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TravelAwaits

Our mission is to serve the 50+ traveler who's ready to cross a few items off their bucket list.

7 Key Things To Know Before Your First Trip To New York City

tips for first time visit to nyc

  • Destinations
  • New York City
  • United States

New York City is diverse, lively, dense, and home to iconic sights and symbols like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. Streets are filled with skyscrapers. It’s a mix of cultures and foods and world-class art. Theater is top quality here. You can shop till you drop. At Times Square, you will marvel at the oversized flashing lighted signs that surround the crowds below. And when you are tired of the bustle, escape to the wonders of Central Park with its lakes and trees and grassy hills.

With all New York City has to offer, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when planning a trip, especially if it’s your first time in NYC. Here are some major things to know that will help. Be flexible once you get to New York, but at least have a game plan ahead of time so you can best enjoy this wonderfully complex city.

View of Manhattan and the rest of New York City

1. New York City Is Manhattan And More

New York City is made up of five boroughs, with Manhattan at its core. While you can venture to Brooklyn , the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island, you will want to center your first trip in Manhattan. This is where you’ll find the Empire State Building , Times Square, Broadway shows, and Central Park . If you have time, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge or take the subway to the Bronx. If you have only a few days, plan to spend most of your time in Manhattan.

Hyatt Grand Central in Manhattan, New York City, at night

2. Sleep In Manhattan But Not In Times Square

Staying in Manhattan on your first trip allows you to fit in the most sightseeing. That doesn’t narrow it down a lot, though, as Manhattan is large and there are hundreds of hotels. Many people book a hotel in Times Square because they’ve heard of it and seen the ball drop on TV on New Year’s Eve. But I recommend staying at least a few blocks away from the chaos and noise and giant neon signs of Times Square. Choose a place in your budget and preferences at least a few blocks away.

I like staying near Grand Central Station on East 42nd Street. This puts you at a transportation hub within walking distance of Rockefeller Plaza, Bryant Park, Times Square, and Central Park. I can recommend the Hyatt Grand Central as a mid-priced, clean, attractive option.

If you’re after lower prices, you can opt to stay in New Jersey or Brooklyn, or anywhere outside the middle of Manhattan. The trade-off is more time spent on the train or subway. I like to pack my sightseeing days full of sights, walking out the door of my hotel and being right in the middle of the hustle and bustle. Figure out what’s best for you.

The Statue of Liberty in New York City

3. Decide On The Iconic Attractions You Want To See

While your interests will determine how you fill your time in New York City, there are three iconic sights that will top your list on your first trip.

The Statue of Liberty National Monument . Lady Liberty, recognized around the world as a symbol of freedom, stands waiting to welcome you to New York. Before you go, think about whether you want to take the boat out to the island and see the statue from her pedestal. Or are you fine with taking the free Staten Island Ferry and getting a close-up view from the water? Do you also want to go to nearby Ellis Island, where immigrants were brought and processed into the U.S. for years? You can get tickets to see both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Allow basically a morning or afternoon to do the joint tour.

The Reflecting Pool at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum

Built where the Twin Towers once stood, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum honors those lost in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Be prepared for an emotional experience .

If you are short on time, you can visit just the memorial pools outside the museum. Allow at least 2 hours for the museum.

Pond at Central Park in New York City

Central Park

This famous green oasis covering more than 800 acres calls to visitors and locals alike. Stroll along the tree-lined paths or relax on the grassy lawns of North Meadow and Sheep’s Meadow. Marvel at the lovely curves of Bow Bridge. And visit the Imagine memorial to John Lennon.

If time is limited, enter the park at the south end and wander as long as you can. There’s more to see than at the north end of the park. Download a map or app of the park so you can easily find the points you most want to see.

4. Discount Passes May Save You Money

For your first trip to New York City, consider an attractions pass. This can save you money, especially if you plan to visit the most popular places. Basic options include:

All-Inclusive

These are for a set number of days. Fit in as many attractions as you like in that time. Some come with skip-the-line perks. Two to look into are the Sightseeing Pass and the New York Pass .

Number Of Attractions

These are for a set number of attractions, such as three or five choices from the options given. If you know what you most want to see, these are a good kind of pass. One to consider is The Explorer Pass .

Pre-Packaged Passes

You don’t have a choice of which attractions are included. But many of the most popular are included. Check out the CityPass , which is a booklet of six tickets

Do a cost comparison with what you want to see between having a pass and no pass to find out whether you want to invest in one.

tips for first time visit to nyc

5. Choose Where You Will Take In The City Views

The vastness of New York City never ceases to amaze people. And taking in a view of the city from above is a must when you visit. Not only do you see the density of the buildings but you have the water, Central Park, and the Statue of Liberty to spy on from up high. Here are four main places that feature a panoramic view. Book tickets ahead of your visit to get the time of day you prefer. If you can choose two of these viewing sites, book one in the daytime and the other at sunset for views of NYC in all lights.

The Edge is an outside platform 101 stories up, and it literally hangs off the edge of the building. You see West Manhattan and south to the Statue of Liberty. The angled glass walls allow you to lean out over the city. And there’s a glassed section of ground where you can stand and look straight down at the city below.

This is my favorite of the city view places. After you get over the strange sensation of feeling like you’re on the brink of falling 100 stories to the sidewalk, it’s quite exciting. And the views are certainly breathtaking.

Top Of The Rock Observation Deck

From the top of Rockefeller Center, you can take in views of Central Park and Manhattan Midtown from 70 floors up. And from the Top of the Rock you can clearly see the Empire State Building. That’s one reason some people recommend this one if you are choosing just one view site. And with indoor and outdoor viewing decks, you can stay inside if it’s cold or rainy.

Empire State Building

This grand symbol of New York, the Empire State Building , is billed as the “world’s most famous skyscraper.” Get your ticket and ride the elevator to the 86th floor, where you can look out at the city from the 360-degree observatory. See the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, and the Statue of Liberty.

If you choose, you can include a visit to the 102nd floor as well. Here are floor-to-ceiling views that can cover up to 80 miles away on a clear day.

Summit One Vanderbilt

The newest entry into fantastic NYC viewpoints is the Summit . The entrance is inside Grand Central Station. It does have a view of the city, and it also has other floors with mirrors and shiny objects. It’s an experience that goes beyond taking in the city sights. Take a look at the website and see if it’s something you want to do. 

The main reading room of the New York Public Library

6. It’s Okay If It’s Rainy Or Very Cold

As your trip gets close, check the weather. If it looks like a day of rain or extreme cold is coming, no problem. Plan for amazing indoor options. A few top picks:

Metropolitan Museum Of Art

This world-class art museum offers so much to see that you could easily spend days here. Not only does it display art from different historical periods and countries, but also the architecture of the building alone is worth a visit.

Like the Louvre in Paris and the British Museum, the Met can be enjoyed in short sessions. Plan for a morning or a few hours. Then, look at the online information about the exhibits. Choose two or three areas that fascinate you and start there. You will likely want to return to see more!

American Museum Of Natural History

This grand museum has been around for 150 years. While it’s a great way to keep young ones in your party busy and happy, I’ve found as a grown-up that I love natural history displays.

Popular exhibits include the brown bears in the North American Hall of Mammals, the massive blue whale model that measures 94 feet, and the huge Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton.

New York Public Library

This imposing building is a great place to shelter from the weather. The stately lions standing guard on the front steps are named Patience and Fortitude. The architecture inside the library is noteworthy. And it’s free.

The busy streets of New York City

7. Wear Comfortable Shoes

You may think of New York City as a fashion mecca and figure you need to dress up. But while there are upscale stores and elegant restaurants, for sightseeing, you don’t need to be fancy. You will walk and walk and walk. And that’s the best way to experience New York. So, wear comfortable shoes or flat-heeled boots. And it may be surprising but rest assured that casual clothes are fine for Broadway shows and most restaurants.

These tips touch on some things that can make your trip easier and more fun. With a bit of planning, you will enjoy your time in New York. I’m betting you’ll want to return for more incredible experiences in this fascinating city.

Go over to our New York City category to find out more about the Big Apple:

  • 9 Best Places In New York City To Escape The Crowds
  • 10 Best Spots To Try New York City Pizza, According To The Locals
  • 10 Luxe Lounges To Visit In New York City

Image of Sharon Odegaard

As the owner of the travel blog, Exploring Our World , Sharon enjoys taking her readers on a journey with her. Articles often delve into the history of a place, and by adding in a generous number of photos, she inspires others to explore for themselves. In her early travels, she was most frustrated by coming back home and learning that she had missed a fascinating sight or a hidden gem. Now she helps travelers prepare for a trip by passing along travel tips, pointing out lesser known things to see, and alerting them to enjoyable day trips from major cities.

Her travel articles have been published by Stripes Europe Newsletter and the World War 2 Writing and Research Center. Whether she's discovering more about her hometown of San Diego, California or flying to faraway places, she enjoys sharing with travel lovers around the world.

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50 Best New York City Tips For First Time Visitors (2024 Review)

Last Updated on March 13, 2024 by Nicole

New York City is probably the one city in the world that is on everyone’s bucket list. It is filled with internationally renowned museums and art galleries, wallet cleansing shopping, exceptional restaurants, a dazzling array of fun and interesting attractions, and a mind bending night life. However, what makes this city so attractive also makes it an overwhelming destination for those planning their first visit. Accordingly, I decided to ask travel experts, industry insiders and native New Yorkers for their best tips for first time visitors to New York City.

This post may contain affiliate links. That means that I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you buy something through my site. This helps me run my website and produce the articles that I hope you find helpful.

best New York City tips for first time visitors

New York City Attractions And Itinerary

I have been to New York City countless times over 30 years. I’ve gone on girl’s trips, with my husband, and also with my three teenage kids. My husband lived in New York for 4 years as did my oldest daughter for two years – but 30 years later! My normal stay has been around four nights, with three full days of exploring, and I always felt that was the perfect amount of time for a getaway, even when I had to travel from the West Coast.

I’ve written a couple of articles about my times in NYC. Mostly from the perspective of what I did with my teenage kids and whether they liked it or not. Quite frankly, my husband and I enjoyed ourselves as much as our kids even when we did New York city activities that we had done before. There is something about seeing the world through the eyes of your children.

However, fundamentally, New York is just plain fun. If you arrive organized with some basic understanding of where you are staying and how you want to organize your time, then you will have fun too. Like all holidays, the more you research and plan, the more you will see, the safer you will be, and the more money you will save. If it helps, I set out my step-by-step process of planning trips in my article – Planning A Holiday: A Foolproof Guide To Easy Vacation Planning . As for New York, these New York City tips are awesome and will give you even more insight into creating the best experience possible.

If you are interested in my New York City articles, please see:

An Action Packed 2 Day New York City Itinerary With Teens ; and

10 Unbeatable New York City Attractions With Teens .

Other Destinations

There are other destinations in the world that are just as overwhelming as New York. 

Las Vegas is one of them. If you are travelling to Las Vegas soon and want to arrive prepared, take a look at 50 Best Las Vegas Tips For First Time Visitors .

London, England is another. Here are 50 Best Travel Tips To London For First Time Visitors .

New Orleans  is one of the most unique cities in the USA. It offers culture, cuisine and southern hospitality derived from its French, African, Spanish and Creole influences. Things are done a little differently than most other places in the United States. For travel tips for first time visitors, please see  40 Best Travel Tips For First Time Visitors To New Orleans .

Best Tips For New York City For First Time Visitors

The best tips for New York City fall into several categories. Those include:

  • How to get around;
  • Ways to save money;
  • Where to eat;
  • Where to avoid;
  • How to stay safe;
  • Shopping tips; and
  • Broadway Shows.

There were three tips that I consistently received from multiple travel experts and native New Yorkers.

Those were:

  • Take the subway.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Avoid Times Square as much as possible.

Here are those tips explained and the rest of the best NYC tips.

best New York City Tips

Best New York City Tips For Getting Around

New York City is a fast paced and exciting city. There are cars, taxis, buses, subways, trains, and throngs and throngs of people almost everywhere. Knowing where to turn left or right much less how to get from one side of the island to the other can be confusing. However, there are ways to make this less stressful. Here are some of the best New York City tips for getting around.

Travel From Airport

All three airports servicing New York City (La Guardia, JFK, and Newark) offer mass transportation for a fraction of the cost of renting a car or opting for ride sharing, such as Uber or Lyft. Depending on the day and time, it could also be much faster. Research ahead of time and have a plan.

Take The Subway And Get a Metrocard

Anton from Airadvisor says, “Traffic in this city is ridiculous, and it does not stop. Streets are packed with cars and those yellow cabs day and night. Getting a MetroCard and using the subway will save you time and money.”

Purchase A Multi-Day MetroCard

Kristofer from Elevated Coffee Brew recommends exploring the 7 day MetroCard pass , even if you are in New York City for less time. You pay a flat fee and can use public transportation as many times a day as you want. Depending on your expected itinerary , this might still be less expensive than purchasing single tickets.

Learn How To Take The Subway

Angela from Boutique Travel Advisors says, “If you are unfamiliar with public transportation systems, like subways, then consider joining a private or small group tour that uses the subway to get around at the start of your trip to learn as you go.

For a large group, you can also hire a guide for the day thus saving the cost of private buses or the stress of leading your group in an unknown place.”

best New York City Tips

Download Subway App

Download one of the many apps for the New York Subway. Several work offline as well.

Deanna says from The Detailed Traveler , “Take your time to plan your route beforehand and understand where you’re going. I highly recommend downloading a NYC Subway maps app on your phone so you can plan your route and write down which line you are taking and what direction you need to go.

Trains like the 123 line can run on the same line for a bunch of stops and then farther down the line, they split into separate lines, the 1, the 2 and the 3. The train will always list its ending destination which is important to know, because it tells you which line you are going to go on. That’s why I recommend checking out the map beforehand and paying attention to the final destination of the train.”

If Not The Subway, Take The Bus

Sometimes you may not want to take the subway or you want air conditioning. Then, take the bus.

Axel from Tripplo says, “But beforehand, make sure to check the schedule as they run less frequently than subways and they can be harder to figure out.”

Allot Extra Time For Weekends

Sean from Living Out Lau says, “ When you are visiting New York City for the first time, the MTA Subway system is an excellent way for you to travel inside the city. However, the service that seems rather reliable and regular on the weekdays is an entirely different story on the weekends. Not only do subway trains run less regularly, but some of them either don’t run at all or they skip stops that they normally wouldn’t on the weekdays.”

If you have to be somewhere at a certain time, then this might be an extra stressor when taking the subway. However, it is also an opportunity to explore neighbourhoods that you wouldn’t otherwise have visited.

This seemed to happen quite frequently on one of our summer trips to New York. Several trains that we got on skipped a stop because of construction. We ended up having to wait until the next stop to get off, and then walk back. However, it ended up being a fun adventure and we discovered shops, cafes, even smaller museums that we never would have found otherwise.

New York is generally organized around a grid pattern.

The Hudson River is on the westside and the East River is on the eastside. The Avenues run north/south (up and down) or parallel to the rivers. They move chronologically from east to west – the easternmost avenue is 1st and the westernmost is 11th.

The streets run east/west. 5th Avenue is considered the center of the city and divides it between east and west.

New York does not follow the grid pattern below 14th street. However, you can generally rely on this grid pattern from 14th street as you move north.

Jessy from Brighter Things Planning says, “There are LOT of other random streets and avenues thrown in but remembering this will help you when you are exiting the subway station and you need to know whether you should be turning right or left.”

best New York City tips for first time visitors

Best Tips To Save Money In New York City

New York City is expensive. Unfortunately, this is a reality that is largely hard to avoid. However, there are some very useful money saving tips to reduce some costs. Here are some of the best tips to save money in New York City.

Purchase A New York Pass

A is a prepaid sightseeing card that can be used to get free fast-track entry to the city’s top tourist attractions, including the  Empire State Building, and Top of the Rock Observatory. You can choose from over 100 NYC attractions. The Pass is valid for up to 10 days and can save you up to 70% compared to purchasing tickets at each attraction. Lastly, you can visit an unlimited amount of NYC attractions each day.

Purchase A New York Pass Online

to save time and hassle. In addition, you will save extra money off the retail price.

Go To Matto Espresso For Cheap Coffee

Sara from Restless Meanderer says, “A lot of us love our daily coffee but it can get so expensive, especially in a city where you’re tempted to go to all the cute cafes. Matto Espresso is a chain all over NYC and their whole business model is serving a wide range of great coffees and pastries at affordable prices. I wish I had known this my first time in NYC. I wouldn’t have spent so much time trying to look up the “perfect” cafe and would’ve just popped into Matto, grabbed a drink, and kept walking around the city.”

Avoid Tourist Spots

If you want to visit an iconic New York City attraction, do so, but avoid doing anything else nearby. Restaurants, cafes, and shops around them can be double the cost of the same product or service a few blocks away.

Take The Hop On And Hop Off Bus

A great way to tour the city on a budget is to take a . It will allow you to see the city at your own pace and take care of your transportation.

Tickets are valid for 24 hours and enables you to see and learn about the city. You can either get off and go into a specific attraction and catch the next bus after you are done, or you can go back to the attraction and explore after your bus ticket expires.

best New York City tips for first time visitors

Find Free Activities

There are a lot of free things to do in NYC including iconic attractions such as Central Park, walking the High Line, and crossing the Brooklyn Bridge.

Take The Staten Island Ferry

The State Island Ferry is free and it sails right past the Statue Of Liberty and Ellis Island, and gives you a stunning view of New York Harbor.

However, Brett from Behind The Flight Deck Door says, “Try to avoid peak hour traffic when it is full of worker commuting to Manhattan.”

Find Inexpensive Activities

There are also lots of inexpensive activities.

Deanna from The Detailed Traveler says, “A little hidden treasure is the boat rides at The Loeb Boat House in Central Park . For $20 per hour per boat with a $20 refundable deposit, you can cruise around the pond in central park, see the skyline, and just enjoy a moment of bliss. It’s one of our favorite things to do.” 

There are lots of bike rental shops around Central Park that either offer inexpensive hourly rentals or guided bike tours. We did a two hour guided tour with  Bike Rental Central Park . It only cost $29 per person and we had an amazing guide that showed us hidden treasures within the park. We could have easily spent the rest of the day in Central Park exploring and hardly spending any money.

Look For Free Events

Henrik from Every Country In The World says, “There are lots of free events that come and go. Take the time and research what is available when you are there.”

Try searching “things to do in New York this weekend” for the most up to date events.

Look For Deals

Darrelle says,”Look for restaurant and tour deals on LivingSocial or Groupon .”

Free or “Pay As Much As You Want” Museums

Once you find a museum or art gallery that you want to go see, find out whether they offer free admission on certain days or times, or allow you to pay only what you want.

Christine from Luxury Under Budget says, “I love going to museums in New York City and I used to pay full price until I realize that I could get into some of the best museums for free on certain days or times. Other museums allow you to pay only what you want or can afford.”

best New York City tips

Avoid Paying Too Much For The Empire State Building

A standard ticket gets you to the 86th floor. Alternatively, you can pay almost 70% more and go 16 floors higher to the 102nd floor. However, it isn’t necessary. The views from the 86th floor are breathtaking and nothing really changes going 16 floors higher.

Go In Winter

Mark and Kristen Morgan from Where Are Those Morgans say, “In winter, not only will you find flights and hotels offering incredible value and deals but there’s also Broadway and restaurant week in late January early February. That means 2 for 1 tickets to the best theater shows in the world and eating at luxury high end restaurants for affordable prices.

“New York’s top attractions like the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and The High Line will be crowd free. Brooklyn Bridge is essentially impassable from spring through fall, but in winter, you can have sunsets and the Manhattan skyline almost entirely to yourself.

If possible, avoid driving in New York City. It is busy and stressful, and parking can be difficult to find and expensive. However, if you can’t avoid it, there are two ways to save money.

First, you can park on the street. This is by far the cheapest route to take, but depending on the day or time, a parking space may be difficult to find. If you do, make sure you read the street signs with parking restrictions and comply or run the risk of being ticketed or towed.

Second, if you don’t want to leave the stress of street parking, consider pre-booking a parking space. Jeannie from way.com says, “This is a much more relaxing and cost-effective experience to book parking ahead of time throughout the city.” You can see what is available and compare costs.

For other simple travel tips to save you money, please take a look at 10 Best Money Saving Travel Tips .

If you would like to Travel Cheaper, Smarter and Easier, then join the thousands of subscribers who receive my weekly newsletter filled with the most up to date and best travel tips around. Sign up with this link !

best tips for New York City first time visitors

Best Tips For Finding The Best Food In NYC

New York City is a foodie paradise. You name the food and most likely, New York has a restaurant offering one of the best versions of it in the world. So, how do you figure out where to go, what to eat, and how much to pay for it? The experts have some suggestions. Here are the best New York City tips for food and restaurants .

Try the Bagels and Pizza

New York City is “known” for bagels and pizza. Sara from Restless Meanderer says, “In such a big city you are overwhelmed with options. If you are someone who likes all kinds of food it can be hard to decide where to go. It was helpful to have in mind a couple “must try” foods so that I would have less decisions to make come mealtime.”

Make Dinner Reservations

The good restaurants in New York City will be busy. If you want to try them, do not wait until the last minute to make a reservation or show up without a reservation. You won’t get seated and will be disappointed. Make dinner reservations as early as you can for the best choices at the best times.

Eat Where The Locals Go

Tammy at Dream Vacations says, “Whenever we are in a new location, we want to eat where the locals go. So typically, we ask a Police Officer. When we were in NYC we chatted with three Officers for about 30 minutes in Times Square, who were super friendly and helpful, and then we enjoyed the best seafood pasta dish EVER.”

Do A Food Tour

Deanna from The Detailed Traveler says, “The best way to experience famous NYC food is to do a food tour! One of my favorite companies is Free Food Tours By Foot . The tour is free and you only pay for what you want to taste at each stop (Usually $1-5 per stop). The guides only ask for a tip at the end. Usually for two of us, we only pay $50 total, which is a steal!”

Lanie from Make More Adventures says, “A food tour offers a great way to learn about a neighborhood and try a wide variety of food. If you are nervous about leaving midtown on your own, this is a great way to start. I suggest food tours to everyone, even those who live in NYC.”

best NYC tips

Best New York City Tips For A Broadway Show

Broadway is synonymous with New York City. Many people can’t fathom a trip to NYC without going to at least one Broadway show. However, they are pretty expensive and if the show is popular, tough to get tickets. Here are some of the best tips for going to a Broadway show in New York for the first time.

Purchase Tickets Early

If you know that you want to see a certain show that is popular, buy your tickets as early as possible. They are not going to get any cheaper and chances are, you will have to pay more if you wait because you might have to go to a ticket resell site or you will have to purchase seats in a more expensive section.

Purchase Discount Theatre Tickets

There are several websites that offer advance tickets to Broadway shows for discounted prices. Broadway Box  is one of them. You can subscribe and also receive weekly notifications of newly discounted shows.

Alternatively, you can wait and purchase discount tickets once you are in New York. TKTS is the best option for same day discounted broadway tickets. There is a booth in Time Square as well as other locations. Check for opening hours as they change daily.

For the best choices, go early. Depending on the day, you may have to wait an hour or two so you have to decide whether that is how you want to spend your time.

Robin from Around The World With Kids says, “My advice is to skip the booth in Times Square when you can. Go to another location where they will have a significantly shorter line and the same ticket selection.” 

Lastly, many shows, including sold out ones, offer online lotteries for discounted tickets one day to one week before the date of the show in which you are interested.  Further, many shows offer “rush” tickets which is the ability to purchase same day discounted tickets at the box office. In addition, some shows offer standing room tickets at discounted prices. Playbill  provides a comprehensive list of all these shows. Here is the link. –  Broadway Rush, Lottery and Standing Room Only Policies .

Know Proper Behaviour

Bailey says, “Live theatre is a shared experience. Talking and cell-phone use during shows can distract not only audience members, but the performers on stage. They can see everything!”

Celebrate Your First Broadway Show

Audience members can go to the merchandise counter and ask for a “My First Broadway Show” sticker sheet with two stickers: one for the Playbill, and one for the audience member.

Consider Off Broadway Shows

An off broadway show is one that is showing in a theatre with less than 500 seats. It doesn’t speak to the quality of the show or the actors, or whether it is worth seeing. You will likely pay much less than a Broadway show and may see an upcoming show or actor before they become famous.

Pick A Show You Will Like

Do not pay a premium for a show that you won’t enjoy simply because everyone says it’s “the best” show on Broadway or has won Tony awards. If you don’t like musicals, save your time and money, and don’t go to one. You only have so much time in New York – make the most of it.

best tips for first time visitors to New York City

Best Tips For Shopping In New York City

Everybody has different tastes and budgets. Accordingly, giving shopping tips is a bit of a hit or miss topic. However, everyone likes a deal. Here are the best New York City tips for your next shopping spree.

Spend And Help Others

Housing Works is a chain of social enterprise Thrift Shops which help fund the organization’s mission to end homelessness. It consists of 10 brick and mortar locations throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn as well as an eShop .

Jada says, “The shops offer expertly curated goods in home and fashion. The Thrift Shops are also the best kept secret for interior designers as well as fashion stylists looking to secure one-of-a-kind items for their clients. Housing Works also does celebrity collaborations. The stores also offer a unique insight to the city’s residents as as each location is uniquely merchandised to reflect the sensibilities of the local neighborhood.”

Century 21 Department  stores offer top designers at discounted prices.

best tips for first time visitors to NYC

Best Tips For Choosing Accommodation In NYC For First Time Visitors

Choosing accommodation in New York City can be an overwhelming task. There are hundreds of options, price points, and locations. However, there are some strategies to make this easier. Here are some of the best tips for choosing accommodation in New York.

Stay Where You Plan To Play

Angela from Boutique Travel Advisors says, “New York City is enormous and divided into 5 different boroughs. If you plan to spend most of your time near Central Park and attend Broadway shows, then stay in Uptown or Midtown. On the other hand, if you plan to visit the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, 9/11 Memorial and Museum, look at staying in Tribeca or Soho.”

Know What’s Available

Once you choose your hotel, make sure you know where to find easy eats or groceries. You may start early or end late, and you want to be able to pick up something at all hours of the day.

Avoid Staying In Midtown If On A Budget

Midtown Manhattan is expensive relative to other parts of New York. It also lacks a neighbourhood feeling. For less expensive accommodation, consider Brooklyn or Queens. You will also get a true New York “neighbourhood” experience. You can easily take the subway into Manhattan.

best New York City tips for first time travelers

Best Tips For First Time Visitors To Times Square

I received so many comments about Times Square that I felt compelled to create a separate heading. Travel Experts and frequent visitors felt very strongly about these recommendations. In essence, go, see it, take some photos, and then leave as quickly as you can. Here are more tips for visiting Times Square in New York.

There Is So Much More To NY Than Times Square

Sara from Restless Meanderer says, “As someone who had never been to NYC, the first time I went of course I was going to Times Square! However, the constant crowds was crazy overwhelming! Yes, there are some amazing stores around but I couldn’t believe all the ads, noise, street performers, and tourists that were there with me. That weekend was a blur of running from one street corner to the next trying to push my way through everyone.

The next time I went I explored a little further from Times Square and realized how pretty and actually relaxing NYC can be! I found areas way less crowded but the experiences were just as amazing and unique.”

Be Careful In Times Square

Deanna from The Detailed Traveler says, “Don’t take a picture with any characters unless you plan on paying them for it. Don’t take any mixed tapes or handouts on the street, again, unless you plan on paying for it. Be on your guard in this area as it is easy to get pickpocketed, lost in the crowd and plain old just taken advantage of.”

Don’t Eat In Times Square

Lanie from Make More Adventures says, Times Square is great for a photo, but you do not need to spend time there and you definitely do not need to eat there. If you need to eat and you happen to be in Times Square, walk a few blocks east or west to find better and cheaper restaurants. Same for street food. It is more expensive the closer you are to Times Square.”

Don’t Book A Hotel In Times Square

You should visit Times Square on your first visit to New York City, but don’t book a hotel in that area. It is crowded, noisy and less safe than other areas. Also, everything is a lot more expensive as it is solely a tourist attraction.

Lanie says, “While it is great for transportation, you can easily stay further downtown and still find the subway line that you need. Plus if you stay in a neighborhood like Greenwich Village, Soho, or Chelsea, there is more for you to do near your hotel than just hang around Times Square. You will save money on meals and they will be much better restaurants.”

best tips for first time visitors to New York City

Best Tips For First Time Visitors To Stay Safe In New York

New York is a big American city and like all cities, you have to make good choices and be aware of your surroundings. Personally, I have never felt unsafe in New York, but I grew up in a city. Regardless, here are some safety tips to keep in mind.

Know What You Are Doing

The best defence to something bad happening is being prepared. Where are you going? How are you getting there? How much should it cost? In New York, be suspicious of someone trying to help you without you asking. New Yorkers are happy to help but they aren’t spending their day looking for lost tourists.

If you are unlucky and stumble upon the wrong person who thinks you don’t know what you are doing or where you are going, they will likely try to take advantage of you. If it doesn’t feel right, walk away.

Don’t Walk With Earphones In

Claire from The Detour Effect says, “Don’t walk the streets with your earphones in (especially at night, and as a solo female). When I was walking home one evening from my subway stop, I was blasting music in my headphones and wasn’t aware of my surroundings. Next thing I know, I was mugged. Had I been listening and aware of my surroundings, I don’t think that would have happened.”

Be Aware Of Pick Pockets

Keep valuables close to your person and if things must be in your pockets, keep them in the front, or keep your hands in your pockets alongside them.

Claire from The Detour Effect says, “I also noticed that sometimes when walking in the streets or through the subway system, other people would go out of their way to walk or bump into me to the point where it couldn’t possibly have been an accident. Someone told me it’s because they’re trying to pickpocket me. I did start to notice that it mainly happened when I would wear big coats with pockets.

Stay Away From Platform Edges On The Subway

On the subway, avoid standing by the platform edge at all times. Instead, you should stand with your back against the metal beams on the platform or simply be far enough away from the edge that you are not at risk of someone accidentally or intentionally knocking you onto the tracks.

Bernadette from Explorer Chick says, “Being aware of your surroundings is even more important when on the subway and waiting for the train on the platform. Unfortunately, there are instances when people have been pushed onto the tracks.”

best tips for New York City

Best Tips For First Time Visitors To New York City

Some of the best New York City tips for first time visitors defy a category. However, these tips are equally important.

You Can’t Do Everything

You have to be realistic about what you can do with the time that you have allotted. The minimum amount of time that you want on your first visit is four nights so that you have three full days to explore. Pick one major tourist attraction for each day, then fill the rest of the day with eating, shopping, going to a Broadway Show or exploring an area.

Book Tickets In Advance

Angela from Boutique Travel Advisors says, “You are not going to have time to wait in lines, nor do you want to find out something is SOLD OUT when you get there.” 

Join A Tour

Joining a tour often allows you to skip the line and pay less when you add up transportation costs, admission, and the guide.

Don’t Only See The Iconic Attractions

Do some research and find out what else is available that may interest you.

Emily says from Family Destinations Guide says, “Don’t only go to the most famous spots like the Empire State Building, The Statue of Liberty, etc, as there are a lot more amazing things to do that you may have never heard about before.”

Brian from Timeshatter says, “Remember New York City is divided into five boroughs and all five have their own unique charm. So many people end up only visiting Manhattan and while Manhattan is great, it’s not the full NYC experience. Plan ahead before you go and research what you may want to see throughout all five boroughs.” 

Make A Plan Before You Arrive

Marc from JT Travel says, “You can maximize the number of places you visit and stretch a buck at the same time if you plan and find the best deals and offers beforehand.”

Get Out Of The Way

Lanie says, “Keep walking and get out of the way if you stop. The easiest way to identify a tourist is that they stop in the middle of the sidewalk and hold everyone else up. Just step to the side and check your phone or map or whatever it is that is making you stop. This is how to make friends in New York City !

Buy A Sim Card

If you don’t have a phone plan that covers New York, buy a local Sim Card so you can easily access maps.

Isabella from Boundless Roads says, “In the subway station you get free wifi, and sometimes in others spots in the city, but it’s not always reliable. If you are somebody who loves to walk and explore, a local SIM card will allow you to access maps and never get lost.”

Purchase Advanced Tickets To Go Into The Statue of Liberty

Anyone can line up to catch the ferry to Liberty Island where the Statue of Liberty sits. The amount of time you wait depends on demand. However, a better way is to purchase advanced tickets. Not only can you skip the line and get on the ferry faster, but you can purchase tickets to go into and up the Statue of Liberty. Only a limited number of tickets are available each day to actually go inside the Statue of Liberty. In high season, they sell out months in advance.

Wear Comfortable Footwear

It sounds obvious, but it bears reminding. You are going to be on your feet all day and without comfortable supportive shoes, you are going to be miserable.

Sherry says, “Of course we want to look our best. But New York is a very busy city and traveling by foot is what makes it interesting.”

Ravi from Rover Pass says, “It is equally as important for your entire foot to be covered. Native New Yorkers know the importance of closed-toed shoes – from dirty streets to the busy Subway, you never want your feet to be exposed!”

Travel Solo

New York welcomes all kinds of travelers, including those traveling alone. Here are 35 fun things for solo travelers to do in NYC .

New York City is a dream destination. However, it is big, busy, and intense. That means your experience can be amazing and exhilarating, or overwhelming and scary. If you come prepared and follow these best tips for first time visitors to New York City, you should be one step closer to having one of the best times of your life.

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The Globetrotting Teacher

New York City Tips: 50 Dos & Don’ts for Visiting NYC Like a Pro

If you’re looking for New York City tips that have been tried and tested by a local New Yorker, you’re in the right place!

For more than 2 decades (and counting), New York has been my home. I even married a native New Yorker! The NYC dos and don’ts below come from my own experiences of living here and helping visitors navigate the city.

So whether it’s your first visit or fifth to New York City, I’ve got 50 of the best NYC tips to help make your time in the city a success,

New York City Tips: 50 Dos & Don’ts for Visiting NYC like a Pro!

Living in New York City was always one of my dreams. As a young girl, I was fascinated with Broadway, the bright lights, and the endless number of things to do in NYC.

Fast forward to when I arrived and I had no idea what I was doing!

On my first full day living in New York, my aunt tried to help me get my bearings. We walked around, and in between getting jostled by people racing to wherever they were going, I got every single one of the questions on her New York City quiz wrong.

Luckily for you, it’s been 25+ years since that failed quiz and now there’s no denying my status as a New Yorker!

I’m also a traveler, who knows that local tips can’t be beat when you’re exploring a new place, so I wanted to pass on some tried and true New York City tips for your first/next trip to the Big Apple!

NYC Tips: Planning Your Trip

Flatiron Building NYC

When you’re planning a New York trip , there are a few basics you want to keep in mind.

It’s impossible to see and do everything. Instead, you want to focus on the time you do have and decide which places and activities are at the top of your must-see list.

Then, take advantage of the New York travel tips below to help you save money and time, as well as plan for your arrival.

1. Do plan ahead and spend enough time.

Ideally, you’ll want to spend at least 3 days visiting New York City, especially if you’re one of the many first-time visitors who come to NYC each year. This will ensure you have time to see some of New York City’s top sights, as well as a few nights to enjoy NYC’s restaurants and entertainment.

Maximize your time in New York City by planning sensible logistics (avoid backtracking) and making advance restaurant and ticket reservations to avoid missing an opportunity and waiting in long lines.

This includes booking timed-entry tickets for tourist attractions like Summit One Vanderbilt , the 9/11 Museum , and the Statue of Liberty if they’re on your list of places to visit.

And if there is a Broadway show that you’re deadset on seeing, it’s best to secure those tickets ahead of time instead of leaving to chance getting discounted tickets last minute.

2. Don’t overstuff your NYC itinerary.

It’s easy to be wide-eyed as you plan what to see and do in New York City. The city has an endless number of things to do. But you also want to take the time to enjoy your time and not just race from place to place.

Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Unless you’re an absolute die-hard art lover, don’t visit more than 1 art museum in a day. Museum fatigue is real and you’ll likely stop absorbing what you’re seeing after a couple of hours.

If you can, mix in a variety of indoor and outdoor activities. For example, visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art or MoMA in the morning and then spend at least part of the afternoon in Central Park. Similarly, you might want to plan a morning or afternoon visit to the 9/11 Museum and the other part of the day walking across the Brooklyn Bridge or exploring Chinatown.

Lastly, if managing the entire day independently feels overwhelming, join a guided tour or activity for part of the day. Guided neighborhood walking tours can help you explore a new part of the city without worrying about where to go or what to see.

3. Do consider saving money with a sightseeing pass.

If you’re planning a heavy sightseeing itinerary, absolutely consider getting a bundled pass like The New York Pass or New York CityPASS . These passes can help you save a good amount of money when compared to buying tickets individually.

The New York Pass lets you choose the duration of your pass, from 1-10 days. This is a great way to pack together consecutive days of unlimited sightseeing with a choice of 100+ attractions.

The New York CityPASS , on the other hand, gives you access to 5 attractions (2 fixed and 3 of your choice from a set list) over 9 days. This pass is great if you want to sightsee at your own pace while mixing in other activities and experiences around the city.

Central Park NYC View of Lake and trees from the Bow Bridge

4. Don’t miss NYC’s numerous free things to do.

Fortunately for your wallet, there are also plenty of amazing free attractions in New York City. Quite a few of them also happen to be top places to visit in NYC, too.

Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, taking in the harbor and Lower Manhattan views. This is a top New York City thing to do and shouldn’t be missed!

Central Park, Bryant Park, the High Line, Little Island Park, Riverside Park, and numerous other green spaces are all free to explore. Some like the High Line come with art exhibitions, while Little Island Park hosts free performances.

In the heart of Midtown Manhattan, visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the main branch of the New York Public Library, Rockefeller Center, and Grand Central Terminal…all for free!

Many of New York City’s museums have free days including MoMA, the Met, the 9/11 Museum, the Guggenheim, and the Morgan Library. Check individual museum websites for more info and, in some cases, to make a free reservation.

In Lower Manhattan, you can visit the 9/11 Memorial Reflecting Pools for free, as well as ride the Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty and head to Governor’s Island for free.

And on any given day, the city hosts numerous free activities and cultural events from art shows to concerts and live theater productions. Use a resource like TimeoutNY to check free events happening during the days you visit.

5. Do learn how to navigate New York City’s streets.

One of the great things about getting around New York City is the grid pattern of its streets on most of Manhattan (down to 14th Street). The simple tic-tac-toe set-up combined with numbered streets makes it easy to orient yourself and find where you need to be.

NYC’s streets (i.e. 37th St., 38th St. 39th St.) run east and west across the island of Manhattan. Roughly 20 of these “city blocks” are about 1 mile. When you’re walking with the numbers going up, you’re walking uptown. If the numbers are going down, you’re heading downtown.

New York City’s avenues (Madison Ave., 5th Ave., 6th Ave., 7th Ave.) run north and south. These avenues intersect the numbered streets. The distance between avenues is greater than the distance between streets. About 7 avenues add up to 1 mile.

At 5th Avenue, you’ll find the dividing line between the west and east sides of the island.

For example, if you’re at 42nd St. & 5th Ave., walk in one direction along 42nd Street and you’ll see that it’s E.42nd Street. But if you walk the other way, you’ll notice the signs say W.42nd Street.

Street addresses get smaller the closer they are to 5th Avenue and bigger the farther they are from 5th Avenue. So, if you need to go to MoMA at 11 W.53rd Street, you know that the museum is on the west side of Manhattan and close to 5th Avenue because the building number is 11.

Lastly, New Yorkers typically use intersections or cross streets to explain where they are or to tell a taxi where to take them. You wouldn’t say to a taxi driver, please take me to 11 W. 53rd Street. Instead, you’d say, 53rd and 5th, please. This tells the driver the intersection where you’d like to be dropped.

6. Don’t rely on taxis to get to Manhattan from the airport

This might be one of the most important New York City travel tips on this list.

I highly recommend having a plan for getting from your airport to Manhattan. All the airports have taxi lines that will take you where you need to be. The problem is they’re expensive and sometimes come with a lengthy wait in line for an available taxi.

From JFK to Manhattan, taxis charge a flat rate of $70. This does NOT include extra for tolls, tips, and any surcharges in effect. From Laguardia and Newark Airports, taxi fares are calculated by the meter with tips, tolls, and surcharges tacked onto that. Depending on traffic, taxi fares calculated by the meter can add up quickly.

Instead, use public transportation or book a transfer service in advance so that you know the cost ahead of time. These guides will help you figure out the best way to get from each airport.

  • JFK to Manhattan
  • LaGuardia to Manhattan
  • Newark Airport to Manhattan

7. Don’t shy away from spending Christmas in New York

I reject the idea that you should think twice about spending Christmas in New York .

Yes, it’s very crowded and hotel prices can be high especially right around the time of the Rockefeller Tree Lighting and during the school break week between Christmas and New Year’s.

But, Christmas in New York is absolutely beautiful. The city sparkles with lights and decorations. The atmosphere at the holiday markets is festive enough to warm even the coldest of Grinch hearts. Even “hardened” New Yorkers can’t help but feel the Christmas spirit.

8. Do know the mistakes to avoid spending Christmas in New York.

That being said, you want to make sure you’re a little extra prepared so that you don’t fall victim to some of the classic New York City Christmas mistakes.

Knowing what to avoid, how to dress, or the best places to ice skate all help to make your New York City Christmas trip a success!

New York Travel Tips: Getting Around

Times Square Entrance subway station at night - New York City.

Pay attention to these New York tips for navigating the city. Getting around NYC (or lack thereof) can make or break your entire trip.

The last thing you want is the stress of getting lost or arriving late only to realize you’ve missed out on something you were really looking forward to.

The good news, though, is that with a little common sense and advance studying by reading these NYC tips, you’ll be on your way to getting around the city like a pro!

9. Don’t drive.

Traffic is horrendous and parking is worse. It can take a maddening amount of time to get around NYC by car and will inevitably waste hours.

And even if for one crazy fleeting moment, you think driving around New York City makes sense, remember that no restaurants, bars, shops, or sightseeing attractions have parking for their customers.

Bottom line. There are no good reasons to justify driving into or around New York City.

10. Do use public transportation.

The subway (and even walking) will typically be faster than taking a taxi, perhaps except for hours in the dead of night when NYC quiets down. (Although this is never a guarantee because night road work is always happening somewhere!)

Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx are well connected by subway trains and buses. This is why millions of people use them every day,

You can get anywhere you’d want to go in the city and be much happier when you arrive…not to mention on time, too!

11. Don’t be a subway oaf!

The fastest way to annoy New Yorkers is to in any way block the turnstiles, the stairways, or the train entrance. We understand that you might not be familiar with the subway system. All we ask is that you move to the side or to a place that is out of the way so you can figure out which way you need to go.

Think of it like this. Navigating the subway is part of our daily commute. Would you stop your car in the middle of a highway entrance ramp (during rush hour) while you read all the signs or looked at a map? No. The subway tunnels, stairways, and turnstiles are no different.

Once you know the train you need, be sure to stand back on the platform. When the train arrives, don’t block the door. Step to the side to allow people inside to get off the train.

Once you’re inside, move all the way into the subway car. You’ll notice that New Yorkers have mastered the art of making no eye contact even when we are smushed together in a cramped space. You should practice this skill, too.

And, whatever you do, don’t lean your whole body on the poles inside the train. On a crowded train, these are the only things that a lot of people can hold onto once the train is moving.

Yes, it’s a petri dish of bacteria, but hold onto the poles with your hands so other people around you have space to hang on, too. This is exactly why those mini bottles of hand sanitizer were created in the first place.

12. Do have your subway payment method ready.

As of 2023, you can still swipe a MetroCard to enter the subway. Although, they will eventually be phased out. The subway and bus fare is $2.90.

Metrocards are refillable (except those that are single-ride cards) and can be used on buses, PATH trains to/from New Jersey, and for the AirTrain at JFK Airport. There are also 7-day unlimited ride Metrocards which make sense if you ride the subway at least 12 times no matter how long your New York City itinerary is.

You can also use the contactless payment system on all turnstiles with your smartphone or contactless credit card. Just tap to pay and you’ll be able to go through the turnstile. Be sure to use the same device or card so the system will recognize if/when you’ve reached 12 rides in a 7-day period. Any rides past that in the same window of time will be free.

13. Don’t get in an empty subway car !

While we’re talking about the subway, I feel obligated to mention this.

I did this once with a college friend of mine. I was new to New York City and flat-out didn’t know any better. Just trust me on this one…unless, of course, you enjoy breathing the foulest stenches in creation.

14. Do move down the platform and find a car with people on it.

If an empty subway car (while all the others are pretty full) pulls up in front of you on the platform, no you did not just get incredibly lucky. There’s 100% a reason why others have skipped the empty train car in favor of wedging themselves into a more crowded part of the train.

Instead of thinking you landed a jackpot, quickly move to a train car with people on it. Your nose and taste buds will thank you.

15. Do know the difference between local and express trains.

Several subway lines run express and local trains. It’s exactly as it sounds. The local trains make all the stops on the line, while the express trains bypass many stations stopping only in select places.

Know which one you need before you get on the train. Don’t waste time having to backtrack to a station because the accidental express train you were riding skipped your stop.

Look at an NYC subway map. Local stations are marked with a filled-in-all-black circle. Express train stops are marked by a white or unfilled circle. Where the white circle (or oval) overlaps several train lines, it means you can connect underground to these other lines without having to pay again.

Sometimes it’s knowing the simplest of NYC travel tips that can make all the difference.

Subway Train in New York before Sunset

16. Don’t block the subway station escalator.

Some subway stations have escalators to carry you to or from the train platforms. While riding these escalators, it’s expected that you move to the right if you’d like to stand and ride and move to the left if you’d like to climb the stairs and pass others.

Please don’t stand on the left or place suitcases there while others are trying to move quickly to wherever they are going (i.e. work, doctor’s office, picking their kids up from school).

17. Don’t be the cause of a sidewalk traffic jam.  

Other than the subway and buses, New Yorkers’ primary mode of transportation is their feet. The sidewalk in New York is like a pedestrian highway. Walking in a line across with your whole family blocks others from passing.

If you stop suddenly, the people behind you won’t expect this and just might walk into you. Just like there are rules of the road when you’re driving, NYC’s sidewalks come with similar protocols.

18. Do “pull over” to the right

Not to worry if you’re just strolling, are a slow walker, or want to stop and figure out where you are and where you’re headed! Just move to the right which signals to those around you that they are free to move past you.

This also applies if you want to look up or take photos of something. And don’t worry if you need to look at a map. Use Google Maps on your smartphone. No one will be the wiser that you aren’t sure which way to go because everyone else will be looking at their smartphone, too!

19. Don’t wait for a walk sign if there are no cars.

Ok obviously always check for cars before crossing the street. But if you want to blend in with real NYers, it’s okay to cross even when it doesn’t say “Walk” as long as no cars are coming.

20. Do watch for buses and bikes.

Just don’t forget about bike and bus lanes! Bike path traffic can be dangerous and they’re less forgiving than cars. So if you see a small painted green lane as you cross the street, be sure there isn’t someone racing by on a bike or e-bike!

New York City Tips: During Your Trip

Block of colorful buildings on historic Macdougal Street in Greenwich Village in Manhattan, New York City

The New York tips below are all about helping you take advantage of some of the best NYC has to offer while avoiding some of the pitfalls that an unknowing (first time) visitor might not realize.

21. Don’t spend too long in Times Square.

For that matter, don’t stay in Rockefeller Center, either. These places are iconic, sure. Go see them, take some photos in front of the ice rink or the giant billboards with their flashing lights, and then get out of there.

Times Square is full of tourist traps from costumed characters looking to be paid to take photos with visitors to chain restaurants overcharging for bad food.

Besides just seeing the spectacle that is Times Square, the only other reason to spend any length of time there is to get discounted Broadway show tickets at the TKTS booth on W. 47th Street.

22. Do explore other parts of New York City.

New York City is made up of 5 boroughs, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. And within these boroughs are countless neighborhoods, each with their own character and culture. Together, they make up the endless number of amazing things to do in New York City.

Why not head to Lower Manhattan to visit the Financial District and to see the 9/11 Memorial & Museum? The tiny streets at Manhattan’s southern tip are where the city first took root as a colony in the 1600s. When you look closely, you can see remaining bits of colonial history and even visit the final resting place of Alexander Hamilton.

Walk the High Line as it snakes through Chelsea or head uptown to the Upper West Side to visit the northern parts of Central Park and the iconic St. John the Divine. When you’re hungry, take the subway down to Chinatown to sample plates of noodles and Dim Sum.

When you’re ready, ride the subway to Brooklyn for a stroll through one of the most incredible open-air street art galleries in the world.

23. Don’t eat in Little Italy…unless you know where to go.

It pains me to say this as a girl of southern Italian ancestry but unfortunately what’s left of this neighborhood is just a couple of streets with souvenir shops and restaurants serving mediocre Italian fare.

If you do go, avoid the restaurants with wranglers trying to persuade you to sit down. The places worth visiting don’t have people doing this. For example, Di Palo’s on Grand and Mott is famous for their sandwiches and homemade mozzarella. (The line is worth standing in!) Il Cortile has fantastic northern Italian dishes and Ferrara Bakery has been making Italian sweets like cannoli for over 100 years.

24. Do walk down Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village.

Between 6th and 7th Avenues along Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village , you can taste delicious pizza at legendary places like Bleecker Street Pizza, John’s of Bleecker Street, and Joe’s Pizza. Save room for a couple of rice balls from Faicco’s Italian Specialties and cannolis at Pasticceria Rocco.

If you want to have a sit-down Italian dinner, New York City has no shortage of options! Some of my favorites are  Morandi , L’Artusi , and Via Carota .

And if you’re up for taking a bit of a trip “north,” head to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx for another authentic Little Italy neighborhood!

25. Don’t take disrespectful selfies .

Sadly this makes the list, but crimes, tragic or sad events, homeless people, and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum are off-limits when it comes to selfies. Just please don’t do it.

Chairs on Governors Island facing the skyline at Lower Manhattan in New York City

26. Do take photos of NYC’s iconic skyline.

That being said, please take as many photos as you’d like of the city itself and all of its beautiful sights and attractions. This is especially true of the New York City skyline as seen from above.

Contrary to what others might say, I recommend visiting one of New York City’s skydeck experiences. There are plenty of options so choose the one that speaks to you the most or works best with your itinerary.

For example, Summit One Vanderbilt is the most popular immersive skyline experience and has amazing views, especially of the Chrysler Building. The Empire State Building is an iconic art-deco building full of classic NYC history. The view from the Top of the Rock is gorgeous at night when you can see the Empire State Building and all of Manhattan lit up.

Take a look at each one to decide.

  • Summit One Vanderbilt
  • Empire State Building
  • Top of the Rock
  • One World Observatory

You might even splurge and take a helicopter ride over New York City to take in the epic views. Either way, it’s a quintessential NYC experience to see the city from above.

Can you accomplish the same thing by visiting a rooftop bar or restaurant?

That depends on where you go and what you’re hoping to see. Some rooftop bars and restaurants can come with fabulous views and even ones that are from a unique angle or height. But they’re also usually not the places where you snap off an endless number of photos without running the risk of irritating those around you.

Skyline experiences are for really marveling at the skyline and taking in the incredible scene before you. While rooftop restaurants and bars are for savoring the ambiance of being high up among the city’s skyscrapers.

