s newest public park is a linear one. It’s built on a 1.45-mile-long elevated rail structure running from Gansevoort St. to 34th St. on Manhattan’s West Side.
Access is free and offers a wonderful view of the city’s westside, skyscrapers, and Hudson Yards. Enjoy a free guided tour or just appreciate the gardens, murals, artwork and people-watching along the route.
As if that’s not enough
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island . Get up close and personal with the beauty and history of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Both are located in New York Harbor and accessible via ferry.
You can ride the Staten Island ferry to get a view of the iconic Statue. Or book a ride with Statue or Circle Line Cruises. Explore the grounds of Liberty and Ellis Islands, stand in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, and learn about the rich history of immigration at what once was the nation’s busiest immigrant inspection station. Note: If you get off the boat to explore both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, it will take up most of one day.
Bryant Park and New York Public Library – Both of these city landmarks are free for visitors and offer different New York experiences for guests. The outdoor space of Bryant Park has chairs and amenities for visitors to enjoy at any time of year, including a Winter Village with skating rink and bumper cars on ice.
The New York Public Library is a beautiful Beaux-Arts style building with free wifi, places to sit and rest during a busy day. It also hosts free exhibitions, concerts and author talks and conversations.
Eat a street pizza, pretzel or hot dog from a vendor – I suppose this should be under food, BUT you really should eat one item from a food vendor on your visit. It’s very NYC.
How to Get into New York from the Airport
New York City is served by three international airports, one located in New Jersey and two located in Queens. Make sure you know which airport you’re flying into before you arrive so you can plan your route into the city.
The Newark EWR Airport in New Jersey has an AirTrain that connects its terminals to the NJ transit system for a direct train into NYC Penn Station. The train is convenient, skips the street traffic and only costs $15 USD one way. It’s the best way to get into the city unless you’re traveling with a big group or lots of large luggage. Time: 30-60 minutes
I’ve taken Dial 7 car service from both La Guardia and Newark. Dial 7 is a luxury private car service that tends to be on the expensive side. But if you have a family of four or more and a lot of luggage, it may work out to be the same cost as transit for your party.
For La Guardia, there’s also the Via Rideshare service that’s partnered with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to launch “LGA Connect.” It provides travelers a ride from the airport to their destination in one of the five boroughs for a flat rate.
The program is part of the ongoing effort to alleviate airport congestion by offering convenient and affordable shared rides. Those traveling from LaGuardia to Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens will be able to get a Via for a flat rate of $15 and those traveling to Staten Island or the Bronx will be able to get a Via for $20. Time: 30-60 minutes
In addition to Uber and cabs, you can get into New York City from JFK (which is in Queens) via the AirTrain from your airport terminal to Jamaica Station. From there, you can board the E train or the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) into the city. While the LIRR is slightly more expensive, it’s an express service into NYC Penn Station and will get you there a little faster than the subway. Time: 60-90 minutes
Where to Stay in New York City for First Time Visitors
We’ve stayed in a variety of neighbourhoods during our visits to New York City, including; Chelsea, the Lower East Side, Midtown, and the Upper West Side. The location choice has depended on where we need to be most of the time to minimize walking and train trips.
For first timers to the city, Midtown Manhattan is a great location for a hotel base. The area has improved a lot in terms of hotel offerings, and is very central to Broadway theatres, Times Square, Bryant Park, the New York Public Library and Rockefeller Centre, as well as close to many Metro subway lines.
Keep in mind that NYC hotels are expensive and usually small, which makes it a challenge for families. That said, you don’t go to New York to stay in your hotel room, right?
The Best Western Plus Hospitality House on West 49 th is like a renovated apartment, with breakfast included and an in-suite kitchen and living room. There’s room to move for families, just like in an apartment. It’s modest but clean and very well-located.
We’ve also enjoyed stays at the Benjamin , Westhouse and various Moxy Hotels in the city.
Click here for more New York City hotel options.
Top Tours for First Time Visitors in New York City
Taking a tour is a great way for first time visitors to see the bright lights and big city that is New York. The Hop On, Hop Off bus tours are great to get a lay of the land, visit many city neighborhoods on one easy bus ride, and you can get off and on wherever you wish. If you’re traveling with older family members, the chance to bus around town will be welcome.
There are New York City tours for every interest, taste, and budget. Got tweens and teens? Try the Ride, an immersive tour of the city with live actors, music and lots of audience interaction.
More interested in the history of the city? Take a Hamilton tour, learn about the immigrants who built New York at the Tenement Museum , or discover Hasidic Brooklyn with Tours by Frieda .
For fans of the many TV shows filmed in New York, book an On Location Tour and learn everything you wanted to know about the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Sex and the City, or Gossip Girl.
There’s the NBC Studio Tour (a must for SNL and Today Show fans), Architectural boat tours, Scott’s Pizza Tours, Disney Musical Tours, Graffiti Tours, Fable and Lark Magical Tours of the Met Museum, etc. We could go on, but you get the picture. There’s a tour for everyone.
Where to Eat in New York City
The better question is where can’t you eat? New York City is filled with restaurants, food halls and street vendors selling everything from pretzels to hot dogs to halal kebabs. You can find anything here, so we’ve listed a few of our favorites below to get you started.
For our family, a stop at Shake Shack is a must. The shakes and burgers are delicious at each location (there are many in the city). We also love popping into Joe’s Pizza in Times Square for quick slice, and Eataly in the Flatiron district for Italian fare, and cocktails on their rooftop patio and bar. Ellen’s Stardust Diner on Broadway is great, though it is very popular and has long lines for its food accompanied by musical service.
The Smith Restaurant is a popular franchise that serves good food in white bricked surroundings. It’s very family-friendly and has a great brunch. Pret a Manger cafes are everywhere and perfect for quick and healthy bites. Bare Burger offers tasty beef and vegan burgers, where one side of the menu is animal protein, while the other side is plant-based. There are also loads of good ramen places if you’re craving a simple bowl of noodle soup.
Try a New York City Food Hall
New York is also home to some fantastic food halls. The Chelsea Market in the Meatpacking District has tons of food vendors to choose from in a busy former location of the National Biscuit Company.
Turnstyle is an underground market underneath Columbus Circle. Check out the Bolivian food, vegan choices and burger joints here. Gotham West Market has fabulous pizza and ramen in Hell’s Kitchen, and is a few blocks from the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. In Midtown, check out City Kitchen at ROW NYC on the second floor, serving up donuts, lobster rolls, and more ramen.
New York City is famous for high end restaurants too. If you’ve got the budget, book a table at Babbo, Batard, any Jean-Georges, Samuelsson or Boulud restaurant in the city.
Tip: We’re fans of the nybucketlist on Instagram. If you want to find out the latest art opening, food craze or secret speakeasy (like we did), follow this account for the latest and greatest of anything and everything in NYC.
What Broadway Shows to see in New York City
I’m a massive fan of musicals and theatre, and never miss the opportunity to see a show (or three) when I’m in New York. Any first timer should see a Broadway show too, in my humble opinion, as you’ll be watching some of the finest actors, singers and dancers on the planet. Why miss such an amazing opportunity?
If traveling with kids, check out of Broadway’s family-friendly musical shows. The Disney shows like Frozen, Lion King and Aladdin are great and highly-entertaining for all age groups. For the older kids, check out Mean Girls, Wicked, Hamilton (if you can afford it), Dear Evan Hansen and West Side Story.
