Guide to New York
New York is one of the most spectacular cities you will ever visit, and is arguably the greatest city in the world. There is so much to see and do there and you could stay for weeks and not see it all! It truly is the city that never sleeps and has something for everybody.
How to get there
If you’re flying in, you will arrive at either JFK, La Guardia or Newark airports. They all have transport that will take you into Manhattan. From Newark, I would recommend taking the bus as they run every 15 minutes and it costs $16. It takes about 40mins and it drops you off at several different stops in Manhattan.
If you’re coming from nearby cities or states, I would recommend taking Megabus. It is incredibly cheap and you can get a seat for as little as a few dollars if you book it in advance.
Where to stay
Accommodation in New York can be incredibly expensive, particularly if you want to stay in Manhattan and in a hotel. If there are two or more of you traveling, I would highly recommend getting an Airbnb. This can be quite affordable, especially if you are willing to stay away from Midtown Manhattan and Times Square in areas like Brooklyn or Uppwer/Lower Manhattan. However, just consider the travel time to and from where you will be sightseeing. I would not recommend staying anywhere near Times Square as you will be constantly stuck in crowds as you leave your doorstep!
I paid US$80 a night for an Airbnb in Brooklyn that was a beautiful master bedroom with a private bathroom.
What to do
There is so much to do in New York and the city is HUGE. I would recommend splitting up your days between different parts of the city, for example, Lower Manhattan, Midtown, Brooklyn etc. This way you don’t have to spend too much time traveling from one end of the city to the other.
If you are after more in-depth guides of each area, check out http://www.nycgo.com. They also sell “New York City Passes”, which are definitely worth getting if you think you will be seeing all of the main tourist attractions.
Wander through Central park
Central Park is one of the most magical places in New York. It is filled with people wandering, jogging, roller blading, cycling and busking. Take a walk or run around the Reservoir for a great lakeside view of Lower Manhattan.
In winter, there are two ice skating rinks that operate. The one in the north side of the park is quieter and cheaper.
Central Park is so big (roughly 3 miles from one end to the other) and if you are walking I would recommend not seeing it all on one day and seeing the bottom half of the park when you are walking around Midtown, and the top half when you are exploring Upper East Side. If you enjoy cycling, you can rent a bike and ride around the park much faster in one go.
Upper East Side
Upper East Side is a beautiful area to walk around. Everything is just gorgeous – the shops, cafes and apartments.
If you want to stop for a meal but don’t think you can afford the Upper East Side prices, check out Eli’s Essentials. It is a mini market connected to a rather upmarket restaurant, however you can order a full plate of everything from the market’s salad bar (chicken stir fry, roast vegetables, seafood salad) for only US$15.
Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is one of the most recognisable pieces of architecture in the city. You will see it from the ground as you wander around most of midtown. At night time it even puts on an impressive themed light show. You can see the view from the 86th floor for US$34 or the 102nd floor for an extra price. However, be prepared to line up for about an hour.
Walk the Highline
The Highline is an old subway line that has been converted into a beautiful park, walking space and public gallery. It is elevated above ground level and extends for about 1.5 miles. There are lounge chairs and spaces to sit, relax and people watch after a long day of sightseeing.
Chelsea market is foodie heaven! It is a huge marketplace and food hall with heaps of different vendors and cuisines. It is a great place to just grab a quick bite, or sit down at one of the restaurants.
Times Square is a crazy place – it is jam packed with billboards, lights and people… ALL the time. It is spectacular, however for me visiting the area once was enough. I went during Christmas time and it took about 30 minutes to walk 2 blocks!
Eat $1 pizza
New York has some of the best pizza, and what makes it even better is when it is just $1! There are an abundance of pizza slice shops in the city, and if you google “$1 pizza” you will find all of the cheap places nearby. Although this is not the healthiest option, this is the best way to cut down costs on food during the day.
Visit the sets of your favourite TV shows and movies
Some of the best TV shows and movies have been set and filmed in New York. Look up the locations and go and visit! I went to Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment from Sex and the City and it was great!
