T raveling to New York City can be intimidating as there's so much to see (and eat) and never enough time. Luckily, as an 18 year old straight out of high school I was spontaneous enough to move to the city and test out what experiences are worth it so you don't have to.
This guide will cover the sites worth seeing but mostly the best way to experience the city as a traveler and not a tourist.
The Lower East Side and Williamsburg are my two favorite areas of the city. SoHo, Tribeca, and Greenwich Village are all overrated. The Lower East Side is so beautifully artsy and Williamsburg makes you feel like the hipster we all want to be (and it's your best shot at seeing a celebrity!!!)
Here is my ideal Sunday morning:
The once in Williamsburg find bottomless brunch and keep your eyes peeled for the Sprouse Twins, they're known to explore on Sunday afternoons.
My favorite brunch is the Rabbithole but honestly there's too many good places to recommend only one. If there's people there and it looks cute, it's probably good.
For the same price as a Metro ride (or covered by the unlimited pass) you can take the Roosevelt Island tram from Midtown East to Roosevelt Island to enjoy the skyline from distance, bike the island, and maybe have a picnic.
The exciting part about New York isn't that there's much to do per se, but just a contagiously enjoyable atmosphere to soak in.
By taking the tram, you get to enjoy the skyline from above and experience the less touristy areas of the city.
I get lost every time I go into Central Park. I just walk around on all of the diagonal paths and I end up 20 blocks away from where I thought I was.
But that's the fun of Central Park. No matter where you go, there more park to see and more rocks to climb.
Climbing onto a rock in Central Park is where you're destined to get your best "I'm in New York" picture.
The Chelsea Market has an atmosphere that is hard to replicate. It is almost like an artsy warehouse filled with delicious food.
Los Tacos has the best cheap tacos in town. Then take your tacos and walk the Highline as far as your heart desires.
On an average day, the Highline has artists, musicians, and a bunch of adorable laughing children. It is the best place to people watch the gives you an above ground view of the city (which means the best angle to take pictures of the murals).
While you're in Chelsea, wander into a few of the art studios. Most are hole in the wall studios but the artists are outstanding.
New York didn't preserve it's history as well as Boston or Philadelphia, but the history is hidden in between the skyscrapers.
Most visitors know to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met), but many don't know about the medieval castle in Washington Heights, Manhattan. The Cloisters, the Met's branch dedicated to the art and architecture of medieval Europe, is seriously underrated.
Take the 1 train to 191st Station because the graffiti and murals in that station are well worth the extra block than the A trains 190th station.
This is an activity for tourists and New Yorker's alike.
Buy a cheap ticket in the outfield and enjoy drinking and watching a game with the locals. It's definitely worth it.
New York is home to some of the best museums in the country. They are all worth attending, but if you're a college student like I am, you can't afford to pay full price at them all.
The American Museum of Natural History (also known as the Night at the Museum museum) and The Met (including the Cloisters) both have pay what you wish admission. If you don't say what you would like to pay, they will charge you about $25.
The 9/11 memorial is the most cultivating yet heartbreaking museum.
I have spent about 15 hours there and still feel like there is more to see. It is definitely worth the visit.
It has "pay what you wish" hours on Wednesday from 5-8pm but is worth the full price admission.
While you're in the area make sure to visit the Oculus on the site of the old world trade centers.
If you take anything out of this, please PLEASE, take this. DO NOT PAY for an "up close" VIEW OF THE STATUE OF LIBERTY. It is one of the biggest scams of the city.
The Staten Island Ferry is free and runs every 30 minutes throughout the night.
The views of the skyline at night are phenomenal and you get a view of Lady Liberty too.
And lastly, if you must be a tourist and visit Times Square.
At least go between 2-4am and soak up the lights with no one around. It is truly breathtaking (and kinda a waste of electricity tbh). Even people who live there like to pretend they're a tourist now and again.