New York is one of the most famous cities in the world, some say the ‘capital of the world’ and it’s so obvious why! It’s unlike any other city, there are so many different cultures represented, all mixed together to create a city full of life, colour, opportunity & excitement. No matter where you’re from in the world, I believe you’d find your place in NYC.
From a tourist perspective there literally is a bit of everything here and I couldn’t imagine ever getting bored. It’s hard to say how long you should visit New York for, there’s so much do to and I’m sure you could spend months filling your days with everything New York has to offer. But if you’re on holidays and really want to cover all the hotspots, then you need at least a week.
Before heading to NYC I was searching and searching for accommodation that was within my budget. It’s always been an expensive city but I found this much harder compared to my last visit. Then a friend told me about a booking website called Hotwire! This was such a blessing because were able to get a four-star hotel in Times Square and saved over 50% compared with other booking websites. So Hotwire has the option to book mystery hotels (under the ‘hot rate hotels” tab), you can search by star rating, percentage of positive reviews and in a specific area. Once you’ve booked and paid in full, you’re told straightaway at which hotel you’ll be staying. We were so happy when we learnt we’ll be staying in the Holiday Inn Express, Times Square, and really, in New York you’re not going to be spending too much time in your room anyway. If you’re not into these kind of surprises, you do have the option to book a specific hotel, still at a discounted rate. Click on the link at the bottom of this page, to be taken to amazing hotel deals.
Now let me tell you how we filled our days. Our aim was to experience a bit of everything; culture, history, arts, fashion & sightseeing. I’ll start with the free and cheaper things we did, because these can be harder to find in such a rich city!
Times Square: I have no doubt you’ll stumble across Times Square nearly every day while you’re in the city. It’s such an awesome and unique place and I suggest really taking sometime to just sit on the big steps and watch everything that is going on. Grab a hot dog and just hang out for a while, with the big and bright adverts, street performers & tourists posing for photos, there is always (night or day) something going on.
Studio Audience, (Late Night with Seth Myers): America is the entertainment capital of the world right?!? Full of the world’s biggest superstars, so why not try seeing some of them in the flesh?! One of the funniest things we did in NY was join the studio audience of Late Night with Seth Myers. The tickets are free, you’ll just need to create an account on http://1iota.com/Tickets and request seats for the show you want to see and on what date. There are a lot of options of the shows you can pick from, including The Tonight Show! They’d usually let you know 2 weeks prior to the date you requested if you’re one of the lucky ones. It was a really fun night, well organised, we were never just sitting around waiting for something to happen. Hopefully you aren’t too attached to your phone because you can’t use any phones or camera’s in the studio.
Staten Island Ferry: If you want a free way to see the statue of Liberty, this is it. The ferry crosses the harbour and sails right past her. Although you don’t get as close as liberty tour operators do, this is still pretty cool.
High Line: The high line is an old railway line that is now a walking track with a view. It’s 2.3km and runs on the west side of Manhattan. Before it was refurbished to the artsy walking track it is today, it was overrun with weeds, rubbish & junkies. It’s about 30feet off the ground and has great views of the city and the Hudson River…. and also into some people’s apartments. It’s one of the few places you can walk in NYC without having to stop at traffic lights every 100m. The high line represents acceptance and is a place that anyone, no matter your beliefs or where you come from, can come and enjoy.
Central Park: If you’re tired from all your site seeing, I always love grabbing some food from one of the food trucks on the street and finding a quiet spot in Central Park. In a big city it’s so nice to get a bit of peace and quiet away from the traffic. When I first went to New York I was surprised at how massive central park actually is, it’s huge, you could easily spend a whole day just in the park. Be sure to check out Strawberry fields, dedicated to John Lennon and where you’ll see the Imagine mosaic sign. The Alice in Wonderland statute is pretty cool and Central Park Zoo.
On the outskirts of the park, you’ll see plenty of people who you can hire push bikes from. It’s a great way to see a lot of the park. I’m personally not a huge fan of bike riding and with the traffic that does flow through Central Park it got a bit busy at times. I was freaking out whenever it got busy but Lawrence loved it.
Walking Tour: Free Tours By Foot is a company we stumbled across while googling. They offer many different walking tours and food tours all over Manhattan. You’ll need to head over to their website and once you’ve picked the tour you want to do, just add your name to reserve your place. We went on two walking tours and loved both of them, the guides we had were full of interesting stories and history about the area. We did a mid-town tour; being the heart of NYC it was interesting to hear about how mid-town has transformed over the years and also loved hearing the stories behind some of the city’s most iconic buildings. We also did a walking tour of Harlem; it’s a very different feel once you step off the subway in Harlem and not at all in a negative way. This neighbourhood has such a beautiful sense of community, rich culture and incredible history. We had strangers welcoming us to the area and people we passed on the street (we were clearly a group of tourist) who wanted to have a chat and tell us about the area of upper Manhattan that they have always called home and how it’s changed over the recent years. I loved Harlem and would be happy to spend more time there when I’m next in New York.
