New York City, a city so well known that visiting it for the first time almost feels nostalgic. It’s buildings and streets can be seen in countless movies and magazines. It’s influence from music, to fashion to arts can be felt from coast to coast.
If you’re interested in traveling to this unique city, you’re definitely not alone.
With so many sights and attractions to see, how can you decide what to do while you’re there?
That’s where I hope this guide can help. I’m not an expert nor have I done everything in NYC, but I’ve been lucky enough to have traveled there a handful of times. 5 to be exact, and I’ve been lucky enough to do a lot of things while I was there.
Having recently come back from my latest trip there I wanted to make this guide while the smell and taste of New York is still fresh in my mind. That being said here’s my travel guide to New York City!
Post length: 3800 words approx
Reading time: 15 -20 mins
WHO’S THIS GUIDE FOR?
- First time travelers to NYC
- Second time travelers to NYC
- Anyone generally interested in seeing if travelling to NYC might be something they would like to do
- People who like to travel, and like travel planning.
MY TRAVEL GUIDE TO NEW YORK CITY
With so many things to do in NYC where do you even begin? For this guide I’ve divided the things to do in NYC into a few major categories.
- Major Attractions – For things you probably want to see while you’re in the city
- Things to Do – For activities and entertainment options
- Food – For a list of some of the best eats in the city
- Bars and Nightlife – For a few late night hangouts
Once you’ve had a chance to read about some of the things that NYC has to offer I’ll try to tie it all together with some suggestions on how to plan your trip and end the guide with a sample trip itinerary.
I’ve also tried to keep each of the categories organized by area so that its easy to know your options. Ready? Let’s go!
LIST OF MAJOR ATTRACTIONS
There’s no shortage of things to see in NYC. Fact of the matter is you likely won’t be able to see them all in one trip. Here’s a list of some of the major attractions that you might want to include in your travel itinerary.
The Empire State Building – The building King Kong scaled. Nuff said.
Rockefeller Center – Famous for the ice rink in the winter and the views from the top of the Rock.
Times Square – Where all the bright lights and neon signs converge in one place. It really is a sight to see. You get a real feel for the energy the city has standing amidst all the controlled chaos.
Grand Central Station – The station that connects you to where you want to go. It’s quite the architectural beauty inside, but you’ll need to see that with your own eyes.
Central Park – For a little peace and quiet amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. Lots to do and see in the actual park itself. Ride your bike if you want a quick tour of the park or just walk along the paths to discover all the park has to offer.
World Trade Tower Memorial – Museum and memorial dedicated to 9/11.
Wall Street – The street where money is made. Don’t forget to check out the raging bull statue as well while you’re there.
China Town – A part of the city all its own. Want to buy a watch or a bag? No problem finding someone to sell you some here. Just don’t forget to bargain.
Chelsea Market – Large city building that has a market on its main floor. Lot’s of food and some shopping options to be seen here.
Brooklyn Bridge – I like walking the bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn. When you get across the bridge there’s great views of NYC and tons of photo ops along the way. There’s also some good spots to eat as well. Definitely worth the walk!
The Statue of Liberty – Probably the most recognizable attraction in NYC. You’ll need to plan ahead if you want to visit here. Tickets to the Crown need to be purchased well in advance so be prepared.
THINGS TO DO
Aside from the major attractions there’s plenty to do while you’re in NYC. Here’s a list of some things you might want to do while you’re there.
The MOMA – A must stop for any art lover.
NY Knicks Game – For basketball fans or anyone wanting to visit the famous Madison Square Gardens.
Broadway Shows – Take your pick from any of the hundreds of play options. Classics like The Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon, to the current hot shows like Hamilton and Wicked. There’s something for everyone. Book your tickets in advance or try to get cheaper tickets the day of at the tickets today booth.
The Metropolitan Museum – World class museum with rotating exhibits. You can spend a few hours here or even half the day if you wanted to. Travel tip! Don’t forget to visit the rooftop deck and bar for great views of central park and the city skyline. It’s a little hard to find but it’s worth it.
The Guggenheim Museum – An art museum within a uniquely designed building. The building is a piece of art itself.
Natural History Museum – Dinosaurs. Need I say more? A family favorite.
High Line – An old train track converted into a greenery and walkway above the streets of the city. I really enjoy this walk on a nice day. Gives you great views of the water and the city.
