In the city of blinding lights, you’ll find everything you’re looking for. It’s the city dreams are made of, where there’s nothing you can’t do. That’s probably why they named it twice. And yes, we totally just ripped off two famous songs to draw you in here to this New York City guide.
Whether you’re looking for falafel trucks at 4AM or the Frick collection at 4PM, we’ve got you covered with this easy guide to maximizing your time in the big city, getting around and enjoying some of the very best spots from quick coffee to fine dining…
There’s even some “out there” stuff, like affordable helicopter rides into the city and hip hop tours of Brooklyn!
NYC is one of the easiest cities to reach, whatever the means of transportation. With direct trains from most East Coast cities to Pennsylvania Station and no fewer than three easy major airports including LaGuardia for domestic flights as well as Kennedy and Newark for international arrivals, you’ve got options.
Newark offers perhaps the quickest route into lower Manhattan, while John F. Kennedy Airport offers excellent connectivity to midtown and Brooklyn. Here’s a guide to riding the AirTrain from JFK, which is often the quickest and most cost efficient solution.
Where To Stay
As you may have guessed, there’s no shortage of hotel or Airbnb options in New York City.
If convenience is key, midtown offers plenty of palatable options which can easily connect you further up or downtown, such as the Kimpton Eventi, Hotel Giraffe or Andaz Fifth. For amazing city views and a perfect location in the buzzing West Village, The Standard is tough to beat, as is the High Line Hotel.
If you’re thinking Central Park walks, art galleries and upscale Upper East or Upper West Side dining, the Mandarin Oriental is about as sophisticated as it gets, and the same goes for the St. Regis or the Plaza, while the lovely Hotel Elysee offers a more affordable take.
Best Breakfast Options In New York
It may not be unique to New York, but breakfast at a Laduree’s Soho cafe is a classic, even amongst New Yorkers. If you’re looking for a quicker bite, perhaps one with some pastry on the go, Supermoon Bakehouse, Bien Cuit and Daily Provisions are great choices, as are any Blue Bottle or Bluestone Lanes locations.
For breakfasts fit for an Instagram star (the food, not you) Dominique Ansel offers an extraordinary range of sinfully good pastries, cakes and other treats at their downtown spot.
If you’re feeling adventurous and love a bit of Sunday gospel, Red Rooster by Marcus Samuelsson is an experience you’ll never forget, and a great excuse to see the renaissance of Harlem.
For good coffee: Stumptown Coffee Roasters, The Elk, or Black Fox will hit all the right perky notes. 9th Street espresso in Chelsea Market is also a gem. Blue Bottle Coffee can also be found in just about every neighborhood.
If it’s your first time in New York, we’ll excuse a brief sunrise or sunset visit to Times Square. But after that, you must leave. There are no New Yorkers, or real New York pizza’s to be seen there, nor will there ever be, despite what you’ve heard. It’s only ok to visit this area if you’re going to the theatre, once you’ve seen it.
Looking for the iconic NYC photo?
If you need to get the obligatory skyline photo, be sure to go to Top Of The Rock at Rockefeller Center, rather than the Empire State Building. Why? Because you’ll actually have the landmark in your photo! Hoboken and Williamsburg are also great locations to get the entire city in one frame!
The new addition of Little Island, a floating island off the West Side of Manhattan provides another unique vantage point for great snaps (and great fun).
NYC Subway Guide For Dummies
Now that those things are out of the way, it’s important to remember how easy it is to get around NYC by subway, so don’t fret if you find yourself hopping back and forth and if you’ve got the time – just walk. The subway is intuitive though, we promise.
Uptown trains will take you to street numbers going up, and downtown means numbers will go down. If you’re on 89th street, you’ll want a downtown train, if you’re going to 14th street. Got it? New York is best on foot, perhaps even without a direction in mind, and especially during the day, it’s very very safe.
A trip to New York would be remiss without a visit to Central Park. Once there, you’re so close to the MoMA, The Frick, Museum of Natural History, the Guggenheim and other worthy art galleries, if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s so easy to walk in and out of Central Park, as you weave your way from gallery to gallery, and it would be a shame not to.
Though it’s a bit controversial, we’d give a pass to the Whitney in the West Village, with the exception of the Warhol exhibition. The museum seems seems to celebrate art as irony, rather than a beautiful skill. Compared to the MoMA, it just doesn’t stack up.
After you’ve completed your midtown and uptown sightseeing, grab a downtown subway train and head for the World Trade Center.
Between the stunning Oculus and the incredibly powerful 9/11 Memorial, you’ll be so glad you did.
Few places on earth replicate the powerful feelings and inspiration felt as you enter the Oculus, and walking out to admire One World Trade Center from the ground up is truly spectacular. And yeah, it’s New York, seeing a Broadway play is totally ok.
