To quote Alistair Cooke, ‘New York is the biggest collection of villages in the world.’ Everyone has a part to play, and a place to belong in New York whether it be in China Town, Harlem, Little Italy, Korean Town, Little India, even Little Guyana and Little Manila; it is the world in one city.
No words do justice when describing New York; it’s a place better experienced than explained. It’s not like any other place in America that I’ve visited, instead, it’s an ecosystem within itself.
While in New York take in one of these boroughs or get involved in the Broadway buzz. See America’s history or discover the glitz and glam of the Upper East Side; anything is possible in the city that never sleeps!
- Language: The official language is English, but it’s New York City and you’ll find people speaking almost every language in the world here!
- Currency: New York and the rest of America uses US Dollars as their currency.
- Credit Cards and Banks: Most restaurants and hotels will accept credit/debit cards. Be sure to bring plenty of cash for small purchases and public transportation.
- Climate: Hot humid summers and cool to very cold winters with snowfall generally in January and February.
- Getting to/from the Airport: New York is serviced by three airports – John F. Kennedy (JFK), La Guardia (LGA) and Newark (EWR), which is located close by in New Jersey.
Each airport offers has buses and trains which run between the airport and city but for convenience, I recommend taking a SuperShuttle – shared ride airport service that runs from your home or hotel – or a Uber – a private car or taxi service which can be booked once you land. If you prefer booking in advance I’d recommend Execucar, the partner company of SuperShuttle.
What to see and do
- Head to Times Square to take in the rush and energy that is quintessentially New York. There is even a museum for all things Times Square located next to the Sephora and there is a Ticket office which sells heavily discounted Broadway show tickets.
- Have some cash to splash? Head to Fifth Avenue to see what’s in fashion this season. The best shops and flagship stores are located between 39th and 60th, including department stores Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf & Goodman (Gossip Girl anyone?!), Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co, Harry Winston, and more. There are also cheaper brands available such as Hollister and Banana Republic. For more shopping neighbouring Madison Avenue is also a haven for shoppers. (Find more shopping hotspots below!)
- It’s a constant afterthought in the Western world and this is the place where it happened. Visit the 9-11 Memorial and pay tribute to those who lost their lives as well as seeing Freedom Tower being built. Read my experience here.
- Consider seeing New York from a different point of view and take a helicopter ride over New York City. Not only will you get to see the city from a birds eye view, but be able to cover a lot of ground quickly, and the pilots have plenty of tales. Read how my family did it here.
- Looking for something free in the city? Take an MTR down to the Staten Island Ferry for a free ride to Staten Island to see the Statue of Liberty or as an alternative to taking a river cruise. Departing from Battery Park, see Ellis Island, Liberty Island and Governors Island, as well as a beautiful view of Downtown Manhattan.
- Do visit Grand Central Station. Stand in the centre of the terminal and gaze upwards to see ‘Gods view’ of the heavens, share a secret at the Wailing Wall, or take a free Municipal Art Society tour of the station.
- Go to a Broadway show! They’re more affordable than you think with TKTS booth in Times Square and Downtown Brooklyn providing last minute tickets to many of the shows, often including the sold out shows!
- Take a wander around Central Park. This large urban park has plenty of activities year round including birding, boating, carriage horses, rock climbing, ice skating, a zoo and carousel.
For more ideas about what to do in New York City check out some of my recommended tours!
Luxe-on-any-Budget Digs in Mid-Town
|Waldorf=Astoria||Yotel New York||
Recommended Budget Accommodation
The Waldorf Astoria New York (currently closed for renovations)
This dazzling five-star property on Park Avenue is one of old-time elegance. Walking into the carefully maintained property you are taken back into a grand era where plush furnishings and gold trimmings were all the rage. You’d think that this property, one of the Hilton Hotels top-tier properties, would break the bank but compared to other New York properties of a similar calibre the prices are quite reasonable and you get a lot more for your dollar.
Choose to either stay in the hotel – the spacious and lush standard suites – the or in the Towers – a keycard accessed area which includes a private entrance, higher floor, complimentary breakfast in the Astoria Lounge, and more lavish suites, with a somewhat residential feel, for the high profile clientele that often frequent the rooms.
