New York is on a bucket list of many travelers, but with so many things to do it might become overwhelming, especially when you have a very limited time for your first visit. To make your first visit to Big Apple easier, we prepared for you a list of top things to do in New York, based on Pedro’s experience in the city that never sleeps. Well, guys… it’s really true!
When in New York for the first time, and you have just one day to get the best of it, our tip is to focus more on Manhattan and explore the classic attractions, as well as some nice foodie spots (of course). Our tip is to start exploring the city from lower Manhattan moving always up. Here you may check Pedro’s walking route. It is approximately 4h walking, but of course, he needed some extra stops for a fresh beer!
To save some money on the tickets for the famous attractions and also to avoid entry queues to some of them, a good option is buying the New York city pass. At the moment they have 2 available options where you can choose 3 or 6 things to do from quite an extended list. You will find all the information on their official website here.
1. Statue of Liberty
A good starting point for your NYC adventure may be South Ferry station, easily accessible by the metro. Here you can enjoy the stunning view of the famous Statue of Liberty. Our advice is to catch a free Staten Island ferry to get closer to it and take all those memorable pictures! It is totally free and running 24h, but it’s better to go early morning to avoid crowds.
2. 9/11 Memorial & Museum (Ground Zero)
Moving up from the ferry terminal, just after 15 min walk you will find 9/11 Memorial, which is also included in NY city pass. The Museum tells the story of 9/11 through media and a collection of authentic artifacts, presenting visitors with personal stories of loss and recovery.
Heading up the island, you will find NY Chinatown which makes you feel that you were transported to China from one second to another. Loads of shops and Chinese food restaurants are all over. This colorful city corner is a good place to have a bite if you are already hungry. But if you can survive one more small walk, there is another place very close here to explore different flavors – Little Italy!
4. Little Italy
This is actually one of Pedro’s favorite places in NY! What a great area… Walking around and observing people grabbing some pretty awesome Italian street food was exciting! By the way, the food here was great and pretty cheap. The smells were amazing and the colors were so vivid!
5. Times Square
After a little break and experiencing “other part of the world”, it’s time to move on and explore the central part of Manhattan. And what is the most iconic attraction here? Right, Times Square! We all have seen it many times in movies, but the feeling of actually being in the middle of it is indescribable! The energy of this place is unique, and of course, it can’t be missed on our list of things to do in NYC!
6. Central Park
After Times Square madness, you may enjoy Central Park which is a phenomenal place to take a break from the crazy rush of the city. A massive park in the middle of the city? How cool is that? One moment you are in the center of one of the busiest cities in the world and in the next moment you are in a wonderful park full of beautiful green areas. The environment is great – lots of people jogging, doing yoga, some artists working their thing… But in general, people feeling free and taking some time to relax.
If your feet are already hurting, there are plenty alternative ways to explore Central Park. For example, you may rent a bicycle for some hours or for a whole day, go on a pedicab tour or treat yourself with a romantic horse carriage ride. If you have some more time for exploring the city, check Get Your Guide website for more out-of-the-box activities.
In Central Park, you should also visit the Strawberry Fields garden dedicated to John Lennon – The Beatles lead singer. This memorial was founded by John’s wife, Yoko Ono, in the place he was murdered.
7. 5th Avenue
After some relaxing time, it is time to get back to the confusion. From Central Park, you can go directly to 5th Avenue to do some real or window shopping depending on your budget. Anyway, you will feel like a part of a movie!
8 & 9. Empire State Building & Top of the Rock
To make the end of your day memorable, our suggestion is to explore the amazing NYC skyline. After such an intensive program, it will be a cherry on the top of the cake! There are 2 iconic places to do so – the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock observation deck located in Rockefeller Plaza Center. There are different opinions on which one has the best view, but both are pretty breathtaking! If you have just one day, we recommend choosing one of them depending on which building you want to get a better perspective of. More interested in seeing the Empire State Building? Go to Top of the Rock. Want to see Top of the Rock and learn more about the Empire State Building itself? Go to the Empire State Building! Easy 🙂
Thanks to long open hours, you have several options for visiting these famous viewpoints. In the morning you will avoid crowds when in the late afternoon, you have the advantage of catching both daytime and sunset views (this is our favorite option). And in the late-night, you also have fewer visitors and will enjoy all different night city light perspective. You choose!
10. Hell's Kitchen
Finally, after a massive amount of time walking, it’s time to think about important things – dinner!
Pedro’s recommendation is Hell’s Kitchen – the area of the Upper Westside of Manhattan that has to offer every possible kind of food. A wide variety of restaurants from all over the world populate this area providing you a huge offer for a marvelous dinner over a bottle of “bubbly”. Pedro’s choice was an Italian restaurant (really, if he had to eat just one dish all his life, it would be pasta!), but everyone will find here plenty of options to choose from.
If you are planning to stay in New York, Hostelworld will be a great help in finding budget accommodation. Airbnb is also a good option and with this coupon, you will get a special discount on your first booking from us!
New York is a magical city, and it has a lot to offer. We put our best effort into preparing this practical list of top things to do and we hope that you will enjoy your first visit as much as Pedro did!
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