New York was my first place to get acquainted with the US and I love this city because every block you walk, opens up with something new and something exciting: new buildings, restaurants, shops, sights, attractions, people. There is so much to see and do in the city that you just want to return over and over again.

It’s a huge city with cultural diversity, plenty of opportunities and a lot of places to see.
For me the ideal duration of the visit would be 4-5 days. You won’t see it all, but you still can catch the major attractions and will be able to feel the city in your own special way. Of course you can plan a longer visit to NYC, but I usually try to visit several destinations during my trips to the USA, therefore I manage to visit New York in just several days.

The city has a special vibe and it is personal for every single one who comes to New York. My vibe can be found in the song “New York New York” by Frank Sinatra. Once I’m in New York, I feel that I can make it anywhere and I can do anything. New York gives the feeling that you can succeed in anything and nothing seems impossible here. Maybe it happens because the most of the people in New York are very busy and are always in a rush, trying to succeed in the their own aims, or maybe because of the history of New York and that only adventurers and hard workers migrated here.

In such a huge city there are plenty of tourist attractions. Some of them are more touristic and are always crowded, some others are less touristic and could be considered as hidden gems of New York. I will guide you through the places that I like the most in NYC and would advise everyone to see. But first I feel obliged to give some insider tips that would come handy for the first time visitors to NYC. You can also check my list of the general tips for the US first-time goers that might come handy.

General Tips

Getting to Manhattan from JFK airport: You can either get a yellow taxi which charges a flat rate of $52 plus toll roads to anywhere in Manhattan or use the cheaper way – the AirTrain to Howard Beach ($5 fare) and change to the “A” Subway train if you are going to midtown Manhattan ($2,50 per single subway ride or buy 7-day unlimited card for $31). Alternatively take the AirTrain to Sutphin blvd and take the “E” Subway train to midtown Manhattan.

“A” trains goes on the surface in Brooklyn so you can start your sightseeing right from the train. But it also runs through some of the most dangerous districts of New York. My personal preference is the E train as I vote for the safety.

Tip: AirTrain is a monorail train that connects JFK terminals and Subway stations. Riding the AirTrain between the airport terminals is free. You can board the train at one terminal and disembark at the other (no ticket is needed). You only have to pay at the subway connection stations. It is convenient for those who have a connection flight in JFK airport.

Tip: When flying from JFK Airport check in advance which airline flies from which terminal. That way you will know you station for the AirTrain. You can do it here

You can also consider flying in to Newark Airport. It is located in New Jersey and it will take you the same time to get to Manhattan as from the JFK Airport. The airport is less crowded and border control lines are a lot shorter. You can use the New Jersey Transit train to get to Manhattan quick, easy and cheap. First take the AirTrain to the NJ Transit station and head towards New York Penn station (note, that there is also New Jersey Penn station, so don’t mix up those two). The AirTrain in Newark Airport is similar to the JFK AirTrain, you only have to pay when you connect the other transportation. The ticket costs $5.50. NJ Transit train to Manhattan costs $12.50.

Transportation: New York has one of the most advanced subway systems in the world. The subway itself is quite old and is no peace of art like subway in many other large cities, but no one could doubt its convenience and functionality. As the city is quite large, I suggest using subway as the main mean of transportation to get to the major attractions. A single ride costs $2,50, but I usually buy an unlimited MetroCard for 7 days which costs $30+$1 (new card fee) in the ticket machines. I usually make more that 12 subway rides during my visits, so the $30 card pays off.

Tip: I would not rent a car to get around NYC. The traffic is ridiculous and parking would cost you an arm and a leg.

New York Subway. Image by MTAPhotos / CC2.0

New York Subway. Image by MTAPhotos / CC2.0

Getting around in Manhattan: If you study the map, you will see that the biggest part of the city is formed by rectangular shaped blocks which makes it very easy to get around. There are avenues that go from south to north and streets that go from east to west. The avenues and the streets have numbers. 1st street is in lower Manhattan, while 1st avenue is on the east side. There is also Broadway that is a diagonal street and runs through entire city from north to south. The lower part of Manhattan, however, has no numbers but has street names, which makes getting around a bit more difficult. You can use Google Maps on your smartphone to preload maps for offline use or get a local sim card to stay online and be able to obtain your location and directions.