For everyone else, there’s a Broadway musical or play out there for you, trust us. And if in doubt, get tickets for Come From Away, you won’t regret it.
How to Book Broadway Shows in New York
There are a number of ways to book Broadway shows. Our favorite is by booking directly online with the production and theatre if it’s a newish show, or through the free TodayTix App , which I LOVE.
With TodayTix, there’s no need to line up for tickets and waste your precious holiday time. See the App to find and pick the show, date and time, pay, and meet up with the red-jacketed Today Tix staff 30 minutes before showtime at the theatre. You can also enter ticket lotteries for same day tickets. It’s a fantastic service. You can also book show tickets via Broadway.com or Headout.com.
We’ve just scratched the gritty, gum-encrusted surface of New York City in this article. But as I’ve learned, successful visits to NYC involve taking little bites of the big apple each time you’re there. You’ll never be able to enjoy the entire thing all at once.
That’s why New York is New York.
Disclosure: The writer thanks CityPASS for tickets that allowed entry to various attractions in New York City. As always, her opinions and love of NYC are honest and her own. This article contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support.
Photo Credits: Claudia Laroye
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Planning a New York City Trip: Your NYC Itinerary Guide from a Local (2023)
Has New York City captured your imagination and now you’re knee-deep into planning a New York City trip?
You’re in the right place!
Whether you’re drawn to live here (like me!) or visit for the first or 100th time, there’s no denying the magnetizing pull to take a trip to New York City!
If you’re planning your first time to New York City, this guide has everything you need to know. And if you’ve been here before, this NYC trip planner will help you review the basics and give local tips to expand your New York City itinerary beyond the top sights.
From itinerary ideas with maps, tips on where to stay and eat, how to get around, and more, you have everything you need to plan a trip to New York City that you’ll never forget!
Planning a New York City Trip (Maybe for the First Time!)
Planning an NYC trip can be overwhelming! You’re trying to stretch your budget as far as possible while trying to fit as much in as possible with the days you’re in the city. In fact, how to plan a trip to New York City is one of the top questions I get from readers.
It’s best to break it up into steps so that ultimately you can plan a New York trip that includes your must-sees and dos arranged in an itinerary that maximizes your time in a fun and enjoyable way.
First, decide how many days you will stay in NYC. (More advice on this below.)
Second, choose a hotel in your price range. If your main goal is NYC sightseeing, the midtown east or midtown west areas of Manhattan are perfect spots. These areas are central to many top NYC sights and have many subway lines connecting through the area. Third, make a list of the top sights and museums you want to see, as well as experiences you’d like to have, i.e. go to a Broadway show. Depending on how many days you have in NYC and your budget, book your entry to as many things as possible in advance to maximize your time in NYC.
Lastly, you’ll want to plan an itinerary with the sights and activities on your list. Using the New York City itinerary ideas below, group what you want to see and do by neighborhood to limit backtracking.
Getting to New York City
New York City has 3 airports nearby, JFK , Laguardia , and Newark Liberty in New Jersey. If your flight arrives into JFK or Newark, it is possible to take commuter trains and/or the subway to get into NYC.
Visitors arriving into Laguardia, on the other hand, have fewer public transportation options, despite the airport being the closest to Manhattan of the 3 NYC metro area airports. If taking a taxi or car service from Laguardia, plan for (at least) an hour’s ride into Manhattan as the traffic can be horrendous in this area depending on the time of day your flight arrives.
I’ve created specific guides for each airport with all the information you need to decide how to get from the airport to your hotel in Manhattan.
- Newark Airport to Manhattan
- JFK to Manhattan
- Laguardia to Manhattan
New York City taxis are available at JFK and Laguardia. It’s a flat $70 fare from JFK plus tolls and tip. The fare is calculated by the meter for rides from Laguardia. The meter runs even when you are in traffic so the amount will vary depending on the time of day you arrive.
To save money, book a ride with the most trusted shuttle from the New York Airports. They’re comfortable, reliable, and far cheaper than a taxi. In addition to shared rides, they also have private car transport services.
You can also compare private car bookings with Carmel . They are another trusted and long-serving airport transfer service I’ve used and you can rely on.
If you live in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic and are coming for your first visit to New York City, you’re better off taking a commuter train like Metro-North, NJ Transit, or Amtrak into the city. Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal (or Grand Central Station) are in the heart of Midtown Manhattan with subway lines connecting from directly within each station.
Or, if you don’t have a train station near you, take a bus directly to New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal, just 1 block from Times Square.
How to Get Around in New York City
Driving and parking in Manhattan are a nightmare. Avoid driving to and in New York City at all costs.
The best ways to get anywhere in New York City are to take the subway or put on the most comfortable shoes and walk. (I own 2 pairs and wear them all the time to walk around NYC.) These also happen to be the cheapest ways to get around New York City so it’s a win-win!
Keep reading for more NYC subway tips.
And what about that pesky luggage?!
Of course, the easiest way to get around either by subway or on foot is without carrying heavy bags. Many subway entrances have only stairs and sidewalks, restaurants, and other attractions are likely to be crowded and even restrict luggage and other big bags.
So be sure to drop off your luggage at your hotel as soon as you can. Most hotels will securely store your bags even if your room isn’t ready for check-in yet.
Free of your bags, you can move around the city hassle-free, take in your surroundings, and focus on whether you should be heading uptown or downtown. 😉
New York City Walking and Subway Travel Tips
Think of New York City’s streets as a giant tic-tac-toe board across most of Manhattan. Except for lower Manhattan, streets run in a systematic, grid pattern . Here are a few tips to help you navigate the city like an expert pedestrian.
- Streets run horizontally from east to west, from the Hudson River to the East River. About 20 of these numbered streets are equal to 1 mile.
- Avenues run vertically from north to south. The distance between avenues is greater than streets. More or less, 7 avenues is equal to 1 mile.
- 5th Avenue splits the east side from the west side. Address numbers get lower the closer the building is to 5th Avenue and higher the farther it is away from 5th Avenue.
- Broadway is the exception. It runs diagonally, interestingly enough, following an old Native American footpath.
- As you walk south below 14th Street, the full grid pattern ends.
The New York City subway extends throughout the city. No matter where you want to go, it’s likely a subway line is heading in that direction. Here’s the subway info you need to know to look like a pro.
1. Download an NYC subway app or keep a PDF to save on your phone. Everyone’s already looking at their phone so you’ll blend right in as you check the map for the right train or stop.
2. Know the difference between express and local trains. On the map, express train stops are marked with a white circle while local stops show a black circle. As the names imply, local trains make every stop. Express trains make select stops.
3. The subway or bus fare is $2.90 per person each way with free transfers between the subway and city buses.
4. All subway turnstiles are also equipped with a “Tap & Go” payment system . Using your phone’s wallet (i.e. Apple Wallet), you can tap your phone at the turnstile to pay instantly. Using this system, you can pay for 3 people plus yourself at one time.
5. If you use the Tap & Go payment system, pay with the same device and card each time . If you spend $34 within a 7-day period, the rest of your rides within that same 7-day period are free.
