Things to do in New York City

NYC Travel Tips

New York City Travel Tips, Attractions & More

It is arguably the best city in the world. When you’re in the timeless grandeur that is New York City, there is this amazing sense of freedom and anonymity, as if its streets are shouting out to anyone and everyone who would listen that in that city, THE city, you could be anything you want to be.

Beyond that, NYC is also undeniably beautiful and wonderfully distracting, visually and intellectually. It is a great treat for anyone who comes for a visit. From its intricately-designed buildings to its avenues vibrating with energy, from its calming parks to its flourishing cultures and counter-cultures, there’s nothing quite like it.

It’s a definite must-see to perpetual wanderers and casual tourists alike. Here is a list of top things to do in NYC.

Season Suitcase Essentials

Winter suitcase essentials
Summer NYC suitcase essentials

City Logistics – Getting Around the City

New York City is one of the most accessible cities in the world and to get in, around, and out of it is as easy as pie. It is accessible by plane through three main airports: the John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport in Queens and the Newark International Airport in Newark, New Jersey. Many also travel there by train and, for a cheaper option, by bus from cities like Boston, Washington DC, and Philadelphia.

Getting around NYC is even easier. It has an impressive (and very cheap) subway system that serve 24 lines that operate 24 hours a day, and access more than 400 stations around the boroughs. The city’s famous yellow cabs are also plentiful, a good option for those with a bigger budget.

The best way to get around the city, however, is on foot. NYC has to be one of the most walkable cities in the world. Not only are most of its streets and avenues numbered so that it’s hard to get lost, its sidewalks are also clean, flat, and wide, allowing for easy foot travel. And as a wonderful perk, you get to experience and be a part of it like you’re one of the locals.

NYC is beautiful all year long, even in the winter, but the best time to visit is during the springtime, when the weather is nice and comfortable (you might be doing a lot of walking, after all), or in the fall when the air is crisp and the leaves are a pretty array of gold and red. If you’re one to enjoy the heat, summertime would be the best time for you; however, beware – the thick and humid weather can get rather harsh.

Where to Stay?

Contrary to popular opinion, while there are a lot of expensive hotels and motels in the city, there are a good number of affordable options as well. If you are looking to splurge, well a $300-$400 room at Waldorf Astoria, The Peninsula, Ritz-Carlton Central Park, or The Plaza is recommended. But if you are on a budget, there are some quality hostels in and around the city if you’re travelling alone or with a couple of friends and there is always Airbnb where you can rent out an entire apartment for fairly cheap if are travelling with kids or with a group.

Top Things to Do

The city has an endless source of attractions and entertainment and you will find that it takes more than a lifetime to experience everything it has to offer. There are, however, a few essentials for a traveler who only has a week or two to spare.

  • Museums. NYC has some of the best in the world, namely the Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art) where the admission is by donation, MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) where you can get in for free from 4:30 to 8 p.m. every Friday, the Guggenheim, and the Museum of Natural History. As New York is one of the top destinations for culture in the world, it’s a definite must to see at least one of these institutions.

  • Architecture. The city is a paradise for lovers of architecture. It has more than 100 National Historic Landmark buildings and they are as aesthetically beautiful as they are extraordinary. The most impressive are the famous Empire State Building, the bustling Grand Central Terminal, the gloriously-weird Flatiron Building, the Neo-Gothic St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the shimmering Chrysler Building.

  • Central Park. Situated in the middle of the city, Central Park is, as many say, every New Yorker’s backyard and therefore is a must-visit when there. Rich and poor, old and young, everybody gathers in this 1.3-mile expanse of green filled with lakes and reservoirs, trails, playgrounds, theaters, a zoo, and even outdoor concerts in the summer and an ice skating rink every winter.

  • Broadway shows. If New York City were known for anything, it would be for its exciting shows and musicals on Broadway. Shows can be expensive but cheap and even free tickets are not uncommon, if you know where to look.

  • The Highline. An old but now abandoned elevated train track-turned-urban park, this spot is fast-becoming a top NYC attraction. It’s a refreshing escape from the hustle and bustle of the city as well as a nice spot for photo opportunities.

  • Brooklyn Bridge. NYC is known for its impressive bridges as well and perhaps the most impressive of them all is the charming Brooklyn Bridge, which connect Manhattan to Brooklyn. A nice walk on the bridge, which offers a sweeping view of both boroughs, is an activity for those looking for a lesser-beaten path.

  • Times Square. As cliché as it is, the famous intersection of Times Square is one of the things you must experience while in NYC. It is simply incredible at night, with its glimmering lights, and a great spot to people-watch in the daytime.

What’s New

A city as progressive as New York City is ever-changing and there’s always something new appearing around the corner. Perhaps the best new attractions, if one can call it that, in the city is the One World Trade Center and 9/11 Memorial. Standing at the site of the old World Trade Center twin towers, which were destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the new tower and the memorial are dedicated to the lives that perished on that historic day and symbolize the city’s rising again from the burning ashes of a terrible tragedy.

Free Stuff in NYC

As expensive as NYC is, it has its share of free things for those travellers on a budget. Among these are:

  • A ride on the Staten Island Ferry, which will give you gorgeous views of Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty as well as the skyline of Lower Manhattan.