Top of the Rock
Top of the Rock is a spectacular viewpoint 70 storeys up the Rockefeller centre. It is a great way to see the city skyline with the Empire State Building right in the middle. Tickets cost US$34 and a lot of locals would recommend this over the Empire State Building, however it is down to personal preference!
Grand Central Station
Grand Central is an incredible building and is definitely worth walking through. It is not just a train station – there is a huge food court and over 60 shops. It is so big that it even has its own audio tour for US$9.
Enjoy the views from 230 5th Ave Rooftop Bar
This is the best place to watch sunset and was one of my favourite things that I did in New York. If you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford to go to the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock, head up to the rooftop bar at 230 5th Avenue. It is free to get in and the views are out of this world, with the Empire State Building right in the middle of the skyline.
Head there just after 4pm so you can watch the sunset and you will be blown away! Happy hour runs from 4pm – 7pm and beers are $6 each.
Eat in Little Italy
Little Italy is full of some of the best Italian restaurants. My favourite place was Lombardi’s, which is quite famous as the first pizzeria in the USA. The portions are HUGE and the decor was adorable.
Walk up and down Wall Street to see all of the busy suits where all of the action happens!
Indulge at Eataly
Eataly is another foodie paradise – an Italian marketplace that hosts restaurants, a cooking school and food and beverage counters in amongst a huge variety of fresh groceries.
If you’re a cheese and meats fan, or just enjoy splashing out on some good quality ingredients once in a while, this is the place for you.
This is a very touching memorial which stands in the place of the two twin towers. The memorials list all of the names of the victims and a rose is placed on their birthdays.
Statue of Liberty
This is a must-see during your time in New York. If you’re on a budget, head down to the southernmost point of Manhattan to Battery Park and take the Staten Island Ferry across to Staten Island, where you will get a great view of the Statue of Liberty for free. When you board, stick to the right hand side (facing west) so you get the best view.
You can take this opportunity to explore Staten Island, or just stay on the ferry and head back to Manhattan. The ferry also has really cheap food and beer if you’re hungry!
Check out hipster Brooklyn in Williamsburg
Williamsburg is the hipster neighbourhood in New York. It is a great area to walk around for a day. There are parks and areas along the riverside that have a great view of Manhattan.
Wander up to Bedforward Avenue, the main street with all the shops and cafes. As you walk around and you will see some great street art on the way.
If you’re a fan of cheese, check out Bedford Cheese Shop. There are so many cheese to try, buy and even order in a toasted sandwich for lunch.
Watch an NBA game at Barclays Centre
Live sport in New York is incredible. However, if you are looking to see an NBA game at Madison Square Garden you’re going to pay a fortune. Instead, check out one of Brooklyn Net’s games at the Barclay’s Centre. We bought tickets for only US$15! The atmosphere is so lively, and they have so many food and drink vendors that you never even have to line up.
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
Take a walk from the Brooklyn side of the bridge to Lower Manhattan and you will be blessed with amazing city views. This is a great walk and is a popular place to go jogging or cycling. It is good to incorporate this with visiting either Lower Manhattan or Brooklyn.
New York has an incredibly diverse nightlife, ranging from grungy dive bars to upmarket cocktail bars.
If you’re in Chelsea, hit up Brass Monkey bar. The drinks are reasonably priced, the music is fun and there is a good crowd.
If you are looking for something cheap and laid back, check out Botanica for an affordable bar. This place seemed pretty local and the bartenders even gave us a free shot of vodka with every beer! Milano’s bar is also nearby and is great for a similar vibe.
If you’re into speakeasy bars, try out Fig 19 near Soho. It is an art gallery when you walk in that leads to an underground bar. It is quite intimate and they have great cocktails.
In Willamsburg, there are some amazing dive bars and free live music venues. If you’re going out after watching a game at Barclay’s centre, I would highly recommend BK9 Jamaican bar. It has a relaxed vibe with awesome music and super cheap drinks – only US$4 for a cocktail!
How long to stay
You could easily spend weeks in New York and still want to stay longer. The only thing that would stop you is that it is generally quite expensive. If you want to see all of the main attractions and have time to discover most of the areas in Manhattan, I would allow at least a week.