Whatever Alicia Keys sang about New York can’t be any truer. The Big Apple is one of the most prominent metropolises in the world, luring 50 million visitors to come and bask in its splendor year after year. It is packed to the brim with everything you could look for in a first-class city: nightclubs, museums, shopping centers, restaurants, and historic attractions. Also dubbed as the “City that Never Sleeps,” NYC is also the ultimate hub for business and finance, media and culture, renowned buildings, as well as the United Nations Headquarters.
With all of these in your plate, you may find it difficult to narrow down your choices given a limited time in the city. Here is a brief travel guide to make your planning much easier.
In a Nutshell
Situated near one of the world’s biggest harbors, NYC has a land area of just 302.64 square miles that cater to its more than 8.3 residents. This makes the city the most densely-populated area in the entire United States.
Founded in 1624 as a Dutch Republic trading post, NYC has surely come a long way since then. Formerly known as “New Amsterdam,” it became the American capital from 1785 to 1790. Nowadays, NYC, with its strong impact on business, education, media, technology, fashion, among many aspects, is a beacon of hope for locals and tourists alike.
Getting Around NYC
Strolling around NYC can be done all day and all night, with its 24-hour transportation systems always ready to serve locals and tourists alike. Its most famous forms of transportation include the extensive New York City subway system, and the Grand Central Terminal, considered the biggest hub for railway travel within New York and other parts of the country.
You can also ride any of the 7,000 buses served by the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Servicing an average of 200,000 customers a day through NYC’s five major boroughs, this bus system is considered one of the busiest in the entire world. Because NYC is a harbor city, water travel is also feasible. Its busiest dock is the Staten Island Ferry, which connects Staten Island to Manhattan.Of course, a NYC trip is not complete without riding any of its famous big, yellow taxis. Fare start at $2.50, with an additional $0.50 per mile of travel.
By air, there are numerous options for travelers for domestic and international tours. You can alight either at the busy John F. Kennedy International Airport or the La Guardia Airport in Queens, and the Newark Liberty International in New Jersey.
Annual NYC Festivities
With the many activities that can be done in NYC, you definitely can visit it at any time of the year. However, noting the follow annual festivities on your calendar, as listed below, can help you plan your trip.
If you are a fan of culture and the arts, then make sure to visit NYC in January, especially during the New York Times Arts and Leisure weekend.
For a spectacular fireworks display, plan your trip around the Lunar New Year and Parade and the Chinese New Year Festival at colorful Chinatown.
Are you a dog lover? Then you will definitely enjoy the Westminster Dog Show, held every February at the Madison Square Garden.
Celebrate the city’s oldest and largest parade by visiting NYC for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which covers Fifth Ave. from 44th and 86th streets.
Macy’s Flower Show is an annual festival that will treat your eyes (and nose) to the beauty and scents of blooms from all around the world.
Witness New York’s finest cinematic outputs during the Tribeca Film Festival, which was started by renowned actor Robert De Niro. In just a few years, it has managed to live up to the standards of the respected Cannes and Sundance movie festivals.
Welcome spring with relative joy by attending the Easter Parade and Easter Bonnet Festival, held annually at Fifth street.
Give your taste buds a treat by dropping by the Ninth Avenue Food Festival, a 15-block celebration of gastronomic treats from every corner of the world.
Enjoy the sights of outlandish costumes and flamboyant floats during NYC’s Pride Week, celebrated by gays, lesbians and transgenders from all over the state.
Perhaps the best way to celebrate American Independence is at NYC, specifically during the colorful Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks. Feast your eyes with fabulous fireworks that light up the sky alongside orchestra music.
Stay healthy even during your vacation by attending Summer Streets. Covering three August Sundays, this festivity lasts from 7am to 1pm. Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park are closed during Summer Streets, to pave the way for dancing, strolling, biking, and other activities.
Are you a fan of lawn tennis? Then make sure to drop by the US Open Tennis Event, held annually at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
Experience New York’s finest films at the renowned New York Film Festival. This event has actually paved the way for the stardom of numerous directors, such as Martin Scorsese and Jean-Luc Godard, to name a few.
Be the first one to see the runway’s up and coming trends by gracing the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. Entry is by invitation only!
Experience a lively Halloween tradition by witnessing the energetic kids and adults go trick-or-treating during the Village Halloween Parade.
Witness giant balloon floats and prominent guest performances by timing your NYC visit with Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Behold the sight of the world’s largest Christmas tree and its 25,000 blinking lights by gracing the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting event, held every November.