27. Don’t eat at a chain or theme restaurant.

New York City is home to an unlimited number of incredible restaurants in every cuisine you can imagine. And you only have a limited amount of stomach real estate. Don’t waste it on food that you can get anywhere.

Besides if you’ve landed in one of these chain restaurants, you’ve most definitely fallen victim to one of NYC’s tourist traps. Restaurants like Olive Garden and Bubba Gump Shrimp typically exist in places like Times Square for a reason. You won’t find restaurants like these in the West Village or Dumbo in Brooklyn because most New Yorkers go for local restaurants instead.

You should do the same.

28. Do eat classic NYC foods.

That being said, not every meal has to be at a five-star restaurant. After all New York City is the land of pizza and bagels!

Order a bagel sandwich with cream cheese and lox (smoked salmon) from Absolute Bagels or Leo’s. Grab a slice of pizza at Prince Street Pizza or go for a classic margherita pie at Juliana’s in Brooklyn…my pick for the best New York style pizza in the city!

Try a new type of ethnic food. Whether you seek out local spots near your NYC hotel or you head to ethnic-specific neighborhoods like Koreatown or Little India, you won’t be disappointed by the endless array of authentic dishes. Not to mention, many of these spots are much better priced than what you might expect in New York.

29. Don’t eat at restaurants without an A rating.

Regardless of where you choose to eat, always look for the Health Department’s rating which must be hung in a prominent place in the front of every restaurant.

With so many restaurant options to choose from, there’s no reason to eat anywhere that doesn’t have an “A” rating. Hopefully, there’s no need to go into any more detail on this one.

Fried Dumplings from Fried Dumpling on Mosco Street in Chinatown NYC

30. Do take advantage of cheap eats in NYC.

In a city full of famous restaurants, you might think cheap eats in NYC don’t exist. You just have to know where to look.

Los Tacos No. 1 is hidden in plain sight in famous Chelsea Market. Gray’s Papaya is famous for its hot dogs & “recession special.” Mamoun’s Falafel is listed as one of the 1000 places you need to visit before you die. And Empanada Mama in Hell’s Kitchen will fill you up for about $10. Not to mention Chinatown and its plentiful options of cheap noodle and dumpling dishes.

Or keep your eyes out for any number of New York City’s famous food trucks from one of the Diso’s trucks around 46th Street or in the W. 50s. serving up Italian deli sandwiches to a Souvlaki GR truck also in midtown offering delicious Greek bites!

31. Don’t initiate small talk with locals.

This is not meant to seem rude. But most of us are out and about trying to run errands or get to appointments or work on time. In the process, we get a few moments to pop in our Airpods to listen to some music or a favorite podcast.

And for sure there’s a safety component to this, as well. There’s no need to open up a box of worms if you don’t have to. Better to just go about your business and let others do the same.

32. Do ask a local for directions if you’re lost.

Even with the above small talk NYC tip, I don’t want you to get the impression that NYers are really rude. In fact, I’ve seen countless New Yorkers go out of their way to help visitors who are lost or have a question…myself included!

So if you’re lost or need help, don’t hesitate to ask someone nearby, If you’re unsure about talking to a stranger, pop into a hotel or restaurant or even ask a doorman at one of the city’s many apartment buildings.

I guarantee you’ll come across a friendly local willing to help out!

33. Do avoid tourist traps.

In addition to chain restaurants, places like Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and experiences like a pedicab or horse-drawn carriage rides are best avoided.

They’re overpriced and gimmicky. Plus, in the case of the horses, they aren’t always treated right.

But for the record. I don’t think going to the top of the Empire State Building, Central Park, the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, or the Book of Mormon are tourist traps, contrary to what you might read elsewhere. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

34. Don’t miss the chance to see a Broadway show.

In an era where everything is on a screen, the experience of seeing a live theater production is an unforgettable experience and totally worth it.

Feel free to choose the play or musical that most interests you. Broadway and the countless Off-Broadway theaters have something for everyone’s taste and budget.

Take advantage of discount tickets on websites like Broadway Box . Grab same-day discounted tickets from TKTS in Times Square or Lincoln Center. Or even try your luck at winning a Broadway lottery .

Either way, don’t miss this classic NYC experience!

Cental Park Bethesda Terrace NYC

35. Do tip appropriately.

Tipping in New York City is so important.

If you’re happy with the service you get from a waiter, bartender, delivery person, or taxi driver (to name a few), be sure to tip 15%-20%. These service workers make horribly low hourly wages and rely on these tips to survive in New York City. Don’t forget about tour guides, too, especially the ones giving free walking tours.

While it’s never an obligation if you don’t think a tip is earned, it’s greatly appreciated and often supports artists and students who live off these tips.

36. Don’t give money to beggars.

As difficult as it may be, don’t give money to beggars. You never know what that money is truly going to be used for. If the opportunity presents itself and you feel compelled, purchase a coffee or some food. But always beware that if it’s not asked for, your kind gesture can always be rejected.

And to be clear, I don’t consider musicians to be beggars. If you’re on a subway platform or walking through Central Park and appreciate the music someone is playing, feel free to contribute to their tip jar.

37. Do use bathrooms when they’re available.

Of all the travel tips for NYC, this one cannot be overstated. New York City has hardly any public restrooms. This poses a real challenge when you’re on the go all day.

So the golden rule (sorry pun not intentional!) is to always use a bathroom when you have one available to you regardless of whether or not you really feel like you need to go.

All of NYC’s top sights and museums have bathrooms for visitors. Be sure to use them when you’re visiting. The same goes if you’re at a restaurant or cafe for lunch or a coffee break. Take advantage of the access to bathrooms.

In an emergency, there are bathrooms at Grand Central Terminal. Nearby Bryant Park has one of the cleanest public bathrooms in the entire city. Public libraries have bathrooms, as do markets like Chelsea Market. Hudson Yards and the Shops at Columbus Circle have restrooms. And if you’re in Lower Manhattan near the 9/11 Memorial & Museum , the Oculus has bathrooms.

Otherwise, you’ll likely have to go to a coffee shop or restaurant and buy something to use the bathroom.

38. Don’t use ATMs outside of bank locations.

Nearly everywhere you go in New York City, debit and credit cards are accepted. So there’s never a reason to carry large amounts of cash. However, if you need some money, use an ATM at an established banking location.

ATMs in places like delis, bars, or drug stores aren’t monitored as closely making it easier for skimmers to add devices to card readers that’ll help them steal account numbers and PINS.

Tips for NYC: Safety

A NYPD police car

Is New York City safe is one of the most common questions I get from readers who are considering a trip to the Big Apple. So in this section of New York City tips, you’ll find the common sense safety advice that I live by.

39. Don’t walk scared .

Despite what you might see on the news, New York City is still one of the safest mega-cities in the world. Yes, the pandemic’s empty sidewalks allowed a rougher element to surface. You will see homeless and mentally unstable people more so than perhaps in the years just prior to 2020.

However, with each day that life has returned to normal, the city’s residents and visitors alike are reclaiming the sidewalks, so to speak. To be a part of this, walk with purpose…like you know the streets like the back of your hand.

The more confident you look (and the faster you walk), the more you’ll blend in with every other New Yorker.

40. Do stay alert and be aware of your surroundings.

Yet with any big city, you need to exercise some basic caution. You should always be aware of where you are and the others around you. And if something doesn’t look right, move yourself away from the situation quickly and calmly.

Remember, pickpockets and others hoping to pull off petty crimes are opportunistic. They’re looking for anyone who has an unzipped bag or isn’t paying attention to where their belongings are. Everyone has a smartphone but don’t flash other expensive electronics.

Leave your best jewelry at home and don’t walk around with huge amounts of cash. And never carry phones or wallets in your back pants pocket. It’s an invitation for a quick-fingered thief.

41. Don’t react to catcalling.

As a female living in NYC, I’ve experienced plenty of catcalling. It’s always eye-rollingly annoying, especially when you’re just trying to enjoy the city’s sights like everyone else without feeling self-conscious about how you look or what you’re wearing.

The most important thing is not to react. Just keep walking and don’t make eye contact. I know the feeling of wanting to react but trust me, it’s not worth it.

42. Do trust your gut.

But you should always trust what your gut is telling you. If the catcaller (or someone) escalates their advances or you feel unsafe in any way, don’t hesitate to get out of there, seek help, look for a police officer, or even draw attention to what’s happening.

Go into the first available shop or restaurant. Cross the street. Stop walking and let whoever is bothering you pass so that you can see them in front of you rather them being behind you. Speak loudly so that others nearby are made aware of what is going on.

The same holds true outside of a catcalling situation. Something feels off on a subway car you’re riding? Move to another car or get off the train. The street is too dark or quiet? Take a different route. Always do what you feel is right for your own safety and remember the majority of New Yorkers around you will help if they can.

NYC Tips: What to Wear

Family of father and his little kids walk on Manhattan in New York City

What you pack for your trip to New York City is so important! With a lot of your trip spent outside, you’ll need to wear clothes that align with whatever the weather happens to be, while of course, achieving a few fashion points along the way.

These tips for traveling in NYC are all about the best clothes and shoes.

43. Don’t pretend it’s spring when it’s winter .

It doesn’t matter if you’re hot all the time. The streets in Manhattan have a really special way of funneling the cold winter wind right in your direction. It might feel crisp and refreshing at first, but after a few hours of walking around, you’ll be shivering miserably.

What to wear in New York in winter is not the same as what to wear in spring, summer, or fall. It’s also not like home where you likely go quickly from your heated house to your heated car to your heated destination.

During New York City in winter you have to be prepared to spend long periods of time outside regardless of what the temperature is or what the weather is doing. Otherwise, the winter weather can quickly put a freeze on whatever you had planned during your trip to New York City.

44. Do dress for the weather.

No matter when you plan to visit New York City, you’ll be walking outside, a lot. No matter how much planning you do before your trip, it’s so important to check the weather in the days leading up to your arrival. The right clothes and shoes will make all the difference during your New York City trip.

Fall in NYC is a great time to visit, weatherwise! The days are comfortable, with little humidity and plenty of blue skies. Similarly, visiting NYC in April or May comes with moderate temperatures and blooming flowers.

Winter and summer, obviously, come with more temperature extremes.

But regardless of what the calendar says, the weather forecast should dictate how you pack. Visiting in April and New York City is going to be 80+ degrees during the day? Pack like it’s summer with some layers for potentially cooler evenings.

Or are you planning a Christmas trip to NYC with sunny weather and 60-degree days in December? Leave your heaviest winter gear at home. You’ll only end up hot and sweaty as you walk around Manhattan.

45. Don’t underestimate the importance of the right shoes.

In a blink of an eye, you’ll have walked 10k+ steps in New York City. You need the right shoes so that you can sustain this amount of pedestrian life for a successful trip.

Fashion sneakers, flat boots, and sporty sandals all work depending on the season and how comfortable they are when you’re walking in them all day. These sneakers are among the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn and I often wear them for everyday walking around New York City.

And of course, weather plays a role. Don’t wear shoes that make your feet hot and sweaty during hot summer days. That’s a recipe for blisters. (Which is also why you should travel with at least 2 pairs of comfortable shoes. You can switch them from day to day so that your feet aren’t being continuously rubbed in the same places.)

The same goes for wearing the right shoes in the rain or snow. Wet and cold feet or shoes that can’t grip the sidewalks on bad weather days are the fastest way to put a damper on what you hoped to do in New York City.

46. Do leave the high heels at home.

Seriously. Unless you’re attending a gala or making an appearance in a Sex and the City sequel, you likely don’t need them. Not to mention, they hardly double for a shoe you can also walk in…outside…for several blocks.

If you need or want something dressier for nights out, consider shoes or boots with more of a platform or wider base that can also serve as functioning walking shoes.

47. Don’t wear your souvenirs here.

Your “I <3 New York”, subway line, or Broadway show tee-shirt will be much cooler at home. Not to mention, wearing items like these immediately identifies you as a tourist just when you might be trying to blend in with the crowd.

Group Of Friends Walking With Manhattan Skyline In Background

48. Do dress stylishly and comfortably .

With all the clothing tips for NYC focusing on comfort and the weather, you might think I’m suggesting you toss all fashion sense out the window. On the contrary! NYC is still a place to look put together. But you can do this in a smart way that combines utility and function.

Jeans are always a good start because you can dress them up or down. Boots, flats, oxfords, loafers, and fashion sneakers are all better choices than your standard gym sneakers.

Think minimalist fashion basics that are chic yet allow you to move comfortably (on foot) around the city. And don’t be afraid to accessorize with a scarf or a hat that will instantly add a bit of flair to your outfit.

49. Don’t wear white/light colors.

Ever wonder why a lot of New Yorkers seem to love wearing black? It’s because NYC is grimy and messy and most of us don’t have washers and dryers in our apartments!

This tip applies especially to pants, shoes, and jackets because they come into contact with park and subway benches and get splashed on by puddles and anything kicked up as you walk. Some of which may never come out even after being scrubbed or washed repeatedly.

Plus, if you’re trying to pack light and plan to wear things more than once, the soot and muck of New York City may upend that plan when it comes to those white pants or pastel pink jacket.

50. Do dress in darker colors.

Instead go for blacks, grays, and even dark colors like forest green, navy, or burgundy when packing bottoms and outerwear. You’ll have a better chance of hiding the inevitable filth that winds up on your clothes after traversing the city by foot and public transportation.

Not to mention, you’ll blend in with the crowd and have a better chance of re-wearing things you’ve packed.

New York City Tips Bottom Line

Your trip to New York City is destined to be fantastic now that you’ve prepared yourself with these NYC travel tips!

If you put these tips for visiting New York City into action, you’re on your way to saving money and time, as well as looking like a total pro as you sightsee, eat, and get around fantastic NYC.

What questions do you have about the best New York City travel tips?

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70 thoughts on “new york city tips: 50 dos & don’ts for visiting nyc like a pro”.

tips for first time visit to nyc

Perfect timing as we are going there in a few weeks, so have made notes from your post on NYC. Thanks

tips for first time visit to nyc

Excellent, Paula! So glad the tips will be useful. Enjoy your trip! 🙂

tips for first time visit to nyc

Love this tip – “Whatever you do, don’t take out a map. Look cool and use Google Maps on your smartphone!” haha. And are selfies ever respectful;?? Great post. It has reminded me that I really need to visit soon!

Glad to make you laugh, Dave! I only do selfies when the landscape behind me needs to be in the shot, like when I was hiking in Patagonia. Hope you make it to NYC soon!

tips for first time visit to nyc

Great tips. I used to spend summers in NYC growing up, but I have to admit, I’ve never been in the subway (mostly because of that petri dish of bacteria thing).

Thanks, Mags. The subway is THE way to travel while in NYC. If you’ve survived the air on planes, you’ll be fine. 🙂

tips for first time visit to nyc

I love your do/don’t format. You’ve given better options for things many tourists would probably want to do.

Thanks, Beverly! Local tips can’t be beat!

tips for first time visit to nyc

Great tips! We really want to make it back to NYC especially since we were there for such a short time on our last visit. I hate when people stop in the middle of sidewalks too–so frustrating!! And good thing to note about the empty subway cars! I would have probably jumped in one too, haha!

Thanks, Jenna! Seems logical to jump in that empty subway car, at first….but, oh how quickly you regret it! Thanks for your comments and hope you make it back to NYC soon!

tips for first time visit to nyc

I once was in the unfortunate position of having to drive in Manhattan. To this day that stands as the scariest thing I have ever done.

I believe it, Brianna! If you don’t know where you’re going and the aggressive style of the New York driver, then you’re in for a terrifying experience.

tips for first time visit to nyc

Dressing for the weather!! Definitely a good tip! I was in NY last winter and almost froze to death!! Great tips.

You’re not alone, Anna. Many people visit NYC, and are so used to getting in and out of their cars, they don’t realize how important dressing for the weather is.

tips for first time visit to nyc

Hi! great list! Thank you! #theweeklypostcard

Thanks, Tanja!

tips for first time visit to nyc

I’ve always wanted to go to NYC, I grew up only a couple hours away in Connecticut, have been inside JFK twice and to Yankee Stadium (the real one,) and that;s it. It was such a small taste and I need more… I gotta get my fix jack lol

So close, Adam! You should definitely not form your NYC opinions on JFK! And, I totally agree with you about the old Yankee Stadium being the real one! 😉

tips for first time visit to nyc

OK, now I am very afraid I want to know what on earth has happened inside an empty subway carriage. Especially as I gather this is a relatively frequent thing?

I would have to take a cab just once I think though. Unless New York taxi drivers are less legendary than they are painted? That would be disappointing.

*grins* I am not sure I agree with you about not wearing your souvenirs in country. I see it as an exuberant celebration of how much fun people are having when they are there, and am therefore quite tolerant. I am actually less so when people save it until they get home.

What good tips though. Especially about where is *really* interesting to go.

Thank you for your comments! If the subway car is empty, it’s typically because someone has become sick, a person who has not bathed in quite a while has taken a nap in there, or someone has used it as a bathroom. While I have a great deal of empathy in my heart for someone in these conditions, I don’t want, nor is it recommended, to ride in that car.

A taxi ride is an experience, but drivers can be hit or miss. Fair points about wearing souvenirs, even though it still wouldn’t be a “NYC Pro” move. Thanks again for your comments! 🙂

tips for first time visit to nyc

I live visiting nyc. Wanted to live there when I was younger but now I think the tourists and other inconsiderate people there would give me too much anxiety.

You would have loved it, Laura! But, it can, indeed, be a stressful city.

tips for first time visit to nyc

Great tips! I have to remember those for next time we visit. We did not take the subway once when we stayed in NYC for three days, we walked. And we did eat at non-chain restaurants we found near the hotel, and I’m glad of it. And yes, Times Square is a zoo!

The subway is a lot easier than it seems, Jolanta. Definitely give a try on your next visit. So glad you were able to enjoy some food at an NYC restaurant! Thanks so much for your comments! 🙂

tips for first time visit to nyc

I loved visiting NYC. There is just so much to love! I wish I had ventured out a little more to explore little restaurants and bars but there is always next time! Also “pulling over” out of peoples way should be practiced around the world haha

Absolutely, Sally! I agree with pulling over being a worldwide courtesy.

tips for first time visit to nyc

Really helpful tips! Bookmarking this one for future reference. Particularly like the one about the empty subway car as I’m sure I’ll be jumping on one if I didn’t read this, but now I know… 🙂

Thanks, Olivia! Good thing for your nose!

tips for first time visit to nyc

Great tips! I finally walked across the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time last year and it was one of the highlights of my trip!

The Brooklyn Bridge is my favorite too, Elena! It’s such a special landmark.

tips for first time visit to nyc

Great tips! We LOVE experiencing the restaurants in NYC. Some of the best food we’ve ever eaten. We often wonder how chain restaurants survive there. Who eats at a chain when there is a plethora of other amazing options!

Thanks, Amanda! Those chains survive only from the tourists who never venture outside of the Times Square tourist zone.

tips for first time visit to nyc

what a clever way to tell New York story:) i may not agree with all the tips, but i love that your personality shows through:) You got me with a paper map- I love those and will always use:)

Thanks for your comments, Victoria. Just be sure to pull over when you take out that paper map (wink wink!) 🙂

tips for first time visit to nyc

I must say, I read many articles about tips for NYC, this one ranks at the top! Most of the people writing about NYC have visited a few times. You are clearly someone who knows the city well! My biggest tip for any city I visit is to walk like you know what you are doing, even if you don’t. Duck into a store or side street to check where you are going rather than stopping in the middle of the sidewalk!

I have been planning a 10 day NYC itinerary for someone going for the first time. She gave me a list of places she wanted to see, and my first thing was to scoff. Times Square, Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building. All these places are the things I was trying to tell her to avoid! But then I had to think like her, a person who has never seen NYC (and not like me—someone who grew up there), and understand that it is OK to want to see those places! They are iconic for a reason! So I guess my biggest piece of advice is that its okay to visit all of those popular tourist places in the city, just know that there is more to the city than Times Square!

Hopefully that all made sense! Cheers, Katie

Thanks, Katie! I’m so glad you got one of the post’s main points, which is to enjoy and explore New York City’s iconic sights, but also remember there’s so much more to see and do in the city! It’s such a fabulous city and, those of us who live or are from here, want everyone to get the most out of their trip. 🙂

tips for first time visit to nyc

Do go out and take in a comedy show, especially any of the local clubs that support upcoming talent.

Don’t wear sandals, especially if you are going to walk around Manhattan all day. Not only will your feet hurt, but it will take literally days to wash the sludge that built up in between your toes!

Do check out Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! It is probably one of the best outdoor festivals that you will ever see in your life.

Don’t get caught in the middle of an intersection during a red light unless you are cool with angry New Yorkers laying down on their horn like nobody’s business.

Do go to the Top of the Rock to get the best view of Manhattan. Don’t throw objects off the Top of the Rock. You might hurt someone and it’s illegal!

Been to NYC four times in my life and this city just gets better every single time!

Ray, these are awesome tips! Thanks for helping to make the list even better! Love the point about the sandals and walking around NYC all day and there is certainly no shortage of great comedy shows!

tips for first time visit to nyc

Interesting set of Do’s and Don’t while visiting NYC…..Thanks for Sharing Informative article…

Thanks for reading and commenting, Maggie.

tips for first time visit to nyc

This is great we are coming over from Australia in March and it is always a bit weird going to a new city! where would you recommend someone to stay? I was looking at the Roosevelt in Manhattan ?

thanks for the advice!

Hi Sharna, Thanks for reading. How exciting to be visiting NYC! I haven’t checked out the Roosevelt Hotel, but it is in a good location. You are just footsteps away from Rockefeller Center, Broadway, and the subway. Midtown east tends to be quieter at night than midtown west, but this is not so far east that you’d feel remote or unsafe. I have more hotel recommendations and all the tips to make your first trip a success in my NYC Guide . Plus, you can even download a cheat sheet to take with you if you want. 🙂

Hi Jackie, Thanks for your advice, what is the best area to stay in that is easy to get around, safe and not overly pricey ?

Thanks for reading and commenting. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I’m traveling and my wifi is a bit spotty. Ugh! Of course, the most convenient areas to stay are right in midtown, but these will also likely be the priciest areas, too. I’d recommend looking uptown on the west side of NYC, close to the 1,2,3 (red) subway line. It’s quick and easy and has connections in Times Square to nearly every subway you could want. If you really prefer midtown, east will likely be cheaper than west. I wouldn’t go past the Lexington Ave area, though. It’s safe, but so far east it’ll be a long way to walk to a train or to the main tourist areas of Times Square, Broadway, Rockefeller Center, etc. Hope that helps, but feel free to comment again if you need anything else. Enjoy your stay in NYC! 🙂

tips for first time visit to nyc

Hi Jackie what a great post and so spot on! I am a former New Yorker, been gone 20 years and I was visiting recently last month. It was so much windier than I’d remembered. It must be the tall buildings creating wind tunnels or something. I don’t remember that for 20 years ago. Maybe the buildings have gotten taller. I would also recommend the Bronx Zoo and the Botanical Gardens which make you feel as if you’re in an English countryside.

Thanks for reading, Mary. How great to get back to the city after many years. Great tip about the NY Botanical Gardens. It’s a favorite of mine, especially in fall.

tips for first time visit to nyc

Hi Jackie! Thank you for sharing such interesting tips. I will be visiting my Uncle and his family this June and it is my first time to go to US, and I am glad to be visiting New York. However, I do not have any idea what type of clothes to bring. Your suggestions will be very much appreciated.

Hi Faith, Thanks so much for reading. 🙂 Summers in NYC are warm and some days even, really hot. Sundresses, short sleeve shirts, shorts, capris, elephant pants (loose-fitting pants) are all good. NYers always wear jeans no matter what time of year. As for shoes, NYers wear all kinds of shoes, but we are also used to walking in them. Sandals are fine if they’re comfortable to walk in. Also, there can be afternoon rain storms, so pack an umbrella or pick up one once you arrive. Finally, most places have Air Conditioning, so sometimes a light sweater or sweatshirt comes in handy! Hope that helps, Faith. If you’re looking for more first-timer NYC tips, check out this post . Enjoy NYC!

tips for first time visit to nyc

This is a great list, except that blocking people in the subway is absolutely not “the fastest way to ingratiate yourself with New Yorkers.” It is, in fact, just the opposite since to ingratiate yourself means to bring yourself into favor.

Ha! I can’t believe I never picked that up after all this time, Lizzy! I guess that’s why it’s good to have lots of eyes reading. 🙂

tips for first time visit to nyc

This is a great post love all the tips. I am traveling there soon so will be very handy.

Thanks so much for reading. Glad the tips will be useful.

tips for first time visit to nyc

Great post. I am a travel and sports blogger who was born and raised in New York City , even though I lived in other places. I would definitely recommend that tourists check out the Outer Boros. Take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry , which is free. See the real Little Italy on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. See the Queens Zoo as well as attending a game at either Yankees Stadium or Citi Field . See the other Chinatown in Flushing. Have some Asian, Indian or Latin American food in Jackson Heights . Visit Grants Tomb or Alexander Hamilton ‘ s home Hamilton Grange in Harlem. There is more to New York City than times square . Also, please tourists , don’t take a picture of the rats on the subway. They’re just like their human New York City cousins , aggressive and in a hurry to get to the train.

Thanks for reading, Jo Ann, and for all the tips! You are soo right about getting to the outer boroughs. I’ve included many of these in my 100 things to see and do in NYC. 🙂 Love that last bit about the rats. They’re definitely camera shy!

tips for first time visit to nyc

NY is like a dream city to me. Thanks for the o do list and not to do list. Great. Thanks.

Thanks for reading, Jimmy. Enjoy NYC. 🙂

tips for first time visit to nyc

Hi going to New York for the first time late June for 4 nights then heading to upstate for a wedding. I’m getting freaked out because I’m disabled with visual and balance disabilities. So with that in mind do I stay in Manhattan and cab into the city for getting a feeling of NYC? I walk slowly and afraid of getting bumped around. 4th of July holiday Yikes what have I gotten myself into!?!

I’m so glad you reached out, Lisa. It’s more than possible to enjoy NYC in a way that you’ll feel comfortable. I’d recommend looking into the Global Greeter Network. There are locals who volunteer to show visitors around for free. It’s even possible to be paired up with a local who also has some type of disability. I’d also think about bus tours if the idea of getting bumped around too much is nervewracking. You’d be able to get around to different parts of the city without the stress of doing it on your own. Thanks so much for reading and I’m sure your trip to NYC will be great. 🙂

tips for first time visit to nyc

Ok list, but remember I think the the thing to remember is A LOT of people walking on streets in NYC are tourists! Been there many times and it runs like any other large city. I think the thing to remember, do what you want…there are no “rules” to walking around and subways just use common sense.

Thanks for reading, Nicole. Common sense goes a long way in NYC!

tips for first time visit to nyc

Wow, how kind of you to share this information. I am taking my wife Dec 14-18 and 3 exchange students–all 16, here for entire school year. This is a surprise for them (first trip), and I am attempting to put this all together, a play, a convenient hotel (will need two rooms) and recommendation would help. Prior post indicated you may have an article(s) out there with this information. Also, flying in from the south, ATL so all airports are reasonably price options, any recommendations there? Thanks again for taking time to share important information. Mark

Thanks so much for reading, Mark. That will be such an amazing surprise! I do have a where to stay in New York article. If you’re open to seeing any play or musical, I’d recommend going to TKTS the discount ticket booth in Times Square just before showtime. So if it’s an 8pm show, go to TKTS at 7:30. There will still be tickets available and no line like there would be had you gone earlier in the day. If you have a specific show in mind, look at websites like Broadway Box for discounts and buy in advance. As for airports, I have guides on all 3 NYC airports (JFK, LGA, and Newark) and how to get to Manhattan. I’d recommend JFK or Newark because their public transportation options are the best. But LGA also has options, so no need to worry if that’s where you fly into. 🙂

tips for first time visit to nyc

4 years on… do you have any new tips to add to the above? 🙂 Thanks Ryan

Thanks for reading, Ryan. If you’re visiting NYC for Christmas, I have these mistakes to avoid . I will also be updating this article soon. 🙂

tips for first time visit to nyc

I have a package deal and have to travel to NYC before 11/25/2020. When do you suggest I go? I would like to see the decorations and some iconic sites also and maybe a show or two but am only there 4 days and 3 nights. I will be staying somewhere in Manhattan, not sure where, yet.

Thanks for reading, Ellen. New York City in the fall is the best time to come. If you want to see some decorations, I’d recommend next November right before your package expires. The Rockefeller Center tree won’t be lit but there’s a chance it’ll be up. The ice rink will be up and the Bryant Park holiday markets typically begin right after Halloween. Not to mention the weather tends to be a little chilly but mostly pleasant for walking around. Hope that helps. If you need other NYC tips, start with this guide.

tips for first time visit to nyc

Would really like to know what was in that empty subway that made it smell so bad???

Also, great tips!

Thanks for reading, Shannon. 🙂 To this day, I don’t know. But it was absolutely putrid!

tips for first time visit to nyc

I plan on driving to visit New York from Virginia with my two teenagers this summer. I’m driving because we also plan on visiting family in Rochester. I do not want to drive in the city. Where do you recommend we stay and park our car while taking public transit into the city to sightsee?

Thanks for reading, Rachel. What I would do is to look for cheap parking around Newark Airport or JFK Airport. You can find cheap airport parking at hotels and off-airport sites and then take public transportation into NYC from there. Definitely a smart choice to avoid driving in Manhattan. Enjoy your trip!

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A Broken Backpack

Complete Guide: New York Tips For First Timers

by Melissa Giroux | Last updated Apr 28, 2024 | Travel Tips , United States

The Big Apple, concrete jungle where dreams are made of, empire state of mind… Whatever nickname or pop culture reference you cast across New York City, it’s a popular bucket list destination for almost everyone!

There’s something about the Statue of Liberty, fast-paced street culture and bright neon lights in Time Square that keeps people coming back over and over again.

If you’re visiting New York City for the first time , I’ve compiled some helpful tips regarding safety, areas to visit and other things to know when traveling to New York!

P-s. If you’re visiting New York during winter , make sure to remember to pack winter clothing. New York in winter is an excellent choice for a romantic getaway in the US .

Tips For Visiting New York For The First Time

Below are our top travel tips for first-timers in New York City.

1. Get around the city by foot or the subway

New York City

If you love being stuck in traffic, take a cab or Uber around New York City. If you love exploring or just value your time in general, stick to getting around by foot or the impressive subway system.

Traffic nightmares are made of the gridlock pattern of New York City streets. Parking is a headache, too!

If you’re going to New York City for the first time, save your sanity (and your time) and plan on packing comfortable walking shoes!

Fun scary fact: did you know that accidents are the third cause of deaths in NYC? That being said, with such a busy city, transit accidents can happen.

You probably don’t want to get seriously injured during your holidays, so let’s cross our fingers together!

2. Don’t just stay in Manhattan

Brooklyn bridge nyc

New York City has so many incredible neighborhoods. Each with their own vibe and list of attractions to visit so there’s no reason to stick to one place.

If looking for the best area to stay in New York, first-time visitors may decide on Manhattan due to its central location.

While it’s a fine choice, I encourage you to go out and explore places like Brooklyn and the Bronx as well!

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge, eat some pizza and explore the streets yourself. Or maybe watch a Yankees baseball game in the Bronx — there’s more to New York than Manhattan!

3. Beware of petty crimes

New York City taxis

Is New York dangerous? Overall, no. New York City is used to lots of tourists so the streets are quite safe for walking!  But just like London or Madrid, pickpocketing is quite common.

Be mindful of the items on your person while walking through busy crowds in Time Square or tight spaces in the subway.  

Another petty crime in NYC can be unmarked taxi cabs trying to scam you, which can be quiet scary! Only flag down and take rides from clearly marked yellow NYC taxis.  

Other than that, New York City is quite safe and well-policed! Just use your best judgment and you’ll have no problems.

4. Give yourself plenty of time to truly explore and appreciate the city!

New York City

When visiting New York for the first time, you’ll come with a long list of “must visit” places . The Met, Brooklyn Bridge, that fancy cronut store…the list goes on.

New York City is not a destination you can rush through. You need to slow down and savor the bustle of the city and the culture and sights surrounding you. How many days in New York is ideal? I’d say at least four full days.

To see all the hotspots and eat at every restaurant recommended by friends and Yelp, four days should give you a good overview of the city. Of course, more is always better, but time isn’t always on our side!

5. Don’t overspend on trendy restaurants!

american pizza

New York City often gets a rep of being a costly city to visit. While it may not be the most budget-conscious city, it doesn’t have to break the bank, either!

Sure, there are Michelin star restaurants and the Kardashian’s favorite spots all around but honestly the smaller mom and pop joints are so much better.

When eating in New York City, here are some great tips to eat amazing food at a lower cost:

  • Eat at the cheap pizza corner shops! Nothing tastes as good as a $1 slice of New York City pizza. Plus the carbs are the perfect fuel for all your sightseeing! (Don’t forget to fold it down the middle and shove it in your mouth — just like the New Yorkers do).
  • Adjust your meal times to coincide with happy hours! Love sushi but don’t love the price tag? Hit up the trendy rooftop sushi restaurant for an early dinner to scarf it down for half the cost.
  • Ask the restaurant if they have any lunch specials. Lots of New York City restaurants offer a combo deal around lunchtime — no harm in asking!

tips for first time visit to nyc

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tips for first time visit to nyc

Teaspoon of Adventure

21 Things to Do on a First Time Visit to New York City

New York City bagel

If you’re planning your first time visit to New York City, odds are you’re excited…but probably a little bit overwhelmed!

There’s so much to see, do and eat in New York that it can be hard to cram it all into a first time visit. I remember being so overwhelmed on my first visit to NYC in 2015 – and again in 2022 on my next visit because there’s just so much to do!

To help you prioritize, I’m sharing 21 things to include in your first time visit to New York City. Will you have time for all of them? Probably not. Will you even want to do them all? Unlikely, since everyone has different interests.

But with these 21 things, you’ll be covering some of the biggest and best highlights of the Big Apple – plus a few hidden gems!

So while you may not get to everything on my New York City bucket list – and while the city certainly has more than 21 things for you to do – this is the perfect place to start when planning your first visit to New York!

Below I’m sharing 21 things for your first time visit to New York City, plus my advice on when to go and where to stay in the city.

FIRST TIME VISIT TO NEW YORK CITY: Check out 21 things to do on your first visit to New York City, including where to stay, when to go and top tips for enjoying your first trip to NYC! #newyork #newyorkcity #nyc #travel #travelitinerary #broadway #brooklyn

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning if you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support!

Table of Contents

21 things to do on a first time visit to New York City:

PS: If you’re heading to New York for the first time, make sure to check out my New York City mistakes so you don’t mess up like I did on my first visit!

1. See a Broadway show

If you know me, you know Broadway is at the top of my New York City bucket list. In fact, I’m such a fan that Colin and I ended up seeing four shows in three days on our latest trip to New York!

The great thing about Broadway in New York City is that there’s something for everyone – whether you love big name shows, musicals, modern plays, Shakespeare, something for kids or something else entirely!

There’s also lots of ways to make theatre going accessible and more affordable. Enter lotteries, book rush tickets, take advantage of student pricing, or check out discount ticket sellers like TKTS and TodayTix .

Six on Broadway in New York City

There’s something so magical about live theatre and truly nowhere more iconic to see it than in New York City. Even if you’re seeing a show you’ve never heard of in the worst seats in the house, you can still have an amazing experience.

My current favourites are Wicked, Six and (of course) Hamilton! But truly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Broadway show I didn’t enjoy.

2. Eat New York City’s most famous cuisine: pizza & bagels

Did you even go to New York City if you didn’t eat pizza and bagels? These are two staple New York cuisine items and you don’t want to miss them on your first time visit to New York City.

The great news is that every New Yorker, and every guide book or blog post, will have a different favourite pizza joint and bagel shop. You really can’t go wrong!

On our most recent trip we enjoyed fancy bagels from Liberty Bagels and awesome bagel breakfast sandwiches from our local bodega. We also loved the pizza at Scarr’s and Motorino .

New York City bagel

3. Seek out your favourite cuisine

Of course, it’s not just about pizza and bagels in New York. NYC is home to so many incredible restaurants and food choices. Being such a multicultural city, there really is something for everyone.

So once you’ve tried the staples, seek out something off the beaten path or a personal favourite. From Little Italy to Chinatown, New York has it all!

nom wah tea parlor dim sum in chinatown new york city

As one of my favourite foods, we had to try dim sum from Nom Wah Tea Parlor – one of the oldest dim sum restaurants in the US. And for something new, we headed to Empanada Mama and were blown away by how much we loved the unique flavours in their empandas!

Check out this food tour in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen!  

4. Visit a big museum or art gallery

New York City is home to some of the most famous museums and art galleries in the world. I’m talking big names like the Natural History Museum , the Met , MoMA and the Guggenheim . And these museums are popular for a reason!

On your first time visit to New York City prioritize going to a least one big name museum or gallery to see what all the fuss is about.

fashion exhibit at the met in new york city

On our first visit to New York, we went to the Natural History Museum and were totally blown away. From dinosaurs to space, there wasn’t much this museum didn’t cover.

On our second visit, we decided to check out the Met . While I’m no artist, I loved the fashion exhibits and Ancient Egyptian relics. Both times we were overwhelmed with how much there was to see and barely scratched the surface of what the museums had to offer.

natural history museum in new york city

5. Visit a small museum or art gallery

While New York has a lot of big name museums, it also houses so many incredible smaller museums and art galleries. But just because these places are lesser known doesn’t mean they’re any less good! In fact, these hidden gems are not only top quality, they’re usually more affordable and less crowded.

On our most recent visit, we went to the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. Instead of telling you about histories of an entire population, each tour at the Tenement Museum walks you through the history of one specific family who actually lived in the very building you’re walking through.

The Tenement Museum building in new york city

Our small group tour followed the lives of two families who lived in the building back in the 1800s. Upstairs, we walked through recreated rooms of a single mother and her daughters.

We followed them downstairs to the outhouse and then headed into the saloon where another family lived. It was so interesting to step back in time and get to know a regular New York family so in-depth.

Each Tenement Museum tour follows a different family from a different time period and is done in small groups (ours had about 10-15 people).

The worst part is only being able to go on one tour, as I wanted to learn about all of the families who once called these buildings home. Truly, I could not recommend this museum enough!

PS: Visiting a lot of museums or attractions in New York City? You might want to get one of their city cards and save some money. Check out the most popular city cards :

6. Take the subway

Have you even visited New York if you haven’t rode the subway? It’s a New York institution and definitely a must for your first time visit to New York City. Even if you make some subway mistakes like we did , it’s still the best way to see the city.

The New York City subway system may seem confusing, but you can do it. Follow Google Maps, stay alert to any closures or diversions, and don’t be afraid to ask a local if you get lost or can’t figure something out.

Local tip: A native New Yorker recommended MTA.info to me for the latest on closures due to service work.

Even if you mess up a few times, you’ll still save money and get where you need to go quickly by using the subway.

new york city subway station platform

7. Stroll through Central Park

At 843 acres, would you believe Central Park is only the 5th largest park in New York City? It’s true – check this Wikipedia list . Despite coming in fifth, this urban park is still absolutely massive and a must-see for your first time visit to New York City.

On our first trip to NYC we visited the famous Bethesda Fountain and John Lennon Memorial in Central Park. On our next trip, we hung out in the park after a long visit at the Met – the perfect place to rest our legs after hours of museum stomping!

It was so nice to just sit in Central Park and watch local life go by.

Colin and Riana at Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, New York City in 2015

Besides beautiful trails, ponds and playgrounds, Central Park is also home to a zoo, carousel, restaurants and so much more. You could easily spend a whole day here!

And if you’re not sick of parks, New York has lots of other famous parks for you to enjoy like Bryant Park, Washington Square Park and Prospect Park.

Central Park, New York City

And for all of you Somebody Feed Phil fans, we found Phil and Monica’s benches! (No idea what I’m talking about? Check out some of the best travel TV shows! )

Phil and Monica's benches from Somebody Feed Phil in Central Park, New York City

8. Spend time in other boroughs (or at least outside of Midtown Manhattan)

On a first time visit to New York City, it can be tempting to spend all of your time in Midtown Manhattan. After all, that’s where so many of the big attractions are housed, like Times Square, the Empire State Building and all of Broadway.

But New York is so much more than Midtown! While there’s a lot to see there, you won’t ever really appreciate the magic of New York unless you get out of Midtown (and maybe even out of Manhattan altogether!) and explore the other neighbourhoods and boroughs.

I encourage you to find a park, museum, restaurant or even just a beautiful street in another area of New York that inspires you to visit. Spend some time away from NYC’s most popular neighbourhood and see why people really fall in love with this city.

brooklyn neighbourhood

9. Remember 9/11

*Note: Unfortunately, the 9/11 Tribute Museum closed its doors in late 2022 and is now an online educational resource. But my experience there was so impactful that I wanted to include it below. 

Of course, we all remember the tragic events that struck New York City on September 11th, 2001. While most people don’t go on vacation to relive sad events, I do think it’s important to spend some time remembering and honouring the history here.

There are two main 9/11 memorial attractions: the 9/11 Tribute Museum and the 9/11 Memorial Museum . The 9/11 Memorial Museum is the large museum at Ground Zero filled with artifacts and exhibits.

I haven’t visited this museum, but I hear it’s excellent. It’s definitely on my New York City itinerary for our next trip.

memorial pools at ground zero remembering 9/11 in new york city

However, I can definitely recommend the 9/11 Tribute Museum , which we visited in May 2022. This museum is run by the September 11 Families Association and focuses more on personal experiences of 9/11.

Everyone who volunteers at the museum is a survivor, first responder, loved one of a survivor, or otherwise connected to the Sep 11 events.

We went on a guided tour around Ground Zero with the 9/11 Tribute Museum and it was one of the most impactful and powerful tours I have ever been on.

It’s one thing to watch the videos and it’s another thing to hear the stories – it’s completely different to hear a survivor tell her story in the very spot where the South Tower stood.

tour with the 9/11 tribute museum around ground zero in new york city

Following our remarkable walking tour, we were brought back to the Tribute Museum where we could see more artifacts and exhibits. I will say, this part of the museum is not as built up; the real draw is in the tours.

We were very fortunate to catch another volunteer who was telling his story at the museum. He explained that he is a “triple” – he lost his sister in one of the towers, survived the events himself, and helped as a first responder at a local hospital.

He then shared that he now has cancer from his 9/11 experiences. To say it was powerful to hear his story would be an understatement.

10. Walk the High Line

The High Line is an elevated urban park and greenway on the west side of Manhattan – think a boardwalk lined with greenery but a few stories in the air. It’s a very cool spot for a stroll above the streets in New York City and an awesome example of how modern parks can fit into urban spaces.

That said, it’s no secret that the High Line is a cool place to be. In fact, it gets so busy that in the summer you have to make reservations to walk it during peak times.

So if you want to enjoy it without the crowds, come early! We walked the park on a Tuesday morning in May and it was perfect – not too busy or too hot.

the high line in new york city

11. Attend a sports game

I’m not the biggest sports fan but even I love going to a live game and cheering on the home team. On our first visit to New York, we saw a Mets game and even though I barely understand baseball, it was a ton of fun. We also stopped by Yankee Stadium for Colin to snap a photo.

No matter your sport of choice, New York City will likely have a team for you to cheer for.

In fact they might have two – New York is home to two major league football teams (Jets & Giants), two basketball teams (Knicks & Nets), two hockey teams (Rangers & Islanders) and two baseball teams (Mets & Yankees) – though not all of the teams play right in the city.

So if you’re looking for a sports game to attend, odds are you’ll find it in New York!

Mets baseball game in new york city in 2016

12. Take in the view from above

One of the best ways to enjoy the city is from above. A great bucket list item for your first time visit to New York City is to head to an observation deck and take in the views. Lucky for you, New York has no shortage of stunning vantage points.

There’s the classics, like the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock , and the newcomers, like Edge , SUMMIT and One World Observatory . You can head to a fancy rooftop bar or there’s also the unique and luxurious option of taking a helicopter ride over the city !

No matter your preference, you can find a way to take in the city from above.

view of new york city with the empire state building from the top of the rock at night in 2016

But it will cost you as most of these viewpoints are not cheap. But I do think they’re worth the splurge for such an iconic view. My advice would be to choose just one viewpoint to visit; if you really can’t decide, purchase a city card that includes entrance to a few of them.

When we first visited New York, we decided to visit Top of the Rock at night. We knew we wanted to visit one of the classic buildings and see the city all lit up.

But rather than go up the Empire State Building, we wanted the Empire State Building to be part of our view. It’s kind of like going to Paris and heading up the Arc du Triomphe instead of the Eiffel Tower – it’s not as famous a viewpoint but then you actually get to see the Eiffel Tower in your view!

13. (Briefly) visit Times Square

On your first time visit to New York City, you definitely have to visit Times Square. But while Times Square is an iconic part of the city – and definitely on every first time visitor’s bucket list – it’s not actually an area you will want to spend a lot of time in.

Times Square is for tourists. It’s a lot of lights and signs and people. Yes, it’s pretty impressive to see. But it’s also chaotic, loud, crowded and full of tourist traps. Any part of a city that is permanently home to mascots who make people pay for photos with them should make you run in the other direction.

Everything around Times Square is more expensive and more crowded. If you can, avoid eating here! Head a few blocks away for much better and much cheaper food.

You’ll also want to keep your wits about you as this tourist-heavy place is the perfect spot for scams and pickpocketing.

So yes, go to Times Square and take your photos. But then get out!

times square new york city

14. Attend a live TV show taping

In case you didn’t know, a lot of TV shows film in New York City! And while you probably won’t get to be an extra on Law & Order or And Just Like That unless you live in New York, you can attend a live taping of your favourite late night, morning or news show.

I haven’t done this in New York but I have done it in Toronto and Los Angeles.

In Toronto, my aunt and I attended a morning talk show, The Social, and I also went to a few tapings of So You Think You Can Dance Canada. In Los Angeles, Colin, his mom and I went to a taping of The Late Late Show With James Corden.

Every time I’ve gone to a TV show taping, it’s always been a lot of fun. You get to watch how the sausage gets made, maybe see a celebrity or two up close, and likely go home with a bit of swag!

I found this great site that lists what shows tape in New York City and your best chance to get tickets. If you’re interested, check it out!

outside the tonight show at NBC studios in new york city

15. Check out iconic NYC filming locations

Besides talk shows, you’ll know that many other TV shows and movies have filmed and currently film in New York City.

If you’re a big movie buff or Sex and the City or Friends fanatic, you’ll definitely want to spend some time checking out iconic filming locations around NYC.

having breakfast at tiffany's in new york city

You can go on a tour where they’ll take you to all of the sites and give you lots of behind the scenes info, or you can just seek out some of the most famous filming locations yourself.

On my first time visit to New York City, I knew I wanted to take a photo outside of Serendipity Cafe and another one out front of Tiffany’s . We also headed to Bethesda Fountain in Central Park – the inspiration for the fountain in the opening credits of Friends.

Still on my NYC bucket list is checking out the brownstone that was Carrie’s apartment in Sex and the City and the stairs from the Friends’ apartment building .

16. Visit Wall Street

Even if you’re not an investment banker or day trader, you’ll want to spend a bit of time on Wall Street on your first visit to New York. It’s cool to see the New York Stock Exchange in person, if only from the outside of the building, and watch all the important people walk through to make the big bucks.

NYSE new york stock exchange in new york city

Right nearby the NYSE is Trinity Church . This iconic and beautiful church was first constructed in the 1600’s, but has gone through a few reconstructions since then.

Thanks to the popularity of the musical Hamilton, many people now know that Alexander Hamilton, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, Angelica Schuyler Church, and Philip Hamilton are all buried there. The church was also used as a refuge for first responders during 9/11.

Trinity Church in New York City

While down by Wall Street, you’ll also want to visit the Charging Bull , the 7000 lb bronze bull statue that has come to represent the financial district.

Push your way through the other tourists to pose next to the bull and maybe rub certain parts of him for luck. And if you’re looking for Fearless Girl , the statue that was installed in front of the bull in 2017, she’s been moved to outside the New York Stock Exchange.

17. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge

One of the most well known shots of New York City is through the wires and arches of the Brooklyn Bridge. This iconic bridge not only connects two of New York’s busiest hubs – Manhattan and Brooklyn – but it has also been featured in many TV shows and movies.

Brooklyn Bridge, New York City

The nice thing about the Brooklyn Bridge is it’s a completely free attraction! You (plus all the other tourists and daily commuters) can stroll across the 1.8 mile long bridge without paying a cent.

It’s a nice stroll, and offers lots of photo opportunities, but try not to get in the way of busy New Yorkers just trying to get to work.

Once on the other side, take your time exploring Brooklyn. Walk along the Brooklyn Bridge Park Piers, check out the neighbourhood homes and shops, and definitely stop for some famous Brooklyn pizza!

When you’re done in Brooklyn you can walk the bridge back or, if your feet hurt, jump on a ferry or the subway back to Manhattan.

Brooklyn Bridge, New York City

18. Say hi to the Statue of Liberty

No first time visit to New York City is complete without seeing the Statue of Liberty, one of the icons of the Big Apple. Depending on your interest and budget, you can catch a glimpse of Lady Liberty for free or go on a longer tour to see her up close and learn more about immigration to America.

On our first visit to New York, we were happy to just see the Statue of Liberty. And so we boarded the free Staten Island Ferry from Manhattan and hung out on the deck to see her from the water.

Once in Staten Island, we walked off the ferry and right back on to return to Manhattan. It was a fun way to see the statue and get on the water – all for free!

Take the Staten Island Ferry from Manhattan to Staten Island to see the Statue of Liberty for free

But on our next visit, we wanted to know a bit more. We were actually more interested in visiting Ellis Island and learning about immigration to the US; seeing the Statue of Liberty was just a bonus.

So we headed out with Statue City Cruise Line to visit both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

tour guide on liberty island with statue of liberty in new york city

On Liberty Island we did a complimentary tour with a park ranger to learn more about the statue, why she is turning green and why they had to remake her torch. I won’t spoil it for you – you’ll just have to take the tour!

Next we sailed onto Ellis Island and did an incredible audio tour through the Immigration Museum, walking in the steps of immigrants to the US. It was really well done and I only wish we had given ourselves more time to explore the rest of the exhibits.

19. Walk through Grand Central Terminal (not Grand Central Station!)

A lot of people know that New York City is home to Grand Central Station. But did you know that it’s actually called Grand Central Terminal? Yup, we’ve been saying it wrong all this time!

Odds are as you’re transiting through the city, you’ll end up changing trains at Grand Central. Take some time to explore the National Historic Landmark while you’re there and see why it’s so iconic.

Stand in the Main Concourse, which you’ll likely recognize from TV shows and movies, appreciate the architecture, and grab a meal at one of the food halls or restaurants.

And don’t miss the Whispering Gallery . We tried it on our first trip to New York and it really worked!

grand central terminal main concourse

20. Read a book at the New York Public Library

Despite having visited New York a few times now, I still have not made it inside the New York Public Library. And as someone who loves to read , this is a real shame!

But even if you’re not a reader, you should check out this famous library for its beautiful design and architecture.

new york public library

The main branch of the NYPL is actually called the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, but is commonly referred to as just the New York Public Library or the Main Branch.

