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Ultimate New York City Travel Guide

hailing a taxi in new york city

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This New York City travel guide is for first time visitors to New York! But I’ve packed so much in here that even if you’ve been a few times before, you may still find some of these tips and tricks useful for your second or third visit.

I went from visiting New York City once every few years to now living here full-time. There is so much to see and do that this list could truly go on and on. To create the ultimate New York City travel guide, I ended up distilling down to just the quintessential way to take the city in so that at the end of your trip you’ll leave with no regrets!!

Table of Contents

  1. Things to See and Do
  2. What to Eat and Drink
  3. Typical Costs
  4. Where to Stay
  5. How to Get Around
  6. When to Go
  7. How to Stay Safe
  8. Packing List

Things to See and Do in NYC

1. Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge

brooklyn bridge nyc travel guide

Like many many scenic locations in New York, the Brooklyn Bridge has appeared in several movies and TV shows. So you’ve probably seen it on the big screen. But nothing compares to having a cup of coffee in hand and walking across the Brooklyn Bridge IRL.

The famous bridge offers views of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island (yes, you’ll be able to see the Statue of Liberty from there!). The bridge itself also has a very distinct architecture that’s worthy of a photoshoot.

Wanderer Tip: Start your day in Boreum Hill / Downtown Brooklyn and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to have a delicious meal in Chinatown.

2. Visit a Museum

For modern art, visit Whitney Museum. Guggenheim will usually display classic art and many visit to see the building’s unique spiral structure. MOMA will provide a good mix of modern and classic art.

Check each museum’s website for what’s currently on display!! Book your tickets for each here: Whitney Museum | MoMA | Guggenheim

3. Watch a Broadway Show

There’s no better place to watch a live musical than New York City. Witness some of the best performing talent take on the stage by booking a Broadway Show during your visit to New York.

Choose from a classic and crowd-pleaser like Wicked, or a more emotion-filled story like Dear Evan Hansen.

4. Go to a Rooftop Bar

rooftop bar at the public hotel new york
Rooftop Bar at the Standard Hotel

There are around 8 million people in New York City at all times, so imagine the number of buildings that are in New York to house of all these people!

Visit one of the many excellent rooftop bars in New York City to take in the breathtaking vistas with a delicious cocktail in hand. Even better if you can make it in time for sunset.

5. Take a Stroll in Central Park

If you want to feel like a character in Home Alone, YOU, or When Harry Met Sally, take a walk in Central Park and you’ll instantly feel like a film star.

My absolute favorite time to visit the park is fall and winter because the entire park turns into a different color!!

6. Spend a Day in Brooklyn

domino park brooklyn
Domino Park, Williamsburg Brooklyn

While most of the action happens in Manhattan, Brooklyn is still full of gems worth a visit and deserves it spot on this ultimate New York City travel guide.

For one, Jay-Z’s favorite pizza restaurant Lucali is in the beautiful brownstone-filled Carroll Gardens. You’ll also find some of the best views, coffee shops, and vintage shopping in Williamsburg.

Is this your second or third time visiting New York City? Check out this 3 Day New York City Itinerary that covers some of these top activities and includes some more lesser known spots for the return visitors.

Where to Eat & Drink

I couldn’t write an ultimate NYC travel guide without mentioning the best spots for some delicious grub!!

The hardest part was probably narrowing down to these 8 places to eat and drink in New York City.

1. L’Artusi

228 W 10th St, New York, NY 10014

Menu | Instagram

Come to L’Artusi for a nice sit down Italian meal. Book a counter seat to get a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes action and see your dishes come to life.

2. Lucali

575 Henry St, Brooklyn, NY 11231

Menu | Instagram

new york city travel guide lucali pizza
Lucali

Coined one of the best pizza places in New York City, Lucali is a neighborhood pizza spot that became a sensation after getting published on the New York Times. It also helps that Lucali is one of Jay-Z’s favorite restaurants.

3. Zabar’s

2245 Broadway, New York, NY

Menu | Instagram

A lox bagel and iced coffee

There are a bunch of places to get bagels in New York City, but if I had to recommend one, I’d recommend Zabar’s. Zabar’s has shown up in countless films including You’ve Got Mail and Sex and the City.

The lox bagel is so delicious!! And the coffee was great too. If you’re a big bagel person and want to visit more than one bagel spot while you’re in New York City, check out my guide to all the best bagel spots in Uptown.

4. Morgenstern’s Ice Cream

88 W Houston St, New York, NY 10012

Menu | Instagram

If Cardamom Lemon Jam and Vietnamese Coffee Rum flavored ice cream sound intriguing to you, you must visit Morgenstern’s Ice Cream. Not only are their flavors interesting, they are also well executed and oh so delicious!!!!

