Some may call it the “concrete jungle” and others “the city that never sleeps” but one thing that is most attractive about the one and only New York City is its endless sights and nonstop energetic beat. For first-time visitors or any well-seasoned traveler, navigating the city’s seemingly never-ending possibilities can understandably feel a bit overwhelming. That’s why this guide has everything you need to know – from itinerary ideas, tips on where to stay and eat, and how to get around to make your first visit to New York City memorable!
Before I delve into it, I recommend everyone get the NYC CityPASS—it is the works! This pass offers an affordable time in NYC by being able to create your very own personalized pass with admissions to the top attractions you desire to visit on your trip! It’s a great way to plan and budget your trip ahead of time.
Take in the Skyline Views
New York City possesses one of the world’s most iconic jaw-dropping skylines, and I want to share my three favorite spots that gaze over New York City’s skyline.
The Top of the Rock is my all-time favorite as it offers a view you won’t believe. At the top, it has a sweeping, unobstructed view of central park, Manhattan, and the downtown skyscrapers, the view from the top is one of a kind! The building ascends 70 floors above ground for an elevated NYC experience which features a breathtaking 360-degree view of NYC. Next up, the iconic Empire State Building offers the highest open-air viewing platform in the city on the 86th floor and an indoor observation deck on the 102nd floor. Finally, the newest addition to downtown NYC, the tallest building in the western hemisphere, which shoots through the clouds at 102 floors, is the One World Trade Center. I recommend taking a ride up to any of these observations deck around sunset; however, beware it is the most crowded time to go up.
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If you’re on a budget, there are tons of places that offer sweet views for free. Here are some of the best free spots to catch breathtaking views of the city. Sail out to Staten Island—the deck of the ferry offers not only a beautiful view of the city but also a view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. You can also catch a spectacular view while walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. And if you’re looking to save the steps, grab a drink at a rooftop bar at the 230 Fifth, the stylish Loopy Doopy, or one of Midtown Manhattan’s most spectacular urban oasis—Top of the Strand. Fun fact, for all you Sex and the City fans, the Top of the Stand was envisioned by the set designer!
Watch a Broadway Show
New York is well known for its live theatre entertainment, but there’s no place more famous for theatre than Broadway. Located right off of Times Square, Broadway is the home of many Tony Award-Winning Broadway Shows. Walking through the heart of Manhattan’s Theater District can pose a daunting task with all the marquees flashing award-winning titles and raving reviews by harsh critics. If there is a show you really want to see, just make sure to book your tickets well in advance. The sheer number of productions can be overwhelming so make sure to check out the complete set of shows here. I’d suggest the gleefully profane musical comedy (The Book of Mormon) or the musical-theater phenomenon (Hamilton).
Visit Times Square
Known to be one of the utmost iconic places in the world—Times Square is a place you can’t miss out on your first trip, especially at night. The bright lights are so surreal that it makes it seem like it’s practically day time at night! You’ll be struck by its glowing billboards, neon signs, and energetic activity! Just remember, New York City has so much more to offer first-timers so don’t spend too much time there.
Wander through Central Park
If you’re like me and love walking or just need an escape from the chaos of the city, go spend the day in Central Park. Central Park is a massive park, right in the middle of Manhattan. It’s free, and there are many paths for walking (or running), biking lanes, lakes to row in, and even a zoo!! If you want to experience the 150-block park but would like to leave some room in the day for other activities, take a carriage ride around. I assure you won’t be disappointed as it feels like a fairy tale come true. Also, make a note, during the winter months there’s an ice-skating rink in the center of the park, and from late spring to the early fall, there are free guided walks run by the park’s service on Saturdays at 11 AM. Don’t leave without walking by the Bethesda Fountain (don’t forget to make a wish)!
Museums carry a bad rep. Even the word “museum” is a turn-off to most. I don’t know why? I’ve personally have grown to love museums over the years. New York City is possibly the world capital of museums. There’s a museum for every taste, from art to science to history. Want to find a museum that suits your particular interest? Then look no further. I highly recommend visiting both the “Metropolitan Museum of Art” (MET) – it is the largest art museum in the nation and the “American Museum of Natural History” if it is your first time in New York City. If you’re more of a science geek and hands-on experiences excite you, then I recommend visiting The New York Hall of Science. It’s a great choice whether you’re visiting with children, as a couple, or even alone. The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is an American military with a collection of museum ships in New York City. Some other popular museums in NYC include the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and Guggenheim Museum.