Experience a New Year’s celeb unlike any other by counting down the seconds prior to the crystal ball drop at the Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration.
Must-Visit NYC Attractions
Whatever time of the year you decide to visit NYC, your itinerary should include these must-visit sights of the city:
1) Empire State Building
Hailed as the ultimate embodiment of NYC, this 2nd highest structure in the city gives you a bird’s eye view of the NYC skyline. Open until night, the Empire State Building features an observation deck in its 86th floor where you can enjoy the picturesque contrast of the city lights and the night sky. Admission is $19 for kids, $22 for senior citizens and $25 for adults.
2) Times Square
Considered as the “Crossroads of the World,” Times Square is home to eye-catching billboards and impressive street performances. Indulge your penchant for shopping by visiting any of the flagship stores around the square.
3) Central Park
Take a break from skylines and skyscrapers by enjoying Mother Nature’s finest views at NYC’s famous Central Park. Occupying 843 acres of prime land, Central Park is definitely a can’t-miss attraction in NYC. Entrance is free for the park itself; however, you have to pay to visit its main attractions, such as the Belvedere Castle, Friedsam Memorial Carousel, Dela Corte Theatre and Central Park Zoo.
4) Statue of Liberty and the Ellis Island
Known as the city’s most recognizable landmark and the symbol for hope for many immigrants, the Statue of Liberty is accessible with a simple ferry ride. The Liberty Tour also comes with the Ellis Island tour, which takes you to a museum dedicated for the country’s 12 million hopeful immigrants. Ticket fees range from $24 to $27.
Witness the world’s best theatrical shows by visiting the Broadway district. Here, you can watch prominent plays such as Annie, Chicago, The Lion King, MacBeth and Mamma Mia, to name a few.
6) Yankee Stadium
No NYC trip would be complete without a tour around the Yankee Stadium, or the “House that Ruth Built.” Even if there is no baseball game, you can take a guided tour through the Monument Park, dugout, batting, and caging areas. Tickets for adults at $20, for senior citizens at $15. Children are free to enter.
There are actually 7 chinatowns in NYC alone and 9 in the New York City metropolitan area—so take your pick or try all of them. But if you are short on time you should go to the Chinatown in Manhattan as it is the largest Chinatown outside of, well, China. It is that Chinese diaspora and home to the largest Chinese immigrant population in the Western hemisphere. So if you are in the mood for authentic Chinese, you will definitely find it in Manhattan’s Chinatown.
8) Little Italy
Little Italy is also situated in Manhattan and is home to a large concentration of authentic Italian stores and restaurants. Although named Little Italy, there is a fair amount of diversity in this neighborhood as many of the Italian immigrants have moved elsewhere.
SoHo (short for South of Houston St.) is a neighborhood situated in Lower Manhattan and is known for being the home of many famous artists and art galleries. More recently though, it has been known for its shopping as it has a wide array of both boutique and national chain stores for shoppers to rejoice in.
10) National 9/11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center
Pay your respects to more than 3,000 lives lost during the September 11, 2011 terrorist attacks by visiting this memorial center. Admission is free, but you need to make reservations in person.
11) NYC Museums
Truly a seat of culture, NYC plays home to several museums of different disciplines. Some of them are located along the Mile, ranging from East 82nd to East 105th. Here you can visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of the City of New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Neue Galerie, National Academy Museum and School, National Design Museum, The Jewish Museum and the El Museo del Barrio. Other places to visit within the area include the Whitney Museum of American Art, American Museum of Natural History, Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space and the New York Historical Society Museum.
12) Flushing Meadows/ Corona Park
As the location of the US Open, this 1,255-acre park features numerous attractions for kids and the kids at heart. Along the area, you can visit the Queens Theatre, the New York Hall of Science and the Queens Zoo, to name a few.
13) Brooklyn Bridge
Designed by John Roebling, this engineering marvel is one of NYC’s foremost structures. A stroll along the 5,989 pavement is truly tiring, but a fantastic view of Manhattan and the New York City harbor is enough to reinvigorate you!
Where to Eat in NYC
The city that never sleeps has no shortage of places that feature mouth-watering treats to work up the palates of even the most-discerning epicures. Here are some of the great places to dine in in the Big Apple.
