New York City Travel Guide

New York City Travel Guide

As a lifelong New Yorke visitor and as a travel enthusiast, I'm delighted to provide this in-depth travel guide to New York City. With over 8 million residents, NYC is the most populous city in the United States and one of the most visited destinations in the world. As an avid explorer of the concrete jungle's countless neighborhoods, iconic landmarks, and world-renowned attractions, I'm eager to share my expertise to help make your NYC trip unforgettable!

Table
  1. Getting Around NYC
    1. Getting To and From the Airport
  2. Best Times to Visit
  3. Getting Around Manhattan Neighborhoods
    1. North/South Subway Lines
    2. East/West Buses
  4. Top 10 Must See Attractions
  5. Neighborhoods to Explore
    1. Financial District
    2. Greenwich Village
    3. Soho
    4. East Village
    5. Chinatown
  6. Best Museums
  7. Best Free Activities
  8. Sample 1 Day NYC Itinerary
  9. Where to Stay
    1. Manhattan
    2. Brooklyn
  10. Dining Recommendations
    1. By Budget
    2. By Cuisine
  11. Getting Around

Getting Around NYC

Navigating the Big Apple as a tourist can seem daunting, but New York's extensive public transportation system makes getting around efficient and affordable. Here's an overview of the main options:

  • The Subway: The fastest and most popular way to get around NYC. With over 470 stations, the subway system is extensive and will get you to any destination in Manhattan or the outer boroughs. It runs 24/7, but night and weekend service can be less frequent.
  • Buses: More than 300 routes serving all five boroughs. Similar to the subway but runs above ground. Allows you to see more of the city as you ride. Service is less frequent at night.
  • Taxi/Rideshare: Convenient but more expensive than public transportation. Best for shorter distances and trips at night when the subway runs less frequently. Try Curb, Lyft or Uber.
  • Ferries: A nice option for scenic trips across the rivers surrounding Manhattan to places like Staten Island and Brooklyn. Perfect day activity when the weather is nice.
  • Citi Bike: 24/7 access to 15,000 bikes at 1,000 stations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens & Jersey City. Great for shorter rides around neighborhoods, parks, etc.

Getting To and From the Airport

The three major airports that serve NYC are:

  • JFK: Located in Queens 15 miles from Midtown. About 1 hour drive. Take AirTrain to Jamaica Station then LIRR or subway to Manhattan. 45-60 mins total.
  • LaGuardia: In Queens, 8 miles from Midtown. 30 mins by car, 45 mins by public transit. Take the Q70 bus to Jackson Heights then subway.
  • Newark: Across the river in New Jersey, 16 miles from Midtown. 45 mins by car, 60 mins by train. Take AirTrain to NJ Transit or Amtrak trains.

Taxis are readily available at all airports but cost $50+ to Manhattan. Shared vans and buses like NYC Airporter are cheaper around $20 per person.

Best Times to Visit

Due to its temperate climate, any time is a good time to visit New York City. Here are some tips on the best times to visit based on your interests, crowds, and pricing:

  • September-October | Spring: Warm weather, beautiful foliage in Central Park, and the start of Broadway season. Less crowded than summer.
  • December | Winter: Festive holiday atmosphere with iconic Rockefeller tree and stores decorated. Cold but off-peak hotels and airfare.
  • March-May | Spring: Mild weather perfect for walking, tree blossoms in Central Park. Fewer crowds before busy summer season.
  • June-August | Summer: Warm weather and outdoor activities. Free events and longer daylight hours but peak crowds and prices.
  • January-February | Winter: Chilly but off-season for tourism. Restaurant Week deals, low hotel rates, and interesting museum exhibits.

Avoid Thanksgiving week and weekends like St. Patrick's Day when hotels are most expensive and crowded.

Getting Around Manhattan Neighborhoods

Manhattan is shaped like a long, thin island, so moving north/south is easy by subway while going east/west across the borough can take longer. Here's a guide to navigating key neighborhoods:

North/South Subway Lines

  • Upper Manhattan: 1, 2, 3 lines along Broadway
  • Midtown/Times Square: 1, 2, 3, 7 lines
  • Penn Station/Garment District: A, C, E lines
  • Chelsea/Meatpacking District: A, C, E lines
  • Greenwich Village/Soho: A, C, E, B, D, F, M lines
  • Lower Manhattan: 4, 5, 6 lines

East/West Buses

  • Central Park: M1, M2, M3, M4
  • Crosstown Buses: M14, M23, M42, M50, M57
  • Brooklyn Bridge: B25
  • Battery Park to Midtown: M20, M22

Knowing what subway lines or buses connect key areas makes navigating efficient!