From the iconic lions outside, you’ll likely recognize this National Historic Landmark from the many film and TV shows it appears in. I also recently read a book set in the library, which has me excited to go back to New York and see it again!

Inside you’ll discover the beautiful Reading Room and over 2.5 million volumes to choose from. You might also want to recreate Carrie and Big’s wedding from the Sex and the City movie, which (almost) took place at this famous library!

reading room inside the new york public library

21. Hang out around Rockefeller Center

Last but not least, a first time visit to New York City is not complete without a trip to Rockefeller Center. Rockefeller Center is actually comprised of 19 buildings, most of which were designed in the Art Deco style, and are now considered New York City landmarks.

If you’re visiting in the winter, you have to stop by Rockefeller Center to see their famous Christmas tree. Since 1933, a large (up to 100 feet tall!) Christmas tree has been put up over the holiday season, with the tree lighting now broadcast on TV.

You can also go for a few laps around the Rockefeller Center ice rink in the winter!

If you’re not in New York for the holidays, you can still enjoy other attractions at Rockefeller Center such as seeing a show at Radio City Music Hall or taking in the view from the Top of the Rock .

rockefeller center with christmas tree in new york city

How long do you need for a first time visit to New York City?

I think 5 days is the perfect length for a first time visit to New York City. You won’t run out of things to do and will have enough time to get a good taste for the city.

Of course, you could spend weeks or even months in New York and still have plenty on your itinerary. And if you can only spare 2-3 days, it’s still worth a trip to New York!

new york city skyline

How much money do you need per day in New York?

Of course, this will vary depending on the type of traveller you are. While New York City is not a cheap place to visit, there are lots of things you can do on a budget. Save money in New York by staying farther outside the city, visiting free attractions and eating cheap food.

I would say a comfortable budget for a couple visiting New York City would look like $150-300/night for accommodation, $150/day for food and $100+/day for attractions.

Again, those numbers will vary hugely depending on your travel style! If you stay at a hostel, spend your days at Central Park and eat $1 pizza, you can likely budget less than $50/person/day.

But if you are staying at a five star hotel, going to Michelin star restaurants and sitting in the front row of a Broadway theatre every night, you’ll need a lot more.

six on broadway marquee in new york city

What is the best time to visit New York City?

I think the best time to visit New York City is spring. New York has beautiful cherry blossom blooms and great weather during the spring months.

When we visited in May 2022, the weather was perfect and the crowds weren’t too huge. Fall would be another beautiful time with the changing leaves and agreeable weather.

Of course, winter is a pretty iconic time of year to visit New York City. You can see the big Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, skate on the ice rink and watch the ball drop in Times Square.

But it’s also a very cold time of year to visit, which may not be a nice impression for your first time visit to New York City. It may also be crowded, as you’re not the only tourist who has Times Square for New Year’s Eve on their bucket list.

Personally, I would avoid coming to New York City in the summer. My first time visit to New York City was in August 2015 and I just found it way too hot!

While much of the city is air conditioned, like the subway cars and museums, walking around is still going to be gross. Plus, way too many tourists flock to NYC in the summer so not only will it be hot, it will be crowded!

iced coffee in central park in spring in new york city with cherry blossoms

Where is the best place to stay in New York City?

The best place to stay in New York City depends on your budget. If you can afford to stay in Manhattan, go for it!

I’ve never prioritized it in my budget, but if I did, I’d try to stay in Chelsea, which seems like a very cool and central area. You could also be trendy and stay in Williamsburg or like Gossip Girl, and stay on the Upper East Side.

If your budget prefers you to stay outside of Manhattan, look at a neighbouring borough that is affordable with easy transit connections into the city.

Room at the Lotus BLU Inn & Suites - Long Island City, New York City

On our May 2022 trip to New York, we stayed in Queens at the Lotus BLU Inn & Suites – Long Island City . It was affordable (on sale for $100 USD/night), an easy transit ride into the city (less than 10 minute walk to two subway lines), and an easy transit ride to LaGuardia Airport.

Plus the room was spacious and clean, wifi worked well and they held our bags for us after we checked out. No complaints and I would stay there again on a future trip to New York!

new york city skyline from liberty island

What’s the best way to see New York City?

The best way to see New York City is to walk (if you’re able to). New York is one of the best cities to explore on foot and truly the only way to really experience the city like a local.

Of course, there’s a lot of ground to cover in New York, so definitely rely on the expansive transit system to get you from one neighbourhood to the next. Then, once you’re there, set out on foot to see New York.

Conclusion: My top 3 tips for a first time visit to New York City

Colin and Riana selfie on a boat with New York City skyline in the background

Tip #1: Be aware

With more than 8 million residents and 65 million people visiting each year, New York City is a busy place! So if you’re not used to the fast pace of a busy city, it can be a little bit overwhelming.

You need to be aware of yourself and be aware of your surroundings. That extra level of awareness will help you stay safe and stay out of the way of busy New Yorkers!

Tip #2: Walk as much as you can

The best way to experience New York City is on two feet. I know that’s not always possible, but as much as you can, try to enjoy New York on the ground.

It can be tempting to just jump on the subway or into a taxi to get from place to place but make time to just walk around a neighbourhood. That’s how you’ll get the best feel for the city and start to fall in love with it like the locals do.

Tip #3: Slow down and enjoy

As you can tell from this itinerary list, there is A LOT to do in New York City! And even though I suggest these 21 things for your first trip, there’s no way you’ll have time to see, do and eat everything you want in just one trip to the Big Apple.

But that’s the joy of visiting NYC – there’s always something to come back for. So don’t worry about seeing and doing absolutely everything on your first time visit to New York City. Slow down, enjoy yourself and save something for your second trip!

All right, I want to know: What’s on your NYC bucket list? Or, if you’ve already been, what would you recommend to first time visitors? And don’t miss my New York mistakes so you don’t mess up like I did!

Share my 21 things to do on a first time visit to New York City! 

FIRST TIME VISIT TO NEW YORK CITY: Check out 21 things to do on your first visit to New York City, including where to stay, when to go and top tips for enjoying your first trip to NYC! #newyork #newyorkcity #nyc #travel #travelitinerary #broadway #brooklyn

Riana Ang-Canning is a travel writer who has been sharing her global adventures as the founder of Teaspoon of Adventure since 2012. In that time, Riana has travelled to almost 50 countries on 6 continents, including interning in Eswatini, working in Tokyo, road tripping New Zealand and living abroad in Prague. Riana helps everyday travellers discover the world on a mid-budget, proving that you don't have to be athletic, wealthy or nomadic to have an adventure!

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I love the creative energy of NYC. Great list of things to do–it’s making me want to visit again!

Thanks so much!

This is a great itinerary for New York City! I (Kellye) am bookmarking it for reference when we can finally get to New York. Thanks for posting this, Riana. It’s very helpful!

Thanks, Kellye! I hope you make it to New York City one day soon!

New York is awesome. Love that place. Thanks for the tips.

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Plan, Ready, Go®

1 Day in NYC: Must-do’s for First-timers + Interactive Map

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Only have one day in New York ? Maximize your visit with my itinerary created especially for NYC first-time visitors . I have visited New York City several times. During my last two trips, I was accompanied by people visiting for the first time.

I recommend spending at least four days in NYC . However, even one day can give you a taste of this top travel destination.

Key Things to Know

  • Don’t miss the Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 Memorial, or Central Park for a mix of history and iconic landmarks.
  • Maximize your time by using the subway for faster (cheap) travel between Manhattan’s attractions. Or walk!
  • This itinerary is completely customizable to your particular interests and the exact amount of time you have in New York City.

Statue of Liberty in front of the New York City skyline

This post includes affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.  See disclaimer.

One day in New York itinerary 

9/11 memorial (and museum).

9/11 Memorial | Closest subway stops: WTC–Cortland St (1) and Cortland Street (R, W)  

Start your day by spending your morning in Lower Manhattan. 

In my opinion, your one-day NYC itinerary should absolutely include the 9/11 Memorial. It’s one of my favorite free things to do in New York City .   

The terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001, which destroyed the Twin Towers, forever changed the city and the United States. In fact, it’s one of the most moving and beautiful memorials that I have ever had the privilege of seeing. The 9/11 Memorial typically is open to the public all day every day. 

Optional: The 9/11 Memorial Museum is at the same location. Though I haven’t had the privilege of seeing it, I’ve heard great things. There is a charge for admission to the museum.

9/11 Memorial pool in New York City showing names engraved in bronze with buildings and trees in the background.

Statue of Liberty 

Ferry from Manhattan departs from Battery Park | Subway stops: South Ferry Station (1), Whitehall Street (R), Bowling Green (4, 5)  

In my opinion, your New York City itinerary must include the Statue of Liberty, my absolute favorite place in the city.

Buy your tickets ahead of time onlin e, especially if you want to climb up to the crown. When available, those tickets can sell out weeks or even months in advance.    

Even if you don’t want to go up onto the pedestal or the crown of the Statue of Liberty, you can purchase a general admission ticket to enjoy the cruise over to Liberty Island (with great views of both Lady Liberty and Lower Manhattan). You can visit the new museum and walk around the monument’s exterior.

 If you only have a day in New York I recommend skipping a visit to Ellis Island even though it’s included in your ticket. 

More things to do on a day trip to New York City

  • Explore NYC with a sightseeing helicopter tour over Manhattan .
  • Pay a visit to the top of One World Observatory with this skip-the-line ticket .
  • If you’re staying the night in New York, consider this sunset cruise in New York Harbor.

PRO TIP: If you have flexible travel dates you need to check out Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights). You get amazing flight deals sent straight to your inbox with instructions on how to book directly with the airlines. Check out Going here. Going is my favorite way to find great travel deals. 

Lunch options: where to eat 

By the time you finish your visit to the Statue of Liberty, you’ll likely be ready for a bite to eat. The Crown Café offers a wide variety of burgers, salads, and sandwiches. Their menu includes vegetarian options as well as several items that can be made gluten-free upon request. 

Battery Park (where you’ll disembark from your cruise to Liberty Island) is a great picnic spot. You can grab a cheap lunch from a food truck or assemble a picnic from a nearby market.

If a restaurant is more what you’re looking for, wander into the Financial District where you’ll find a variety of popular eateries for all budgets. 

TIP: Keep track of all of your important travel details with a digital travel planner like this .

Empire State Building 

20 West 34 Street | Subway stop: 34 St–Herald Square (B, D, F, M, N, Q, R, W), 33 St (M)  

Many believe visiting the Empire State Building is a must on their trip to New York City.

I will admit right now that in all my NYC trips, I’ve only ever admired this iconic structure from the ground.  I do not like heights, nor do I generally pay money to stand atop them. But you who are not afraid of heights can go as high as the 102nd floor. The main observation deck is on the 86th floor.   

Time-saving tip: Upgrade your Empire State Building ticket to get skip-the-line access.

As an alternative, save the Empire State Building for after dinner, or even enjoy dinner at the State Grill and Bar.  

New York City skyline with the Empire State Building.

Times Square 

Subway stop: Times Square–42 Street (N, Q, R, S, W, 1, 2, 3, 7)   

You’ve seen it in movies and TV shows. Of all the places to visit in New York City, it’s hard to think of anything else that’s more New York than Times Square. Soak it in, take a few photos, and wander through so you can say you’ve been there (it’s great at night also). Maybe even buy a cheap souvenir T-shirt or stop in at M&M’s World.  

Times Square is just a 15-minute walk from the Empire State Building.  

tall building in New York City with a sculpture in front

Rockefeller Center 

Between 49th and 51st Streets between Fifth and Sixth Avenues | Subway stop: 47-50 Streets Rockefeller Center (B, D, F, M), 49 Street (N, R, W)  

A 10-minute walk from Times Square will take you to Rockefeller Center. It’s a New York City landmark that includes 30 Rockefeller Plaza (NBC Studios), Radio City Music Hall, and more.

In addition to some great shopping and dining, you can take a guided tour of Rockefeller Center, go to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck , skate at the Rink, and more.     

If you’re feeling snackish, I recommend stopping at Magnolia Bakery for something yummy.  

Grab your Top of the Rock ticket here.

Central Park 

From North 110th Street to Central Park South (59th Street), and from Central Park West (8th Avenue) to 5th Ave | Subway stops: There are several subway stops around the perimeter of the park including 5th Ave/59 Street (N, R, W), 59 Street/Columbus Circle (A, B, C, D, 1), Central Park North (2, 3), and 6 stops on the west side of the park.  

Central Park is so quintessentially New York that you absolutely need to make time in your itinerary to see it even if only spending one day in New York.

Now, keep in mind that this park is huge. I mean it. Central Park covers 1.3 square miles (840 acres) of Manhattan. You could easily spend an entire day just exploring this place.  

To start I’d suggest looking at a map of the park and choosing a few things you want to see. This might be the Central Park Zoo, the Alice in Wonderland Statue, Belvedere Castle, or the Conservatory Water (where you can rent a model boat to sail on the pond).   

The southeast corner of Central Park is just a 15-minute walk from Rockefeller Center. If you want to walk all the way to the Conservatory Water and the Alice in Wonderland Statue, expect a walk of closer to 30 minutes.

Time-saving Tip: Instead of walking to Central Park from Rockefeller Center, jump in a NYC cab.

Interactive map

Click on the yellow pins on the map below to see more information about each stop on your itinerary. To see this map in your Google account just tap on the little star next to the map name.

Ways to modify this itinerary

With only one day in NYC, there are an incredible number of ways you could spend your time. Here are a few ways you could modify this one-day itinerary to fit your particular interests. It’s important that you get to see the things you want.

  • Take the subway to Brooklyn then walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, enjoying your view of the Manhattan skyline.
  • Enjoy a tour of either or both of two of the premier art museums in the world, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and/or the Museum of Modern Art.
  • Explore Greenwich Village, Soho, and other iconic neighborhoods.
  • End your day with a Broadway show.

View of Washington Square arch from below.

Short half-day itinerary for NYC

Even if you don’t have a full day or 24 hours to spend in New York City, you can still see a few of the major highlights. Here are a few options:

  • Focus on one area such as Lower Manhattan, grabbing a view of Brooklyn Bridge, followed by the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.
  • Explore the Empire State Building, Times Square, and Rockefeller Center, and then stroll up to Central Park if time allows.
  • Get the best of New York’s top art museums at The Met, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Guggenheim.

New York 1-day tours

Want to see the best of New York in a day, but rather leave the planning to someone else? Leave the planning to an expert tour guide.

  • Pack the very best of NYC into one day with this highly rate expert guided tour . See New York’s major landmarks in only 6 hours.
  • Go beyond Manhattan’s major tourist sites with this tour of Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, Harlem, and Coney Island .

Where to stay

If you’re thinking about spending more than a day in New York, you might be overwhelmed by the many hotel options.

Here are my recommendations for where to stay in New York City: 

  • Hyatt Place Midtown South (52 West 36th Street): We loved staying at this hotel. It’s just two blocks from the Empire State Building and just around the corner from the 34th Street – Herald Square subway stop. Book Now  
  • For a more boutique-style accommodation try Archer Hotel New York (45 West 38th Street). Book Now

How to get around

I say this so often, but I will continue to say it over and over: use your feet and the subway.

I’m serious about the subway. You’ll get where you want to go cheaper than Uber or taxis and of course much faster than walking especially when traveling from one area of Manhattan to another.  You can find subway maps on the MTA website .

Taxis are a fine option for getting around New York City especially if you are in a time crunch or are going someplace that just doesn’t have an easy subway route or a nearby stop.

The bottom line

There are so many amazing things you could fill your day with in NYC that you can’t possibly see as much as you would like, BUT you can see the best of the best. From historical monuments to stunning views from the best observatories in the world, you almost can’t go wrong with how you spend your day here.

More articles about New York

  • The essential overnight packing list
  • Free things to do in NYC
  • Must-do things in New York for first-timers
  • The top day trips from NYC
  • Scenic drives in New York state

Pin this post!  

One day in New York itinerary

Darcy Vierow is a busy professional and travel planning expert with years of experience maximizing travel with limited time and on a less-than-average salary. Her tips have been published by Forbes, MSN.com, Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Finance, Aol, Newsbreak and GOBankingRates. Read more about Darcy Vierow .

Can’t wait great job

Great article, Darcy! You have prepared an amazing one-day itinerary for people vising NYC along with some great tips to commute within the city. Subways are indeed the best way to get around the whole city. However, if the time permits, why not go sailing as well? After seeing the city on foot all day, one can relax on a sailboat and enjoy the skyline. Several companies offer rental for 2-3 hours including sunset cruises overlooking Manhattan. Book beforehand to get the best deals.

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A beginner's guide to New York City: Everything you need to know for your first trip

Laura Motta

Heading to New York City for the first time? It can be intimidating, thinking about the city's size and scale, its complex transportation system and nonstop crowds. But don't worry: We're here to help. Below, you'll find our guide to making sense of the city, and structuring your trip like a pro.

Here's what you must do on your first trip to New York City .

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter .

See a Broadway show

(Photo by alanamckinney7/Twenty20)

There are few more iconic symbols of New York City than the bright lights of Broadway . Sure, the touring companies of big Broadway shows come to cities across the United States. But seeing a musical or a play on Broadway itself is different, and is worth your time and money. Nowhere else will you see the caliber of performances, or the polish and spectacle that you'll find in New York City.

Visit Playbill's web site for help choosing a show, and be sure to download the TKTS app. The famous red booth in Times Square sells discounted tickets for same-day performances, and the app can give you a heads up about what's available, and how long you'll wait for tickets.

And, a tip for the adventurous: When choosing a show, don't be afraid to try something new. Choose a play or a musical that you've never heard of, or would not be able to see back home. You may discover the next "Hamilton."

Related: 6 reasons to love New York, according to New Yorkers

Take to the water

(Photo by javan/Twenty20)

Given the height of the skyline and the density of its structures, it's sometimes hard to remember that Manhattan is an island and that all five of New York City's boroughs are situated on the water.

Get a sense of the city's dramatic scale by stepping away from it and onto a boat. There are dozens of ways to do this, from spendy private charters to cheap water taxis, but the easiest is to take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry — one of the city's great, and truly free attractions. The view of the Statue of Liberty alone makes this trip worth it. (Remember, you won't get the perspective afforded by distance when you visit and climb the statue, which sits more or less by itself on federally-owned Liberty Island.)

In summer, we also recommend North River Lobster Company, a "floating lobster shack" that sets sail from Manhattan's Pier 81 from Thursday to Sunday. There's also Grand Banks, a restaurant and oyster bar on a historic schooner. It doesn't actually sail, but is docked in a prime spot on the Hudson River.

Related: 10 most Instagrammable spots in New York City

Get out of Manhattan

(Photo by gregory.cuesta/Twenty20)

Too many first-time visitors to New York City focus all of their energy on its most famous borough. You should go there, of course — it's nearly unavoidable — but save some of your time for Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. These "outer boroughs" are where you'll discover excellent food, busy neighborhoods, countless small museums and galleries, live music, all of the city's major sports stadiums and an endless parade of city life.

Our advice? Pick one or two spots and dedicate time to explore. You'll never see all of New York City in a single visit, so prioritize wisely. We recommend:

Coney Island: Gritty and a little faded, this seaside escape is heady with nostalgia. Think: vintage amusement park rides, a wide boardwalk and stands hawking everything from hotdogs to hats.

Fort Greene: Blocks of elegant brownstones, independent shops, Michelin-starred restaurants, world-class arts organizations and one giant basketball stadium. No neighborhood in Brooklyn embodies the borough's variety (and its many complexities and contradictions) like this one.

Long Island City: This somewhat remote waterfront neighborhood in Queens is home to heavy-hitting museums, including MoMA-affiliated PS1, the Museum of the Moving Image, and the art-filled studio of Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi.

Jackson Heights: A neighborhood of immigrants since the 1960s, this is where many families of Indian, Colombian, Bangladeshi, Tibetan and Ecuadorian origin call home. Come here to experience this incredible mix of cultures through food, markets and shops.

Williamsburg: If you want to try to understand the conversation around gentrification in New York's boroughs, head to Williamsburg. What was an affordable, residential hamlet due east of Manhattan has become, in the last two decades, the home of luxury hotels, big-brand stores and multimillion-dollar apartments. Still, the area has somehow managed to retain some of its creative sensibility. Street art, cozy bars and live music still thrive here.

Related: Best New York City activities for families

Ride the subway

(Photo by NAO/Twenty20)

New York City's spiderweb of subway lines might seem intimidating at first, but mastering it, often, means mastering the city itself. Plus, taxis and rideshares can get stuck in New York's infamous traffic, adding lots of time to your journey. They also get expensive very quickly, especially if you're traveling solo or as a duo, and they won't give you a sense of the city the way the subway will.

Whether it's dancers doing flips across your car for tips, or the endless fashion show of New Yorkers on their way to work, parties and dinner, the subway provides some of the best people-watching you'll ever experience.

Download a map to your phone — the official MTA app is good for tracking service changes that could affect your trip — purchase a pass that includes multiple or unlimited rides for maximum flexibility and go. Google Maps' directions tool is a must-use when it comes to using the subway, whether you're visiting for a weekend or you've lived there for a decade.

Related: Everything you need to know about getting around New York City

But also, walk

(Photo by likeamacheen/Twenty20)

The best way to really appreciate New York City is to put on your most comfortable shoes and walk its streets. Remember, exploring this destination is all about what you stumble upon — an amazing ice cream stand, a shop selling bespoke hats, a basement-level bar behind an unmarked door. You might never find any of these things if you're darting around in subways or taxis.

Many travelers don't come equipped for walking and are surprised by the amount of it they can do (and will want to do) once they arrive. This is why pacing yourself in the city is critical. So is staying hydrated, stopping for breaks and planning your days so that you'll visit a group of nearby attractions all at once.

The most important thing to remember when walking in New York City? Have a back-up plan. You may walk out to a site or attraction only to find that you're too tired to walk back. This is when a ride-hailing app or a subway card comes in handy.

And a word about those comfortable shoes for the fashion-conscious. Once upon a time, comfortable footwear was a tourist hallmark and something that would single you out in any New York City neighborhood. Now? It's just what everyone is wearing.

See an incredible view … once

In a city known for the nonstop drive and ambition of its citizens, it's no wonder that climbing very tall buildings — not exactly in a single bound, but close — is a popular thing to do here for visitors.

There are high-in-the-sky observatories at the Empire State Building, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, One World Trade Center and at Hudson Yards , which is now home to the tallest outdoor observation deck in the Western Hemisphere. Plus, there are countless other rooftop bars and restaurants. Our advice? Pick one.

Related: Things every teen should do in New York

Focus on things you can only do in New York

Recent years have brought hordes of chain stores and bank branches to New York City. Their appearance is the cause of much-heated debate among New Yorkers: Are they ruining the city with their sameness, or are they a natural result of the city's ever-growing wealth?

Before you stop into Sephora in Times Square or drop into the Apple Store in Soho, take a minute to make your own decision.

Our perspective on this is simple: Why go on vacation to do things you could do at home? Take a minute to find and visit New York City's many independent businesses and shops. The things you find there will give you stories to tell, introduce you to new artists and makers of all stripes and give you bragging rights back home.

Plan ahead for meals, and keep it varied

(Photo by dillman346/Twenty20)

Yes, you can find a cheap slice of pizza on every other block in Manhattan , but that doesn't mean you should have it for every meal.

If you're craving the best of New York's culinary scene , do your research. Many of the city's best and best-known restaurants require advance reservations, enforce strict dress codes or have quirky policies like cash-only payment.

It's also smart to consider when restaurants will be crowded. A general rule of thumb in New York is that the busiest dining hours are from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., and during weekend brunch, typically from noon to 4 p.m. Avoiding those dining times can mean getting a reservation at an otherwise booked establishment, or just having a more peaceful meal.

And of course, some of the city's best eats can't be found in any sit-down restaurant. Whether you're in search of perfect samosas, falafel, banh mi or roasted peanuts, street carts and stands are a great way to supplement sit-down meals.

But what about Times Square?

(Photo by boneman/Twenty20)

There's no shortage of opinions about Times Square. It's clogged with crowds. There's nothing to do there. The stores are corny and corporate.

To some degree, all of those concepts ring true, especially for locals and travelers who've spent a lot of time in the city. But that doesn't mean you should fully steer clear of Times Square, or that it's a soulless wasteland or that you're not a savvy traveler if you enjoy its chaotic energy.

This neighborhood is, after all, home to some of the best live theater in the world. Its character — bright as day at midnight, forever flashing with digital screens and advertisements — is part of New York City's fabric.

It's where thousands of people ring in the New Year each year, where the Beatles performed on "Ed Sullivan," where Carole King and Neil Diamond wrote songs and where nearly 50 million people visit each year. It's more than OK to count yourself among them.

Feature photo by datsmrjones2u/Twenty20.

Suitcase and Heels

20+ Tips for Your First Visit to New York City

February 25, 2023 | North America , Travel Tips by Melissa Hogan | New York • USA | 1 Comment

tips for first time visit to nyc

So you’ve decided to plan your first trip to New  York… yay! It’s one of my favourite cities and I love the energy there. But it can definitely be overwhelming. So Many People. So. Many. Things. To. Do.

After nine visits, I’ve figured out a few things though. I sometimes wish I could go back to my 2007 NYC-newbie self and give her a few pointers to smooth out the path.

The next best thing? I’m going to give my pointers to you!

  • Travel tips for New York first timers!

Table of Contents

Don’t get into an empty subway car

2. pick the right shoes, how to give a cab directions, 4. learn the sidewalk etiquette, 5. cross the street like a pro, 6. plan downtime, don’t stay in times square, 8. visit times square, but don’t linger, 9. see a broadway show, but don’t pay full price, 10. take a free walking tour, 11. don’t snooze on the museums, 12. visit top of the rock instead of the empire state building, 13. walk the brooklyn bridge but start in brooklyn, 14. be prepared for some grime, 15. use the bathroom every time you’re in a restaurant, 16. look for free things to do, 17. only use bank atms, 18. eat local, 19. use a crossbody bag with a zip, book your trip to new york, related posts.

Times Square subway

1. Transit: Don’t be afraid of the subway.

New York traffic is the stuff of nightmares. So in the name of all things holy, do not rent a car if you’re visiting the city. You’ll get caught in traffic jams and have to remortgage your house to just afford parking. So not worth it.

Instead, get familiar with public transit, mainly the subway. Sure, it might be hot in the summer but there’s no more efficient way to get most places you want to go. You might try to be brave and walk everywhere but you’ll regret that decision after a day or two. Trust me, you’ll do enough walking, even with the subway.

If you’d asked me before 2019 about the best tickets or cards to get for the New York subway, I would’ve pointed you to the 7-day unlimited MetroCard or the pay-per-ride card. But there’s a new kid in town.

The simplest method for paying for public transit now is OMNY – New York’s contactless fare payment system. There’s no app to download. No card to load up with cash. Just tap your smartphone (with digital wallet enabled), a wearable, or a contactless credit or debit card on the OMNY reader and you’re good to go. 

They cap the fares for frequent riders. When you take 12 OMNY trips with the same device or bank card in a calendar week (12 a.m. on Monday and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday. ), you’ll automatically ride free for the rest of the week. Otherwise, it’s $2.75/ride.

This tip deserves its only little section. It’s that important. Do not get into an empty subway car. Ever. There’s always a very good reason that it’s empty. Typically it’s because the AC is broken or because there’s some foul odor or an unstable individual riding that you don’t want to be alone with. Follow the crowd on this one.

For your days of exploring, think comfort, comfort, comfort. Leave the heels for dinner or a show. Or if you really need them for a photo, throw them in your bag. You’ll have no trouble getting your 10,000 daily steps in New York.

Make sure your shoes are broken in and you’re confident they won’t rub and give you blisters. Made that mistake on my first trip. If you end up like I did there’s a CVS on every other corner that can sell you blister pads, polysporin, and Advil but I still don’t recommend it.

You don’t have to sacrifice your style though. Sneakers have been a staple in every fashion girl’s wardrobe for years now. If you can get your hands on a pair of Adidas Sambas you’ll not only be the envy of the fashion crowd, your feet won’t be in agony by the end of the day. In general, a slim white sneaker will go with everything you might pack for your trip to New York .

3. Learn the grid system

In the majority of Manhattan the streets will follow a grid system (that gets thrown out the window south of Houston Street but that’s when Google Maps is your friend). Avenues run north-south with numbers that increase from east to west. Eg. 1st Avenue is closest to the East River and Brooklyn while 11th Avenue is closest to the Hudson River and New Jersey. Street run east-west with numbers that increase from south to north. Eg. 1st Street is just outside the boundaries of the Lower East Side while 145th Street is up in Hamilton Heights in Harlem.

It’s not uncommon to get turned around when coming out of a subway station so my go-to is to just start walking and take a look at the street signs, you’ll figure out if you’re heading the right direction before long.

Instead of giving an exact street address, in New York, you refer to the cross streets. For instance, if I wanted to hop in a cab and head to Pod 51 which is at 230 E 51st St (and has a great rooftop bar) I would ask them to drop me at 51st between 2nd and 3rd. Or alternatively I might ask to be dropped at the closest corner. Since most Manhattan streets are one-way, alternating direction every block I’d pick the one that was closest to the way I wanted to go. If was coming from uptown to the Pod I’d ask to be dropped at 51st and 2nd, while if I was coming from downtown I’d probably go with 51st and 3rd.

tips for first time visit to nyc

Things move fast in New York, and that includes pedestrians on sidewalks. It can be really tempting to slow down and take it all in or to stop for photos, but if you’re not careful, it’s a surefire way to piss people off.

Think of Manhattan sidewalks like a highway. Slow lanes to the right, closest to the buildings, fast lanes to the curb. If you want to stop, tuck in somewhere out of the way (next to sign posts, against a wall, etc.) and not in the direct path of walkers.

It’s ok to walk two abreast but if you’re in a group, don’t bunch up and hog the whole sidewalk, especially if you’re not hustling.

Might as well keep going with the traffic and transit theme… if you want to know how to tip people off that you’re a tourist? Wait for the walk sign to cross the street. Instead, locals will stand off the sidewalk, in the street, and watch for a gap in traffic. When they’re confident they won’t get smoked, they motor. They’ve got places to be and things to do. Even if the walk sign is on you’ll still need to look both ways and be especially careful crossing bike paths.

There is so much happening in New York that you’ll never see it all, so don’t try. Especially on your first visit. It’s so tempting to pack your days full of activities. It’s exactly what I did on my first trip. Five days in, I was exhausted and short-tempered. Don’t do what I did. Make sure that you give yourself ample downtime each day. That could be just sitting in a park and people watching or grabbing a coffee from a boutique cafe or even taking a nap back in your hotel. New York is a marathon, not a sprint.

Library Hotel, New York | SuitcaseandHeels.com

7. Book your accommodations far in advance

There’s no getting around it, New York is an expensive city to visit. You may be the kind of traveler who wants to wing it rather than planning an itinerary, but this isn’t the place to leave your accommodations until the last minute. Not unless you want to pay a premium. So as soon as you know the dates you’ll be visiting, book a place to stay. You can look for hotels that have generous cancellation policies in case something changes.

Keep in mind that short-term vacation rentals, like AirBnB, are prohibited in New York City. You’ll still be able to find them on rental sites but they are technically illegal rentals, so keep that in mind and look for a hotel instead.

First timers to New York always gravitate to Times Square but I’m here to tell you, it’s not where you’ll want to stay. While there are some nice boutique hotels like the Casablanca Hotel nearby, the general chaos of Times Square doesn’t lead to a great vacation. Trying to wheel your suitcase through the throngs of people makes it a no for me.

Instead, try getting outside of Manhattan. You’ll likely find more affordable accommodations a little further afield as well. On my most recent trip to New York I stayed at The Local in Queens and it was only 3 stops from Grand Central Station. Convenient, affordable, and not a zoo of people. Brooklyn also has some really excellent boutique hotels and is a cool borough.

Times Square chaos

As much as I’d recommend you not stay in Times Square, if it’s your first time in New York City, it’s still worth a look. Just be prepared for sidewalks crammed with people, a lot of lights, an overwhelming number of glowing billboards, tourist trap souvenir shops, and people dressed in costume who all want your money for a photo. It’s a bit of pandemonium but at least you’ve seen it with your own eyes…and move on.

Come From Away

There are few places on Earth like Broadway. Even if you don’t think you’re a theatre person you owe it to yourself to see a show. There’s always big production musicals like Hamliton, The Book of Mormon, or Wicked and straight plays starring at least one name you’ve seen on TV or in the movies. While it will be hard to get any discounts on the most popular shows, you can always check the discount list on Playbill.com or head to the TKTS booth in Times Square. They sell same-day discount tickets and inventory can vary. You’ll need to purchase in-person and there’s always a line. A discount’s a discount. You can also try the TodayTix.com app, which won’t tell you which seats you’ve booked until you’ve paid but has better prices than the box office. Finally, you can try your luck at the BroadwayDirect lottery. A limited number of steeply discounted tickets are available for each show. If your name is drawn you’ll have a set amount of time to purchase your tickets. Think $35 tickets.

tips for first time visit to nyc

One of my favourite things to do in new places is to take walking tours. Whether it’s a general tour to get familiar with a place or something more specific like a street art tour or a history tour, they’re a great way to explore and meet people. Believe it or not, there are several free(ish) options available in New York. The (ish) is there because, while there’s no set ticket price, the idea is that you’ll tip your guide at the end of the tour with whatever you think the tour was worth to you (typically $20-$40). There’s no obligation and you can just walk away at the end but that’s not a great look. Guides will work hard to show you a good tour and rely on tips. Whether it’s the Lower East Side, Harlem, DUMBO, or Grand Central Station, pick a neighbourhood and get walking.

Meet the Met | SuitcaseandHeels.com

On a hot New York summer day, take refuge inside a cool, climate controlled museum. The city has over 145 museums so there will be something that will tickle your fancy. My go-tos for first visits are The Met , MOMA, and The Museum of Natural History – all world-class with amazing artwork, historical artifacts, and so many learning opportunities. If you’ve never stood next to a 70 million year old T-rex skeleton or wandered into an Egyptian temple or scrutinized the brushstrokes on a Van Gogh original, you need to get to a New York museum. The museums are big so I recommend planning on spending at least half a day in whichever one you choose. You can book guides to give you a condensed tour or use apps for a DIY approach to hit up your must-sees, or just wander at will and take it all in.

Visiting the Empire State Building is iconic. You’ve probably seen it in countless movies. So it’s natural to want to visit and I think visiting at least one really tall building in the city is a must. But you know what will be missing from your photos if you’re at the top of the Empire State Building? Yep… the iconic landmark itself. So I recommend booking a ticket to visit Top of the Rock, 70 floors above Rockefeller Centre, instead. It’s a bit less crowded than the Empire State Building and you’ll get those same breathtaking city views, but this time you’ll get that classic New York landmark in your photos.

tips for first time visit to nyc

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is one of those NYC moments I think everyone should have on their first visit to the city. The bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world when it opened 140 years ago and it’s just as magnificent today. It’s fun, free, and gives you great skyline views. Unless you want to walk the length of it twice (for a 3.6km roundtrip), my top tip is to take the A/C/F subway to High Street station in Brooklyn and start there. That way you’ll have the Manhattan skyline in your view the whole walk. Look for the Washington Street stairs by Prospect Street. You’ll walk under the onramp and in the middle of the underpass you’ll see the opening for the stairs. When you get to the top of the stairs, make sure to watch out for fast-moving bicyclists. Then veer left to stay on the pedestrian side of the path. Enjoy.

New York is many things, but clean is not one of them. Come prepared with wet wipes and hand sanitizer. It’s a city of 8 million people so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that you’re going to find garbage, dirt, and weird smells. Touching anything in the subway is like shaking hands with 10,000 people.

Hotel Elysee, New York | SuitcaseandHeels.com

Public washrooms in New York City are about as rare as hen’s teeth. So be sure to use the facilities every time you sit down to have a meal. If you find yourself in need otherwise, look for a coffee shop or cafe and buy something since washrooms are typically for customers only. You can try a Starbucks but cleanliness is quite hit or miss.

One of my tricks is also to walk into the lobby of a larger hotel like I belong there or I’m a guest. These types of hotels typically have washrooms on the main floor, though there’s a chance they could be locked. So try this trick at your own risk. Worst thing staff will say is no.You can also download the Flush app to help you find public washrooms, like the one in Bryan Park (which even has its own Atlas Obscura entry ).

New York is an expensive city so it’s always a good budget-stretcher to look for some free things to do in the city. I love just wandering the streets and exploring neighbourhoods or people watching in Central Park. But there are others things you can do without forking over cash. Brooklyn Brewery has free tours on Sundays. Art galleries in Chelsea will often dish out free wine and cheese while you browse artwork. A number of museums have free admission times as well. You may even be able to snag free tickets to see a taping of a big network show like Saturday Night Live. You’ll be surprised at how much you can find when you look.

Unless you want to play fast and loose with identity theft, only use ATMs located inside banks. While that random machine in the back of the bodega or dive bar might seem convenient, keep on walking. Instead look for a Bank of America, Chase, TD, or a Wells Fargo.

Rainbow Bagels in Brooklyn | Suitcaseandheels.com

There are over 25,000 restaurants in New York City. While it would take you over almost 23 years to try each one, you deserve to experiment beyond the big chains like McDonald’s, Olive Garden, or TGIFridays. You’ll be able to find a locally owned restaurant instead that serves up anything you can think of. Want amazing vegan food? Done. Mouthwatering pizza? Done. How about a restaurant that serves 14 kinds of mac ‘n cheese or over 20 flavours of rice pudding? Done! Do yourself a favour and skip the chains, even for your morning coffee.

Just be sure to look for the sheet up paper that should be pasted by the entrance from the Health Department. Only eat at places that score an A grade.

While I don’t believe that New York is inherently any less safe than any other major city you still need to use some common sense. Don’t walk through parks at night. Be aware of your surroundings. All of that stuff. I would also recommend that you take some caution when choosing your travel handbag. I prefer to use a crossbody (harder to snatch) with a zip (harder to pickpocket). I especially love my PacSafe bags because they’re loaded with safety features like a slash-proof strap, locks, and an RFID-blocking pocket. Though a simple zipped bag will be just fine. When you’re somewhere crowded keep your hand on it and keep it in front of you and you should leave the city with everything you brought there.

Injured foot in NYC | SuitcaseandHeels.com

20. Don’t go without travel insurance

You might think you’re healthy and a safety-conscious person so why would you need to spend money on travel insurance? You never know what can happen and having insurance is just a smart, responsible thing to do. I didn’t expect to need to visit urgent care for stitches in NYC or to see an orthopedist in Austin but it happened. I was so glad to have my insurance so I knew it wasn’t going to be a big bill when I got home. I’ve heard too many stories of travel friends who’ve had unexpected accidents or came down with an illness like appendicitis while traveling abroad. And with the price of American health care, you don’t want to roll the dice for the sake of $50 or $100 for coverage.

Aren’t you so glad you have finally made it to the bottom of these NYC travel tips? I know that planning your first trip to New York can be really overwhelming so I hope that these travel tips have helped make the process and your vacation a little easier. I hope that these New York City travel tips help you have the most amazing time in the city!

Book Your Flight

Find a cheap flight by using Expedia . It's one of my favourite search engines because it allows you to search for and compare flights from multiple airlines.

Book Your Accommodations

You can book your hotel with Booking.com as they have the most comprehensive inventory so they are best for booking a hotel. If you want to stay in a vacation rental or cottage in New York, use VRBO to find the perfect place for the whole family.

Book Your Car Rental

New York City has extensive transit so a rental isn't necessary. But if you want to see beyond the city, be sure to book your car rental with Discover Cars early.

Book Your Travel Insurance

While New York is generally a safe city for tourists, you never know when something could happen. Be prepared with travel insurance from SafetyWing . Travel insurance has certainly saved my butt before.

New York

February 28th, 2023 at 7:23 am ( # )

Plan ahead: Research the attractions and events you want to see, and make a rough itinerary.

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Melissa

Hi, I'm Melissa! I'm a web designer and digital marketer by trade, a newbie gardener, a shoe lover and a travel junkie. The travel bug hit me hard in 2012 and, ever since, I've been attempting to make the most of it while still working 9-5.

I want to inspire you to get out there and see the world, push your own limits and look good while doing it.

It’s been a summer of adventures! On July 8th my friend @pierretrowbridge and I launched @stjohnswalkingtours and it’s been quite the emotional roller coaster but so fun. We saw that St. John’s didn’t have the traditional type of walking tour we’re used to seeing on our travels so we decided to change that! . With Pierre’s research and storytelling skills he’s a natural tour guide and when you throw in my marketing and tech skills we make a pretty stellar team. . To date we’ve taken folks from 7 countries, 16 states, and 9 provinces on walks in our stunning,

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About Melissa Hogan

I'm a web designer by trade, a one-time amateur bellydancer, a shoe lover and a travel junkie. The travel bug has only hit me hard in recent years but I'm attempting to make the most of it while still working 9-5.

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tips for first time visit to nyc

Girl Eat World

A girl's adventure in food and travel around the world, new york itinerary: an efficient plan for first timers in new york city.

New York City – A city that is amazing, endearing yet overwhelming all at once. As a first-time visitor to this amazing place, I can understand how intimidating planning for your NYC trip can be with so many activities and places to check out.

So, I’ve put together an efficient NYC itinerary that is easy to follow for you, whether you’re spending just a weekend in NYC, or a whole week or even more.

Tips for visiting NYC for the first time

How to get to manhattan from the airport.

  • Taking public transportation in NYC

How much time should I spend in NYC?

When is the best time to visit nyc, where to stay in nyc.

  • Day 1: The New York Essentials
  • Day 2: Midtown

Day 3: Museums and Central Park

  • Day 4: Brooklyn, DUMBO, and Lower East Side

Other things you can do in NYC

  • Where to eat in NYC
  • Is getting the New York Pass worth it?

New York City

1. Get a travel pass to save money! There are many things to visit and do in NYC, which means you’ll spend money on those activities. Getting a travel pass could ease the pain! Here are a few travel passes you can consider:

  • New York Pass by Go City – This is an all-inclusive pass that allows you to visit as many attractions as possible during the duration of your pass. I’d recommend this if you’re an active traveler who wants to do everything
  • Go City New York Explorer Pass – On the other hand, if you want to take a slower approach and only want to visit select attractions, this is the pass for you. Explorer pass allows you to get discounts on selected attractions.

I will go over in detail whether it’s worth it to get these passes in the “ Is getting a travel pass worth it in New York? “ section below. Or, you can see attractions included in the passes to determine whether it’s something you want to do.

➡️ Book in advance for New York Pass holders: If you are going during the peak holiday season (such as the June-July summer holidays), an advanced booking is still required on top of buying the pass, because some attractions are popular and might sell out.

2. Get the 7-day unlimited Metro pass or pay with OMNY  – The easiest and most cost-effective way to get around NYC is by using public transport, or more specifically the subway. Read more on this in the public transportation section below!

3. Download the CityMapper App  – the subway will sometimes have route diversion, outage, or just simply not running on certain days. It helps to have CityMapper handy as the app will warn you of these disruptions.

4. Download the NYC Google Maps to your phone – by this, I don’t just mean download the Google Maps app. You can download the whole NYC map to your phone so you can peruse the map when you don’t have data connections (you’ll lose connections in certain spots while taking the subway). You’ll also use less mobile data when browsing the maps! Here is how to download Maps to your phone .

5. Wear comfortable shoes meant for walking  – I averaged 22,000 steps a day for the entire week I was in NYC. If it sounds like a lot, that’s because it IS! So when I say comfortable shoes, I don’t mean any flat shoes, I mean REAL comfortable shoes made for walking. I stupidly wore my Superga sneakers thinking I’d be okay… but by day 3, my feet were so swollen and in pain that I had to buy emergency walking shoes – a pair of Puma trainers with proper cushions for my sore feet.

6. Learn about the local quirks – Jaywalking, neighborhood nicknames, why the city steams, how to pronounce “Houston” (it’s not like the city in Texas!)… I wrote an entire blog post with stories from my trip to NYC . Check it out!

Steaming NYC

7. Learn how to tip the American way  – yes, I know, the tipping culture in the US baffles every visitor. It’s confusing! But, you don’t want to shortchange someone just because you disagree with this social norm. The most common instance where you’ll need to tip is when eating at a restaurant. The general rule of thumb is to tip 20% for average service, 25% for great service, and 30% for exceptional service. You don’t need to tip at establishments where the food is not served to you. Fast food, bakeries, bodega, or dessert places are examples of these establishments, but it certainly would be nice if you felt the staff did an exceptional job. You also don’t need to tip ride-sharing drivers (but again, it is always nice to), but you must tip taxi drivers.

8. Prices do not include sales tax – If you go to a store to buy something, be mindful that the price you see does not include tax. It will be added when you pay at the cashier. This applies to tours and tickets too! But you might be happy to know that clothing and shoes below US$100 are not subject to sales tax, so the price you see is what you’ll pay for those items.

9. Learn the Manhattan grid system and areas – Manhattan contains 214 numbered east-west streets ranging from 1st to 228th, ascending from south to north. Generally speaking, Manhattan is divided into three parts:

  • Uptown is anything north of 59th Street
  • Midtown is from 14th to 59th Street
  • Downtown is anything south of 14th Street.

Then, the areas are further divided into neighborhoods with funky abbreviations, as I’ve talked about in my stories from my trip to NYC . I recommend watching this Manhattan Grid youtube video by Bright Trip to understand Manhattan better.

10. “Downtown” and “Uptown” can also refer to the direction of travel. For example, you’ll say the train is going uptown if it’s going north, and downtown if it’s going south.

11. Wise Card worked super well in NYC – as well as the rest of the US, really. If you’re an international visitor like myself, definitely get yourself a Wise Debit Card . You’ll save the foreign transaction fee with it. I never had to use cash when I was in NYC and San Francisco !

Getting to Manhattan from the airport greatly depends on where you’re staying in Manhattan and which airport you’re coming from.

View of Manhattan from SQ22 flight

1. From Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

You could take public transport all the way to Manhattan, but I find it is easier to take Uber or Lyft from the EWR airport to Newark Penn Station . From Newark Penn Station, you can either:

  • If you’re staying in Lower Manhattan , take the PATH train to World Trade Center, or
  • If you’re staying in Midtown , take the NEC/NJCL train to Penn Station on 34th Street

Take whichever option is closest to your accommodation. Then you can resume via Metro to your accommodation. The last time I did this, it cost me US$21 for the Uber ride and US$2.75 to take the PATH train. Relatively affordable compared to other costs in NYC!

NYC Path Train

2. From John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

If you’re flying to JFK Airport, you can consider the following options:

  • If you’re staying in Midtown , you’ll want to take the AirTrain Red (US$ 8.25) to Jamaica Station and switch to Long Island Rail Road to Penn Station or Grand Central.
  • If you’re staying in Lower Manhattan , you can take Airtrain Green and switch to A train at Howard Beach Station.

Again, take whichever option is closest to your accommodation. Then you can resume via Metro to your actual accommodation.

How to take Public Transportation in NYC

NYC is a city with amazing connectivity – their public transportation will take you to most places. The subway is the best way to get around NYC, but you could take the bus, Taxi, or Uber. But of course, if your main concern is saving money, you’ll want to take the public transportation.

🚌 Tip: The Big Bus hop-on hop-off 1-day ticket (worth $60) is included in the New York Pass

NYC Subway

Here are your options to pay for public transportation in NYC as a short-term tourist:

  • Single-fare ticket / Pay-per-ride ($2.90 per ride) – A subway ride in NYC costs $2.90 per ride regardless of distance, which I think is quite pricey. That’s why when my 7-day pass ran out, I mostly walked on foot unless I was going somewhere far that was worthwhile for a subway ride. You can simply tap any contactless credit card at the turnstile, or purchase a ticket at a ticket vending machine in any subway station.
  • 7-day Unlimited ride using MetroCard ($33) – You can buy the MetroCard from the vending machine at any subway station, which you can then reload. A 7-day unlimited Metro pass ($33 per 7 days) costs $33.
  • Contactless payment with OMNY (capped to $33 from Mon-Sun) – With this method, you get to use your contactless debit or credit card using OMNY – No additional actions are required on your part, just tap the card at the turnstile! OMNY stands for One Metro New York, the MTA’s answer for contactless payment. You simply use whatever contactless payment method that you’re already using on the OMNY reader (be it ApplePay, Google Pay, etc). When you use this method, you will not pay more than $33 in total fares from Monday and Sunday – it’s capped at $33!

Unlimited MetroCard vs OMNY: Which one should I use for taking the subway in NYC?

If you think you’ll be taking less than 12 subway rides during your time in NYC, then any of the above methods work. You can buy a single-ride ticket or you can use OMNY.

But, if you have decided that you’ll be taking more than 12 subway rides during your stay in NYC, you might be wondering… which payment method should you use? The answer is: It depends on exactly how long you’ll be in NYC, the device you have, how much you plan to take public transportation, and your personal preference!

So here’s the deal – OMNY and the 7-day unlimited metro costs the same at $33, but look closer and you’ll notice that OMNY is capped only from Monday to Sunday, while the unlimited metro card is good for the next 7 days after activation.

The seven-day period for OMNY weekly cap begins at midnight on Monday and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday. Unlimited MetroCards expire at midnight on the 7th (or 30th) day from the day you activated it, regardless of the time you activated the card on the first day. For example, whether you bought and activated the unlimited card by taking a subway ride at 3 pm or 11 pm on Monday, then your card will expire on Sunday at midnight.

Here are some tips to help you decide:

  • First of all, contactless payment with the OMNY method requires you to either have a card that can do a contactless payment or a smart device that is compatible with contactless pay, such as an iPhone, Apple Watch, or Android phone. If you do not have these devices, then you’ll be better off buying the unlimited MetroCard.
  • If you’re arriving in the latter half of the week (say Thursday or Friday), and you’re planning to do more than 12 rides within 7 days, then go with the 7-day Unlimited MetroCard. Given that each ride already costs $2.90, you just need to take the subway more than 12 times to make it worth it – that’s less than twice a day, and trust me, you’ll ride the subway more than that.
  • If you’re arriving earlier in the week (Monday – Wed) and plan to do more than 12 rides within 7 days, then go ahead and use OMNY!
  • OMNY method is more restrictive in terms of the weekly cap, but it’s way more convenient to use, as you do not need to fuss with yet another card – you can just use your phone or smart watch to tap into the subway.
  • The unlimited MetroCard is refillable. Don’t throw away your card after you’re done using it, because you can always reload the card! Otherwise, you’ll have to pay $1 for a new card.

If it’s your first time in NYC and you want to see everything possible, I recommend spending at least 4 days here. There are so many things to see and do in NYC! I have stayed here for a week and still didn’t run out of things to do.

Generally, Spring and Fall are great times to be in NYC. Summer could get hot and humid and Winter can get very cold. I think April and May or September to November are all great times to visit NYC. I visited NYC in May and September and can vouch that the weather was great in those months.

However, if you’re a fan of the Christmas season then you’ll want to visit the city in December . The city would be decorated with beautiful lights and Christmas trees – it’s truly a magical time to be in NYC. My very first-ever visit to NYC was in December and I still fondly remember that trip, even though it was nearly 15 years ago.

Tip 💡: The holiday market tour (worth $45) and Christmas Lights walking tour ($25) are included in the New York Pass if you are visiting during the holiday season!

