I have explored this city as a tourist and been fortunate enough to call this city home at one time. If you are planning to visit NYC, I have put together some of my favorite places and activities that will help you plan your next trip. First, I will provide some information to help familiarize yourself with the city.
New York City is made up of 5 boroughs, which includes Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. It is important to know that although Manhattan is only 13 miles in length, it is bigger than one might expect. Manhattan is divided into neighborhoods:
- Uptown Manhattan refers to the area above 59th Street
- Upper Manhattan refers to the area above 96th Street
- Downtown Manhattan refers to the area below 14th Street
- Lower Manhattan refers to the area below Chambers Street
- Midtown Manhattan refers to the area between 34th Street and 59th Street.
- East Side refers to the area east of Fifth Avenue
- West Side refers to the area west of Fifth Avenue
I highly suggest that you research and decide exactly what you want to see during your visit. Based on the neighborhood of the places you want to see, you can then plan where to eat or other activities that are in close proximity. This will allow you to make the most of your time in the city.
Transportation: Knowing the best way to get around New York City is crucial during your visit. New York transportation might seem intimidating at first, but with so many convenient cheap NYC transportation options, getting around New York City is actually quite simple. Depending on your budget and how fast you would like to get to your destination will determine what means of transportation you use. If it’s your first time in the city, I suggest experiencing the subway at least once.
The subway is a cheap ($3 one way) and reliable way to get around the city. You can buy a 7 day pass for under $30. Subway tickets are also valid for the buses, however I wouldn’t recommend it, as you will mostly get stuck in traffic. Taking the subway also means you don’t have to deal with traffic, however you should study a map or download a subway app to your phone. Taking the subway system can be tricky at first. Read this for any questions you have regarding taking the NYC subway system.
If you want to stay above ground, I would suggest Uber. Uber really comes in handy in very touristy areas when your in a pinch and you can’t find a cab. Warning: be careful of surge pricing when using Uber! During rain or rush hour prices can spike. I say take a NYC cab at least once for the experience.
Walking is always a great option if you aren’t in a hurry and would like to take the scenic route. NYC is a walking city! The best part is it’s free! Let’s be honest, after a few pieces of NY pizza you may want to walk!
Now that you have an idea of the city and how to get around, here are some of my recommended places and activities:
1. Empire State Building
Spectacular views of the city. It’s really a must while in NYC. You can find tickets here. If you visit during the winter be mindful that it can be extremely cold and the windshield on the very top can be unbearable as it gets really windy. If you can, try to visit during warmer seasons and on a clear day to really get a great view and enjoy your time on the observation and top decks.
2. Times Square
One of the most famous neighborhoods in the world and known as a mecca for tourists. It is home to Broadway shows, street performers, big name stores and lit up billboards and digital screens to light up the city. I suggest coming here to check it off your bucket list and then move on to more interesting areas of the city.
3. Central Park
Central Park is spread over 843 acres between some of the prime Manhattan real estate. You could spend hours exploring the parks scenery, statues, fountains, gardens and activities.
During the warmer seasons you will find many locals in Sheeps Meadow. Sheeps Meadow is one of my favorite areas of the park. You can come here to just relax and lay on a blanket and enjoy the views, sun bathe, have a picnic or play fetch with your dog. Another one of my favorite spots is Central Park’s Lake. You can rent a row boat and drift along while admiring the park. If you’re feeling romantic you can take a horse and carriage ride. You can also take a walk on the wild side and check out The Central Park Zoo.
In the winter months, you can ice skate in the park. I would highly recommend you don’t miss Central Park regardless what season you visit. The park offers something for everyone.
4. Bryant Park
Bryant Park is a big lushy lawn with beautiful gardens located in between skyscrapers. Bryant park is a really social place where people meet to eat, chat, stroll, listen to music and even people watch. The park is as big as a football field and you will find many activities are held here, like concerts and even movie nights. People will gather together bringing blankets and food /drinks and hang out on the lawn.
5. Brooklyn Bridge
Walk or ride a bike across the Brooklyn Bridge. There are designated bikes lanes if you choose to ride across. Plan on at least an hour to walk one way. You will learn about the history of the bridge, as there are areas that have it written on plaques. On the Brooklyn bridge you will be able to capture beautiful photos of the city’s skyline. You can capture even more breathtaking views once you have crossed the bridge and in Brooklyn. By this time you will have worked up an appetite. I would suggest grabbing some pizza at Julianas Pizza. The pizza is amazing!
6. Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is one of the most famous statues in the world. You can take the Staten Island ferry for free and see perfect views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The ferry ride is 5 miles and 25 minutes long. If you’re interested, in actually making your way onto the island and inside Lady Liberty you can purchase tickets here.
7. Freedom Tour + 9/11 Ground Zero
The Freedom Tower is currently the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. Take a ride up an elevator 1,250 feet and experience a 360 degree view of the city. While in this area, I would suggest visiting the 9/11 Memorial, where you can pay your respects to those who lost their lives in the World Trade Center. See the Reflecting Absence Memorial, the largest man-made waterfall inside the 9/11 Memorial, symbolizing the vast void left by the tragedy. You will see the names of all the victims are written around the waterfall.
