Face it, you’re a tourist of New York city. It doesn’t matter if your living in the city or visiting for the first time. We are all tourist on the account that New York has many unturned stones.
Most locals rarely get out of their own neighborhood and often leave during weekends to avoid the “tourist.” Here are some things to see and do while in NYC: The Tourist Edit. Even a local will approve!
You’re headed to the “Big” City, it’s important to view it in three ways: From the street, Below the street and from a bird’s eye view!
STREET: Plan to walk the streets as much as you can. One of my favorite walks starts at the Corner of Central Park and 5th Ave. For obvious reasons, make your way down to W 33rd or the Empire State Building.
BIRD’s EYE: Make your way up to the hundredth and second floor to get a full 360 view of Manhattan. Then make your way back down to the 86th to walk out on the open air observatory. You’ll take in views all the way past central park and out to lady liberty. Beware, the wind can get quite strong out there!
STREET: If neither of those are your cup of tea, Start at Grand Central Terminal. When you get finished playing at the whispering walls, take your hike down Park Ave until you get to E 23rd. Hook a hard right and observe the Flat Iron Building.
BELOW: Enjoy the subway and pop on down to Wall Street, where you can hit few key places. The subway should be fairly simple as it is set up with colored lines and runs all over the city on a timely schedule. If you’re not sure which line to get on, your phone will give you exact directions or ask a ticket salesperson. You may not have as much luck asking a stranger! Subway rides can be paid for with the simple to use card machines, get a single, double or multi trip ticket. The best thing about the subway… people watching!
STREET: Take a walk down to the 9/11 Memorial. Of you’re up for it take the detour to the museum. If not, take a few minutes to stroll around the pools.
BIRD’s EYE: Take in another ariel view at One World Trade Center. The elevator ride alone is worth the money (no spoilers here! you have to go)! Seeing NYC from this point of view is quite beautiful considering the history.
BELOW: Grab a ride from the WTC Oculus station. You’ll get a chance to take in the views inside the Oculus before taking the subway to anywhere you want to go!
Take some time to get away from the crowds, NYC is packed with tons of foot traffic. You will kick yourself if you try to maneuver around the city between 5-7 pm. Here are 3 options to avoid this:
- Parks- Yes, head to the park. There are several parks located around the city, many know of the main Central Park. Central Park is huge and there are different areas to visit it. So if there is only one park you have to visit, head to this one. There’s even a Zoo and in the winter–an Ice Skating rink!
- Bridges- Seems silly at first, but most people are crossing the bridges by car or trains. You can Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge or take a sky tram across the Roosevelt. Views from the Brooklyn Bridge are so amazing, you must do it at least once! The Roosevelt is location further North, but still worth checking out since you’ll get a more picturesque idea of what NYC suburbia looks like.
- Rooftops- It’s always 5 o’clock somewhere right? Get away from the streets and go up! Most hotels have a rooftop bar, even if you don’t drink they are great spaces to enjoy company and conversation. Locals are always heading to hotel rooftops for drinks after work and weekend parties. Need some Ideas? Keep Reading!
If quiet places are your thing then you’ll want to head to some museums; New York is filled with all kinds of them, even the pop up kinds.
Guggenheim: For some of the World’s greatest pieces, you need to visit the Gugg! Its simplistic spiral design is beautiful on it own but makes viewing the art work visitor friendly, especially for those who are handicap. I highly suggest starting from the top and working your way back down ground level. Get there early because this museum closes early and lines can get very long. Purchase tickets in advance!
MoMa: Want to see Andy Warhol, Van Gogh and other “famous” artists? Visit the MoMa! I loved this museum so much. It’s extremely large and you could spend your whole day in there if you wanted. Starry Night is located here along with Warhol’s famous Campbell soup cans. You’ll also see the Farmer and his Wife. Get here mid-day, it will be little less crowded. Again, buy your tickets in advance here!
9/11: This one has been on my list for quite some time, I just haven’t been able to bring myself to visit yet. Every time I visit New York I tell myself I’m going to go and then I can’t do it. I’ve heard and seen too many people crying as they exit. Needless to say, you will need to be emotionally prepared before going to this one.
Color Factory: If you want to lift your spirits after the 9/11 museum, hit up the Color Factory and be sure to bring a friend! This immersive and interactive exhibit is full of fun, you’ll eat, play and enjoy. Tickets sell out quickly for this, so buy in advance. They are slotted out by times so you will not be able to just show up and go. Late afternoon is a good time, however there are additional excursions outside of the exhibit and scattered around the city (a scavenger hunt). If you want to experience those, I would suggest hitting the Color Factory earlier in the morning. Now this museum is a pop-up and could be gone after the Fall. They just signed for another season so get in while you can.
Other cool pop ups that have come and gone: Mickey Mouse, 29 Rooms (comes around once a year), and the Ice Cream Museum (Now in L.A)
Sex Museum: Strange one-I know, but there’s a museum for any and everyone here in New York City. I have not personally been, but it was rather close to a hotel I stayed at and thought hmmm… that’s interesting. If you go, let me know. From what I’ve seen on Yelp there are quite a few S &M features. Again, if it’s your thing go for it!