6. Metrocards can still be purchased and used on subways and buses. The larger automated machines in the stations typically accept cash, debit, and credit cards. But, the smaller machines are for purchases made with credit cards or debit cards only. (If you live outside the U.S., use 99999 as your zip code.)
7. You can buy pay-per-ride Metrocards or unlimited weekly or monthly passes. There’s a $1 charge to get the actual card before loading it with money or time. (Save the $1 and use the Tap & Go payment system instead.)
8. If you prefer to use a physical Metrocard and plan to ride the subway at least 12 times, the weekly unlimited pass will save you money regardless of how many days you stay in New York City. Unlimited passes are good for just 1 person, as you can only swipe it once every 18 minutes, except if you’re making a free transfer from train to bus.
One last thing to consider for travel within NYC…
B ike rentals are plentiful. I wouldn’t suggest riding along the streets on your first visit to New York City, but scenic rides along the city’s greenways and through parks are great ways to combine sightseeing and transportation.
ProTip: For more dos and don’ts in New York City, take a look at these important New York City travel tips !
New York City Itinerary Planning
When you plan a trip to New York City, the most exciting part is choosing which things to see and do while you’re here. But it can also be overwhelming! There’s an endless number of things to choose from and you only have so much time and money.
There are a couple of NYC itinerary ideas below to help you get started. They include some of the best New York City tourist attractions. You can also use this mega list of the Best 100 Things to Do in New York City for extra inspiration and ideas.
ProTip: You’ll also find a more specific day-by-day plan in this 4-Day New York Itinerary.
New York City Itinerary Idea #1 – Classic NYC Sightseeing
Times Square with its neon signs, bright lights, Broadway marquis, crowds of people, honking horns, and yellow taxis, all combine for a whirlwind welcome to NYC. Especially for first-time visitors to New York City, it makes sense to start at this iconic crossroads.
While you’re looking up, down, and all around Times Square, you’re sure to notice all the Broadway Theaters and the billboards advertising what’s playing. A TKTS Booth sells discounted tickets for performances on that day and the next. The TKTS app lets you know which shows have discounted tickets on sale that day.
If you’re set on seeing a particular show, though, it’s better to get your tickets in advance since there’s no guarantee the show you want to see will have discounted seats available.
Either way, seeing a Broadway show is an absolute must! It’s a quintessential New York City experience.
ProTip: Don’t waste time waiting in line at TKTS, and instead, do as the locals do! Come back to TKTS 30 minutes before show time. There are always some tickets available with practically no wait in line. Or go to the TKTS location near Lincoln Center. It’s much more civilized than the one in Times Square. Alternatively, try your luck in a Broadway ticket lottery, like this or this .
Walk east along 50th Street, crossing over 7th Avenue, then 6th Avenue, to reach Rockefeller Center. On your way, you’ll see Radio City Music Hall and maybe even a Rockette or two if you’re spending Christmas in New York City .
The plaza at Rockefeller Center hosts the Today Show and their summer concerts, as well as the 30 Rock Center skyscraper, home to the SNL studios and the observation deck at the top. When it’s winter in New York, you’ll find the iconic Rockefeller Christmas Tree and the ice skating rink.
Continue again east, out of Rockefeller Center, to 5th Avenue and see the striking facade of St. Patrick’s Cathedral , the largest Gothic Revival Cathedral in North America. Head inside to tour the cathedral on your own or with a guide.
When you’re done, you’ll be back on 5th Avenue, famous for its upscale boutiques and department stores, like Saks Fifth Avenue just next to St. Patrick’s. Walk along the avenue for a first-hand look at the busy combination of traffic, tour buses, and pedestrians.
Undoubtedly, one of the things you’ll want to do when you visit NYC is to get a birds-eye view over the city. Luckily, there are several skyline attractions nearby. You just need to decide which one(s)!
Summit One Vanderbilt is just off 5th Avenue along 42nd Street. It’s NYC’s most popular skyline experience. Combining glass exterior walls and mirrored walls, floors, and ceilings inside with the gorgeous city skyline, you’ll be immersed in the city views like never before. You’ll also get the best views of the Chrysler Building!
The Empire State Building is a classic NYC landmark that needs no introduction. There are observation decks on the top of the Empire State Building at 86th and 102nd floors, as well as historical and cultural exhibits about this famous skyscraper. If you choose the Empire State Building, head south on 5th Avenue (street numbers going down 50, 49, etc.) to 34th Street.
The Top of the Rock observation deck is on the 70th floor of 30 Rock right in Rockefeller Center. From this vantage point, you’ll get to see and photograph the skyline with the Empire State Building in it. To visit the Top of the Rock, return to Rockefeller Plaza.
Whichever you choose, you must purchase your tickets in advance. These attractions have timed-entry tickets that do sell out, especially during peak travel times like summer, holidays, and weekends.
Pro Tip: While you’re in this midtown area, you should also consider visiting MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art , on W. 53rd St. between 5th and 6th Avenues. Bryant Park and the classic main New York Public Library building are on 42nd St. & 5th Avenue. Grand Central Terminal is a block away along 42nd St at Park Avenue. These 3 sites are just steps from Summit One Vanderbilt.
New York City Itinerary Idea #2 – Art, History, and a Classic Stroll
Several museums line the east and west sides of Central Park. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is along 5th Avenue at 82nd Street on the Upper East Side. It’s part of Museum Mile along with others like The Guggenheim and the Neue Galerie. While you’re there, head up to the roof terrace for a gorgeous view overlooking Central Park and the skyscrapers of midtown beyond.
The American Museum of Natural History , with its adjoining science center and planetarium, is on the opposite side of the park on 81st Street and Central Park West, close to the New York Historical Society. Both, the Met and the Museum of Natural History are both worthy stops whether it’s your first time in New York City or not.
From the Temple of Dendur to Impressionist paintings by Monet and Renoir at “the Met” and the Prehistoric Halls and ocean and mammal exhibits on display at the Museum of Natural History, these stops offer the quintessential NYC museum experience.
Choose 1 of these museums to begin your day. After a few hours, and likely the onset of some museum fatigue, head outside for some fresh air and a stroll through Central Park. You can even rent bikes to tour the park.
Central Park spans from 59th Street to 110th Street between 5th Avenue and Central Park West. Walk the pathways and discover Sheep’s Meadow, the Lake, and all the fountains, monuments, gardens, and bridges along the way.
In the area of Central Park between the museums, you’ll easily reach famed spots like the Bow Bridge and Bethesda Terrace and Fountain. To help navigate, download a Central Park app to show where you are in relation to the park’s popular sights.
Meander to the opposite side of the park from where you entered and walk toward whichever of the above museums you have left to visit. Spend your afternoon enjoying another of New York City’s incredible museums.
ProTip: Alternatively, if you’d rather only do 1 museum, head to the Met for the morning. After a couple of hours, explore Central Park. Then, venture into one of Manhattan’s most classic uptown neighborhoods for some of the best things to do on the Upper West Side .
New York City Itinerary Idea #3 – Exploring Lower Manhattan
Yes, Times Square needs to be seen, but it should also be left.
When you’re planning a New York City trip, it pays to take the subway down to Lower Manhattan and do a bit of exploring. Not only will you see some of NYC’s most famous sights, but you’ll also have the opportunity to see the oldest and most historic parts of Manhattan.
A few important and iconic sights should not be missed while you’re at Manhattan’s southern tip.
