NYC Tourist Travel Guide

I have gotten countless of emails and tweets and questions about my recommendations about where to go and what to do if you’re coming to New York City! I’ve been jotting my notes down for the past month and am finally putting it together for you all. These are all the spots I like to take my family and friends when they are visiting 🙂

All are, of course, from my perspective and according to my opinion. I’m sure there will be LOTS of people to give you lots of recommendations, but these are mine 🙂

Where to Stay

When people ask me where they should stay during their visit, I immediately follow up with “well, what do you want to do while you’re here?” If you map out all of the things you’d like to do, try to find a hotel located close to all those things. That way, you’re not burning fare on taxi rides, subways or Lyfts. Generally, I recommend this hotel because it is centrally located and walkable to typical tourist attractions most want to visit like Central Park, Broadway, Rockefeller Center and Times Square. Plus, if you book enough in advance, it’s not too expensive (for New York standards….haha!)

If I am unfamiliar with any area, or I want to see if a specific hotel I’m interested in is worth my money, I always always always check the reviews and photos on Google, TripAdvisor and Yelp. (I typically do check all three.) That usually gives me a good idea as to whether or not I’d like to book. Some of the reviews can be harsh, but as long as its in a good part of town and looks clean, I’m more inclined to book.

How to Get Around

Before I moved to the city, I was so hesitant and nervous to ride the subway, but as I got used to it, oh my heavens, it’s SO easy, inexpensive and FAST! Traffic is generally pretty awful in the city, so taking the subway is our go-to option. If you are an iPhone user, open up your maps app (not to be confused with the google map app), type in the location you’d like to go and click the blue “directions” button. It will automatically populate with the driving directions and travel time. BUT! There are walk, transit and ride options at the bottom that you can click. I use the transit button ALL THE TIME. It tells me what subway station is closest to me, what trains to take, when to get off and number of stops to get to your destination. It is the app I use the most in the city! It’s also really helpful for walking directions as well. Just double check the directions before you’re pounding the pavement and in the heart of the city because odds are, your cell signal will be bouncing off the buildings around you.

If you are uncomfortable taking the subway for whatever reason, Lyft is generally cheaper than Uber, from the handful of times I’ve compared my experiences. I like these options much better than taxi’s because there is no exchange of physical money; it is automatic. However, keep in mind that both Uber and Lyft charge extra fees during “busy” times of day, which is like, all the time!! If you’re not in a rush, try a rideshare through those apps. It’ll take longer because you’re essentially sharing the ride with a few extra passengers, but it does end up being cheaper in the long run.

Hailing a cab is generally quick and painless, but depending on the time of day, you might not be able to get one. I’ve only used a cab once since living here.

What to Do

I could write for days on what to do in New York City!! There is lots to do and lots to see. Odds are you won’t have time to do it all, so be picky and do only what you’re dying to do…and then plan another trip to the city!