Hilton Times Square
When I can’t stay at the Waldorf=Astoria but want to be located in Mid-town, I choose the Hilton Times Square. Why? Quite simply because of the location. Located on West 42nd, the hotel is half a block away from the famous glittering lights of Times Square, dozens of subway lines, and walking distance to great eats, shopping, and entertainment.
Okay, okay, I know what you are going to stay. That it’s just a bunch of lights, but the location is good for other reasons. The Port Authority Bus terminal is half a block away, Grand Central Station is 3 blocks away, and – my favourite part – it’s so easy to catch a subway from Times Square because there are so many options (A, C, E, N, Q, R, W, 1, 2, 3, 7, and the AirTrain to the airport!).
The recently renovated rooms at the Hilton Times Square are spacious at 330-360sq. ft and come with high-end amenities throughout. The new design brings with it warmth in dark wood and accents of gold tones. Most importantly, you will just sink into the comfortable beds. My favourite feature is being able to see Times Square from select rooms and the city beyond.
While you are there, be sure to enjoy a drink from Zagat restaurant or Pinnacle Bar which both offer views overlooking the bustle of Times Square.
Yotel New York
One of the cities newest additions, Yotel New York takes the modernity to another level with smart, functional rooms. The concept comes from the accessibility and functionality that is expressed in airline travel; Yotel has translated this to hotels and offer small but luxurious cabins for guests in the perfect location – just minutes from Times Square.
Each cabin features hand-made organic mattresses, monsoon showers, and complimentary tea, coffee and muffins each morning.
The Yotel property also is home to DojYO Restaurant & Bar offering Japanese-style eating over Latin-Asian cuisine and a fitness centre if walking through the streets of New York isn’t enough. Perfect for families, friends, or even the business traveller, Yotel’s modern space and smart accessibility will please any traveller.
Restaurants and cafes
Much like its people, New York’s culinary scene is a diverse and ever-changing movement of tastes and flavours. I would like to hedge a bet that you would be hard pressed not to find a country whose food isn’t represented somewhere on the streets of New York, but it’s not just the diversity of the food but the variations of how you’ll find it.
From fine dining, Michelin stars and waiting lists that are months long, to the fast paced hurry of food trucks, corner foods, and of course cwa-fee – I mean, ‘coffee’ – and it’s takeaway culture.
Average Cost of Food: With so many restaurants you can find something to fit into any price range. Breakfast and lunch will always be your cheapest meals, with continental breakfasts often provided at hotels or hostels.
Mid-range restaurants start between US$15-$25 for a main and goes up from there.
|Food Trucks||Bryant Park Grill||Ellen’s Stardust Diner|
- New York’s Food Trucks – the cities food trucks can be hit and miss, but these meals on wheels are never far from your door and always cheap! If you want a good feast be sure to chase down Mexican food truck ‘Mexicue’ for tasty mini tacos and fajitas.
- Byant Park Grill – American-styled dining set in Byant Park. A little on the expensive side but the food comes in decent portion sizes and tastes devine. Come in summer to dine on the verandah or in winter to watch the ice skaters.
- Katz’s Delicatessen – A New York Jewish icon worth visiting for their pastrami sandwiches, if nothing else. A little bit overpriced but a city icon.
- Stardust Dinner – What do Broadway actors do when between shows? They work at Stardust Diner! Think traditional American diner with a sprinkle of singing, and plenty of musical and rock ‘n roll memorabilia and there’s Stardust for you. The food is also pretty tasty and at a decent price.
- Miss Korea BBQ – In the heart of NYC’s Little Korea lies Miss Korea BBQ – a meat lovers paradise filled with so much Korean BBQ that you will be rolling yourself back to your hotel. Top picks are the premium kalbi – marinated boneless short ribs – and the kimchi hot pot.
- Lombardi’s – The queues can be enormous during peak times so get in early if you want to taste what is regarded to be New York’s best pizza, located conveniently near the Brooklyn Bridge walking path.
- Milk & Cookies Bakery – If you have a bit of a sweet tooth get down to the West Village and enjoy a cookie in this little bakery cafe. Be sure to try a salted caramel cookie – yum! Best of all they cater to all food allergies – nut free, gluten free, dairy free, vegan!
Check out this list of New York Eats from other bloggers!
