It’s no wonder why 60 million people visit New York City every year, with its towering skyscrapers, hip neighborhoods, world-famous museums and cultural melting pot. You’ll never get bored in the Big Apple, but with so many things to do it can easily feel overwhelming to see it all! It helps to create a list of the top things to do in NYC, and prioritize your plans accordingly. In this ultimate guide to NYC, I’m covering everything you need to plan your trip including top sights, best places to stay, what to eat and how to get around.
Why You Should Go
Everyone needs to visit NYC at least once in their lifetime. It’s one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world; filled with bustling crowds, an eclectic arts scenes and the fast-pace hustle NYC is famous for. Not only does it have something going on everywhere you turn, you will be charmed by its variety of architecture, delicious food and glorious or not so glorious smells that make it so NY.
What To See in NYC
You will definitely want to explore Manhattan’s most unique and hip neighborhoods. Each of the five boroughs has its own vibe and attractions that set it apart from the others. Below are some of my favorite attractions in NYC.
Explore Soho & Tribeca
Soho is an artist’s district in Lower Manhattan, where charming cobblestone streets are lined with boutiques and characteristic architecture. Stroll the streets and take in the artsy vibe, captured so cinematically on numerous films and tv shows.
Another hip neighborhood in Lower Manhattan is Tribeca, home to the Tribeca Film Festival every Spring. This historic community combines industrial architecture with trendy, stylish boutiques and is also an artist’s haven.
It’s not a trip to NYC without stopping at Chelsea Market, an indoor shopping mall located near the Hudson River. Pop in for a meal at the urban food court and browse artisanal shops. You could easily spend all day in Chelsea Market snacking and shopping, which is why it’s a staple when you visit NYC.
Walk The High Line
The High Line is a unique attraction in NYC. What was for years an abandoned train rail floating above the West Side is now a tranquil public park. It’s really a unique experience to stroll atop an industrial railway now flourishing with nature. Plus, it’s free and you can start just after a walk through the Chelsea Market.
One World Observatory and Freedom Tower
From the top of the Freedom Tower, the One World Observatory gives you a panoramic view of the city. The freedom tower was built as a tribute to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It is a powerful landmark in NYC and symbol of resilience, standing at 1,776’ tall. The Freedom tower is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and as such provides amazing views of the city. Admission is $34 for adults.
Vessel At Hudson Yards
My first career was in architecture, and as a licensed architect I can’t help but fall in love with exciting architecture! That’s why I absolutely love the Vessel at Hudson Yards, a climbable structure located between 30th and 33 Street. It’s amazing to see this landmark that was a redevelopment project in process for the last two years. It just opened up in March, 2019, and I highly recommend you visit!
Visit Museums On A Rainy Day
NYC has some of the best museums in the world. Depending on what time of year you visit, Winter, Spring and Fall can mean rainy days. That’s why it’s a great idea to visit the museums on a rainy day. Some of my favorite museums in NYC are Natural History Museum, MET, and Guggenheim.
The Brooklyn Bridge is a must see when you visit NYC. You can walk the pedestrian walkway or get an iconic view from DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass) in Brooklyn. There are also walking tours which take you across the Brooklyn Bridge and teach you about this historic landmark.
Wander The City
One of my favorite things to do in NYC is just wander and walk around. The city is so rich and alive with culture and things to see you can take so much in just exploring different areas like Greenwich Village, Lower East Side, the Meatpacking District and more.
Where You Should Eat
Nightlife in NYC
It isn’t called the city that never sleeps for nothing! There’s something to do at any hour in NYC. Here’s a look at some of the best nightlife spots in NYC.
Get into the immersive theater world at the McKittrick Hotel, where you’ll experience a night unlike any other. McKittrick hosts special events and various shows, each a spectacle of entertainment.
Popular theater shows include Sleep No More, an award-winning film-noir Shakespearean Scottish tragedy. If illusionism is your thing, you’ve got to see Speakeasy Magick, a night of deception and magic that will blow your mind. Don’t leave without heading up to the rooftop bar and restaurant, Gallow Green, for a night cap.
Gallow Green - Who doesn’t love a rooftop bar? Gallow Green at McKittrick is a rooftop lounge and gorgeous garden. Enjoy the chic environment and delicious punch bowls.
Oscar Wilde - Oscar Wilde is a gorgeous, Victorian-style cocktail bar and bistro serving American food and delicious drinks.
The Seville - The Seville is a speakeasy bar at the James Hotel that has live music, DJs, happy hour and a spot to savor the nostalgic vibes of classic NYC.
Gitano Jungle Room - I loved eating at Gitano in Tulum for their fresh Mexican food and tropical vibes. You can also enjoy Gitano in NYC! The Jungle Room in the James Soho and Garden of Love open up for Summer.
Where To Stay in NYC
There is no shortage of places to stay in NYC but here is a round up of my top 3 places to stay. On my most recent trip I stayed at the James in Nomad and I think it is definitely my new favorite!
The James Hotel New York
The James Hotel has two NYC boutique hotels in Manhattan, each with its own unique vibe. Also, with their shows, live music, and bars, these are great spots to stay to enjoy nightlife in NYC.
The James Hotel - Nomad is a luxury hotel located near Madison Square Park and the Flatiron district, and is a tranquil, urban retreat in the middle of bustling NYC.
The James Hotel - SoHo is an artsy, modern hotel in the heart of SoHo, conveniently located walking distance from the subway, shops, bars and restaurants.
Another modern boutique hotel in NYC that is located near Grand Central Terminal. Ideally situated in Bryant Park, The William intersects cultural community and commerce. What I love about The William is that you’re a close walk to Times Square and various tourist attractions, but tucked away enough to have a retreat from the busy city.
The New York Edition
Another conveniently located midtown boutique hotel is The New York Edition. Staying here feels like a home away from home, and provides a close-up view of Madison Square Park, Empire State Building and the glistening NYC skyline.
When You Should Go
The best time to visit NYC is in either Spring or Fall. From June to September, the weather is perfect and the crowds aren’t crazy yet. During Fall, from September to November, the crisp breeze makes NYC a cozy place to warm up at different cafe’s and bars. Keep in mind that winter’s in NYC, though gorgeous, are freezing! Expect temps to be below 40 degrees. Conversely, summer in NY can be a little hot and sticky. That said, any time you visit NYC you’re in for a treat because each season provides its own form of beauty.
When you visit NYC for the first time, an obligatory experience is to hail a taxi. Once you get that out of the way, it’s better to take rideshare services like Uber as the fares are less expensive than taxis.
Keep in mind that the traffic in NYC is awful. Most people take the subway everywhere because the public transport is so easy and convenient. By far, the best way to get around NYC is the subway.
How To Get There
You have three airport options to get to NYC: JFK, Newark, or LaGuardia. Once you’ve landed, you can take a taxi or the train to Manhattan. Choosing which airport to fly into depends on where you’re staying and the cost of fares. Each airport is a solid 45-minute drive from Manhattan, not including traffic. Basically, you gotta make a trek to get to the city so be prepared.
As a rule of thumb:
Fly into JFK if you’re going to Lower Manhattan, Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, etc.
Fly into Newark if you’re staying in Manhattan.
Fly into LaGuardia if you’re going to Long Island or the East Side.
Ready To Go To NYC?
Great! I hope this guide helps you take a big bite out of the Big Apple, because NYC really is one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the world! I keep going back for more because each time I visit NYC, I discover something new and exciting and I can’t wait to go back.
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