Looking to book the perfect weekend trip to New York, but overwhelmed with the possibilities? Don’t worry… this quick guide will help you during your first visit to the Big Apple.
Central Park- You could easily spend hours exploring Central Park and all that it has to offer. After all, it is 843 acres and is one of the most filmed locations in the world. I highly suggest downloading the free app, which will help you navigate the park and prioritize which sites you’d like to see beforehand. Grab some must-have walnut chocolate chip cookies from Levain Bakery (Upper West Side) and find somewhere relaxing in the park to people watch. I personally enjoyed visiting Bow Bridge (the second oldest cast-iron bridge in America) and Bethesda Terrace.
Upper East Side- Once you’re ready to venture on, weave your way towards the Upper East Side. You can visit the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) or the Guggenheim, both located right off Central Park. If that isn’t for you, you can visit Carrie Bradshaw’s stoop, shop along 5th Avenue or grab a bite to eat at Shake Shack.
Times Square- Our hotel was conveniently located off Times Square so we went back to get refreshed before heading out for an early dinner (after all, we had been traveling) and spent the night watching the sun set in Times Square. Now, many reports state locals avoid this area like the plague and that’s easy to see why. It’s extremely congested and can be frustrating. However, it’s someplace you’ll want to experience albeit briefly while you’re in New York City. We selected Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain, but unless you’re a fan of the Food Network (like myself!), I’d opt for something local during our next trip.
Showtime- After dinner, make your way to a Broadway show or, in our case, the Comedy Cellar. Find which option works for your budget and better accommodates your interests. The Comedy Cellar allowed us to see some high profile comedians in an intimate setting, for the cost of just one Broadway ticket. The schedule is released one week ahead of time and does take reservations. You will be required to purchase two items per person. Still, all of this at the cost of less than one Broadway ticket and a wonderful performance you truly can’t get anywhere else. If you’re still up for a late-night snack, visit famous Joe’s Pizza, located in Greenwich Village.
(Now, when I planned New York City, I wanted to steer clear of any tourist traps or overtly tourist attractions as much as possible. That being said, it’s about to get pretty touristy on day 2. I figured since this is Brandon’s first time, we absolutely had to visit these locations. During a future visit, we might allocate our time differently.)
Battery Park- Take the subway to Battery Park, which runs along 25 acres on the southern-most tip of Manhattan. We opted not to go to the Statue of Liberty, but the Staten Island Ferry is a free opportunity to get one of a kind views without the price tag. Once you’ve explored Battery Park, make your way to Wall Street. Even if trading doesn’t speak to you, you’ll want to pass by the famous charging bull. You can also alter your route to pass by Trinity Church (on Broadway and Wall Street), which is extremely rich with history.
9/11 Memorial and Museum- The first time I was in New York City was about a year after 9/11. As you can imagine, it was a far cry from the beautiful memorial it is today. Be sure to set aside enough time to pay your respects and reflect at this significant location.
Chelsea Market- Whether you are interested in a late lunch or a delicious chocolate orange gelato from L’Arte del Gelato, fuel up on some of the best variety of food the city has to offer in a unique, confined hub. There is something that speaks to everyone’s palette. It can be overwhelming, so I suggest looking up a few that appeal to you beforehand to have an idea of where you’re going.
The High Line- Afterwards, take a short walk to the High Line, a converted train track that is now an urban park with unique city views
Chelsea Piers- Catch a glimpse of the sunset at Chelsea Piers, or better yet, why not take a sunset cruise? There are a few options to choose from that will give you gorgeous views of the city skyline, the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. Find the right option for you here.
Brooklyn bound- It’s time to head out of Manhattan, grasshopper! Hop on the subway and make your way over to Brooklyn. If you’re feeling hungry, stop at Doughnut Plant for a bevy of unique and interesting doughnuts. Trust me, you’ll want to grab one even if you aren’t feeling hungry. (I suggest one with the jam filling.) Afterwards, there are a host of places to visit according to your interests. We went to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, but you can visit the Brooklyn Museum, Prospect Park Zoo, and more. If you’re visiting the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, make sure you’re going during a bloom season.
Brooklyn Heights- Take the subway or walk towards Brooklyn Heights. Enjoy lunch with the Brooklyn Bridge looming in the background. There is a spacious promenade on the waterfront with a carousel for the little ones. When you’re done, don’t forget to fill up your water bottle as you prepare to make your way over the Brooklyn Bridge.
Brooklyn Bridge- Once you’re ready, follow the signs towards the Brooklyn Bridge. You’ll want to set aside enough time to walk across. It will take you roughly 25 minutes and can get quite busy and congested.
Head back to the hotel to freshen up and get ready for dinner. Then, make your way to visit the major sites around midtown. Rockefeller Center, Grand Terminal Station, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Empire State Building are all viable options.
Some thoughts for next time…
This really only offers a taste of what the city has to offer. Now that we’ve covered a majority of the tourist attractions that the city has to offer, I’d love to go back and explore Brooklyn in more depth. I’d especially love to visit Williamsburg for Smorgasburg (Brooklyn’s Flea and Food Market) and the Mini Mall. I’d also love to explore Little Italy, Chinatown and Tribeca.
Tell us, what are your favorites things to do and eat in New York for first time visitors? Share in the comments section below!