Safety: In most of the major cities there are safe and unsafe neighborhoods. The safest place to stay in New York would be from 34th St up to the 96th St, but of course it comes with the price. Hotels in midtown Manhattan are generally more expensive than everywhere else. You can also consider staying in the lower Manhattan, which is also generally safe, however the streets get emptier by the night time. Harlem once was known as the unsafe place, but it got better over time. The lower part of Harlem is generally safe, but I would not wander around at night with an expensive camera or a phone out. Brooklyn can also be okay to stay if it’s somewhere near Manhattan. But as a tourist I would avoid Bronx and most parts of Brooklyn at any cost.

Looking uptown. Image by llahbocaj / CC2.0

Looking uptown. Image by llahbocaj / CC2.0

Where to stay

I have been to New York for 6 times and have stayed in different places all the times.

Astor on the Park – location is very good – close to the Central park and subway station. Most of the getting around was on the subway. Rooms are quite small but clean. It was one of the cheapest options. I would recommend this hotel.

Days Hotel Broadway on the 94th street – location is good. Rooms a bit bigger, but generally quite small. Hotel is clean. Close to the subway. Also very cheap comparing to other options. Would recommend this hotel.

Empire hotel – great hotel. Got a really good deal on Orbitz for Christmas. Rooms are quite small, but clean and have everything you need. Hotel itself is located near the Columbus circle thus giving you close access to the major attractions. Would recommend this hotel.

Wolcott Hotel – Probably the best hotel I have ever stayed in New York. We were 3 people and we got a huge room with 3 beds. The view was great. Hotel had all the necessary facilities. And the price was very good. Location is very central. Would definitely recommend this hotel.

Ameritania at Times Square – location beats everything. This hotel is almost on the Times Square which is a huge advantage because you can get to most of the attractions by foot, but also a huge disadvantage as sometimes getting around Times Square is quite difficult due to enormous crowds. The rooms are quite small but that wasn’t a problem. I would also recommend this hotel.

Jazz on Lenox Hostel – actually closed now. But my main comment is that it was surprisingly safe given that it was located in Harlem on the 128th street. I was walking alone at night for 10 straight days. Nothing bad happened. The hostel was pretty much ok considering that I was a student back then.

I would recommend any of those places. They are quite cheap and comfortable. If you can afford it, try Empire, Wolcott and Ameritania. If not, then try to other cheaper options, but keep in mind, that accommodation in New York is always quite expensive.

Main attractions

Day 1
Top of the Rock & Empire State Building
Madison Square Park
Union Square Park
West Village
High Line Park
Pier 83
Harbour Lights Cruise
Times Square

Of course you should look around, look for some cool places and you can easily step aside from the route for a while.

Day 2 –
Little Italy
World Trade Center
9/11 Memorial
NY Federal Reserve
Wall Street
Wall Street Bull
Broadway show

Day 3 –
Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge park
Coney Island
Rangers or Knicks game
Rooftop bars

Day 4 –
Central park
Roosevelt Island
Bryant Park
Empire State Building observation deck

Day 5 –
Shopping day

Empire State Building & Top of the Rock – Observation Decks

I did it on purpose combining those two places together. You can get astonishing views of New York from both observation decks. If you have enough time and budget I would suggest visiting both Empire State Building and Top of the Rock. Believe me, it is totally worth it. The views are amazing and you can spend hours examining New York from the different angles. The ticket price for each of the observation decks is $29.

My suggestion would be to visit Top of the Rock, which is located on the 67th, 69th and 70th floors of “30 Rockefeller Plaza”, during the daylight as it is located closer to the Central Park thus giving a breathtaking view of the park, upper, as well as lower Manhattan. I have never imagined that the Central Park is so huge, and is embedded in the city as a perfectly shaped rectangle. I have also never imagined what it’s like to look down at the skyscrapers from the top.