If it’s your first time in NYC, you’ll want to stay in Manhattan – it will make your life so much easier. However, accommodations in Manhattan tend to be more expensive.

If you want to save some money, you could stay off Manhattan and stay in Brooklyn, but you’ll probably spend more time and money commuting. It’s up to you which pro and con suits you better!

I stayed in Manhattan both times I visited NYC. Here are some hotel recommendations I’ve stayed at:

  • NoMo in SoHo – Located in SoHo, this hotel is within walking distance of many good restaurants and bars in NYC. It’s also conveniently within walking distance of many subway stations.
  • New York Hilton Midtown – I stayed here on my first-ever visit to NYC. It’s located within walking distance of Times Square, MoMA, Central Park, and best of all, right across from the OG Halal Guys cart! 😋

The NYC Itinerary Overview

OK, so we’ve talked about all the important things about visiting NYC. Time to talk about what to do in NYC!

Below I’ve arranged daily itineraries you can do in NYC. Please note: you don’t HAVE to do the itinerary in the same order as I’ve outlined below , however, I’ve grouped the activities and attractions that are close to each other so that they can be visited together. That’s why I call this my efficient NYC itinerary!

My NYC itinerary can be divided as follows:

To visualize this NYC itinerary better, I’ve created a Google Maps link that marks all the routes and landmarks I’ll mention in this blog.

Map of NYC Itinerary

🗺 Save this map to your phone!  If you are a Google user, click on the image of the map above. The map will then be saved to your “Recent” maps viewed.  Click here for instructions on how to view the map later . It will work from your phone too.

Day 1: The New York Essentials in Lower Manhattan

As a first-timer in NYC, you’ll want to start your visit by seeing all the must-see attractions. Let’s do that today! Most of the attractions of today will be located in Lower Manhattan and within walking distance of each other.

➡️ PS: The 9/11 Memorial Museum is closed on Tuesday. It’s a place you must visit if you haven’t, so I recommend doing this itinerary on other days that are not Tuesday .

1. Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

What’s a first-time visit to NYC without visiting the Statue of Liberty? Of course, this is a must! Not only do you get to see the Lady Liberty up close, but you’ll also get to take a little trip on a ferry to Ellis Island . Ellis Island was the entry point for many immigrants in the mid-1800s to early 1900s who shaped NYC into the city it is today.

Make your way to Battery Park to board the ferry, which departs every 25 minutes from 9:25 am to 4:30 pm.

NYC Itinerary - Lady Liberty

🗽 Tip: Round trip ferry ticket to Ellis Island, entry to the Statue of Liberty, and admission to the Immigration Museum (worth $24) are included in the New York Pass .

2. Charging Bull and Fearless Girl at Wall Street

Once you’re done with Ellis Island and back at Battery Park, make your way down to the edge of the Financial District to see the Charging Bull , a famous bronze statue that is an iconic symbol of Wall Street, depicting the “bull” period of the stock market which means optimism and prosperity.

This bull was first illegally dropped outside of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Wall Street by its artist, Arturo Di Monica, as part of guerilla art in 1989. The bull was then moved to its current location later that year. There is a tradition to rub the bull’s… erm, scrotum when you visit, so you’ll notice that part of the bull is lighter in color compared to the rest of its body. The statue has also been subject to vandalism, being painted blue during the financial crisis of 2008.

After the bull, you can make your way to the Fearless Girl , a statue by Kirsten Visbal to promote female empowerment, which was installed in 2017 and was originally placed facing the Charging Bull. The placement of the girl caused some controversy and complaints from Di Monica as he feels that it changed the meaning and intention behind the Charging Bull. Since then, The Fearless Girl has been temporarily moved to face the NYSE building in 2018. As of 2022, the statue is still there, but it’s unclear how long it will remain.

NYC Itinerary - NYSE Building

Right next to the girl is none other than the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) . However, there is not much you can do here aside from observing from the outside. The building is not open to the public.

2. Ground Zero, 9/11 Memorial and Museum

Tip 💡: The 9/11 museum is closed on Tuesdays!

From the statues, you can walk over to Ground Zero – the site of the 9/11 terrorist attack. Here, you can see two pools where the two World Trade Center towers used to stand, as well as a memorial that lists the names of all the victims of the September 11 terrorist attack in NYC.

The 9/11 Museum is a MUST visit. The 9/11 incident has shaped NYC (and arguably the world) today. The museum did a great job collecting photos, personal stories, and even soundbites from that day. I didn’t expect to cry in a museum, but there I was, sobbing in the middle of the memorial. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one crying.

It was difficult to go through but necessary and very highly recommended.

➡️ Tip: The 9/11 memorial, museum, and a tour are included in the New York Pass (worth $30)

3. The Oculus at One World Trade Center

Once you’re done with the museum, make your way to see The Oculus . Opened in 2016, you can’t miss this white structure from the outside as it is very eye-catching. It looks like large wings on the outside, and once inside it looks like gigantic rib cages and a spine.

The Oculus is a shopping center and a transport hub. You can go inside to take that iconic shot from the middle of the shopping center – it is truly something else.

NYC Itinerary - The Oculus at One World Trade Center

4. See the city from above

NYC is known for its iconic skyline, so as a first-time visitor, you must visit one of the skyscrapers to enjoy the view. I recommend doing this closer to sunset so that you get a nice light. Take note that you might have to reserve if you come during peak hours.

NYC Itinerary - NYC as seen from Empire State Building Observatory

There are many options if you want to see the city from above. Here are the options:

  • Empire State Building Observatory – This building needs no introduction, it’s the most iconic building in NYC. You have the option to go to the 86th floor or go even higher to the 102nd floor (though I think 86th is enough). Tickets cost $44-77 depending on which floor you want to go to.
  • Top of The Rock Observatory at Rockefeller Center – Tickets cost $40. I think this is the best option to see NYC from above!
  • One World Observatory – Tickets cost $53-63 depending on the package you choose. This observatory is the highest point in NYC, located on the 100-102nd floor of One World Trade Center.
  • Edge in Hudson Yards – Tickets start from $38-42. This is one of the newer buildings in NYC.
  • Summit One Vanderbilt – The only one on this list not covered by New York Pass . But you can still get your ticket ahead of time here for cheaper. Tickets for adults start at $39-45 via the online website, but they will add tax and processing fees and vary depending on the day and time of day. So it’s still a few dollars cheaper to book through my link .

For this itinerary, One World Observatory is the most convenient as you would already be in the area (It’s right on top of the World Trade Center). But I think Top of The Rock has the best view – you can see the Empire State Building and the entirety of Central Park from here!

Tip 💡: If you’re having issues choosing, you could consider getting New York Pass because ALL of the options above, except Summit One, are included in the New York Pass . You can visit even all of them if you want!

Day 2: New York Landmarks in Midtown

On this itinerary, you’ll get to explore Midtown, which as the name might have implied… is the middle part of Manhattan, between Downtown and Uptown.

Generally speaking, Midtown is from anywhere between 14th to 59th Street. And you bet there is a lot to do here! You’ll be walking plenty, so definitely put on your most comfortable shoes.

1. Best of NYC Cruise

The Best of NYC Cruise is a 2.5-hour cruise that loops around the entire Manhattan island, starting from Pier 83 . They have 4 cruise times a day, at 10 am, 12 pm, 1:30 pm, and 3:30 pm. During the cruise, you’ll see many of New York’s most famous landmarks, including a few that are out of the way and first-time visitors wouldn’t normally see, like the Yankee Stadium. It’s a great way to kick off a busy day!

💡 Tip: The cruise is included in New York Pass (worth $40-46)

2. The Vessel

After the tour, take a walk down to The Vessel – one of the newer attractions in NYC, built as part of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project. A few years ago, you would have seen The Vessel all over Instagram, with its unique architecture that resembles a honeycomb.

The Vessel from afar

You can access the ground level of The Vessel for free on Monday through Saturday 10am-8pm and Sunday 11am-7pm, with no reservation required ( check the opening time here ).

Inside The Vessel

Unfortunately, the other levels of the Vessel are not open to the public due to suicide cases that have happened too frequently since its opening in 2019 and again after it tried to reopen in 2021.

If you want to see the city from above, this is another chance! Edge is an observatory with 360 views from the 100th floor, which also includes an outdoor sky deck. It is one of the newer observatories in the city.

💡 Tip: Admission to Edge (worth $38-42) is included in the New York Pass

4. High Line Park

The High Line Park is a scenic 2.3km elevated trail built on a former New York Central Railroad.

From Edge, the entrance to High Line Park is just a short walk away. You can enter the High Line park from the very beginning near the W 34 St & 12 Ave corner , or if you don’t want to start from the very beginning, you can enter from the entrance next to the Bloomberg Building which would also be very convenient from the Edge.

NYC itinerary - View from Highline Park

The elevated platform means it’s possible to have a nice peaceful walk through the city. For once, I was able to walk around in NYC without the anxiety that some biker is going to run me over or piss someone off for not knowing how to walk like a New Yorker .

Walking from one end of the High Line park to the other should take about 20 minutes.

🚶🏻‍♀️ Tip: Highline & Chelsea walking tour (worth $39) is included in the New York Pass

5. Chelsea Market

The High Line park goes over the Chelsea Market, so as soon as you see signs for Chelsea Market you can follow it down for some good food.

And it’s time for lunch! There are many options at Chelsea Market, but a crowd’s favorite is Los Tacos No. 1 . I can definitely vouch that it’s worth a visit! You can read more about it in my food recommendations below.

Los Tacos No. 1

6. Iconic buildings in Manhattan

After you’re done exploring Chelsea Market, walk over to the west side of Midtown, which should take about 20 minutes. Architecture buffs would be ecstatic about this part of the itinerary! I’ll highlight three of the most popular buildings in NYC if you want to check them out, and in this exact order, for more efficient use of your time:

  • Flatiron Building – You should already be familiar with this building. The name of this building gives away its shape – sharp triangular, like a flat iron.
  • Chrysler Building – One of NYC’s Art Deco skyscrapers with a distinctly pointed spire and arched crown. I was especially fond of this building as it is the location of one of my favorite video games – Parasite Eve.
  • Empire State Building – This 102-story Art Deco skyscraper is a cultural icon that has appeared in many classic movies, most notably in the 1930s King Kong movie where Kong climbed the building.

💡 Tip: If you’d like to go up to the Empire State Building, admission to the observatory (worth $44) is included in the New York Pass

7. Grand Central Terminal

From the Empire State Building, The Grand Central Terminal is a mere few blocks away. Grand Central Terminal is a recognized National Historic Landmark. There are tons of things to see here, but here are my favorites:

  • Main Concourse – Look up and you will see the 12 constellations painted in gold leaf on a Tiffany blue background. You can also check out the Apple store on the east balcony if you’re an Apple fan, it is one of their most unique store locations.
  • The Whispering Gallery – The ceramic arches next to Grand Central Oyster Bar are an acoustic phenomenon that will let you talk to other people on the opposite ends of the corner. Try it out with a friend!

After checking out the whispering gallery, you can go to Grand Central Oyster Bar for some Clam Chowder. It is the oldest restaurant in Grand Central. At the dining concourse, there are plenty of food options too! You can get a burger from Shake Shack or try Magnolia Bakery ‘s famous banana pudding.

Click here for more things to do at Grand Central Terminal.

NYC itinerary - Central Park

Now that you’ve done all the New York City essentials and must-sees, I thought it would be fun to highlight yet another different side of the city. We’ll be visiting a few notable museums today. You’ll still be walking a lot, but at a more chilled-out pace than the other days. Most of these museums are located in the upper east side, in the vicinity of Central Park, on a stretch of fifth avenue called “ Museum Mile “.

I’ll be recommending some museums to visit today, but of course, you can feel free to only go to the ones that interest you! While visiting all of them is possible, it would be quite a rushed visit to do in one day. Also, take notes on the days the museums are closed. Museums in NYC are ususally closed for one day in the middle of the week.

1. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (The Guggenheim)

Closure Day: The Guggenheim is closed on Tuesdays

If you appreciate modern, contemporary art and architecture, you’ll want to start your day at The Guggenheim. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, it has one of the most unique museum designs, spiraling upward in a cylindrical building, with artwork lining up the walls as you continue to walk up.

Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim isn’t a big museum and there aren’t many permanent collections, so be sure to check what’s on view to see if it interests you. I think the museum is worth checking out once for its unique architecture.

🏛 Tip: Admission to Guggenheim Museum (worth $25) is included in the New York Pass

2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met)

Closure Day: The Met is closed on Wednesdays

Just down the street from The Guggenheim is a name you should already be familiar with. The Met is known around the world not just for its annual star-studded Met Gala, but also for housing over two million artworks.

I loved everything about this museum, especially the area that houses the Temple of Dendur . This area was formerly called the Sackler wing, but the name was removed after the Sackler family’s role in making OxyContin addiction widespread in the US came to light. But the fact remains that it is such a beautiful, photogenic, and serene space.

NYC itinerary - The Met

And if it’s a good day, don’t miss The Cantor Roof Garden Bar on the rooftop!

3. American Museum of Natural History

If you are interested in this museum and you’re coming from the Met, I recommend walking through Central Park from the Met and visiting Belvedere Castle on the way (see my map itinerary!)

Those of you who are interested in dinosaur fossils (real ones!), animals, and gems could spend all day here. Take note that the museum is open every day from 10 am to 5:30 pm .

🏛 Tip: Admission to the American Museum of Natural History (worth $23) is included in the New York Pass

4. New-York Historical Society

Closure Day: The New-York Historical Society is closed on Mondays

So I have a confession to make… I haven’t actually been to the Museum of Natural History, partially because of New-York Historical Society.

You see, on my last visit to NYC, I was well on my way to visit the Museum of Natural History. New-York Historical Society is located right next to the Museum of Natural History. In my jetlagged state, I walked into the New-York Historical Society and paid for the ticket, thinking it was the Museum of Natural History (even though I knew there is supposed to be a very prominent dinosaur bone in the lobby!). I realized my mistake way too late and went along with it anyway.

A Picasso Tapestry at NY Historical Society Museum

And I’m so glad I made that mistake! New-York Historical Society exceeded my expectations in many ways. There were so many interesting arts and paintings related to New York City, but the standouts for me were the replica of the oval room of the White House, the Picasso Tapestry, and the large collection of breathtakingly beautiful and very priceless Tiffany lamps, made by Tiffany Studios (yes, THAT Tiffany).

Gorgeous Tiffany Lamps at NY Historical Society Museum

If you can, please make time for the museum tour at 2 PM . I got there just in time to join the tour and it greatly enhanced my experience visiting the museum.

🏛 Tip: Admission to the New-York Historical Society (worth $22) is included in the New York Pass

5. Central Park

The museums are already on the fringe of Central Park, so I don’t need to tell you how to get there. Central Park is a massive park in the middle of Manhattan. And allegedly, it is the most filmed location in the world!

NYC itinerary - Central Park

There are tons of things to do here and the park is massive, but here are a few things I think are worth checking out at the park:

  • Sakura / Cherry Blossom Trees – If you’re visiting NYC in April or May, you will be interested in viewing the beautiful Cherry Blossom trees, because they will be in full bloom. Here is where to find the cherry blossom trees in Central Park .
  • Bethesda Terrace – One of the many architectural features in Central Park. I’m a huge fan of the ceramic tiles that form a pattern on the ceiling of the terrace.

NYC itinerary - Bethesda Terrace in Central Park

  • John Lennon tribute – In the eastern part of Central Park is a small tribute to John Lennon. You can start at the Dakota Apartments on 72nd Street, where he lived with Yoko Ono. It was at the entrance to the apartment that he was killed. In front of the Dakota on the Central Park side, you’ll find the Imagine Mozaic on the floor, a tribute to Lennon’s most popular song, and Strawberry Fields, a tribute to The Beatles’ song he wrote.
  • Sheep Meadow – excellent for a picnic with friends or a solo afternoon nap

NYC itinerary - Central Park

🚲 Tip: If you have the New York Pass , a Central Park bike tour (worth $52), a walking tour (worth $27), TV & movies tour (worth $36), and a bike rental (worth $46) is already included.

6. Museum of Modern Arts (MoMA)

From Central Park, head towards the South end of the park and you’ll find MoMA just a few blocks down.

MoMA is the mother of all modern and contemporary art museums, and it’s a must-visit for all modern art fans. MoMA houses some of the most recognized artworks of our lifetime, including The Starry Night by Van Gogh, The Dance by Henri Matisse, Water Lillies by Monet, The Persistence of Memory by Dali, Campbell Soup by Andy Warhol as well as works by Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jackson Pollock.

MoMA is open every day

🏛 Tip: Admission to MoMA (worth $25) is included in the New York Pass

NYC Itinerary - Starry Night at the MOMA

7. Times Square and Broadway

Finally, when you’re done with MoMA, it’s time to walk over to Times Square at Broadway and 42nd Street. Times Square is arguably the most touristy yet must-visit site in Manhattan. Just avoid going there during New Year’s Eve, it’s just not worth it when it’s that crowded.

Times Square is better to visit at night or as the sun is about to go down so that you can see all the billboards and LED signs lit up into the night. I recommend having some hot dogs straight from the street vendors at Times Square, not necessarily for their culinary value, but more for that quintessentially New York experience. Hot dogs were brought to NYC by German immigrants, in the form of push carts in the 1860s. In NYC, the sausages used are made from all beef.

Here is a cool photo I took at (almost) the same place in Times Square, a decade apart. Can you spot some differences?

NYC Itinerary - Times Square

Times Square is also in the Theater District. You must check out some Broadway shows while you’re in the city, such as Hamilton , Lion King , Phantom of the Opera , Wicked , and Book of Mormon are some of the most popular shows.

🏛 Tip: A Broadway and Times Square walking tour (worth $39) is included in the New York Pass

NYC Itinerary - Times Square

Day 4: Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Lower East Side

Congrats! you’re pretty much almost done with all the must-sees in Manhattan. But you’re not done with New York, no! So it’s time to leave Manhattan and cross over to the other side for a more chilled-out day of arts, food, and walks by the river.

💡 Note: This itinerary is best to do on a Saturday

NYC Itinerary - Manhattan view from Brooklyn

1. Explore Williamsburg

Williamsburg is a gentrified neighborhood in Brooklyn, filled with things to do and shops to check out. You can start your way from Metropolitan Av station. Here are some recommendations on what to see and visit here.

  • Quimby’s Bookstore – Indie bookstore providing curated titles
  • The City Reliquary – A small non-profit museum where you can see memorabilia of the city. They have both permanent and rotating exhibitions. See what’s on at City Reliquary here .
  • Joe’s Pizza Mohammad Ali Mural – PS: Joe’s Pizza is also not a bad place to grab a bite unless you’re here on a Saturday in which case you’ll want to check out Smorgasburg.
  • Artists & Fleas – A marketplace for craft makers, where you can shop goods from local small businesses. Only open on weekends.
  • Smorgasburg – If you’re here on a Saturday, you might want to check out Smorgasburg , a large open-air food market that started at Williamsburg but has now opened up in many other locations in NYC.
  • Domino Park – A nice park to chill by the east river
  • Mona Lisa of Williamsburg – One of the most famous murals in Williamsburg.
  • More street art – If you are interested in street art and murals, you can see more on my NYC map .

From Williamsburg, you can continue to walk down south for 1 hour. If that sounds crazy, you could take the East River (ER) ferry from South Williamsburg to DUMBO for $2.75 and 12 minutes of your time – click here for the ferry route info . I say, take the ferry.

DUMBO is an abbreviation of “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass”. NYC is full of these amazing acronyms! You can read my NYC stories post for more NYC anecdotes like this.

In DUMBO, you must stop by to take one of these shots:

NYC Itinerary - DUMBO

It’s the spot where you can see the Manhattan Bridge, along with the Empire state building perfectly framed in one of its lower arches. There will be tons of people here, but if you come early enough in the morning then I reckon you’ll get a pretty nice photo without anyone in it.

Aside from the viewpoint, there are also plenty of places to eat at DUMBO. My recommendation is Juliana’s which is a very popular pizzeria or Shake Shack if you have yet to give it a try by now.

3. Walk on the Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan

Once you’re done exploring DUMBO, make your way to Brooklyn Bridge. If you have time, you can stroll along the river at Brooklyn Bridge Park first before going to the bridge itself. You’ll get this nice view of the Brooklyn Bridge set against Manhattan.

NYC Itinerary - Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the US, connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn. Most visitors walk or bike through the Brooklyn Bridge. You can walk across the bridge, which will take you approximately an hour, or you can rent a bike. Either way, there will be a lot of people on the walking platform!

NYC Itinerary - Brooklyn Bridge

➡️ Tip: If you have the New York Pass , a Brooklyn Bridge, and DUMBO tour (worth $35), Brooklyn Bridge Bike Rental (worth $40), and Brooklyn Bridge Walking Tour (worth $27) are already included.

4. Explore the rest of Manhattan

Once you’ve crossed the bridge, you’ll find yourself in Lower Manhattan. You can explore the rest of Manhattan according to your interest. I’ve marked a bunch of restaurants, bars, and points of interest on my NYC map . Or, read on to find more things to do in NYC below!

So you’ve combed my itinerary and have done everything you want to do in that itinerary. Well, fret not – NYC truly is a city that never sleeps. Here are a few more recommendations what you can do while in the city.

Things to do in the Lower East Side

Lower East Side is one of Manhattan’s most happening neighborhoods. Take your time to enjoy Manhattan’s best food, art, and music scene.

  • Hester Street Fair – If you are here on a Saturday, you can check out this open-air street fair, where you can hunt for vintage goodies.
  • Katz Deli – A famous deli serving Jewish American cuisine. You can read more about it in my food recommendations below.
  • The Bowery Ballroom – Fans of indie music can catch a show at this intimate venue. See what’s on at Bowery Ballroom
  • Alphabet City – This area is a small portion of the east village where the streets are named Avenue A, B, C, and D. You can find restaurants and Bars here.

NYC Itinerary - Katz Deli

More things to do and places to visit in Manhattan

  • Comedy Cellar in West Village – A comedy club in West Village. You won’t know the lineup until you show up, but many famous comedians (such as Dave Chapelle) have been known to make a surprise appearance. It’s considered to be the best comedy club in the country. Make reservations here .
  • Sleep No More in Chelsea – The ultimate immersive theater experience, based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth , that I can’t describe with words. Even if I try, you’ll likely have a different experience than me, due to the flexible “choose your own adventure” format of Sleep No More. You just have to experience it yourself and go with the flow. As it is located near Chelsea in Midtown, I would suggest fitting this on the Day 2 itinerary above. Buy tickets here .

NYC Itinerary - Sleep no more

  • Amateur night at The Apollo in Harlem – This requires traveling uptown to Harlem and only happens on Wednesdays, but it was worthwhile to make the trip out there! Similar to Comedy Cellar, you just never know which future superstar is making their debut night here, which has included names like Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonders, Lauryn Hill, and Michael Jackson & The Jackson Five. Buy tickets here .

NYC Itinerary - Apollo Theatre

  • Bohemian in NoHo – An exclusive restaurant in NoHo, located in Andy Warhol’s former studio. You can only dine here if you know the name of someone who has been here before.
  • Strand Bookstore in Union Square – A large bookstore specializing in used and rare books.
  • The Django in Lower Manhattan – A Jazz Bar in Roxy hotel. Good for drinks and live acts.
  • The Back Room – One of the original speakeasies from the prohibition era still in operation today. They serve drinks in unassuming white tea cups, just like how people used to enjoy their poison of choice back in the prohibition days!
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s at Blue Box Cafe – Fans of the jewelry brand would want to check this out. You can have high tea at a cute cafe fully decorated in that popular Tiffany Blue shade. Be sure to reserve a table here .

Other things to do in New York

  • Coney Island in Brooklyn – If you’re visiting New York during summer, you can check out Coney Island in the southwestern part of Brooklyn. It features a whimsical seaside amusement park close to the beach, with games, food, and fairs.
  • Brooklyn Bowl – A music venue combined with a bowling alley. You’ll definitely have a great time here.

Where and What to Eat in NYC

There are many good places to eat in NYC, and I enjoyed eating my way through NYC during my stay. Here are a few standouts that I truly enjoyed during my stay:

Los Tacos No.1  – Yes, I queued for this. Yes, it is located in the extremely touristy Chelsea Market. But YES, it was worth it. They only serve 4 types of tacos. I tried cactus (nopal) tacos for the first time here – while this was not my cup of tacos, I do recommend trying it at least once and highly recommend the other three tacos.

Levain Cookies  – Worth. the. damn. hype. Just go get yourself their walnut chocolate chip cookie and you can thank me later. If there is a line, don’t fret because it moves super fast… so there is no reason why you shouldn’t go! I originally planned to buy the cookies and then walk over to Central Park to eat them, but let’s be honest – they only lasted a few steps outside the bakery *mouth waters from thinking about their cookies* . The original branch is on the Upper West Side, but you can find Levain in many parts of NYC now.

Levain Cookies

Kosher American Jewish Deli – Comprising approximately 13% of NYC’s population, the Jewish community in NYC is the largest in the world outside of Israel. The Jews immigrated to NYC from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, and these immigrants created what is now known as a Jewish delicatessen (or deli for short). At these delis, you can find the classic pastrami on rye and my new-found love: Matzo ball soup, among other dishes – some of which are unique to Jewish Americans.

I became obsessed with Matzo ball soup, so I hit up as many delis as I could. Here are a few delis that I loved when I was in NYC:

  • Katz Deli (in Lower East Side) – This is the place that introduced me to Matzo ball soup, so they needed to be mentioned. The  Harry Met Sally  thing is pretty cool too, I guess 😁
  • Sarge’s Deli (in Midtown) – Out of all the Jewish delis I tried, their pastrami sandwich is the best! They also have the most homely ambiance, and their Matzo ball is pretty good.
  • 2nd Ave Deli  (in Upper East Side) – OK, by now you guys have definitely caught on that I visited all the famous delis because of my Matzo ball soup obsession… and the one at 2nd Ave Deli was my favorite Matzo ball soup out of them all. It comes with carrots! and a choice of 3 types of carbs!

NYC Itinerary - Matzo Ball Soup

Babka – A type of bread swirled with chocolate and cinnamon, popular with the Jewish community in eastern European countries. Many have said babka is the best sweet to get in NYC. Breads Bakery is a popular place to get Babka from in NYC.

The Halal Guys on 53rd and 6th  – Because you haven’t been to NYC without tasting that magical secret white sauce, made popular by none other than the New York cabbies themselves. They have carts all over the city now, but the OG one is this one on 53rd and 6th.

When I first came to New York, I stayed at the Hilton, which you can see in the background of the photo below.

NYC Itinerary - Halal guys

Each time we pass by this corner around dinner time, this one food cart would have a long line snaking out. So one night just before flying back, I decided to join the line – and then I understood why. Their gyro platter with the white and red sauce is SO delicious and relatively affordable for New York’s price. I liked it so much that I hand-carried one on a flight back to LA for my family to try!

Be careful of the red sauce – they are legit spicy.

NYC Itinerary - Halal guys

Is getting a travel pass worth it in New York?

(All currency in this calculation is in USD)

The New York Pass allows you to visit as many attractions as possible during the duration of your pass. Sounds good? Well, it depends. I would only recommend this if you’re the type of traveler who likes to move fast and want to see everything.

If you follow my itinerary above, your New York Pass utilization could look like this :

And if you decide to take the Big Bus Tour on one of the days, it would add even more to the total value of the pass to be $427. A 3-day pass costs $249 at the time of writing, so you could potentially be saving $118-178 with the New York Pass .

Of course, this is all dependent on your planning ability to use up the pass to its full potential. This is why even though the New York pass is available for up to 7 days, I can only advise getting the 3-day pass and doing as many things as possible during those days to make it truly worth it.

However, if you decide that you want to chill and only visit a few select attractions, you can consider Go City New York Explorer Pass instead. You’ll save money through this pass, provided you pick high-value attractions that cost $35 or more. The pass is good for 60 days after activation so that you can take your time!

My recommendations for such attractions:

  • Top of the Rock – $40
  • Central Park Bike Tour – $52
  • Best of NYC cruise – $47
  • The vessel – $39
  • Edge – $42
  • High Line Tour – $39

Okay, that was one long post on everything I know about NYC! I hope this post has been useful to you. And as usual, if you have any questions, please feel free to comment below.

11 Comments

  • May 23, 2024

Hi, my husband and I are going to NYC all the way from Scotland in June. We’re here for a week so hopefully we can fit everything in! Your article is amazing and we will definitely use it. Xx

  • January 2, 2024

Gratitude for the insider tips! Your advice led us to mouthwatering food and the breathtaking views from the Top of the Rock. NYC became a dream come true.

  • November 6, 2023

Great Itinerary! Found helpful. Thanks for sharing!

  • August 12, 2023

Hi Melissa! Thank you SO much for making this- it’s extremely helpful as it will be my sister and I’s first time in NY! I was wondering if you had a pdf or printable version of this?

Hey Jazmin, I don’t have a printable version but that’s a great idea – i should make one! I hope you have fun with your sister 🙂

  • May 20, 2023

Just wanted to drop a message here saying that your blog for first-time visitors of NYC has proven to be spot on. My family and I had a blast during our 4 days in The Big Apple. Many thanks!

Nico, thanks for taking the time to write this!

  • March 1, 2023

im travelling this summer and so excited to do this itinerary.. thanks a million

  • February 15, 2023

Hi! Your blog makes me want to book a flight to New York!

  • February 4, 2023

I just wanted to say this was incredibly helpful, and thank you so much for writing it! It’s been surprisingly difficult to find solid travel itineraries for NYC so I really appreciated how thorough and detailed this was. Thank you!

  • February 5, 2023

Thank you Aleesha for taking the time to write this comment. I appreciate it!

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Claudia Travels

31 tips for visiting New York City for the first time

New York City is truly one of the most exciting cities on the planet. That famous skyline, the history, the food, the shows; it’s a place unto itself, with something for everyone of nearly every age. As one of the world’s great cities and with so many things to do in New York, the city can be a bit intimidating for newbies – we’ve been there. Our ultimate guide to New York City for first timers includes no less than 31 tips to help you start spreading the news and prepare to leave – if not today then whenever you’re ready to hit the Big Apple and be a part of it.

time square and neon signs at night

Things to do in New York City for first timers

Basic nyc tips for first timers.

Let’s begin with some tried-and-true advice. Don’t think you can do it all in one visit . It ain’t gonna happen. New York City is HUGE. And it’s packed to the skyscrapers with things to see, do and experience.

Choose your activities based on the length of your stay, whether it’s a long weekend, one week, or ten days. Choose your top 5-10 activities (we’ve got tips!) and plan your schedule accordingly.

Do not overbook activities or think you can do 4 museums a day. You can’t, and even more, you shouldn’t, it’s just too much. Same is true if you’re assuming that the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island won’t take most of the day. It will if you choose to visit both attractions.

The best way to get around is by walking or by taking the subway . Purchase a reloadable Metro Card at any subway station. NYC’s subway system is convenient and cost effective. You can get anywhere you need to go via the subway and borough transit lines. The bonus? Avoiding the worst of NYC’s traffic gridlock.

Buy a CityPASS if you’re going to visit many of the city’s major attractions. It’s one of our favorite travel hacks , as the NYC CityPASS includes entry to the Met Museum, Natural History Museum, Empire State Building, 9-11 Memorial, Top of the Rock, and the Intrepid Air, Sea and Space Museum. It will save you money and help you skip the long ticket lines.

new york city subway entrance

Wear good walking shoes . On our recent visit we clocked nearly 30,000 steps per day. You will be walking to places, from places, and in places. Don’t ruin your visit by ruining your feet with bad footwear.

Book tours, hotels and shows as soon as you book your dates.  

Go see a Broadway show or play . Even if you don’t love musicals or theatre, Broadway is the best in the world. Don’t give away your shot of seeing the best there is – there’s a show for every taste.

Use the map below to search for hotel and short-term rental options

Top New York City attractions for first time visitors

Remember my advice in the first section? Depending on the amount of time you have on your first visit in NYC, choose your attractions wisely. You can’t do it all on a first time visit to the city, so pick from this list of 12 attractions for a great first taste of things to do in New York.

I can hear some of you asking, ‘ Can you combine attractions? ‘ Absolutely! You can do the Empire State Building in the morning, then visit Times Square and Rockefeller Center after lunch in the afternoon.

Be sure to stop in to Magnolia Barkery for a snack, then see a Broadway show in the evening. The option to return to Empire State to see the city lights at night is up to you.

Must see NYC attractions

The Empire State Building – This towering world icon Empire State Building offers breathtaking 360-degree, open-air views from its famous 86th floor observatory. Immersive and interactive new exhibit galleries on the second floor invite guests on a journey from the building’s construction to its current place in pop culture. If you get a CityPASS ticket , it gets you in twice. First visit during the day and again at night for incredible views of the city skyline during the evening.

lady looking out from the empire state building

Visit Times Square . It’s one of the best free things to do in New York . everyone needs to see it at least once, kitschy and crazy as it is.The center of it all. Times Square has changed a lot since we first visited in the 1980s, and for the better. It’s free and very pedestrian-oriented, which is good as it’s consistently crowded.

Go during the day and again at night if you can. Enjoy the vibe and be gobsmacked (and blinded) by the advertising and light displays. Tip: Stay away from the mascot figures roaming around the square. They’re not free and will charge for photos.

Walk through Central Park . New York City’s green heart is bordered by the expensive coops and skyscrapers of the Upper West and Upper East Sides. But anyone can enjoy a stroll through the Park for free, enjoying the playgrounds, ponds, castle, zoo, plays and attractions.

Central Park is a wonderful natural oasis. It helps visitors and residents escape from the concrete jungle that is New York City.

But wait, there’s more!

view of central park in fall

See a Broadway Show – Be sure to book tickets for a musical or play. See my tips below on how and what Broadway shows to book.

Metropolitan Museum of Art . Consistently voted as one of the top museums in the world . The Met is New York’s most visited museum and attraction. The Met presents over 5,000 years of art from every corner of the world for everyone to experience and enjoy.

If you’re visiting New York with kids , consider taking a special Fable and Lark tour of the Met to keep them engaged and having fun.

Natural History Museum . Explore human cultures, the natural world, and the universe. All with a visit to one of the world’s most famous natural history museums. Meet the Titanosaur, one of the largest dinosaurs ever discovered, in the museum’s fossil halls.

See world-renowned dioramas, the 94-foot-long blue whale, and the stunning Rose Center for Earth and Space. It features an 87-foot-diameter sphere that appears to float inside a glass cube. 

The Guggenheim – The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum celebrates 60 years as an architectural icon in 2020. Visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s “temple of spirit,” where radical art and architecture meet. Daily tours included with admission. Open seven days a week.

And we can’t forget these

9/11 Memorial & Museum . The powerful and emotional 9/11 Memorial and Museum is a somber place of respect and reflection. Experience a moment of quiet at the twin reflecting pools. Here, the names of every person who died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center are inscribed.

Examine the history and impact of the events and learn stories of loss and recovery. Note: This is an intense and emotional museum experience that may not be suitable for young children.

Rockefeller Center . John D Rockefeller was once the richest man in the world, and he built his complex in midtown Manhattan as an ode to his success. It’s the headquarters for entertainment giant NBC and many other corporations.

The Rock is also home to NYC’s famous Christmas tree, skating rink, and many other fun things to do in New York in December .

Entrance to Rockefeller Center’s Top of the Rock is included with a CityPASS. Here you can experience breathtaking 360-degree panoramic views of New York City and beyond.

Walk the High Line . New York’s newest public park is a linear one. It’s built on a 1.45-mile-long elevated rail structure running from Gansevoort St. to 34th St. on Manhattan’s West Side.

Access is free and offers a wonderful view of the Manhattan skyline and Hudson Yards. Enjoy a free guided tour or just appreciate the gardens, murals, artwork and people-watching along the route.

As if that’s not enough

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island . Get up close and personal with Lady Liberty and the beauty and history of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Both are located in New York Harbor and accessible via ferry.

statue of liberty and ellis island

You can ride the Staten Island ferry to get a view of the iconic Statue. Or book a ride with Statue or Circle Line Cruises. Explore the grounds of Liberty and Ellis Islands, stand in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, and learn about the rich history of immigration at what once was the nation’s busiest immigrant inspection station. Note: If you get off the boat to explore both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, it will take up most of one day.

Bryant Park and New York Public Library – Both of these city landmarks are free for visitors and offer different New York experiences for guests. The outdoor space of Bryant Park has chairs and amenities for visitors to enjoy at any time of year, including a Winter Village with skating rink and bumper cars on ice.

The New York Public Library is a beautiful Beaux-Arts style building with free wifi, places to sit and rest during a busy day. It also hosts free exhibitions, concerts and author talks and conversations.

Eat a street pizza, pretzel or hot dog from a vendor – I suppose this should be under food, BUT you really should eat one item from a food vendor on your visit. It’s very NYC.

bagels and food cart in new york city for first timers

How to get into New York from the airport

New York City is served by three international airports, one located in New Jersey and two located in Queens. Make sure you know which airport you’re flying into before you arrive so you can plan your route into the city.

Newark Airport

The Newark EWR Airport in New Jersey has an AirTrain that connects its terminals to the NJ transit system for a direct train into NYC Penn Station. The train is convenient, skips the street traffic and only costs $15 USD one way. It’s the best way to get into the city unless you’re traveling with a big group or lots of large luggage. Time: 30-60 minutes

I’ve taken Dial 7 car service from both La Guardia and Newark. Dial 7 is a luxury private car service that tends to be on the expensive side. But if you have a family of four or more and a lot of luggage, it may work out to be the same cost as transit for your party.

For La Guardia, there’s also the Via Rideshare service that’s partnered with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to launch “LGA Connect.” It provides travelers a ride from the airport to their destination in one of the five boroughs for a flat rate.

The program is part of the ongoing effort to alleviate airport congestion by offering convenient and affordable shared rides. Those traveling from LaGuardia to Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens will be able to get a Via for a flat rate of $15 and those traveling to Staten Island or the Bronx will be able to get a Via for $20. Time: 30-60 minutes

JFK Airport

In addition to Uber and cabs, you can get into New York City from JFK (which is in Queens) via the AirTrain from your airport terminal to Jamaica Station. From there, you can board the E train or the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) into the city. While the LIRR is slightly more expensive, it’s an express service into NYC Penn Station and will get you there a little faster than the subway. Time: 60-90 minutes

new york city subway train

Where to stay in New York City for first time visitors

We’ve stayed in a variety of neighbourhoods during our visits to New York City, including; Chelsea, the Lower East Side, Midtown, and the Upper West Side. The location choice has depended on where we need to be most of the time to minimize walking and train trips.

For first timers to the city, Midtown Manhattan is a great location for a hotel base. The area has improved a lot in terms of hotel offerings, and is very central to Broadway theatres, Times Square, Bryant Park, the New York Public Library and Rockefeller Centre, as well as close to many Metro subway lines.

Keep in mind that NYC hotels are expensive and usually small, which makes it a challenge for families. That said, you don’t go to New York to stay in your hotel room, right?

The Best Western Plus Hospitality House on West 49 th is like a renovated apartment, with breakfast included and an in-suite kitchen and living room. There’s room to move for families, just like in an apartment. It’s modest but clean and very well-located. 

We’ve also enjoyed stays at the Benjamin , Westhouse and various Moxy Hotels in the city.

Click here for more New York City hotel options.

The historic Benjamin Hotel in Midtown Manhattan is the perfect pied-à-terre for a luxury family getaway in New York City.

Top tours for first time visitors in New York City

Taking a tour is a great way for first time visitors to see the bright lights and big city that is New York. The Hop On, Hop Off bus tours are great to get a lay of the land, visit many city neighborhoods on one easy bus ride, and you can get off and on wherever you wish.  If you’re traveling with older family members, the chance to bus around town will be welcome.

There are New York City tours for every interest, taste, and budget. Got tweens and teens? Try the Ride , an immersive tour of the city with live actors, music and lots of audience interaction.

More interested in the history of the city? Take a Hamilton tour, learn about the immigrants who built New York at the Tenement Museum , or discover Hasidic Brooklyn with Tours by Frieda .

For fans of the many TV shows filmed in New York, book an On Location Tours and learn everything you wanted to know about the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Sex and the City, or Gossip Girl.

There’s the NBC Studio Tour (a must for SNL and Today Show fans), Architectural boat tours, Scott’s Pizza Tours, Disney Musical Tours, Graffiti Tours, Fable and Lark Magical Tours of the Met Museum , etc. We could go on, but you get the picture. There’s a tour for everyone.

tips for first time visit to nyc

Where to Eat in New York City

The better question is where can’t you eat? New York City is filled with restaurants, food halls and street vendors selling everything from pretzels to hot dogs to halal kebabs. You can find anything here, so we’ve listed a few of our favorites below to get you started.

For our family, a stop at Shake Shack is a must. The shakes and burgers are delicious at each location (there are many in the city). We also love popping into Joe’s Pizza in Times Square for quick slice, and Eataly in the Flatiron district for Italian fare, and cocktails on their rooftop patio and bar. Ellen’s Stardust Diner on Broadway is great, though it is very popular and has long lines for its food accompanied by musical service.

The Smith Restaurant is a popular franchise that serves good food in white bricked surroundings. It’s very family-friendly and has a great brunch. Pret a Manger cafes are everywhere and perfect for quick and healthy bites. Bare Burger offers tasty beef and vegan burgers, where one side of the menu is animal protein, while the other side is plant-based. There are also loads of good ramen places if you’re craving a simple bowl of noodle soup.

Try a New York City Food Hall

New York is also home to some fantastic food halls. The Chelsea Market in the Meatpacking District has tons of food vendors to choose from in a busy former location of the National Biscuit Company.

tips for first time visit to nyc

Turnstyle is an underground market underneath Columbus Circle. Check out the Bolivian food, vegan choices and burger joints here. Gotham West Market has fabulous pizza and ramen in Hell’s Kitchen, and is a few blocks from the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. In Midtown, check out City Kitchen at ROW NYC on the second floor, serving up donuts, lobster rolls, and more ramen.

New York City is famous for high end restaurants too. If you’ve got the budget, book a table at Babbo, Batard, any Jean-Georges, Samuelsson or Boulud restaurant in the city. 

Tip: We’re fans of the nybucketlist on Instagram. If you want to find out the latest art opening, food craze or secret speakeasy (like we did), follow this account for the latest and greatest of anything and everything in NYC.

What Broadway Shows to see in New York City

I’m a massive fan of musicals and theatre, and never miss the opportunity to see a show (or three) when I’m in New York. Any first timer should see a Broadway show too, in my humble opinion, as you’ll be watching some of the finest actors, singers and dancers on the planet. Why miss such an amazing opportunity?

If traveling with kids, check out of Broadway’s family-friendly musical shows. The Disney shows like Frozen, Lion King and Aladdin are great and highly-entertaining for all age groups. For the older kids, check out Mean Girls, Wicked, Hamilton (if you can afford it), Dear Evan Hansen and West Side Story.

For everyone else, there’s a Broadway musical or play out there for you, trust us. And if in doubt, get tickets for Come From Away, you won’t regret it.

tips for first time visit to nyc

How to Book Broadway Shows in New York

There are a number of ways to book Broadway shows. Our favorite is by booking directly online with the production and theatre if it’s a newish show, or through the free TodayTix App , which I LOVE.

With TodayTix, there’s no need to line up for tickets and waste your precious holiday time. See the App to find and pick the show, date and time, pay, and meet up with the red-jacketed Today Tix staff 30 minutes before showtime at the theatre. You can also enter ticket lotteries for same day tickets. It’s a fantastic service. You can also book show tickets via Broadway.com or Headout.com.

We’ve just scratched the gritty, gum-encrusted surface of New York City in this article. But as I’ve learned, successful visits to NYC involve taking little bites of the big apple each time you’re there. You’ll never be able to enjoy the entire thing all at once.

That’s why New York is New York.

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Plan the perfect visit to the bright lights and big city of New York with our ultimate and helpful guide packed full of 31 insider tips from a travel pro.

Disclosure: The writer thanks CityPASS for tickets that allowed entry to various attractions in New York City. As always, her opinions and love of NYC are honest and her own.

Credits: Claudia Laroye

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Visiting new york for the first time: the ultimate beginner’s guide to new york city.

Visiting New York for the first time. The ultimate beginners guide to New York City

The Impressive skyscrapers that form a fantastic skyline together, a mix of architecture where historic buildings and futuristic design go hand in hand, the city that never sleeps, … You probably already guessed it? This blog post is about New York City. There is so much to experience in this huge metropolis, that visiting New York for the first time definitely requires some preparation. To help you, I bundled all my tips in an ultimate beginner’s guide for a successful first visit to The Big Apple.

In 2022 I traveled to New York City for the second time. After 8 years I was super excited to visit this fantastic city again and especially surprised, because so much had changed. Although it was my second visit, it still felt like my first time. I had to get to know the city again. And soon New York City stole my heart once more.

Disclaimer: This blog post contains interesting affiliate links. This means that if you purchase something through my recommendations, I receive a small reward. The best part? It doesn’t cost you anything extra and it helps my blog continue to grow. A win-win situation, so thank you!

How to travel to New York City?  

Traveling to this metropolis is possible with a direct flight from Brussels Airport. There are several airlines that offer tickets to New York. If you search and compare well you can even find very affordable tickets. In barely 8.5 hours or 2 to 3 films on your airplane screen later, you reach The Big Apple.

We landed at JFK airport where we boarded a private transfer to the city center provided by the travel agency where we booked our trip. Frankly, this service was very expensive for a driver who came to pick us up 2 hours late. “Traffic,” he said. Of course, traversing New York City by car is no easy task, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. There are many other options to get to Manhattan from the various airports in New York. One of them is an external service that offers shared transfer at democratic prices

You can also travel to Manhattan from the various airports with a large shuttle bus. If you prefer a little more privacy, you can opt for the taxi. This may be a bit more expensive, but the taxis are available at all terminals at the airport itself. You don’t lose time waiting for a driver to pick you up. You do have to watch out for ‘pirate cabs’ though. These are not official taxi drivers trying to trick you into riding with them.

Traveling by train is also an option. From JFK and Newark you can reach several major train stations by train. You can also take the airtrain in JFK. This is a kind of monorail system that connects the airport to the New York subway. That way you can continue your journey by metro.

In short, there are plenty of options to travel from the airport to your destination.

How to get around in New York City ?

The yellow cabs have become one of the trademarks of New York City. They are therefore often seen as the means of transport par excellence to move through the city. The taxis are not super expensive, of course this depends on the duration of the ride. Because traffic is often congested during peak hours, the taxi is not always the most appropriate option to get around the city center quickly. Taxis can be hailed all over the city if they are not occupied. You can see this by the light.

You can also use an uber. Unlike a taxi, an uber has a fixed price. But I’ve heard several times that this price can be high, especially during peak hours.

Go underground

The subway is a fast and cheap way to move around the city. The cheapest method of using the metro is to buy a reloadable ‘Metro Card’. This way you can always reload a certain amount on your card. A ride with the Metro Card costs $2.75 regardless of destination. I’m not lying when I say that New York’s subway traffic is very chaotic. When you travel by metro you sometimes have to search a bit and especially stay attentive. Make sure you always have a plan at hand or on your smartphone. The disadvantage of getting around with the metro is that you don’t see anything of the city while you’re on the way.

Hop-on-Hop-off  

A pleasant alternative is the red Hop-on-Hop-off bus. This is a bit more expensive, but it drives past the most popular sights in New York City. Because you can get on and off at any stop, you can easily move between the different attractions while enjoying the city. These bus rides are offered by various companies,  but tickets are cheaper to book online.

Walking and cycling

Exploring the city by bike is always fun and is certainly possible in New York City. Although this is not the safest and most relaxed option. Don’t get me wrong. There are many neighborhoods that are great to discover by bike, such as Central Park, DUMBO, … However, New York’s traffic is so chaotic that you need your full focus when cycling and can’t fully enjoy the beautiful city. It’s therefore better to opt for an organized bicycle tour with a guide.

I myself planned our visits for a certain day in the same neighborhood so that we had to use the metro as little as possible and could mainly walk from one sight to another. I found the combination of walking and riding the subway to be the best option. This allowed us to move quickly and economically, but this way we could also see a large part of the city.

Walking in New York City

The best time to travel to New York City?

The climate of New York City is somewhat similar to our climate, only with more extremes. It can get very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. Yet visiting New York in all seasons has its charms.

The most attractive period is the Christmas period. During these magical weeks, the city is beautifully decorated and the shopping paradise par excellence for buying the best Christmas presents. Then you can also admire the imposing Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center and try the accompanying skating rink. You can also skate in other places in the city, such as Central Park. In short, New York City is the perfect Christmas destination.

Don’t worry too much about the weather. T here are plenty of things to do indoor during cold and rainy days.  You’ll find numerous impressive museums such as the MoMa, The National 9/11 Memorial & Museum, various indoor observaties such as Summit One Vanderbilt and many covered markets such as the Chelsea market where you can relax and taste some New York delicacies .

When winter gives way to spring, New York City brightens up with colorful, fragrant blossoms. In addition to the soft pleasant temperatures that already make it possible to enjoy the outside terraces, it is  the ideal time to discover the parks such as Central Park or The Brooklyn Botanic Garden. I was there in May and this was an excellent time to visit New York.  

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, New York City

During the summer months, the real New Yorkers flee the city because of the heat. My first visit to New York City was in July and yes, it was very hot. But I liked those summery sultry vibes, especially the 4th of July festivities. On the other hand, the heat also hampered some activities such as cycling in Central Park.

The best time to visit New York definitely depends on the purpose of your trip.

How many days do you need to visit New York City ?  

When visiting New York for the firt time, I advise you to really take your time. This city is so overwhelming and there is so much to experience, so there is a great danger that you will run from one sight to another without really experiencing New York City. Therefore, be sure to book a minimum of 5 nights so that you have at least 5 to 6 full days to fully enjoy The Big Apple.  

Important tips before visiting New York for the first time

If you plan to travel from Belgium to the United States, you will need an international passport and an ESTA travel authorization or visa .

Traveling to the States is safe , just make sure you’re aware of the local rules and check the government’s travel advice beforehand.

Also, don’t forget that New York City is in a different time zone. It is 6 hours earlier than in Belgium. This way you save a little time when you depart.  The disadvantage is the jet lag that causes you to wake up very early the first few days.

Make sure you also bring an international plug, otherwise you will not be able to use or charge your electrical appliances.

In New York, a different currency is used, USD. That may seem obvious, but it is not like in some countries where they still accept euros. It is therefore best to change some money before your trip or at the airport. The cheapest way to exchange Euro into USD is through an exchange office. First compare the prices and choose the exchange office where you have the least loss.

Keep in mind that the prices on the menu when you’re going to a bar or restaurant  don’t include a tip. At the end of the ride you still have to pay 18%, 20% or 22% extra tip. Even when someone provides you with a service, for example the driver, the bellboy in the hotel, … you are expected to tip.  

Where to stay in New York City?  

When looking for a place to stay in New York City, Times Square is often put forward because this neighborhood is centrally located. I too have stayed around Times Square twice. Personally, I think it is one of the less cozy neighborhoods in New York. It is perhaps the one that is located the most central in Manhatten, but via the metro you can also move very quickly from another location.

On my next visit to New York I will definitely choose to stay in a different neighborhood. I already an overview of 15 gorgeous boutique hotels where to stay when visiting New York . But also via the map widget of Booking you can easily find a stay near your preference.

