Where do you even begin with a city like this? I have been to NYC a few times, and each time it becomes more magical and more difficult to leave. It also means that I have had the chance to visit lots of sites, eat at lots of restaurants, and get really, really lost. So here goes. I am going to suggest what you have to do on your first visit to the Big Apple. You can do and see a lot in a long weekend. It will seem like a lot of the things I am suggesting are very touristy, and they are. But for a first-timer in NYC you need to do this stuff before you can really get your teeth into the secret spots of the city.
Wait! Before you do anything…
Look at NYC Timeout, download the subway map, a map of the city and research what you want to do. Being clued up on what you want to do and see is a must.
How the hell am I meant to get there?
The Greyhound is the best option. An overnight bus is best, so work out how you’re getting to Toronto and what time you want to arrive in the city. If you book your transit from Toronto to New York, the bus will be around $80-$100. I promise I am not lying. Yeah, see, told you it was cheap.
Where the hell am I meant to stay?
First things first: call on any contacts you have who know people who live in the city. In my experience, contacting even the obscure people (a friend of a friend of a friend who knows someone’s sister who lives in NYC) is the best way to do it. Otherwise, start by looking at hostels in Brooklyn or even New Jersey. If you can find a credible guesthouse these are great. People often rent out rooms in their apartments in the centre of Manhattan to make a bit of dollar. But be safe. Make sure you have someone to talk to directly before agreeing to pay for someone’s room in their apartment.
How the hell am I meant to get around?
The subway and cabs. But more importantly, your feet. You can walk pretty much anywhere and it is guaranteed you will accidentally stumble across the most amazing little bistro, vintage book shop, or boutique. A subway pass is only $30 for a week and you’ll have unlimited access to the subway system which can take you just about anywhere. Or, if you want to get from site A to site B as quickly as possible, pretend you’re Sarah Jessica Parker and hail a cab.
Where should I eat?
One of the best things about the city is randomly coming across the yummiest places to eat totally by accident; and trust me it isn’t hard. One of my favourites is Tiny Thai on the Upper East Side at 3rd Ave, between 87th and 88th. Second, Havana Alma de Cuba in West Village, on Christopher St between Bleeker St and Bedford St. Don’t forget to try New York pizza.
I am only there for a few days, what should I see?
Starbucks is your new best friend. They’re everywhere and you’ll probably want to stock up on energy a few times a day as I recommend early mornings and late nights to see as much as super hero-ly possible in a short time.
Top of the Rock/Empire State Building
If you’re lucky enough to have good weather then going to the top of an iconic building should be at the top of your ‘to-do’ list. If you think the view from the CN Tower is cool wait ‘till you see this. Although so many people boast how spectacular it is to see light pollution, the daylight offers you so much more. Sunset is actually the best time.
No, it isn’t just a patch of green with a few swings. Set yourself good time to go for a really long walk. Start on the Upper West Side at around 99th St and work your way down to the exit on 5th and 59th. In other words, allow time to get totally lost and explore. If you can end up at the boathouse at some point then stop and have a salad or some fries in their cafe.
Take a stroll starting at 83rd and 5th and walk down to 42nd St. You will see the Guggenheim, The Met, The Plaza, Central Park, Bloomingdales (it is actually on 59th and Lexington Ave), every high designer you can think of, and lots of fantastic high street brands. Keep going and you’ll see the main public library on 42nd and 5th. Look to your left, walk a block and you’ll get to Grand Central Station. At 23rd and 5th is the Flatiron building, which is definitely worth seeing.
New York City is full to the brim with museums and galleries to visit on a rainy day. The MOMA, The Guggenheim, The Met (you don’t have to pay $25, the prices are ‘recommended’ so you can pay whatever you like). The Frick Collection is every art lover’s dream. Take a browse on their websites and see what tickles your fancy.
The 9/11 Memorial site is still underway. However, it is possible to reserve free tickets to see the development of the site, which is already stunning and very overwhelming.
The Brooklyn Bridge itself is astonishingly beautiful, as is the view of Manhattan. Work those feet of yours and go for a walk across the bridge and explore Brooklyn a bit.
Home to Macy’s, Madison Square Garden, the Empire State Building, lots of shops… need I say more?
Another world to the rest of the city, this is where you’ll get your souvenirs, knock-off designer gear and lots of Asian food. I’d say a Saturday morning is a good time to visit.
The Meatpacking District, East Village, West Village, and Greenwich Village have bars and restaurants on every inch of every corner. Great for a night out or evening dinners.
Yes, ladies and gentleman, it really is as good as they say. This is where you are going to have to set yourself a strict budget. And budget to break the budget a couple of times. Soho is great for shopping. It has a baby Bloomingdales (which is actually a lot nicer than its big brother), all of the high-street brands plus lots more.
One of New York’s finest places for a shopping fanatic is Century 21-my favourite store is downtown on Broadway and Cortlandt St. It can be sad sometimes; seeing Manolo Blahnik shoes shoved in a box as opposed to a pretty white shelf. But when you see that they are reduced by 80 percent you’re able to forgive.
So, think about it. Book your tickets. The end of term is nigh and you need to go and see the world (and by world I mean New York City).