Taking a bite out of The Big Apple? With a little planning, you can savor your first trip to NYC. See the sights, eat the treats, and experience the city that never sleeps like a seasoned urban explorer.
Dreams, cultures, and fresh starts are woven into the vibrant fabric of this world-class metropolis. The city’s teeming with life and creativity, with some low-key lounging spots mixed in. Book your flight, pack your bags, and prepare for your first trip to NYC.
#1 Plan Ahead for Transportation
The landing gear’s down; it’s “go” time. If you’ve reached NYC via airplane, chances are, you’ve arrived in Queens, one of New York City’s five boroughs. JFK International and LaGuardia are the biggest airports in NYC, with both domestic and international flights passing through their airspaces.
Before you’ve exited the aisles, you can start plotting your course. Airport websites offer convenient taxi trackers, and subway shuttle services are also available. Savvy travelers can hop on an MTA bus for a budget-friendly ride to various transfer points throughout the metro area. Rent a car or hail an Uber ride; this city’s packed with transportation options.
MTA and subway passes can be purchased by the trip or in bulk; if you’re planning to stay for more than a day, a multi-day pass can quickly pay for itself.
#2 Lock Down Lodging
New York City lodging options are plentiful, though, the best NYC accommodations are in high demand. Whether you want to vary your visit and sleep in a new bed every night or hope to stay in one place, it’s best to make reservations well before your travel dates.
Want to plant yourself in the midst of the Manhattan action? Book a room at The Warwick or the iconic New Yorker. For an authentic city experience, consider nabbing a short-term vacation rental in Queens.
Camping near NYC is also worth considering. Take a quick ferry ride to Governors Island for some top-notch glamping accommodations provided by Collective Retreats. You don’t even need to pack a picnic; food’s offered at this awesome NYC outdoor attraction.
You won’t have to pause your adventures while waiting for check-in. Find a luggage storage service in New York City and drop your gear while you head on to the next activity. Rent a bike in Central Park. Wander through Chinatown. Post up at a park bench and take in the New York City Skyline. Whatever your flavor, enjoy your downtime in NYC without any extra baggage.
#3 Mealtime – It’s All About The Experience
Have fun with the food options in New York City. Restaurants, food trucks, dive bars, donut shops, and dining to the finest degree can all be found in this stomach-satisfying city. The array of eateries can be a bit daunting, so it might be best to focus on an atmosphere first.
Kick-off your AM adventures with a Cronut from the Dominique Ansel Bakery in Soho. Prepare to wait in a lengthy line; don’t worry, it’s all part of the experience. For a sit-down breakfast, find one of the pancake houses peppering the urban sprawl. There’s nothing like a flapjack stack in a packed NYC diner to welcome the day’s excursions.
Want a little peace with a side of steamed snacks? Make a beeline for dim sum and tea in Chinatown. Looking to kick back and enjoy some laidback arts and culture? Lunch it up in the boho-drenched West Village. And for some of the best cuisine varieties in the city, spend suppertime in Brooklyn, where Mexican restaurants, pizzerias, and some of the best NYC dive bars can be found.
#4 Consider Purchasing a City Pass
If you’ll be bopping around to all of the hotspots (or even a few), a New York City attraction pass might be worth the extra cash. Passes can be purchased ahead of time or once you’ve got boots on the ground. Many offer VIP access to certain sites and attractions around the city, and some spots can be visited more than once at no additional charge.
Passes are about as varied as the city itself, which offers visitors some flexibility. Some passes are designed for travelers hoping to see a handful of the city’s most popular spots, with well-balanced accessibility to museums, skyscrapers, and the Statue of Liberty. Other packages are highly customizable, allowing tourists to build packages based on their preferred points of interest.
#5 Scope Out the Skyscrapers.
So, you probably came to New York City for the structures. Walking tours are popular ways to see these feats of architecture, or you can climb into a cab (it’ll cost ya) to make semi-speedy stops at each site.
Do not miss including the striking Chrysler Building in Midtown Manhattan, the iconic Empire State Building on West 34th Street, and One World Trade Center, one of the tallest buildings in New York City.