Central Park - View from Top of the Rock. Image by  davejdoe / CC2.0

Central Park – View from Top of the Rock. Image by davejdoe / CC2.0

Downtown - View from Top of the Rock. Image by sopasnor / CC2.0

Downtown – View from Top of the Rock. Image by sopasnor / CC2.0

Empire State Building is located more to the south, thus being centered in the concrete jungle. It is also located closer to the Times Square, which is why I would suggest visiting it when it gets dark. The view on the night Manhattan just left me speechless. I didn’t want to talk, but just stand and observe how the city, that never sleeps, is made out of millions of little lights turning on and turning off.

Times Square - View from Empire State Building. Image by kennymatic / CC2.0

Times Square – View from Empire State Building. Image by kennymatic / CC2.0

Tip: in case you are on the budget or have a tight schedule, I would suggest visiting just Top of the Rock. You should come 40-50 minutes before the sunset. Thus you can observe the spectacular views of New York while it’s still daytime, but you can also wait till it gets dark and see the city during the sunset and and the night time.

Manhattan at the Dusk. Image by beltz6 / CC2.0

Manhattan at the Dusk. Image by beltz6 / CC2.0

Tip: both of the observation decks are of open type, thus if it is cold outside, you would better wear some warm clothes as it gets even colder on the high elevation.

Tip: For Empire State Building you should buy tickets from the ticket box instead of buying them from the staff that walk down the street and offer you the tickets. The staff usually offers you to buy the tickets that include a special movie and allow you to skip the line. The truth is that the movie is not that interesting, while you will still need to stand in the general line for the elevator. The ticket is totally not worth it, considering that it costs almost twice as much as the regular ticket. Don’t fall into this trap ;)

Tip: You can spend as much time as you want on the observation decks as it is not limited

Tip: The tickets are available for purchase on the internet, but the price is the same, therefore not to catch a risk of a bad weather I would suggest buying the tickets on the spot.

Tip: During the state and national holidays the observation decks get crowded, so I would suggest allowing for 45-60 minutes waiting time for the elevator line.

Central Park and Museum Mile

I would suggest walking up the 5th Avenue starting from the E82St. This is the museum mile, where you can find some of the finest art galleries and museums in the world, such as Metropolitan Museum of Art, Guggenheim museum, National Academy museum, Jewish museum. I have visited both Metropolitan and Guggenheim museums, and even though I’m not a museum lover as I prefer outdoor sightseeing, I must say that I was impressed with the Guggenheim. The building itself is made in a shape of a spiral. You start exploring the museum at the bottom of the spiral and climb up to the top. The impressive collection includes paintings by such famous artists as Van Gogh, Renoir, Gauguin, Manet and much more. Although, a lot of NYC museums are free, Guggenheim is a private one thus charging $22,75 per visit. Also keep in mind that it’s closed on Thursdays.

Guggenheim Museum. Image by paularps / CC2.0

Guggenheim Museum. Image by paularps / CC2.0

After walking the museum mile and maybe visiting a couple of the galleries I would suggest entering the park somewhere at the E93-E94th streets and heading straight towards the Jacqueline Kennedy reservoir or put it simple – that huge lake in the middle of the Central Park.

Jacqueline Kennedy Reservoir. Image by Robnaldo / CC2.0

Jacqueline Kennedy Reservoir. Image by Robnaldo / CC2.0

You will definitely notice that the Central Parks is the paradise for runners. They run everywhere, they run a lot, they run fast. If there is a place you want to run, then you should do it in the Central Park. I am an eager runner myself and I did quite a few jogs in the Central Park and I absolutely loved it because of combining the sports and the sightseeing. The only trouble for me was that I got lost several times. If you don’t know the surroundings, you can take the wrong trail and run 10-20 blocks more than you planned. So try to plan your jog in advance by studying the map.

After walking around the reservoir (and oh, watch out for runners) you can walk in the downtown direction choosing any route as I’m sure any route will be scenic. Look for squirrels around you. There are plenty of them and it’s always fun to watch them do their regular squirrel stuff.

