Being the most visited city in the country, our beloved New York City has many facets that make it the best of the best! There’s loads of things to do, restaurants and foods to eat, and attractions and landmarks to see, whether you’re visiting or just looking for something to do.
From the towering skyscrapers of Manhattan to the eclectic neighborhoods of Brooklyn, there’s so many ways to spend time in this constantly shifting metropolis. To make it a little easier, we put together a Big Apple Guide of all of the essential experiences and opportunities that lay ahead of you in our urban jungle!
Table Of Contents
Planning Your Trip To NYC
So you want to visit New York City? Well here’s where to start! We’ll break down all of the early details you might need (from a local’s perspective) if you’re thinking about visiting NYC!
Best Time to Visit NYC
Although we love NYC all year round, from our perspective as a local, we recommend visiting the city in either the Spring or Fall! March-May (spring) and September-November (fall) are our favorite times because the weather is very nice, there are less crowds, and it’s often cheaper.
While summer and winter may have more things to do (outdoor festivals, rooftop bars, ice skating rinks, holiday markets), other factors such as humid weather and peak tourist foot traffic can damper your experience. However, the best time to visit NYC is all based on personal preference.
Best Duration to Stay In NYC
We suggest anywhere from 5-7 nights is the perfect amount of time needed to explore New York City. Of course, you will have to evaluate your plans and determine what kind of vacation you want to have (jam-packed itinerary vs relaxing leisurely trip). Depending on your budget (which we’ll touch on below), we always recommend staying for longer and checking out all the beautiful spots outside Manhattan, like Brooklyn, Governors Island, and City Island in the Bronx…to name a few!
Budgeting For NYC
Of course, your budget for a stay in NYC will vary based on your interests. Whether you choose to splurge on restaurants, attractions, accommodations, and so on…a total dollar amount will look different for every visitor. For an aforementioned 5-7 day stay, we estimate each person spending approximately $1,500-$1,800. This breaks down to about $800-$1,000 in accommodations, plus $500-$800 on food, attractions, and transportation.
Where To Stay In NYC
We all know that accommodation will make or break a trip, and we’ve got some best options of where to stay in NYC while you’re here.
Accommodation when visiting NYC is very important, and should be done well ahead of time. Depending on the time of year, prices can often inflate when it comes to hotels. Of course, there are so many hotels around NYC, each with different amenities, prices, and locations. If you want to be in the middle of the action, consider Midtown and surrounding areas for a hotel, and if you want more of a “local’s experience” try a hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The opportunities are truly endless if you plan it right.
🏨 Check out our list of coolest hotels in NYC to book right now!
Want to feel like a true New Yorker? Rent an Airbnb around the city that gives a little bit more of a home feeling. Rent a chic loft in the Lower East Side or cozy into a Brooklyn brownstone for an ultimate vacation of relaxation and sightseeing. Depending on the “vibe” you’re looking for, there’s more than enough apartments and residencies available for short-term rent!
The cheapest form of accommodation in NYC is finding a hostel (starting at $30-40/night). These shared accommodations with other travelers are a great option if you’re looking for somewhere to basically sleep and have your personal belongings. They’re quite clean, affordable, centrally-located and have good amenities like free WiFi. Some of our favorites include HI NYC Hostel, Q4 Hotel, The Local NY, and American Dream Hostel NYC.
Getting Around NYC
New York City and its tight-knit blueprint makes it easy for many visitors to get around. Particularly Manhattan where the streets are coordinated by a grid, it makes for easy navigation. Plus, NYC is one of the most walkable cities in the US, but there are still plenty of other ways to get around, including New York City public transit, buses, and more. Check out the best ways to maneuver the Big Apple below.
The beauty of New York City is that nearly any location you may need to is accessible via the subway (the most common means of transportation around NYC). There are 36 rail lines that connect the Big Apple, and for $2.75 per ride, you can use them 24/7. To use the MTA subway, you must either have a MetroCard or a tap to pay card/device which works alongside OMNY, their contactless payment system.
In addition to the subway, MTA buses are another way to get around the city. They too are $2.75 per journey and make more local stops than the subway will. Plus, the free Staten Island Ferry is available which makes laps between Manhattan and Staten Island, as well the normal NYC Ferry Service, which connects Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx along the East River for $2.75/ride.
NYC’s yellow taxis are iconic piece of the city’s pop culture, and it’s a great way to get around! Fares start at $3 and go up $3.50 per mile. While it’s not the cheapest option around, it can be better than using a ride sharing service sometimes, as taxi rates are at a set price.
