New York is a city that needs no introduction (yet, here a I am writing an introduction to this travel guide). It’s the number one most visited destination in the United States with people from all over the world coming to see it’s iconic skyline and experience the city. Not to mention the art, the food, and the wonderful chaos that is New York City.
Enjoy a moment of solitude in Central Park, see famous landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge, visit incredible museums, and eat like you never have before. One lifetime is not enough to experience everything New York has to offer!
This New York travel guide is a roadmap for you to immerse yourself in the life of a New Yorker. Explore the city’s lesser know neighborhoods and venture to some more offbeat experiences, without breaking the bank!
What to See and Do
Where do I even start? New York has so many things to see and do that I could spend the rest of life writing about it and still not cover it all!
There are a few things that every visitor needs to experience in New York: see the Statue of Liberty, walk the High Line, take an stroll on Fifth Avenue, admire Grand Central Station, see the Empire State building from the Top of The Rock, grab a snack at Chelsea Market, eat dinner in Little Italy, and take a moment to reflect at the World Trade Center Memorial.
75+ New York Bucket List Experiences
I wrote a list of 75+ things to add to your New York bucket list but to give you a taste, here are 5 of my favorite things that I recommend to anyone visiting the Big Apple:
1. Visit one (or all) museums.
NYC is home to many world-class museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art (aka The Met), MoMa, the Guggenheim, the Whitney, and the American Museum of Natural History to name a few. And you can get in many of New York’s museums for free on certain days.
2. Experience Broadway and Times Square.
I remember the first time I got off the subway in the middle of Times Square… There’s so much going on, people walking in every direction, cars honking, lights everywhere. It takes you a second to adjust and it’s something you should experience. While you’re there, be sure to watch a Broadway show!
3. Get Lost in Central Park.
You could spend a whole day in Central Park if you wanted. But if you’re only in NYC for a couple of days, get in there and enjoy what you can—the beauty of Central Park is the serenity it offers, so don’t rush it. A few of my favorite spots in the park are the Bow Bridge, Bethesda Terrace, The Ramble, and the North Meadow.
4. Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge.
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most iconic landmarks in NYC. If you’re a morning person, I recommend grabbing a cup of coffee or your running shoes and heading over there early. That way you can take in the views of the river and New York skyline with
5. Eat, eat, eat.
I’ve been know to travel for food and New York is one of my favorite foodie destinations. From pizza, pastrami sandwiches, bagels, to authentic Chinese, Indian, and Greek food, to endless fine dining and 70+ Michelin-starred restaurants, it’s safe to say you will not be hungry in NYC. To find great food, avoid restaurants in super touristy areas and skip restaurant chains (you can eat that anywhere).
Planning Your Trip
When to Go
If you ask me, anytime is a great time to go to New York! But I’m a big fan of the April-May and September-October shoulder seasons. That’s when the weather is nice and you can avoid the bulk of the crowds.
But all seasons have something going for them. In the peak of Spring, New York weather is gorgeous and there are flowers everywhere.
If you visit New York in the Summer (and don’t mind the heat), you get to experience a lot of the events and outdoor activities like Shakespeare in the Park and the Pride Parade.
The weather in the Fall is a lot more pleasant and New York looks beautiful when the color changes. And towards the end of the season you start to see holiday decorations and maybe catch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
Finally, Winter in the city can be cruel. But there’s nothing like ice skating in Central Park, warming up with a nice cup of hot chocolate in a cozy cafe, or taking in the winter views from a NYC rooftop bar.
Where to Stay
New York is an expensive city so when it’s no different when it comes to hotels. However, there are many options of accommodations in the city, no matter what your budget is.
Since this is a New York travel guide, I don’t recommend staying in Times Square, where I feel most first-time tourists end up. Instead, stay in less crowded and loud area like The West Village, Greenwich Village, Bowery, SoHo, or the Upper East or West side for easy access to Central Park and the Museums.
You can always venture outside of Manhattan and stay at the Moxy Williamsburg, which is a great area to stay and easy to access via subway. Or plan your visit on the off-season, when you can get some incredible deals on some very unique boutique hotels in NYC.