In warm months you can rent a bicycle to ride around the Central Park. The whole park is huge and it’s complicated to walk it all by foot, so the bicycle might be a good idea. For example you can rent a bike here or here but there are also plenty of other locations around the city and the Central Park.

You should also consider buying some food prior to going to the Central Park and throw a picnic. There are plenty of specially designated places with benches and tables, but you could do a picnic just about anywhere in the park.

You might also want to walk to the west side of the park between W77th and W81st streets for the Museum of Natural History. It’s one of the largest museums in the world with plenty of exhibitions and artefacts including dinosaurs, animals, plants, meteorites, human evolution history and much more. If you are into the natural history then this museum is the must-do for you. Plan at least 3-4 hours for a visit as it is truly huge!

If you are in NYC during the winter months, you have to visit the Wollman/Trump ice skating rink. It is an amazing experience to skate around the rink and enjoy the beautiful views of the Central Park and the skyscrapers on the background. It’s quite expensive as the entrance costs $18 during the weekends and holidays plus $8 skate rental and $5 locker rental (+$6 refundable deposit for lockers). But it is totally worth it!

Tip: keep in mind that every hour there is a refurbishment of the rink which takes about 15-20 minutes.

Wollman Ice Skating Rink. Image by bekhap / CC2.0

Wollman Ice Skating Rink. Image by bekhap / CC2.0

I would suggest that you exit the park in the East direction right at the corner of the 5th Avenue and E59th Street. That way you can pass by the that has a shape of an arch and is present on a plenty of NYC pictures and postcard. It is especially beautiful in the winter, but it is also nice to see this spot during the summer.

Gapstow Bridge. Image by btwashburn / CC2.0

Gapstow Bridge. Image by btwashburn / CC2.0

Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge (Over the Roosevelt Island)

Exiting the Central Park at the 5th Avenue would allow you to walk it in the downtown direction for some nice boutiques as well as affordable clothes stores, but my suggestion would be heading east towards the Hudson river first. You will pass by the Park Avenue, which is a very cool street made as an alley. I really like the view of the street. You should definitely walk it through if you have time. Especially check out the Park Avenue 740 building. Some of the richest and the most influential people live there.

Park Avenue. Image by cogito ergo imago / CC2.0

Park Avenue. Image by cogito ergo imago / CC2.0

Taking E57st Street in the east direction will eventually lead you to a little square, when you can overlook the Hudson river and the Ed Koch Queensboro bridge running through the Roosevelt Island, which in my opinion is one of the hidden gems in the city. You can also walk down to the foot of the bridge at the crossroads of the 2nd Ave and 60th Street and take the Roosevelt Island Tram, which is a cable car that goes over the bridge. The best part of it is that it operates the same price structure as the MTA, so you can use your metro card for the ride.

Roosevelt Island Tram. Image by phwoton / CC2.0

Roosevelt Island Tram. Image by phwoton / CC2.0

Once you are on the Roosevelt Island, get out of the tram station and walk left in the direction of Franklin D Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park. Apart from the historic meaning of this landmark you will find a great view of Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan from there. On your way you will also find an old ruined building, which back in the 1856-1956s, was the Renwick Smallpox Hospital. It’s the only landmarked ruin in New York city.

I really liked the tram and the island. There are not that many tourists there which makes it even more amazing. A true hidden gem of New York.

Downtown: WTC, Wall Street, Staten Island Ferry, Pier 11.

I would visit the whole downtown area in one sitting as the main attractions are located nearby to each other.

I usually start with the WTC. I have been to New York several times and have seen how the new WTC skyscraper is growing, and finally it’s completed.

One World Trade Center / CC2.0

One World Trade Center / CC2.0

You can also visit the WTC Memorial by heading to an open square which was the former location for the WTC buildings. Both of the towers are currently represented by the water fountains going deep into the ground.