Ride sharing options are great for going shorter distance trips around the city. Services like Uber and Lyft can be relatively cheap, especially if you use their “carpool” options that involve sharing a ride with others going a certain direction. We suggest staying away from ride sharing services if going a long distance since the surcharges can get hefty very quickly.
CitiBikes are NYC’s bike rental system that allows visitors and locals alike to rent a bicycle for a $4.49 ride! Each journey is this price (for 30 minutes), with an additional $0.26/min for every minute thereafter! There are over 10,000 bikes around the city as well, so it’s pretty easy to find one close to you.
Best Things To Do In NYC
Get out the notepads and write down these NYC attractions to check off your bucket list! From age-old landmarks to sightseeing tours to even observation decks, there are so many things to do and see in NYC. Check out our must-hits below.
Statue of Liberty
Get up close with Lady Liberty and see one of NYC’s most iconic statues today. The 305 foot statue is accessible via the ferry and admission is only $24! You’ll learn about the history of it being gifted from France, as well as the design process behind its creation. Plus, it’s close to Ellis Island, a famous island known for it’s long history of immigration in the United States!
Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is arguably one of Manhattan’s most recognizable buildings in the skyline, so it’s a must-visit when you’re in town. It boasts an observatory on the 86th floor that offers breath-taking views of the city like you won’t find anywhere else. There’s also immersive exhibitions on the way up too, such as a King Kong recreation and a time lapse of its construction.
NYC’s most iconic park features over 40 blocks of greenery, walking paths, and more, which is great for hours of frolicking! You can do just about anything in Central Park, from exercising to having a picnic, to even catching a free outdoor concert or theater production. It’s a great way to spend some time to unwind!
Get lost in the flashing lights of Times Square at least once while you’re here. The spectacle of Times Square is next to none, and seeing all of the flashing fluorescent billboards is something you’ll rarely see anywhere else. Sit on the iconic Times Square stairs and take it all in, or head to the adjacent streets to catch a Broadway show.
The High Line
This converted train track goes from 34th Street down to the Meatpacking District, and offers all sorts of overlooks, greenery, public art, food vendors, and so much more along the way. The elevated walkway is perfect on a warm summer day and is free! You can grab some fresh air on a walk, or secure a bench and people watch. It’s one of the most heavy foot-trafficked areas in NYC…and for good reason!
Best Places To Eat In NYC
We hope you came hungry because NYC is the culinary jungle you’ve always been looking for! To perfectly eat your way through the Big Apple, we’ve got all the suggestions below that you’ll need on your trip!
NYC offers one of, if not the most diverse food scene around. You can find just about any kind of food you’re craving…at any price. Of course we have high-end Michelin-star restaurants, but we also have hidden gems too. From Carbone to Balthazar, and everywhere in between, you’ll find fantastic restaurants everywhere you look.
🍽️ Check out our list of best restaurants in NYC!
New York City’s pizza is literally iconic and a staple to the food scene of the city. Some say NYC holds some of the best pizza around, thanks to places like Prince Street Pizza, John’s on Bleecker, Lucali, and so many more. You can find everything too! From Sicilian style pepperoni squares to pesto topped slices.
🍕 Check out our list of the best pizza places in NYC!
Can I get a baconeggandcheeseonaroll? Here in NYC this lingo is code, but there’s also many other bagel options to pick from! Serving up the freshest breads and fixins around, NYC’s bagels are a huge reason our bustling population starts their day off on the right foot! From Tompkins Square Bagels to Russ & Daughters, the choices are endless.
🥯 Check out our list of best bagel spots in NYC!
Ascend into the clouds and take in a signature cocktail at an NYC rooftop bar…there’s truly nothing like it. From Downtown Manhattan all the way up to Midtown, there’s tons of places to drink and enjoy the skyline around you! Some our favorites include Westlight, Mr. Purple, and 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar, but there are so many to choose from!
🍸 Check out our guide to the best rooftop bars in NYC!
Before you take on NYC, start your morning with a nice cup of Joe! The city is full of cute independent coffee shops and cafes that are serving up their one-of-a-kind caffeine creations. Whether you’re searching for the perfect espresso shot or tastiest glass of cold brew, you’ll find it here. We recommend Cafe Grumpy or Birch Coffee in particular.
☕ Check out our list of the best coffee shops in NYC!
For a city always on the go, NYC’s food trucks is a culture of its own! Ranging from savory meals to sweet treats, you can get just about anything from one of the city’s beloved street vendors. Of course you should try out iconic ones, like The Halal Guys and Wafels & Dinges, but there are plenty more hidden gems to discover along the way too.
🚚 Check out all of the best food trucks in NYC!