Visit Ground Zero: 9/11 Memorial & Museum
As humans, we experience emotions on a measureless scale. Sometimes our feelings can be described in simple words: joy, love, pain, or sorrow. Other times, it seems there are no words in any language that could come close to describing how we feel. The events of September 11th, 2001 shocked and appalled the entire world. The names of those victims killed in the attacks of 9/11 are inscribed into bronze parapets surrounding the twin Memorial pools, located in the footprints of the Twin Towers. Make sure to take a trip to Ground Zero to pay your respects to the lives lost in the events of 9/11 and gain some perspective regarding that fateful day.
Sail to Statue of Liberty/ Ellis Island
Go visit one of the most important iconic figures in our country, the Statue of Liberty. Located in New York Harbor, a trip to Lady Liberty is basically a requirement for your first-time visiting New York! As you sail over to Liberty Island, you not only learn about Lady Liberty’s history, but you will also get an astonishing view of NYC skyline. While you’re there, carve out some time to visit Ellis Island too.
Take a stroll through the West Village
Hmmmmmm where to even start? West Village is perhaps my favorite neighborhood in New York. Its shops, winding streets, cafés, good eateries, and stylish residences will have you feeling like you’ve just stepped onto a real-life New York City movie set. If you’re lucky enough you may even spot a few celebrities there. Did you know that New York is the home of many popular TV shows like Friends, Sex and the City, Seinfeld, Gossip Girl? With Friends being my all-time favorite show, finding the iconic home was at the top on my bucket list whilst strolling through West Village! Also, tucked away is the hidden gem just steps from the excitement that the streets of NYC has to offer. NoMo has a collection of vintage and contemporary art, representing the eclectic mix. See my friends picture on the left. Source: Sabrina Mittal
Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge
The city’s most admired bridge—this hybrid cable suspension bridge connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. For sprawling views of Manhattan, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge at dusk, as the lights come on. Stroll slowly and seize the moment—it’s mystical! For you comic buffs, don’t forget to look into the skies of Gotham City for the Batman emblem as a means to summon the superhero, Batman.
Eat an NYC Classic Pizza
Some of the best pizza spots in the world live in this city! Whether you’re craving an authentic slice of New York-style pizza or a gourmet pizza by some of the top chefs, you will surely quench everything your taste buds desire. If you’re in New York for the first time and don’t know where to start, go to my personal favorite pizza place—Lombardi’s. It was founded in 1905, making it the first pizzeria in the United States. It’s located in the Little Italy section of Manhattan. My second favorite and highly recommended is John’s of Bleecker Street in West Village. If you’re a Dave Portnoy enthusiast like me, this pizzeria featured on Barstool Sports, as his favorite pizza in NYC! Fortunately, the best pizza in the USA resides within NYC so even the dollar slices are delicious and a great option when you’re on the go while exploring the city.
Where to Stay?
New York City is known to be one of the world’s most expensive cities, but there are plenty of ways to have a fun trip without breaking the bank. One of my favorite ways to save is through accommodations. I have used Airbnb throughout the world and have always had a great experience using it. I hope this helps you find your ideal crash pad:)
Airbnb’s are usually a much affordable option. Click here to get a discount off your first booking!
I’ve found that the best areas to stay in New York City for first-time visitors is Midtown where most of the city’s key sights are located, you’ll be within walking distance to the heart of New York’s shopping, theater, and home of the most iconic buildings. Check out Airbnb’s in Tribeca or SoHo if you want to dine at some of the highest rated restaurants and top of the line ethnic choices in the world—you’ll be in the middle of all the trendy restaurants and shops. But don’t forget that you can get everywhere by using the public subway as well!
When to go?
The best time to visit New York City is anytime year around. Honestly, each season holds many reasons for visitors to visit. Early fall offers brisk winds, cozy temperatures and a chance to see the largest Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. On the other hand, the late fall and early winter months unravel the most wonderful time of the year. Of course, I’m referring to Christmas! It is one magical experience everyone should see. During this time of the year, you will see some of New York’s best attractions turn into beautiful winter wonderlands. Spring offers many pros; the weather is perfect but make sure to pack your rain gear. The summer months are glorious but also the most popular time of the year to visit NYC. There will be lots of tourists which can become overwhelming.
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How to get around?
The best way to get around in New York City is to take the subway or walk!- it’s quick and a cheap way to get around to your attractions versus taking a taxi or Uber. Driving and finding parking in Manhattan close-to-impossible endeavour and expensive, so I do not recommend this. You can always jump on a bus tour as well- the City Sightseeing or the Big Bus tours both offer a all around tour’ which is strategically organized to cover all of New York City best attractions. For those brave enough to walk the streets; I like to think of New York City’s streets as a massive tic-tac-toe board across Manhattan. The streets run in a systematic, grid pattern!
This blog was inspired by the request of a co-worker! If you enjoyed this blog and have any requests for your next travels, feel free to comment below or email me!
What is your favorite must-visit place in NYC?