Not everyone loves New York, but the people who do love this crazy city with a fierceness that seems unexplainable. And why not? “The City that Never Sleeps” is an amazing combination of historic places, top-notch music and theater, over-the-top landmarks, incredible restaurants, posh hotels, and more than 1.5 million zany people that call Manhattan home. (Not to mention the other 6.5 million that live in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island!)
Visiting New York is an experience that everyone should enjoy at least once in their lifetime. Whether or not you’re an urban junkie, there are some things in New York that you just have to see and do. Who knows? You may find yourself sucked in by the awesomeness of this one-of-a-kind metropolis!
Planning a Trip to NYC
To do New York right, you really need at least 5 or 6 days. But if you have less time than that to spend on your holiday, you’ll need to do some advanced planning so that you fit in all the things that are important to you and your traveling companions.
If you want to go to a Broadway theater, research the show you’d like to see to determine availability of tickets. For the most popular shows, you’ll need to purchase in advance. For others, you can possibly buy tickets at the box office or at the half-price TKTS booth on Times Square. However, if you have your heart set on a particular show, it’s best to buy in advance so as to avoid disappointment.
It’s always a good idea to book your accommodations in advance as well. New York City has a plethora of hotels and most are expensive. However, some clever internet shopping might land you a good deal. If you’re new to the city, try to book a “midtown” hotel, which will be close to Broadway and many of the top attractions.
You can also secure tickets to The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the ride to the top of the Empire State Building before you arrive. If you know your schedule, doing this is a good idea. (The line for the observation deck at the Empire State Building gets REALLY long and you may not get tickets in person!)
So much to see. So little time. That’s what most visitors say when they get to Manhattan. It’s true! You certainly might have difficulty deciding what to see during this vacation and what to leave until next time.
If that’s the case, consider starting your visit with a guided bus tour. Several leave from the Times Square area (around 42nd and Broadway), including Gray Line’s big double decker red bus. Guests usually have a choice of 2 or 3 different “loops”. Start with the downtown/midtown route, which will cover much of what you’ll probably want to see.
If you prefer to do it on your own, consider these attractions.
- The Empire State Building – Built in the 1920s and for decades the tallest building in the world, the view from the top is incredible. (See Planning a Trip for ticket info)
- Macy’s Department Store – Just across the street from the Empire State Building, the original Macy’s (subject of Miracle on 34th Street) is an incredible mega-store that every shopaholic will enjoy.
- Times Square/The Theater District – Times Square, at the center of midtown Manhattan, is well-known for its bright neon signs and for being the center of attention each New Year’s Eve as revelers party until dawn. The streets that surround Times Square are home to most of the Broadway theaters. Don’t leave New York without seeing a musical!
- Radio City Music Hall/Rockefeller Center – If you’re lucky enough to be in NYC around the Christmas holidays, you can catch the famous Rockettes at Radio City. In the winter, you can also skate on the ice rink in front of Rockefeller Center. Various TV shows are also taped here at Radio City and it’s sometimes possible to secure tickets.
- The Statue of Liberty – Accessible via ferry boat from Battery Park, everyone should visit the green lady with the torch. While you can no longer climb to the top, you can still admire her from up close.
- Ellis Island – Chances are that some relative in your distant past entered America through the immigration station at Ellis Island. Follow the triumphant stories of those who came to the U.S. from lands far away at this wonderful landmark.
- Metropolitan Museum of Art – One of the finest art museums in America, the permanent collection here is massive and will no doubt contain pieces that are recognizable to you.
- Lincoln Center – Home to the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, New York City Opera, and New York City Ballet, this is THE music and dance venue in New York City. Grab some tickets and enjoy the culture!
- World Trade Center site – Millions visit the site each year to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the tragedy of September 11th. Tours are available, some given by WTC survivors.
- South Street Seaport Museum – Visit NYC’s waterfront and learn about its rich history at this wonderful museum which includes a fleet of ships guests can explore. Also shop and eat in the village surrounding the museum.
- The United Nations – Guests can tour some portions of the UN headquarters and, if you’re fortunate, you may even get to observe a session of the ambassadors.
- American Museum of Natural History – If you have kids with you, this is a must, but adults will also enjoy this fun and educational museum, located across the street from Central Park.
It’s possible to travel from one neighborhood to the next in NYC without realizing that you’re doing so, but be sure to take some time to carefully explore at least a few. Manhattan’s unique neighborhoods are the lifeblood of the city. Visit Little Italy or Chinatown for great ethnic food. Experience all that’s hip and artsy in Greenwich Village, SoHo, or Tribeca. Visit the posh Upper East Side and you’ll see the amazing homes on Manhattan’s “Gold Coast.” Harlem, on the other hand, is a mecca for African American culture and home to incredible music venues like the Apollo Theater, while the Lower East Side is New York’s landmark Jewish neighborhood. They’re all fascinating in their own right!
Unique NY Experiences
Some things are quintessentially New York and you just can’t leave the city without doing them. Here’s our list of true New York City experiences.
Riding the subway – Don’t be scared! NYC’s subways are actually very safe and an easy way to get from one place to another. This is one of the best subway systems in the world!
Riding a carriage through Central Park – Head to Columbus Circle (near 66th and Broadway) and catch a horse-drawn carriage for a relaxing ride through expansive Central Park. Available all year long, but you’ll want to bundle up in the winter.
Riding a pedi-cab – Okay, you may be putting your life in your hands, but riding a bicycle-pulled pedi-cab is certainly a unique NY experience. These amazing drivers manage to peddle their weight, the weight of the bike and cab, and the weight of all the passengers with ease – weaving in and out of crazy NY traffic without flinching.
Riding in a NY taxi cab – This gets a little expensive but, like the pedi-cab, it’s real New York. Choose a short journey so as to keep the price low.
Eating from a street vendor’s cart – Though it may not seem appealing at first, the items you can purchase from a vendor’s cart are usually wonderful. Check out the honey roasted cashews and pecans, soft pretzels, hot dogs, and at Christmastime, the chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
Eating a deli sandwich and slice of NY cheesecake – NYC has some of the best Jewish delis in the world. Stop for a pastrami sandwich (impossible to get it into your mouth – it’s so thick!) and top it off with a slice of NY cheesecake for dessert. Amazing!
Skating at Rockefeller Center – If you’re here in the winter, this is an unforgettable experience. Skate rentals are available on a limited basis.
Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge – Walking on this stunning bridge is awesome, and when you get to the other side, you can explore fascinating Brooklyn.