New York-style cheesecake is a staple dessert in the city’s culinary scene. It’s one of our go-to desserts of choice, and rightfully so when places like Junior’s and Eileen’s exist. Trust us, you won’t be disappointed.
🍰 Check out these places for the best cheesecake in NYC!
Best Neighborhoods To Visit/Stay In NYC
In our opinion, the best part of NYC is the uniqueness of each neighborhood within it. Each with its own culture, landmarks, and hidden gems. From a visitor’s perspective, we’ve listed below just some of our favorite neighborhoods that all NYC tourists should experience at least once!
This neighborhood (which expands into West Village) is one of NYC’s most famous, thanks to it being the hub of counter-culture in the 1960s. You can find just about everything that makes NYC as lovely as it is: NYU students frolicking in Washington Square Park, iconic independent film theaters, hole in the wall restaurants, and so much more. There’s so much culture hanging out in NYC that you have to see to believe.
Get your shopping shoes on because SoHo is the place to do it! This neighborhood is a shopaholic’s delight, thanks to the blocks and blocks of stores and boutiques. You can spend hours walking around the likes of Spring Street and Broadway. Plus, there’s some cool nearby things like the JIMMY Rooftop Bar and Museum of Ice Cream.
The Upper East Side is known as one of the city’s ritzier parts of town, thanks to their collection of museums, shopping and restaurants. Just steps away from Central Park, you’ll be able to find NYC cornerstones of culture, like Museum Mile, luxury boutiques, and great bars and pubs. It’s a place in the city that’s quieter than the rest, yet still having the accessibility to everything NYC has to offer.
Chelsea is on New York City’s west side, containing all sorts of landmarks, attractions, restaurants, and culture. Of the most popular things to check out, we recommend The High Line, Chelsea Market, Chelsea Piers, The Whitney Museum of American Art and Chelsea Art Galleries.
Many tourists stay in Midtown when they visit NYC, and it’s because the central location makes for travel convenience. Of course the famous Times Square and Broadway Theaters are close by, but the restaurant scene is divine too. Not to mention both Grand Central Station and Penn Station are near, making it easy to get around.
Williamsburg in Brooklyn is one of the most exciting emerging NYC neighborhoods, thanks to their influx of younger residents and boutique business and restaurants. Some of our favorite hangs to frequent include McCarren Park, Brooklyn Brewery, Domino Park, The Williamsburg Bridge, and Smorgasburg in the summer!
Located “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass” is this chic little Brooklyn neighborhood with delicious restaurants, lovely Manhattan views from Brooklyn Bridge Park, cobblestone streets, art galleries, and a whole lot more. We suggest walking the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan to DUMBO!
Astoria is a neighborhood in Queens that is home to diverse culture and great food! This notorious Greek neighborhood has plenty of cuisines from the region, alongside many more. We suggest spending a day here trying out international dishes before grabbing skyline views at Astoria Park.
This borough is home to many attractions, and can be an affordable area to find accommodation too! You can visit The Bronx Zoo, one of the largest metropolitan zoos in the world, as well as The New York Botanical Garden, Yankee Stadium, and the Bronx Night Market!
Best Museums and Art Galleries In NYC
The museum scene is vast here in NYC, and there’s so much art to be consumed, from massive exhibitions to small galleries. We’ve highlighted some of the must-hit museums below (some which even offer free admission days), but there are even more to stumble upon, especially in Chelsea and the Upper West and East sides.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Met is the largest art museum in the Americas, home to over 2 millions works of art across their 17 curatorial departments. It’s located on the Upper East Side and is part of the Museum Mile on the eastern edge of Central Park. You’ll be able to find nearly every kind of art here, ranging from Greek and Roman art to ancient African works to modern American photographs. Some of the most famous pieces include Van Gogh’s Self Portrait With Straw Hat and Emanuel Leutze’s Washington Crossing The Delaware.
Museum of Modern Art
The MoMA is located in Midtown and includes a vast collection of modern and contemporary art, including nearly 200,000 works of architecture and design, drawings, paintings, sculptures, and photography. World renowned paintings like Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Salvador Dalí’s The Persistence of Memory call this museum home, alongside constantly rotating exhibitions as well.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
The Guggenheim is celebrated for its architectural structure and also its wide range of modern and contemporary art. It’s most notable for its distinctive spiraling ramp that ascends from the ground floor to the top of the building, featuring art along the way. It’s home to art of all different kinds of mediums and works from artists of influential periods, like Picasso, Rothko, and more.