You can also visit the financial district and wall street, which are nearby.
8. Union Square
In Union Square Park you will encounter at any given moment, street vendors, festivals, protesters rallying behind giant signs, musicians, people playing chess and break-dancers. It is a very vibrant area with plenty to do and see. You will find many places to get a quick bite and shop.
9. Herald Square
Herald Square is known as the area where the famous Macy’s Day Parade takes place every year. In this area you will find the largest Macy’s in the country among many other shopping retailers.
10. Coney Island
Take the D, N, F or Q line all the way to the final stop and you will have arrived to Coney Island. Here you will find a beach, although not the most beautiful you’ve ever seen, it’s an ocean. If you’re not interested in testing out the waters you can stroll down the boardwalk where you’ll find carnival games, concessions, souvenirs, and the rides at Luna Park. If you’re interested in entering a hot dog eating competition then head over to Nathan’s famous Hot Dogs.
11. Yankee Stadium
Catch a ball game at the Yankees Stadium in the Bronx.
12. High Line
Stroll along the High Line, which extends from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street. You will experience beautiful views of the city and the Hudson river 30 feet up. The High Line was built on an abandoned railroad track and currently, there are 11 entrances, one being at 15th street, under the Chelsea Market, which I highly recommend you make a pit stop at and explore the market and grab a bite to eat. You will absolutely be impressed with this food and shopping hall.
13. The Flatiron Building
The Flatiron Building, originally the Fuller Building, is a triangular 22-story steel-framed landmarked building located at 175 Fifth Avenue on the intersection of 5th avenue and Broadway and is considered to be a groundbreaking skyscraper.
14. Chinatown and Little Italy
Chinatown and Little Italy are popular neighborhoods for visitors to explore in downtown New York City that both offer visitors delicious food, interesting street life and a variety of shopping opportunities.
If you’re looking for jewelry, handbags, perfume, sunglasses, watches, wallets, shoes, etc. walk along Canal Street between Broadway and Mulberry Street. You will have many shops to choose from. Don’t be shy about ‘haggling’ – try it to get a better deal.
If you’re looking to purchase knock off counterfeit handbags, this is your spot. Don’t forget – selling counterfeit goods is a crime, so be careful in who you deal with. If a shop does carry fake bags, they won’t make it obvious and you will have to go to the way back of the shop and have a look. Another option is to look for illegal street peddlers selling knockoff sunglasses, handbags, and watches out of suitcases or on sheets laid out on the sidewalk. If they suddenly pack up and run off, it means that they have spotted the police.
For the braver souls, you can deal with individual sellers who have better quality counterfeit items. These people stand on street corners (typically Mott, Mulberry and Baxter Street on the north side of Canal Street) and will walk past you whispering “gucci, prada, chanel, ” or “rolex”. If you show you’re interested, they will take you off to the side and discreetly show you pictures of the items they have. If you want to make a purchase, they will call someone and then you follow them to “secret location”, typically safe, to complete the deal.
When walking through Little Italy you will be bombarded with people trying to convince you to come into their restaurant because “it’s the best”. Do your research before hand and choose places where you want to eat so you don’t feel pressured to just enter any old place.
Go see a show on Broadway. I would recommend:
- The Book Of Mormon
- The Color Purple
- Fiddler On The Roof
- Jersey Boys
- Kinky Boots
- The Lion King
Soho is a neighborhood in lower Manhattan which stands for “South of Houston street”. It is the place filled with shopping and art galleries. You will find trendy, upscale boutiques and international designers. You can also find vintage clothing and new designers.
17. The MOMA
The MOMA or Modern Museum of Modern Art holds a collection of modern art pieces from artists around the world. You can also see several rotating exhibits as well. You can purchase tickets here. Just an FYI – The museum offers free admission on Fridays between 4-8pm.
18. Battery Park
Battery Park is located in the southern tip of Manhattan with access to the harbor and Hudson river. You will find plenty of trails to walk or you can just relax and admire the views of the gardens, memorials and statues. Beautiful views of Ellis Island can be seen from here. Watching the sunset from Battery Park is also amazing.
19. St. Patricks’s Cathedral
One of NYC’s more prominent landmarks is St. Patrick’s Cathedral located on 5th avenue between 50th and 51st street, directly across the street from Rockefeller Center. This Gothic Roman Catholic church is the largest church in the United States. Take a walk inside and admire it’s beauty.
20. Grand Central Terminal
Most people know of Grand Central, as it has been in many famous movies. Grand Central Terminal is the country’s busiest train station and is the world’s largest train terminal with 45 track platforms and 63 tracks. People from all over the world come to this railroad terminal to tour and visit as it if full of so much history and one of NYC’s beloved landmarks.
I hope this guide will help you in planning your trip to NYC. Keep in mind that this city has so much to offer and see. You won’t be able to do it all in one trip so pick the places that are most important to you. Once you’ve been to NYC, it won’t be long before you’re back!