The 9/11 Memorial and Museum remembers and reflects on the events and the lives lost during the terrorist attacks. The experience is emotional but poignant and so well-designed.
The reflecting pools are in the original tower footprints with the names of victims inscribed around the edges. The museum houses artifacts like a damaged firetruck and personal anecdotal accounts of the day. The memorial and museum simultaneously honor the fallen, inspire a sense of Patriotism, and encourage a continuing faith in the goodness of humanity.
ProTip: There are typically long lines to enter the 9/11 Museum, especially during peak travel periods. Save yourself a ton of time and book a timed-entrance ticket in advance. You can read more tips in this Visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum guide .
From this part of Lower Manhattan, It’s also a great opportunity to see the sweeping city and harbor views from the One World Observatory . Again, purchasing tickets in advance to avoid waiting in line is a smart way to maximize your time.
Head further southeast towards Trinity Church and the New York Stock Exchange. In this area, you can see where Alexander Hamilton is buried, walk along Wall Street, visit Federal Hall, and stroll through Battery Park. Along the way, look out for the Charging Bull and Fierce Girl statues, too!
From Battery Park, you can access boats to visit one of New York City’s most famous attractions, the Statue of Liberty. Take a boat ride tour to Lady Liberty or opt to pass by from a short distance on the free Staten Island Ferry. Either way, the views of Manhattan from the water are stunning!
If you take the boat directly to Liberty Island, your ticket will also include entry to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, which is one of the most interesting museums in NYC!
End the day by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge . This classic NYC stroll takes you along the pedestrian promenade in the center of the bridge. The views of New York City and its harbor are breathtaking. As you walk, wonder over how such an impressive structure was built before the days of power tools!
Pro Tip: Many visitors like to head into Brooklyn and get pizza. I highly recommend going to Juliana’s . It’s just a few minutes walk once you go down the steps on the Brooklyn side of the bridge. I think it’s perhaps the best pizza in all of NYC!
New York City Itinerary Idea #4 – Discover NYC’s Neighborhoods
Whether you want to shop in Soho, see classic NYC in Greenwich Village, eat well in Chinatown, or gallery-hop in Chelsea, you’ll glimpse more of the “real” Manhattan by heading away from midtown’s more touristy spots.
The best part is that each NYC neighborhood has its own character, charm, and things to see and do!
There are so many things to do in Chinatown NYC that you can easily spend the better part of a day uncovering the neighborhood’s gems. Regardless of how much time you have, go with an empty stomach! Chinatown is overflowing with amazing eats from dumplings to dim sum, to noodles, and original Chinese ice cream flavors.
Greenwich Village and Chelsea neighbor one another from south to north along Manhattan’s west side.
No trip to New York City is complete without spending some time in “the Village.” There are so many things to do in Greenwich Village , but the neighborhood’s tree-lined blocks, small streets, and artsy ambiance are what draw locals and visitors to this classic New York City neighborhood.
Whether you want to people-watch in Washington Square Park, have lunch at a charming cafe, boutique-shop, visit famed TV and movie filming locations, or search for ghosts , you’ll fall in love with everything that is Greenwich Village.
Chelsea is home to the much-loved elevated urban greenspace, the High Line, which needles a pathway through the area. The views, street art, architecture, and ambiance along the High Line Park walk will leave you feeling like a true New Yorker.
If you’re coming from Greenwich Village, explore the cafes, beer gardens, and shops on your way to the High Line entrance at Gansevoort Street.
Be sure to stop at Chelsea Market for some gourmet bites whether you’re in the mood for tacos, noodles, or falafel. The market is just one of the many top things to do in Chelsea and an absolute can’t-miss! The neighborhood is also home to numerous art galleries and the fantastic Rubin Museum of Art.
And if you walk the High Line from south to north, you’ll finish in Hudson Yards, Manhattan’s newest neighborhood in midtown west.
How Many Days Do You Need in New York City?
To have time for NYC sightseeing, as well as time to enjoy museums, Central Park, and the city’s restaurants and theaters, plan to spend at least 4 days in New York City .
Of course, if you have less time, all hope is not lost! You can plan a trip to New York City with only 1-3 days but you’ll need to have realistic expectations, hyper-focus on your must-sees and dos, and plan an NYC itinerary that allows you to be swift and strategic.
When is the Best Time to Visit New York City?
Generally speaking, the best time to plan an NYC trip is in the Spring and Fall. In particular, April, May, and even early June come with good weather, flowers in bloom, and fewer people than during the summer months.
Similarly, Fall is a great time to visit NYC . September, October, and early November come with cooling temperatures, but the weather is typically the most beautiful of the year. You’ll also miss the rush of summer and Christmas season visitors.
Of course, if you want to spend Christmas in New York City , December is the best month to visit. The tree at Rockefeller Center is lit and midtown Manhattan sparkles from the holiday lights and markets. Just be prepared for big crowds. December in New York City is one of the most popular times of the year to visit.
Where to Stay in New York City
The best “planning a New York City trip” hotel tip is to be within comfortable walking distance of a subway station . From there, you’ll be able to access all the places you’d like to visit.
Generally, when looking for a great place to stay for an NYC trip, visitors focus on the east and west sides of midtown, as well as neighborhoods like Chelsea, Greenwich Village/West Village, and the Financial District in Lower Manhattan.
And while it may be tempting to stay a bit off the beaten path to save a little money, consider how much time you have in New York City and how comfortable you are navigating the subway.
Taxis, Ubers, and the like are expensive and can easily erase any savings you may get with a cheaper-priced hotel in a further off neighborhood. Similarly, if you only have a few days, you don’t want to waste time with a long “commute” to the sights and places you want to visit.
A word of caution! Airbnb is illegal in New York City despite the listings you may see that are available.
Do people book Airbnbs for their New York City trips? Yes.
Is it risky to book accommodations through Airbnb when you plan a trip to New York City? Incredibly! Anything can happen including the person who rents the Airbnb getting caught before your stay, leaving you without a place to stay.
For a detailed breakdown of the best places to stay in NYC, neighborhood by neighborhood, head over to my guide dedicated to hotels in New York City . Whether you’re looking for an upscale hotel room or you’re planning a trip to New York for first-time visitors, you’ll find the best hotels for your budget and needs.
For a quick glance at some New York City hotels, take a look at these native New Yorker-tested accommodations.
- Residence Inn New York Manhattan/Central Park
- Kimpton Hotel Eventi
- Hyatt Centric Times Square New York
- Conrad New York Downtown
- Grayson Hotel
- Hotel 50 Bowery
- EVEN Hotel New York Midtown East
You can also search for more great hotels on TripAdvisor, on Booking.com , on Hotels.com , or find a few more affordable hotel choices here .
Where to Eat in New York City
I’m not a food critic, but I’m no stranger to a fantastic meal. If you’re looking to let your inner foodie out, I’ve listed some of my favorite places to eat in New York City with more than enough to make your taste buds smile.
Whether you’re looking for authentic Indian food or the best veggie burgers in NYC , New York City has an endless number of fantastic restaurants. Just promise yourself to stay away from tourist trap chains and fast food! You can get those anywhere. Instead, take advantage of NYC’s incredible food scene.