Whitney Museum of American Art
The Whitney is situated on the wet side of NYC, near the Meatpacking District and West Village. The museum focuses on 20th and 21st century American art, with over 25,000 paintings, sculptures and other works on display. Artists range from Edward Hopper to Jean-Michel Basquiat, and their famous Annual and Biennial exhibitions they host showcase some of the younger and upcoming artists in the scene.
American Museum of Natural History
This museum is located on the Upper West Side and is one of the world’s largest natural history museums! It features over 45 permanent collections across 25 interconnected buildings showcasing the likes of biology, astronomy, anthropology, paleontology, and so much more. There’s also even a planetarium and library!
If you’re out in Brooklyn, this museum in Prospect Heights is most famous for its extensive collection of works, diverse exhibitions, and commitment to community engagement. The Brooklyn Museum has been around for over 200 years, and features over 1.5 million works, ranging from ancient Egyptian artifacts to African and American Indian art to European paintings, plus much more.
9/11 Memorial and Museum
Paying homage to the lives lost during the September 11, 2001 and 1993 World Trade Center attacks, this museum showcases artifacts, personal items, photos, and other items that document the tragic events that occurred. The emotionally-charged museum is something to behold, as well as the adjacent 9/11 Memorial Pools outside.
This prominent photography museum first originated in Stockholm, and the NYC location is one of the best photography home bases around. The exhibitions use photography to explore different themes that are near and dear to the heart, like social and cultural issues.
The neighborhood of Chelsea is home to many free art galleries that are ready to be explored! From pop-art to walkthrough installations, you seemingly can’t go one block without stumbling upon a free gallery! Check out these 10 dazzling Chelsea art galleries that are free to explore!
Nightlife and Entertainment
You’ll never be lacking entertainment when you’re in NYC, since everywhere you look there’s always action. From theater to music, you’re always within a stone’s throw of the world’s highest productions!
New York City is home to top theatrical productions that range in genre and category. Broadway and the theater district are what make NYC’s performing art scene as iconic and prestigious as it is! Thanks to dozens of historic venues scattered across Midtown Manhattan, you’re able to find all sorts of phenomenons ranging from musicals to matinee dramas. Immerse yourself in quintessential plays like Wicked, The Lion King, and Hamilton…all which are only a ticket away!
Get ready to dance the night away, because NYC is home to some of the hottest clubs around. From rooftop DJ sets at Elsewhere to bass-bumping music at Musica, there’s no shortage of places to have a fun night! Plus, the Big Apple brings in some of the largest acts in the world…you never know who may be performing that night!
Many comedians get their careers started right here in NYC, and you may be able to catch some upcoming talents right now! New York is home to many comedy clubs who have turned into institutions over the years, like the Comedy Cellar, Gotham Comedy Club, and so many more. The range in comedians ranges too…from high-end talent to young, rising jokesters. Plus, it’s NYC…you never know who might pop-up and do a surprise show!
NYC’s music scene is one of the best, and is always an anticipated tour stop for many artists! Concerts are one of our favorite things to do in New York because nothing quite beats seeing your favorite artist live! The city is no short of notable venues either. From the legendary Madison Square Garden to Radio City Music Hall to even Brooklyn Steel in Williamsburg, there’s so many great venues to catch a show.
🎤 Check out all of the concerts in NYC!
New York’s jazz scene is legendary, especially since iconic musicians like Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and many more have graced stages here. The city is home to full of jazz clubs that offer the best local and nationally-touring talent there is to offer! From the notable Blue Note Jazz Club to the club/restaurant combo The Django, there’s so many places that provide live jazz.
General Tips To Consider
Like any major city, there are some general advice that we, as locals recommend to anyone visiting NYC! In order to get more acquainted with the hustle-bustle and culture of our city, keep these things in mind while you’re here:
Always be sure to stay aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded and touristy areas! Valuables and personal belongings should always be on your person, and you should always keep things where you can access them (front pockets, fanny packs, etc).
Money and Tipping
Depending on where you go in NYC, make sure you carry enough cash or have usable credit/debit cards available. Most establishments accept cards of all sorts, but many older or hole-in-the-wall places are still cash only. If you’re eating at a restaurant, remember that tipping your server is normal, and that a good rule of thumb is 15-20% of your bill.
Language and Communication:
In NYC, English is the primary language spoken, but you may be able to find pockets of the city where other languages are spoken (Chinatown, Little Italy, K-town for example), thanks to how diverse our city is.
NYC experiences all four seasons, and this may affect your trip. Before you arrive, be sure to check out the weather forecast so you can pack accordingly. For example, in the winter be sure to bring coats and boots, while the summer can yield the opposite. Our #1 must rule though is to remember to bring comfortable shoes/sneakers, because you’ll be doing a LOT of walking.