Booking.com

The best things to do when visiting New York for the first time

New york city card  .

New York City is an immensely large city. And if you are there only there for a few days, then of course you want to see and experience as much as possible. Therefore it necessary to prepare well for your city trip in the Big Apple.

Do you want to visit many sights? Then I advise you to take a look at a New York city card. This allows you to visit some of New York’s highlights at a cheaper rate. There are different types of city cards. Below you will find an overview. The best thing is that you look at them all and choose the city card that best meets your needs.

We opted for a Sightseeing Flex Pass with which we could visit no fewer than 7 sights. The advantage was that we not only saved money on the entrance fee to the attractions, but with this ticket we didn’t have to make reservations anywhere. This way we could decide for ourselves during the trip when we wanted to visit which sights. It’s useful to be able to adjust your itinerary last minute when the weather is bad or not…

New York, New York  

One of the reasons why visiting New York City should be on your bucket list is of course, the impressive skyline. This is formed by the mix of beautiful buildings in different architectural styles. The first skyscrapers were built in the early 20th century during a period of economic prosperity. Just think of the roaring twenties. You can still admire many buildings in this typical Art Deco style, such as the Empire State building, Chrysler Building and Rockefeller center.

The Chrysler Building, New York City

In this neighborhood you can still find some gems from the past, such as Grand Central Station, the New York Public Library and the Flatiron building.

Grand Central Station New York City

But time does not stand still and certainly not in New York City, the city that never sleeps. In the meantime, you can also see many hypermodern complexes, such as the recent sustainable construction project Hudson Yards, where you’ll find The Edge and The Vessel, among other spectacular skyscrapers. And there are also some beautiful parks here such as the High Line and Little Island.

The Edge, Hudson Yards, New York City

Of course there are many more other modern buildings in the city center to admire, such as the One World Trade Center, One Vanderbilt and the Oculus Center.

One World Trade Center, New York City

Both the older and the newer generation of buildings together form the impressive skyline of The Big Apple. You can admire this beautiful skyline from one of the five observatories in New York City or from some other viewpoints that I will discuss in more detail later in this article.

Must visit Museums in New York City

When you plan to visit New York City for the first time, there are bound to be a number of museums on your to-do list. This city has so many museums that it is impossible to visit them all. That is why I am listing a few of them below that are definitely worth a visit.

MoMa is the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Here you can, as the name says, admire modern and contemporary art. It is one of the largest museums in the world and the modern art collection of the MoMa is also considered one of the best collections in the world.  

MoMa New York City

In the permanent exhibition you can admire pieces from 1880 to the present. These are artworks from big names such as Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Gustav Klimt, …   It’s therefore a very varied collection that is definitely worth a visit.

MoMa New York City

Besides the permanent exhibition, there are also changing exhibitions. This allows you to visit the MoMa again and again and be surprised by works that you have never seen before.

Guggenheim  

Just like the MoMa, the Guggenheim is a museum with a beautiful Modern art collection, including some works that fall within the Impressionism and Expressionism movement.

In addition to the impressive art collection, the building is actually a work of art in itself. It was designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright and consists of a spiral shape that can be seen both inside and outside. This way you can admire the artworks as you make your way along the spiral ramps that run through the entire building.

If you are not planning to visit the Guggenheim, it is definlitely worth just taking a walk past the building.

9/11 Memorial museum  

An tragic event New York City will never forget is the 9/11 attack in 2001, when two planes flew into The Twin Towers. This disaster was worldwide on the news. More than 3000 people lost their lives here.

Today this place is referred to as Ground Zero. On the exact spot where the Twin Towers stood, there are now two monumental pools with the names of all the victims engraved in the rim. It’s quite impressive, but at the same time also captivating to see.

9/11 Memorial, Ground Zero, New York City

Be sure to visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum where you can learn everything about this terrible event, but also how New Yorkers experienced this attack through their personal stories of loss, recovery and hope. You will also find remnants of the old structures of the Twin Towers as well as objects that have been recovered from the rubble. This makes it easier to imagine how terrible this event was. Let me tell you that a visit to this museum is sure to leave a deep impression on you.

9/11 Memorial Museum, Ground Zero, New York City

A touch of green New York City

Visiting New York City for the first time is intense. New York City is referred to as the city that never sleeps for a reason. The sounds, lights, the city in constant development… That sometimes causes a little overstimulation. An occasional moment to take a breather is not an unnecessary luxury here. Fortunately, The Big Apple has numerous beautifully landscaped city parks where you can relax or enjoy New York City in a green setting.

Central park  

The most famous park in New York City with about 25 million visitors annually is Central Park and is also called the green heart of Manhattan. The large, rectangular domain stretches from 59th to 110th Street and from 5th to 8th Avenue. From Top of The Rock you can admire the park very well from above. That’s where you see how big it really is.

The construction of Central Park took no less than 16 years. When you walk through the park, you will not be surprised that it took so long. It’s a beautiful natural environment consisting of wide avenues, smaller hiking trails through the woods, several lakes, impressive monuments, sunbathing areas and a few restaurants. You can also spot some sights here such as the Belvedere castle and the famous Bethesda fountain. The park also houses a zoo called “Central park zoo.”

Central Park, New York City

Around the park is a 10 kilometer long road where car traffic is banned during weekends and after 7 pm. Then it is a real paradise for active New Yorkers, but also the perfect time for tourists to explore Central Park by bicycle. Rent a bike or opt for a guided bike tour. Not an avid cyclist? Then take a nice walk or go for a romantic ride in a horse-drawn carriage.

Last but not least. If you plan to spend some time in Central Park, it is also nice to have lunch on the beautiful terrace of The Loeb Boat House when the weather is nice. Don’t forget to make a reservation! Here you can also rent rowing boats to go out on the lake.

The Loeb Bout House, Central Park, New York City

High line  

The High Line in a beautiful park that stretches for 2,3 kilometers from the Meatpacking District to Hudson Yards. This park was built on an old elevated railway that was used for the transport of meat and poultry until 1980. This piece of green runs above the streets between the buildings. It is a unique experience that attracts millions of visitors every year.

During the walk you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Hudson River, the typical New York industrial environment, the mix of different architectural styles and art. Yes, you heard that right. Artworks such as statues and murals are exhibited in the park. There are also occasional shows.

View from High Line, New York City

If you’re in the mood for a refreshing drink or snack, head down between 15th Street and 16th Street for a break at the Chelsea Market. This former biscuit factory has been transformed into a cozy food hall. Today you can find numerous food stalls and restaurants.

Besides that the High Line is close to some popular attractions. You can combine a walk through the park with a visit to The Vessel and The Edge.

View from High Line, New York City

You can also opt to walk the High Line as part of a guided tour. This way you will learn even more about the history of the park and the surrounding area.  

Little Island  

Little Island is, as the name suggests, an island that floats above the Hudson River. It is a city park that only recently (in 2021) opened its doors. So it probably won’t surprise you that it’s located near the Meatpacking District and Hudson Yards. You can also admire this impressive park with several height differences from the High Line. It’s quite unique to see.

Little Island seen from the High Line in NYC

Would you like to visit Little Island? Then you can reach it via one of the two pedestrian bridges, the North Bridge or South Bridge. Both bridges are located on the Hudson River Greenway at Pier 55.

From Little Island you can enjoy a green urban oasis with beautiful flora and an impressive view of Manhattan, New Jersey and the river around you.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden  

Want to escape the city for a while and relax in an oasis of peace? Then be sure to visit the beautifully landscaped Brooklyn Botanic Garden . This park consists of no less than 12 different gardens.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

The best time to visit Brooklyn Botanic Garden is during the spring when most of the flowers are in bloom. In April you can admire the lush cherry blossoms. We were only there at the end of May and could enjoy a beautiful setting full of colorful and fragrant flowers. The biggest draw was the vast field of purple bluebells.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Nice neighborhoods to explore in New York City 

New York City is divided into several neighborhoods that overlap. The nice thing is that every neighborhood has its own identity. When visiting New York for the first time you will get to most  neighborhoods anyway when you go sightseeing all over the city. I already mentioned some neighborhoods under the other topics in this article. But here I list a few more that should certainly not be missing from your itinerary during your city trip in The Big Apple.

Let’s start with the most trendy neighborhood in Brooklyn. Just across the Manhattan Bridge you will find the DUMBO neighborhood which literally means “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass”.

It’s a super fun and creative area to explore. You will find various art galleries, coffee bars, bakeries and also very photogenic places.

The most famous photo spot is perhaps the one on Washington Street where you can see the Empire State Building through the pillars of the Manhattan Bridge.

DUMBO viewpoint on Manhatten bridge from Washington Street

From Brooklyn Bridge Park you also have amazing views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the spectacular Manhattan skyline.

The best day to visit DUMBO is definitely Sunday. Then there is a flea market where you can find nice things.

Lower Manhatten and the Financial District  

Even though the name ‘Financial District’ sounds rather boring, I still found this a super fun area to explore. You walk in between the most impressive skyscrapers that serve as offices for the most prestigious companies. You will find, among other things, the world-famous stock exchange and the One World Trade center.

Other special monuments are the beautiful Trinity Church that suddenly appears between the skyscrapers of Wall Street.

Trinity Church, Wall Street, New York City

Near Wall Street you’ll also find the famous statue The Charging Bull. If you rub the nose, horns and yes, the balls of this statue, it supposingly brings good luck. Another famous statue in the area is The Fearless Girl. The statue was made in honor of International Women’s Day and stands in front of the New York Stock Exchange.

The Charging Bull, Wall Street, New York City

China Town en Little Italy  

Nice neighborhoods to stroll through are China Town and Little Italy. This name already tells you that these are the neighborhoods where mainly Chinese and Italian immigrants settle. Meanwhile, the boundaries between the two neighborhoods have become blurred. China Town is growing while Little Italy is shrinking. This is because many Italians are moving away from the area. Yet you can still find the authentic atmosphere in both neighborhoods. There are also still many traditional restaurants and boutiques.

Little Italy, New York City

Times square and Hell’s Kitchen  

Although I certainly don’t think Times Square is the nicest or coziest neighborhood in New York, it is of course something you should see at least once. The immense advertising screens, the colorful neon lighting, the many street performers, the gigantic shops, the masses of tourists… It has something, especially when it’s dark.

Times Square, New York City

You can combine your visit to Times Square with a theater performance on Broadway or a snack and drink in Hell’s kitchen. Hell’s kitchen used to not have the best reputation, but today you will find many trendy bars and eateries there.

Below you will find some amazing guided tours from Getyourguide. These are perfect if you want to explore different neighborhoods in an original way.

The best views in New York City

I personally think the best views of New York City are the places where you can admire the city from a distance or from above. Then you can completely soak in that beautiful skyline consisting of the most impressive buildings.

Admire New York City from above

Visiting one of the 5 observation platforms in New York should not be missing on your New York itinerary. These 5 viewpoints are located on the roof of some of the most impressive skyscrapers in New York . I will briefly go through them all here. An extensive report full of tips for visiting one or more of these phenomenal observatories can be found in my blog post about the 5 observatories with the best view of New York .

Empire State Building

Empire State Building is the oldest observation platform and therefore a true classic. In addition to the beautiful view, you also have access to the interactive museum where you can experience the evolution of the building, including a tribute to its film history. The building served as a film setting for several blockbusters such as King Kong and Sleepless in Seattle.

View from Empire State Building, New York City

Top of Rock

You have the best outdoor view from Top of Rock. This observatory is located on the roof of Rockefeller center. Here you can admire the iconic skyline in all its glory with highlights such as the Empire State Building, Chrysler building, Statue of Liberty, One World Trade Center, but also Central Park.    

View from Top of Rock, New York City

One World Trade Center

The tallest skyscraper in New York City is One World Trade Center. The top floor, One World Observatory is open to visitors. There you have a phenomenal 360 degree indoor view of the city. The highlight of our visit was definitely the elevator that took us to the 102nd floor in 47 seconds. Not because it was so fast, but because we could see the entire evolution of 500 years of New York City on the walls of the elevator during the ride.

One World Observatory, New York City

One of my favorite viewpoints is The Edge. The observatory is unique in that way it’s an angular platform suspended from a skyscraper, hence the name: The Edge. So there is no building under the outdoor zone. Some bits of the floor have been replaced with glass that literally allow you to see 100 floors down. The unique shapes and the use of these different materials ensure that this is a very original photo spot.

The Edge, New York City

Summit One Vanderbilt

If you want to be surprised by design, art and special effects in addition to the view, then you should definitely visit Summit One Vanderbilt. The visit is such an amazing experience that sometimes you forget that you have to enjoy the view. This because you are so absorbed in everything that happens in the spaces. Moreover, it is also a very photogenic place.

Summit One Vanderbilt, New York City

Do you want to admire New York City from even higher. Then you can also book a helicopter flight. Impressive views guaranteed!

Walk towards the skyline on Brooklyn Bridge  

One of the most famous landmarks in New York City is the Brooklyn Bridge. It opened in 1883. This iconic steel-constructed bridge was long the only connection between Manhattan and Brooklyn. It’s definitely a must-see when visiting New York for the first time.

Brooklyn Bridge, New York City

The bridge is not only very impressive to look at. When you walk it from Brooklyn towards Manhattan you also have a great view of the New York skyline. You literaly walk towards it.

Soak in the skyline from on the water

Since Manhattan is completely surrounded by the Hudson River and East River, it is really worth admiring the city from the water.

You can do this by taking a ferry from Battery Park to Liberty Island where you can see New York City’s most famous woman up close, Lady Liberty. In addition to the Statue of Liberty, you will also find the Statue of Liberty Museum with information and exhibitions about everything related to the Statue of Liberty. This museum is free for all visitors to the island.  

Liberty Island, New York City

You can also take the ferry to Ellis Island. This island served as a border post for immigrants who wanted to settle in America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today you can visit the Ellis Island Immigration Museum where you can see several exhibits, each highlighting a different aspect of immigration. The personal stories are especially touching.

Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, New York City

You can enjoy a beautiful view of the New York skyline from both the ferry and on both islands.

View of Manhatten from Hudson River ferry, New York City

Besides the ferry, you can also opt for another type of boat trip, such as a cruise with or without extras.

Where to go shopping in New York City?  

Soho (south of houston street) and nolita  .

What used to be an industrial district, dotted with factories and warehouses, is now a true shopping paradise called SoHo. These old buildings were restored into shops with luxury apartments and lofts above them. Because the historical elements have been preserved, it is still a very pleasant neighborhood to walk through.

Start your shopping adventure at Broadway and get lost among the 25 blocks of shopping district. You will find a mix of unique boutiques, large department stores and high-end luxury designers.

Do you need a break? Then visit Balthazar Bakery . A beautiful place completely in Art Nouveau style where you can go for a snack or drink. And not unimportantly one of the best bakeries in New York City.

Haven’t shopped enough yet? Then walk on to the adjacent neighborhood of Nolita where you can find even more beautiful shops and unique boutiques.

5th Avenue and Madison Avenue  

The most legendary shopping street is of course 5th Avenue. There you will find all the famous luxury brands. They are characterized by most impressive shop windows. It is not for nothing that 5th Avenue is called the most expensive shopping street in the world.

Within walking distance is Madison Avenue, which is part of the Upper East side. Here you can also find several high-end shops. In addition, this street is also known because some of the most expensive real estate in the world are located here.

If budget is not an issue, 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue are the places-to-be for shopping. Otherwise you stick to window shopping, like me.  

Impressive shopping malls

The United States is known for its gigantic ‘Shopping Malls’. You can also find some impressive ones in New York City. Two of the most famous shopping centers, Brookfield Park and The Oculus, are within walking distance of each other in Battery Park. Brookfield Park mainly houses luxury shops, while you can find more affordable brands in The Oculus. If you don’t like shopping, The Oculus is still a super impressive building to visit.

Oculus Center, New York City

Another one that you absolutely cannot miss is the famous American department store Macy’s on Herald Square. This branch is according to the Guinness Book of Records the largest department store in the world.

Of course there are still plenty of nice places to shop in New York City. You also have the vibrant Bleeker Street in Greenwich Village and the charming streets of the West Village. For nice vintage stuff you have to be in the East Village. And some more high-end fashion houses and shops can be found in the Meatpacking District.

Not to miss specialties New York City

Hot dog New York city

Hot dogs are an indispensable part of the New York street scene, at least the numerous hot dog stalls that you will find on every corner of the street. It is therefore a must-do to order a hot dog at such a typical food truck during your trip to the Big Apple. There are now also many vegetarian alternatives. I was told that you can taste the best hot dogs at Gray’s Papaya .

Blueberry pancakes  

Blueberry pancakes

You may have seen them appear in a couple of films or television show, but these little stacked pancakes are a true breakfast classic in the United States. In New York City you can order these typical American pancakes in different ways. The most famous are the bleuberry pancakes made with blueberries. When you order them you usually get a jar of blueberry jelly and one of maple syrup with your pancakes. I first tried to carefully put a piece of pancake in both jars and then eat it, until the waiter convinced me to empty both jars at once over my stack of pancakes. And believe me, it tasted heavenly! The best blueberry pancakes can be found at the Clinton St. Baking Company .

Bagels New York City

Another real New York specialty is the bagel. These round buns with a hole in them, not to be confused with the donut, originally come from Poland. The bagel was introduced to New York City by Jewish immigrants. These delicious sandwiches became a hit and today they are the favorite breakfast or lunch choice of many New Yorkers. The classic New York bagel is topped with cream cheese, smoked salmon and onion and is highly recommended. You can order delicious bagels at one of the many Black Seed Bagel locations.

New York Pizza  

New York Pizza Slice

Everyone knows that pizza is an Italian specialty. The New Yorkers gave it their own twist, partly influenced by their fast-paced and busy lifestyle, and that is how the famous New York pizza slices came about. Where you normally have to wait for your pizza to be baked, you can have a delicious pizza slice within just 2 minutes in one of the many pizza places all over New York City. The perfect snack for a quick and cheap bite while discovering the city.

Are you a foodie and want to discover even more delicious New York City specialties? Then opt for an organized food tour with a guide from Getyourguide. You will not only discover the different delicacies, but also the best places to eat them.

Where to eat New York City?

New York City has a lot of restaurants. Like its inhabitants, the restaurants are a melting pot of cultures. And that’s nice, because you can really find all kinds of cuisines there. It’s a true foodie paradise! The only thing you need to know is that the good restaurants are in demand and that it is therefore best to reserve a spot in time. Sometimes it can be hard to get a table in New York’s best restaurants .

Of course it was impossible for me to try everything, but below is a small summary of the restaurants and cozy neighborhoods to eat that personally appealed to me the most.  

The blue dog NYC

Do you want to start your day of sightseeing off right? Then go for brunch at The blue dog NYC. This address is one of the best. We even went there twice because it was so good. The specialty of the house are the egg-o-holics on bread, a hearty breakfast that will keep you going for a few hours. The blue dog is popular, so book a table in time.

South Street Seaport  

A super cozy neighborhood where you can find a lot of nice restaurants is South Street Seaport. This former harbor is home to some of the oldest buildings in Manhattan. Many of these historic buildings have been completely restored and house authentic boutiques, trendy bars and cozy restaurants. You will also find pier 17 an events center that hosts a series of concerts on the roof terrace in the summer. On the ground floor of pier 17 there are still plenty of restaurants where you can dine with a view of the Brooklyn Bridge. We dined at Malibu Farm New York and can definitely recommend this restaurant.

If you then walk further along the waterfront towards Battery Park, you will pass Industry Kitchen where you can also enjoy a delicious lunch or dinner.

Industry Kitchen, New York City

Chelsea & Meatpacking Disctrict   

Adjacent to the Chelsea district, we find the Meatpacking District where many slaughterhouses and packaging companies used to be located. Today this is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in New York City where you can also find numerous elegant bars and delicious restaurants such as Fig & Olive , Pastis , Catch and Buddakan .  

Nearby you can also visit the Chelsea market , a former biscuit factory, which was transformed into an impressive food hall. You will not find many different types of food stalls and restaurants here, but the interior is also really great.

With this comprehensive beginner’s guide to New York City, I’ve tried to give as many tips as possible for visiting New York for the first time. I hope that with my tips you will have an unforgettable first New York experience.

Are you visiting New York for the first time? What would you definitely not want to miss on your this trip to The Big Apple? Let me know below in the comments.

If you are planning a city trip to New York City, then definitely read 5 best observatories in New York City where I share my experiences visiting the all of New Yorks’ observatories and my overview of 15 gorgeous boutique hotels where to stay when visiting New York .

Wanna visit more of the United States? Then check my travel guides below:

  • The ultimate Deep Road trip
  • How to spend the perfect day in Miami
  • What to expect from an airboat tour in the Everglades
  • The most beautiful beaches in Sanibel
  • How to plan a 3 days city trip in New Orleans

Thank you for reading.  

Yours truly,  

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31+ Tips for Visiting New York City For the First Time

Tips for Visiting New York for the First Time

New York City is truly incomparable to any other city in the world, making it an absolute must-visit destination for everyone.  Its iconic landmarks such as The Statue of Liberty , Empire State Building, Central Park, and Times Square are just a glimpse of the countless attractions it offers. However, the sheer magnitude of the city can be overwhelming, especially for first-time visitors.

To help those of you planning a trip to NYC, I thought I would share some of the things I learned during my 13 years of living in Manhattan. Even if you have visited NYC before, you may find these tips for visiting New York City for the first time helpful too.

A few of these  NYC insider tips might surprise you, but these are important things to know about New York before visiting .  If you have additional questions, just leave a comment and I am happy to answer.   

Also, be sure to check out my printable travel planning checklist  to help you prepare for your trip.

Note: This post contains affiliate links.  Please see disclosure for more information.

love sculpture in New York city

Think about the best time to visit New York City

Be careful about booking airbnbs as many are illegal, choose a hotel in a convenient location, take photos, take advantage of the amazing museums, you must visit central park, see nyc from above, walk over the brooklyn bridge, get out on the water, visit the “other” boroughs, you can’t see everything in one trip, nyc tourist passes can save you money, you don’t have to stand in the tkts line to get cheap broadway tickets, chinatown is the cheapest place to get your i heart nyc souvenirs, take advantage of free seasonal events, don’t eat at chain restaurants, you don’t have to spend a lot to eat well, don’t just settle for any pizza (especially ones selling $1 slices), try some food trucks, save room for dessert, don’t eat at low-grade restaurants, do not rent a car in nyc, wear comfortable but stylish shoes, the subway may be the fastest form of transportation, always carry an umbrella, don’t block the whole sidewalk, be careful crossing the streets, watch out for the smells, nyc does sleep, tipping is engrained in the culture, be alert and aware of your surroundings, tips for solo female travelers visiting new york city, expert tips for visiting new york for the first time, tips for planning your first visit to nyc.

If you’re getting ready for your first trip to New York City, I’ve got some great tips to help you plan a successful adventure.

One thing I highly recommend is giving yourself at least a month to prepare for your trip. Taking the time to organize and do some research before you go can really make a huge difference in your overall experience.

So get ready to explore the city that never sleeps and let’s dive into some essential NYC travel tips!

I know sometimes it is fun to just wing it, but that doesn’t always work for New York City.  There is just so much to do, you are going to need to prioritize and come up with a plan.

If you have your heart set on certain popular attractions, if you don’t book ahead, you won’t be able to go.  For example, the Broadway show Hamilton is usually sold out almost a year in advance. If you have run out of time to get tickets directly, you could try the Hamilton lottery or pay through the roof on StubHub but there are no guarantees.  

If you want to visit the crown of the Statue of Liberty , you should book a few months in advance, especially if you are planning on going on a weekend. Also, free tickets for the popular tv show tapings in NYC should be booked at least a few weeks ahead of time.   

The Statue of Liberty stands proud in the New York Harbor. - - "Tips for Visiting New York City For the First Time" - Two Traveling Texans

If you wait until the last minute, flights tend to be more expensive too.  When you are searching for flights, you can use the airport code ‘NYC’ and it will show you options for all three area airports.  Then, you can choose the one that works best in terms of price and schedule. 

Also, since you have several ways you can get from the airport to Manhattan, it’s a good idea to know which one you are going to take in advance.  I wrote in detail about the transportation options including tips for traveling to NYC from  JFK ,   Newark , and  LGA .

You may be wondering what time of year you should visit NYC.  The good news is that New York City is an amazing place to visit all year round, so choosing the right time depends on your preferences. 

Weather is usually nicest in May, June, and September.  The fall colors are usually at their peak towards the end of October.    Winter in NYC will be cold but in December you can enjoy the Christmas festivities!

fall colors in central park in nyc

If you are on a budget or want to avoid the most crowded times, I would avoid coming in the summer or around Christmas.  While there are lots of special things to see in NYC at those times, the prices for accommodation goes through the roof. 

The cheapest time to visit New York is in February, just avoid Valentine’s and President’s Day Weekends, but be prepared for freezing weather and possible snow.  Even though the weather can be unstable, a spring trip to NYC might be better if you are not a cold weather person.

If you do plan on visiting during the Christmas season, check out my post for recommendations for things to do during the holidays in NYC.

In most of New York City, it’s now illegal to advertise or rent an entire apartment for less than 30 days unless the host is present and there are only one or two guests.  I would be careful even just renting one room because if the host has rented the other rooms and is not living there it could be illegal too.

Honestly, I wouldn’t risk it, I think it is better to spend a little more and get a hotel.  You don’t want to find out last minute that you can’t stay where you were planning on staying or even worse have to move out of your vacation rental. NYC is one case where hotels are a better option than vacation rentals .

Grab my NYC Hotel Cheatsheet here to help you find the best place to stay in the city.

View of One World Trade (also called the Freedom Tower) from the water. "Tips for Visiting New York City For the First Time" - Two Traveling Texans

Choosing the right location for your hotel can make all the difference when visiting New York City. For your first visit, I highly recommend staying in a central location to make it easy to get around and minimize the cost of transportation.

Koreatown /Herald’s Square may not be the trendiest neighborhood, but it is central and you can find reasonably-priced (per NY standards) hotels. I like the Hampton Inn. You can check the current price and availability  or read Tripadvisor reviews for the Hampton Inn here .  

Before I lived in NYC, I would stay at the Sheraton New York Hotel.  It has a prime location in the heart of all the action, with easy access to Times Square and Central Park. You can check the current rates and availability  or read Tripadvisor reviews for the Sheraton New York Hotel here .

If you are on a budget, I would recommend trying one of the Pod hotels.  Although the rooms may be compact, they are designed to be comfortable and functional. Staying at a Pod hotel is a great way to save some money and splurge on other activities during your visit to NYC. Plus, the Pod 39 hotel has a nice rooftop bar. You can check price and availability for the Pod 39 hotel  or read Tripadvisor reviews here .

If you are coming to NYC for one of the big events in Times Square (like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or the NYE Ball Drop), I would recommend booking the Marriott Marquis.  You may get lucky and have a view of the action from your room. You can check current rates and availability for the Marriott Marquis here  or read Tripadvisor reviews here .)

If you are traveling with the family, check out this list of where to stay in NYC with kids .

Anisa posing by one of the colorful murals that is part of the Bushwick Collective. - "Brooklyn Graffiti and Street Art Tour" - Two Traveling Texans

New York is photogenic and you will want your own photos to remember your special trip.  You don’t need any fancy equipment.  In fact, I suggest you leave any heavy camera gear at home as you are going to be walking around a lot.  The camera on your smartphone will work nicely.

That being said it is sometimes hard to get photos of yourself and the rest of your group.  You can only take so many selfies and it’s hard to find a stranger that can take a decent photo.  That’s where a photo tour comes in handy. 

**If you use the code TTTNYC , you can get $10 off any tour with  NYC Photo Journeys or if they are booked you can try Flytographer .  If it’s your first time using Flytographer, you can get $25 if you use the code TTTPHOTO.   Get more details here .

You get a skilled photographer who knows the best photo spots in NYC.  Since it’s a private tour, you can tailor the itinerary to your interests.  It will be a fun time and you will have the photos as a souvenir of your first trip to New York.

Tips for Things to See Your First Time in NYC

You should start thinking about what you want to see on your trip because you have to prioritize.  There are so many things to do in NYC! It may be hard to decide which attractions to go to on your first visit to NYC with all the options, but hopefully, these NYC tips will help.

Even if you’re not a big fan of museums, you should give them another chance when you’re in NYC. Not only are they a great option on a rainy day, but there are so many different museums in the city that I’m sure you’ll find one you’ll enjoy. From art to history to science, there’s something for everyone!

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the best museums in the world. - "Tips for Visiting New York City For the First Time" - Two Traveling Texans

Some of my favorites are MOMA, The Met, the Tenement Museum , and the Brooklyn Museum.   I also highly recommend a visit to the National September 11th Museum , it’s a difficult subject but it’s done well.  

If you enjoy photography, check out Fotografiska , which opened in December 2019.

Central Park is my favorite place in New York City, so you must visit! Most people don’t realize how big it is and how much there is to see there.  Plus, it’s beautiful and you can easily forget you are in the middle of Manhattan.

You can visit the Park all year around. I love seeing the leaves change in the fall and the flowers bloom in the spring.  During the summer, it is at its greenest. When it snows, it is beautiful too.

If you have limited time, try to check out my five favorite spots in Central Park .  If you have more time, consider also biking in Central Park or exploring the less visited northern end of the Park .

Central Park Bridge covered in snow- "Tips for Visiting New York City For the First Time" - Two Traveling Texans

To get a good sense of the size and density of New York, you need to see it from above.  You have five options for observation decks.  I have been to One World Observatory , the Empire State Building , and Top of the Rock .  In the last few years, they have opened The Edge in Hudson Yards and The Summit at One Vanderbilt.

I still need to go to The Edge and Summit One Vanderbilt , but of the ones I have been to personally, I prefer Top of the Rock because then you can take pictures that have the Empire State Building and the Freedom Tower (One World Trade) in them.  Most of the NYC attraction passes have at least one observation deck included.

If you don’t have an NYC tourist pass and you are on a budget, you can also get a great view from one of the cities rooftop bars.  Of course, the summertime is peak rooftop season, but many NYC rooftop bars have indoor areas so you can go all year around. There are also a few that have heated areas and provide blankets.  

My favorite rooftops during the winter are Mr. Purple , Plunge , and the Press Lounge . The 230 Fifth rooftop is also open all year, the views are great but personally, I think it’s a bit touristy.

If the weather is decent, it is definitely worthwhile to do a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge .  There is just something special about it and the views are fantastic. You can even see the Statue of Liberty.  

Walk across the East River on the Brooklyn Bridge if the weather is nice. - "Tips for Visiting New York City For the First Time" - Two Traveling Texans

Fair warning though, unless you go early it will be crowded, but at least now there is a separate bike line.  Also, please don’t leave any love locks. They are not good for the bridge and will be cut off anyway.

Once you cross the bridge, you might want to break for some pizza? Try Juliana’s !

I love the view of the NYC skyline from the water, so if you have time, I would recommend taking a boat ride.  If you are on a budget, just take the Staten Island Ferry .  It’s free and you pass right by the Statue of Liberty.  

Another affordable option is the NYC Ferry.  It is only $4.00 one way.  They have different routes you can choose and onboard concessions.  Learn more about it here .

There are also several different boat tours included in the different NYC attraction passes.  If you don’t have The New York Pass (or something similar), you can see the available options here .

If you would like to splurge, I can recommend the Bateaux dinner cruises .  It is one of the most romantic things to do in New York City.

New York City is more than Manhattan, so to really do NYC, you need to visit the other boroughs – Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island.  In case you are wondering what you can do in the outer boroughs, here are a few ideas:

Brooklyn is full of fun things to do, and some must-visit spots include Brooklyn Bridge Park , which offers a beautiful view of Manhattan, and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens .  Art lovers should be sure to check out the street art in Bushwick and the Brooklyn Museum . Finally, no trip to Brooklyn is complete without a visit to Coney Island , home to amusement park rides, boardwalk food, and a lively beach scene.

When you go to the Bronx, make sure to visit the New York Botanical Garden especially if it is time for the Orchid or Holiday Train shows. For sports fans, catch a Yankees game at the famous Yankee Stadium. And if you’re a foodie, be sure to check out the Real Little Italy on Arthur Avenue , where you’ll find delicious Italian food and great atmosphere.

Queens also has plenty of exciting things to do. If you’re a sports fan, head to Citifield to watch a Mets game. Film lovers should visit the Museum of the Moving Image , which showcases the history and technology of film and television through interactive exhibits. For incredible views of Manhattan’s skyline, check out Gantry Plaza State Park , where you can enjoy a peaceful stroll, take photos, and relax by the water. 

Staten Island

Staten Island may be called the Forgotten Borough but you should take time to visit if you can.  You can enjoy stunning views of downtown Manhattan when you ride on the Staten Island Ferry . If you’re in the mood for shopping, head to the Empire Outlets for a variety of stores and restaurants. Sports fans should check out the Staten Island Yankees, a minor league baseball team. And for a dose of culture and history, visit the Staten Island Museum , which showcases the art, culture, and natural history of the island.

The Staten Island ferry is free and you get great views of downtown Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. - "Tips for Visiting New York City For the First Time" - Two Traveling Texans

I lived in NYC for 13 years and there are still museums I want to go to, restaurants I never got to try, and Broadway shows I still need to see.  You are not going to see everything on one trip even if you stay for a month.

Not even if you follow all the New York City trip  tips ever written! But that’s ok, the good news is that you always have a reason to come back to NYC.

Tips to Save Money When Visiting NYC

Depending on where you are traveling from, you may be surprised at some of the prices when you visit New York City.  NYC can be expensive, but there are some easy ways to save money and still enjoy yourself. I want to share a few tips for visiting NYC on a budget.

If your plan is to see as much as possible, one of the NYC attraction passes is your best bet.  The admission prices for things to do in NYC add up fast. You can save money and even skip a few lines if you have a NY tourist pass.  

You have a few options to choose from. I wrote a post with more information to help you figure out which NY attractions pass is best for you.

Most people know about the TKTS discount booth in Times Square, but that is not the only way to get discounted tickets.  Try to stay open to seeing any Broadway show, there are so many good ones, it will open up more options.

Times Square - "Tips for Visiting New York City For the First Time" - Two Traveling Texans

You will find tourist shops all over the city, but I have found the ones in Chinatown to be the cheapest.   Not only are they some of the cheapest in the city, but you can even try bargaining for an even better deal. Don’t be afraid to ask – the worst they can say is no!

While you are in Chinatown, consider having some Dim Sum, it’s quite the experience, my favorite spot is Golden Unicorn .

It’s New York City so there is always something going on! You will find lots of great outdoor free events in the summer . There are plenty of free events at different times of the year. Some of the other things I look forward to are the Macy Thanksgiving Day Parade (and the Balloon Inflation by the Natural History Museum on Thanksgiving Eve), the Easter Bonnet Parade , Chinese New Year, and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  

kermit from the macys thanksgiving day parade

Of course, there is also New Year’s Eve in Times Square.  If you’re thinking about watching the ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, I have to say, it’s quite the experience. I’ve done it once myself, on a not-too-cold night, and it was certainly memorable but I am not sure I would do it again.  Especially if the weather is chilly, it can be tough to handle waiting outside for hours.

Don’t plan on going to nearby restaurants to watch the ball drop as they often have outrageous cover charges.  Overall, while it’s definitely a quintessential New York experience, it’s not for everyone.

Tips to Eat Well in New York City

New York City is a food lover’s paradise, and it’s one of the things I love most about the city! There’s no need to worry about calories because you’ll be doing a lot of walking to burn them off. With so many options, it can be overwhelming, but I have a few tips and recommendations to help.

New York has some of the best restaurants in the world! Don’t waste your meal here on the chains, you can do that at home.  

In NYC you can choose from pretty much any cuisine and many different price points, so there is something for even the fussiest eaters.  Most restaurants are also pretty good about catering to those with dietary restrictions like gluten-free or vegetarian/vegan.

There are many fabulous markets/food halls in New York City, like Gotham West, Urbanspace Vanderbilt, and Gansevoort Market, which have a variety of food options. Everyone can find something they like! If you want to sample several different foods, you might enjoy this Chelsea Market Tour .

Better yet, maybe you want to try a foodie spot that is one of the most instagrammable places in NYC .

Don’t think that you have to go to a fancy restaurant to eat well.  There are plenty of great food options that are relatively cheap.

Some of my favorite affordable eats are Mandoo Dumpling Bar , Empanada Mama ,   Pongal , Mamoun’s , Xi’an Famous Foods , and Caracas Arepa Bar . Also, check out this list of more cheap New York City restaurants or my recommendations for NY Pizza below.

Also, if you happen to be in NYC during Restaurant Week you can dine at some of the top restaurants for significantly less than normal.  Three-course dinners are $35 when they would normally could be $80 or more. You have to select from a special Restaurant Week menu. Also, be sure to make a reservation in advance.  

Note: Although it is called Restaurant Week, it usually last a couple of weeks and happens once in the winter and once in the summer.  Get more details here .

NYC is famous for its pizza, but not all pizza in New York is created equal.  Please avoid those places that sell a slice for $1. You get what you pay for!

My favorite NYC pizza places are Adrienne’s on Stone Street , Lombardi’s , Don Antonio , and Juliana’s (in Brooklyn).  Pizza lovers may also enjoy taking a half day NYC pizza tour .

A trip to New York is not complete without some pizza! - "Tips for Visiting New York City For the First Time" - Two Traveling Texans

I know to some people it might seem weird to eat food from a food truck, but in NYC people do it all the time.  Food trucks offer a variety of different food options, but sometimes they are hard to find. Download the app TruxMap to help, although it is not a comprehensive list.  

In my opinion, some of the best NYC food trucks are Kimchi Taco, Gorilla Cheese, Luke’s Lobster, Mr. Bing, Souvlaki GR and Mac Truck.

You are on vacation so you should treat yourself, right?  If you are not excited about the dessert options at the restaurant where you had dinner, that’s ok.  

In New York, there are several places that actually only serve dessert. Some of my favorites are Ferrara , Chickalicious , Veneiro’s , Dominique Ansel Bakery , and Spot Dessert (there are locations in the East Village and Koreatown).  

If you are a chocolate lover, you try  Max Brenner’s , the Jacques Torres’ Chocolate Museum , or some of the best hot chocolate in NYC .  For the best New York Cheesecake, go to Junior’s , it was originally from Brooklyn, but now there are two locations in the Times Square area.  I also recommend going to Black Tap for the best freakshakes. There will most likely be a line so try to go at an off time.

Also, I could write a whole post about the amazing ice cream you can find in NYC.  My favorite is Ample Hills where you need to try the Ooey Gooey flavor. If you are looking for something even more unusual, you can try the rolled ice cream at 10 Below , egg waffle ice cream at Wowfuls or Eggloo , or ice cream in a fish-shaped cone at Taiyaki .

Have you ever tried an egg waffle ice cream? - "Tips for Visiting New York City For the First Time" - Two Traveling Texans

In NYC, restaurants are required to display the results of their recent health inspections.  They use a similar scale to schools here with A being the best and F (for failing) being the worst. 

I usually try to stick to restaurants that got an A, but occasionally I will make exceptions.  I don’t recommend trying any places with grades C or lower. The last thing you want on your vacation is to get sick!

Tips to Get Around New York City

It almost goes without saying but don’t rent a car when you visit NYC.  Still, you are going to need to get around the city to see different attractions.  

Some places you may be able to walk between but others you may need to take public transportation.  In NYC, this can be intimidating. Don’t worry though, I know you can manage. Here are a few tips for tourists in NYC to help get around.

You don’t need a car because NYC has a good public transportation system.  Plus, you can walk to some places or take taxis/ubers if necessary.

Parking in NYC is expensive, so you could spend more money on parking than the actual car rental.  Also, parking in NYC is limited, so you would waste a lot of time looking for parking spots and then still have to walk.

Having a car in NYC is more hassle than it is worth.  If you are visiting NYC as part of a road trip, I would recommend finding a spot to park your car outside of Manhattan and just leaving it there during your visit.

Even if you take the subway or cabs a lot, you will probably walk more than you are used to.  Please don’t wear uncomfortable shoes, they could make you miserable. There are some areas with cobblestones (especially downtown and in the Meatpacking District) and plenty of others with uneven ground.  The sidewalks and roads in NYC can be interesting!

For women, don’t wear thin heels or anything that you can’t walk in.  For me, I live in these Sketcher ballet flats , which are the perfect combination of comfortable and nice looking.  If you are used to walking in wedges, those are a good option too. In the winter, boots are ideal because they will also help keep you warm. 

I also would not recommend wearing sneakers or flip-flops when going out in the evenings because nicer bars and clubs will not let you in.  It’s even more strict for men as most bars will turn them away if they are dressed in sneakers or sandals.  Check out this post for more recommendations on comfortable stylish shoes for walking .

The subway is the best way to get around the city in many cases. - "Tips for Visiting New York City For the First Time" - Two Traveling Texans

NYC can have terrible traffic at any time of the day or night.  That’s why the subway can be your fastest way to get from point A to point B.  I know the subway can be intimidating especially for those that are not used to taking public transportation, but it’s not that bad! Trust me you will save time and money.  You will need a MetroCard, which you can buy at any subway station, to pay the fare.

Here are a few NYC subway tips :

Download a subway app – You can use google maps to help you get around, but  Citymapper  is another free app that has a few additional nice features.  It will tell you which train car is the best spot to be riding in to be closest to your exit or transfer walkway.  You can access the Official NYC subway map, Manhattan bus map, Brooklyn bus map, and Queens bus map offline. Citymapper also has an alert function to let you know when you have reached your station.

Let people off before you try to get on – Don’t start getting on the train until all the people that want to get off have exited.  It’s just common courtesy.

Consider getting an unlimited weekly MetroCard – Each subway ride costs $2.75, but you can get unlimited rides for seven days for $33 (as of December 2022).  This means you only need to take 12 rides to make the weekly card worth it. That’s only 2 rides per day. You may even be able to get your money’s worth if you are in NYC less than a week.

Have your MetroCard ready – Don’t stop to look for your MetroCard and block others from entering the subway. Either have it ready or step to the side.

Check the train you are getting on – Multiple trains may stop at the same platform, make sure you are getting the right one.  Also, be careful and check if you are getting on an express train or not. Express trains do not stop at every station. If you are not sure, just ask someone.

Check for service changes on weekends – The subway has a lot of changes due to repair work late at night or on the weekends.  Make sure you check the MTA Weekender to see how any changes might affect you.

I could go on, actually, I should probably write a whole post on just this!

You don't want to be caught in the rain in the city without an umbrella! - Tips for Visiting New York City For the First Time" - Two Traveling Texans

New Yorkers walk fast and nothing annoys them more than people slowing them down.  Please make sure they can get around you on the sidewalks. New York streets and sidewalks are busy places and be aware of how you’re using them.   If you are in a group, walk in pairs rather than four across. Also, be aware of where you are when you stop to look at the map on your phone, try to stand off to the side.

Drivers in NYC are aggressive so you need to pay attention.  I have had some close calls myself. Don’t just follow the person in front of you.  You need to look and make sure it is safe to cross the street. Be especially careful if you are traveling with children.

NYC has cleaned itself up a lot over the years, but I would not call it clean.  You will most likely come across some pretty unpleasant smells. If you see an empty subway car, especially during rush hour, don’t go in it! The reason it is empty is probably because it is full of an awful smell.  I would also recommend avoiding elevators in any subway station as those usually stink as well.

A Few General Tips for Visiting New York for the First Time

These tips for NYC tourists don’t really fit in any category but I think they are helpful to know.

You may know New York City as the city that never sleeps, but actually, it does! Early in the mornings on the weekends (before 9 am) the streets are pretty quiet.  If you want pictures without lots of other people in them, this is the time to get them.  You can even find Times Square quiet early in the morning on the weekends.

Tipping is a way of life in NYC, even more than in many other US cities.  You need to tip at restaurants, for taxis, spa treatments, and hotels. Watch out at restaurants though, as some will automatically add a gratuity for parties of 5 or more.

Don’t worry New York City is a safe place, but like in any big city you need to be careful and use common sense.  Watch out for pickpockets especially on the subway and in crowded tourist areas like Times Square.  Considering carrying your cash and credit cards in a money belt like this .

woman waiting for the subway in new york city

Most of the time I lived in NYC, I was single and spent plenty of time doing things on my own, so I can offer my advice.  It’s not much different from other cities when it comes to traveling on your own, except there are probably more solo travelers in NYC than many other places. 

As I mentioned, New York City is safe but as a solo female traveler don’t let down your guard.  Here are a few additional tips that solo travelers in NYC might find helpful.

Expect to get cat calls, but ignore it and don’t let it bother you.   The same with unwanted conversations in other places. Don’t feel like you have to be friendly.  It doesn’t matter what those people think of you.  It’s doubtful you would ever run into them again.

Be mindful of how much you drink especially when there is an open bar, as alcohol will impair your judgement.

Don’t feel self-conscious about dining alone.   It is more common in NYC than many other cities.  If you are not used to dining by yourself, then it might be easier if you sit at the bar or choose a more casual cafe.

If you feel lonely, consider joining a tour that you are interested in.  There is a good chance you might meet other liked-minded travelers.  Check out all the options here .

Ok, so those are my top tips for visiting New York City, did I miss anything?

Let me know if you have any other questions.  You will have a great time.

Pin for Later

new york city skyline with text overlay "tips for your first visit to NYC"

  • You should spend some time in advance planning your trip so you know what you want to see and are able to get tickets before they sell out.
  • Use public transportation (the NYC subway), in many cases, it is the fastest way to get around.
  • Enjoy the food in NYC, it’s some of the best in the world. Take advantage of all the different options!

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Two Traveling Texans is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.

Last Updated on June 21, 2023

About the Author

Anisa  

Anisa is an experienced international traveler with extra pages in her passport and stamps from 41 different countries across 5 continents (and counting). She was born and raised in Texas. After a 13 year stint in NYC, she moved to England to live with her husband.

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Feel rich living within your means

First Time in New York City? 15 Essential Travel Tips

By Eden Ashley To cover the cost of my website and the time I spend writing these posts, sometimes I link to affiliate products. If you choose to buy through these links, thank you! It makes it possible for me to keep doing this. Disclosure Page

Tourist mistakes to avoid making in New York City

Traveling to New York City for the first time? Here you’ll find tips on where to stay, things to do, how to save money on New York’s top attractions, and how to prepare for your first trip to New York.

While New York is the largest city in the USA and has plenty to offer, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when planning your trip.

Use this first timer’s guide to take the stress out of organizing your vacation so you can best enjoy this diverse city!

*** Please bookmark this page because I’m constantly updating it to help you get the most up-to-date information about traveling to New York ***

how to not look like a tourist in new york city

Table of Contents

Where should I stay in New York City?

After visiting New York City several times and staying in different neighborhoods, I recommend staying in one of these six areas:

  • Midtown – The BEST neighborhood for first-timers
  • Times Square – The heart of Manhattan. You can’t beat its location.
  • Upper East Side – Ideal for museum lovers and close to Central Park
  • Lower East Side & Soho – Ideal for shopping
  • Greenwich Village & Chelsea – Lots of great restaurants
  • Brooklyn – Ideal for travellers on a budget

AVOID staying at Airbnbs in New York since they are illegal . You’re better off booking a hotel for the ease and comfort of your trip.

I like using Booking.com to find the best price on hotel accommodations. I’ve also had good luck using Hotwire to score 4 or 5-Star hotels for cheap.

Best hotels in New York City for every budget

If you’re traveling on a budget, these are the best affordable hotels in NYC:

  • CitizenM New York Times Square
  • Hotel Scherman (Located in Midtown close to sightseeing and restaurants)
  • Artezen Hotel (Close to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum)

If you have some more wiggle room in your budget, below are some of the best mid-range hotels in New York:

  • Courtyard by Marriott New York Manhattan/Midtown East
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites New York Midtown Manhattan/Penn Station
  • AC Hotel by Mariott New York Times Square

If you want to splurge on your accommodations, below are some popular luxury hotels in New York:

  • The Standard, High Line
  • The Beekman A Thomspon Hotel
  • New York Marriot Marquis (Time Square)

What do I need to know about traveling to New York City?

Best time to go : Spring (April to June) and Fall (September to November) are the best times to visit New York City. This is when the weather is mild and there are less crowds.

Best area to stay : Midtown , Upper East Side , and Times Square are the best areas to stay if you’re visiting New York for the first time and plan to do a lot of sightseeing.

If you’re traveling on a budget, some good areas to stay for tourists include Queens and the Bronx .

Best way to get around : Walk or ride public transit. New York City has an excellent public transit system that will take you anywhere you need to go.

Another option is to take the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour , which can be a great way to get familiar with the city and see the main landmarks and attractions.

Top 5 things to do in New York : The 9/11 Memorial & Museum , The Metropolitan Museum of Art , Empire State Building , Top of the Rock , and Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island .

Best way to save money on New York attractions : Purchase a city pass, such as the

  • New York Pass *MOST POPULAR* – (Save 50% on over 100 attractions)
  • New York CityPASS (Save 40% on the top 5 attractions)
  • New York Explorer Pass (Save up to 50% of your choice of attractions)
  • New York Sightseeing Pass (Save up to 70% on over 150 attractions)

What’s New York City known for? As one of the most famous cities in the world, New York City is known for its Broadway shows, Central Park, Grand Central Station, Times Square, and the Statue of Liberty.

To help you get the most bang for your buck, here’s some tips for visiting New York City for the first time, including common tourist mistakes to avoid.

Related Posts: 

  • How to visit New York on a budget
  • New York CityPASS vs. New York Pass – Which is better?
  • New York Pass review – Is it worth it?

1. Avoid taking a taxi or Uber to get around New York

Taking a taxi or Uber to get around the city is expensive. And let’s be honest – you don’t want to waste your precious sightseeing time stuck in NYC’s busy traffic?

W hat is the best way to get around New York?

Use public transportation . Riding the subway is the quickest and cheapest way to get to all the attractions on your itinerary.

You’ll want to get MetroCard to make it easy. A MetroCard is a magnetic stripe card that you’ll use for fare payment on public transportation in the NYC area.

You can get a Pay-Per-Ride card which is good if you’re staying in the city for a few days. Or you can get a 7-day Unlimited MetroCard if you’re staying for a week.

My husband and I bought a 7-day unlimited ride MetroCard during our trip.

We had so much freedom with the metro card because it was a stress-free way to get around town. Plus it saved us A LOT of money.

New York is a BIG city, so even if you’re staying in a central location, you’ll save a lot of time sightseeing by using the metro. This is the best way to visit New York City.

I know the subway map looks like a giant spider web, but you’ll discover that it’s surprisingly easy to navigate.

Whenever you visit a new city, watch a YouTube video about how to use their public transit system. This can help you know what to expect when traveling and gives you peace of mind.

You can also download an app, such as CityMapper , which will show you train schedules, any service interruptions, alternate routes (if necessary), and which exit to take.

Other ways to get around New York:

Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour – Yes, it’s a little touristy, but this is a great way to experience New York for first-timers. This is also a great option to get familiar with the city.

It’s super convenient because you can jump on and off the bus tour at any of their 35+ designated stops in the city, as many times as you wish.

Plus you can listen to their digital commentary and learn more about New York’s top sights.

Walk – New York is one of the world’s most walkable cities. It’s laid out in a grid pattern, which makes it easy to find your way around.

Streets run East-West and Avenues run North-South. Just make sure to wear a comfortable pair of walking shoes .