All of the suggestions below are based on my own unforgettable NYC eating experiences. (I’m hungry just typing these!) If you have your heart set on a specific restaurant, it’s worth it to make reservations ahead of time.
- Del Frisco’s
- Locanda Verde
- ABC Kitchen
- Juliana’s Pizza
- Russ & Daughters
- Any Classic NYC Diner
- Market Table
- Blue Ribbon
- Wafels & Dinges
Planning a New York City Trip FAQs
How do I plan my first trip to New York City?
To plan your first trip to New York City, there are 3 important steps to get started. 1. Decide how many days you’ll be spending in the Big Apple. 2. Choose a hotel in your price range, preferably in the midtown east or west areas of Manhattan. These areas are central to many top NYC sights and are well-served by numerous subway lines. 3. Make a list of the top attractions and museums you want to visit, as well as experiences you’d like to have, i.e. see a Broadway show. Depending on how much time you have and your budget, book your entry to as many things as possible in advance to maximize your time in NYC. 4. Group the things you want to see and do by area to maximize the time you have in New York City.
How much would a New York trip cost?
The cost of a New York City trip is up to you! There are hotels, restaurants, and experiences in all price ranges. However, “budget” hotels are still likely to cost more than budget hotels in other destinations, not to mention they’re far and few between. Expect to pay between $250-$300 a night for a mid-range hotel. Luckily, there are lots of free things to do in New York City like walking the Brooklyn Bridge, exploring Central Park, seeing the lights of Times Square, reserving a spot on a free walking tour, and riding the Staten Island Ferry for great views of Lady Liberty!
How do I organize my trip to New York?
Start with deciding how many days you’ll have and where you’ll stay. From there, you can logically group your sightseeing plans and experiences based on which neighborhoods they’re in so you can limit any backtracking.
What is the best way to see New York attractions?
Avoid waiting in lines by booking skip-the-line and timed-entry tickets in advance to as many NYC attractions as possible.
What is the most cost-effective way to travel NYC?
The most cost effective (and time effective!) way to travel around NYC is to use the subway. It’s quick, inexpensive, and can get you to nearly everywhere you’d want to visit in New York City.
What should I do for the first time in New York?
If it’s your first time in New York City, focus on the iconic sights and museums that interest you most. These are likely to be places like the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the Met, Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, Times Square, and Broadway.
Do I need cash in NYC?
Nearly everywhere you go in NYC, you’ll be able to use a credit or debit card. This even includes hot dog vendors and food trucks. So, there’s never a reason to walk around with huge amounts of cash in your purse or wallet. One place where you will need some cash, though, is Chinatown. Some restaurants and shops are cash only so it’s best to be prepared with some U.S. dollars when visiting this neighborhood.
What is the cheapest way to get around New York City?
The cheapest way to get around New York City is on foot! NYC is highly walkable and pedestrian-friendly. When you need to give your legs a rest or want to get someplace quick, take the subway. It’s cheap, fast, and covers almost all of New York City.
Planning a New York Trip?
No problem! Using the tried and true local tips and advice in this guide, you’re on your way to planning an unforgettable trip to New York City!
So, what are your questions about planning a New York City trip?
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112 thoughts on “planning a new york city trip: your nyc itinerary guide from a local (2023)”.
This was an awesome post! You have definitely added fuel to my desire to visit NYC! I might just have to find time to go after school gets out in June.
Thanks for sharing!
Thanks so much for reading! June is a great time to visit…before the summer heat! Hope you make it! 🙂
I’ve never been to US, but New York is one of my dream destinations since childhood. ( I know, what a cliche :D). Thank you for sharing your experience and advice!!! I will save this post for future with hopes I’ll get opportunity to visit this city soon)
Not at all! Living in NYC was my dream since I was a little girl. Any trip to the U.S. has to include a first stop in NYC, Natalia. I hope you can make it for a visit soon!
This is a fabulous guide for any trip to New York. well done!
Thanks, Brianna! 🙂
A complete guide to the Big Apple :). I wish I had this when I visited NYC. All things said, I always stayed out side New York, in New Jersey and take the train to NYC . I found the stay is less expensive outside NY.
Hoboken and Jersey City are excellent options in New Jersey for cheaper hotels, Vasu. The PATH train makes it quick and easy to make into NYC. Great tip!
Terrific post on what a first-timer should see in NYC. You did a great job culling what could have been a ton of information into an easy to read digest. Great work!
Thanks so much, Sue! It’s meant to be a “one-stop shop” for first-time visitors. 😉
Your posts are always so practical and helpful, Jackie. This is great for someone who doesn’t know New York. In fact, there are some great pointers for everyone – a great tip for us Canadians about using 99999 as your zip code if buying a metrocard! I can’t wait to go back … and finally see the Statue of Liberty which I miss every time.
Thanks so much, Carol! Glad the post is helpful. I hope you finally get to meet Lady Liberty up close and personal on your next NYC visit. 🙂
Great guide to NYC! It can be so daunting to plan a visit to NYC as there is so much to see. Agree with Bryant Park it’s a great stop as it is not as touristy. My fave is also going to MoMA on Fridays. Sigh…I love NYC 🙂
Lol, Christina…I know that sigh. Once NYC gets under your skin it constantly calls you back…
What a fantastic resource! I would add Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons (not the new one, but the old one) and Gramercy Park hotel on the luxe end. I’ve loved my stays in all. But that’s the thing about NYC… so many great hotels and so little time!
Thanks, Katie, for adding to this resource! I do love the Gramercy Park Hotel but I’ve just been there for drinks. 🙂
I knew of the famous grid system on NY and how it was built but it was interesting and really helpful to have the streets and avenues orientation and the public transport info. A city that everyone wants to visit but need quite a bit of research beforehand to make the most of it.
So true, Sia! You really should have a little sense of how to get around or else you could miss so great NYC spots.
What a great guide! I haven’t been to NYC yet. I will keep in mind your tips for when I am going to visit. Thanks
Oh Mansoureh, NYC is such a great city. I hope you can visit soon!
Tips, tricks and itineraries for New York…so useful this post is. I have always felt that larger cities are so difficult to absorb, because of their sheer size. You tend to miss out on different angles and ways of experiencing the place. Posts on larger cities are so much needed.
Thank you, Punita. Big cities certainly have so much to see and do. It’s hard to know where to begin.
Fabulous post. I visited NYC in May this year. It had been on my bucket list for some years and I was not disappointed. I was lucky enough to have two full weeks there and I got to do a lot! Only problem is that I can’t wait to come back. Your post is spot on, and the best I have read (and believe me I’ve read a few). You’re so very lucky to live in NYC. Patrice (Australia) x
PS: My favourite sweet in NYC was a choc chip cookie from Levain Bakery. De-licious!
Thanks so much for reading and for your kind words, Patrice. 🙂 How awesome you made it to NYC. I’m so glad you loved it and hope you can make it back soon! Levain Bakery has the best chocolate chip cookie for sure.
This is a wealth of useful tips! So informative….. NYC is on my radar. Not sure when I will get to go there but whenever I do I will come back to this post. And definitely saving it on my Flipboard!