The Apollo Theatre – Just the history and people who crossed the stage at this venue are enough reason to go. Amateur night is a great option as those guys really know how to put on a show. The talent is hit or miss but the ones that are good, are great.
Coney Island – If you enjoy fairs, beaches and hot dogs then you might want to make the trip down. Ride the Cyclone or the Wonder Wheel or eat at the original Nathans Hot Dogs then take a dip in the Atlantic before heading back to the city.
Bronx Zoo – Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! The largest Zoo in the US. Again not in NYC but located in the Bronx. Be prepared to spend half the day looking at all the exhibits and attractions. The gorillas are probably my favorite.
New York Botanical Gardens – Something for the garden lovers. Depending on the different times of the year that you visit a different section of the gardens will be in full display. From roses to tulips to cacti, you’ll find all you favorite flows and plants at the NYBG.
NY Yankees Game – Take me out to the ball game! Tickets are reasonable and nothing beats having a few drinks and dogs on a hot summer day in the ball park.
Shopping – Too many shopping places to list but from high-end to bargains there something for everyone to be found. Not a bad way to break up a day with some retail therapy.
FOR THE FOODIES
NYC is a foodies dream land. You can’t try all the food, but you can do your best to try.
There are really hundreds upon hundreds of places to try, with new spots popping up all the time. I can’t list them all but here are some of my own personal foodie recommendations.
Wolfgang’s Steakhouse – Get the Wolfgang salad and the porterhouse for two. Enough to satisfy any steak lover.
Her Name Is Han – Really good Korean food. Lunch sets are the way to go.
Danji – Fusion Korean food. The Kimchi poutine is delicious.
Burger and Lobster – Burger, Lobster, Fries and Salad for $35? Yes please.
Turntable Mad for Chicken – You might have trouble finding it but once you do it’s worth it. Korean chicken wings, beer towers and soju.
Jacob’s Pickles – Delicious comfort food and a decent price. Their fried chicken, biscuits and gravy are mouth-watering. Pickles are pretty darn good too. No bad things to say about this place. Check em out!
Grays Papaya – Classic hot dogs and papaya juice. Another NY staple.
Maison De Pickle – The upscale sibling to Jacob’s Pickles.
Jin Ramen – Solid Ramen spot. I loved their Kakuni Ramen as I prefer think noodles. The extra thick cut piece of pork belly was the perfect topping.
Dirty French – Modern french food at its tastiest. Perfect spot for a date night or if you’re just craving some really good food. The orange duck, scallops and lamb carpaccio are all worth trying. Not to mention their starter bread is heavenly. Cocktails go down easy. Overall a great dining experience worth trying.
Essex – Go here for boozy brunch. Unlimited Mimosas, Screwdrivers or Bloody Mary’s plus and entrée.
Drunken Dumpling – Come here for the dumplings obviously. The XL XLB is the star but their other regular dumplings are excellent as well.
Cha-An – Known for their matcha and other asian desserts.
Shake Shack – A NYC original. My favorite fast food burger. A shack burger, cheesy fries and vanilla shake hits the spot every time. Travel Tip! I like the ones near the natural history museum or the Brooklyn Bridge due to fact they are not always too busy.
Artichokes Pizza – Come here for the Artichoke slice. If you like artichokes of course.
Levain – Best cookies I’ve ever had. My favorite flavor was the Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter. I’m glad I don’t live in NY or I’d probably have this way too often and gain 100 lbs.
Halal Guys – Perfect any time of the day, lunch, dinner, 2:00 am. Meat and vegetables on rice with. Extra white sauce. Stay away from the red sauce or face the consequences the next morning.
Xi’an Famous Foods – Quick and cheap but quality and taste second to none.
Smorgusburg – Seasonal summer outdoor food market. A bunch of food stands all in one place. Perfect for any foodie.
Fornino Pizza – The location I went to in Williamsburg had a cozy little outdoor seating area perfect for a pizza date. Their Funghi Misti pizza was mouth-watering. Perfect amount of toppings and the crust was done soft on the inside with just the right amount of crisp. Pizza done right.
Pies N Thighs – Best biscuits I’ve ever had. The honey butter that goes with the biscuit makes them even more irresistible.
Fat Pig – Hidden Gem in Inwood. Good beer selection, meats are tasty and the Mac n Cheese is just so good.