9/11 Memorial .Image by _Pek_ / CC2.0

9/11 Memorial .Image by _Pek_ / CC2.0

Next I would head towards the Wall Street. If you are into the finance and economics or you are just curious about the monetary system, I would visit the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. You have to plan your visit exactly 30 days in advance as you can only reserve a tour online and there are no more than two tours per day.

Wall Street is probably the financial center of the world. You can see plenty of business people walking around dressed in suites. The most iconic building on the Wall Street is the New York Stock Exchange, as it dates back to the early 19th century. You will notice it with the huge columns and the US flags on it. Before the 9/11, NYSE organized tours inside the stock exchange, however it’s now closed to the general public. I believe that there is not much to see anymore as most of the trading is done online and no one is screaming “buy” or “sell”. Though, some say that the best trading companies try to get their offices as close to the stock exchange as possible as the milliseconds by which information is transferred over the internet wire matters very much.

New York Stock Exchange. Image by epicharmus / CC2.0

New York Stock Exchange. Image by epicharmus / CC2.0

The district itself is very neat with several beautiful buildings and churches. After walking around I would return to Broadway and head in the south direction to discover the famous Charging Bull. There are plenty of tourists trying to touch the steel balls of the bull as there is a belief that the ritual brings luck and prosperity. To be honest, I have never done that – I guess that I feel lucky enough! :)

Charging Bull. Image by lrumiha / CC2.0

Charging Bull. Image by lrumiha / CC2.0

I would continue walking south picking any street as they are all scenic. You would exit to Manhattan South Ferry terminal, where you can catch a free ferry to the Staten Island with great views from the Hudson river on Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. Alternatively you can walk east to the Pier 17, where you can overlook the Brooklyn Bridge and the downtown Manhattan.
Pier 11. Image by Janitors / CC2.0

Pier 11. Image by Janitors / CC2.0

Tip: There is also a guided ferry cruise that takes 1,5 hours and costs around $35 per person. It is called Harbour Lights Cruise and starts at Pier 83 on the west side of the 42nd St. The cruise is circling half of the Manhattan island, going as far as the United Nations building on the east side of the island, and back to the Pier 83. The beauty of this trip is that is begins during the daylight time and ends during the night time. You should check online for the schedule as it depends on the season. I would recommend coming 45 minutes in advance to purchase the tickets and embark the ferry. Food and drinks are available for purchase on the cruise. I have done this cruise several times and I would highly recommend it for the first time visitors.

Harbour Lights Cruise at the Dusk. Image by Ana Paula Hirama / CC2.0

Harbour Lights Cruise at the Dusk. Image by Ana Paula Hirama / CC2.0

Times Square

Times Square is shiny, fancy, amazing but can get very crowded as it is one of the major tourist places in Manhattan. If you are in a hurry and need to get through the Times Square – better choose a detour. That’s what locals do. But you have to see it at least once – huge video screens showing all sorts of ads, numerous shops from sports to children toys, and even Mc’Donalds and police department on the Times Square are shining with various lights. As it is one of the major tourist attractions there are a lot of people offering to take tour buses, see a comedy show or a broadway show. I would bet that the tickets there are highly overpriced, so better check online for any shows that you would like to see or tour buses that you would like to catch and buy tickets there.

Avoid Times Square on New Years eve. Close to a million people gather on the square to celebrate new year and watch the famous ball drop. It is almost impossible to get in and then get out of there :)

Times Square. Image by aseba / CC2.0

Times Square. Image by aseba / CC2.0

Tip: If you are first time in New York and do not live somewhere near the Times Square, my advice would be to wait while it gets dark, get into subway and go to the Times Square station. Then get out and… You’ll see! I was absolutely stunned by the view.

Broadway Show

I would definitely suggest going to a Broadway show. I was very sceptical about the Broadway shows, because I’m more of a traditional theater fan, however the show turned out to be a blast! I visited Mamma Mia and was surprised how great it is. It’s a theater performance combined with the most famous Abba songs. I had nothing but a smile on my face after the show and all the Abba songs were in my mind for several weeks afterwards.