Thank you, La Dee! Hope you make it to NYC soon and reach out if you have any questions. Thanks for sharing, too! 🙂
Thank you Jackie. We leave for NYC in 6 sleeps! So excited and this guide is just perfect for us. I’ve been reading and organising and planning for months and months and months but this is one of the most succinct finds that will help us immensely. Thanks for helping a very excited Australian family. If you have one for Washington DC, feel free to share that too 🙂
Yay, how exciting, Jo!! I hope you love NYC and have a great time! 🙂 I have a Washington, D.C. post as well. It’s not as succinct a guide as my NYC guide, but I still think it’s pretty good! 😉 Feel free to get in touch if any last minute questions pop up. Thanks so much for reading! 🙂
Super helpful post, thanks! I’m going next week for work and adding 1 free day in for myself. I’ve been to NY several times and haven’t loved it, so I’m giving it one more shot 🙂
I’m so glad you’re giving NYC another chance, Leigh. Let me know if you need any other pointers. NYers always want you to love their city.
I LOVE NYC! Can’t wait until my next opportunity to come back. Last time I went with some friends, we stayed across the Hudson in Jersey City, about 2 blocks from the PATH station. Been there twice and have done the “touristy” stuff, now I’m ready for a week of exploring the boroughs.
Awesome, Kim! The boroughs have such gems! Brooklyn, of course, is a hot spot, but Queens should not be overlooked. Best Chinese food in Flushing! Hope you can make it back soon. 🙂
What a fantastic article!! Going to NYC for first time in July….I know you all say it’s HOT in Summer but hey I live in southern Texas!!! It can’t be any hotter than here…LOL. Great tips and I’m going with my daughter who’s 21. We will be there for 6 nights. Can’t wait to plan out each of our days. My only concern is getting from airport to hotel.
Thanks so much, Darcy. 🙂 So exciting to be making your first NYC trip. Southern Texas has got to be pretty hot! If you let me know your airport and hotel neighborhood (no need to name exact hotel if you don’t want.), I’m happy to give you transfer tips. 🙂
This is a great post…very helpful and informative! I’m visiting NY for the first time this coming July. I’m driving from WV and worried about parking and traffic. Any pointers??
Hi Amanda, Thanks so much for reading and I’m glad the post is helpful for your upcoming NYC trip! 🙂 So, I’m not sure what part of town you’re staying in, but I’d look to park my car away from the midtown (Times Square, Rock Center, Broadway) area. I’d go uptown to the west 80s, 90s, 100s street and look for street or garage parking there. NYC has street cleaning so for example on the street where I live, you can park on the street for free except for Tuesdays & Fridays between 10am-12pm. You’ll have to check the street signs wherever you park. If uptown is too far from where you want to be, look far west in midtown, like close to the Hudson River and West Side Highway. There are relatively cheaper outdoor parking lots. No matter what you decide, park your car for your stay and don’t drive it again. Traffic is truly awful and NYC sights and attractions don’t have any parking lots. So you’d just be going from one paid lot to another and losing time by sitting in traffic. Also, not sure if you have the electronic toll system EZPass in WV, but if you do, bring it. It’ll save you time when you cross into Manhattan via bridge or tunnel. Good luck!
How funny! I am also from WV, planning to drive and I was wondering about parking. We do plan on parking for the duration and using the subway but now I know to check out parking areas other than what is available at our hotel. Thanks.
Such a small world, Tammy! 😉 Definitely worth it to look outside of your hotel area. It most certainly will be cheaper. Good luck!
Great break down of the city. I am visiting for the first time tomorrow and I only have a day to explore. I was feeling a little overwhelmed and now I feel like I can do it!
Yay, Amanda! You totally can do it. Enjoy your day in NYC and thanks so much for reading! 🙂
This is wonderful and incredibly helpful! We are bringing our three school-aged sons in October. You have made me even more excited and comfortable. Thank you!
Thanks so much for reading, Audrey! I’m so glad the post is helpful. So exciting to visit NYC, plus October is a great time to visit. Fewer tourists and great weather. Have so much fun!:)
Planning going to see NYC sites in end of Sept. But driving would it be better to stay in Hoboken or Jersey City hotels to park my car then take Path to NYC. Thanks
Hi Julie, thanks for reading. Hoboken and Jersey City can be good alternatives. But just know each city has resident-only permit parking and limited, timed parking for visitors. Hoboken, in particular, is especially restrictive and will not hesitate to put a boot on your tire only to be removed by paying hundreds of dollars. Look for hotels that offer parking on site or local area lots and garages for the best deal. As a comparison point, you could also look at hotels/parking in Long Island City (Queens) and Brooklyn. These NYC boroughs do have street cleaning regulations a couple times of week depending on the neighborhood/side of the street, but street parking isn’t restricted to residents with permits. Be sure to check how close the subway is, as well, so you can easily get in and out of Manhattan. Hope that helps! Enjoy your trip. 🙂
This info is so helpful! Thank you, I look forward to my trip to New York in November of this year. And I look forward to utilizing so much of your helpful tips. Thank you so much Julie! Sincerely, Danielle (Last name deleted for privacy, URL removed.)
Thanks for reading, Danielle. Hope you have a great trip to NYC!
Hi I think your blog is well informed thank you very much. I am wondering if anybody knows when the tree lighting happens and when sacks has their laser show as well as Bergdorf’s Christmas windows if you can let me know that would be great thank you so much.
Thanks for reading, Steff. The Rockefeller Tree Lighting is on November 28, 2018. The department store holiday windows are typically open for viewing in late November. I don’t know the exact details of the Saks 5th Avenue laser show yet, but they typically begin in the late afternoon/early evening 4:30/5:00ish and happen periodically a few times an hour until about 11:30. I have an NYC Christmas Guide . I will be updating it soon. Bookmark it so you’ll have the latest info. 🙂
Such a great read thanks Jackie! I’m heading over with 2 girlfriends for my 40th and we are all very excited! Have been once before and remember the craziness of trying to get out of the airport, a little worried about it but not enough to dampen our spirits. Only there for three days so we are going to have to work out which of your itineraries to go with and what to chop. Thanks for doing all the hard work for me. Sioux (Australia)
Thanks for reading, Sioux! Happy to have made your travel planning easier. Enjoy your girls trip!! 🙂
Such great information – thank you so much!!!! My husband and I are planning a trip this December 2018. I am a Christmas nut and am super excited to experience my first New York Christmas. I can’t wait to see all the lights, decorations, and just the magic!! Any pointers on the best way to tackle New York at Christmas time? I’m sure it is crazy busy that time of year and the lines will be never ending.
I’m so glad the guide was helpful, Suzette. NYC is spectacular at Christmas but yes it is crazy busy. I have a Christmas in NYC guide and I’ll be updating it over the weekend for 2018. But there’s still plenty of great info that still applies from last year, as well. Feel free to comment again here or on that guide if you have more questions. 🙂 Thanks for reading!
Great and comprehensive guide Jackie! I read this before my first very trip to New York and because of your blog I was well prepared. I went the other week during 9/11, at a time where it was raining lots, but that did not hamper our stay there! [YouTube video link edited out]
Thanks for reading, Junas. I’m so happy to hear the guide was useful for you. I don’t publish links in comments, so your video link was edited out.
I remember the first time I went to New York. I stood in the middle of the Times Square on a very crowded evening. I have never in my life seen so many people in the street at once. I was a interesting experience. I learned a lot about the New York lifestyle.
Thanks for reading, Henry. New York City is a city like no other, that’s for sure.