1) Scaletta Ristorante
Situated at 50 W. 77th St, near the American Museum of Natural History, Scaletta serves scrumptious Northern Italian food in a very gratifying ambiance. From capellina primavera to veal scaloppini, their menu features all of Northern Italy’s indigenous delights. Warm, hospitable service and home-style cooking await you at Scaletta. This West Side spot is mostly ideal for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, weddings, and corporate events.
CLOSED since March 2018
2) Tribeca Grill
Located at 375 Greenwich St in Manhattan, Tribeca Grill is co-owned by restaurateur Drew Nieporent and Hollywood superstar Robert De Niro. It has been known as one of New York’s prime downtown restaurant landmarks, with its menu featuring robust dishes like porcini mushrooms and braised short ribs. If you don’t mind spending a little more for a bottle of wine, Tribeca is great place to go, with its extensive wine list of some of the world’s finest. In fact, its 20,000-bottle list puts it as one of the seven restaurants in NYC to have earned the Grand Wine Award from Wine Spectator Magazine.
3) Blue Hill
Located in Greenwich Village, Blue Hill is a secret haven three steps below street level, occupying a landmark “speakeasy” just off of Washington Square Park. Its menu showcases local food and an extensive wine list; its ingredients are all obtained from nearby farms, such as the Blue Hill Farm in Mass, and Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, which is a 45-minute drive from NYC. You can choose between the regular menu or the “Farmer’s Feast,” which features five courses from the week’s harvest.
4) Osteria Lupa Romana
Head down to 170 Thompson St, if you want an affordable yet equally satisfying dining experience. A casual Italian restaurant featuring traditional Roman trattoria fare of to die-for quality at a very modest price, Lupa is manned by Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, the compelling forces behind an eclectic group of highly-acclaimed restaurants. Lupa is also known for its rustic, laid-back ambiance.
5) Rothmann’s Steakhouse
If you’re searching for a low-key, relatively affordable place that serves great, gargantuan steaks, Rothmann’s can be your best bet! Located at 3 East 54th Street in NYC, Rothmann’s is the ideal place to savor top-notch quality prime-aged beef, good-till-the-last-bite chicken, and mouth-watering seafood dishes. What’s more, you’ll be welcomed with a hospitable staff and a classic atmosphere.
Where to Stay in NYC When on a Budget
From luxury to standard, here are some of the spots in the Big Apple where you can rest your head at the end of a long day without draining your wallet.
1) Second Home on Second Avenue
Whether it is Peruvian, Tribal, Caribbean, 20th-century Modern, Second Home on Second Avenue boasts sophisticated themes for its rooms. With rates ranging from $80 to $195, their rooms feature stylish, ornamental touches that are intended to exude a cultural motif. Staying in five of its quarters will require sharing a bathroom, but the charm of this 19th-century townhouse makes that walk across the hall in the middle of the night all worth it.
Address: 221 Second Ave., between 13th and 14th Sts., 212-677-3161, secondhome.citysearch.com
Property CLOSED (updated March 2020)
2) Howard Johnson Express Inn
This East Village over-nighter is ideal for people who spend more time hitting the streets than hitting the hay. Their room rates start at $109 for a single and include a continental breakfast.
Address: 135 E. Houston St., between First and Second Aves.; 212-358-8844, hojo.com.
3) Cosmopolitan Hotel now known as The Frederick Hotel
TriBeCa’s latest bargain hotel, The Frederick Hotel offers comfy standard rooms (rates starting at $167), which are ideal for those who come for business trips or are merely looking to stay downtown. However, if you do like to have a bit more space, they can still accommodate. Just book one of their Junior King suite at a modest rate of $367 per night (updated March 2020).
Address: 95 W. Broadway, at Chambers St.; 212-566-1900, https://www.frederickhotelnyc.com/
4) East Village Bed and Coffee
Let you inner child out at this funky nine-room B&C (no breakfast included though), where room options include the first-floor Treehouse room (which was used as Jennifer Tilly’s bedroom in the French film, Happy End), the relaxing top-floor Zen room, and the top-floor Children’s room, which is meant for “grown up kids” and decorated with the proprietor’s childhood artwork, a chalkboard wall, and a desk from the intermediate school down the street. And it won’t take too long to save up your allowance to stay here, as rooms start at just $80, with all taxes included.
Address: 110 Ave. C, between 7th and 8th Sts.; 212-533-4175; bedandcoffee.com
With so many things to see and do in New York City, one week may not be enough. To make sure you get to enjoy NYC at its finest, plan ahead, take the walking tour, and of course, stash away some money!