I always dreamt of living in NYC and have considered it so many times. Right before I moved back to San Francisco, I almost moved to New York to work in fashion but California called me back. NYC is like no other city I have ever visited.
On each trip, I explore new places and revisit some sites such as Central Park & Bryant Park. I try to return to NYC at least twice a year to see my family and run to my favorite places. When I lived in DC, it was such a quick trip so I’ve lots of tips on NYC.
Here are Top 15 things to do in NYC on a first time visit and some travel tips.
Central Park is definitely one of my favorite things about NYC especially the amazing back drop of the city surrounded by lots of nature and greenery. Where the above photo was taken is one of my favorite places to sit and relax in NYC.
There are so many walks and trails in Central Park along with boating on the lake which I had so much fun doing. More things to do in Central Park: visit the boathouse for a glass of wine/beer, admire the beautiful Bethesda Terrace Arcade, walk to the great lawn and enjoy the sky line, stop by the conservatory water & Bethesda fountain.
Belvadere castle will reopen in 2019. To explore more of Central Park, rent bikes or have a boat ride on the lake. There are so many events throughout the year held in Central Park so check if there is anything on when you visit.
A crazy, bright, touristy mecca filled with all of the lights. I always revisit Times Square for a few minutes when I return both during the day but particularly at night. A few minutes in the madness is definitely enough.
The High Line
The High Line is a public park built on a historic freight rail line on Manhattan’s East side. Opened in 2009, the high line is the perfect place to walk along and explore the city from a height enjoying the views without the traffic. There are multiple spots to stop and also some bars along the route.
Another smaller but favorite park of mine in NYC. Movies are shown in the summer evenings in Bryant Park and in the winter months, an ice rink and festive markets take over with all sorts of treats and goods.
Throughout the year, there are picnic tables and chairs throughout the smaller park. Again, the views of the city are so enjoyable from the park. It is right beside Grand Central so tick off the two at the same time.
Fun fact, I always thought I wanted to be an investment banker from an early age and wanted to end up working on Wall Street. At 22, I decided it appeared a bit aggressive for me so I’ve taken to visiting Wall Street instead.
The architecture of the buildings are beautiful. Visit Trinity Church, the New York Stock Exchange, the Charging Bull sculpture and Federal Hall.
Rockerfeller Center transforms depending on the season. In the summer months, I love to have some cocktails and a light bite in the restaurant by the fountain (extremely touristy!).
In the winter, I love to watch the ice skaters and see the enormous tree that sparkles and stands tall each year. The top of the rock observation deck is here where you can see beautiful views of the city (go early to avoid lines)
Shows on Broadway are like none other. I recently went to Aladdin on Broadway with a friend in October when I last visited and the show was spectacular. There are so many shows every single day and all within walking distance of Times Square.
Tickets can be bought in advance or on the day. There is a booth in the middle of Times Square which sells same day tickets and they are generally cheaper.
Statue of Liberty
A trip to Ellis Island & Statue Island on a ferry (weather permitting) is one to tick off. I’ve actually never got off the ferry as it was freezing in February years ago when I went.
The Statue of Liberty is a copper statue and was a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States. It stands tall and is seen as enlightening the world and an iconic sign of NYC.
For any fashion lover, a walk and a wander into some of the stores on 5th Avenue is a most. Most designers have flagship stores here and are beautifully designed.
It’s actually as pretty as it seems in the photos. Highly recommend walking along Brooklyn Bridge and seeing this iconic bridge in person.
I love going to art galleries and am always popping into the ones dotted throughout San Francisco. The Museum of Modern Art in NYC did not disappoint. There are constantly new events and exhibits on so definitely plan a visit even if you have been before.
Pasta. Pizza. Great wine. Italy feels. Need I say anymore? Love Little Italy and how quaint the area is. The food here is amazing. Many many places sprinkled throughout for Gelato makes this a must!
9/11 Memorial & Museum
This was one of the saddest activities that I did on my trips. We all remember where we were when we got the horrific news about 9/11. The memorial & museum serves to remember all those that were lost and also provides more details surrounding the lead up to the day and the aftermath.
Chrysler Building & Empire State Building
Both iconic buildings in NYC and can be seen from many places throughout the city. Don’t forget to look up and enjoy the Architecture. My favorite is the Chrysler building.
Grand Central Station
Another iconic must for a first visit to NYC. The building is truly spectacular. The high rise ceilings and details are absolutely beautiful. Many films were shot here and it serves as NYC’s unofficial meeting spot where many people choose to meet each day.
There is a holiday market each year which adds festivity to the landmark. The station also houses over 60 shops and 35 eateries along with many events throughout the year.
That wraps up my top 15 for a first time visit to NYC!
Other Good to Knows
Getting to/from the airport
There are 3 airports you can fly into to visit NYC. Although, I have flown into them all, I generally fly into JFK. There are lots of different options on how to get from JFK to the city and have varying costs. Uber can vary depending on surging but expect to pay about 80ish dollars based on my experience.
A yellow cab has a flat fee of $60 plus tolls & tip. Buses that drop off to Grand Central or Port Authority are about $35 return or $17 one way. There are lots of different bus companies that offer this service. Another cheaper alternative is to take the train to Jamaica Station or Howard beach and then take the subway.
Make sure you have enough time for JFK as there are so many terminals and it is a very large airport.
Make sure to plan your trip before you arrive in NYC by listing in order what you really want to see and planning some nearby activities together on the same days so you can see more. The above is only a sample of what you can see in one trip so your trip can be as busy as you want.
The easiest way to get around in NYC is walking or the subway system. I never want to miss a thing and love walking and exploring so generally walk everywhere but the subway can get you to your destinations in minutes and they are so frequent.
Day passes or multi day passes are available if you think you will use the subway a lot or else you can ride by paying single fares if you will use minimal each day. You can also load credit on a card to have ready to go rather than paying at the machine each trip.
Watch out on street corners which signal subway entrances. Look for letter numbers rather than colors as multiple letters run on one color. Uptown is towards Central Park and Downtown is towards Wall Street.
Stores especially in Times Square stay open much later along with bars and restaurants. It always shocks me that at midnight, Times Square is bustling with people (when it isn’t freezing).
The cost of hotels in NYC is quite expensive and I have stayed in about 20 hotels at this stage. Remember that rooms are much smaller in NYC than anywhere else and you won’t be in the hotel room too much. I generally pay about $230ish for a hotel room in NYC per night but depends on if there are events or during peak times.
Wear comfortable shoes and don’t forget to munch on pizza in NYC – it is UNREAL! Enjoy 🙂