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New York City Travel Guide

The New York City Travel Guide by Planes and Plans covers everything you need to know for a visit to San Francisco. Discover things to do, places to eat, and places to stay. Also included are day trips from the city, how to get around, and some important safety tips.

New York City is a diverse and fun city, with so much to see and do. Made famous by Times Square and Broadway, there is so much more waiting to be discovered. In fact, I even think that it makes one of the best city breaks in the world for families. Due to its location, the city also acts as a gateway to the East Coast. Cities like Boston, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. are all easily accessible from the city. 

New York City is home to three major airports, so you might choose to spend a few days here simply as a layover destination. Otherwise, it is a great base to explore the East Coast of the United States. Depending on the time available, you could definitely spend up to two weeks based in the city without ever getting bored.

New York City Travel Guide Contents

Table of Contents

Things to Do in New York City

Due to New York City being such a large area covering five boroughs, there are thousands of fun activities waiting to be discovered. The New York City Travel Guide will focus on some of my personal favourite highlights in order to outline the diversity of activities here. 

Wondering how to spend a few days in New York City?

Cycle through Central Park

Central Park brings life to the concrete jungle. It covers a huge area of Manhattan, with so many treasures hidden inside. Cycling is the best way to explore the whole park, as trust me, it is bigger than you think! My favourite spots in the park include Bow Bridge, Belvedere Castle, and Strawberry Fields. Gossip Girl fans like myself will love recreating some iconic scenes on the MET Steps and at Bethesda Terrace. However, kids may otherwise enjoy Central Park Zoo and the American Museum of Natural History.

Visit the 'Top of the Rock'

Whilst there are many incredible observation decks in New York City, my opinion is that the Rockefeller Centre offers the best views. From the Top of the Rock, you can see all the five boroughs, with the Empire State Building beautifully framed in the centre of the panorama. Not to mention the views over Central Park that will surely make you appreciate its size!

Walk the High Line

The High Line is my absolute favourite activity to start everyday in the city. It is a 2.33km (1.45mi) stretch of converted railway that weaves through Chelsea. It provides hidden views down some of New York’s most picturesque streets, as it transitions from the modernity of Hudson Yards’ skyscrapers to the red industrialism of the Meatpacking District. My recommendation is to start at Hudson Yards walking towards the South, in order to finish at Chelsea Market for lunch. 

Take a sunset ferry to the Statue of Liberty

Whilst the Statue of Liberty can be spotted from the shores of the Financial District, the ferry is a tourist attraction that is certainly worth the hype. Not only will it take you out to Liberty Island itself, but it offers some of the most breathtaking views of the Manhattan Skyline behind the boat. Heading over at sunset allows you to watch as the city comes alive for the night. The ferry also stops at Ellis Island along the way, offering interesting insight into New York’s history at the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration.

People Watch in Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park is one of my favourite destinations in the city to sit back with a bagel and enjoy some people watching. Although a small park, it is hidden in the heart of the NYU campus, and residents of the area come from all interesting walks of life. Not to mention the park is home to the ‘Arc de Triomphe of New York’.

Pay Respects at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum

No visit to New York City is complete without a visit to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. The Memorial is a hauntingly beautiful public space in the heart of Manhattan’s Financial District, now shadowed by the new World Trade Centre skyscrapers. It is a cold reminder of the events of 9/11 that shaped the course not only of New York City’s story, but also of the world. Despite having visited the city three times, the 9/11 Memorial remains on my list each visit as a reminder of New York’s resilience. 

Tour the United Nations Headquarters

New York City is home to the United Nations Headquarters, a beautiful marble tower overlooking the East River. The tour offered incredible insight into the work of the organisation, with the opportunity to step into the chambers where world leaders had previously sat. The grounds are also home to the infamous ‘Knotted Gun’ sculpture, an ironic reminder of the peace we seek within a country so deeply affected by gun violence and across its oceans.

Go Shopping on Fifth Avenue

Fifth Avenue is home to some of the best shopping in the world. For those looking for luxury, you will not be disappointed. Fifth Avenue is home to many flagship stores, including my personal favourite, the recently renovated Tiffany & Co. New York. This is ten-floor flagship walks you through the brand’s dazzling collections in an experience that transports you to ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’. 

Visit Times Square at Night

Admittedly, Times Square is one of the most famous sights in New York. However, it is a must-see for any first-time visitor to the city, and is also one of the city’s major shopping districts. Visiting at night provides the best experience as the square lights up with the vibrancy of advertising. Weave your way through the crowds to M&M’s or Hershey’s Chocolate World for some indulgence.

Explore Little Island

Little Island is New York’s newest park, a green space floating out on the Hudson River. The park is incredibly lush, and feels like a hiking trail tucked into the side of Manhattan. Skyline views peek through the trees, with many hidden corners ideal for sunset picnics and family time. 

Day Trips from New York City

New York City is a great base to explore the East Coast. Day trips are a great way to see some incredible US cities in nearby states. 