5. Caffe Dante

79-81 Macdougal St., New York, NY 10012

Menu | Instagram

Another Italian spot you must try, Caffe Dante not only serves up great pastas and flatbreads, the restaurant also has the best vibes. You’ll temporarily forget you’re in New York City as the decor transports you to an Italian village!

Most of all, Caffe Dante is known for its cocktails. To this day, their Gin & Tonic is still the best I’ve had!!

6. Ume

237 KENT AVE, BROOKLYN NY 11249

Menu | Instagram

new york city essential restaurants ume
Ume in Williamsburg Brooklyn

Dining at Ume will surely become an unforgettable part of your ultimate New York City trip. Ume is an Omakase restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that serves up creative nigiri without sacrificing tradition and quality. Book your resy now!!

7. Maison Premiere

298 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249

Website | Instagram

Not too far from Ume is one of my favorite bars of all time – Maison Premiere. The decor inspired Vanessa Hudgens’s bar, and it won’t be difficult to see why once you’re there. The space is as French as it gets, and the back garden is an absolute dream especially when the weather is nice out.

8. Flushing Food Tour

Visiting New York City is not cheap. If you’re looking for a break from the meals and cocktails that easily add up, take yourself on a self-guided food tour in Flushing Chinatown.

Typical Costs of Visiting New York: Budget Breakdown

Speaking of cost. What is the typical cost of visiting New York City?

Flights

How much it costs to travel to New York City really depends on where you’re visiting from.

If I look at a sample flight from San Diego to NYC for the end of September, it’s $278 on Alaskan Airlines roundtrip. This is actually not bad!!

Stay

When researching places to stay, I found a few decent options for four people ranging from $248 per night to $426 per night.

Activities, Food, and Transportation: Sample 1 Day NYC Itinerary and Costs

When I look back at how much I’d spend in a day of exploring the city, it easily adds up to ~$125. Of course, this can go up or down depending on what you do. For example, add a Broadway Show and that could increase your expense to $200 that day.

Here is a sample 1-day NYC itinerary with how much each activity costs:

  • Eat
    • Breakfast: $9 bagel with cream cheese and cheese, $6 coffee
    • Lunch: $15 hand pulled noodles in Chinatown
    • Dinner: $40 sit down dinner
    • Drinks: $20 cocktail at Speakeasy
  • Activities
    • Whitney Museum admission (Adult): $25
  • Transportation
    • Subway: $2.75 * 5 = $15

Grand Total: $130/day

Where to Stay

Generally speaking it’s very easy to get places in New York City. But if it’s your first time I’d recommend staying in Manhattan. Anywhere between 14th and 87th street is fair game.

What to look for:

  • Do you want to see a lot of places in a short amount of time? Pick an Airbnb that’s close to a subway stop. I recommend Midtown or Central Park South
  • Do you prefer to walk everywhere? Pick a safe area to walk in that also has good vibes. I recommend these neighborhoods: Lower East Side, Soho, West Village
  • Do you want to get the true New York City experience? Live in an older neighborhood with lots of character. I recommend East Village, Downtown Brooklyn, Upper East Side

How to Get Around

ultimate new york city travel guide transportation

Subway is the easiest! There are also buses but not as reliable. Because NYC is a big metropolitan city, it’s also very easy to call an Uber, Lyft or taxi.

Wanderer Tip: Download the Curb app to call taxis like you would Ubers and Lyfts. Taxis can often be cheaper than Uber or Lyft so do you’re research if you’re visiting New York City on a budget!

However, just because the Taxi can be slightly more expensive, don’t miss out on your chance to hail a yellow cab in the city and experience your Carrie Bradshaw moment.

When to Go

Summertime in New York City

New York City offers something a little different every season. As long as you don’t come when it is peak summer (mid-July through early September) or peak winter (January – early March), you should be fine.

How to Stay Safe

While New York City is generally a safe place to visit, there has been some crazy hate crimes happening that it’s better to be safe than sorry.

  • Always be aware of your surroundings
  • When taking the subway, don’t stand too close to the platform
  • Don’t go into an empty train especially if you’re by yourself
  • Share your location with friends and family

Packing List: Key Pieces by Season

As this New York City travel guide is getting long, I’ll leave you with some key fashion pieces to have with you during your trip to the fashion capital.

Summer

Fall

Winter

See my full winter packing guide here!

Spring

  • Leather shorts
  • A white linen shirt

The Ultimate New York City Trip

New York City is one of the most magical places to travel to! Come prepared to eat lots, drink some of the most amazing cocktails, and experience the concrete jungle in all its glory.

Did I miss anything in this ultimate New York City travel guide? What else do you want to know about visiting the Big Apple? Let me know in the comments 🙂

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