New York City
There is so much to see in New York City! Its bustling streets are a whirlwind of activity, and there are world-famous sites around every corner. From the iconic landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge to the city’s incredible food scene and the fascinating museums, you could spend months exploring NYC. Here’s my ultimate New York travel guide to help you plan an unforgettable trip!
What to Expect in New York
Language: English is the main language spoken in New York, but because the city was a hub for immigration, it’s a melting pot of cultures. You’ll often hear a lot of Italian and Spanish while out and about.
Currency: The US Dollar ($)
Credit Cards and Banks: ATMs are easy to find in the city, and most hotels, restaurants, and shops will accept credit cards.
Best Time to Visit: There’s no bad time to visit New York City. Whether you’re looking to celebrate Christmas in the city or you prefer the warmer weather, there are tons of bucket list experiences for travelers throughout the year. For pleasant weather, the best time to visit is in the springtime (April to June) and the fall (September to early November). Though if you are looking for the cheapest time to visit, mid-January to the end of February is the best time to go.
Helpful Tip: If you’re visiting NYC during the winter months, there’s a chance it might snow! Pack enough layers to keep you warm while you’re exploring and bring along your biggest coat!
First time visiting? Here are my 10 Tips For Your First Trip to New York City!
Getting Around New York
New York is separated into many different neighborhoods, each with a unique atmosphere. Here are the best ways to get from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side and everywhere in between:
Subway: The subway is the best way to get around NYC. You’ll avoid all the bumper-to-bumper traffic, and it’s super affordable! The trains run 24 hours a day, and you can download a subway map to make sure you get off at the right stop.
Uber/Taxi: If you’ve got a lot of luggage or shopping bags, it’s easier to take a cab than get on one of the crowded subway trains. You can easily hail a yellow cab from the street or request a ride with Uber. Even though taxis are an iconic part of NYC culture, I highly recommend taking an Uber. The drivers are more reliable and the fares are cheaper. However, there’s no quick way to get around the city with either option so stick to the subway as much as you can.
Walking: Prepare to walk a lot! With most of the top attractions within walking distance of each other, you don’t need to rely on public transportation to get around all the time. NYC is a walkable city, and you’ll discover a few hidden gems along the way.
Where to Stay in New York City
New York has so many boroughs but there are a few that are great for first-timers visiting the city. My favorite areas to stay in are Midtown, SoHo, Chelsea, Greenwich Village, or Williamsburg—again, you have a lot of options. Plan out what is most important to you, and find the best accommodation with the easiest access to the sites you want to see!
Here are the top hotels in New York City!
I usually stay in a VRBO rental when I visit New York City. There’s a variety of accommodation options to choose from, whether you’re looking for SoHo lofts or a studio apartment with epic rooftop views.
Freehand is one of my favorite boutique New York City hotels for solo travelers. It has a games room, a 24-hour gym, five on-site eateries, and a rooftop bar. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet up with other travelers while enjoying the hotel’s beautiful decor and commissioned artworks.
Located within walking distance of the Grand Central Station, Pod 39 is one of the best budget-friendly hotels in NYC. Spend the evening playing board games in the lobby or head up to the rooftop for city views and a sundowner.
MADE Hotel is an urban nest that combines bohemian fabrics with modern finishings. The rooms look out onto the NoMad townhouses and their cocktail bar, Good Behaviour, boasts sweeping views of the Empire State Building.
Located in the vibrant Tribeca neighborhood, the Roxy Hotel is an upscale jazz hotel. With something going on almost every night, it’s a great choice for solo travelers! Hang out at the basement jazz club, try a craft cocktail at Paul Sevigny’s nightclub or watch a retro film at the on-site cinema.
For an ultra-luxe experience in NYC, book a room at The Baccarat Hotel. It’s recognized as one of the top hotels in the world and is worth the splurge. The hotel is covered with Baccarat crystals and comes with a spa curated by La Mer Skincare.
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge is perfect for art lovers and eco-travelers. It uses upcycled materials and artwork to tell the city’s history and takes its sustainable ethos seriously. Inside the hotel, you’ll find the Bamford Spa, a casual cafe, and a pool on the tenth floor that overlooks the East River.
The Bowery is one of New York’s trendiest boutique hotels. The retro glamour decor sets the tone for an incredible stay in the city. I especially love their old-world Lobby bar! Book a north-facing room if you want views of the Empire State Building.
Where to Eat in New York City
New York is known for its pizza and bagels—and of course, those are DELICIOUS. But there are so many types of global cuisines, types of food, and establishments represented.
I’ve compiled my favorite restaurants to eat at in New York City, and be sure to check out my more comprehensive guide on Where to Find the Best Food in New York too!
Established in 1975, Joe’s Pizza makes some of the best pizza in New York. I’m not the only one who thinks so; it’s a favorite among celebs like Ben Affleck.
Chelsea Market is a must-visit for foodies. At a block long and a block wide, it’s full of vendors selling everything from bottles of wine to coffee and delicious plates of food. Come here hungry and ready to sample a little bit of everything!