National History: This one has been on my to-do list for a while. The movie “Night at the Museum” is based on this museum specifically. I promised Brad I would wait to go with him and since he’s only been with me to NYC once, we will have to go again! There are quite a few exhibits that move in and out of this museum like Egyptian ruins, etc. If you can make it, go! If you have kids, this should be at the top of your list.
Metropolitan: AKA The Met. There’s a rotation of things that come and go through here, but it is the World’s Largest art museum(s) and carries over 5,000 years of art work. How I have not been to this one yet blows my mind, considering that I have been to so many! If you are really into art (like me) then you need to run here. Seriously, how have I not been here yet!?
It’s very obvious that Food is one of the main reasons to visit NYC. With it’s million restaurant offerings, how will you choose? Here are a few that I believe you need to look into (these are not necessarily the “best” but are a good offering outside of the “list”):
STEAK: Look no further than Peter Lugers in Brooklyn. Yes, you’ll have to leave the “city” to have great steak. Trust me on this one!
PIZZA: Oh yeah, we are going here… I highly suggest Sorbillo’s. Napoletana style pizza. It’s soft and wet, not for everyone! Gino Sorbillo is a Naples born mid-40’s guy who has changed the game of pizza in his hometown of Naples and has brought his pizza to NYC. This is not like any other “New York Pizza.” If you want NY style, I suggest looking elsewhere. (P.S. look out for my full NY Pizza post)
DIM SUM: Head to The Bao for some tasty AF soup dumplings. Don’t forget to grab a champagne milk tea too!
FRENCH: Don’t shoot me for this one guys, but Raclette was life changing. Seriously! Simple, yet delicious cuisine. It’s not fine dining, but a classic country side option. Make a reservation ASAP. I promise you don’t want to miss this melted cheese covered plate.
DRINKS: The Dead Rabbit is by far the coolest bar (IMO) in NYC. Make sure you get a table upstairs to dine in for the scotch eggs and fancy cocktails served in tea cups. The rabbit is known for its twisted cocktails and decor; this place is tiny so get ready to rub elbows with literally everyone!
DESSERT: NY Cheesecake is a must. Be sure to check out Juniors for their classic cheesecake. I opt out of the strawberries (unless they are fresh) and go with the plain cheesecake. It you want the strawberries, prepare for around of gooey strawberries in preserves.
BAGELS: This category has a tie for me because you have to also consider the traditional “bagel and lox.” If you want it, head to Russ and Daughters (original on Houston). R & D is the oldest and first deli to offer bagel and lox, their salmon offerings alone are worth the visit. They also offer a variety of caviars (if you’re in the market). If lox aren’t your thing, grab an Uber to Brooklyn for the Rainbow Bagel at The Bagel Shop (multiple locations). These bagels broke the internet and also the store when the rainbow bagel went viral. Thankfully I had it before they needed to remodel and increase space to make more bagels because these things are totally worth the hype. You must get the confetti cream cheese filling with it! MUST.
PASTA: I’ve been to LUPA OSTERIA multiple times and have oogled their Instagram for years before I got the chance to go. Lupa is a Mario Batali restaurant where they make fresh pasta on the daily. Make reservations for this spot as there is usually a waiting list. If it is available get the pork belly tortolloni.
COFFEE: Roll your eyes all you want on this one, but the Starbucks Reserve in Chelsea has got to be the most amazing Starbucks I have ever been too. The offerings of coffee options are unlimited here. It’s basically a museum of coffee if you will. Yeah, I know Starbucks is everywhere but you won’t find one like this anywhere else. Head to the lower level for a much more interactive experience! (yep, multi-levels). Trust me on this.
Lastly, let’s discuss things to do. With a city this large, there is always something do to and see in the “city that never sleeps”
For obvious reasons, it’s important to “see a show.” A Broadway Show should always be on your list. I ought to slap myself for still not seeing one, by if you aren’t willing to fork over a pretty penny to see one then you need to visit here and save some money on last minute tickets.
Visit the Statute of Liberty. She’s out there a ways, but if you catch the ferry boats early in the morning you’ll beat the hoards of people flocking out to see her.
Have a drink on a rooftop, we talked about this prior… but if there is one Rooftop that I suggest: Refinery Hotel- Rooftop bar is the place. You’ll have the best views of the Empire State building! A great space and tons of room to walk around or sit and mingle (inside and outside).
other rooftops to visit:
Times Square is for all intents and purposes a must see. There is nothing like it, except for Japan’s Dontonbori. You can people watch for hours. Come here once during the day and again at night. If you’re feeling super spunky, come again around 3 am! There are usually live acts running around the street as well art installations. Shopping and dining is abundant as well. I just don’t suggest staying in this area!
See a Yankees game. Though the stadium and moved and changed over the years, it is worth the nostalgia to go to a game.
Become a live audience member for a Late Night Show.
Ice Skate at Rockefeller Center (winter months only)
Find your ancestors on Ellis Island
Go shopping in NYC famous shopping areas: SoHo or 5th Ave.
This completes your Ultimate Tourist Guide to NYC. There are thousands of things not included in here so please drop me a line on what you think should be added!
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Hope you enjoy the city.