SIDE NOTE: I don’t recommend wearing sandals when walking around New York. The city is super dirty and it’ll take forever to wash the dirty and grime off your feet.

2. Save money with the New York Pass  

If you want to visit New York’s most popular attractions, I highly recommend getting a city pass. This allows you to save up to 50% off the city’s top attractions, tours, and landmarks.

While there are many different New York city passes to choose from, the most popular one is the New York Pass , which is great for those who want to visit a lot of attractions.

What’s the best way to save money on New York attractions ?

Use the New York Pass .

Getting the most bang for your buck is my #1 priority when planning a vacation and the New York Pass was rated the #1 NYC city pass by TripAdvisor.

FLASH SALE! Save up to $170 off the New York Pass. Offer ends June 16th. You have 2 years to activate the pass.

They’re also recommended by Expedia and the New York Pass currently have a TrustScore rating of 4/5 on Trust Pilot .

Over 3.5 million travelers have used the pass and 9 out of 10 customers recommend the New York Pass to their friends. This is the most popular New York tourist pass.

With the New York Pass, you can save time, money, and enjoy stress-free sightseeing. This is your one-stop shop for the ultimate New York sightseeing experience!

But don’t just take my word for it. Check out these Trust Pilot reviews below.

newyorkpass reviews

PRO TIP: Buy the pass online to save time and hassle. Plus, you’ll save extra money off the retail price. To buy the New York Pass, click here to go to the official website.

What’s included in the New York Pass ?

✓ Pick from over 100 NYC attractions ✓ Valid for up to 10 days ✓  Save up to 50% compared to purchasing tickets at each attraction ✓ Visit unlimited amount of NYC attractions each day

The New York Pass is a prepaid sightseeing card that can be used to get FREE fast-track entry to over 100+ attractions , museums, and tours in the city.

Below are some of my favorite attractions included in the New York Pass.

Must-see observation decks in NYC:

  • Edge NYC ($43.55 value)
  • Empire State Building ($47.91 value)
  • Top of the Rock Observatory ($43.55 value)

Popular museums in NYC:

  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum ($28.00 value)
  • American Museum of Natural History ($28.00 value)
  • Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) ($25.00 value)

Best tours in NYC:

  • Big Bus Hop-On Hop-Off tour ($59.99 value)
  • Statue of Liberty Ferry and Ellis Island Immigration Museum ($24.00 value)
  • Best of NYC Cruise by Circle Line ( $44.00 value)

Once you’ve bought the New York Pass, you can visit as many attractions as you want. The more sights you visit, the more money you save!

I found that using the pass allowed me to check out more attractions and tours that I wouldn’t normally think of doing .

For example, small walking tours. The New York Pass offers free access to a variety of walking tours in NYC. I really enjoyed this!

Is the New York Pass worth it? Check out my honest review of the New York Pass here.

How to buy your New York Pass:

STEP 1: Choose which pass duration you want to buy (1, 2, 3, 5, 7, or 10-day). You can click here to purchase your New York Pass from their official website.

Why you should consider buying the pass online:

  • When you buy the pass online, you can take advantage of online discounts .
  • They offer a 365-day money-back guarantee , so you can get a full refund just in case your plans change.
  • You can activate your pass anytime within two years from the date of purchase.

STEP 2: Download your mobile pass instantly using the New York Pass app.

If you prefer a physical pass, simply print your pass and guidebook at home. Links and easy-to-follow instructions for both options will be in your confirmation email.

STEP 3: You now have FREE access to any of the 100+ top NYC attractions included for the duration of your pass.

How to activate the pass : It will activate once you visit your first attraction and can then be used on consecutive calendar days for the number of days purchased. 

You’ll also receive a free guidebook , which is included with your purchase. Use this book to help you easily plan your itinerary.

3. Make time to visit Brooklyn

Visiting New York for the first time? Avoid These 10 Tourist Mistakes

During my first trip to New York City, I spent the whole time in Manhattan. I had no idea there were so many other great places to visit in the boroughs.

I encourage you to make time to visit Brookyln. This a fun escape from the big city and you’ll be treated to spectacular skyline views of Manhattan.

If you’re using the New York Pass , below are some of the attractions and tours you can check out in Brooklyn for FREE using the pass:

  • Brooklyn Bridge Bike Rental by Unlimited Biking ($51.69 value)
  • Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO Neighborhood Tour ($35.00 value)
  • NYC Bus Tour of Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens ($79.00 value)
  • Brooklyn Museum of Art ($16.00 value)
  • Brooklyn Botanic Garden ($18.00 value)
  • Graffiti and Street Art Walking Tour of Brooklyn ($32.00 value)
  • Brooklyn Bridge Walking Tour ($27.57 value)

PRO TIP : The best photos of the Manhattan skyline are from DUMBO in Brooklyn.

Now whenever I’m in New York City, I always make time to visit Brooklyn . Some of my favorite things to do in Brooklyn include walking across the Brooklyn Bridge (you’ll love the NYC skyline view), eating pizza at Roberta’s, enjoying the best hot chocolate at Jacques Torres Chocolate, and exploring the NY Transit Museum.

Prep for your New York trip

tips for first time visit to nyc

4. Don’t pay full price at New York City museums

Visiting New York for the first time? Avoid These 10 Tourist Mistakes

There’s no reason to pay full price to visit museums such as The Met , MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), or the American Museum of Natural History .

Instead, there are several ways you can get discounted entry tickets or even visit them for free. This is one of the best things to know before going to New York.

Take advantage of free museum days

You can visit some of New York City’s museums on free days, which makes this a great option to save money.

The only down side is free museum days are always busy . This is why I recommend arriving BEFORE the museum opens to avoid long wait times.

Side Note: For New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut residents ONLY , some museums (such as The Met) offer “pay what you wish” admission. A valid form of ID is required.

In the past, some New York museums offered “pay what you wish” admission for everyone.

But now it’s ONLY offered to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut residents . You’ll need to show a valid form of ID.

If you don’t live in one of these states , the best ways to save money on attractions is to try visiting on free days or using one of the following New York sightseeing passes.

Save money with one of these New York sightseeing passes :

New York Pass – Using the New York Pass is a no-brainer if you want to avoid paying full-price at NYC’s top attractions.

With the savings you gain from using the New York Pass, you can put that extra money towards a nice dinner, a fancy hotel, and so on.

BEST FOR : You want to hit all the major attractions in a short amount of time. You’ll save up to 50% off vs. paying for individual entrance tickets.

New York CityPASS – If you just want to visit the city’s most popular attractions and aren’t interested in tours, then you may want to consider getting the New York CityPASS.

BEST FOR : You want to visit the top 5 attractions in New York. You’ll save 40% off vs. paying the regular admission price. This includes:

  • Empire State Building
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • Top of the Rock OR Guggenheim Museum
  • Ferry Access to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
  • 9/11 Memorial and Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

New York GO City Pass – And if you just want to visit a few attractions at your own pace, then I recommend checking out the New York GO City Pass.

BEST FOR : You have more time to spend in New York to see the city’s top attractions. You’ll save up to 50% off vs. paying the regular admission price.

The New York CityPASS and GO City Pass DON’T offer as high of a discount on sightseeing as the New York Pass , but they are still excellent ways to save money when visiting the city’s top attractions.

Below you can read my post sharing tips on how to choose the best sightseeing pass for your trip to New York.

What is the best sightseeing pass for New York?

5. D on’t spend all your time in Midtown and Times Square

Midtown is great, but there’s SO much more to do in New York City. It would be a shame if you spent all your time in Midtown or Times Square.

Many tourists make the mistake of spending their entire trip only visiting these two areas. They miss out on all the wonderful things that New York has to offer.

DO THIS INSTEAD :

Even if you’re visiting New York City for the first time, try to schedule time in your itinerary to explore some less popular, but equally amazing neighborhoods in NYC.

Some of my favorite neighborhoods to explore are the Village, Upper East Side , Union Square, Lower East Side , Lower Manhattan, and SoHo (where you’ll find the Musuem of Ice Cream ).

If you’re using the New York Pass , below are some more great things to do outside of Midtown and Times Square. All attractions are free when using the pass.

  • 9/11 Memorial and Museum
  • One World Observatory
  • Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Immigrant Museum
  • Best of NYC Cruise by Circle Line
  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
  • Whitney Museum of American Art
  • Brooklyn Botanic Garden
  • The Highline
  • Flatiron Building
  • Central Park
  • Washington Square Park
  • Coney Island
  • Brooklyn Bridge

6. Don’t eat in Times Square

This spot may be great for a photo or to watch a Broadway show, but you don’t want to eat here. The food in Times Square is usually expensive and doesn’t offer good value.

If you’re hungry when visiting Times Square, try to walk at least 3-5 blocks east or west to find more affordable restaurants with better quality food.

Instead, my favorite neighborhoods to find good food in New York include Chinatown, West Village, SoHo, Chelsea, Flatiron, Lower East Side, and the East Village.

PRO TIP : Traveling can be expensive. One way I like to save money is to get FREE gift cards from Swagbucks . You can get free gift cards to Starbucks, which can be used to cover coffee or breakfast while traveling. Instead of paying out of pocket, this can be a great way to cut back on travel costs. Join Swagbucks for free here.

7. Check out at least one observation deck in New York City

new york travel tips for first timers

Yes, this is a little touristy, but the views of New York City are absolutely incredible. To get a true feel for New York, you need to see it from above.

If you decide to splurge on one thing, THIS should be it!

My personal favorite is the view from the Top of the Rock . I’ve been several times and never get tired of it. Just make sure to buy your tickets in advance. This will save you money and disppointment if tickets sell out the day you want to visit.

top of the rock reviews

Below are some other popular skydecks to check out. You can visit them all for FREE with the New York Pass .

SUMMIT One Vanderbilt Experience – Very new and exciting.

Empire State Building – A must if you like the movie Sleepless in Seattle. Visit the 86th floor observation deck, or if you can check out the 102nd floor to get 360-degree views of the city.

New York One World Observatory – The One World Trade Center is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.

New York Edge Observation Deck – The highest outdoor skydeck in the Western Hemisphere.

8. Avoid eating at chain restaurants

Don’t tell me you came all the way to New York City to eat at Sbarro Pizza, like Michael Scott did in The Office TV show!

If you’re visiting New York City for the first time, you’ll want to take advantage of the city’s diverse selection of restuarants and ethnic eats.

Whether you’re craving an authentic slice of New York-style pizza or a gourmet meal prepared by some of the top chefs in the world, you’ll find everything your taste buds desire here.

If you’re a foodie like me, consider taking fun Manhattan Food & History Tour with a local guide. You’ll get to hear stories of the millions of immigrants who settled in New York and taste incredible Chinese, German, Dutch, Italain, Jewish and other dishes.

9. Don’t pay full price for a Broadway show

One of the most popular things to do in New York City for the first time is to see a Broadway show. Instead of paying full price for tickets, you’ll almost always be able to find a discount.

How to save money on theatre tickets:

TKTS Ticket Booths sell discounted tickets to see most Broadway musicals, plays, and dance productions. You’ll be able to score same-day tickets at up to 50%, which is a huge savings!

I recommend arriving early in the day, as it tends to get busy and some shows can sell out quickly.

Their flagship location is in the heart of Times Square. You can also check out their booth at South Street Seaport or Lincoln Center.

What are the most popular Broadway shows in New York?

  • The Lion King
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
  • Moulin Rouge! The Musical
  • MJ Broadway
  • The Book of Mormon Musical
  • Blue Man Group

10. Don’t support horse carriage rides in Central Park

Riding a horse-drawn carriage sounds like a fairy tale. But the reality is, carriage horses often live and work in inhumane conditions.

Horse-drawn carriages shouldn’t share the same roadways as honking cars and cyclists as it puts both the animal and the public at risk. These horses work long hours (rain or shine) and even when the weather is unbearably hot or freezing cold.

Paying for a horse-drawn carriage ride continues to support the industry. So while it might sound like a nice way to experience Central Park, you’ll want to pass on this idea.

There are many other great ways to explore NYC. Some of my favorite ways to get around the city include taking the metro or walking.

If you want to relax and soak up all the sights, then you’ll definitely want to ride the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour .

They provide digital commentary sharing exciting stories about NYC’s iconic landmarks and attractions.

Ride the metro – Besides walking, this is the fastest and most cost-effective way to get around New York City.

Staten Island Ferry – It’s free to ride and it’s a fun way to see the Statue of Liberty (Lady Liberty) from a distance.

Walking – Put on your walking shoes and explore the city. This is my favorite way to get around and sightsee.

To make it more fun, consider joining a local walking tour . If you’re using the New York Pass , there are several walking tours available for every interest.

By bike – Explore New York City by bike. Check out the city’s urbans parks or ride along the dedicated greenways.

If you’re using the New York Pass , you can rent bikes for FREE in Central Park – a $54.44 value!

Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour – See all the top sights in NYC with the Big Bus Classic panoramic tour. Free bus tour included with the New York Pass – a $59 value!

New York City helicopter tour – If you have some extra money to spend and want to create an unforgettable experience, consider this helicopter tour.

You’ll get a bird’s-eye view of New York’s Manhattan island and enjoy 180 degree views of the city’s sights.

New York Cruise – If you’re pressed for time, this can be a great way to see New York City.

This 90-minute cruise allows you to experience lower and midtown Manhattan in a unique and exciting way. You’ll also get a close-up look at the Statue of Liberty and other popular landmarks.

nyc circle line landmark cruise

11. Some NYC attractions require advance booking

If you’re traveling to New York City soon and plan to visit some of the city’s popular attractions, I HIGHLY recommend making reservations as soon as possible .

Some of the popular attractions, such as the Empire State Building, may sell out or require a wait for the next available entry.

If you’re using a sightseeing pass, such as New York Pass , New York CityPASS , or the GO City Pass , you’re already one step ahead of everyone else because you can skip the long ticket lines.

Then once you’ve planned your New York itinerary, you can make your reservations through their website after purchasing your pass.

Below are some popular attractions that require or recommend advance reservations:

  • Top of the Rock observation deck
  • Guggenheim Museum
  • Ferry Access to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
  • Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
  • Edge Observation Deck

12. Learn how to find cheap eats in NYC

Visiting New York for the first time? Avoid These 10 Tourist Mistakes

NYC is an expensive city and the price point at its restaurants are higher than other large cities, such as Toronto. However, with some careful planning, there are plenty of great ways to save money when eating in New York City.

Get the lunch special

Many popular NYC restaurants offer affordable lunch specials. This can be a great way to enjoy a tasty meal for cheap.

Eat and drink during Happy Hour

If you don’t mind eating a little early (or late at night), I highly recommend taking advantage of New York City’s happy hour specials. Enjoy discounted menu prices on a selection of both food and drinks.

Dollar pizza slices

OK, we can’t be healthy all the time. Grabbing a slice of New York pizza is one of my favorite meals when I’m on-the-go sightseeing in the city. If you’re visiting New York City for the first time, getting NYC-style pizza is a MUST!

Find cheap eats in the Village, Lower East Side, and Chinatown

Think everything in NYC is expensive? Think again. There are plenty of delicious restaurants with affordable eats in these neighborhoods.

Check out New York Diners

Diners can be a great way to enjoy an affordable breakfast or lunch in the city.

Try Street Food

From ethnic food trucks to hot dog carts and bagels, there’s lots of street food options to choose from in New York.

No matter where you decide to eat in New York, make sure the restaurant has an “A” rating from the NYC Health Department .

If you don’t see an “A” rating posted outside the restuarant, find a different establishment to eat at.

If you want to eat at the city’s most popular restaurants, try to make a reservation or expect long wait times. Not all restaurants take reservations. In this case, aim to visit during off-peak dining hours.

13. Don’t rent a car in NYC

One of the most common travel mistakes is renting a car in New York City. Parking is expensive and traffic is a nightmare, especially if you’re not used to driving in a big city.

Even if you’re driving to New York, I recommend leaving your car at your accommodations for the duration of your trip. The city’s metro system is easy to navigate and one of the quickest ways to get around town.

14. Follow this basic New York City etiquette for first-timers

Many people expect New Yorkers to be rude, but I found that most people were pretty friendly in the city. To help you enjoy your trip and even befriend a New Yorker, it’s a good idea to grasp the follow NYC etiquette.

Tips for riding the NYC Metro:

  • If you have trouble swiping your Metro card at the subway station, step to the side to let other people behind you go through first. Then try again when it’s less busy.
  • Unless you’re getting off at the next subway stop, don’t block the subway doors because people might be trying to exit.
  • Let people exit the subway / bus before you get on.
  • Avoid wearing a backpack when the subway / bus is crowded. Carry it in your hands or put it in your lap instead.
  • Give up your seat for pregnant women, elderly, or disabled passengers.

Tips for walking around NYC:

  • Don’t stop in the middle of the sidewalk , street, or stairs to look up / take photos / check your phone / look at a map. Instead, step to the side so other people can pass.
  • If you’re with a group, don’t walk together in a row blocking other people from passing you on the sidewalk. In some cases, you may have to walk single file.
  • Stick to the right when walking on the sidewalk or riding the escalators. This allows people who are in a rush to pass on your left.
  • Pay attention to bike lanes when walking through the park or crossing the street.
  • Real New Yorkers don’t wait for the walk sign to turn green . Most streets are one-way in NYC, so you may notice locals like to cross the street when there’s no oncoming traffic (even if the pedestrian light is red).
  • If you’re using an umbrella , be mindful of others around you. Move your umbrella up, to the right or left when passing others.
  • Wear comfortable shoes . You’ll see many locals wearing sneakers with their suits and changing into dress shoes once they reach the office. If you want to wear high heels for photos, put them in your bag and change once you’re at your destination.

Tips for talking like a New Yorker:

  • “Houston”, the street in Lower Manhattan is pronounced as “HOW-stun” instead of “HUE-stun” (like the city in Texas). If you’re in a taxi and need to get to Houston Street, make sure to pronounce it as “HOW-stun”.
  • New Yorkers call it “the City” . They don’t call it NYC or Manhattan.
  • If you want to ask someone for directions, keep it short and sweet. There’s no need to make small talk. Just ask, “Can you please tell me how to get to The Met from here?”

Tips for staying safe in New York City:

  • Stay away from platform edges on the subway . Stand away from the platform edge so you’re not at the risk of accidently falling on the subway tracks or being pushed.
  • Be aware of pick pockets . Keep your valuables close to you and within your sight at all times, especially in subway stations.
  • Don’t walk with earphones in (esepcially at night). Walking alone with your earphones in at night can make it difficult to be aware of your surroundings. This can make you an easy target for getting mugged.
  • At the airport – Never leave your bags unattended or let a stranger offer to carry your bags for you / offer you a ride into the City. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s because it probably is.
  • Taxi – Never get into an unmarked cab. All NYC taxis will be clearly identified. They are usually yellow with a light on the roof which displays the cab driver’s medallion number.
  • Disney and superhero characters in Times Sqaure – If you take a photo of them without their permission, the characters may demand payment. Make a plan in advance if you have children when walking through Times Square.
  • Avoid walking alone at night or riding the subway late a night . Try to ride in subway cars with others (as opposed to vacant subway cars) or walk in busy areas. Central Park and the Financial District are quiet at night and should be avoided if you’re walking alone.

15. Public bathrooms are hard to find

If you need to use the public restroom, I always recommend using the one at the next restaurant you eat at or museum / attraction you visit. Unfortunately, most places will not let you use their restroom unless you’re a paying customer.

Sometimes you might have some luck using the public restroom at Starbucks . You might need to ask an employee at Starbucks for the restroom door code first.

I’ve also had good luck by using the restroom at hotels. You have to walk into the hotel as if you were already staying there and look for the sign to the restroom. It’s usually in the lobby.

Some hotels during the busy holiday season will ask to see your room key before entering the lobby, so keep this in mind.

Ready to plan your NYC vacation? See what hotel deals are available in the area thanks to Booking.com

First Time in New York City FAQs

What is the best month to visit new york.

The best time to visit New York City is in the spring (April to June) and fall (November to December). This is when the weather is mild and there are fewer tourists.

What is the cheapest month to visit New York?

If you don’t mind braving the cold, early spring (February and March) can also be a great time to visit New York. This is often when I find cheap flight tickets and affordable hotel accommodations.

What should I do on my first trip to New York City?

Below are my top 10 things to do on your first trip to New York City:

  • Visit Central Park . (it’s free and one of the most beautiful spots in New York)
  • Check out Times Square at night. (Yes, it’s touristy. But it’s worth going at least once)
  • See the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (If you’re using the New York Pass , it’s free)
  • See the views from the Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center. (It’s free with the New York Pass )
  • See Eygptian mummies at The Met . (It’s free with the New York Pass )
  • Visit the 9/11 Memorial and One World Observatory . (There’s also the 9/11 Memorial Museum which is worth visiting. It’s free with the New York Pass )
  • Walk the High Line and check out the observation deck. (This urban walking trail above the city streets is a nice break from the hustle and bustle of NYC)
  • Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge . (This is one of my favorite FREE views of the New York skyline )
  • See a Broadway show . (Popular shows book up in advance or you can find deals on same-day tickets)
  • Eat food from around the world. (New York is famous for bagels, cheesecake and pizza. But you can also try authentic food from this city of immigrants)

How many days do you need to see New York?

If you’re visiting for the first time, I recommend spending at least 5 days in New York. This will give you enough time to see the main attractions and neighborhoods of Manhattan.

Depending on what you want to do in New York, you can visit for 3 days. But you’ll need to spend longer if you want to cover the top sights.

Should I stay in Times Square?

Times Square is the heart of Manhattan and the cetner of all the top attractions in New York. This is a great neighborhood to stay for first timers. If you want to escape the crowds, consider staying in the Upper East Side or the Greenwich Village .

What is the easiest way to get around New York?

The easiest way to get around New York is to ride the subway. It’s often faster and cheaper than driving or taking a taxi. You’ll also feel like a local when riding the subway. Another fun way to get around New York is to ride the Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour .

Is New York City worth visiting?

Yes, you have to visit New York at least once in your life, especially if you love big cities. It’s the most visited city in North American and often appears in major motion pictures. New York City is known for its world-class Broadway performances, its history, museums, skyscrapers, and diverse population.

travel planner printables

About Eden Ashley

Eden has an MBA and a degree in Psychology. As a new mom (and homeowner), she knows the importance of having a budget that works. She's helped thousands of women get good with money using the same strategies she used to save $100,000 by age 25. Click here to learn how to create a better budget!

Reader Interactions

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May 22, 2017 at 5:06 pm

Thankyou so much for all the wonderful tips! My fiance and I are heading to the US for the first time from Aus next month and first stop is NYC, this has honestly been the most helpful post i’ve seen whilst researching and has made me soooo excited for next month! Xx

Sunset Travellers • Couple Travel Blog

17 New York City Tips Every First Time Visitor Should Know

By: Author Sunset Travellers

Posted on Last updated: June 15, 2024

Categories New York City , Travel , United States

We had our first visit to New York City at the end of August.

These 17 New York City tips are essential to know before you visit NYC for the first time. Even if it is not your first visit we are sure you will learn something. 

Travelling around the world, we have visited many busy cities such as Sydney , Melbourne , London, Manila , Singapore, etc.

New York City is one of a kind. 

NYC city indeed never sleeps, the noise and traffic are constant, which can be quite challenging for anyone new to the city.

But don’t worry we are here to help!

We spent five days in this concrete jungle and loved it! Since then we have been lucky enough to visit NY a few more times. 

Heading to NY soon and looking for a place to stay? Sign up here.

Let’s begin our New York City tips

17 New York City Tips Every First Time Visitor Should Know

Let’s begin our NYC tips!

1. New York City Tips – The traffic is ridiculous.

Visiting New York - City traffic, another New York City Tip

Sounds obvious right? But the traffic in New York City is constant and loud.

Streets are packed with cars, cabs and buses and let me tell you; it is loud.

Day or night it just doesn’t stop.

You might think that it gets better at night, but it feels like it’s busier at night than during the day.

The engine noise, people beeping, fire/ambulance sirens sound all day every day.

The great thing is that after a day or two you actually will stop noticing it and it will become standard to you.

2. New York City Tips – The “five-star” hotel rooms are tiny.

New York City tips - Actual hotel room size tips For Visiting New York

Looks a lot bigger than it is.

After checking into a five-star hotel, you will quickly realise that the bedrooms are small.

The website pictures do not mirror the size of the room, and a room upgrade to an executive room will probably be pointless. All you will gain is that one extra square meter of space.

For our holiday we decided to splash out and get an executive Times Square View, but our view ended up being a wall, a few rooftops and a tiny glimpse of Times Square in between other buildings.

Moving rooms didn’t make any difference either.

If you are looking to splash out and have a ridiculous 5-star stay check out this place (it is not cheap haha)

3. New York City Tips – Always have a valid credit card when booking a hotel room.

New York City tips - Have a valid credit card

Although we had given our right bank card while booking a room online, we spent too much on the card, and there were no sufficient funds for the hotel to take payment before we even arrived.

Upon check-in, we discovered that they had cancelled our booking and it took a very unnecessary and rude attitude from the receptionist to reinstate our reservation.

Keep in mind that on Booking.com they told us no prepaid amount was required.

Even if your hotel confirmation states free cancellation and that no payment is taken until check-in, this might not be the case. So keep in mind that your room might not be waiting for you upon check-in.

There are many amazing apartments available on Airbnb so make sure to check them out.

4. New York City Tips – Taxi is not always the fastest way to get from point A to B.

Traveller tips for visiting New York City

As we have mentioned earlier, the traffic is constant .

Therefore a taxi might not be the best option for you.

If you are on a schedule and need to get somewhere in time, NYC subway could be your best choice. We also did a lot of walking.

If you have a flight to catch, the JFK airport is about an hour drive from Manhattan , so make sure to allow enough time to get there.

5. New York City Tips – New York City has the best doughnuts.

New York City tips - the donuts are amazing

Get in my belllyyyy

It’s entirely accurate and a tasted statement. In general, we do not have a sweet tooth, but the doughnuts here are to die for. Every doughnut is enormous and can easily feed two.

Many places are selling delicious, fluffy doughnuts with every flavour you can dream of.

You can’t visit New York and never try a doughnut here.

6. New York City Tips – Central Park is as amazing as they say.

NYC Tips - Central park is amazing, views from above it.

We spent the whole day in Central Park and fell in love with it. First, we rented a bike to explore the entire area (about $15-30 for 2 hrs), then again on foot.

The place doesn’t disappoint. Packed with so many beautiful spots, we could stay there forever.

If you are in New York for the first time, most of all Central Park should be on your bucket list.

We also loved the  Loeb Boathouse restaurant , where you can enjoy a meal or just sit back with a drink and breath in the beautiful scenery.

Did you know? New York City’s Central Park gets all the hype about being a huge city park, but Phoenix Park in Dublin is actually twice the size of Central Park. More Irish facts here.

7. New York City Tips – Eating out is a lot more expensive than you might think.

New York City tips - food is expensive eating out

Visiting New York and planning on eating in restaurants?

This might cost you a lot. We had a budget of US$200 a day for two for attractions and food which might feel like a lot. Well let us tell you, there is no way of splashing out on fancy dinner with such a budget.

Our food choices were mainly pizza, pasta or other cheap food options.

New York has so much to offer in regards to food choices, but if you are on a budget, your options get limited.

If you are in a central location, venture out a bit for different restaurant options and more reasonable prices.

Don’t forget to tip! 🙂

8. New York City Tips – Tourist attractions are very expensive.

New York City tips - tourist attractions are expensive

Travelling around the world, we had expected that New York is going to be costly when it comes to sightseeing. But the prices really exceeded our expectations.

As you can imagine, with our daily budget, our sightseeing options had to be carefully evaluated.

We got a great deal of $30 for two for the hop on hop off cruise which was great, and we enjoyed the experience.

If you don’t have much time, you can take an hour-long  NYC Liberty Cruise . 

In a day we managed to see Wall Street, beautiful St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Ground Zero and much more.

The New York hop on hop off bus is also a great option, and you can grab tickets from as little as US$29 per person.

With the New York hop on hop off tour, you create your own sightseeing itinerary.

In our opinion, it’s the ideal way to explore every corner of the Big Apple and, with lively tour guides to keep you entertained and informed, you are going to learn facts old and new about the city that never sleeps!

You can grab your tickets here .

As you can imagine getting around on the bus can take a lot of time depending on the traffic so consider your choices before going for it.

The Empire State Building entry fee is at $34-$54 depending on if you want to go up to the very top.

Want to see it all for a reasonable price? Check out the New York City Pass .

9. New York City Tips – Be prepared to queue everywhere.

New York City tips - Look forward to lots of ques like this

In the five days in New York, we had queued more than in the past year altogether.

If you have been to London attractions, you patiently waited for your turn; here it takes twice as long. Even public toilet queues can be exhausting (applies to us ladies).

The attractions are popular seven days a week year-round, and there is no way of skipping the queue unless you purchase expensive VIP passes.

10. New York City Tips – No, tv or music stars don’t stand on every corner waiting to be spotted.

New York City tips - Unfortunately there is not a celebrity on every cornor

New York is famous for celebrity spotting , but it’s not as easy to see them unless this is your only holiday goal. In five days in the city, we haven’t seen any stars during our trip, unfortunately.

If you want to see all the hotspots you can take a guided tour of New York sites from your favourite movies and television shows, including Friends, Birdman, Glee, and more. 

This is by far one of the best ways to see all the famous locations from movies and TV shows. 

The tour takes approximately 3 hours and costs US$43. You can find more details here . 

11. New York City Tips – There is a park you can legally have a drink in.

New York City tips - There is a park you can drink in

The Bryant Park , located just by the Public Library, has a great outdoor bar where you can enjoy a cold alcoholic beverage.

Also, the park itself is very popular for events, outdoor summer cinema and much more. It’s a small but gorgeous park worth visiting when in the city.

12. New York City Tips – It might be easier just to walk.

Tips for visitors in New York

Although you might hate walking, New York by foot can be more fun than you think.

There is something around every corner, and because of the constant traffic, it might be easier if you just put comfy shoes on and walk.

In this short visit, we have learnt that you will get somewhere faster if you use your own two feet.

It is a lot of fun being able to walk the streets and blend in.

New York is also very popular for its walking tours and you can explore some of the most exciting locations and capture your experience on a private walking tour . 

13. New York City Tips – There are food stands on every corner and make sure to take advantage of them.

Tips for Visitors travelling to New York

This is a fact that you must take advantage of. Selling a variety of food, the stands are a must try.

14. New York City Tips – Eating cheap = eating unhealthy.

Tips for first time travellers to New York

New York serves international cuisine, and you can find here every possible dining option.

Being on a budget, unfortunately, will equal eating cheap food, meaning fast food.

Although the pizza places are delicious , after a few days you just crave for a healthy green salad.

This rule might not be applicable everywhere, but if you are right in the heart of the city, be prepared to pay a lot for not necessarily the healthiest options.

If you are keen to get the taste of the best food the city has to offer while sightseeing, why not go on a delicious food cruise ? 

15. New York City Tips – There is a Starbucks coffee shop on every corner.

Tips for visiting New York City

Well almost.

The city has 277+ Starbucks shops so even if you are not a fan of their coffee, the store might become handy when looking for a nearby restroom. 🙂

16. New York City tips – Everyone is in a hurry – and you better not get in their way.

Tips for travellers coming to New York

As you can imagine, the city is bustling.

Even if people are keen to help when asking for directions, do not dear to slow them down.

Everyone seems to be on a mission to get somewhere, and they will not slow down if you get in their way trying to take a picture. So be aware and try to blend in and you will be just fine.

17. New York City tips – The city is shopping heaven!

Tips for travellers visiting New York City

If you are coming to New York to do some shopping, you are coming to the right place.

The city has the best shopping I’ve ever seen and trust me, it’s hard not to go shopping when here.

Make sure to put some $$$ away to have at least a bit of fun and go shopping.

Shopping makes everyone happy, and we guarantee that you will enjoy it a much as we did.

In conclusion what other New York City tips do you wish you had known?

If you are planning to visit New York soon and looking to see everything in 3-4 days why not get the New York City package ? 

You can design your own itinerary of Manhattan and Brooklyn on a hop-on-hop-off double-decker bus tour.

Then head over to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty with a ferry ticket, cruise around the harbour and see the city from above with your choice of Top of the Rock Observation Deck or the Empire State Building admission

We do appreciate every comment so please share with us.

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17 New York City Tips Every First Time Visitor Should Know

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Monday 27th of December 2021

- To save time in queue at any tourist stop, go EARLY. If you’re going to have a lazy morning and arrive at 9 or 10:00, you’ll be adding HOURS on to your wait. - If you want to take a pedicab for fun, be sure to read the price on the side before you get in! We saw prices ranging from $2.99 a minute, to $8.99 a minute. Eek. We took one before realizing the differing prices and paid $56 for a 14 minute ride. He was constantly stopping to take photos for us… - Get a subway pass! Cheap and easy. - Buy a City Pass if you want to go to multiple tourist spots! Saves money and you get to do more. For the best views, go up to the Top of the Rock for great views of the city and Empire State building during the day, and go to the top of the Empire State building at night. We were there at midnight. Basically no line, and an incredible view!

Sunset Travellers

Tuesday 18th of January 2022

Hi Sue, thanks so much for your detailed comment :) Great tips

Stephanie Johnson

Sunday 9th of June 2019

The Staten Island Ferry is free and a great way to see the Statue of Liberty and the island from a distance.

Monday 10th of June 2019

Thanks Stephanie, we meant to include this so will update it soon :) Have a great day!

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A Passion and A Passport

Proving Travel is Possible with a Full-Time 9-5

A First Time Visitors Guide to New York City

last Updated: May 11, 2022 new york new york city

FYI: Affiliate links may be sprinkled throughout the awesome, free content you see below. I’ll receive a small commission when you purchase from my links (at no extra cost to you), which I’ll totally blow on adult things like boba tea and avocado toast. As always, thanks for the support.

First time to New York City?

Don’t fret – yes the city is large, intense, and intimidating at times, but it’s also exhilarating, surprising, and generous all at once.  You’ll leave both wanting to return and thrilled to be escaping from the madness.

A few common questions you may be asking yourself after booking that ticket:

  • How will I get around?
  • Is this an express or local subway?!?
  • What should I do?!
  • Why are there people dressed up as characters in Times Square?

first time visitors guide to NYC >> what to see, do, and eat | www.apassionandapassport.com

First things first, how do you get around?!

You’ve just landed for the first time in New York City and don’t know what to do next.

Did you land at JFK?   Great!  That airport has awesome public transportation options.  Don’t let the cab drivers or uber drivers take your money for no reason.  From JFK, you can take the air train to the subway which will take you straight to anywhere you are staying.  Unfortunately, if you flew into LaGuardia airport, you are limited to either the bus or a cab in which case I would recommend a cab.

Now back to the subway .  Are you staying in New York for a bit?  If so, the MTA offers a day 7 day unlimited pass which might be a great deal for you.  I recommend checking out MTA Fares at A Glance  before your visit to help you plan. PS: The subway system will take you anywhere in the 5 boroughs for the same price of $2.75 – there are maps at each station which you can use to find your desired destination. 

Confused?  Ask the help of a local NYer (they’ll be the ones reading the paper and listening to music on their phones).  Residents get a bad rep – before I fully understood public transportation I used to ask people all the time if this train would take me to x, and 95% of the time I got a friendly response.

new york city weekend

Now onto the fun stuff.  What to see and where to eat! 

First time visiting NYC?! >> checkout all my recommendations! | www.apassionandapassport.com

Empire State Building

This is the most iconic building in all of New York City, and a visit to NYC wouldn’t be complete without witnessing this famous landmark. You can take a tour and go to the top, but personally, I would save that experience for Top of the Rock.  It’s  beauty at night (all lit up) and shouldn’t be missed!

Top Of The Rock

If you’re a fan of Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, The Office etc., this is where it all starts.  You can visit the Top Of The Rock and I highly recommend it.  From there you can get a ridiculously amazing 360 degree view of the city.  I’m hoping to get back up there this summer!

Just make sure you view NYC from up above, from one of these three options below:

new york city weekend

High Line Park 

This park is a few miles long and runs along the West Side of the city.  My husband and I actually took some of our engagement photos here and they came out great!  It is an excellent spot for people watching and photography, especially during the spring and summer months. Don’t miss all the quirky finds and murals hidden on nearby buildings! Most definitely one of my favorite of the many  cheap things to do in NYC !

First time visiting NYC?! >> checkout all my recommendations! | www.apassionandapassport.com

Chelsea Piers Driving Range

If you are looking for a break that involves swinging a golf club, then the Chelsea Piers driving range is the perfect spot.  You can see the Statue of Liberty from this location –  double bonus!  Recommended by my husband as I’ve never been, but he claims it’s a great way to spend an afternoon!

Yankee or Met game

While both teams have moved into new stadiums, the games are still fun.  I would argue that Citi Field offers better food but the Yankees are a much better team. :p A must for your first time to New York City! On a hot New York night, it is the best – get some ice cream afterwards!

Times Square

The epicenter of NYC, and what you’ve probably seen on postcards when you think of New York’s bright city lights and skyscrapers.  Times Square changes everyday – but expect to see some characters dressed up (be prepared to pay for photos) and an immense amount of crowds. 

And if you’re traveling with children- hold their hand.  A fun place to wander for a bit – but I don’t suggest booking a hotel here or planning to eat anywhere around this area (super expensive for no apparent reason).

new york city weekend

Broadway Show

Want to see a Broadway show at a discounted price?  Of course you do!  Take advantage of the TKTS booths in Times Square and pick any of them.  You can’t choose wrong. A must in NYC! Or plan ahead and learn how to find cheap Broadway tickets before your trip!

Little Italy

Mangia bene!  “Eat well” in Italian which is exactly what you can do here in Little Italy.  This area is filled with amazing sauce, delicious food (pizza or pasta, anyone?!) and even better cannoli’s (I’ve tested a bunch of them – so trust me on this). 😉  While were talking about food, make sure to get a cookie from Levain Bakery (pictured below), and eat as much pizza as you can handle (a few favorite pizza spots here ).

new york city weekend

One my favorite places to go in New York is in Chinatown! Make sure you pay a visit to WoHop for a fun time.  Celebrities have been visiting this eatery for decades and continue to do so.  It never closes (truly the city that never sleeps!) and is always awesome.  Be prepared to wait on line for a table but it’s always worth the wait.

Central Park

What can I say about Central Park?  It’s perfect for visiting year round, and tons of activities are going on in every season.  Ice skate in the winter, wander during the summer, and visit the zoo and enjoy a stroll any time of year.  No visit (especially your first time to New York City!) is complete without a waffle from the Waffles & Dinges truck at the entrance on 59th street.  Best waffles ever.  Just go – trust me.

new york city weekend

Katz’s Deli 

Vegetarians beware, this New York icon servers up sandwiches bigger than your head and is simply amazing.

Statue of Liberty

If you’re not into the history of it all and just want to snap some good photos, I recommend taking a cruise around the Statue of Liberty.  Another NYC icon you just cannot miss! And if you want a semi-thrilling experience (depending on where you sit), you can even take a NYC helicopter ride to see the Statue of Liberty and more!

First time visiting NYC?! >> checkout all my recommendations! | www.apassionandapassport.com

Art Museums

New York is full of great art and fun museums.  Take your pick!  There’s the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), Guggenheim, Museum of Natural History, and a bunch of others. For your first time to New York City, I highly recommend picking just one (or two if you’re a true art lover), and spend your remaining time outdoors!  However, if you’re visiting New York City in the winter , consider visiting more to stay out of the bitter cold!

new york city weekend

Other Recommended New York City Attractions:

Are you planning your first time to New York City soon?!

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January 23, 2017 at 5:51 pm

I am thrilled to be taking my first trip to NYC in less than a month! I have been dreaming of going there for forever, and am overwhelmed by how much there is to see and do. Thank you for you list and ideas 🙂 It was incredibly helpful!

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August 3, 2020 at 7:58 pm

I live in New York, and trust me it isn’t that great

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August 6, 2020 at 10:20 am

What don't you like about NYC? I'm originally from there, but moved to SF!

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20 Things Nobody Tells You About Visiting New York by a native New Yorker

November 4, 2019 by Karen Turner 119 Comments

I’m a proud New Yorker who was born and raised in New York City. When someone asks me what they should know when visiting New York for the first time, I don’t always know where to start as there’s so many things to do in New York. I’ve decided to take a different approach here with some NYC local secrets to help you navigate your trip better.

Expect some humorous tips for first time visitors to New York (although those on their fifth trip to NYC might find this travel advice helpful). I sincerely hope that these New York travel tips come in handy and help you avoid some of the mistakes that people make on their first trip to New York. 20 Insider tips for New York under the cut.

tips for first time visit to nyc

  • 1 You have not seen all of New York City until you’ve left Manhattan. ​
  • 2 NYC taxis are slow due to traffic and there is a proper way to call a taxi.
  • 3 Public Transit in New York is great, including the subway.
  • 4 Should you bring your car to NYC? No.
  • 5 Don’t walk everywhere
  • 6 Avoid Times Square unless you’re a Broadway fan.
  • 7 Check if restaurants have an “A” rating from the NYC health department.
  • 8 Eat all the delicious food in NYC! Don’t eat at chain restaurants and don’t feel like you only need to go to only cool hotspots.
  • 9 Give New York enough time.
  • 10 The holiday season in New York is magical, but expensive.
  • 11 A cheap New York trip is​ possible if you do your research ahead.
  • 12 Don’t obsess about the main tourist attractions in NYC; you can’t see everything in one trip.
  • 13 Don’t waste your money on a view alone!
  • 14.1 How to befriend New Yorkers
  • 15 Be aware of yourself: Safety tips for New York
  • 16 New York City is tough for solo female travelers.
  • 17 Avoid the tourist traps in New York and don’t buy anything off the street!
  • 18 You don’t need to be fashionable in New York, but it can’t hurt.
  • 19 New York is filthy
  • 20 There’s not ONE New York culture; New York is ever-changing
  • 21 Final thoughts
  • 22 Have you been to New York? Did you fall in love with New York? 

You have not seen all of New York City until you’ve left Manhattan. ​

Most people only associate New York City with Manhattan, however New York has so much more to offer, including four other boroughs. That includes Brooklyn, Queens , Bronx , and Staten Island .

I cannot tell you how many times people have told me that they’ve been to New York and they’ve done everything.  When I ask if they’ve been to Queens, it’s always a no. ( Hint : I grew up in Queens, which is also where LaGuardia Airport and JFK are located. This is also one of the most diverse counties in the United States!)

NYC taxis are slow due to traffic and there is a proper way to call a taxi.

Taxi cab in New York City. Read insider tips for what to know before your first trip to New York City! #NYC

You know the movies where the hero calls a cab in New York and rushes to tell the one that he/she loves her/him? You won’t make it in time in real life.

Taxis are generally very expensive in New York and if you’re in a rush, traffic will make it about the same speed (or slower) than the subway. Sometimes, walking is even faster .

Side note: When you’re walking, you’ll see metal grates and cellar doors. Don’t walk over them. There’s  always some horror story about them. Urban legend? Probably, but better safe than sorry.

If you want to call a taxi in New York City, this is how to do it: Stand on the curb NOT by a bus stop , put your arm confidently UP and stand there intensely looking at the cars.

Public Transit in New York is great, including the subway.

Don’t be afraid of the subway in NY besides the handrails [ more about this later ].  I’m not really sure where the stigma of the subway comes from, but I promise you: I’ve never met a mole person (although I admit: count the rats is a real game that I play with friends).  The week unlimited subway pass is worth it if you’ll be taking the train a lot over 4-5 days.

Subway etiquette includes NOT making eye contact. Like, you’re allowed to look around ~subtly, but don’t be that creep who stares directly at someone the whole time. It’s weird and creepy. It’s only okay if someone has a kitten that they’re carrying on the subway. In that case, feel free to go crazy over it. (Thanks to Mae Ahern for this amazing photo.)

Photo of kitten in New York City. Insider advice for visiting nyc for the first time by a New Yorker!

Express v. Local Subway Trains (or Buses). Don’t get on the express subway or bus unless you’re sure that it’s going to stop off where you want it to.  The regular train will stop at the majority of the stops (with skipping some) while the express trains will skip on average half the stops. Don’t get on the local train because it will take twice the time.

You need to know which entrance you need for the subway via the direction that you’re headed. Check before you pay to get into the subway station as you might need to exit to get to the other side.

East Bound/ West Bound and Uptown / Downtown can be a bit confusing if the endpoint is in a different borough, but a good subway map should help you figure out the endpoint. If you’re in Manhattan, imagine a grid with yourself looking up (uptown) and to the right (east).    Click for a full post of subway tips.

Should you bring your car to NYC? No.

In general, I don’t recommend driving or parking in New York City.  When my husband drove with me to New York, he was shocked about the cost of the bridges, which are not cheap. You can’t really avoid them, so if you can find reasonable parking, it’s nice not needing to deal with parking and driving in New York City. Most New Yorkers also hate paying the bridge tolls, even if they get a discount.

If you’re visiting New York City and you have a car, the best thing to do is to find a parking lot near a New Jersey transit station or Newark airport and park it there.  It’s typical to pay at least $25 per day.

If you don’t have a choice, my dad swears by the BESTPARKING app for checking deals at various parking garages to find the cheapest ones and getting coupons by reserving a spot.  The only thing is that you need to “reserve ” the spot then show your deal to the parking attendant.

Don’t walk everywhere

Photo of Subway in New York City. Read insider tips from a New Yorker for New York City public transit before your first trip to NYC. #NYC #NewYorkCity

I consider this one of my most important tips for first-time visitors to NYC.  It takes a while to get around New York, so take public transit in between neighborhoods. Although I definitely encourage you to walk around New York, it’s best to limit your walking to smaller neighborhoods where you won’t be going 6+ blocks without seeing anything you’re interested in.

Although you might think that walking is a good idea (and you can see a lot), your feet will be killing you by the end of day 1.  It’s good to see one neighborhood, hop on the train to the next, and then hop back on the train once you’re done.

When showing friends around, they worry that they’ll be missing out if they take the train, however, if you take the train in some of the boroughs outside of Manhattan, you’ll have a very scenic train ride. It depends on the subway, however I always love taking the N, Q, and 7 trains in Queens due to the fact that you’re above ground. This is also the case for some Brooklyn trains as they head towards Coney Island .

Don’t worry: You’ll still be walking enough to burn off those bagels and delicious meals , but you’ll be able to see SO MUCH more than if you decide to walk just for hours on end. (Also it gets tiresome to walk past the millionth office building in between SoHo and Midtown.)

Avoid Times Square unless you’re a Broadway fan.

I think of Times Square as a light bulb as it attracts the worst of NYC: the crowds, overpriced things, and chain restaurants. Don’t bother visiting Times Square during the day or rush hour. Besides it is a must for most visiting tourists (especially at night), there’s mostly overpriced chain food directly on the Square. You can check out my guide to Times Square for a surprisingly good local coffee shop that I love with fantastic desserts, but otherwise, I only head to Times Square for occasional shopping, subway transfers, and when people are visiting.

That said, I understand if you want to see it at night. Times Square at night is like daylight, so your photos will actually come out better and it’s quite atmospheric to see the entirety of Times Square lit up like its Christmas every day.

My insider tip is to get a last-minute ticket at the TKTS booth in Times Square for a Broadway production (clear your morning) and once you’re in a Broadway show, you’ll finally understand why New Yorkers endure this area. You’ll also find a lot of TV shows filming in this area, so you might be able to watch a favorite comedian or talk-show host filming for free!

Check if restaurants have an “A” rating from the NYC health department.

Only eat at restaurants that have an A rating from the NYC Health Department. If you do not see an “A” posted outside of the restaurant, leave and do not eat there. To be fair, street food does not currently have ratings, so use your judgment in evaluating whether or not you want to eat at a place.

Simply: A non -A rating means that they do not have a clean kitchen and/or the restaurant received infractions on their cleanliness rating for something.  My dad always looks at  what the infractions are prior to committing to eating at any restaurant, but I can’t really say that it’s always appetizing to read these reviews….

Eat all the delicious food in NYC! Don’t eat at chain restaurants and don’t feel like you only need to go to only cool hotspots.

There are about a million cool eateries and the best places to eat in NYC list is ever-changing, however, there is something to be said for the foods that make me miss New York.

That list is fairly constant and includes bagels, pizza, and Chinese food.  Just take out some cash as many cheaper New York restaurants that mostly cater to locals are  cash only .  You’ll easily find ATMs all over Manhattan, so don’t worry about finding one.

Delicious New York bagels: one of the foods that you must try in New York City!

Food lovers, consider this a competition of how many you can try while in New York: bagels (with lox and schmear [cream cheese)), New York Style PIZZA (don’t ever let anyone tell you Chicago style is better), great Dim Sum (Flushing), Chicken & Rice (Halal Brothers), Bialy (the delicious cousin of bagels), Black & White Cookies, Cheesecake from Junior’s, Babka (delicious chocolate loaf cake), steak, pastrami sandwiches, knishes, hamburgers (Shake Shack), and delicious Ramen.  Click for my tips on where to find the best classic New York City foods!

Note that rainbow bagels are  not  on this list as they taste like play-doh. There are so many better foods to eat AND Instagram while you’re in New York.  Prioritize taste over appearance.  It’s also great not having to wait in line for one treat. For bagels, I think that it’s harder to find a place with a bad bagel… At least I haven’t found one yet!

Give New York enough time.

Wondering how long to spend in New York City? New York City is SO BIG and I usually recommend that you take spend 3 days in New York at a minimum . I think that this is the minimum for just going to the main attractions in Manhattan.

I consider 5 days in New York City to be the sweet spot for being able to explore New York without being rushed. If you have more time, seven days is great as you can take more time to see the outer boroughs!   For more info on what to see, do, and eat over 5 days in NYC, click here for my insider’s guide!

The holiday season in New York is magical, but expensive.

New Year’s Eve in New York City….is definitely something to experience once. Personally, it wasn’t for me between the waiting, crowds, and lack of bathrooms, but some people love it. I went one year with friends and I found it claustrophobic and cold. I wrote a bit more about my experience here: Click for insider tips for visiting New York City for the holiday season, including Thanksgiving and New Years !

More generally, the holidays are a magical time in New York City due to the Christmas windows at the stores, but you’ll pay a premium to be in New York around this time. Book your hotels well in advance and plan your meals carefully on days when many restaurants will be closed.

There is something about cozying up with a hot chocolate watching the Thanksgiving parade floats being blown up. As a child, my parents brought me quite a few times to see the Thanksgiving floats blown up the night before. It is really worth it!

Photo of snowman in Central Park. Read about visiting New York City for the first time!

For getting off the beaten path, Dyker Heights in Brooklyn is famous for their crazy Christmas light displays! I have a weakness for the Christmas windows along 5th Avenue myself. I wrote an entire post focused on Christmas in New York that includes what to do on Christmas itself.

A cheap New York trip  is ​ possible if you do your research ahead.

New York doesn’t have to be expensive, but you need to do your research ahead to know which museums you can get into with a suggested donation and which areas to stay in. It’s very important to do your research in New York on good neighborhoods as not everyone is used to big cities and NYC is big enough that you want to think carefully about what makes sense for your trip.

Just book your hotel ahead of time and if you can, avoid using Airbnb. Airbnb has been a mess in New York City and New York has been cracking down on illegal rentals.  Given how tight the New York housing market is for locals and how Airbnb has not helped the housing situation, I encourage you to stay at a hotel.