There are numerous websites offering cheap tickets, however it’s very difficult to find the discounted tickets for the most popular shows. I bought mine at around $60 from the official Broadway website. For some shows the cheapest tickets can go as high as $120-130 per ticket. It’s up to you which show you would like to see, as there are plenty of them, but if you visit Mamma Mia I’m sure you won’t regret it. I also went to see the Chicago show. I liked the singers and the music, but the storyline in Mamma Mia was way more exciting!

Mamma Mia Broadway Show Poster. Image by / CC2.0

Mamma Mia Broadway Show Poster. Image by / CC2.0

Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge Park

It is great to walk the Brooklyn Bridge. You can enjoy the bridge itself and the great view of Manhattan. The total length of the bridge is 1.8km so takes a while to walk it all. If you start in Manhattan and head towards Brooklyn, then you should definitely visit the Brooklyn Bridge Park. You can have a sit on a bench and relax from walking all that distance through the bridge while enjoying the stunning view of Manhattan over the Hudson River. After visiting the park you can catch the subway back to Manhattan on the High St Station or take the F subway train to Coney Island on the York St station.

Brooklyn Bridge. Image by Sue Waters / CC2.0

Brooklyn Bridge. Image by Sue Waters / CC2.0

Brighton Beach and Coney Island

Coney Island is a nice place to go sunbathing and swimming in the bay of the ocean during the summer. But even during the off-season months it’s a nice place to take a walk on the boardwalk. You will find an amusement park with the roller coaster, a nice pier where you can see fisherman and amateurs trying to catch a fish and a wide sandy beach. It’s also the best place to eat a hot dog or many of them. The famous Nathan’s hot dog place where the annual hot dog eating contest is held is located right by the Coney Island subway station. You absolutely have to taste those hotdogs. They are amazing!

Coney Island / CC2.0

Coney Island / CC2.0

From the Coney Island you can head towards Brighton Beach which is known for being a Russian district. All the cafes’ and shops’ signs are in Russian. And that’s the place to try some nice Russian food. I would suggest Euroasia cafe (602 Brighton Beach Ave). The interior is a bit outdated but the food is great there. You catch B or Q train on the Brighton Beach station to get back to Manhattan.

Chinatown and Little Italy

Both ethnic quarters are located nearby each other. In fact, in the earlier times, Little Italy was larger than it is now, but the Chinese pushed the borders of their district and what earlier was known as Little Italy now is a part of the Chinatown. You can feel some ethnic vibe in those districts, catch some local food, get an Italian coffee or gelato (ice cream), Chinese dumplings or noodles or just browse through some small ethnic shops.

Little Italy is very cosy but the food there is often overpriced and is targeted on tourists. So I would avoid eating there. Both times eating out at Little Italy restaurants did not turn up as good as I expected.

Chinatown. Image by David Paul Ohmer / CC2.0

Chinatown. Image by David Paul Ohmer / CC2.0

Chinatown in my opinion is not as cosy as Little Italy but the food there is great. It’s cheap, tasty and the choice is abundant. Truly a place to try real Chinese food. Do avoid buying electronics and other expensive things in Chinatown even at a huge discount. I don’t believe that the quality would be appropriate there.

SoHo, West Village, Meatpacking District, High Line Park, Pier 83

I really like the SoHo district for it being nice and cosy. There are a lot of art galleries for modern art lovers, but for me I like the buildings and I like the restaurants. I suggest visiting Bleecker’s street and a couple of streets nearby. There are plenty ethnic restaurants and they all are quite good. I have played beer pong in Wicked Willy’s, ate Chinese food at Uncle Ted’s and had falafel at Mamoun’s Falafel. I would recommend all of them.

SoHo Restaurants. Image by Valentinian / CC2.0

SoHo Restaurants. Image by Valentinian / CC2.0

There are East and West village districts in New York. I really like the West one, which is a part of Greenwich Village. I like it for being very neat and welcoming. There are mostly 3-4 story buildings with the stairs on the street (yes, exactly like you see in the movies). I just like to walk around with no particular route.