Joining a day tour is the most convenient option, especially if you are not used to driving on the right side of the road and navigating heavy traffic like me. Otherwise hiring a car is more flexible and allows you to get off the beaten path. 

The New York City Travel Guide highlights some of my favourite and bucket-list day trips here.

Boston

Boston is a quaint city located just a few hours North of New York City, and can easily be explored on a day trip. For history lovers, Boston is one of the best places to learn about early colonial history of the United States. It is also home to institutions including Harvard and MIT, both educating some of the most influential leaders in the country’s history. Not to mention being able to explore the Boston Tea Party Museum after tasting delicious clam chowder at Quincy Market. 

Philadelphia

Philadelphia is an underrated day trip, located less than two hours from New York City. Spend a day exploring the birthplace of the United States at Constitution Hall and Liberty Bell. A day trip to Philadelphia is also a great opportunity to learn about life in the Amish communities that live in surrounding Pennsylvania. 

Washington D.C.

Located just two hours beyond Philadelphia, Washington D.C. is one of the best day trips from New York City. Spend a day exploring the nation’s beautiful capital city. Seeing the White House and the United States Capitol Building in person will make you feel utterly powerless in the home of such influential decision making. The Vietnam and Korean War Memorials are also an opportunity to reflect on the actions of the United States abroad. 

The Hamptons

Step into the life of the rich and famous by visiting the Hamptons for a day. Drive out to the end of Long Island to lay on the sandy beaches, explore Sag Harbor and spot celebrity homes. The Hamptons truly feels like a scene out of a teenage summer movie. If you are a keen shopper, the Tanger Premium Outlets are are convenient stop on the way back into New York City. 

Niagara Falls

Despite being a long seven-hour drive from New York City, Niagara Falls is certainly well worth an overnight trip. Few places in the world can rival the sensation of the falls’ mist on your face. Explore the American side of the falls, or perhaps cruise on the Maid of the Mist to experience Niagara Falls up close. Niagara Falls is spectacular at any time of year, with the refreshing mist in the summer to the frozen icicles in the winter. 

Where to Eat in New York City

New York City undoubtedly has some of the most delicious food in the whole country. Due to being such a diverse city, you can certainly find all your favourite cuisines here. Specifically, the Italian and Chinese cuisine here are some of the best in the world. The New York City Travel Guide will highlight some of my favourite hidden gems around the city. 

Schnipper's, New York City, NY, USA
Schnipper's

For all your classic American favourites, including hot dogs and sloppy joe. The Times Square location is convenient for a quick feed, and is a fun place to try some diner-style American foods. Schnipper’s has been a favourite since I discovered it in 2010. 

Tyga

For delicious Asian fusion dishes. Tyga is a beautiful restaurant located on the edge of SoHo, and makes a great place to catch up with new and old friends for dinner and drinks. Order a few smaller plates to share among the group to make the most of their mouth-watering menu.

Murray's Bagels, New York City, NY, USA
Murray's Bagels

For classic New York-style bagels. A stop at Murray’s Bagels is the perfect way to end your morning High Line walk. My recommendation is to order take-out and walk nearby to Washington Square Park to enjoy your bagel in the sunshine. You will truly feel like a New York City local!

Lombardi's

For a huge meal at America’s first pizzeria! Lombardi’s is a gorgeous restaurant tucked away in Little Italy, and has claimed the honorary title of ‘America’s First Pizzeria’. And trust me, the food does not disappoint. Huge plates of pizza and pasta filled our bellies and our hearts here. 

Eataly, New York City, NY, USA
Eataly

For fresh Italian market-style food. Despite being a large chain across the United States and beyond, Eataly has not lost its authentic market charm. Shop for fresh pastas and pastries, or dine-in for a delicious meal shared with friends and family. You can easily spend hours here trying all three courses. There are two locations in New York City – Flatiron and Downtown. 

Where to Stay in New York City

Being such a diverse city, there are many different pockets of New York City to explore. Despite this, Manhattan specifically is very walkable, as there are so many sights to take in along the way. However, all central locations are accessible via subway which is a fun experience in itself. 

In saying that, I usually try to stay in a different part of the city each time to explore its neighbourhoods in more depth. Times Square is great for a first visit to New York City, being located to main sightseeing locations including Times Square and Central Park. Otherwise Chelsea, Bowery and the Upper West Side are alternative central options with a more local vibe. Staying further out in Brooklyn or Queens may have more rental options for those looking for larger spaces. 

The New York City Travel Guide will cover some of my favourite accommodation options across the city. 

The Empire Hotel

For any Gossip Girl lovers like myself, The Empire Hotel is actually the property that Chuck Bass owns in the show. Being able to stay here was such a fangirl moment, and truly felt like the luxurious experience that the Upper West Side is known for. The rooms were both cozy and elegant, and the rooftop provided incredible views over the city. Located near Columbus Circle and Central Park, the property makes is a convenient location for exploring the Upper West Side and Midtown. 