You can save a lot of money by staying outside of Midtown in Queens, Brooklyn, or even Staten Island.  Even now, there are more hotels that are a mix of budget and luxury with great central locations although you will always sacrifice something if you find a cheaper hotel in New York City.    I have a few recommended affordable hotels that I recommend staying in. 

A lot of the best parts of New York involve just walking around and soaking in the city.  A little glimpse into my favorite free activities: wandering around Central Park, walking around the Lower East Side , doing a self-guided food tour of Flushing (one of the best neighborhoods in Queens!), and strolling around the High Line.  Click for free and budget activities in NYC all under $10 including tips on finding cheaper accommodations!

Don’t obsess about the main tourist attractions in NYC; you can’t see everything in one trip.

Don’t feel like you need to do everything . A lot of my friends come to NYC feeling overwhelmed and like they need to see/do all the major attractions. As someone who grew up in New York, I can tell you: you will NEVER see everything. I’ve tried, but New York City never stays the same… That said, the major attractions remain there for your next trip.

Nothing remains stationary, so even if you live in New York, you’ll constantly be discovering new neighborhoods, museum exhibits, and eateries! I love to pick up Time Out New York or check their website to find out about upcoming parties, events, and museum exhibitions. A new edition comes out each week.

I think that one of the most important things to know when traveling to New York is that you can try and rush about to see AS MUCH AS possible, but at some point, consider what you actually want to see rather than ticking off every box off some list you found on the internet.

Don’t waste your money on a view alone!

Skyline of New York. Read 20 Insider tips for visiting nyc for the first time!

Don’t waste your money on a view if you can get a drink AND a view for half the price. There are so many great rooftop bars in New York City, so don’t feel that you need to go to the top of the Empire State Building if you’re 21+.

There are many rooftop bars in New York that vary in terms of how formal and crowded they are.  I recommend looking into Pod39, which is one of the lesser-known ones, where you can also buy a taco.  In general, it’s best to dress up if you intend to get into a rooftop bar. It’s a bit easier to get in earlier in the day, especially in the afternoon.

New Yorkers are not that rude

A lot of people that I meet expect New Yorkers to be very rude, but like anywhere, you might find someone you don’t like. Maybe we’re a bit more brusque than Midwesterners or Kentuckians.

We’re 99% human underneath all those black clothes (I kid; I own a red dress).   I’d say on average that we’re a bit more skeptical of strangers, but we’re good souls who will talk your ear off given the opportunity about how amazing (and expensive) New York City is.

​Please don’t give a 5-minute explanation if you’re asking for directions. I recommend avoiding people with headphones and those who are on the phone as they’re just busy!  Look for someone who isn’t in a rush (the biggest barrier to being able to help!) and ask your question straight away, “Where is X?” or “ How can I get to X using Y?” “Which stop do I get off at for Z?”

Even I’m guilty of getting impatient with visitors who tell me that they’re visiting from _____ and it’s their first time in NYC, but you will always find people happy to help if you’re not taking up a lot of time. Just prepare your question before you stop someone.

How to befriend New Yorkers

  • Don’t stop in the middle of the sidewalk to look up and/or take photos.
  • Let fast people walk in the middle on the right side and if you’re going slow, stay on the edges away from the middle.​
  • Don’t dance on the subway poles.
  • If you’re with a group, do not walk all together in a group in a row blocking everyone from passing you.
  • Don’t block the subway doors even if it’s crowded as people might be trying to get out of the subway doors.
  • Let people exit the subway/bus before you get on.
  • Asking us to say the word coffee a million times. The New York accent is very real although surprisingly diverse. Mine has receded a bit in recent years, but it’s still there!

I swear that we’re nice. Just give us a chance and don’t cut us in line.

Be aware of yourself: Safety tips for New York

I wish that I didn’t need to write this, but crime can be an issue in some areas of New York, especially compared to some very smaller towns that many people visit from.

It depends on the neighborhood, so always look up the reputation of the neighborhood where you’re staying before you book .  Be smart. Do not wear your headphones at night and don’t flash all your electronics in public places. Lots of New Yorkers have iPhones, but it’s best not to carry around items that you don’t need. Secure your laptop and other items in your hotel room.

New York is safe most of the time , but you need to use your common sense and not leave your items out unattended . Pickpocketing isn’t an issue like in Europe, but if you leave something out, you might not get it back.

Most importantly: use your spider senses. If you’re not feeling good about a situation, get out of there. I generally don’t like walking in parks late at night and I’d say that this is generally good advice, especially on Fridays and Saturday nights.

New York City is tough for solo female travelers.

NYC is not a cakewalk for solo female travelers. I love New York, but I’ve experienced some of the worst sexual harassment that I’ve ever endured anywhere…in New York.

Even after traveling to almost 30 countries, I’m still shocked by how many patronizing comments you’ll hear as a young woman just walking down a street by passing dudes. “Why don’t you smile?”  “ You look so sexy “

I once got harassed by a passing truck driver while I was wearing a puffy down jacket, baggy pants, and winter boots!?  I take a strong stance that women should be able to travel without harassment, but this is a reality for many women here. It’s gotten better as I’ve gotten older, but it can get to you.

If you’re uncomfortable, don’t feel like you need to be  nice .  I find just walking away is very effective although putting in your headphones works too. For the record, it does NOT matter what you wear.  If anything happens, find a nearby cop or call 911. If you’re worried that you’re being followed, work at trying to step into an open shop and losing your tail by a series of quick turns if possible. Also, consider finding another woman to recognize on the street before explaining your situation.

Avoid the tourist traps in New York and don’t buy anything off the street!

There are a lot of tourist traps in New York and some people will tell you anything to get you in the door. If you’re walking through a heavily trafficked area and someone gives you a flyer for an attraction promising you that you’ll see Aziz Ansari (or any other comedian) for $0/$5, don’t believe it. Those comedy nights rarely include anyone famous and many of these shows are “free” as long as you meet the $15 drink minimum.

Similarly, there are a lot of restaurants that CLAIM to have authentic food, but the ones that are authentic don’t need to assert that they were the first or the best. The real ones will be FULL with locals waiting for a table, so use Yelp to find the real thing.

Don’t buy stuff, especially water bottles, on the street. I always check if the bottle has been previously opened, however paying more than $1 for a water bottle is a rip-off.  No matter how thirsty you are, keep walking to the nearest bodega.  The CVS down the street, as well as the local bodega, are good places to buy a bottle of water. (You can refill your water at water fountains usually found within parks!) Paying with a card shouldn’t be a problem. I wrote a guide about finding the best souvenirs in New York on a budget, so skip the aggressive street sales and go straight for stores with set prices.

If someone offers you something on the street, please don’t take it whether it’s drugs, fake designer purses, or an offer for a massage. You know it won’t end well.

You don’t need to be fashionable in New York, but it can’t hurt.

Wondering what to wear for your trip to New York? Don’t feel like you need to be a fashionista and wear comfortable shoes.  Despite its reputation, nobody cares whether you look fashionable OR cool beyond not looking sloppy.

You can look cool (and black is always in), but go for comfy cool. Think black dresses with white sneakers or chic comfy flats, but if you want to wear the craziest outfit you have, go for it. If anything, someone might ask you for a photo as they love your outfit.  (It’s happened to me!) Uniqueness is valued, so bring some fun clothes with you (or buy them here).

Don’t wear heels if you can’t walk for miles in them.  You can always carry them in your bag if you want them for photos, but if your goal is to SEE as much as possible, I recommend a comfortable pair of sneakers rather than heels. You’ll be walking miles, even if you don’t intend to!

New York is filthy

After reading enough studies about subway handrails (touching one is like shaking hands with 10,000 people), I always carry antibacterial gel with me at all times and avoid touching the handrails/buttons everywhere.  I strongly recommend that you do the same.

You will need to pay for a clean bathroom whether it’s by buying a coffee or a water or…just paying a fee. Starbucks is on every corner, but don’t use the bathroom of the one in Penn Station.

​If you’re walking around, I generally do not recommend the public bathrooms and/or the bathroom at the local bodega (corner store) most of the time. Pay for anything at a coffee shop, bar, or restaurant and trust me, it is worth every penny. My recent habit is to go into nicer looking bars (if you’re over 21+) as the women’s restroom is generally well maintained.

There’s not ONE New York culture; New York is ever-changing

NYC might be famous for its skyscrapers, but at its heart, New York is a city of immigrants. It’s estimated that more than 800 languages are spoken in New York and all that matters for being a New Yorker is that YOU call yourself a New Yorker.

Most New Yorkers are not born in New York City ( I’m an exception ), let alone the United States, but this means that we have a common bond: our love of this gritty, dirty, noisy, iconic city that we call home.

If you come to New York looking for the New York that you see in movies/TV shows, you’ll find it. But, I think it’s far more important to see the real New York that inspired it.

You’ll understand why people fall head over heels for this dirty city ( I warned you ), you need to experience the uniqueness that defines New York: the many different groups that coexist here side by side with their own distinct bits that they contribute to New York’s culture.

Whether you’re after knishes, Chinese food from a region next to the Korean border, Colombian areas, Yemeni tea, Himalayan food, cannolis, or even New York cheesecake, you’ll quickly understand why we love this city before dinner time.

Final thoughts

New York City is just magical. You know that saying: ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN IN NEW YORK?   It’s true, including the fuzzy feel-good stories that made Humans of New York famous, people carrying around kittens on the subway, seeing some of the world’s best fashion on the street, spotting celebrities walking into your neighborhood deli, impromptu dancing in the street, and even getting discovered by modeling agents (it happened to Jennifer Lawrence).

New York City can wear you down, but if you allow it to show itself to you with all its quirks, beauty, and charm, you’ll fall in love with New York (or just really hate it). I hope that you get the chance to judge it for itself.

Have you been to New York? Did you fall in love with New York? 

  • For more insider tips for New York City, keep reading:
  • 5 Days in New York: Your Ultimate Guide by a New Yorker
  • New York City on a Budget
  • Two days in New York
  • Where to shop in New York
  • New York Off the Beaten Path
  • Best Museums in NYC
  • The Best of NYC for the Holidays
  • NYC for Christmas
  • JFK Airport to Manhattan
  • Your guide to the New York City Subway by a New Yorker 

Things to know when traveling to New York for the first time by a native New Yorker. Read local secrets and travel tips for visiting NYC! #NewYorkCity #travel #NYC

About Karen Turner

New Yorker–born and raised. Currently living in the Hague, the Netherlands after stints in Paris and Amsterdam. Lover of travel, adventure, nature, city, dresses, and cats.

Reader Interactions

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July 20, 2017 at 7:20 am

I’ve been to NYC and was too scared to take the subway, which is funny because I grew up riding trains all the time (I grew up in Japan). Your tips are awesome and I’ll def make sure not to make eye contact! 🙂

July 20, 2017 at 7:31 am

Loved it. I cant wait to go to NY.. got my visa and plotting my bucketlist. Will be referring to this article when planning.thanks

July 20, 2017 at 3:54 pm

This is a terrific list – love the tip about finding a clean bathroom. I’m not sure I would enjoy the ‘count the rats’ game, ha!

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November 22, 2019 at 12:04 am

I’m from Portugal and I am planning to spend 10 nights in NY in April. It will b my 1st time in the city. I loved your post and took many notes. Thank you for your great post!

July 20, 2017 at 8:06 pm

Awesome post. I love the way you describe New York and I agree. Based on my three days experience at Christmas time in Manhattan 😀 Since that time I always wanted to come back to explore the other neighbourhoods, too. I will do so one day, for sure!

July 20, 2017 at 8:22 pm

Right on. I grew up in Jersey so I have visited NYC quite a bit. I recently went during Christmas time because like you said, it’s magical. I found myself laughing quite a bit during this post ESPECIALLY about making eye contact. I live in Texas now and have to let people know that making eye contact is something I have to gradually condition myself to.

July 21, 2017 at 1:17 am

Thanks so much for commenting Courtney! I really think kittens make everyone’s day, but yeah I’m also bad at eye contact. I either do it too much or I avoid it. Glad it made you laugh!

July 20, 2017 at 8:23 pm

That’s a great tip about the A ratings for restaurants, and thanks for being so honest about NYC for female travellers. Really appreciate that.

July 21, 2017 at 10:29 am

Great post and insight! I really like that you included the Queens/Brooklyn bit. My best friend lived in Astoria for a bit and I couldn’t get over how different it was when I visited her many moons ago. I def agree with dining locally; but I think that should always be the case for anyone traveling in the USA. Mom and Pop places are the best! I’ve been to NYC quite a few times (and lived in Greenwich Village for a summer when I was 16), but I was a bit salty that we had to go to Times Square and other touristy things last time I was there as James wanted to see it all. We did some fun stuff as well 🙂 There’s always something to see and do there!

July 21, 2017 at 7:08 pm

Seriously great list girl, I’ve never seen tips this practical and real! I’m headed to NYC next week, so this is perfect!

July 21, 2017 at 11:29 pm

I love all these tips! I made the mistake of #5 and realised quickly that NYC was massive… and i had sore feet the next day!!!!

July 22, 2017 at 12:49 am

Very interesting post. I didn’t know anything about New York to be honest so this post was a nice read and very helpful as well. I especially had to laugh at the How not to piss off the locals tips – that was a great one and I think everyone who travels should read this as it counts for every single touristy city!

July 22, 2017 at 1:15 am

Loved every minute of this Karen! I’ve NEVER been to NYC – can you believe that? But it is on my list, especially now I’m living in North America. Not only is this list super comprehensive – there are a myriad of other articles that i’m now about to spend 2 hours reading haha. Absolutely returning to this to make notes when I finally book my trip!

I particularly enjoyed your taxi advice – haha! Cash only restaurants is so useful, would never have thought about that as I only ever pay on card! The different neighbourhoods I will definitely explore now – you should do neighbourhood guides too!

How not to piss off locals was hilarious – it sounds EXACTLY like London. The number one way to piss of a local there however is to STAND on the wrong side of the escalator and block the people who are in a rush. Is that the same in NYC?? I wonder if it’s the other side like the roads…hahaha. Great work!

July 23, 2017 at 12:16 am

Hey Elise, London reminded me A LOT of NYC actually. I definitely feel like I did when I was there just because my American sense was making me think that I should be on the other side …. Oops.

I’m so glad that you loved this and I can’t wait to hear your feedback after you visit NYC for the first time.

Best, Karen

July 22, 2017 at 12:16 pm

Haha the bit about not pissing off the locals is basically all true for London too except the ‘coffee’ part! Also OH MY GOD A KITTEN. I’ve been to New York a few times (the first time I spent most mornings queuing at the TKTS booth for Broadway shows and I never once felt unsafe despite being on my own). These are great tips, if I ever go back I’m going to make it my mission to explore further out than just Manhatten/Staten Island.

July 22, 2017 at 2:17 pm

What a great post filled with the perfect tips! I tell everyone #13. I however love walking everywhere cause you always see something new or experience something different!

July 22, 2017 at 2:30 pm

It makes me sad when I see people eating at the chain restaurants! I have such a long list of restaurants I want to try.

July 22, 2017 at 3:16 pm

Some excellent points! I am a fellow Northeasterner (Boston) so I’ve been to New York a handful of times and these are things I definitely needed a reminder of because New York is SOOOO much bigger than Boston and is a totally different vibe. My favorite were your tips to not piss off locals, lol!

July 22, 2017 at 8:18 pm

First things first… The kitten is adorable! I spent a few moments just admiring the little guy! That being said…. I agree with using your spidey sense. Not just in New York City (I haven’t been there yet! Need to !) but wherever in the world you may live or travel to. If you sense something is wrong then get your butt out of there! Better safe than sorry!

July 22, 2017 at 9:29 pm

As a fellow New Yorker, I found myself nodding in agreement to all of this! So many great tips and pointers (which everyone who lives here will appreciate). It’s always nice to see an NYC post that’s more in depth than “visit the Highline!”

July 22, 2017 at 9:40 pm

Great post, agree 100% on the comfortable shoes! By the end of day one in New York I was craving my workout trainers 🙂

July 22, 2017 at 10:15 pm

Great list! I’d add for #16 that it’s more annoying than that you feel unsafe. One of the things I love about NYC is that there are always people around so there’s always someone you can go to if you need to just roll your eyes at someone about something or if you truly do need help.

July 22, 2017 at 10:59 pm

Hi Erin, I’d disagree. It really depends on the time of day and where you are. There have been times where I’ve been totally alone and felt unsafe. I’m glad you haven’t had these experiences, but they are mine.

July 22, 2017 at 11:31 pm

I love New York, it’s one of my favourite cities in the world. It is, however, not that easy for newbie visitors. Your post is one of the best I’ve read — I agree with all your tips, and learned a lot too.

July 23, 2017 at 12:05 am

I love the photos in this post – especially the one with the white triangular roof. Gorgeous! I feel like I had done NYC to death as a tourist, but now I know a few of the local hints and tricks I might be tempted to go back. Even just to count the rats 😉

July 23, 2017 at 12:13 am

Hi Anna, That’s the new One World Trade with all credit to my dear friend Laura. 🙂 I hope you return soon to see it for yourself!

July 23, 2017 at 12:34 am

I’m so glad I saw this post! I happen to be heading to NYC next week for the second time and this was actually super helpful. Last time I was there, I did a lot of the “touristy” stuff, so I’m more excited to try local foodie spots and a couple happy hours. Thanks for the encouragement about visiting the other boroughs! I’ve only been to Manhatten and Brooklyn, so I might branch out more this time :). Great post!

July 23, 2017 at 1:26 am

I grew up right outside of NYC and this article is spot on!

July 23, 2017 at 1:28 am

Love this post, Karen! I am visiting NYC around Labor Day and am excited to utilize your tips. Pinning for later! Thank you so much! <3

July 23, 2017 at 1:49 am

I loved reading this post, New York is one of my favourite places in the world. I’m visiting twice later this year, first by myself and second right before christmas which I’m so excited about. As I’ve been to quite a few of the main tourist attractions before, I’m really looking forward to exploring the city further and finding some amazing food places! xo

July 23, 2017 at 1:54 am

omg I actually LOVED #14, made me giggle a bit on your mention of Midwesterners (I live in Wisconsin). I’d applied for my dream job fresh out of college and it was in NYC, and a direct quote from my dad was “You’re going to get eaten alive in NYC.” (The job was for Buzzfeed, which of course I had no chance in getting but HAD to apply)

I’m also just super curious about the urban legends around the cellar doors and metal grates… now going to look those up!

July 23, 2017 at 2:42 am

I 100% agree with all these tips for visiting NYC for the first time! I just came back from visiting the city for the 4th time and actually spent most of my time in Brooklyn and some time in Queens!! I’m definitely excited to go back again because NYC is constantly changing, which is what I love the most about it!! Thanks for summing up all these tips!

July 23, 2017 at 4:03 am

I wish I had read this in February when I went to New York because I booked an Airbnb. That is an essential tip. Also, I’ve always wondered what the NYC rainbow bagels taste like….it’s good to know I’m not missing out! This post definitely made me miss all of the wonderful food, especially the photo of the bagel and lox. I’ll keep these tips in mind for when I visit NYC next 🙂

January 2, 2018 at 10:01 pm

ok so I am researching booking a trip in october and I was considering airBnB. Is it really that bad? also I will be with my elderly grandparents so I want to stay somewhere comfortable for them. any thoughts?

July 23, 2017 at 5:15 am

Well I was 13 when I went to New York so it’s safe to say that I haven’t seen much of the city . . . and I have been dying to go back ever since. This is very useful, especially because it’s good to be reminded that there is no “one” New York. New York is so many things to so many different people from different backgrounds. I want to experience what calls to me, not just what is on the top lists because for me that’s the best way to see any place.

July 23, 2017 at 7:43 am

Love this, as someone who used to live in NYC, I can 100% agree with all of this. My favorite tip is, and always will be, do not go to Times Square!!! Lol

July 23, 2017 at 9:52 am

I visited NYC about 10 years ago and wandered around totally aimlessly as I had no idea what to see! I still really enjoyed it though and was charmed by the yellow taxis and steam rising from the pavement grids. It seemed just like the movies. I visited Williamsburg and Brooklyn so hopefully didn’t only spend my time in Manhatten. I remember sharing beers with some firemen at a bar and being in awe of their accents (I’m from England). A great city! Such a helpful post. Makes me want to revisit.

July 23, 2017 at 10:14 am

Wish I had known some of these tips before I went to NYC. The first time we used the subway we were unaware of the normal vs. express line. So we just hopped on one train. After a few stops, I was like “Ehhh, isn’t this already past Central Park??” I checked the map and found out that we were on an express line… Well, we learned from this experience 😀 We spent only 4 days and in Winter. I definitely wanna go back for a week in spring because I also wanna see more outside Manhattan 🙂

July 23, 2017 at 10:23 am

Been to New York several times and still learned something from your tips 🙂 Not surprised by the sexual harassment part – same in LA, I feel like… Unfortunately!

July 23, 2017 at 12:20 pm

I lived in NYC for 7 years and cannot love and agree with this list more – esp #8! Fine dining in NYC is next level but the local spots are still some of the best food I have had in the world.

July 23, 2017 at 2:41 pm

Oh New York. One of my favourite cities in the world. Absolutely love the city and your guide!

July 23, 2017 at 4:57 pm

This was so much fun to read through! Having been to NYC on many occasions to visit some of my native New Yorker friends, I’m sure they would wholeheartedly agree with you! And I’m proud to say that I’ve been to Queens and Brooklyn and The Bronx!

July 23, 2017 at 10:33 pm

Such awesome tips for New York ! It sounds like an incredibly vibrant city. I love your sense of humour : How not to piss off locals was hilarious ! And I love also the tip about finding a clean bathroom !

July 23, 2017 at 11:26 pm

This post made me laugh – I’ve been to NYC countless times (including Brooklyn but not Queens yet!) and so much of this is true! I learned quite a few things too (re: rainbow bagels hah)! I feel like you covered it all and it was a fun read 🙂

July 24, 2017 at 10:52 am

This is so on point! Wow! I have visited many times and lived in Brooklyn for 6 months while working UES so I totally get so many of these things. Someone needed to write this! I had so many issues with the damn cabs. I was smiling at the memories of all the great food you mentioned. The pizza, bagels, shake shack. MMM. The “why don’t you smile” makes me homicidal! Oh and the shoes part! During the height of the Sex and the City era I tried walking everywhere in ridiculous Carrie Bradshaw type shoes and deeply regretted it!

July 24, 2017 at 4:52 pm

I absolutely loved this post! As a NYCer, #1 and #2 especially stuck out to me. There are so many amazing things can be be found off the island of Manhattan and so many visitors (and people who even live here!) don’t explore as much as they should and to #2, amen to walking sometimes being faster!

July 24, 2017 at 6:24 pm

As someone who has lived here for 13 years now, it is a great guide! My family is coming this December and I can’t wait to share the holiday season in NYC with them. It will be pricey but I am trying to find some great things for them to see/do on a budget!

July 27, 2017 at 9:44 pm

Those tips are amazing – thank you so much! I’ve always wanted to go to NYC, maybe I’ll treat myself for my next birthday 🙂 Where would you recommend staying? Like, where is coolest?

July 27, 2017 at 10:10 pm

Hi Kathi, Definitely hope you do! It is a GREAT vacation spot.

I really love Astoria and LIC. Williamsburg is pretty cool too! You can go even more hipster and go to Greenpoint, but the train connection is more difficult. 😉

September 26, 2017 at 8:08 pm

I think you’re right: 4-5 days is the sweet spot, for a first-timer or a veteran like me who realizes she’s better suited for the mid-size cities she left New York for 😉 Anything more than that can take a toll on you. I think doing a Thursday-Monday weekend to New York every year or so allows you to explore so many different parts of it in more digestable chunks of time.

December 17, 2017 at 9:15 am

thanks for writing that, I am sure it will help when we visit May 18

December 21, 2017 at 7:17 pm

I am originally from Long Island, NY. I also spent time living in upstate NY in the Catskill Mountain region. I now reside in Pennsylvania south of Pittsburgh. About a month before 9/11 I went back to Long Island for a visit. On the way home, at night I missed my exit by mistake and found myself in an area I wasn’t familiar with. I tried to use my sense of direction and drove towards where I thought I would get back on track. I was looking for the Holland Tunnel. I found myself in front of one of the World Trade Towers. There was a man outside that was dressed like a doorman. I asked him while still in my car if he could tell me how to get to the Holland Tunnel. He was very rude and just shook his head. There was also a man and woman there and the woman wanted to tell me but the man that was with her told her not to tell us. The woman was nice and tried arguing with the man to let her tell me how to get to the tunnel and finally she just pointed where I had to go without giving me any directions on how to get there. I thought this was very strange. Can someone tell me why these people acted so strangely?

December 21, 2017 at 8:28 pm

Hi Lori, What a strange situation to say the least and what weird people. Luckily, Google Maps exists now, so you won’t encounter these weird people again.

On an unrelated note, I absolutely love the Catskills and that part of Pennsylvania close to Fallingwater.

December 22, 2017 at 4:40 am

Hi Karen! Thank-you for replying. Yes, I found it weird too but I keep wondering why these people acted like they did. Could it be because I have a NY accent and they thought I was pranking them? Like maybe they thought I lived in NYC and thought I was pranking them? I don’t know I used to live in a town called Cairo in the Catskills. Do you know the town? It used to be a big resort town but no more. I can remember the days during the summer all the people that would come up from the city and Main Street would be packed. All those beautiful resorts. Some of them were turned into apartments. It’s sad to see other resorts with grass and weeds overgrown. There used to be famous people that came up to put on shows for the resorts. People like Joey Castle which was a personal friend of mine. He passed away from a brain tumor. He sounded a lot like a young Elvis and you can listen to his songs on Youtube. I also remember George Valentine. He was a comedian. One of the places he performed was the Acra Manor. Then there was Al Martino. He was an Italian singer. Then there was the Catskill Game Farm and Carson City. I enjoyed going to those places. Fallingwater…yes I don’t live very far from there. There is also the Laurel Caverns.

December 29, 2017 at 2:26 am

This was a fantastic read, and eye opener and very helpful thank you! We are hoping to head to NY for Christmas next year with our 3 kids all the way from Australia! These tips will surely make things smoother for us!

December 29, 2017 at 3:15 am

Hi Zara, I’m so glad to hear that. I’m not sure if you’ve seen my NYC holiday post, but I really think Christmas is one of the best times of the year to visit New York. Have a great trip and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions. 🙂

January 2, 2018 at 10:15 pm

I think it really depends on the person. My parents don’t find airbnbs comfortable just as they prefer the comforts of a hotel and the ability to call downstairs any time of night if anything is wrong. I’ve heard it can be good for those with young kids, but I’d ask your grandparents what they think about it. A hotel is probably more familiar and the price difference isn’t much, so I’d go with a hotel personally.

February 1, 2018 at 9:35 am

I’m so glad I found your blog, great insider tips. I was looking for AirBnBs but will check out hotels now too. We live in the Netherlands and are planning to visit New York with our teenagers. Any tips for teens are very welcome!

February 5, 2018 at 9:24 am

Hi Dhani, I’m glad to hear that! I’m trying to think what I liked as a teenager. I think that I’d definitely recommend a Broadway show (pick a cool one), Central Park, the Village (close to NYU), and maybe Coney Island if it’s summer. I very clearly remember refusing to go to a lot of art museums as they were “boring.” I hope you all have a great trip. 🙂

February 13, 2018 at 3:09 am

Very insightful and useful tips for travelling to New York. I have bookmarked this link would be using this when we plan our next travel.

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February 21, 2018 at 2:51 am

This is a great list..awesome post!! Heading to NY this coming weekend..for the first time! Thanks for the tips

tips for first time visit to nyc

February 21, 2018 at 1:01 pm

So glad to hear that Violet! I hope you have a great time!

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March 4, 2018 at 8:56 pm

I had a wonderful experience with Airbnb last May/2017! It was in Brooklyn Heights, which is beautiful and only 5 minutes from Manhattan by Subway!!

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March 15, 2018 at 5:27 am

Omg! Thanks so much for this helpful info. I’m going to NY too meet up with My Sister for vaca. I’m going 2days before she arrives. I love all the info you provided and have screen shoot it!! Blessing…

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March 16, 2018 at 8:11 am

There are many good tips here. However, on one I must disagree.

Eat only at “A” rated restaurants? Are you kidding? While some places with “B” ratings MAY have problems, anyone who works around the bar and restaurant can tell you that the ratings system in the city can be more of a shakedown racket than a true measure of cleanliness or an indicator of bad business practices. I’ve seen super disciplined and near spotless places get downgraded by inspectors that do major excavations and get into deep areas where any food or drink establishment is going to have some evidence of some germ or some dirt. There’s no such thing as complete antiseptic conditions, and the city makes a lot of money intimidating businesses with these practices.

OK, “C” ratings seem pretty drastic, but I’m still suspect of some of those too. By no means pass up intriguing or compelling restaurants and bars just because of a “B” rating. Use your head, and your eyes, and look over the crowd. Be smart, don’t just look for a “sign” of approval. You’ll miss some great meals and beverages otherwise.

March 17, 2018 at 12:41 am

Hi Justin, I get that it’s a bit strict, however I generally go a bit more overly cautious here as I really want people visiting New York to have good experiences eating the delicious food here from kitchens that are (mostly) clean without getting sick. I get that the food violations in the grading criteria sometimes seem kind of petty/small, but that’s why I often look up the recent grades before commiting to a place with a B as I like to know upfront if it’s something like mice droppings or something less noteworthy regarding silverware. In some cases, I’ll also overlook it myself. I think that it’s good to be informed at least about the food rating system (as many of my friends from out of town had no idea what the letters stood for) and to take it into account when deciding about a restaurant. Best, Karen

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March 27, 2018 at 12:22 am

Thank you for the tips. Planning to go in August for the first time so this helps a lot.

I have a question about the water. Is it okay or do I have to make sure I don’t drink it like when I brush my teeth or take a shower?

Aloha from Hawaii Ann

March 27, 2018 at 9:44 pm

Hi Ann, The water tastes fine and it’s perfectly safe to drink. No worries. 😉

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April 22, 2018 at 12:19 am

What great information you’ve provided. We will be in NYC for two weeks and coming from relatively rural northern California, and being seniors, we are researching like crazy. Still haven’t chosen a hotel but want one by the action in midtown east and right by a subway stop. Any suggestions? I know the area is pricey.

April 22, 2018 at 11:25 am

Hi Sarah, Glad to hear that it’s been helpful! Look up The Iroquois New York. It’s a classic New York hotel. 🙂

http://www.booking.com/hotel/us/the-iroquois-new-york.html?aid=1138430&no_rooms=1&group_adults=2 The link to it. ^

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May 22, 2018 at 11:40 am

Hi Karen, we are four friends in our 50’s coming to New York in September for four days – staying at the Conrad Hotel in Battery Park area. How easy will it be to get uptown – eg Central Park, Grand Central Station, Madison Square garden etc – we are happy to walk or is the Metro easy

May 22, 2018 at 3:08 pm

Hi Claire, I hope that you have a fantastic trip to NYC! The Battery Park area is lovely. It’s very easy to get uptown by subway or bus although I’d recommend subway due to traffic. You can check my NYC Subway Guide (https://www.wanderlustingk.com/travel-blog/nyc-subway-guide) for more tips on getting around NYC by metro. It’s a bit far to walk and I wouldn’t recommend it. I hope you have a great trip.

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June 3, 2018 at 2:46 pm

Great article! Next weekend will be my 3rd visit to NYC. I totally agree with you, you will either love it or hate it. My first visit was not so great. I hated it. I’m from the midwest (Chicago) and our big city experiences are very similar, but midwesterners aren’t as rude (for the most part). I like how you explained how NYers aren’t rude. Thanks for the explanation, I will look at it from your point of view on my upcoming visit (I’m an optimist). My 2nd visit was very pleasant. I liked it a lot. My stay was longer, I did more things, I had a lot of fun. I just had one major issue. I don’t understand why there is so much filth and garbage in every area; high end and low. There is more money in NYC than there is in many states put together. Clean up the joint. LOL! We ate at some very nice restaurants but had to look at piles of garbage outside. Please help me understand how NYers deal with that. I’m fasting right now but I’m sure I will go to some very nice restaurants with friends. How do you do it!?! Your article was very fun, easy to read, and accurate. However, there is one correction to be made… NOBODY has better pizza than Chicago!!! (says the Chicagoan). That’s a fact not an opinion. Lol! Just having fun. NYC get ready for me and my girls. Thanks for the great read.

June 7, 2018 at 3:27 pm

Glad you enjoyed my article and I hope you have a great trip. I still assert that NY pizza is better although Chicago style isn’t bad. 😉

Yeah, New York isn’t the cleanest city. I’d love to see less trash… Go to Singapore if you want to see clean streets.

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June 10, 2018 at 5:05 pm

You speak to my soul with the “groups walking in rows” statement. I’m visiting NY from Seattle, and it is an EPIDEMIC out there. I find NY magical as well for all the reasons you’ve listed, but YES. I also respect New Yorkers for their awareness. Thank yooooooooou!

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June 17, 2018 at 11:15 am

Great tips! My daughter and I took out first trip to NYC last fall. I have to comment on the friendliness and kindness of New Yorkers. Everywhere we went we encountered the most wonderful people! I was truly blown away and this was not at all what I expected. It seemed like people went out of their way to be kind and helpful. I slipped and fell on the subway one time and 6 people rushed to help me! We cannot wait to go back!

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June 19, 2018 at 11:40 pm

Hello! I am going to New York for some weeks. What if I get sick (something mild)? I am taking some general medication with me but if I need any kind of medical consultations, is there any way to have it? I’m European.

June 19, 2018 at 11:41 pm

I hope you have travel insurance. Please contact them about this. We have many great hospitals in New York City. It just isn’t cheap out of pocket.

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June 21, 2018 at 1:16 pm

Thank you Karen, your tips are so precious.

What do you think about late night walk in Central Park or Brooklyn’s Prospect Park?

June 21, 2018 at 2:53 pm

A walk around sunset or early evening is fine, but I personally avoid late night walks in the park. It’s much better than years ago, but personally, I still wouldn’t be walking around too late.

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July 26, 2018 at 12:35 am

“Airbnb has been a mess in New York City ” why/how ? please elaborate a bit.

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August 4, 2018 at 6:05 pm

I 100% disagree with your assessment about on avoiding any restaurant that doesn’t have an “A” rating. Restaurants get knocked to “B” for small infractions that have little to do with cleanliness or how they care for the food. This letter-grading system, imported from Los Angeles, is not really fare to restaurants, as most of the general public is ignorant about what a “B” means, for example. Even a “C” means there were issues but the health department still deems it okay to eat at — if it wasn’t okay they would shut it down.

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August 7, 2018 at 2:54 pm

I grew up in a tiny town in the Midwest that has no public transportation. When I got the opportunity to visit NYC with a choir, I jumped on it, but I knew I couldn’t afford taxis. I got a handy subway map from Amazon for Manhattan and figured it out. Crowded, yes, but the subways were not scary! And I was pleasantly surprised by how polite everyone was. People made sure that the elderly had seats and I even had an older man insist I take his seat because I’m a girl. The crowd can be intimidating, but most of the people in it are perfectly normal.

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August 10, 2018 at 3:55 am

***Helpful Tip*** If you wait In line at the TKTS booth to get broadway tickets, you can go back to the booth the next day with your ticket stub and skip the line!

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August 12, 2018 at 5:17 pm

The view from the 7 train is amazing. But I thought an A rating meant the restaurant owner gave the inspector a hundred bucks.

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August 29, 2018 at 3:23 am

Really enjoyed reading this! We’re travelling from the UK next year and can’t wait to explore this wonderful city.

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September 8, 2018 at 6:23 am

I am planning to visit NYC soon. I started doing some research. I find it a little overwhelming. There is so much to do. I’m struggling with which hotel to stay. I live in update NY. My daughter is a senior in high school now and is interested in attending FIT. I will definitely be using your tips. I find them very helpful. Thank you

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September 22, 2018 at 5:46 pm

I was only in New York City for 2 and a half days, and I still came out ahead when I bought the 1 week unlimited subway pass. I took something like 15 trips on the subway, so that saved me over 8 dollars compared to paying $2.75 per trip.

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September 22, 2018 at 11:42 pm

Hi Karen! Thank you for the comprehensive guide. I followed your tips for the most part and did it ever turn out well! I had a great time during my first visit to New York last week thanks to your guide.

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April 6, 2019 at 9:09 am

Fantastic blog, I went to NYC. With a pipe band in the April after 9/11. To help raise money for the families of the victims, I am from Glasgow, Scotland, and like New York, we have a reputation we don’t really deserve, I fell in love with NYC as like my home town the people are fantastic, a bit brash sometimes but helpful and will do anything for you, I am going back in 2020 and your blog will help me have a fantastic experience. Take Care

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May 4, 2019 at 10:17 pm

Great post & tips, Interesting and funny to go through the comments from people around the world! The cultural and personnal perspectives on your post are enlighting and helpful. Leaving TOMORROW for first time in NYC, we’ll be avoiding eye contacts (in spite of coming from a place you hugg and kiss strangers you meet for the first time!) and have enough cash money to enjoy “A” and local restaurants.

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May 15, 2019 at 1:59 pm

I’m on my way to NY for the first time so I really appreciate your guide I feel more prepared now. One small correction though Chicago pizza is definitely better (Chicago Native 🙂

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June 15, 2019 at 1:29 pm

Thanks for informative sharing. I also spent a really good time there and came back with great memories.

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July 1, 2019 at 12:29 am

I’m heading to NYC in October and it’s articles like yours that are helping me feel more prepared about my trip. I will be staying for 7 days and staying in Tribeca. I plan to study the subway system before I arrive, so that I can cover more ground. I will make sure to stock up on hand sanitiser for when I’m exploring. Thank you so much for the pretty much priceless (to someone like me anyways) information x x

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July 13, 2019 at 8:48 am

Great tips! Some of the best conversations we had as a family were in NYC and San Fran when we DID make eye contact. Travelling with kids is even better than travelling with kittens!

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July 17, 2019 at 12:29 am

Glad to hear that! I like to think that New Yorkers are very friendly when we have the time to chat. Not everyone has the time though!

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July 16, 2019 at 12:35 am

I think it’s a great artikel! The way you wrote it really shows the love you have for the city but that you also see it flaws. I’ll be visiting New York in August and I think this artikel will be really helpfull!

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July 19, 2019 at 7:29 pm

Thank you, Karen, for these great tip! Fun read. My husband and I would like to take our son and daughter for 4 days/3 nights, but we’re having trouble deciding when given their college schedules. Choices include Labor Day weekend, the week before Christmas, the week after Christmas (but not NYE!), or the week after New Year’s Day. Do you have any points to consider that would help us decide?

July 21, 2019 at 5:00 pm

That’s very tough. I’d say that the Christmas season is quite pricey, but it’s really nice as you can enjoy the windows, so either period should be good if you are interested in that. It’s slightly cheaper after NYE and I believe the windows should still be up then, but I’d recommend checking that. Labor day is nice if you want good weather and want to enjoy the parks more. It’s a quieter time as many New Yorkers head out of NYC that weekend. Hope that helps! Please check my other post about Christmas in NYC for more information!

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July 20, 2019 at 2:50 pm

Hi! I am also a native NYer and this post is really well done. Totally agree with Pod39 Rooftop – and seeing the skyline with a cocktail vs just one of the three major observatories. My new favorite view is Manhattan – best views since Windows on the World.

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July 28, 2019 at 3:59 am

This is an awesome insight and one article I wish I had read before heading to NYC, but I will be back! One of the biggest mistakes we made was not getting to Brooklyn or Queens. We were lucky enough to have 10 nights there which was amazing, and we didn’t do anywhere near everything, Totally agree about the subway, it’s a fabulous way to travel and I have included it as an essential for getting around in my article on my blog “My 17 Best Tips for Visiting NYC” but no-one can give insight like a local can. Food was fantastic – the pizzas, the bagels, the giant pretzels, we loved it all. I also recommend checking out the New York City Pass website. You don’t need to buy it, and I wouldn’t necessarily guarantee buying it because you have to go hard to get your money’s worth, but what it does do is give you a great list of most of the big ticket items as well as some quirkier ones like the Catacombs tour that we enjoyed. Keep up the awesome work, this is a great blog.

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August 12, 2019 at 11:40 pm

Hi, this was one of the most valuable posts i’ve read when i was planning our trip to NYC. We’re 1 week in NYC, took our 4yo son and he loved it. We got a bit lost in Brooklyn and got help from one super nice girl, in the subway talked to an amazing old lady and overall the people were very helpful and friendly. We’ve followed your tips and the trip was delightful. Thank you

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January 14, 2020 at 5:31 pm

We are going in June this year. I was reading through the comments and saw yours. We are taking our son that is about the same age as yours. Any tips or suggestions for going with Lea little one?

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August 28, 2019 at 9:07 pm

Really enjoyed this read. I almost wish I had read it before traveling to NYC for the first time as an adult, but half of the fun was figuring out the city on our own (with a little help from some older ladies at a bus stop) I’m from southern CA and I absolutely fell in love with NYC and would jump at the chance to live there if I could. I absolutely love being able to do everything I want without having to drive. I love the food culture, the energy in the streets, even the way most citizens are totally unfazed by almost getting hit in the middle of a crosswalk. I can’t wait to return for an even longer trip next time!

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September 6, 2019 at 6:16 am

“Stay away from chain restaurants”, why reccomend shake shack than? First of all, it’s horrible, second it’s a chain restaurant. There are a lot of great burger places in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan, for example: bare burger, burger bistro etc.

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September 8, 2019 at 11:12 pm

I was born and raised in NYC. Harlem,to be exact. I’ve traveled to all the boroughs and I love my city. Just like any other city, be careful and use common sense. Otherwise, it’s a melting pot of cultures and lots of things to do. That’s why it’s called, “The city so nice they had to make it twice!!” And “The city that never sleeps!!” Literally. I live in Florida now but do go back to NY once in a while just to recharge my battery. Lol!!

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October 8, 2019 at 4:36 pm

This is a very well written blog!! It gives a “real” insight.

Thanks for sharing 🙂

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January 5, 2020 at 7:53 pm

We’re heading to New York for the first time in May and found this post super helpful – definitely sending it to my husband to read. Thank you x

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January 13, 2020 at 7:48 am

Great article! I’m taking my daughter and friends in April for her Sweet 16. This will be my third trip and get first. I am SO excited as we are born to travel!!! One tip I would include from my previous experience is to realize how difficult it is to find a bathroom. By law, hotels have to let anyone use the bathroom. You would be amazed how valuable this is to know. When you’re out and about, just stop into any hotel lobby for a bathroom break.

Thanks for the great tips- def tagging this for our “girls’ trip to the city” planning!

January 13, 2020 at 10:53 am

That is a great tip! There’s an app for this called Flush, I believe. 🙂

January 18, 2020 at 6:19 am

Yes and YES! We went, we fell in love, we’re planning our next trip for Jan 2021. Australian family of 4. Our kids (11 and 12) were especially enamoured with the Big Apple. We felt at home as soon as we arrived and loved everything about your City. Maybe it was because of Crocodile Dundee or Sex & the City we grew up watching? Never once found New Yorkers to be gruff or rude – we just ploughed through and asked them for directions anyway. Turns out, they love Aussies. We can’t wait to return and next time, we’re taking our extended family. So much good food, great shows, awesome streetscapes, history and just a great pace of life. You can’t think of the expense as a visitor, esp from Australia. It’s such a long way to go, so we made the most of it.

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August 25, 2020 at 6:42 pm

Pay attention to what she says. It’s very good advice. I’m a former New Yorker. And I miss it every day.

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March 6, 2021 at 6:14 am

Hi! I spent 4.5 days in NY in Dec 2019. Traveled as a single female in her 40s with a heavy country girl accent. Stayed at the hotel Alziz. Visited their fantastic bar, great views and drinks. Saw some Broadway shows, visited the natural history museum, took a boat ride past the statue of liberty. Also saw all the Christmas decor and the Rockefeller Center tree. Highly recommend! I didn’t try the subway until my third day, and OMG I wish I’d had used it sooner. Such a time saver. Everyone was so nice! Except for 1 police officer, He was a dick. Sorry, but I was unaccostomed to seeing police standing around holding rifles out without there being some big trouble going on. When I asked one of them what was going on and if I could go on down the street, because, honestly, I thought something really bad must have happened, He was like, “You’re a tourist, just go on and leave me alone.” But other than that, I had the time of my life!

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April 8, 2022 at 4:02 am

Thank you for providing such detailed information and guidelines.

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May 19, 2022 at 8:42 am

[…] you see really crazy stuff or people carrying KITTENS on the subway.  ON THEIR SHOULDER. That’s New York.  (You never know what will happen. […]

[…] with me here, but as a native New Yorker, I’m picky about my pizza.   However, the style of pizza in Buffalo is different and good. […]

[…] Make sure you know where you're going! Sounds obvious, but I'm not just talking about destinations. You want to find out you're going to the right motel. If you're searching 'near me', take a second to choose the right neighbourhood in your chosen city or town. Because remember, if you're only going for two to three days, you will want to see as much as you can. Checkout local blogs like this one for New York. […]

[…] York natives, though, often try to avoid most of the big Christmas destinations and events that the city has to offer. Especially after […]

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Practical Tips for Visiting New York City for First Time Visitors

Practical Tips for Visiting New York City for First Time Visitors

Visiting NYC For The First Time?

Visiting New York City for the first time can be daunting. The idea of hordes of people walking past you, and wild traffic honking at you while you try to make your way across the street. I had the same thoughts when I first came to New York to study at the age of just 20.

But, as I found out later by living in NYC here and there and revisiting about a million times since then, that’s not what New York City is. It’s actually one of the most incredible megacities on the planet.

New Yorkers may be busy, but they’re helpful. Traffic signs and traffic cops are always around to guide you. And with a few tips and tricks, a visit to New York City can be as hassle-free and manageable as travel to the park next door!

Jaw-dropping and vibrant, here are some NYC tips to help you make the best of your trip to New York City!

tips for first time visit to nyc

NYC Travel Tips –  Dos and Don’ts for Visiting NYC  

1. leave manhattan to experience the real nyc.

tips for first time visit to nyc

It may be where many of New York’s attractions are, but don’t spend your entire trip in Manhattan. Save some time for other areas and explore New York beyond Manhattan!

New York has five boroughs – The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. And contrary to popular belief, the world doesn’t revolve around Manhattan. You’ll find something interesting to do in each of the boroughs if you just look.

If you’re visiting in the fall I highly recommend hopping on a train and exploring upstate New York to see the leaves beautifully changing colors. It’s an easy trip, even if you’re traveling solo or with kids (I first lived outside of NYC and commuted daily so really, don’t worry!). You can also rent a car once you leave the city. Don’t drive in NYC, even if I have to drive through and spend the night driving around Manhattan is a nightmare.

2. Don’t Wear White Shoes: NYC Streets Are Dirty

tips for first time visit to nyc

A Time Out magazine poll from 2021 listed NYC as one of the top 3 dirtiest cities in the world, after Rome and Bangkok. I don’t think it will ever stop surprising me how dirty the city gets.

The City has many green spaces , but there’s also a lot of garbage and filth lying around. Be wary when you walk, and you’ll avoid stepping on a slice of someone’s fallen pizza. Curbs and sidewalks, that’s where you’ll find garbage stacked.

Add to that, although littering is illegal in NYC , you’ll find people don’t always bother picking up after themselves.

3. Avoid Times Square

tips for first time visit to nyc

Times Square is a tourist trap that’s best avoided. Yes, it looks amazing in all those Christmassy movies, but that’s about all there is to it. Okay, and maybe go for the Broadway Musicals if that’s your thing.

Times Square is where the unsuspecting tourist is lured in by the bright lights and spends their funds on overpriced meals at ordinary food stores. It’s super crowded at all times and most locals will do anything not to go near it.

If you must go to Times Square, avoid it during the day. Go super early in the morning or at night because that’s when you’ll get the best pictures. The lights do look fantastic!

4. You Can Find Cheap Hotels in NYC

NYC is home to all types of hotels. So no matter what your budget, you’ll find some good accommodation in New York!

New York City is very pet friendly! I found lots of hotels that allow pets and while rooms are small your furry family member will be welcome. My cat Poofy has already visited NYC .

Luxury Hotels

WestHouse Hotel New York

Lotte New York Palace

The Beekman, a Thompson Hotel

Mid-Range & Boutique Hotels

Refinery Hotel – New York

The Peninsula New York

Equinox Hotel Hudson Yards New York City

Budget Hotels

Da Vinci Hotel

The Manhattan Club

Park Central

More on Where to Stay in NYC & Map

5. find hidden food gems.

tips for first time visit to nyc

You don’t have to keep up with the Kardashians to find good food in NYC. Sure, there are some highly-rated Michelin star restaurants to eat at, but there are also amazing street food stalls and hole-in-the-wall selling diverse and tasty to-die-for dishes.

The $1 slice of pizza, the Indian food in a lunch box, and the tacos at the food stall, they taste as good as they smell.

If you’re in a particular neighborhood, you’ll find Greek food on Broadway, Egyptian food in Astoria’s Little Cairo, Italian food in Little Italy, Polish food in East Village, and Indian food in Jackson Heights. On top of the Chinese food. It’s hard to go hungry in the City.

And if you’re not sure where to start, there are always some great food tours to get you acquainted with NYC’s food culture:

  • Find the best donuts in NYC
  • Take a tour of Hell’s Kitchen and find out about its history
  • Visit the lower East Side of NYC

6. Go to a Rooftop Bar Instead of Paying for a View

tips for first time visit to nyc

You don’t have to wait in line to reach the top of the Empire State Building for the perfect view. Just head to a rooftop bar and club both the amazing views and a good drink or meal at the same cost. Unless it’s The Edge, then you can go for it BUT expect it to be crowded – it looks nothing like on Instagram.

Many rooftops have magical views of the Empire State Building and the NYC skyline. The brunch buffet served on weekends isn’t too hard on the pocket either.

For those rooftop fans, here are the best rooftop bars in NYC :

  • Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge
  • The Skylark
  • Refinery Rooftop
  • Elsie Rooftop
  • PHD Terrace
  • The Fleur Room
  • 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar NYC
  • Life Rooftop
  • Time Out Market New York
  • Panorama room
  • Dear Irving
  • The Ready Rooftop Bar

7. Don’t Be Afraid of Using the Subway

If being stuck in New York traffic while your taxi bill runs up is not part of your plans for visiting NYC, use the subway.

The way NYC was built, getting anywhere by cab can be a nightmare . It’s better to take the subway system. Even though it’s been running since 1904, the trains are remarkably fast and run 24 hours a day. You’ll get around the city a lot faster on the subway than in a cab.

That being said, don’t enter the empty compartments during rush hours or late nights, there’s always a reason that particular car is empty – usually, it’s a smelly one!

8. It’s Often Faster to Walk than Take a Taxi

tips for first time visit to nyc

Taxis and traffic are a part of NYC life. But if you want to get anywhere really fast, it’s best to walk! Did you know that it takes hardly 30 minutes to get from the infamous Flatiron Building to the Empire State Building on foot?

There are a few rules to follow while walking in NYC though. Remember that New Yorkers always seem to have somewhere to go, and always seem to be in a hurry.