After exploring the West Village I would suggest heading to the Meatpacking district which is famous for its bars and nightlife. A great place to go next would be the High Line park which can be accessed on the crossroads of Gansevoort St and Washington St in the Meatpacking district. It’s a promenade made on the old railroad line ramp a bit more than 2km long. There are trees, bushes and grass growing on the ramp which makes it look like a real park in the middle of the concrete city. The High Line was extended in 2014 and it leads you up to the 34rd St right by the 12th Avenue.

High Line Park. Image by JessyeAnne / CC2.0

High Line Park. Image by JessyeAnne / CC2.0

It is amazing how in the past days, when this was an actual railroad, people lived near the tracks. I saw it in the movies but never thought that this can be true. The whole district of the High Line was industrial and consisted mainly of the warehouses back in the days. Today construction of the tall resident and office building is on its way and probably it’s the fastest growing district in whole New York.

Once you’ve finished walking the High Line, I would suggest going up the 12th Avenue to the Pier 83 if you would like to take a cruise circling the Manhattan island or head to the Pier 83 to see an old airline carrier which is now the Sea, Air and Space Museum complex.

Grand Central

Grand Central train station is huge and beautiful both outside and inside, especially the main hall with zodiac signs on the ceiling. I would suggest just to stop by and enjoy this railroad station which is also a piece of art by itself. You can also grab a bite at the food court inside the station.

Grand Central. Image by Allen McGregor / CC2.0

Grand Central. Image by Allen McGregor / CC2.0

Worth Mentioning

I also usually try to stop by such landmarks as Columbus Circle, Bryant Park, Union Square Park and Flatiron Building.

Columbus Circle is named after Christopher Columbus and is located right on the southwest corner of the Central Park. There are some boutique shops, famous Time Warner and CNN offices and many more. Walking up couple blocks on the Broadway you can reach Lincoln Center and famous Metropolitan Opera. This area also features some nice eateries.

Columbus Circle. Image by ravalli1 / CC2.0

Columbus Circle. Image by ravalli1 / CC2.0

Bryant Park in the winter offers Christmas market and ice skating rink, but in the summer I like to watch people gather for some Petanque games throwing heavy metal balls around.

Bryant Park.Image by daneshj / CC2.0

Bryant Park.Image by daneshj / CC2.0

Union Square Park also offers some markets where you can browse for some pieces of art or unique New York souvenirs.

Union Square Park. Image by daystar297 / CC2.0

Union Square Park. Image by daystar297 / CC2.0

Flatiron Building is a unique landmark as upon completion in 1902 it was considered as one of the tallest skyscrapers in New York. It also has a triangular form which makes it stand out from all other building in this area.

Flatiron Building. Image by o palsson / CC2.0

Flatiron Building. Image by o palsson / CC2.0

Going to Rangers or Knicks Game

If you are a hockey or basketball fan, then I would highly advise you to go to a Rangers (hockey) or Knicks (basketball) game in the Madison square garden. I have visited a Rangers game. It’s a great experience to see the NHL game live with local fans. The arena is huge and is rarely full (except for playoff games) so you can buy the cheapest available tickets and then change a seat during the break. I bought mine tickets for $90 a piece.

Madison Square Garden - Rangers Game. Image by laverrue / CC2.0

Madison Square Garden – Rangers Game. Image by laverrue / CC2.0


I live in Latvia, which is not the most expensive country in the world, however clothing here is ridiculously expensive while the quality is doubtful. Every time I go to the US I try to shop as much clothes so that I would not have to buy anything in Latvia. The price difference is two to three times comparing Latvia and US. I would guess that the same is true for most other European countries.

My personal favourite places to shop in NYC are Century 21, which is a discount store where you can find famous brand clothes at reduced prices, Macy’s on the 34th avenue and UniQlo chain which fits me very very well. Some might argue that those are not the most cheapest places to shop, however I find them very reasonably priced with great choice of clothes. Since I’m usually in NYC for a short period of time, I do want to make shopping as short as possible, this I try to find everything in one store and save myself some time for sightseeing. However, keep in mind that Macy’s is a 7 story store that requires quite some time to go through.

