While Marc and I have the opportunity to experience living in New York together, we want to make sure we see and explore as much of it as possible – and with the help of visiting friends, we have made a good start!
Sometimes it is just fun to walk around different neighbourhoods and absorb the atmosphere of each but if you are are on a tight schedule, I have compiled my essential food, sight and activity recommendations below. Read on for my list of 19 things you must do when visiting NYC!
1: Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
Walking the Brooklyn Bridge is one of my favourite New York activities as it is such a fab way of seeing the city skyline! Plus when you get over from Manhattan to Brooklyn you can head to Dumbo for more amazing views across the water, as well as a famous shot of the Manhattan bridge.
(You can also walk across the Manhattan bridge to get to the same area but it’s super noisy as loads of trains go past).
There are so many incredible places to eat at in New York, I wish I could win the lottery and eat at them all! Some of my recommendations would be The Butcher’s Daughter for tasty veggie food in light, botanical surroundings, Two Hands for healthy, delicious food in a modern, clean restaurant, Bluestone Lane Coffee for the smashed avo on toast, Jack’s Wife Freda (the blogger’s favourite) and Ulysses for their $20 high quality all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch!
3: Walk Through Central Park
Central Park is beautiful every time of year, even when your face feels like it is freezing off in the snow! There are some fab little spots in the park, like the beautiful Bow Bridge and famous Bethseda Fountain.
(You can see more pics in my A Snowy Walk in Central Park post!)
4: Visit Chelsea Market
Chelsea Market is a fab indoor urban food market with a wide variety of food and drink vendors to suit a whole range of budgets. Friedman’s is always popular for brunch – I can definitely recommend the scrambled eggs with market greens, the potato hash brown/rosti and granary toast!
(Other cool food markets to visit are Urban Space in Grand Central station where you can get the famous Roberta’s pizza, as well as Gotham St Market if you find yourself hungry in midtown).
5: Walk the High Line
Whilst you are visiting Chelsea Market it is the perfect opportunity to visit the High Line, a disused railway high above the roads that has been converted into a modern pathway stretching between the Meatpacking district/Chelsea Market and West 30th st. It’s a healthy, refreshing and completely free way to see the city from above. I recommend starting your walk at 30th, ending at Chelsea Market and treating yourself to some lunch from one of the fab food vendors.
6: Wander Through Brooklyn
The places we saw in Brooklyn had much more of a laid-back, local, hipster vibe to them compared to Manhattan and I loved that. Williamsburg and Greenpoint were a couple of my favourite places in Brooklyn as there were plenty of creative, independent shops, a great Rough Trade, the cool Artists & Fleas market, some awesome bars like Radegast Hall (live music every day), a retro arcade games bar called Barcade, dine-in cinema Nitehawk, the Brooklyn Brewery ($5 beers in a chilled beer hall) and some skyline views from either the Wythe hotel or just from the waterfront.
Top tip: You can catch a ferry from lower Manhattan over to Greenpoint for $4 and you get some incredibly beautiful views of the city!
7: Visit Times Square
Yes it’s touristy and busy but I honestly haven’t been anywhere else quite like Times Square! There is so much going on, from street performers to all the lights and adverts that I think you have to pay it a visit once while you are in New York.
Top tip: To avoid getting into conversations with ticket touts, when they ask how long you are in NYC for just say you are flying home in 2 hours!
8: Drink at a rooftop bar
I don’t know why I didn’t list this earlier as drinking at the Top of the Rock (Bar 65 in the Rockerfeller building) at sunset was one of my favourite experiences in New York! The bar opens at 5pm Mon-Fri and there is usually a queue to go up, although my brother and I were only waiting about 10 minutes when we arrived at 5.15pm on a Thursday in Feb. We arrived just in time to see the sun setting over New York which was so stunning. The reason I would recommend this rather than going up the Empire State building is that not only can you get views and a drink (as opposed to paying for views at the Empire State) but you can also get the Empire State building in your pictures too.
MUST KNOW: You must dress smartly to be let in – men must wear smart shoes and collars or a suit jacket.
FYI: If you are struggling to get in then there is also 230 Fifth nearby which has fab little disco igloos throughout the winter.
9: Whisper at the wall in Grand Central Station
Not only is Grand Central station a beautiful building but it also has a cool archway known as the Whispering Gallery, where two people can stand at opposite ends of the archway, speak to the wall and the person on the other side will be able to hear through their side of the wall. So if you see people pushed against four corners in Grand Central, you know why!