  • Ice skating at Bryant Park, where you can also enjoy movies and concerts in the summer

  • Free admissions at the MOMA (The Museum of Modern Art) on Fridays.

  • Sitting at the Met Steps, a popular pastime for tourists and locals alike

Explore – Best Neighborhoods

Each neighborhood in New York City has its own personality and has its own subculture, it seems, and one is not like the other. Of course, there’s really no way to experience them all at once, especially when you’re only visiting, so if you’re looking to see some of the neighborhoods, these are probably your best options:

  • Theater District, which it runs from 42nd St to 52nd street on Broadway,

  • The Lower East Side, a more hip part of Manhattan with a great nightlife,

  • The Upper East Side, where the Museum Mile is and where the more opulent New Yorkers live

  • Soho, for all your shopping needs,

  • The Upper West Side, the city’s cultural center,

  • TriBeCa (Triangle Below Canal Street), the safest neighborhood in Manhattan, and

  • Williamsburg and Dumbo, the colorful neighborhoods in Brooklyn where the hipsters thrive.

Shopping Trips

shopping nyc

NYC is also a great destination for shopping. In fact, New York City and shopping are almost synonymous now, thanks to the legacy that Sex and the City left behind. But unlike in the show, you don’t have to splurge to shop. While New York is known for department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, and Bloomingdale’s that sell high-end products with high-end price tags, there are a lot of more affordable shopping options for regular folks. Broad Street in SoHo, for example, has a collection of shops, many of which sell affordable goods and brands. There are also a lot of hip thrift stores in Brooklyn for the cheapest and trendiest options. But don’t blow all your shopping money there. Also stop by at the oldest Macy’s in the world, which – along with Lord & Taylor – sells moderately priced goods.

Foodies – Where to Eat & Drink

As a melting pot of cultures, NYC is a hub of different ethnic cuisines that you will rarely find in other, smaller cities and your choices are endless. This means that you can have Egyptian cuisine one night, have Jamaican food the next, Japanese or Filipino dishes for lunch the next day, and finally some Polish food before you leave. Your best bet is to look to Yelp for help depending on your mood.

If you are looking for New York City-identified food experience, then you must not miss their hotdogs, which are often sold by food trucks around the city, the New York-style bagels from Murray’s Bagels or Absolute Bagels, and of course, the New York-style pizza. There are hundreds of pizza places in the city but among the best are Di Fara, Totonno’s, Roberta’s, and Speedy Romeo.

Coffee is also part of the New York City experience so if you are a coffee drinker, there are a good number of great coffee shops in the city that you’d want to stop at, including Stumptown Coffee Roasters (even their Vanilla latte is perfection), Culture Espresso Bar, Café Grumpy, and Abraço Espresso.

Late Night – Nightlife in NYC

Like its restaurants, the list of New York City bars is endless and the city is definitely living up to its nickname, “The City That Never Sleeps.” Therefore, coming up with a Top 10 or even Top 50 list is a futile endeavor that one should almost never try to undertake. Nevertheless, the New York Magazine published a couple good lists that you can check out for yourself – their Critics’ Picks and their Seven-Day-A-Week Cheat Sheet.

 Lovers Spots

Any old movie buff know well that old, heartbreaking Cary Grant movie An Affair to Remember, in which a couple falls in love and agrees to meet at the top of the Empire State Building. Because of that movie, the top of the Empire State Building has become one of the top romantic spots in the city, and for good reason as the sweeping views from up there are really something to behold and share with the person you love.

A lesser-known spot for lovers is the Brooklyn Bridge. Some couples have taken the old European tradition of putting padlock on bridges as a symbol of their love to the city’s most beloved bridge, and it’s catching on rather quickly.

Special Events

NYC is a hotspot for the most amazing events in the world. Every year, thousands gather there to celebrate the world-famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (on the 4th Thursday of November), the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop in Times Square, and the New York City Marathon (the world’s largest marathon). Christmas is also an amazing experience in the city as ice-skating rinks start appearing, expensive shops start decorating their windows with the sparkling displays, and the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is put up.

In the summertime, NYC’s parks play host to the coolest outdoor concerts and movie theaters so that you can watch your favorite movies or your favorite artists play under the stars while sitting on a picnic blanket sipping wine.

NYC Special Events City Guide

Best Day Trips Outside the City

When you’ve had your fill of urban adventures, why not try a day trip outside the city where you can enjoy and commune with nature at your leisure? Here are just some of the many must-see places that are only a few hours drive away:

  • Cold Spring, NY. With cool nature trails, lush landscapes, and some awesome ruins, this place is great for the more outdoorsy types.

  • Sleepy Hollow, NY. This quite village has an old charm feel to it that will truly refresh you after days of concrete jungle exploration.

  • Short Hills, NJ. The Greenwood Gardens there offers lovely views as well as a quiet escape.

  • Freeport, Long Island. Get your sea legs ready for some nice water-related activities in this sleepy town by the sea.

  • Hunter, NY. Get your feet off the ground here where you can zip-line at your heart’s content.

New York City is a city of unlimited resource for activities and endless possibilities. From the more popular tourist attractions to the more off-the-beaten-path spots, guaranteed you’ll never run out of things to do during your time there. Hopefully, this guide will help you experience some of the best that the city has to offer.

If you have any tips and suggestions for making the most of New York City, we’d love to hear from you.

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