New York City is one of the most iconic cities in the entire world. "The Melting Pot" has well over eight million people sprawled throughout its some 300 square mile area making it not only the most populous place, but also the most densely populated city in the United States. With over 800 languages spoken, it is safe to say that the Empire State is the cultural capital of the world.
There are ways to visit New York like a local, but if you have never been there are certain things that you must do.
Getting to New York City
Being such a major city, it is no surprise that New York is very connected. It is served by three major airports as well as major rail lines and buses. Each of the airports has transportation into the city.
Arriving at JFK
Take the AirTran to Jamaica Station (unless you are going downtown then take it to Howard Beach Station). AirTran is $5 and you pay when you exit at the station. You can also buy a MertroCard when you get there.
Arriving at LGA
Take bus Q70 to Roosevelt Avenue Station. You can buy a MetroCard in the airport.
Arriving at EWR
Take the Northeast Corridor train.
Rideshare or taxis will cost you around $40-$60 into the city from the airports.
There are many New York residents and a proportionally equal amount of tourist. The law of supply and demand would suggest that your chances of finding cheap lodging are very slim. If you haven't tried out Airbnb yet, New York would be a great city to start. Not only will your lodging be cheaper than a hotel, you stand the chance of staying with an awesome local. You will most likely want to look for a place near a subway station.
New York city is separated into five boroughs; Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and The Bronx. Staying in Manhattan will put you nearer most attractions, but if you want a more cultural experience you may opt to stay somewhere in Brooklyn or Queens.
Exploring New York will involve a lot of walking. You will have no issue getting those 10,000 steps. Public transit is going your fastest option for getting around in most cases. You don't want the hassle (or expensive) of safely parking a car and the city is not notorious for traffic without good reason. Keep in mind that there aren't escalators/elevators at every station, so lots of stairs. Most stations will have some sort of accessibility but be prepared to climb up and down stairs.
Grab a 7-day unlimited MetroCard for $32 (+$1 for a new card). This will give you unlimited subway and bus rides.
If you have a navigation app like Google Maps to your phone, you can get transit or walking directions to wherever you want to go.
Now the fun part. There is surely not a shortage of things to do in the Big Apple. I will preface this by saying that this may be a packed itinerary for some. You may want to add or remove activities to adjust to your desired pace. Here is how I would spend my first weekend in NYC:
Start with a hearty breakfast and a good cup of coffee. You will need the calories and energy. New York is my favorite food city and there are so many exceptional places to grab a bite. Ask your host for recommendations or peruse Yelp for joints near you.
From here we will start Downtown (Lower Manhattan). Take a stroll around the Financial District (FiDi) and soak in the sights and the madness. Stop for photo-ops at the New York Stock Exchange and the Charging Bull sculpture. Visit the Federal Hall and Trinity Church (the burial place of Alexander Hamilton). From there you will want to make your way down to Battery Park Park for a free ferry boat ride that takes you past the Statue of Liberty and wonderful views of the skyline. The ferry runs every 30 minutes.
There is an opportunity to take a ferry to the Liberty and Ellis Island. This tour takes you up close to the iconic statue and you have the chance to visit the pedestal and even the crown of the statue! However, doing the tour is a huge time investment so you may not want to do it on your first visit. I highly recommend that everyone take the tour and visit the statue at some point for its beauty and the islands for the amazing historic value. If you do chose to do this, book your tickets way in advanced!
After your ferry of choice docks back at Battery Park, make your way up to the World Trade Center. Take in the solidarity of the 9/11 Memorial. Seeing the names engraved in the fountains in the footprints of the Twin Towers is truly a powerful and somber sight. If you chose, you can visit the museum or take a ride up to One World Observatory. These will both cost for admission.
You can now make your way over to Two Bridges for another photo-op. Catch both the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges in one incredible vista. Definitely worth the trip.
You will surely have worked up an appetite by now. Head up to Chealsea Market and grab some killer tacos and horchata at Los Tacos No.1.
While you are there, you can check out the beautiful elevated nearby park called the High Line.
Continue your day with a trip up to Midtown to visit the MoMa, which is free on Fridays from 4-8pm. This can also be your first opportunity to experience Times Square in its full hectic glory.
If it is baseball season and the team is in town, skip the MoMa and head up to the Bronx after a quick bite to eat. It is a no-brainer to go see a Yankees game!
If you're not going to a game, take this opportunity to feast on more New York cuisine. New York is ripe with excellent food choices so finding dinner should not be difficult.
After dinner, take in one of the best views of the New York skyline at the Brooklyn Height Promenade. This is truly breathtaking the first time you see it so will definitely want to soak it in.
After some late night exploration (check out Times Square later at night), head back for a good night's rest for the next day!
Get an early start on the day and go for a run somewhere near you before breakfast. On my first visit, it was across the Brooklyn Bridge. You are bound to have some cool sights near you. When in Rome.
After breakfast, prepare for the evening by purchasing discounted theater tickets at TKTS. There are four locations, each of which will offer different shows and operate at different times. Avoid the Times Square location unless you are a fan of long lines. Download the TKTS app to see the current offerings.
After you have scored your tickets, go to Rockefeller Plaza for a little exploration. I recommend you do one viewpoint from way above, whether that is Top of the Rock, One World Observatory, the Empire State Building, or another vista. You will have to pay for it but it is great to see even just once.
I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon in NYC that strolling through Central Park. Between lunch and its shear size, this will easily eat up the rest of your day.
Use the late afternoon to freshen up before dinner. Account for travel time and do not be late to your show!
After the show check out some of the New York City nightlife. There are hundreds of bars and nightclubs scattered around the city. Get out there and party with locals (and fellow tourists). Once again, when in Rome.
Sunday is usually inevitably a travel day as you have to turn back to reality and leave the city that never sleeps behind. Use the day to take any sights or things that you did not get to do before you have to return. Or use it to begin to plan when you are able to return and have the time of your life again.
So there you have it. You have all of the information that you need to conquer the Concrete Jungle. What are your favorite things to do in New York? How many nicknames did we mention in this article? Leave a comment below!