Jackie… my husband and I are planning our first trip to NYC this November. Our kids live in Lakehurst, NJ so we’ll be staying with them. Any suggestions on the best way to travel from there into the city? We are taking our kids and grandkids to see Aladdin on the 11th, which I just realized is Veterans Day. Anything we should be aware of because of the holiday?
Thanks for reading, Joni. How fun to come up to NYC with your family to see Aladdin! I know there are Academy buses that run from Lakehurst to NYC, I’m just not sure of the schedule or if that schedule would be different on 11/11. Another option could be to drive a short distance to main train station, park, and take the train into NYC from there. You might find the trains run more frequently giving you more flexibility about how long you can stay in NYC. Enjoy your visit and the show! 🙂
everything you said makes sense. good information.
Thanks for reading, David. Enjoy NYC.
I didn’t know anything about New York to be honest so this post was a nice read and very helpful as well. [LINK EDITED OUT]
Thanks so much for reading, John.
Thanks For Sharing
Thanks for reading, Giselle. Enjoy NYC.
Very informative article.Hi im nur frm Malaysia.We a family of 6 (me,husb,mom,4yo & 1 yo twins) will be going on the 14/12 till 28/12 from Nepal to New York and Washington.No matter how much i read or watch (youtube) i still feel a little overwhelmed by th thoughts of going there for th first time,with my small kids,and the super cold weather (wut i heard) and navigating the city for th first time. Your article gives me perspective.before,i even stongly considering to hire tour guide for sightseeing purpose.what do u think,is it necessary? Tq
Thanks for reading, Nur. I don’t think it’s necessary to hire a tour guide for your entire trip to NYC, but you may want to consider day tours for specific things, like if you wanted an NYC overview or a neighborhood tour of lower Manhattan. Typically, getting underground to the subway is the best way to escape chilly winds. But, keep in mind, only specific subway entrances will have elevators for a baby stroller. New Yorkers often carry the stroller down or up the subway stairs. I might consider looking at a hop on hop off bus to get around outside of Times Square and the midtown Manhattan area (Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, Empire State Building). The one drawback to this is traffic. The weather will be chilly (likely between 30-45 F/-1-8 C), so it’s important to dress in layers and take advantage of breaks inside shops and places like Grand Central Station, and museums.
I hope your NYC and Washington travels are fantastic! Respond to this comment if you have more NYC questions. 🙂
Wow, all the information you provided was very informative. I just booked flights for New York for my family in April! Yay! I was getting a bit overwhelmed with researching where the best places to stay, visit, etc. as this will be our first visit to NY and I am so glad I found your post. I will be purchasing the city pass for sure. Thank you!
Thanks so much for reading, Staci! Glad the post was helpful for your upcoming NYC trip. Feel free to reach back out if you have more questions. Love CityPASS, it’s a definite money-saver when doing a lot of sightseeing. 🙂
Hello Globetrotting Teacher,
Thank you for mapping out a Mama and son first visit to NY! ( Itinerary 1,2 & 3 )
Just what the doctor ordered!
Straight to the point useful information.
You go girl! : )
Thanks for reading, Duv. Glad the itinerary ideas will be useful for your NYC trip! 🙂
My husband and I are headed to NY in March for the first time and since we booked the flight all I can do is plan our trip. This has been the best post I have come by. Thank you so much for putting this together!
Thanks for reading, Ciarra. So glad the guide is helpful. Have a great NYC trip! 🙂
Very good information. Lucky me I discovered your blog by chance (stumbleupon). I have book marked it for later!
Thanks for reading, Gene. 🙂
Very informative. I’m visiting NYC for the first time in a couple of months and I have no clue where to stay. Of course we want to do lots of sightseeing, attend a broadway show, and I can’t wait to eat some good pizza! Any recommendations on cost effective places to stay?
Thanks so much for reading, Cassandra. I have a Where to Stay in NYC guide for you to use to help you find the right place to stay. As long as you are close to a subway line, you can easily access many parts of NYC. So a place like the Upper West Side, for example, is not in Times Square but the subway line will help you get there in just minutes. Hope that helps and you have a great NYC trip!
This was SO HELPFUL!!! I am planning my first trip to NYC on my birthday in September and was feeling a bit overwhelmed thinking of how to get around and things to do. Also about where to stay.. What will the weather be like? Will i need to pack my faux fur? (LoL).
I am SO printing this out to read again!
Lol! Thanks for reading, Tonj. Faux fur for sure! 😉 Enjoy NYC.
What an absolutely fabulous and detailed write up, one of the best I have read on any city. Thanks for making our first trip to NYC so damn easy and fun
Yes! So glad to hear that, Anah. 🙂 Appreciate you reading and glad your trip was so fantastic.
Thanks for the useful information! Family of 4 will be visiting NYC for the first time in April 2019. We will only be there for 2 days 1 night. Is it possible to do 8 attractions in 2 days? I was looking into buying the 2 day New York Pass.
Thanks for reading, Ann. I think 8 attractions is a lot in 2 days. The bundled sightseeing cards can be a great deal. I’ve written about the New York CityPASS . But, expect things to take longer in NYC. There’s traffic or a subway delay. People fill the sidewalks so you can’t walk as quickly as you might think. The line at a restaurant or attraction is longer than expected. For these reasons, you and your family could end up feeling really rushed. If you do decide to give it a go, I’d stick to using the subway. It’s the fastest way to get around. Hope you have a great trip to NYC!
Super excited Theater Teacher here that just found our that I get to go to NYC with my 16 yr old son for our Birthday in June. (Yes I share Birthday with my son). My 50th and his 17th. This is an awesome list of what do do and how to get around. THANKS!!
Thanks for reading! NYC for 2 birthdays is a great way to celebrate! Hope you can make it to a Broadway show, too! 🙂
we have 5 hours to get back to LGA so what would you recommend we do in that time?
Thanks for reading, Sheila. Not sure exactly what you mean, but if you’re leaving the airport with only 5 hours before your next flight, I’d be really careful. The traffic in between LGA and Manhattan can be rough! If you’re set on catching a glimpse of the city, I would head to Times Square and from there walk over to Rockefeller Center, where you can also see Radio City Music Hall and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The area has a lot of sights in a compact area. Good luck!
This site is so great! Thank you!
Two questions: 1) We are leaving a concert at 2:30 pm at Carnegie Hall on a Saturday. Our plane leaves from Newark at 6:25pm. We would be riding the Subway. It looked like we were totally good, but my family thinks I’ve put us in a bind…thoughts??
2) Family of 6: Mom and Dad and 4 boys ages 10,14,18,19…. We aren’t fancy eaters…can we eat do lunch and dinner together for $30/day pretty easily? This might be way too broad a question…you can tell me so! LOL
Thanks for reading, Jen. 🙂 If you plan to leave Carnegie Hall and go straight to Newark, you should have plenty of time. $30 for a family of 6 for lunch and dinner will be tough to accomplish. (I’m reading this as $30 for lunch and dinner for 6 people so hopefully, I understand what you mean!) Pizza slices are typically pretty cheap (for NYC), as are lunch specials at ethnic food restaurants (Chinese, Indian, etc.). Bagel carts can be cheap way to get a bagel with cream cheese for not that much money either. No matter what you do, avoid eating in and around Times Square and Rockefeller Plaza. It’s the most expensive area to eat in the city, even for just a pizza slice! Enjoy NYC.
