New York is a magical place no matter how many times you have been there. The city has so much to offer which can make planning a bit stressful. Our Ultimate Guide to Visiting New York City breaks down the top things to see, do and eat in Manhattan.
Ultimate Guide to Visiting New York City
New York is one of those cities that has an endless supply of things to do. A born and breed New Yorker I have hosted dozens of friends over the years in New York. Our Ultimate Guide to Visiting New York City has things I would suggest as must-sees and my top favorite places in the city. Broken down by Uptown, Midtown and, Downtown it ensures you aren’t wasting time and money running across the island.
What To See Uptown NYC
Central Park (free) – One of my favorite spots in the city. I specifically like the great lawn, the giant boulders, Loeb Boathouse, and Belvedere Castle. Tip: A great way to see Central Park is on foot or via bike. Citi Bikes cost $12 for a 24hr pass and there are 20 locations near the park.
The MET (Pay what you want) – This is my favorite Museum in New York and even I have yet to see everything.
The MET Cloisters Museum (above ticket includes admission) – This museum has a ton European medieval architecture, sculpture, and decorative arts, plus makes for some great selfies.
The American Museum of Natural History (Pay what you want) – If you are into history and dinosaurs you’ll love this museum which brings history into the 21st century.
Where to Eat in Uptown NYC
Pizza Beach – “Decked out with dangling palm ferns and Cuban checkered-tile floors, this sunny pizzeria from brother-owners Tom and Anthony Martignetti (Brinkley’s, Southside) features creative pies like purple kale with butternut squash and Thai coconut curry with rock shrimp.” Time Out.
Tessa – “Well-conceived menu of beautifully prepared grilled dishes and scrumptious pastas served by personable servers brings Upper Westsiders to this buzzy Mediterranean joint” Zagat.
Sarabeth’s – Classic New York Brunch Spot that features everything you could ever want from Brunch.
What to See in Midtown NYC
Empire State Building ( $37 +) – The Empire State Building is a 102-story Art Deco skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan that was once the tallest building in the world. Gives you incredible views of Manhattan. Tip: Get here 30 minutes before sunset so you get the city during the day, sunset and at night time. Purchase tickets in advance.
Top of the Rock ($37) – Top of the rock aka the observatory on top of Rockefeller Center also offers incredible views of Manhattan. Given the choice between the two simply in terms of view I would go with Top of the Rock because you can see the Empire State Building and Central Park. Tip: Get here 30 minutes before sunset so you get the city during the day, sunset and at night time. Purchase tickets in advance.
Radio City Music Hall (Free outside, Ticket Events Vary) – Viewing the outside is free and gets you your photo op, night time is suggested. If you are here during the holiday season or fancy a show the inside is gorgeous.
Time Square (Free) – As a native New Yorker there is no place I hate more than Time Square yet every time I go as a tourist I am always left smiling and impressed. Nearby is where you will find all the shows on Broadway.Visit at night for the true Time Square experience.
Grand Central Station (Free) – Grand Central is one of my favorite places in the City. Inside the main concourse, the ceiling features a gorgeous zodiac mural.
Where to Eat in Midtown NYC
Má Pêche – “It’s all about sharing at David Chang’s innovative New American in Midtown’s Chambers Hotel, where flavor-packed plates for the table join clever twists on dim sum” Zagat. We recommend the brunch menu.
Koi – Imaginative sushi and delicious dishes are served up at this eatery across the street from Byrant Park.
Bocca di Bacco – “Classic Italian fare & a wide-ranging wine list are on offer at this rustic, brick-walled eatery. ” Zagat. We love their pasta dishes, steak and cocktail menu.
Serafina Broadway – A New York staple Italian joint that everyone will like.
What to See in Downtown NYC
Freedom Tower (Free outside, Observatory $36) – The main building of the rebuilt World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan. It is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and the sixth-tallest in the world. It is also a symbol of New York resilence and its’ observatory is worth a visit. Tip: For the best views of downtown, arrive around sunset for a great sunset.