- “New York Eats: My Favourite NYC Restaurants” by Lisa from LL World Tour
- “Angie Eats New York City!: The Restaurants” and “Angie Eats New York City!: The Verdict” by Living the Dream
- “Foodie’s Guide to Fun & Must-Have New York City Eats” by Aaron & Andy on Sharing Travel Experiences
- “S is for Serendipity 3 in New York City” by Jennifer from Solo Travel Girl
- “Foods of New York Tours – Nolita Tour review” by Cailin from the Taste of Travel
- “Vegan New York – Best Cheap Vegan Food in NYC” by 30Traveler
Bars and other nightlife
This is just a small selection of the many New York City bars and clubs. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of great places to go out for a drink in the city.
- Vapiano – chic and sophisticated, Vapiano is an Italian-style pizza and pasta bar but go there for their well priced happy hour cocktails!
- Metropolitan Museum of Art Cocktail Terrace – the ultimate luxe experience. Sip your drink on the cocktail terrace of the Museum and enjoy the open air and view in central Manhattan.
- Marie’s Crisis in West Village – a very funky underground bar in the West Village, Marie’s Crisis Cafe is a relaxed piano bar with a class speak-easy feel.
- Blockheads – cheap, cheerful and also serves Mexican food. A must try for any penny-pinching traveller.
No matter the weather, check out this great guide to every rooftop bar in New York City!
Shop Til You Drop
New York City is a mecca for shopping and at all times of the year can you find a bargain. For the best bargains be sure to visit the city during the summer sales (starting late May) and winter sales (starting Boxing Day or before!)
- Have some cash to splash? Head to Fifth Avenue to see what’s in fashion this season. The best shops and flagship stores are located between 39th and 60th, including department stores Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf & Goodman (Gossip Girl anyone?!), Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co, Harry Winston, and more. There are also cheaper brands available such as Hollister and Banana Republic. For more shopping neighbouring Madison Avenue is also a haven for shoppers.
- Upper East Side – Be sure to make a stop at Henri Bendel (on Fifth Avenue) for all your beauty and accessories, Blue Tree for eye-catching jewellry, unique clothing and quirky home goods, and Otte NY for a mix of garments from top labels and by up-and-coming designers.
- Lower East Side – if you’re looking for unique boutiques that have edgy and trendy clothes then this is your place to visit.
- NYC has some amazing markets where you can always hunt down a bargain. Be sure to visit the Brooklyn Flea Market (think vintage items or things you’d find on Etsy) and the Chelsea Market (food, up-and-coming designers, micro boutiques, art work).
- Around an hour outside of the city is Woodbury Commons, a premium factory outlet store. There are huge savings to be found there and I highly recommend taking a trip if you’re serious about your shopping!
- NYC is home to some amazing department stores. For luxury goods visit Saks Fifth Avenue, Barney’s and Bergdorf & Goodman, mid-price and luxury visit Bloomingdales, and for shopping for any budget be sure to visit Macy’s.
- Want to travel like a real New Yorker? Skip the cabs and take the Subway! Cheap, fast, and there is a station within walking distance of most places.
- Walk! New York is flat and with its street grid system it is easy to navigate.
- Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge – not only is it a beautiful bridge but you’ll get stunning views of the city, especially as the sun sets over Manhattan.
- If you want to visit the Empire State Building go early! The lines are loooong and the scalpers outside trying to sell you ‘express’ passes are not worth buying because the express line is just as long.
- Don’t forget to tip! In America, many waiters and waitresses rely on this money as the bulk of their income, so don’t be self-righteous and just hand over the tip.
A Locals Perspective
- Aaron’s Worldwide Adventures – Based out of New York, Aaron is always looking for his next adventure in unlikely places.
- Downtown Traveler – Leslie left a corporate marketing career to backpack around the world for a year, visiting 17 countries on 5 continents. Now she’s back in New York City.
- The Pin the Map Project – Nikki is a full-time travel blogger and travel journalist who shares local stories from home in New York and abroad!
- Used York City – the ultimate and authentic guide for travelling New York City as created and used by New Yorkers. Be sure to check their free NYC guides.
Helpful Tools & Location-Based Reads
New York City
|Only in New York
|Humans of New York
|Sex and the City
See my other city guides from around the world.