Hi, I’ve been reading up on visiting NYC a ton and your blog was one of the most helpful. I also looked through all of your comments which were helpful as well. I reserved an Airbnb months ago for my family in Jersey City. There will be 7 of us, kids ages 7-16 so that makes it difficult to get a hotel. But then I found out this week how expensive it is going to be to get back and forth to NYC every day. We will be there a total of 6 days and the home we are staying in is 2 miles away from the Path station. So not within walking distance. Between Peking our vehicle and paying for everyone to ride the Path and then getting into NYC and paying to ride the Metro I’m starting to wonder if staying in Jersey City was such a good plan. Any input at all would be most helpful. I’m not sure whether to drive into NY and pay for parking, or leave our car at the Path station and pay for parking there, or what to do. I feel like we are going to spend around $100 a day just to get into NYC and back and I am stressing out. I also am not sure if we should buy the 7 day Metro pass for each of us to travel around NYC or just pay per ride. Help!
Thanks for reading, Tiffany. You were right to look at Airbnb, particularly on the Jersey side. Jersey City and Hoboken are great ways to save money and still be close to NYC. However, the problem (as you said) is your place isn’t within walking distance to the PATH train. Is it possible to change to a different Airbnb closer to the PATH? I would not recommend driving into NYC as tempting as it seems. It’ll likely be just as expensive and cost you time. Traffic through the tunnels into Manhattan and in the city itself can eat up hours. Jersey City also has a Light Rail which can be good for getting around and connecting to other modes of transport. There are also NJ Transit buses that go right into Port Authority on 42nd Street. Just not sure if either are close to your Airbnb. The 7 day MetroPass is worth it if you plan to use it at least 12 times no matter how many days you visit NYC. It can also be used on the PATH trains. Hope that helps!! 🙂
Hi! Thanks for such a great article. We are headed to New York City for the first time in mid-July. We are staying in Times Square Hotel. The best way to get around seems to be walking and the subway, but we’ve never been on a subway. Are there people who can help with directions once I get to subway station? I’m a little nervous. Also, we are coming in from La Guardia airport. What is the best idea for getting to hotel from the airport?
Thanks for reading, Jennifer. Definitely walk and ride the subway for your NYC visit. The subway is really logical once you get the hang of it. The lines are broken up by color and named after a letter or number. From Times Square, you’ll have a lot of train lines available which makes getting to and from your hotel convenient. Some stations might have an MTA employee to help with directions, but it’s not overly common. I recommend having a subway app or PDF of a subway map on your phone. This way, you’ll always be able to check where you are and where you need to go. As for transferring from LGA, I have an LGA to Manhattan guide for you. 🙂
nice article, i love new york.
Thanks so much for reading. Glad you have good NYC experiences. 🙂
Most helpful article yet! Thank you so much for your insight, recommendations and tips! Much appreciated!
You’re welcome, Erin!
Thanks for reading!!
I like how you mentioned that the best place to stay is within comfortable walking distance to a subway station for better access to all the places you’d like to visit. My aunt wants to visit New York for the holidays, and she wanted to know how to find a tourism guide to take her to all the places she wants to visit. Thank you for the tip on the https://washingtondctraveler.com/ subway station, I’m going to let my aunt know about it so that she can start seeing her options when traveling.
Thanks for reading and thrilled that the tips are helpful.
The best way to see NY AND get around is the subway.
Holiday traffic in NYC can get rough so taking cabs or driving is not efficient on time and $$.
I hope your aunt has a wonderful trip. Holiday time in NYC is a memorable one!
Great Article. I’m going to drive down to NYC for the first time at the end of the month. I’ve been there several times but I’ve never driven. We are going to a gaming show at the Barclays center and will be driving down early morning and then leaving after show is over and maybe staying overnight somewhere once we get out of the city. I would appreciate any suggestions you might have, we are coming from upstate ny. thought about taking the bus down the night before but then not sure where to stay or how to get the Barclays center and then back to the bus. Thanks so much
Thanks for reading, Nancy. I would avoid driving if you could. Traffic is crazy. Roads are confusing and a lot of time can be wasted just trying to get around. And that’s all before thinking about parking. If there are buses to bring you to Manhattan, you could easily take the subway to downtown Brooklyn or even an Uber or taxi. Downtown Brooklyn has hotels so it’s possible to stay within close proximity of the Barclays Center. Also, no matter where you stay in NYC, the Barclays Center has a transportation hub right next to it with subway lines from all over the city reaching there. If you haven’t, check out this where to stay in NYC guide. Good luck! 🙂
This article was incredible! I appreciate the time and dedication you showed to include all of the details. The information didn’t stop at the end of it either! You take the time to comment and reply to every comment you get, that’s amazing, you’re still giving out awesome information!
Thanks for reading, Maddy. I appreciate the kind words. 🙂
I’m so excited. We are visiting NYC in June 2020. There are 6 of us going, 3 have already been, 1 lived in Jersey and worked in the city many moons ago. I’m so excited to eat food! ?
Thanks for reading, Alberia. NYC has so much food to eat!! Enjoy! 🙂
Great article with a lot of details! Appreciate all the tips you provided. We’re coming to NYC mid-December and staying at the Park Central Hotel. Any suggestions for an affordable & family friendly place for dinner for a group of 2 families with kids? We’re celebrating a birthday but don’t want to break the bank. My wife wants a place that gives you that New York feel. Any help would be appreciated.
Thanks so much for reading Rocky. Not sure if you’re looking to stay close to your hotel but I’d recommend looking at Benihana, Cowgirl, Bubby’s (great if you’re near the High Line), Fred’s (on the Upper West Side), and Keste, Lombardis, or even John’s pizza (in the theater district) for pizza. Nom Wah Tea Parlor in Chinatown is also an NYC classic. Have a great trip to NYC! 🙂
Thank you so much for all the insight! I am planning a family trip for Christmas 2020 with my hubby & 4 kids!! This gave me so many helpful tips and I was able to download every app so I can do some advance purchasing!!
Thanks for reading, Courtney. I’m so glad the guide is helpful for you. You’ll love NYC at Christmas. The city is just so pretty. 🙂
Your article is extremely appreciated. So much do in NYC, so many attractions and experiences to choose from . The tips you shared on transportation and local’s insights were especially helpful, and I like the different perspectives you pulled into the itinerary suggestions. Super excited about my first trip to NYC
Thanks so much for reading, Meena. I’m glad the guide is helpful and I hope you have a great first trip to NYC!
You’re blog is so helpful! We’re planning our first family trip to NYC. There are 6 of us. I am having a hard time finding a hotel with a suite big enough for 6 people. Do you have any suggestions for larger hotel rooms in the city? Thank you for your help!
Thanks for reading, Stephanie. Glad the blog is helpful for planning your trip to New York City. Finding larger family rooms is tricky in NYC. Here are a few suggestions. Hotels like the Fairfield Inn in Midtown, Hyatt Place in midtown, the Residence Inn in midtown, even the Doubletree in Jersey City (10 mins to Lower Manhattan) if you’re looking to stay just outside of Manhattan will have suite rooms that have 2 double or queen beds plus a sofa sleeper bed. I hope that helps and you can find something that works! Good luck and enjoy NYC!
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