BARS AND NIGHTLIFE
If you’re a lover of the nightlife NYC has plenty to offer. Here are just a few of the places that I’ve managed to try. Lower Manhattan, particularly the Lower East Side was my favorite place to go for a night out. So much variety all within a close proximity. Not as pretentious as some other areas of the city, which in my books is a good thing.
The Park – It’s more a restaurant but it does open its doors Friday and Saturday night if you want to bust a move on the dance floor. 3 dance floors with 3 bars. Mixed crowd all just there to have a good time.
Angels Share – One of the long running speakeasy’s. Cocktails are unique and bartenders know what they’re doing. Be prepared to wait.
PDT – Speakeasy located behind a phone booth in Crift Dog. Cool experience. Hot dogs and drinks are very good. Again, be prepared to wait.
Attaboy – Another speakeasy in the LES. No drink menu here, just tell the bartender what you like and they’ll make something to satisfy your thirst. Long waits, be prepared.
169 Bar – Dive bar located in LES. Honestly a great chill place to grab some drinks with friends. Beer and shot for $3. Wow.
Mr. Purple – Rooftop bar in LES complete with swimming pool. Sometimes crowded, but not a bad place to grab a few drinks while enjoying a nice view.
Union Pool – A unique bar very much Brooklyn, complete with Taco truck for drunk eats.
Output – Massive 3 level club with rooftop bar that has clear views of the City. Located in Williamsburg.
PLANNING THE TRIP
There’s two type of people who travel. Those that plan, and those that don’t. I’m definitely the former. If you’re the type that can just wing it then have in mind what you want to do and just go for it! If you’re like me then you’ll want to strategically organize your trip so that you get to what you want to see and don’t waste much time deciding what to do.
Always remember though an itinerary is just a plan to help you on your trip. A vacation isn’t good if you’re to concerned about keeping a strict timeline.
Plan your best but always leave room for changes, spontaneity and relaxation.
WHEN TO TRAVEL TO NEW YORK?
Now this is highly dependent upon you the traveler and your preferences but as for myself I think the best times to go to NYC are in May and Late September/Early October. Why? It’s probably the most comfortable weather during that time of year there. May has weather roughly in the low 20 degrees while late September/Early October is a little warmer in the mid 20 degrees.
Summer months in NYC are hot and humid and are very busy in terms of travelers. Mainly because that’s when people take summer vacation.Visiting NYC slightly before summer or in early fall is ideal in terms of weather and crowds.Click To Tweet
I’ve never been to NYC in the winter as winters there can be pretty harsh. I’d personally rather go somewhere warm as I already come from a cold enough city in the winter. However I’m sure a lot of people might enjoy the cold weather and I’m sure winter in the city has its own special charm.
HOW MANY DAYS SHOULD YOU STAY?
You’ll need to decide how many days you’ll be staying in the city. This way you can get a better idea of how much you can do in that time frame.
A 3 night trip will feel pretty quick. If that’s all you can do then consider it more of a tease than anything else as it will definitely leave you wanting more.
I think that a 4 night or 5 night trip would be ideal. It will leave you enough time to see the sights but not feel to rushed to cram everything in. I’d suggest trying to arrive on a Thursday and leaving on a Monday as good days to go because some activities are only available on the weekends. Plus you won’t have to use as many vacation days so that’s always good! Anything more than 5 nights is probably a luxury considering the cost of accommodation in NYC.
ARRIVING IN NYC
If you’re coming from outside the USA then one thing that will be useful will be to get a travel plan for your phone. I used Roam Mobility and it worked pretty well. It’s not necessary but it will make things easier especially for getting around and planning.
There are 3 major airports if you’re flying in. LaGuardia (LGA), John F. Kennedy (JFK) and Newark (EWR). JFK is the furthest from the city but they do have set cab rates if you’re going to Manhattan.
A cab, Lyft or Uber are probably your best bets to get you to your hotel as well as for quick transport options in the city. From the airport you can also take various shuttles but be sure to arrange those prior to arrival so you’re good to go once you touch down.
For myself I used public transport a lot while in the city. Their subway is one of the most expansive systems I’ve come across. There’s almost no place in the city that you can’t get close to with it. It’s also a fun NY experience in itself I think. From the buskers on the trains to the old subway stations. All very New York. It might seem intimidating at first but once you get used to the which lines run where it’s actually an easy to understand system.
A lot of the main attractions are pretty close to each other so be prepared to do some walking while your there too.