9/11 Memorial/Museum (Memorial Free/Museum $24) – As a New Yorker 9/11 is a tragedy that I remember like it was yesterday. Finally having visited the museum while sad I find it so very important to pay respect to all those who died and served New York in its’ darkest hour. Tip: Purchase tickets in advance to avoid the long lines. You can download the audioguide on your phone for free so be sure to bring earphones.
Battery Park City (Free) – At the southern point of Manhattan you will find Battery Park. Visit for great views of the harbor and to visit the Sea Glass Carousel. (More on what to do in Battery Park Here)
Staten Island Ferry (Free) – This 30-minute ferry ride gives you some of the best views of New York and the Statue of Liberty for free.
Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island ($18.50 +) – A gift from France, the Statue of Liberty is not only an iconic symbol of hope for New York but for the world. A visit to Ellis and Island and the Statue of Liberty will not disappoint. Tip: Buy tickets well in advance, especially if you would like to climb the Statue of Lady Liberty.
Brooklyn Bridge (Free) – The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most recognized bridges in the world. Take the walk across the bridge to Bushwhick park at sunset to get the most amazing view of New York Skyline. (More on Sunset at Bushwhich Park Here)
Where to Eat Downtown NYC
Don Angie – “Italian cuisine features heavy hitters with photo-friendly updates primed for Instagram takeovers, like a lasagna that’s shaped in cinnamon bun-esque swirls” Eater.
Tacombi – “This chill Mexican joints offer tasty tacos with big flavor in digs that evoke a vacation in the Yucatán” Zagat we love their tacos and corn.
Hanoi House – Simple yet delicious Vietnamese food and some of the best Pho I have had outside of South East Asia.
Where to Drink in NYC
Loopy Doopy – My favorite downtown rooftop bar it offers amazing views of the river. Located in the Conrad Hotel make sure to check if they are open it a seasonal spot. Tip: While all their cocktails are amazing their Prosecco People’s Pop drinks are my favorite.
Le Bain – Located at The Standard Hotel this with views of the Highline and the river this is one of the most popular rooftop bars. Arrive early for seats or a spot on the couch.
PHD – Offering up two locations, one in Dream Midtown and one downtown both have great views and are always a good time.
230 Fifth Ave – Located in Midtown this is one of my favorite views of the city at night and you can even see the Empire State Building. Whether its summer or dead of winter this place is always open. In the winter robes are handed out and you can enjoy cocktails in an Igloo.
Roof – Another midtown gem located at Park South Hotel this relaxed rooftop bar also offers views of the Chrysler Building.
Dead Rabbit – This 19th century-styled cocktail destination featuring two floors and has also been the “World’s Best Bar.”
Death & Co – While you’re pretty much guaranteed a wait here, it’s well worth it for one of the complex concoctions.
BlackTail – This Battery Park City bar with a post-Cuba during prohibition theme offers a 50 page menu.
Dear Irving – Finally a cocktail bar inspired by Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris. The cocktails, all $16, come with descriptions that tell guests exactly what they are in for.
The Standard Biergarten – My favorite beer garden in the city this is always a great place.
Lavo – DJs mash up hip-hop, pop, house and EDM to create an atmosphere that’s excessively over the top in the best possible way.
Hotel Chantelle – While also boasting brunch, hotel Chantelle really comes alive at night.
Marquee – Marquee is basically a really huge room with balcony VIP.
Where to Stay in NYC
This is probably one of your most important decisions. While New York is home to some beautiful hotels the most important thing about your accommodations is location. Especially for shorter stays, you are going to want to stay close to midtown. From here you have access to uptown and downtown.
✦ Hudson New York – Sleek rooms with a rooftop and great public spaces.
✦ Pod 51 – A ton of attractions are within walking distance and pod hotels makes meeting new people easy.
✦ Royalton Park Avenue – The rooms are really spacious and the service here is great.
✦ Grand Hyatt New York – Great location plus has all the amenities you would expect from Hyatt.
✦ The Towers at Lotte New York Palace – If it’s good enough for Serena in Gossip Girl, it’s good enough for me.
✦ The St. Regis – A quintessential New York landmark and hotel.
Visiting in the winter? Check out our Top Things to See in NYC Holiday Edition and Top Places to Eat & Drink in NYC Holiday Edition.