Top 10 Must See Attractions

Trying to experience all of NYC is impossible on one visit, but these top 10 attractions should be on every first-timer's NYC bucket list:

  1. Statue of Liberty: The iconic symbol of NYC located on Liberty Island with panoramic views of the city. Reserve tickets in advance to visit the crown.
  2. Empire State Building: Provides bird's eye views from the 86th and 102nd floor observatories. Go at night to see the city lit up.
  3. Times Square: The bright lights and billboards of this bustling square in Midtown where the New Year's Eve ball drops.
  4. Central Park: A peaceful oasis with lakes, gardens, and trails to escape the concrete jungle. Don't miss the Central Park Zoo.
  5. Brooklyn Bridge: Walk across the historic bridge with stunning views of lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn waterfront.
  6. 9/11 Memorial: A sobering tribute to the lives lost on 9/11. The memorial fountains sit in the footprints of the original Twin Towers.
  7. Metropolitan Museum of Art: This world-class Met collection spans 5,000 years of art including works by Picasso, Van Gogh, and Warhol.
  8. Rockefeller Center/Top of the Rock: Iconic art deco buildings and an observation deck with panoramic city views. Visit in winter to see the famous Christmas tree.
  9. Broadway Theater District: Catch a show in the Theater District around Times Square. Book ahead for popular musicals like The Lion King.
  10. The High Line: This unique park built on a former elevated rail line feature landscaped walkways and gardens, public art installations, and city views.

No matter your interests, NYC has an attraction that will wow you. But don't try to cram too much in. Focus on a few top sights and leave room to wander neighborhood gems!

Neighborhoods to Explore

Beyond the big, bucket-list attractions, my favorite way to experience New York City is to simply explore its unique neighborhoods on foot. Here are some of my top picks to stroll, shop, eat, and drink:

Financial District

This neighborhood in Lower Manhattan has skyscrapers like the NY Stock Exchange, One World Trade Center, and the famous Charging Bull statue. Wander the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

Walk: Wall Street, Battery Park

Eat/Drink: Get French cuisine at Balthazar, craft cocktails at Dead Rabbit

Greenwich Village

Known for its bohemian vibes, indie boutiques, jazz bars, and historic charm. Hang out in Washington Square Park.

Walk: Bleecker Street, West 4th Street

Eat/Drink: Grab pizza at John's of Bleecker, gelato at Grom

Soho

Trendy area known for high-end shopping, art galleries, and cast-iron architecture. Browse boutiques and designer flagship stores.

Walk: Prince Street, Spring Street

Eat/Drink: Chic cafes, macarons at Laduree

East Village

Leafy neighborhood with a hipster vibe and street art. Find quirky shops, dive bars, and live music venues.

Walk: St. Mark's Place, Tompkins Square Park

Eat/Drink: Get pizza by the slice, craft beer at McSorley's

Chinatown

Vibrant ethnic enclave with Chinese bakeries, markets, and inexpensive eats. Wander through the lantern-adorned streets.

Walk: Canal Street, Columbus Park

Eat: Soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai, dim sum at Nom Wah Tea Parlor

Immerse yourself in the distinct flavor of each area! Having a game plan prevents feeling overwhelmed in this huge city.

Best Museums

With hundreds of museums and galleries, NYC is truly an art lover's paradise. As an art aficionado and museum member, here are my picks for top museums you shouldn't miss:

  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Sprawling art collection spanning 5,000 years. Don't miss the Temple of Dendur.
  • Museum of Modern Art: Brilliant modern art museum with works by Dalí, Warhol, van Gogh, and Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.
  • Guggenheim: Frank Lloyd Wright's iconic spiral building housing impressive modern and contemporary art.
  • American Museum of Natural History: Massive museum great for kids with dinosaur fossils, space shows at the planetarium, and giant whale replica.
  • The Frick Collection: Gilded mansion turned art museum with Vermeers, Rembrandts, and other old master paintings.
  • Brooklyn Museum: Eclectic collection strong on Egyptian and feminist art, plus beautiful Beaux-Arts building.

With world-renowned institutions like The Met and MoMA charging $25 per ticket, the $88 New York CityPass or $120 Explorer Pass can save you 40-50% on admission costs.

Best Free Activities

The good news is many of NYC's top attractions won't cost you a dime! Here are my picks for the best free things to do on a budget:

  • Staten Island Ferry: Provides stunning harbor views of the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan skyline.
  • High Line Park: Innovative urban park and green space built on old railroad tracks 30 feet above street level.
  • Free museum days: Many museums like the MoMA, Guggenheim and Whitney are free or pay-as-you-wish certain nights each week.
  • Public art: See iconic works like the Charging Bull near Wall Street and Washington Square Arch in Greenwich Village.
  • Times Square: Soak in the bright lights and billboards at this iconic square. Snap selfies and see the TKTS Booth for Broadway discount tickets.
  • Central Park: Rent a CitiBike and ride through miles of car-free green space and gardens.
  • Summer concerts: Free lunchtime and evening concerts from Central Park bandshell and other outdoor venues.

As you can see, NYC offers plenty of activities that won't break the bank! With a little planning, you can have an affordable and amazing trip.