Now these are ‘free’ tours but it’s expected that everyone tips at the end.
Tom’s Restaurant: This will probably only interest you if you have watched Seinfeld…. But you know that shot of the restaurant they use in every episode, well this is the restaurant, or “coffee shop” that was used. The inside isn’t the same but I still needed to go so I could get a photo out the front. After you’ve finished posing, the food inside is pretty good as well.
Cheap Theatre Tickets: It’s hard to go to New York City and not see at least one Broadway show, so if you’re turned off by the price you can get discount tickets to many of the shows playing. Under the big staircase in Times Square is the TKTS discount booths. This is where you can get tickets for shows playing that night, at heavily discounted prices. But you could potentially be in line for 2 hours, so it would depend on how badly you want cheap tickets.
9/11 Memorial: I think they have done an amazing job creating this memorial and have shown respect to everyone who lost their lives that day. Please try and be as quite as possible while visiting.
Walking over the Brooklyn Bridge: This is something that every man and his dog seem to do nearly every day. I’ve only over done this in the evening though, so maybe that has something to do with it. If you can deal with the afternoon crowds it is a great time to go. The sun is going down and making Manhattans skyline a gorgeous pink colour. Be sure to stay off the bike path though, because riders won’t hesitate to tell people to get the fuck out of their way!!!!!! Brooklyn Bridge was the first steel-wire suspension bridge constructed and is one of the oldest bridges in the United States. It’s really beautiful and definitely worth the walk.
We walked from the Manhattan side to Brooklyn, only a short walk from the end of the bridge is the 1hotel. I highly recommend heading up to their rooftop bar for a drink. If you wanted a table and food you’d need to book ahead and when we enquired there was a minimum spend, which varied night to night. In the end we just had a couple of drinks, expensive but well worth it, from one side you have the sunset and the other a perfect view of the Brooklyn Bridge.
American Museum of Natural History: The museum is super easy to get to as there is a subway station right underneath. The entry fee is a suggested donation of $23 per person, but you can really pay whatever you want. If you wanted to see any exhibition’s (there’ll be pamphlets at the entry showing what exhibitions they currently have showing) these are an additional cost. We were only interested in seeing the dinosaurs so just paid a donation for general admission. The first time I went to NY, a visit to the museum didn’t even cross my mind. I’m so glad we went this time, seeing the dinosaurs was incredible, kind of surreal.
Top of the Rock: My favourite tourist attraction! I’ve been to New York twice and both times I’ve gone up the top. There are two levels of the rooftop, take your time looking around as there is so much to see. One side you get the most perfect view of the Empire State building & downtown! From the other side you see the whole of Central Park. Admission is $34pp and you have to book for a certain time, or for $39pp you’ll get a map of the skyline and a professional photo taken of you on the rooftop that will later be emailed to you. I wouldn’t bother paying extra for the photo, there will always be someone around to take a photo for you! I recommend booking to go up early morning, we went up at 8am. There was no crowds and plenty of space to take photos.
Circle Line Cruises: Another company we stumbled across on google. This is the only sightseeing cruise that goes all the way around Manhattan. It was awesome to sail under the Brooklyn Bridge and see the NYC skyline from the water. The boat goes really close to Liberty Island as well. We booked these tickets online a couple of days out and it cost $42 per person. There is a host on the boat who is full of plenty of fun facts and interesting stories.
Shopping: Of course shopping in NYC is a given. I love that even though New York is a high roller in the fashion industry, you can still find something for everyone here and for every shopping budget. I’ll list a few of my favourite shopping areas –
- Broadway, along the whole street there are so many shops from big retails stores to smaller boutiques, mainly between Soho area and Times Square.
- Soho, just amazing. There are less big retailers here and more smaller chains. You could start at the corner of Canal St & Broadway, head north then turn right down spring St…. Lots to be found around there.
- 5th avenue. This is where you’ll find your high end retailers. You need to make a least one visit to the iconic Tiffany & Co. even if it’s just to browse, it’s so beautiful in there.
- Times Square, there are heaps of shops around here, mainly big chains like Forever 21, Sunglasses Hut, Champs Sports and Sephora.
- Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, known for nightclubs and music venues by night and cafes and boutique shopping by day.
One of the best things about NYC is that you don’t need to have something booked or planned every day. Wake up, walk outside and I promise there will always be something going on. New York is the perfect place to just wander, with the cities grid system it’s near impossible to get lost.
You’re in the city of dreams, somewhere you can be whoever or whatever you want. Enjoy every moment!
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