Holidays, Festivals and Events
Here are some of the best NYC events, holidays, and festivals month-by-month so you can plan your trip with them or around them:
January: Broadway Week (2 for 1 tickets), Winter JazzFest, NYC Restaurant Week (note that Broadway Week and Restaurant Week can happen in January or February, so check the dates)
February: New York Fashion Week, Winter Festival in Bryan Village, NYC Half Marathon
March: St. Patrick’s Day Parade. (March is also your last chance to enjoy the ice skating rinks, which won’t be back until the Winter. The best ones are at Bryant Park, Central Park, and Rockefeller Center)
April: Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival, NYC Pillow Fight, Easter Parade and Bonnet Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Macy’s Flower Show
May: Spring Food Markets, Fleet Week on the Hudson River
June: Shakespeare in the Park, Pride Festival, SummerStage in Central Park, Night at the Museums, Celebrate Brooklyn!
July: Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks, Bastille Day, Shakespeare in the Park, SummerStage in Central Park, Restaurant Week and Broadway Week (again, check dates between August and September)
August: US Open Tennis Tournament, SummerStreets
September: US Open Tennis Tournament, Labor Day Parade, New York Film Festival, New York Fashion Week, Brazilian Day
October: New York Film Festival, Columbus Day Parade, Halloween Parade, Open House New York
November: NY Comedy Festival, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Dyker Heights Christmas Lights, Rockefeller Tree-Lighting Ceremony, Black Friday (skip Black Friday and go enjoy New York!)
December: Winter Village at Bryan Park, Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Ice Skating Rinks, Times Square New Year’s Eve.
How to Get Around
Public transportation is by far the best way to get around New York.
The subway is very reliable, runs 24/7, and will get you to anywhere you want to be, or very close to it, without the traffic!
I recommend buying a MetroCard at any of New York’s subway stations. You can refill it and pay-per-ride, of use as much as you like for a 7-day and 30-day period. Depending on how long you’ll be in the city and how you’re planning to ride the subway, the unlimited MetroCard might be worth the cost even if you don’t need all 7 or 30 days.
Walking is also a great way to see New York and explore its different neighborhoods. So be sure to wear comfortable shoes! I know you want to look cute in all those Instagram photo-ops around NYC but you’ll be miserable if you’re shoes are not good to walk.
Taxis and ride shares like Uber and Lyft are also options if you need to carry luggage around but be mindful of traffic if you need to be somewhere at a specific time (like the airport!).
New York for Solo Travelers
New York City is a fantastic and safe destination for solo travelers. There’s so much to see that you won’t ever be bored. And despite the reputation of being “mean”, people in New York are actually very open to chat with solo travelers.
New Yorkers are very proud of their city and they’ll be eager to share tips and advice about things to do, cool places to visit, where to eat, etc. So don’t be shy and talk to a stranger—I find the line at Starbucks is a great place to start.
New York Safety Tips for Visitors
New York city is generally safe for tourists. But as with any large city, it’s smart to exercise some common sense so you don’t get into unnecessary trouble. You know the drill: alway be aware of your surroundings, keep your valuables safe, and don’t flash expensive stuff in crowded areas.
When riding the subway, especially late at night, be extra alert, especially if you’re a woman. If you’re rising the subway alone at night, try not to look like a tourist. Memorize your stop so and least pretend to know where you’re going.
This New York travel guide would not be complete if I didn’t mention tourist scams. And honestly, the biggest threat to tourists in New York are scam artists.
Times Square is a prime spot for scam artists selling fake tickets to shows and tours and performers in character costumes posing for photos then demanding payment.
Also, watch out for illegal cabs at the airport—the line for the official yellow taxi is hard to miss.
Finally, the Staten Island Ferry, which gives you an up close look at the Statue of Liberty, is 100% free so don’t fall for someone trying to sell you a ticket.
NYC Travel Guide: Best Booking Resources
✈️ Find your flight with Skyscanner.
🛎 Get your hotel with Booking.com or hostel with Hostelworld.
🏠 Rent a unique home or apartment with Plum Guide and VRBO.
🚘 Rent a car with Discover Cars.
🏰 Book tours and excursions with Get Your Guide or Viator.
☂️ Get travel insurance from SafetyWing.
📱 Avoid roaming fees with eSIM card from Airalo.
🌋 Go on an adventure with G Adventures.