It’s the city that never sleeps and thank goodness, because when you hit New York you are going to want to squeeze something into every moment of your time there. The heady mix of world-class museums, theatre, music, art, food, shopping and outdoor activity is almost overwhelming. There is something to blow your mind on every corner.
So where to start when planning your Big Apple adventure?
Here are our picks of the best things to see and do in New York.
How to Visit New York
The five boroughs of NYC have their own distinct personality. It’s up to you which one you choose to base yourself in when you visit – there really is something for everyone.
Most of the big tourist attractions are in Manhattan, so for convenience it’s an excellent choice. Each neighbourhood within Manhattan has its own unique appeal. The well-heeled tend to be drawn to the upper east side while a spot like Alphabet City has grungy charm. Accommodation wise, things tend to be a little more expensive in Manhattan so if you’re wanting to travel on a budget you might like to stay in one of the other boroughs (which still offer easy access to Manhattan thanks to the excellent subway system).
Brooklyn is sometimes considered to be the hipper younger sister of Manhattan. For vintage clothing stores, interesting bars, sprawling open air spaces and contemporary art, Brooklyn is a real drawcard for many people visiting New York.
Both Queens and The Bronx have even more affordable accommodation options and are worth checking out if you’re travelling on a shoestring.
Best Time to Visit New York
Most people say the best time to visit New York City is from April to June and September to early November. New York is prone to temperature extremes in summer and winter and these windows tend to be the most temperate times to visit (the tourist crowds are also manageable in these months).
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Incredible Things to See in New York
A fabulous (and free) activity is walking along The Highline Park. Built on the elevated former New York Central Railroad spur, it offers a peaceful green passage through the hustle and bustle of the city.
Times Square is considered by some to be highly overrated, but you should see it at least once to marvel at the towering walls of colour and the frenetic nature of the intersection.
Broadway is nearby and a trip to the theatre is a must when visiting New York (hot tip: matinee sessions are often a lot cheaper).
Other great performance-based activities include visiting the iconic Apollo Theatre in Harlem (they have a great amateur night where many famous faces got their start) or entering the ballot for tickets to watch the taping of a TV show at the Rockefeller Centre. If music is your thing you might like a walking jazz tour through Harlem.
From a cultural perspective New York is home to world class museums. The Museum of Natural History, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art and The Frick Collection are all stand-outs.
Central Park is glorious in every season and is a great place for a little respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. You can hire a bike and work off some of those excellent holiday meals you’ve probably been indulging in. Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is also good for this purpose.
A trip to the 9/11 memorial where the World Trade Centre once stood is a moving experience and gives visitors the opportunity to acknowledge the devastating events that changed this city forever.
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Amazing Accommodation in New York
If you want to live like a local there are some wonderful Airbnb options to be found.
But if you’d rather splurge a go a little high end there is The Ludlow Hotel, set in the epicentre of the buzzy lower east side of Manhattan. From the purposefully curated design aesthetic to incredible dining, an excellent bar, and an even better night’s sleep, it’s the perfect package.
Other luxe options include The Walker Hotel, The St Regis and The Standard High Line which is set in the beautiful Chelsea neighbourhood (this hotel also has one of the most hysterical bingo nights if you happen to be around on a Sunday night).
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Where to Eat in New York
If you’re a foodie you’ve come to the right place. From excellent Mexican to mouth-watering Italian and authentic eastern European cuisine, New York is a veritable smorgasbord of fabulous flavours.
Have your mind blown with a trip to Eataly, an enormous Italian “marketplace” in the heart of Manhattan with an array of different little dining sections. The displays of cakes, meats, cheeses and fresh pastas will have you abandoning your diet in a heartbeat.
No trip to New York would be complete without a bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese (try the classic Russ & Daughters) and a pastrami and rye from Katz’s Deli. A word to the wise, you might like to share one with a friend. They are as big as your head.
If you find yourself in the NoLita/SoHo area be sure to check out Café Gitane, which is something of an institution, especially for lunch or brunch.
Good Ukranian food is an absolute joy and New York is home to some excellent eastern European dining. A great place to indulge in traditional dishes such as pierogi and borscht is Veselka in the East Village. It’s open 24 hours and is something of an institution (the people watching is top notch).
Other fan favourites are the Momofuku group of restaurants (pork buns at their Noodle Bar and decadent desserts at the Milk Bar), The Spotted Pig for some innovative British “pub” fare and Il Buco for world-class Italian. Café Habana has the most amazing grilled corn, Cuban sandwiches and cocktails.
Speaking of which, if you find yourself in Brooklyn around sunset head to the top-floor bar at they Wythe Hotel and enjoy the excellent views back over to Manhattan.
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Superb Shopping Locations in New York
Be sure to check out the big department stores like Barney’s, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s.
If you are looking for luxury head to Fifth Avenue; for something a bit more hip try the neighbourhoods of SoHo, Chelsea and Greenwich Village.
If you have the chance be sure to check out the Brooklyn Flea on the weekend. It features hundreds of vendors of antique and repurposed furniture, vintage clothing, collectibles, as well as a tightly curated selection of jewellery, art and crafts by local artisans and designers, plus delicious fresh food.
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Tours & Packages New York
As mentioned, New York can be overwhelming thanks to the vast array of things to do. So sometimes it’s great to leave your itinerary up the experts and incorporate a tour or package into your stay.
To drink in the beauty of New York, you might like to spring for a helicopter flight. It’s a great way to get a bird’s-eye view of one of the most famous cities in the world and take in iconic sites such as The Statue of Liberty.
Pop culture buffs might like to take one of the On Location Tours, which take in the iconic locations from some of the city’s most favourite films and TV shows such as Gossip Girl and Seinfeld (the Sex and the City Tour has proven particularly popular).
Other great tours that can help you drink up the history and culture of the city include a small group bike tour of Central Park, the New York Landmarks Cruise (which allows you to sail around New York harbour and view The Statue of Liberty and Manhattan from the water), a guided 9/11 Memorial and Ground Zero walking tour, a tour of New York City architecture, a lower east side food and culture tour and a New York street art tour.
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