Most of the skyscrapers in NYC feature observation decks and building tours that offer insight into the structure’s past. Dining venues and historical exhibits are also commonplace, so carve out some extra time to immerse yourself in each unique environment. Skyscrapers are a must on your first trip to NYC.
#6 But Don’t Miss the Underground Scenes
Some secret NYC spots don’t quite make it to the top of most trip itineraries. In a city brimming with sites and attractions, it’s easy for some places to fall under the radar.
For lots of cats and a little creepy history, head to Roosevelt Island’s Renwick smallpox hospital. Once a quarantine site for smallpox patients, the structure’s now empty, except for dozens of resident cats. Come for the meows, stay for the spooky sights. Not enough felines for you? Settle in for a beverage at one of NYC’s cat cafes.
The Upper West Side is home to some stunning sites that often get missed on the first trip to NYC. The Pomander Walk features old-world European-style structures that serve as residences. Just a short stroll west of this whimsical neighborhood, you’ll find the Joan of Arc Memorial and the Hudson River Bike Path.
There’s much more to uncover during a Big Apple adventure; consider balancing visits to the top spots with some unassuming city spectacles while you’re here.
#7 Move. Fast.
It’s no secret that New York City’s an action-packed place. For a fluid, fun-filled visit, keep it moving. Whether you’re coming or going or taking in the scenery, stick with the flow of traffic as much as possible, or step aside. It’s like chess; you gotta know your next three moves, you should stay in your square until it’s your turn, and sometimes, you might get bumped.
#8 Set Aside Time For The Parks and Ports
Visit some of the city’s best green spaces and sprawl out for some big-city fun. Parks can be found throughout the city and offer excellent opportunities for long-distance sightseeing and afternoon naps.
At the famous Central Park, you can delve into a trademark NYC experience. This park is packed with potential for outdoor fun; the place is popular for a reason. Want to see some grizzly bears in the middle of a world-class city? Go ahead. The Central Park Zoo’s got a few, among other creatures hailing from around the globe.
Experience more of this well-rounded city park with a horse-drawn carriage ride, hike the woodsy Ramble trails or let the kids loose on one of the nearly two dozen playgrounds.
Where community and commerce meet, the Brooklyn Bridge Park offers some authentic NYC vibes. It’s the perfect place to spend a sunny day. Engage with the lush landscape of Empire-Fulton Ferry, view Civil-War structures, and take a ride on Jane’s Carousel while you’re here.
Experience NYC waterways with a cruise on the Hudson River. Ferries and boat cruises depart from numerous ports around the city, including the historic South Street Seaport in Manhattan and the Battery Park City Terminal. Ship-spotting from shore is a popular pastime at these ports, and you don’t need to embark on the water to enjoy the ocean breezes.
#9 Breach the City Boundaries and Head for the ‘Burbs
If you’ve got the means to move past the city center, spread out and explore some of the attractions near New York City. Enjoy hot dogs and steamy summer days on the beach at Coney Island, or peruse quaint farmers’ markets in the suburbs.
Brooklyn’s home to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, where visitors can meander through water gardens, conservatories filled with herbs, and themed gardens highlighting some of the most beautiful blossoms on the planet.
Wherever you land, you’ll find some excellent places to check out on the city’s fringes.
#10 Photo Ops
Snap some pics of NYC’s best attractions, and you’ll have more than just a suitcase full of souvenirs to enjoy.
Square yourself in the perfect position to capture the lines of the Flatiron Building on Fifth Avenue, snap a noon-time shot of the Brooklyn Bridge, and wait until the sun sets to nab the token Times-Square-at-night pic.
Central Park at sunrise is not to miss. Watch as ships head into port, capturing the city’s industrial edge. Candid shots of bustling city streets, subways, and signature shops add a little spirit into the mix, and if weather permits, get a rainy-day shot of Lady Liberty on the shores of Ellis Island.
You will want to include some of these tips as you plan your first trip to NYC.