10: Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment
Even if you’re not a massive Sex and the City fan, ‘Carrie’s apartment’ is in the beautiful Greenwich Village which is well worth a stroll on a weekend. Beautiful brownstone houses with staircases up to the front doors line the streets and there are scatterings of shops, boutiques, beauty parlours and cafes around too, especially on Bleeker St.
I love Fat Cat Cafe bar for a relaxed drink as it always has a live jazz band and plenty of snooker tables, shuffleboard, ping pong tables and board games to keep you occupied on a rainy night.
11: Eat at Katz’s Deli
Katz’s deli is a New York institution, serving pastrami sandwiches since 1888 and famously appearing in the classic film When Harry Met Sally. I loved the experience when we visited – it was packed full of people bustling at the deli counter and sitting in the big canteen style restaurant which was filled with framed pictures of the rich and famous who have visited over the years. Their speciality is no-frills plates of pastrami, corned beef, sauerkraut, matzah balls and pickles and we opted to share a fabulously salty pastrami sandwich with gherkins, pickled cucumbers and a huge plate of complimentary sauerkraut. It was a fun, hectic experience, just not for those wanting a relaxed, refined meal!
12: New York Public Library
You may recognise the NYPL from The Day After Tomorrow where Jake Gyllenhaal and co hide out when NYC is a washout. It is definitely worth a visit as it is such a beautiful, grand building, especially if you have some time to kill and want somewhere quiet to work. (No Jake Gyllenhaal when I went there sadly).
13: See a Cheap Basketball Game
Sports games in NYC can be super expensive, especially at Madison Square Gardens. So why not head over to the Barclays Arena in Brooklyn and watch the Nets, where tickets can be as cheap as $10! We loved experiencing a local basketball game, complete with cheerleaders, t-shirt cannons and hotdogs. DEFENSE!
14: Get Free Beauty Samples in Sephora
I might be the worst beauty blogger in existence for only just realising that you can get free samples in Sephora! You can ask any of the staff and they are happy to oblige, as long as the product can be poured easily into a dispenser. Hello Kat Von D.
15: Ground Zero and Trinity Church
The financial district (also known as FIDI) is mostly home to offices but you can visit Ground Zero, the memorial spot where the Twin Towers used to stand. There is also the historic Trinity Church nearby and not far away is the ferry to Staten Island which is a free way to boat past the Statue of Liberty. (Just don’t get off at Staten Island. Come straight back. You have been warned).
16. Nitehawk Cinema
If you go to NYC in the winter and the weather is too cold to be outside, I would recommend catching a film at Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg. It is a laid back independent cinema with an indie-club vibe that offers in-move dining; each pair of seats have their own table and you can either order food and drink at the start or write down what you want anytime during the movie and the attendant will discreetly take it away and get your order. I went to see La La Land there with a friend and this method wasn’t as distracting as I was expecting, although I did find it a tad annoying that they bring the bill around half an hour before the end of the film. It meant that when I was trying to concentrate on the Gosling and Emma Stone, I was distracted by everyone fishing for their money and paying the attendant. Nonetheless, a great experience and you also get some money off at their cosy bar if you keep your ticket stub afterwards. Winner winner.
17. Brooklyn Flea Market
I believe the NYC markets really pick up after April but the Brooklyn Flea Market is usually on most weekends and is held indoors in a beautiful building. Filled with antiques, vintage posters and other memorabilia, this is a fab place to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.
18. The MET
The great thing about the MET is that you decide how much you want to pay to go in. They recommend a donation of $25 each but as we were on a tight budget, we paid just $10 each and they were perfectly happy with that. The museum is huge and filled with art, statues and artefacts from around the globe and from all decades. I would definitely recommend paying a visit on a rainy day.
19. Fun Bars
The great thing about NYC was that so many bars had fun games and activities to keep you entertained. A couple of my favourites were; Ace Bar in the fun Lower East Side for pinball, darts, pool and cheap beers, Barcade for retro arcade games (usually a quarter or 50cents each) both in Brooklyn and in the Lower East Side and Radegast Hall in Brooklyn for the wooden beer hall vibes and live music every day.
Is there anything else I am missing off this list that you love to do in New York? Let me know!