Sample 1 Day NYC Itinerary

Trying to cram everything into one day in New York City is impossible, but this sample itinerary hits some of the must-see spots if you only have 24 hours:

Morning - Start early and take the subway down to Battery Park to catch the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Reserve tickets in advance. - Walk back towards downtown Manhattan and stroll along Wall Street and see the Stock Exchange and Charging Bull statue. Grab a pastrami sandwich at Katz's Delicatessen. - Head towards the 9/11 Memorial and Museum where you can easily spend a few hours taking in the moving exhibits and Tribute Museum if time allows.

Afternoon
- Walk north via Greenwich Village taking in the charming streets, indie shops, and grabbing a slice of NY pizza. - Continue north to Washington Square Park and see the Arch before heading into Soho for high-end shopping and browsing. Stop for coffee/snack break. - Finish up in Chinatown wandering the bustling streets and grabbing an early dinner at one of the hole-in-the-wall spots for dumplings or noodle soup.

Evening - Take the subway back up to Midtown near Times Square. Take pictures and soak in the iconic sites all lit up at night. - Use TKTS booth if you want to see a Broadway show. - Top off your night atop the Empire State Building seeing the city skyline or at a rooftop bar in Koreatown.

One day only scratches the surface, but it's an action-packed way to get a quick taste of the city! Extending to 2-3 days allows you to experience more at a relaxed pace.

Where to Stay

With hundreds of hotels across five boroughs, NYC accommodation options can feel overwhelming. Here are some of my top recommendations for where to stay:

Manhattan

  • Midtown near Times Square: Convenient location near major attractions. Busy and crowded but close to Broadway shows. Try The Algonquin, New York Marriott Marquis.
  • Midtown West near Central Park: Quieter area near the park. Try Warwick New York, Park Hyatt New York.
  • Lower Manhattan/Wall Street: Near downtown attractions, ferries, and Brooklyn Bridge. Try Andaz Wall Street, The Beekman.

Brooklyn

  • Downtown Brooklyn: Trendy shops and dining near Barclays Center. Try Nu Hotel and Aloft New York Brooklyn.
  • Park Slope: Charming brownstones and cafes. Try Union Hotel.
  • Williamsburg: Hipster neighborhood with shops and music venues. Try Wythe Hotel.

I'd recommend first-time visitors stay in Manhattan unless they want a specific Brooklyn neighborhood vibe. Being in Midtown near Times Square or Lower Manhattan near the Village provides the most convenience.

Use sites like Booking.com, Hotels.com or HotelTonight to find deals, especially for flexible travelers. Room rates average $250-400 per night.

Dining Recommendations

They don't call New York the "restaurant capital of the world" for nothing! Here are some of my top picks for delicious eats during your trip:

By Budget

Inexpensive: Chinatown (soup dumplings, noodle shops), 2 Bros Pizza, Shake Shack burgers, Vanessa's Dumplings

Moderate: The Odeon, Gramercy Tavern, Boucherie, Union Square Cafe, Katz's Deli

Expensive: Le Bernardin, The Modern, Masa, Per Se, Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare

By Cuisine

Italian: Scarpetta, Lupa, Rubirosa, Felidia

Chinese: Chinatown/Flushing spots like Xi'an Famous Foods, White Bear, Joe's Shanghai

French: Le Coucou, Restaurant Daniel, Le Grenouille

Japanese: Masakali Omakase, Sushi Nakazawa, Sushi Yasuda

Steak: Keens, Peter Luger, The Grill

With so many dining options, tasting the local cuisine is one of the best parts of visiting NYC. Make reservations for higher end spots and be flexible if you can't get a table at your first choice hot spot. There are amazing eateries on every corner!

Getting Around

As a lifelong resident, here are my pro tips for making your way through the urban jungle:

  • Walk as much as possible! Slow strolling is the best way to experience NYC neighborhoods. Only taxis for longer distances.
  • Take the subway. It's fast, extensive, and runs 24/7. Get an Unlimited Metrocard for a week. Download CityMapper app for on-the-go routing.
  • Try not to drive. Traffic is terrible and parking is limited and expensive. If you must, use Uber/Lyft vs rental cars.
  • Have cash for tips, street food, small stores. Also have small bills as some spots are still cash only. But credit/debit accepted most places.
  • Pack comfortable shoes. Broken-in sneakers or slip-on shoes you can walk all day in. Leave heels and dress shoes for going out at night.
  • Get a backpack or crossbody bag. Easy to carry your stuff. Don't bring valuables or leave bags unattended.
  • Stay alert in crowds and on subway. Smartphones are prime targets for theft. No need to be paranoid but be mindful in busy areas.

With these NYC travel tips, you'll get around like a local. Feel free to reach out for any specific restaurant, hotel, or itinerary recommendations to make your trip special. Have the time of your life in the city that never sleeps!

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