You can easily shop at those stores and you will not be disappointed. However, if you want some more shopping, then you can head to the 5th Avenue from 34th Street to 59th for famous designer clothes. You can also browse Madison avenue which is parallel to the 5th Avenue.

Tip for Macy’s visitors – you should go to the visitors center (located near Starbucks on the 2nd floor with your passport or ID and get a visitors 10% discount coupon).

Macy's Store. Image by PeterJBellis / CC2.0

Macy’s Store. Image by PeterJBellis / CC2.0

Another tip is that the price tags usually show the original prices. If you see a stand that says that there is a discount, then, probably, at the register you will get the discount from the original price tag.

All the prices are shown without sales and city tax. In NYC all clothes below $110 are not taxed, while any clothing item over $110 is taxed at a 8.875% rate which will be added to the price at checkout.


Some people say that they don’t like the American food. Not me. I love it! Of course it has a lot of calories, however when I’m on a vacation I don’t care about it. I love the burgers, steaks, ribs etc etc etc. But in New York apart from that you can also try any ethnic food that you can think of. There are plenty of ethnic quarters with local food. With such a variety of places it is so hard to choose where would you want to stop. My best suggestion would be to use Yelp application for smartphone. You can choose distance from you, type of food, price range and browse by reviews and ratings. Usually the Yelp app helps me to find the best places to have dinner.

I do not have any special preferences for the restaurants in New York, but here is a short list of something you might like:
Carnegie Deli – amazing sandwiches – come very hungry – order one sandwich for 2-3 people because they are HUGE. They also have delicious cheesecakes.

Blue smoke – a nice place for smoked ribs
The Smith near Lincoln center – nice for dinner.
Gazala’s – Mid Eastern food. My special advice – try their dessert Knafe. It’s hot goat cheese wrapped in pastry with a syrup. I think it’s the best dessert I ever had in my life. Actually I once tried Knafe in Israel and was searching for it all over the world to eat it again.

In New York you can actually find any type of food! ;)

My general advice is not to eat at the large chains like McDonalds. You can always eat there in your own country. Open up to something new. Try Chinese, Middle East, Mexican, and many other. If you are not a fan of exotic foods, then eat traditional burgers, pizzas, steaks, ribs etc. But do it in unique one-of-a-kind places and avoid the large chains. Small places offer great food, unique atmosphere and the service is much more welcoming than in the large chains or restaurants.

Bars, Nightclubs

If you like clubbing and going out you must visit one of the many New York rooftop bars. Based on my experience, I could suggest visiting Empire Hotel rooftop bar which is nice and offers great uptown Broadway view. However, do keep in mind that there are plenty of other bars and most of them offer happy hours for drinks. For example, you could use this list to check for the best rooftop bars, then go directly to the bars’ websites to get to know their happy hours. Otherwise drinks are quite expensive ranging from $12 to $30 per cocktail.

As for nightlife, I have visited several bars and clubs and they were all great. I could suggest hitting Meatpacking district at night. I would especially recommend Gaslight bar for its true American atmosphere and Troy bar for being a neat underground bar. They are located close to each other so you can manage to hit them both during one night. Prices are not outrageous there, but be prepared to pay around $8-12 per cocktail.

Tip: at the bars you usually leave a $1-2 tip for every order you make.

I have also been to Pacha NYC club, which is a branch of a famous Pacha club in Ibiza. It’s not uncommon to see world’s best DJs play there on weekends, so check the schedule in advance and maybe you can get to party with your favourite DJ. It’s always packed and the parties are crazy, but it’s a more European style club. So if you are looking for more local experience, try hitting the Meatpacking district.

Sample Route

Just to give an example I could suggest following this route. But of course it’s up to you. And remember, every block you walk in NYC opens with something new!

Final words

I would like to thank you for reading my New York impressions and guide. I hope you liked it and it was handy for you. If you have any other cool places to share I would be glad to read them in the comments below!

You can also check out other America’s most scenic destinations in my blog and stay tuned for more destinations on the Trip.Center Blogs!