If you’re walking somewhere, try not to stop in the middle of the sidewalk to take photographs. If you want to stop to look at a map or your phone, stand out of the way under the buildings. And if you’re walking slow, make sure you stick to the right and let the fast walkers pass on the left.

9. Don’t be Suprised if You Get Catcalled

New York, like Mumbai and some other big international cities, is home to men who think it’s okay to catcall women. There’s nothing you can really do about it!

And it really has nothing to do with what you wear. You could be wearing a nun’s habit and still get cat-called.

The best defense in this instance is to just keep walking as though you didn’t hear anything . Of course, if they pester you too much, call the cops!

10. NYC Can Be Freezing in the Winter

tips for first time visit to nyc

The weather in NYC varies a lot. It can be 80 degrees F in summer and or the middle of the day and drop to 0 degrees or lower at night.

Winter weather is usually just above freezing. And the coldest recorded temperature in NYC was when it dropped to -18.9 °C (-2 °F) in January 1994. It’s much colder than in most places in Europe, my dear Europeans!

Remember to always dress in layers , and always check the weather when you go out! And you might want to grab Ted Mosby’s yellow umbrella for the rain. You know the one that leads him to his future wife in How I Met Your Mother?

Some Of The Museums in New York City to Visit:

  • Museum of Ice Cream
  • Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum
  • Guggenheim Museum
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

Don’t Visit New York City Without Travel Insurance

A lot of people think travel insurance is an unnecessary expense, but especially if you’re visiting NYC from outside of the US it’s essential. You don’t want to end up like this  couple who went bankrupt  because of their emergency medical bills. 

Travel insurance will refund your medical costs and will get you home for free if you injure yourself. The easiest and the most reliable travel insurance is Safety Wing travel insurance . Get it before your trip to avoid unnecessary troubles that might ruin your holidays!

Best Travel Movies About NYC

  • Taxi Driver
  • Dog Day Afternoon
  • Do the Right Thing
  • Escape from New York
  • On The Town

Best Books About NYC

  • Here is New York (Nostalagic and funny)
  • Motherless Brooklyn (Crime fiction)
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943) (The story of growing up as an Irish immigrant girl in NYC)
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s (The book that turned into the famous Audrey Hepburn movie)
  • The Great Gatsby (A story about New York parties in the 1920s)

New York City is one of the best cities on earth. If you follow these tips and do it the right way, you should have a great experience. It will make you want to come back for more!

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Thursday 13th of June 2024

Great read! The Great Sand Dunes National Park sounds like an amazing destination for hiking and camping. It’s incredible how nature offers such diverse experiences. For those of us who enjoy a bit more comfort, maybe the Luxury Travel Agents in India could take some notes and plan some glamping trips here!

44 New York City Travel Tips for First Time Visitors

  • Post author: Svet
  • Post category: City Travel
  • Post published: January 6, 2021

Planning a visit to New York City can be incredibly daunting, especially if you’ve never been there before.

The thing is, you only get one chance for a first impression.

And if you want your first impression of the Big Apple to be as magnificent as possible, check out these 44 New York City travel tips for first-time visitors .

For your convenience, we’ve divided the guide into eight categories. These include things to do before you visit New York, transportation tips, safety and money-saving advice, as well as food and accommodation tips.

Ready to explore the world’s most diverse city?

Preparation – Things to Do Before You Go to New York

In the first section of our guide, you’ll find what you need to do before traveling to New York . These travel tips about the Big Apple will answer your questions about visas, safety, and comfort.

  • Do you need a visa to visit New York? If you’re traveling from outside the U.S., check with your American embassy whether you need a visa or not. If you belong to one of the 38 countries which are part of the Visa Waiver Program, you can apply for an ESTA for your New York travel.
  • Pack comfy shoes . Strolling the streets of the Big Apple is the best way to suck all its charm in. Since there’s a lot to discover, this means a ton of walking. 20,000 steps is a “normal” day when you’re playing a tourist, so comfortable shoes are a MUST. By the way, if you want to never again worry about what to pack for your trip, grab our trusty Travel Checklist .
  • How many days should you spend in New York? For a first visit, plan 3-5 days minimum in NYC. The Big Apple is indeed BIG. So, anything less than 3 days is not going to be enough to even explore the main attractions. 5 days in New York is a sweet spot for covering the city without rushing everywhere. Anything more than that is welcome as you’ll have a chance to venture out of Manhattan and discover the other boroughs of New York.
  • New York is chock-full of landmarks. Don’t rush to explore them all, though . If there’s one New York City travel tip you need to take from this guide, it’s this: Don’t try to cover every single landmark in the Big Apple . That’ll be next to impossible unless you have at least a month for traveling. So, pick a few spots you can’t wait to see and take as much time as needed to marvel at them.
  • Book in advance . This tip is related to the previous one. While we always recommend to take it slowly, a bit of planning can do wonders for your first New York trip. For instance, if you intend to visit the most popular landmarks, booking them in advance would be your best bet. The Statue of Liberty , The Empire State Building , and the Rockefeller Center always teem with tourists. Do yourself a favor and get a ticket before you even arrive in NYC.
  • The weather in NYC varies a lot. Dress accordingly . The temperature can be as low as -10 or as high as 100°F (-23 to 38°C). If you’re visiting in winter, pack layers to keep yourself warm. In summer, shorts, T-shirts, sneakers, and an ethereal dress would do the trick. Also, it rains quite often, so a sturdy umbrella can be very handy.

Transportation – How to Travel in New York Like a Pro

New York City might be huge, but it has one of the best public transportation systems worldwide. In this section, you’ll discover the best New York travel tips about how to go around like a local.

  • Use the subway . Want to truly experience New York? Hop on the subway and let it take you to your destination. Plus, the price is flat at $2.75 with a MetroCard, or $3.00 for a single-ride ticket. One of the most interesting facts about New York is that it has 472 stops and 36 lines – or more than any other system worldwide. Note: the lines serve Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. They don’t serve Staten Island, where the Staten Island Railways (SIR) operates.
  • Get a regular Metro card to travel more conveniently and save some $$$ . A new Metro card costs only $1, and you can top it up at every reloading terminal. The best thing about the card is that you can share it with fellow travelers as long as you have enough credit. If you’re staying for a few days in New York, getting a 7-Day Unlimited Metro Card ($33) is your best bet.
  • Learn to navigate the subway like a pro . It’s always a handy idea to keep an offline map of the subway in case phone service is limited underground. The number of lines and stations might seem overwhelming at first. However, once you get used to the colors, numbers, and letters, you’ll see it’s pretty straightforward. For instance, take uptown trains if you’re traveling north, and downtown trains if you’re going south.
  • Double-check that you’re hopping on the right subway train . Make sure you know whether it’s an express train or not. Express trains might not work for you because they don’t stop at every station. If you’re in New York for the first time, and you’re unsure what type of train is arriving, just ask someone on the platform.
  • Taxis might be a better option than Uber/Lyft in New York . According to Forbes , yellow taxis are $1.4 less expensive than UberX for short distances. However, using a Uber/Lyft becomes cheaper for prices above $35. The largest issue with taxis is their availability in rush hours. Uber and Lyft have better cars, but taxi drivers are more knowledgeable. Pick the best option according to your situation.
  • Marvel at The Big Apple from the water . When you’ve walked enough, maybe a boat tour would tickle your fancy. New York City’s skyline is quite impressive from the water. So, if you’re wondering what to do next, we recommend a water ride. If you get one of the NYC passes, you’ll be able to benefit from a few boat and ferry tours that take you through different routes.
  • Walk on these jaw-dropping bridges . New York’s boroughs occupy different islands, connected by gigantic bridges. And the good news is – you can walk on several of them. We recommend the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge (both connecting Brooklyn with Manhattan), as well as the George Washington Bridge (connecting Manhattan and New Jersey). All three brilliant constructions offer stupendous views of New York.

Safety New York Travel Tips for First Time Travelers

This section of our New York travel guide will show you a few tips on how to be safe in The City That Never Sleeps. Because a little extra care wouldn’t hurt anyone.

  • Be vigilant in New York City . Gotham is one of the safest large cities worldwide. Its crime rate has been constantly decreasing since 1994. In 2019, it was at an all-time low. However, taking a few precautionary measures is always a good idea. For instance, don’t try to draw attention to yourself and avoid wearing shiny jewelry. If a stranger stops you on the street, and his/her questions sound fishy, don’t feel obliged to answer.
  • Pickpockets usually work in teams . Here’s how they do it. One or a few try to draw your attention to something, or they cause a disturbance. In the meantime, their partners in crime take advantage of the bustle and rob victims of their valuables. Street performances are the perfect gathering spots for pickpockets. So, be extra alert when you stop to watch a street artist.
  • Jaywalking is a thing in The City That Never Sleeps . However, one of our best New York travel trips for first time visitors will be to avoid it. The Big Apple is the largest U.S. city. As such, it comes with its fair share of traffic dangers. Stick to the traffic lights, especially if you’re crossing a major avenue or boulevard.
  • Be careful with street sellers . New York is teeming with people who want to sell you something on the street. Here are a couple of things on what to be aware of:
  • A bottle of water shouldn’t cost more than $1. Also, make sure it hasn’t been opened before.
  • If someone hands you a flyer to visit a famous show or a comedian for free or a few dollars, that’s a sure-fire sign something is fishy.
  • Many street vendors sell fake stuff, but if you relish the idea of spending $25 for a passable copy of a luxury handbag, then go for it.

Money-Saving Travel Tips: Budget and Stretching Your Bucks in New York

There’s no other way to say it – New York can be quite expensive. However, with some good planning and our best money-saving travel tips , you can make the most of your budget. Let’s see how:

  • Tourist passes will save you BIG . These cards are a fantastic time- and money-saver when exploring The City That Never Sleeps. A few options exist, but the most popular ones are The New York Pass and the New York CityPASS . If you plan your itinerary well – visiting at least three attractions per day – you can benefit from some great discounts.
  • Get a metro card and use the subway . It’s fast. It’s safe. And it’s affordable, especially when you get a metro card (see the previous section). The subway is also much faster than a cab, specifically in rush hour.
  • Avoid eating in Times Square and midtown restaurants . Not only the quality of the food is mediocre at best, but also these areas are quite expensive. Unless you’re hungry as a wolf, we recommend you find another spot to eat your heart out in New York City ( see our food and drinks section for recommendations ).
  • Is the water in New York safe to drink? New York’s tap water is not only safe and delicious to drink. It’s also considered among the best in the United States. Get yourself a reusable bottle and save a ton of money by refilling it. Most restaurants would be happy to do it for you as well.
  • Looking for NYC souvenirs? Head to Chinatown . New York is chock-full of stores that sell souvenirs. But if you want to save some money, and you like bargaining, Chinatown is your go-to place. While there, don’t miss a chance to try some Dim Sum at Nom Wah Tea Parlor – a vintage parlor from the 1920s.
  • Should you tip in New York? Tipping is a way of life in New York, and staff will expect to get tips in hotels, restaurants, spa centers, and in taxis. Be careful when tipping in restaurants, though, as some include a service fee (usually mentioned on the bottom of the first menu page).
  • There are tons of free things to do in New York. This means you don’t have to be spending money all the time to enjoy the world’s most multicultural city. Here are a few suggestions for you:
  • Bryant Park . Located on the 42 nd street, between the New York Public Library and Times Square, Bryant Park teems with free activities. These include fencing, yoga classes, juggling lessons, ping pong, and movie nights in summer. If you’re in luck, you might even catch a Broadway performance.
  • The New York Botanical Garden . On Saturdays from 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM, and all day on Wednesday, you can visit the New York Botanical Garden for free. The admission is grounds-only and doesn’t include access to the conservatory, rock garden, special exhibits, tram tour, or the children’s adventure garden.
  • Love water sports? You can join a free kayak tour. Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse allows you to do a 20-minute free session. Just make sure to save your spot by booking ahead.
  • American Folk Art Museum.
  • Federal Hall National Memorial.
  • New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
  • Queens Botanical Garden.
  • The Bronx Museum of the Arts.
  • The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace.

The Best Neighborhoods and Accommodations in New York for First Timers

By now, you’ve probably decided what you want to do when you’re in New York for the first time. The following New York travel tips about the best districts and the greatest accommodations will ensure you relax like a king after a lengthy day of discovering the Big Apple.

Note : Make sure to also check out our separate guide with the best areas to stay in New York before booking.

  • Choose an accommodation spot close to a transportation hub . One of the most sure-fire ways to save time and cash is to find lodging near a subway station. Cabs and Uber can cost you dearly if you use them too often. Plus, New York is still notorious for its traffic jams. With 472 metro stops, it shouldn’t be difficult for you to book a place near a subway station and save precious time for exploring.
  • Airbnbs are NOT a thing in New York . In most of the Big Apple, it’s illegal to rent or advertise an entire apartment for less than 30 days, except when the host is present and the guests are not more than two. In all honesty, you won’t save that much even if you’re lucky and find a spot.
  • Fancy a magnificent view of the Empire State Building? Stay in one of these chic hotels:
  • Archer Hotel New York, Midtown South . The cream of the crop at this boutique hotel is its Spyglass Rooftop Bar, offering staggering views of the Empire State Building.
  • The Redbury New York, Rose Hill . Each of the 259 rooms has a Bluetooth gramophone speaker.
  • Even New York, Midtown East . Graceful white leather furniture and vintage wooden floors will pamper you in Even New York.
  • Arlo NoMad, Midtown South . Custom light fixtures and walnut furnishings adorn the rooms of this hotel, winner of numerous prestigious awards.
  • Ace Hotel New York, Midtown South . Vintage furniture, a coffee shop, and a British gastropub are all at your disposal.

Travel Tips About New York City’s Attractions

Want to explore NYC’s landmarks like a pro? These travel tips will unveil all the secrets you need to know to avoid queuing and crowds.

  • Snap your shots when New York is “sleeping” . You might know it as “The City That Never Sleeps”, and that’s true to an extent. But here’s a tip if you want to shoot some photos without a selfie stick popping in your way. Wake up early on a weekend, and take your pictures then. The streets, including Times Square, are pretty quiet before 8:00 AM.
  • Bad weather? Visit a museum . New York packs dozens of amazing museums. The truth is, they take a lot of time to explore properly. But if the weather outside is frightful, and the museum is sooo delightful, then why not? You can’t go wrong with The Met , MOMA , AMNH , and the Brooklyn Museum .
  • Statue of Liberty takes a ton of time to visit. If you’re dead-set on seeing up close one of the symbols of New York City, go for it. But know that sightseeing the Statue of Liberty takes three-four hours, including queuing, the ferry ride, and exploring the area around it while trying to keep away from selfie sticks. One of the few benefits of going there is the staggering view of Lower Manhattan, but other than that, you might be better off exploring some of the unusual things to do in NYC .
  • Try to get on the Empire State Building just before dark . In this way, you’ll be able to enjoy a sweeping view of New York during both day- and nighttime. If you’re lucky, you might even admire a mesmerizing sunset melting the horizon. The opening times are between 11:00 AM and 11:00 PM.
  • Like big parks? Central Park is great. The “ Green Lungs of Manhattan ” offer a fantastic retreat from the city’s bustle. Whether you’re visiting during spring’s 50 shades of green or in winter when an enchanting white duvet covers it, Central Park is drop-dead gorgeous all year-round. Take your time, snap a few shots, and admire the surrounding skyline.
  • Don’t limit yourself just to Manhattan . New York’s most popular attractions are in Manhattan. However, if you want to escape the crowds, consider visiting some of the other four boroughs. Here are a few ideas what to explore in each:
  • Brooklyn . The borough offers a heart-stopping view of Manhattan. Also, you can have a picnic in Prospect Park, visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, or do some treasure hunting at the Brooklyn Flea Market.
  • Queens . A visit to Queens can present you with a ton of options. Museum enthusiast? Go to the Queens Museum or MoMA PS1 . Love parks? Stroll through the vast green space of Flushing Meadows Corona Park . Baseball fan? Go to a Mets Game at the Citi Field.
  • The Bronx . Yankee Stadium , the Bronx Zoo , the New York Botanical Garden , and the largest park in NYC – Pelham Bay Park – all await you in The Bronx. When you grow tired of exploring, quench your thirst at one of the awesome breweries you’ll find in the borough.
  • Staten Island . The Staten Island Ferry connects the borough with Lower Manhattan. When you arrive there, you can eat your heart out in some of the many Italian restaurants that dot the island. Alternatively, you can get lost in the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden or admire the wild animals in The Staten Island Zoo . 

Food Tips for New York City for First Time Travelers

New York City’s food scene will surpass even your wildest food fantasies. Don’t count calories as you’ll be burning a ton by walking around. Here are our best travel tips to eat well in New York City .

  • You don’t need to break the bank to eat well . This is among our best New York City tips for first time travelers. If you’d like to pamper yourself to a fancy meal, NYC will live up to your most fastidious food cravings with more than 500 Michelin-star establishments. But if you don’t, no worries. The Big Apple is chock-full of spots that will make you salivate while keeping your wallet happy. Go for Los Mariscos if you dig Mexican food, Vini E Fritti if wine tickles your fancy, and Noodle Village if you love Chinese food, especially dumplings and wonton soup.
  • NYC’s street food is a quick and cheap way to satisfy your hunger . Pizza, pretzels, and hot dogs are all around you when you’re discovering New York’s streets. And they’re your best friends to stock up on some energy when you have a busy schedule. Magnolia Bakery ’s decadent pastries can fuel you for hours. If you’re exploring the area around the Rockefeller Center, check out the food trucks on 6 th Avenue. And if you’re strolling the lanes of Central Park, you can’t go wrong with a hot dog from one of the many stands.
  • $1 pizza slices are not your game . If there’s one thing NYC is very famous for, that’s its scrumptious pizza. However, don’t just pick the first spot that sells pizzas for a couple of dollars. If you’re seeking foodgasms, go for NY Pizza Suprema and Joe’s Pizza . But if you a truly pizza worshipper, join the NYC Pizza Tour. We mean, who’d say “NO” to a half day of pizza escapades?
  • Picnic in Central Park . Fresh air, lush vegetation, and billion-dollar views all around await you in Central Park. Pack your bags and enjoy a picnic while basking in the sun and admiring Manhattan’s jaw-dropping skyline.
  • Explore NYC’s food markets . If you love discovering the food culture of a city, here’s one of our best New York travel tips for first time visitors – get lost in the food markets. Chelsea Market should top your list, especially if you love Oreo cookies – that’s where they originate from. A more relaxed alternative to Chelsea is the Gansevoort Market , which is just five minutes away. Other great food halls and markets include Urbanspace Vanderbilt, Smorgasburg, Gotham West Market, and DeKalb Market Hall.
  • Restaurant Week happens twice a year (summer and winter) in New York . During Restaurant Week, some of NYC’s top restaurants offer meals for a much lower price than usual. For instance, a 3-course dinner at the fine establishments is around $80, but during Restaurant Week, it can be as low as $35. Don’t forget to book in advance, though.
  • Happy hours can save you a bunch of money . New York City has an exploding cocktail scene. But splurging on $15+ cocktails is not everyone’s fancy. Thankfully, there are happy hours that usually last from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM and halve the prices for drinks. Just go easy on the Manhattans and Cosmopolitans 😉

When is the Best Time to Visit New York City

The Big Apple is gorgeous all year-round.

The most pleasant weather in New York is from April to June (spring) and from September to early November (fall). However, the cheapest time to visit NYC is mid-January till the end of February.

Skip summer if you can’t stand heat and humidity. If you love snow, December-March is when you should visit. In the next section, you’ll find our best tips for each season :

  • Winter . One of the most peculiar facts about New York is that it gets 15x more snow than the South Pole. The crazy fact means one thing – if you’re looking for a white holiday, winter is your season to travel to New York. Just make sure to pack enough layers as it can get really cold.
  • Spring . Vast green spaces, cherry blossoms in botanical gardens, and lazy brunches basking in the warm sun. These are just a few of the things you can do in New York in spring. Smell the fresh aromas coming from every corner of The Big Apple, or join the International Food Festival at the 9 th Avenue in May.
  • Summer . Bright, sunny, and often hot days, along with many tourists, await you in the summer months. However, that’s also the season when something exciting is happening everywhere. All five boroughs offer a ton of free activities, including outdoor movies and concerts, as well as some Broadway shows.
  • Autumn . Fall can be really magical, especially if you love mind-blowing color palettes. While you’ll need an extra layer of clothes, the crowds tend to thin a bit. Autumn usually comes with plenty of rain, so don’t forget to pack good shoes and an umbrella.

Which One is Your Favorite of the New York City Travel Tips?

New York is busy, buzzing, and bustling.

But if you take your time slowly and allow it to show all its charm, beauty, and peculiarities, you might end up falling desperately in love with it.

One thing is for sure, though. These 44 New York City travel tips for first time visitors will help you plan your trip to the world’s most cosmopolitan city in the best way possible.

Before we wish you a fantastic trip, we’re curious:

Have you been to New York before?

If yes, what did you like most?

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Is tampa worth visiting: 33 reasons to discover the city, the 11 best day trips from tampa, 33 top things key west is known for and why you should visit, this post has 6 comments.

tips for first time visit to nyc

Best guide I have seen so far. Bravo!

tips for first time visit to nyc

Thanks, Teodora, glad you like it! Stay tuned for more guides 🙂

tips for first time visit to nyc

Great post. I’m a native New Yorker and I found many interesting things.

Please note that the George Washington Bridge connects New Jersey and Upper Manhattan.

tips for first time visit to nyc

Thanks, Talek, means a lot coming from you 🙂 We’ve corrected the bridge mix-up, thank you for pointing that out! Cheers!

tips for first time visit to nyc

This is interesting,

Thanks, Jenny, glad you liked the guide! Cheers and happy travels 🙂

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New York City   Travel Guide

tips for first time visit to nyc

Best Times To Visit New York City

The best time to visit New York is anytime . Each season in Gotham offers visitors plenty of reasons to visit. Early fall offers crisp breezes, bright sun and comfortable temperatures while late fall and winter make merry with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and holiday decorations. Deep winter – January and February – is cold, but that also means cheaper hotel rates . Spring is glorious and New Yorkers celebrate the thaw by taking to the streets, shopping at outdoor markets, frolicking in Central Park and dining outside. Summer is hot, but hey, so are lots of places, and at least this is New York. No matter when you decide to visit New York City, consider travel protection – such as a  travel insurance policy or a cancel for any reason plan – in the event you encounter weather issues or trip delays.

Weather in New York City

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center

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Popular Times to Visit New York City

Tourism volume is estimated based on in-market destination search query interest from Google and on travel.usnews.com in 2015-2016. Hotel prices are sourced from a sample of U.S. News Best Hotels rates through 2015-2016.

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Figure out the best time to visit New York City with this guide © Anthony Nazario for Lonely Planet © Anthony Nazario for Lonely Planet

Pride parties dancing through the streets in the summer, Broadway shows bringing the magic of the stage in the fall, holiday lights and magic in the winter, cherry blossoms galore in the spring…there’s no such thing as a bad time to visit New York City .

This abundance of seasonal activity means it’s hard to decide when to plan your trip. So whether you’re looking to nab a deal, go ice skating in Central Park, avoid the crowds or join them, here’s our guide to the best times to visit New York. 

December to February is a holiday season like no other

During the holiday season, New York City is a beautiful sight covered in twinkling lights. Instead of snow-capped mountains or wooden ski lodges, visitors can enjoy the magnificent Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree , plus a mixture of goodwill and retail madness – Fifth Ave department stores (as well as Macy’s ) create festive, elaborate tableaux within their storefront windows. You don’t have to look far to find a concert or religious service packed with holiday tunes. The downside to all this festive cheer is that hotel prices skyrocket to summertime levels.

However, if you don’t mind risking a winter blizzard, there are deals to score during the long, cold winter months of January and February. Though the winter doldrums arrive after the frenzy of Christmas and New Year’s Eve, New Yorkers take advantage of the frosty weather, with outdoor ice skating and weekend ski trips to the Catskills . The odd blizzard and below-freezing temperatures make February a good time to stay indoors nursing a drink or a warm meal at a cozy bar or bistro. The fashion industry A-list descends on Manhattan for New York Fashion Week , while (most years) Lunar New Year celebrations make the city’s Chinatowns (there are many!) the places to be. 

Bow bridge in Central Park on a sunny day in spring. A cherry blossom branch in full bloom frames the right side of the image

March to May is a great time for budget travelers  

Springtime is another great season to try to score hotel deals. The summer crowds have yet to descend and the weather is generally pleasant this time of year (but there are no guarantees). The odd warm spring day appears and everyone rejoices – though that’s usually followed by another week of subzero dreariness as winter lingers on. Wearing green is essential on St Patrick’s Day, when a huge parade makes its way through Midtown.

Spring finally arrives in April, and the city’s new outdoor dining program officially opens for the season. Tree pits, window boxes, squares and parks abound with bright tulips and cherry trees start blooming – a spectacle you can enjoy at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden , on Roosevelt Island and throughout Central Park.

The weather becomes warm and mild, usually without the unpleasant humidity of summer – May is perhaps the best month for New York City weather. Broadway perks up again as shows open in advance of the June Tony Awards. In late May, uniformed sailors fan out on the town as Navy vessels dock on the Hudson for Fleet Week .

Check out these other budget-friendly tips before you book

A group of people holding and flying rainbow flags walk down a street during NYC's Pride Parade.

June to August is the perfect time for enjoying the outdoors

There’s nothing like summertime in New York City. While the weather often gets hot and sticky, the city also comes alive with a host of festivals, parties and events throughout the five boroughs. There’s the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island , the Puerto Rican Day Parade and the Pride March in Manhattan and the US Open in Queens . This is also the ideal time to check out the local beach scene .

The warm temperatures in June tempt New Yorkers out of their office cubicles and WFH setups to lie out in the city’s green spaces. Parades roll down the busiest streets and portable movie screens are strung up in several parks. SummerStage offers exciting programming after dark in Central Park all season long.

As the city swelters in July, locals escape to Long Island  or to beaches just a subway ride away . Still, it’s a busy month for tourism, as vacationing North Americans and Europeans fill the city. The Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks dazzle, while Shakespeare in the Park serves up some drama – for free.

Thick waves of summer heat generally set in between the skyscrapers in August as everyone heads to the seashore or gulps cool blasts of air-conditioning. Myriad outdoor events and attractions add life to the languid urban heat. The US Open kicks off at the end of the month. Hotel prices are at their highest in the summertime as the streets fill with tourists from all over the globe. If the humidity becomes a little too much, you can always take a day trip to recharge and renew – before heading out for another night on the town.

Where Locals Go: NYC locals share their favorite nearby vacation spots

A traffic-filled street and above, neon signs of Broadway shows in New York City

September to November is the best time for cultural events and openings

After Labor Day, New Yorkers return to the city en masse and the city is abuzz with events, Broadway openings and new art exhibitions. Revelers dance down Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn in the West Indian American Day Parade , and festival-goers eat up sausage and peppers at Little Italy ’s Feast of San Gennaro . Hotel prices might dip a bit from the summer’s peak but don’t expect incredible deals.  

As the season progresses and “sweater weather” sets in by October, the air gets crisper and the leaves start to turn. Brilliant bursts of color blossom across the city's parks as temperatures cool, ushering in one of the most pleasant and scenic months to visit NYC. Cultural delights continue, Comic Con invades the Javits Center and normally private sites open their doors for one weekend only during Open House New York . The Village Halloween Parade closes out the month with a creative bang.

As the leaves tumble, light jackets are replaced by wool and down. The headliner NYC marathon is tucked into the final days of pre-hibernation weather before families gather to give thanks – and perhaps watch the giant balloons pass by at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Ready to plan your trip to NYC?

  • Add these top experiences to your itinerary
  • Find out which NYC neighborhood fits your vibe
  • Start crafting your budget with these tips
  • Navigate NYC like a local with our transportation guide

This article was first published Mar 12, 2021 and updated Mar 22, 2024.

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Tips For Tourists On The New York City Subway For The First Time

  • There are plenty of New York subway tips, one of which is to stay away from the yellow area to avoid accidents and incidents on the subway platform.
  • One of the things to know about the NYC subway is that the numbers and letters on the New York subway map are more important than the colors.
  • Pay attention to signs, announcements, and the subway map to navigate the subway system effectively and avoid getting lost.

No one can dispute that New York City is one of the ultimate travel destinations in the US and is where many people's dreams come true. From the epic foodie neighborhoods in NYC to the city's museums, stores, and brands, many things in the Big Apple have left their imprint on the United States and worldwide, all of which are found in this concrete jungle.

More than 8 million people call New York City home , and around one-third of them were born outside the country. The city attracts between 60 and 70 million tourists a year due to its diversity and liveliness, earning it the title of "cultural center of the world." As exciting as that sounds, getting around may seem difficult for first-timers, especially when taking the subway. So, how does the NYC subway work, exactly?

The subway New York City offers is one of the busiest in the country, and it can be challenging for newcomers to navigate safely and seamlessly. Therefore, here are a number of NYC subway tips for a safe, successful vacation in what is easily the most famous city in America!

UPDATE: 2023/12/27 21:32 EST BY MARIA BOU INK

Wondering How The New York City Subway Works?

Taking public transport in NYC for the first time? No need to worry; here are a number of additional, updated, and useful tips and information on the NYC subway system

Related: 10 Crazy Things You Should Know About New York City's Abandoned Subway Stations

Stay Away From The Yellow Area

Purpose: for safety and to avoid any incidents.

The yellow part of the subway seems obvious, doesn't it? Still, first-timers on New York’s subway would be shocked at how many passengers choose to disregard the line and stand in (or too close to) the yellow area at the edge of the subway station.

Sadly, after buying a New York subway pass for tourists, some unsavvy first-timers stand too close to the edge, which may result in a serious incident (some locals even do this, too). Therefore, passengers must keep their distance from the yellow area at all times, not only when a train is approaching the station.

Get Ready Well Before Your Intended Stop

Purpose: to avoid missing your stop.

Distractions aboard the New York subway are commonplace. Characters on the train may be so interesting that first-time passengers could miss their stop, ranging from adorable Mariachi bands (sometimes too loud) to children selling candy to downright vibrant New Yorkers.

Have fun on the ride, but be mindful. During peak times, it is better to get ready and head near the train's doors before the intended stop to avoid missing it due to door closure. The doors don't stay open for long, after all, and trying to fight one's way through a crowded train during rush hour to exit is not a pleasant experience when riding the NYC subway for the first time!

Read The Signs To Find Your Train Station

Purpose: to avoid getting lost.

Over 36 separate subway lines transport people between Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx. The majority of subways in NYC go below ground, as the name would imply. There are a few lines that cross above, though.

However, tourists will mostly be moving underground. The secret is to pay attention to the signs that identify the subway lines that each station serves and the direction in which each train is traveling.

Related: 10 Tips For Riding New York City's Subways & Trains During The Holidays

Pay Attention To The Signs & Announcements For The Previous & Next Stations

Purpose: to know when to get off and reach the intended destination.

Modern subways contain light-up graphics that show which station tourists are on the route for, but older trains will not . Travelers should not be afraid if they miss the graphics and station signs, though, because the conductor will always make clear which stop they are at and which station is coming up.

Passengers can also see signs for the station the train has just pulled into by looking out the window if they miss the announcement. Additionally, each train car contains a New York subway map spread of the full subway network, making it easier to learn how to use the subway in NYC , even as a newbie.

Follow The NYC Subway Map’s Numbers & Letters But Not The Colors

Purpose: to understand the subway map.

Travelers pondering how to use the NYC subway as a tourist should take the map's letters and numbers into account (the colors aren't quite as important). Travelers may see the many lines on the NYC subway map in a variety of colors and counts; they should make sure they choose the appropriate subway line by letter or number since New Yorkers don't really refer to the train lines by their colors.

This is because, for example, despite the blue line showing lines A, C, and E, these train tracks ultimately diverged, and tourists can find themselves in an entirely different and even unintended location from where they started.

For more information, check out a guide to using the NYC subway and how to ride its trains .

Choose An Appropriate NYC MetroCard

Purpose: to get the most suitable card for tourists (not locals).

Two different NYC subway card types are available: an Unlimited Ride card and a normal Pay-Per-Ride card. If travelers buy the Unlimited 7-Day MetroCard, they can take the bus and metro as much as they choose and use the subway like a true New Yorker.

If tourists choose Pay-Per-Ride, they can utilize Tap-To-Pay instead of purchasing a MetroCard. They can touch their credit or debit card on the screen and even use their phone's wallet to pay.

  • Costs : The cost of an Unlimited 7-Day MetroCard is $34, including a $1 card charge. Each subway ride costs $2.75 with a standard Pay-Per-Ride card, though travelers get one free transfer to a bus.

Check If Your Destination Is Uptown Or Downtown

Purpose: to select the right subway platform.

So, how do tourists use the NYC subway without getting lost, even with all the maps and tips available? Well, one answer to this is that travelers must select the appropriate platform, which tends to be based on whether the train goes uptown or downtown.

Additionally, certain subway stations feature distinct entrances for uptown or downtown-bound trains. This implies that to go in the desired direction, travelers might need to cross the street. Entry to both uptown and downtown platforms is often available from each station door at express stations.

Related: 10 Things To Know Before Riding The NYC Subway

Know The Difference Between Red And Green Globes

Purpose: to understand the subway's operating hours.

Travelers may notice that most subway stations in NYC feature either a red or a green globe. These were initially put in place to inform passengers which stations are open 24/7, referred to with a green globe, and which stations are closed at night, marked with a red globe. The red globes were also intended to indicate exit-only staircases.

However, most residents and tourists to New York City probably ignore these markings.

Change Your Train Line Using Pedestrian Tunnels

Purpose: to save money and time.

Another mistake first-timers on the NYC subway system make is leaving one stop and going to another to catch a different train, incurring another fare. Some stations are connected to other stations via pedestrian tunnels; using those tunnels between the two stations can save travelers time and money.

Once someone heads down the subway, they shouldn't need to leave and enter another area; everything will be connected.

If You Need Help, Ask Someone!

Purpose: to get help from a local (or a conductor) in the know.

Travelers who are unsure if they are standing on the right side of the platform or boarding the correct train shouldn't hesitate to ask someone. They might be astonished to learn that a lot of New Yorkers are pretty friendly, and some even like helping out tourists.

Travelers can also ask the conductor aboard the train, who often points at each station's black and white striped boards. It's always better to speak up and ask questions rather than to be stuck in the wrong subway car headed toward a completely different destination.

Avoid Staring At People In The Metro

Purpose: to avoid offending (and potentially angering) anyone.

The New York City subway is typically one of the most fascinating places in the Big Apple for people watching; however, passengers should try to keep their eyes off others, for the most part. Looking without staring is usually fine; however, just like in most big cities around the world, gazing at someone for too long is a surefire way to offend them (and maybe even anger them).

Additionally, in New York, citizens normally keep calm when they see a famous person or an unusual character—the less attention someone brings to themselves, especially when new to the city, the better. Many long-time residents also claim that blending in helps keep them safe in NYC during their commutes.

Watch Your Valuables

Purpose: to avoid falling victim to pickpocketing.

A useful piece of NYC subway advice is to safeguard valuables. Travelers should avoid putting their wallets and other valuable items in their back pockets. Pickpocketing can happen anywhere, so keeping one's guard up is essential when traveling not just the NYC subway but any public transportation. That also applies to electronics, like phones, tablets, headphones, speakers, and whatever else holds a high value.

As tempting as it is to get some work or study done on the subway using a laptop or tablet, it can be a super quick and easy target for thieves. Instead, it may be safer to do any work on a smartphone, holding it very tight or having a case with a connecting string/cable to one's pants/jacket/bag.

Don't forget that there are other ways to get around NYC besides the subway .

Download Games To Play

Purpose: to pass the time and stay entertained.

One of the best ways to pass the time on the NYC subway is to play games on a phone. However, sometimes there might not be internet connectivity in the tunnels, so it's best to have a pre-downloaded game like Candy Crush, Angry Birds, Sudoku, or whatever one enjoys playing.

It is surprising just how much faster the time goes by on the subway when having a distraction (a good old-fashioned book or even a Kindle also works as well).

Remember That The NYC Subway Never Stops

Purpose: to reduce "last train" anxiety and relax.

NYC is known as the city that never sleeps. Unsurprisingly, its extensive system of metro trains also never rests; the NYC Subway runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

The subway really is the easiest way to get around the Big Apple, and it's rare that someone ever needs to hurry to get the last train at one of the system's 493 stations. As such, travelers can ditch the notion of rushing around for fear of missing the last train (there are plenty, and there's always another train to get people home!).

Not all lines run through the night, though, so refer to the NYC subway's late-night service to see what's operational.

Never Forget To Pay The Subway Fare

Purpose: to avoid fines.

The fares on the NYC Subway cost $2.75 for most riders (there are reduced fares for those 65 and older and certain other categories of people). People can pay using OMNY - the contactless fare payment system - or a MetroCard.

Both ways are simple and easy to use. Up to four riders can use the same payment method; just tap or swipe the appropriate number of times for each rider. Whatever the case, travelers must never forget to pay (or indeed try to fare dodge altogether), as this will incur penalties for fare evasion . In fact, those who enter the NYC subway system or ride buses without paying are subject to a $50 or $100 fine !

Related: Little Island: Discover NYC's New Artificial Floating Island Park At Pier 55

Bring Cleaning Wipes For The Seats

Purpose: to boost hygiene and reduce the risk of illness.

Another good plan for riders of the New York City subway is to bring cleaning wipes. Before taking a seat on the subway, many native New Yorkers and visitors wipe down their seats before getting comfy. This is good practice whether there is an active COVID-19 outbreak or it's regular cold and flu season (the subway is a germ field and one of the easiest ways to get sick in NYC, with all the daily passengers that commute!).

Any standard disinfectant wipes, whether Clorox, Windex, or store-brand wipes, will do. The key is finding a product to kill bacteria and clean whatever dirt, oil, or debris could be on the seat. Luckily, most NYC subway cars feature plastic seating, which is easy to clean off between stops.

Bring Headphones To Listen To Music Or Stream Shows/Movies

Purpose: to reduce exposure to subway noise.

For those who don't want to hear noise during their trip on the New York City subway, bringing a pair of headphones along for the ride for music or to watch a show or movie can be a lifesaver. Generally, it's normal to see New Yorkers in subways with their earbuds or headphones on while riding between subway lines/stops.

However, passengers don't want to be unaware of their surroundings for safety. For example, if the music playing through the headphones is too loud and someone can't hear an emergency alert or a problem in their subway car, headphones may pose an issue. As such, try to keep one ear open or have the volume turned down enough so that the subway noise is drowned out but without risking missing any issues or announcements.

Tips For Tourists On The New York City Subway For The First Time

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  • Both parents or guardians must approve that we can issue a passport to a child, and go with the child to apply in person.
  • If one or both parents or guardians cannot apply with their child, you will need to show us more documents.
  • You cannot renew your child's passport using Form DS-82.
  • Passports for children under age 16 are only valid for 5 years. 

Steps to Apply

1. fill out form ds-11 and print it.

Use our Form Filler tool  to fill out your child's form on a desktop or laptop computer and then print it. If you are experiencing technical issues with the Form Filler, download a PDF . 

Fill Out Form DS-11 Online

Tips to complete your child's form :

  • Do not sign your child's form until asked to do so by a passport acceptance agent or employee. 
  • You can apply for a passport book , a passport card , or both documents.
  • You may ask for a larger passport book with more visa pages, at no extra cost, by checking the 'large book' box at the top of the DS-11.

2. Get Evidence of U.S. Citizenship (and a photocopy)

Your evidence must be an original or replacement copy. The document must have the official seal or stamp of the office which issued it. You must submit one of the following documents for your child:

  • Issued by the city, county, or state of birth
  • Lists applicant's full name, date of birth, and place of birth
  • Lists the parent(s)' full names
  • Has the date filed with registrar's office (must be within one year of birth)
  • Has the registrar's signature
  • Has the seal or stamp of the city, county, or state which issued it
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth
  • Certificate of Citizenship
  • Please note you must also provide a document, such as a birth certificate, that lists the parent(s) or legal guardian(s) of the child. Full validity means the document is or was valid for 10 years for adults and 5 years for children under 16. 

If you cannot submit one of these documents, go to our  Citizenship Evidence page  for more information.

Paper only : You cannot submit digital evidence of U.S. citizenship such as a mobile or electronic birth certificate. You must submit physical evidence of U.S. citizenship and a photocopy of the document. 

Returning your child's document : We will return your child's document in a separate mailing up to 8 weeks after you receive the new passport.

Tips for making a photocopy :

  • Black and white (no color)
  • Use 8.5 inch by 11 inch paper
  • Use a single side of the paper

If you do not submit a photocopy, you must submit a second copy of your citizenship evidence. We will keep this copy for our records.

Sample U.S. Birth Certificate

3. Show Your Relationship to Your Child

You must submit a document that lists the parent(s) or legal guardian(s) of the child. Examples include:

  • U.S. birth certificate (also evidence of U.S. citizenship)
  • Foreign birth certificate
  • Adoption decree
  • Divorce or custody decree
  • A court order

Some documents, like a U.S. birth certificate, show  both  U.S. citizenship and parental relationship. These documents must be originals or certified copies (not photocopies).

You and your child may have different last names, as long as the document showing your relationship to your child lists your full name.

If your name is different than the one on the document showing your relationship to your child, submit proof of your legal name change.

4. Get a Photo ID (and a photocopy)

Both parents or guardians must bring a physical, photo ID and a photocopy of it. If your photo ID is from a different state than the state in which you are applying, bring a second photo ID. 

You must show at least  one  of these photo IDs:

  • Valid or expired, undamaged U.S. passport book or passport card 
  • In-state, fully valid driver's license or enhanced driver's license with photo
  • Certificate of Naturalization 
  • Certificate of Citizenship 
  • Government employee ID (city, county, state, or federal)
  • U.S. military or military dependent ID
  • Current (valid) foreign passport
  • Matricula Consular (Mexican Consular ID) used by a parent of a U.S. citizen child applicant
  • U.S. Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) used by a parent of a U.S. citizen child applicant
  • Trusted Traveler IDs (including valid Global Entry, FAST, SENTRI, and NEXUS cards)
  • Enhanced Tribal Cards and Native American tribal photo IDs
  • In-state, fully-valid learner's permit with photo
  • In-state, fully-valid non-driver ID with photo
  • Temporary driver's license with photo

If you do not have one of these photo IDs, go to our  Identification page  for more information.

5. Show More Documents (if both parents or guardians cannot apply)

  • Both parents or guardians must approve that we can issue a passport to a child, and go with the child to apply in person.
  • If one or both parents or guardians cannot apply in person with their child, you will need to show more documents.

Important : Submit  Form DS-3053  and other notarized statements within three months of signing them.

6. Provide a Photo

You must provide one photo with your child's application. Go to our  Passport Photo page  for photo requirements and to see examples of photos. 

  • Do not attach or staple your child's photo to the form. The acceptance agent or passport employee will review the photo and staple it to your form.
  • Some  passport acceptance facilities
  • A company which offers photo services
  • Home. Ask your friend or family member to take your child's photo. Print it on glossy or matte photo quality paper. 

7. Calculate Fees

When applying using Form DS-11, you will pay two separate fees - an application fee and an execution (acceptance) fee. You will pay the application fee to the U.S. Department of State, and the execution (acceptance) fee to the facility which takes your application. 

  • Add $60 to your application fee if you want  expedited service .
  • Add $19.53 to your application fee if you want us to ship your completed passport in 1-2 days after we issue it.  

Child Applicants :

For more information on how to pay and a full list of fees, go to our  Passport Fees  page.

*How to fill out your check and pay the application fee to the U.S. Department of State. Please note you must pay a separate execution (acceptance) fee. 

Families may write one check or money order to the U.S. Department of State if they are applying at the same time. The check or money order must include the name and date of birth of each applicant.

tips for first time visit to nyc

8. Find Location to Apply

In the United States:

  • Traveling in more than 3 weeks?  Go to a  passport acceptance facility  such as a post office, library, or local government office. Check with the facility to see if you need to make an appointment. 
  • Traveling in less than 3 weeks?   Make an appointment  to apply at a passport agency or center.

In another country:

  • Contact your  U.S. embassy or consulate .

9. Track Your Application Status

You can  subscribe to email updates  about your application status, and  learn more about each status update .

It may take 2 weeks from the day you apply until your child's application status is “In Process.” 

Frequently Asked Questions

How will you send my child's passport and supporting documents.

You will get multiple mailings. The number of mailings depends on what document(s) you asked for.

Passport Book : You may get your new passport and citizenship documents in two mailings. You may wait 8 weeks after getting your passport before you get a second mailing with your citizenship documents. We will return the passport book using a trackable delivery service.

Passport Card : You may get your new passport card and your citizenship documents in two mailings. You may wait 8 weeks after getting your passport before you get a second mailing with your citizenship documents. We only send the passport card via First Class Mail. We do not send cards using 1-2 day delivery services.

Both a Passport Book and Card : You may get three separate mailings:

  • New passport book
  • New passport card
  • Citizenship documents

Contacting Us : If you have been waiting more than 8 weeks for your documents, call us at  1-877-487-2778  to report that you have not received your documents. 

If you want us to reimburse you for a lost supporting document, you must contact us within 90 days of the date which we mailed your passport. You will also need to provide a receipt to show the cost of replacing the document. 

Can I pay for faster delivery and return shipping?

Yes. You may choose one or both of the following shipment options:

  • Delivering application to us : Pay for Priority Mail Express for faster shipping. The price for this service varies depending on the area of the country.
  • Returning the passport to you : Pay $19.53 for 1-2 day delivery. This means you will receive your passport   1-2 days after we send it. Include this fee with your check or money order payable to the U.S. Department of State. Do not submit a return envelope to us with postage pre-paid. 

You may receive your passport and supporting documents in separate mailings. If you are renewing a passport card, we will send it to you via First Class Mail. We do not use 1-2 day delivery services if you only applied for a passport card.

What countries require Form DS-3053 "Statement of Consent" to be notarized at an embassy or consulate?

In certain countries, a DS-3053 must be notarized at a  U.S. embassy or consulate  and cannot be notarized by a local notary public. Currently, these countries include:

Special Passport Fairs

Find a Special Passport Fair  near you!

We're holding special passport fairs all across the United States to help you get your passport more easily. New events are added to our site every week.

Most events are for first-time applicants and children, (who use Form DS-11). If you can use Form DS-82, you can renew by mail at your convenience!

Processing Times

Routine:  6-8 weeks*

Expedited: 2-3 weeks and an extra $60*

*Consider the total time it will take to get a passport when you are booking travel.  Processing times only include the time your application is at a passport agency or center.

  • It may take up to 2 weeks for applications to arrive at a passport agency or center. It may take up to 2 weeks for you to receive a completed passport after we print it. 
  • Processing times + mailing times = total time to get a passport

Urgent Travel:  See our Get my Passport Fast page. 

How to Apply for your Child's Passport

Watch this video to learn how to apply in person for your child's U.S. passport!

External Link

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    New York City is truly incomparable to any other city in the world, making it an absolute must-visit destination for everyone. Its iconic landmarks such as The Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Central Park, and Times Square are just a glimpse of the countless attractions it offers.However, the sheer magnitude of the city can be overwhelming, especially for first-time visitors.

  18. First Time in New York City? 15 Essential Travel Tips

    Best tours in NYC: Big Bus Hop-On Hop-Off tour ($59.99 value) Statue of Liberty Ferry and Ellis Island Immigration Museum ($24.00 value) Best of NYC Cruise by Circle Line ( $44.00 value) Once you've bought the New York Pass, you can visit as many attractions as you want.

  19. 17 New York City Tips Every First Time Visitor Should Know

    We had our first visit to New York City at the end of August.. These 17 New York City tips are essential to know before you visit NYC for the first time. Even if it is not your first visit we are sure you will learn something. Travelling around the world, we have visited many busy cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, London, Manila, Singapore, etc.. New York City is one of a kind.

  20. A First Time Visitors Guide to New York City

    Ice skate in the winter, wander during the summer, and visit the zoo and enjoy a stroll any time of year. No visit (especially your first time to New York City!) is complete without a waffle from the Waffles & Dinges truck at the entrance on 59th street. Best waffles ever. Just go - trust me.

  21. 20 Things Nobody Tells You About Visiting New York by ...

    5 Don't walk everywhere. 6 Avoid Times Square unless you're a Broadway fan. 7 Check if restaurants have an "A" rating from the NYC health department. 8 Eat all the delicious food in NYC! Don't eat at chain restaurants and don't feel like you only need to go to only cool hotspots. 9 Give New York enough time.

  22. 25 New York City Travel Tips From a LOCAL (NYC Do's & Don'ts)

    Additionally, because NYC traffic is so bad, you can usually get to your destination faster by walking or taking the subway. NYC Travel tip: Besides the Google Maps app, you can also use Citymapper for the subway, which I find to be more helpful. 3. See Times Square, but Don't eat in Times Square.

  23. Practical Tips for Visiting New York City for First Time Visitors

    Add to that, although littering is illegal in NYC, you'll find people don't always bother picking up after themselves. 3. Avoid Times Square. You only enjoy Time Square when you're less than 25 and on a first-time trip to NYC… for about 5 minutes. Times Square is a tourist trap that's best avoided.

  24. 44 New York City Travel Tips for First Time Visitors

    A picnic or a hot dog in Central Park is a must for your first time in New York City. Picnic in Central Park. Fresh air, lush vegetation, and billion-dollar views all around await you in Central Park. Pack your bags and enjoy a picnic while basking in the sun and admiring Manhattan's jaw-dropping skyline.

  25. Where to Stay In NYC: 10 BEST Neighborhoods (+3 to Avoid)

    Fun Things to Do in Midtown: Visit the New York Public Library: Nothing short of stunning, the New York Public Library (NYPL) was the largest marble building in the country when it opened to the public.Everyone should see the NYPL at least once in their life. Stroll 5th Avenue: The most expensive shopping street in the world, Fifth Avenue is full of luxury stores and the flagship locations of ...

  26. Best Times to Visit New York City

    The best time to visit New York is anytime. Each season in Gotham offers visitors plenty of reasons to visit. Early fall offers crisp breezes, bright sun and comfortable temperatures while late ...

  27. Best time to visit New York City

    June to August is the perfect time for enjoying the outdoors. There's nothing like summertime in New York City. While the weather often gets hot and sticky, the city also comes alive with a host of festivals, parties and events throughout the five boroughs. There's the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island, the Puerto Rican Day Parade and the ...

  28. New York City, New York

    Discover the best places to visit in New York City, the most populous and vibrant city in the United States. Find out what makes this city a top tourist destination, from its iconic landmarks, museums, and parks, to its diverse cuisine, culture, and nightlife. Compare and book hotels, attractions, and restaurants on Tripadvisor, the world's largest travel site, and read reviews from millions ...

  29. Tips For Tourists On The New York City Subway For The First Time

    Purpose: To get the most suitable card for tourists (not locals) Costs: The cost of an Unlimited 7-Day MetroCard is $34, including a $1 card charge. Each subway ride costs $2.75 with a standard ...

  30. Apply for a Child's U.S. Passport

    Use our Form Filler tool to fill out your child's form on a desktop or laptop computer and then print it.If you are experiencing technical issues with the Form Filler, download a PDF. Tips to complete your child's form:. Do not sign your child's form until asked to do so by a passport acceptance agent or employee.; You can apply for a passport book, a passport card, or both documents.