Home to the NYC hot dog, Katz Deli has been serving the people of New York for over 100 years. The family-owned restaurant also makes corned beef and out this world dill pickles. There’s nothing more New York than that!
Located in Hudson Square, NoMad, and Chelsea Market, Chalait is a firm favorite among New Yorkers. With their signature matcha tea and avocado toast, it’s a great place to stop for breakfast or brunch before a day of sightseeing.
H&H Midtown Bagels EastBagels
For some of the best bagels in New York City – go to H&H Midtown Bagels! There’s plenty to choose from with options available for vegetarians and vegans. Try the Lite Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Cheese Sandwich!
Marlow and SonsAmerican
Marlow and Sons was one of the first restaurants in Williamsburg to make its mark on the dining scene. Fast forward 15 years later and its popularity in NYC is still going strong. Plus, it hasn’t lost its down-to-earth feel and still delivers on a small, but well-executed menu.
What to Do in New York City
New York has famous sites around every turn, mouth-watering restaurants, award-winning Broadway shows, and so many events going on at all times of the day! It can be hard to narrow down what you want to do during your trip, and it makes choosing between the world-class museums, incredible buildings, and all the movie filming locations impossible. If you’re only in the city for a weekend, check out my guide to New York City in a Weekend.
I’ve highlighted my favorite activities in NYC below, and I have more comprehensive guides on 10 Places to Visit in NYC (That Aren’t Times Square), How to Travel New York City on a Budget, and the Top 8 Things to Do in New York City!
Bushwick is a vibrant neighborhood that’s home to some of the top thrift stores in the city. My favorite spots include Brand Hunters (for cute vintage dresses), The Lion’s Den (for jewelry) and Green Village (for furniture).
If you’re a movie buff, don’t miss the chance to visit Washington Square Park! It’s located in Greenwich Village and has made appearances in blockbusters like I am Legend, Ghostbusters and When Harry Met Sally.
Brooklyn Bridge is one of the best budget-friendly things to do in NYC. It won’t cost you a dime to walk along the bridge and take in the city’s iconic skyline. If you’re visiting NYC with your partner, bring along a lock and add it to the collection near Manhattan Tower.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) boasts over 5,000 years of art. For $25 (or $12 if you’re a student) you can explore the museum’s ever-changing exhibits.
Visit the 9/11 Memorial and pay tribute to the lives lost in the tragedy. There are twin reflecting pools, a massive humanmade waterfall and gold panels inscribed with the names of everyone who died.
If you’re on a tight budget, I recommend splurging on the entrance for the Top of the Rock. You’ll get access to 360-views of Manhattan and beautiful photos to remember your time in the city. Be sure to bring a warm jacket – it’s windy up there!
For a different view of New York’s skyline, head up to the 86th or 102nd floor of the Empire State building. You’ll have 360-degree views of Central Park, the Statue of Liberty and the Hudson River.
No trip to NYC is complete without a visit to the iconic Central Park! Pack a picnic and relax on the Great Lawn, attend free concerts or get lost wandering down one of the many paths.
Times Square is an iconic attraction and deserves a spot on any New York itinerary. If you’re in NYC for the holidays, make sure to head to Times Square for the famous “ball drop” at midnight!
Escape the bustle of the city and wander around the Conservatory Gardens for a few hours. It’s the only formal garden found in Central Park and is open from 8 AM until dusk.
Grand Central Station is an iconic piece of NYC architecture. Countless movies and TV series, like Gossip Girl and Sex and the City have shot scenes here. The best part? It’s free to visit! Just don’t forget to look up to admire the incredible ceiling art!
For an incredible view of the Hudson River and the NYC skyline, visit the High Line. It’s a 1.45-mile park that’s built on an old elevated railway. While you’re admiring the view, you can grab some street food from the vendors and check out the art installations.
New York’s spectacular street art is reason enough to visit. The best pieces are in Bushwick, with more than 100 blocks worth of art. Most of it is temporary, with new pieces going up every 12 months.
While you can’t go inside the Flatiron Building, you can still admire it from the streets of New York. It’s one of my favorite locations to take photos of the city!
Another thing that’s worth splurging on in New York is a Broadway show. If you want to risk it, you can try to get discount tickets at one of the booths in Time’s Square—but get there early as the lines become long fast!
Coney Island is a great budget-friendly activity—just an hour subway ride out of Manhattan! Spend the day exploring the boardwalk or stay after sunset to watch the Friday night firework display.
To make the most out of your time, I’d highly recommend joining a Take Walks tour! Find the one that speaks to you! I’ve been on tours with Take Walks all around the world and am always so intrigued by what they have to offer—plus it’s a great way to see the city in a whole new light!
Are you a fan of SNL? Make your way to the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and get a sneak peek at New York’s up and coming comedy talent. Tickets cost only $10 per person!
Another comedy club that you can check out is Brooklyn’s Bell House. SNL star’s like Pete Davidson often perform here, and ticket prices range from free to $35.