Day One Plan: NYC Highlights
In the morning, head to Central Park for a casual wander and some galleries. On a beautiful day, you can spend hours weaving North, South, East and West through the park, passing through each unique nook and corner. For any Beatles fans or those who adore John Lennon as much as we do, “Imagine” is a must visit in the west side of the park.
Grab a croissant at Maison Kayser or Bouchon Bakery and head for the MoMA. After a good few hours uptown falling in and out of the endless shops and galleries, find an inviting sidewalk cafe along Columbus or Amsterdam Avenues, before heading to Columbus Circle. From Columbus, take the A,C or E trains down to World Trade.
There’s so much to see from nearby Battery Park and Wall Street, and the area is easily worth an hour, before heading to One World Trade Center and of course, the 9/11 Memorial. as mentioned.
After a powerful afternoon seeing the soul of New York City, pick yourself up and walk your way up along the West Side, picking up the beloved High Line at 14th Street.
Enjoy life above the fray for a while, before doubling back and hitting Top Of The Standard – aka the Boom Boom Room for a very well deserved drink, ideally with a downtown facing table to watch the sunset over One World Trade. It’ll feel special, trust us.
Shopping In New York City
People come to New York just to shop, and if you’re one of them, you won’t be disappointed. From incredible curated vintage shops in the Lower East Side and Brooklyn, to the commanding luxury brands of Madison Avenue, there’s something for everyone.
Boutique NYC Shopping
If you want quirky, unique, one off shops in New York City, our advice would be to get lost in the Lower East Side, Soho and Williamsburg. Just drift around, and don’t be afraid, especially in Manhattan to wander away from the crowds.
If you want department stores, H&M and all things luxury, just plant yourself anywhere in lower midtown and start walking up Madison Avenue.
If you’re into cool Scandinavian design shops, curated art collections and high fashion runway stuff, the West Village, Greenwich Village and Meatpacking districts are where you can find all the stuff that’s designed to look homeless but chic but actually caries a ridiculous price tag.
A walk down Greenwich Ave will cure even the strongest of sartorial blues. It’s mecca for NYC fashion.
Top New York Dinner Recommendations
From world famous falafel trucks to the finest of fine dining, New York has it all. If you want cheap and cheerful, Gansevoort Market offers a selection of establishments in a cool environment, with something for everyone. It’s like Chelsea Market, but a bit less commercialized.
Even with all my favorites, I always cross reference the Eater “Best List” to see if there’s anything new and unique worth trying.
For heavenly Italian, at a price you can almost stomach, JAMS in the 1 Hotel from New York icon Jonathan Waxman doesn’t disappoint.
If a big, classic New York steak is what you’re after, Keens Steakhouse in midtown or Peter Luger in Brooklyn are your two best bets for the real thing. The Modern is a great fine dining spot with the “tip included” concept if two Michelin star level food is what you’re after for a special treat.
For high end sushi lovers, Sushi Nakazawa is a NYC legend which might break the bank, but shouldn’t require a second mortgage in the process. For more every day, outstanding Asian meals at reasonable prices, Thai Diner and Pad Thai mee offers top notch Thai. For Indian, Inday offers a fun take on Indian street food and Indian Accent an extremely sophisticated one.
For NYC Chinese food, the venerable Shun Lee offers sophisticated stuff, but there are plenty day to day options.
And finally, though New York might be the last place you’d expect it, you can find some of the finest barbecue (and bourbon) anywhere, at Fette Sau in Brooklyn. Still not sure? Check out this list of our favorites, which loads onto an easy map.
Best NYC Bars For Evening Drinks
There are so many ways to do drinks, and New York City offers every single one of them. From a true cocktail revolution at Attaboy in lower Manhattan, to a drink at the iconic Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel, you just can’t go wrong.
If you’re into wine, La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels offers one of the finest wine programs anywhere in the world – and yes, they’re French. And if you’re into beer and sports bars, just turn a corner – you’ll find one.
NYC Itinerary: Day Two
Assuming you got your shopping and cultural needs out of the way on Day 1, you can now enjoy New York City like a local. Take the train to downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO or Williamsburg and discover life just outside of the city.
These neighborhoods surrounding Manhattan offer refreshing takes on city life, and are straight out of the movies. Yep, you’ve probably seen every inch of these places in something. With unique local flair, you’ll find great places to eat, shop and peek around. Once you’ve made your way through a nice stretch, you must do the obligatory walk back across the Bridge.
For cosy walks, Both the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridge offer excellent, safe walking paths and will spit you out in a cool part of New York City. Wander around, find a nice corner slice of pizza, grab a great coffee and let the city come to you.
There’s no better way to spend your last day in NYC than just wandering, and watching neighborhoods change as you continue to move. If you feel like you’re in the wrong one, Uber is everywhere, as are Citi Bikes.
If you’ve got time, find your way to Bryant Park or any of the other casual squares around the city for a relaxing end to a perfect trip! Oh, and be sure to leave plenty of time to get to the airport!
That’s it. You’re out of time in the city that never sleeps. Well, occasionally on Sundays.