  • The Statue of Liberty- we took our kids here and loved our experience! (More here.) We went to the actual island with purchased tickets this past summer. If you want to see it for free, take the Staten Island Ferry and it’ll float right by.
  • World Trade Center Memorial and Museum-the memorial is free, but going into the museum and getting a tour of One World Trade Center. Pretty somber and sad, but still fascinating.
  • New York City Library–just a beautiful building to see!
  • Central Park–iconic!! I’d recommend renting bikes for 2-3 hours so you can peddle around to see the important landmarks within the park: Sheep’s Meadow, Bow Bridge, Bethesda Fountain, the Boathouse, Belvedere Castle and more!
  • Rockefeller Center–super fun if you’re a morning person and want to be in the Today Show audience that waves and cheers outside. Also, at Christmastime, you can go skating on the rink at Rockefeller which would be super fun, methinks.
  • Top of the Rock–best views of the city and especially of the Empire State Building. Buy your tickets a few days in advance for either early in the morning for very few crowds, or find out when sunset is to get gorgeous photos!
  • Empire State Building–I love visiting this building because of Sleepless in Seattle. They also have great views of the city!
  • Broadway Show–I haven’t ever been to any show that hasn’t disappointed! They are all sooooo good! Look for the ticket booth under the red stairs in Times Square for discounted tickets for some shows.
  • Times Square–iconic. A must see.
  • Brooklyn Bridge–walk it part of the way, walk the entire length into Brooklyn. From the Brooklyn end, you get great views of Manhattan. The bridge is 1 mile long.
  • 5th Avenue–hello shopping!!
  • Macy’s at Herald Square–iconic.
  • Chelsea Market–super fun to visit food shops and restaurants, all in one place. Plus they film a lot of Food Network shows here on the upper levels.
  • Washington Square Park–arch and fountain are picturesque. In the summer, you can actually play in the fountains (which is what I did with my kids this past summer.)
  • The “FRIENDS” Apartment Building–only visit it you, like, totally love FRIENDS…like I do.
  • Seinfeld Restaurant–my husband is a Seinfeld LOVER. So, this is a fun, quick stop.
  • Lincoln Center/Juilliard–pretty inexpensive shows and ballet performances here!
  • Columbus Circle–bigger than expected, noisy but cool!
  • Radiocity Music Hall–so many different performances take place here! Check the online schedule. Christmas is coming up which means the Rockettes!!
  • Grand Central Station–gorgeous photos, and always hustling and bustling.
  • Eataly–this is a fun stop for shopping and eating!
  • Flatiron Building–iconic New York! Also, get a decent view of the Empire State Building here too.

What to Eat

Again, I could go on and on about what you should be stuffing your faces with while you’re visiting this city.

  • Cheese Samples from Murray’s Cheese Shop (Greenwich Village)
  • Magnolia Bakery Banana Pudding (Lots of locations!)
  • Macarons from Laduree (Soho)
  • Drinking Chocolate from Bouchon Bakery (Midtown)
  • Macaroni and Cheese from Max Brenner (Gramercy Park)
  • Warm chocolate peanut butter cookies (or chocolate chip!) from Levain Bakery (Upper West Side)
  • Frozen Hot Chocolate from Serendipidy (Midtown East/Upper East Side)
  • Margherita Pizza with Pepperoni added on and Cannoli from Juliana’s (Brooklyn)
  • Killer Bee Pizza from B-Side Pizza and Wine Bar (Hell’s Kitchen)
  • Pad Thai and Steamed Chicken and Shrimp Dumplings from OBAO (Hell’s Kitchen)
  • Salty Pimp Ice Cream Con from Big Gay Ice Cream (Greenwich Village)
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cone from DO (Greenwich Village)
  • Pastrami on Rye from Katz Deli
  • Burgers, Cheese Fries and Concretes from Shake Shack (Lots of locations!)
  • Any donut from Doughnut Plant (Lower East Side or Midtown/Times Square)
  • Brioche Donuts (!!!) from Dough (Flatiron District)
  • Rainbow Bagels from The Bagel Shop (Brooklyn)
  • Original Cheesecake from Junior’s (Times Square)
  • Liege Waffle with Nutella and ice cream from Waffles and Dinges (Lots of locations!)
  • Hot Dogs from Grey’s Papaya (Upper West Side)
  • Hot Potato Chips with Blue Cheese Fondue from The Smith (Lots of Locations!)
  • Tutti Frutti mini donuts from The Doughnuttery (in Chelsea Market)
  • Black and White Cookies from William Greenberg (Upper East Side)
  • Hazelnut, Almond, Chocolate or Lemon gelato from Amorino (3 locations)

So there you have it!

Of course, the longer I live here, the more I will continue adding to these lists 🙂

What are some of your favorite spots in New York City to visit or eat at? I’m always looking for somewhere new!

Have a great day friends! xo Lauren

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  1. this comment is a question about your pie crust recipe, could not find a place there to ask this: you say use 2/3 lb of shortening but which shortening? liquid or solid? the receipe already has 1/3 lb butter flavored shortening so was confused thanks

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  2. I’m finally visiting New York next spring – this is a fantastic list of ideas! Thanks Lauren! 🙂

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