Visit The Empire Hotel website here

Renaissance New York Chelsea Hotel

Renaissance New York Chelsea Hotel is a Marriot Bonvoy-owned property, exceeding the chain’s standard of service in all aspects. The rooms felt incredibly comfortable and private, despite being tucked away in the heart of busy Chelsea. If you are arriving into New York Penn Station, the hotel is located only a few blocks walk away, close to favourite restaurants including Eataly and within walking distance of the High Line. 

Visit the Renaissance New York Chelsea Hotel website here

CitizenM New York Bowery Hotel

I am a huge fan of the CitizenM hotel chain, having stayed in their properties in both New York City and Copenhagen. The service is always incredibly friendly, with staff always having offered great local recommendations. The beds are incredibly comfortable, with sweeping views over Manhattan. I enjoyed being able to work from the lobby cafe, as well as explore nearby neighbourhoods including Chinatown and SoHo. The group also has another property in Times Square which I would recommend for first time visitors to New York City!

Visit the CitizenM New York Bowery Hotel website here

The New Yorker

The New Yorker is classic art deco hotel, which transports you back to New York City’s roaring ’20’s era. The hotel is part of the Wyndham group, and is a more affordable option for those looking to stay in Midtown. The property is located directly across from New York Penn Station and Madison Square Garden, making it a great option for any sporting or music events you may wish to experience. 

Visit The New Yorker website here

Pod Times Square Hotel

New York City is undeniably expensive, especially when it comes to the cost of accommodation. Pod Times Square Hotel was a great budget option located just a few blocks from Times Square. Despite being a budget option, I found the room to be incredibly comfortable, and the service to be really friendly. The central location made it even easier to save on transport costs around the city, with some budget food options nearby for smaller meals. The chain also has three additional locations in Brooklyn, Midtown and Murray Hill. 

Visit the Pod Times Square Hotel website here

Getting Around New York City

New York City is quite an easy city to navigate, having been laid out in a grid formation for the most part. There are a few public transport options, although Manhattan is also easily walkable with lots of sights to see along the way. The New York City Travel Guide will cover some of the best options for getting around the city.

Cycling

Central Park Cycling, New York City, NY, USA

New York City is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the United States, with many dedicated cycling lanes across the five boroughs. The cheapest and easiest way to rent a bike (including e-bikes) is through Citi Bike, operated by Lyft. Using the Lyft app, you can find all available bikes near you. This is such a fun way to explore the city, especially the massive area of Central Park. 

Tour Bus

If you only have a few days to spend in New York City, then Big Bus New York City is another easy option to get around. 

Although being much more expensive than public transport, it offers the convenience of being catered to tourists. It will take you right past all the best tourist attractions in the city, leaving you with the choice which stops you want to explore further. A two-day ticket will allow you the most flexibility to explore at your leisure during your short visit to New York City. 

Tickets can be booked on the Big Bus website here

Public Transit

Subway

The New York City subway system is one of the most extensive in the world, connecting millions of people across all five boroughs. Riding it is a fun experience in itself, and I recommend it as the easiest and fastest way to cover distance in the city. Apple Maps gives great subway directions for those not yet used to the network. 

MetroCards can be purchased at ticket machines in most subway stations.

Ferry

Ferry is another convenient and scenic way to get around New York City, particularly if you are hoping to cross the East River or head to Staten Island. Most Routes depart from the Wall Street port, with the Staten Island Ferry instead departing from Battery Park alongside the Statue of Liberty ferry service. Ferries generally depart every eight minutes.

Tickets can be purchased on the NYC Ferry App or at any ferry landing. 

Airports

Due to its massive scale, there are three main airports servicing New York City. Each is home to different airline hubs and destinations. It is important to check the arrival and departure airport prior to travelling, as sometimes they may differ. 

John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) is the largest of the three, and most major international airlines operate out of here. It is also a hub for American Airlines, Delta and JetBlue. JFK is easily accessible via the Long Island Rail Road, stopping at either of Penn Station or Grand Central Terminal for easy access to the New York City subway system. 

La Guardia Airport (LGA) is the smallest of the three airports, located in Queens. LGA is a hub for domestic and regional travel, including to Canada. Most domestic airlines operate out of LGA, with its newly renovated Terminal B and Terminal C. LGA is accessible by Long Island Rail Road and LaGuardia Link. 

Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) is another large airport located just over the state border in New Jersey. Many major international airlines also service EWR, especially those partnered with United Airlines, as EWR is a United hub. Manhattan is easily accessible via AirTrain operated by NJ Transit. 

Safety in New York City

Almost every New York City Travel Guide highlights that New York City is a safe city to visit, including for families. Manhattan in particular is one of the safest areas in the whole country due to its high CCTV and police presence. So, safety should definitely not be a factor that turns tourists away from visiting.

However, as with any large city there can be instances of petty theft. So, always stay aware of your surroundings especially in tourist hotspots including Times Square, as well as keeping your valuables locked in a safe place. I would also recommend using a ride-share app rather than hiring a car to get around the city itself to avoid any road accidents in heavy traffic. 

 

*Please note that all prices are current as of the publication date of this post.

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