WHERE TO STAY
One thing to note, it’s expensive to stay in NYC. Hotels are expensive and AirBnB or other options aren’t too far behind so be prepared to spend a little bit on your accommodation costs. Be ready to pay about $250 a night minimum.
For first timers an area I recommend to stay is Midtown Manhattan.
Anywhere in Midtown is a great central location as you’ll be close to the heart of all the action. Subways run all around you, and a lot of the sights and attractions are all within walking distance.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
I think that a good way to organize your New York trip is to try to keep you daily plans as close together logistically as possible. The last thing you want to do is travel from one end of the city to the other and back again.
Go through the attractions, things to do and food options and list down what you want to see in order of preference. Then mix and match starting from Day 1 until you run out of days. You’ll only be able to fit so much into 1 trip so start with the things you want to do the most. Whatever you can’t fit into the trip you can always save for the next time you come back.
Here’s a sample suggested trip itinerary for a first time trip to NY using the information from the guide above .
SAMPLE 4-DAY NYC TRIP ITINERARY
DAY 1: THURSDAY- ARRIVAL
The day of arrival is always a tough one. Depending on how long it took you to get to NYC you could be pretty tired from the flight. Having an early evening arrival is great as you can check in to your hotel right away, get set then go out in the town for a little bit before calling it a night.
- Arrive at in NYC – Cab/uber to hotel and check in. Hopefully your flight gets in the early evening so you can go straight to your hotel unpack and unwind a bit from the flight.
- Once your all settled in head to the Shake Shack on 8th Ave and 43rd for a bite to eat.
- From there walk you way down to Times Square. It’s a great way to kick off your trip to NYC and seeing Times Square at night time is always the best time to go. The energy in the area is pretty buzzing and its a good way to set the mood for the rest of the trip.
- After you’ve had your fill you can either continue to explore the times square area as there is lots to do or just call it a night and get ready for the next day
DAY 2: FRIDAY – SIGHTSEEING
After a good nights sleep it’s time to get cracking. Lot’s to get done so a good nights sleep and off early the next day to see the sights.
- Visit the Statue of Liberty. You’ll need to book this in advance depending on how much of the statue you want to see.
- Since you’re at the Statue you might also want to visit Ellis Island as they are basically right by each other. An early start is needed for you to see both the statue and Ellis island so keep that in mind.
- Check out the Financial District and walk wall street. As the ferry to the statue is near there you can easily do this upon arriving back to Manhattan.
- Lastly hit up the World Trade Center after before you call it a night as it’s fairly close to the Financial district as well.
- Friday night is always a good night to try some bars or check out the nightlife so you might want to do that to end the night if that’s your thing.
DAY 3: SATURDAY – MORE ATTRACTIONS
- Head to the Museum Mile and check out The Guggenheim and The Met
- Since you’re right close to Central Park I’d suggest taking this chance to explore it. Hopefully the weather is co-operating!
- By now you might be pretty tired so it’s a good time to maybe go to the hotel and freshen up before heading out again.
- At night it’s Broadway Show time so plan ahead or get try your luck with day of tickets.
DAY 4: SUNDAY – FIT IN WHAT YOU CAN
- A nice way to start the Sunday is by going to a Boozy Brunch at any of the various brunch spots in the city.
- Then head to the High Line to walk off the brunch.
- After you’re done the stroll on down to Chelsea Market to grab a snack (if you’re hungry)
- China Town isn’t that far away after that.
- Lastly walk the Brooklyn Bridge, spend some time on the Brooklyn side maybe have food there and then take the ferry back so you can view the city along the water. Maybe catch it just as the sun goes down for some great sunset views.
DAY 5: MONDAY – DEPARTURE
- Just enough time to have breakfast, checkout and head to airport.
In all my trips to NY I’ve been lucky to explore a different area each time. You won’t be able to do everything in one trip, which is good. It leaves you wanting more and you’ll probably want to come back a second time to do some new things and some things that you loved.Whether you're a foodie, an arts lover, history buff or party goer, there's no shortage of things to do in New York.Click To Tweet
I hope that this guide will be a good starting point to help you with your New York trip planning. It’s not and complete guide as I don’t think there could be one for NY as there is just too much things to see and do, but it’s a good start. Thanks for taking the time to check it out! Hopefully it will help aid you in some way.
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Leave your comments below!
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