1/5 NYC: Overview
"New York is Always a Good Idea"
I've been to New York 15 times and still long to go back! There's so much to do and, the different seasons bring different activities to enjoy - from a day at the beach to a picturesque walk around Central Park in the snow! In fact, there's so much to do that I've had to split this into several posts. Posts will include a series of 5 (based on the different areas of NYC) and also a couple more posts focused on separate topics such as where to stay, shopping, nightlife and, eating spots. Click here for my complete New York series to date.
FINDING YOUR WAY AROUND
Areas of Manhattan
Manhattan is broken up into many different areas and, with so much to do in each area, I decided to write my posts by location. This will allow you to plan your trip as per the area that you visit each day. Click here for a good visual map of how the areas of Manhattan are split up.
Some of the prettier neighborhoods, smaller art galleries, boutique stores, great nightlife, cute cobbled streets, and impressive townhouses are found outside of the Uptown and Midtown area. However, as a first-time tourist, you are likely to spend the majority of your time in the Midtown and the Financial District. These two areas are where many of the main tourist attractions are found. Midtown is the busiest area; it is where you will find Times Square, the busiest section of Fifth Avenue, and a LOT of shops!! Midtown is very easy to navigate because the streets and avenues are in a gridline order. Choose from the below posts to ready about NYC by area or, click here to see my complete NYC series.
2/5 UPTOWN Read this post to discover information on Central Park, Museum Mile, and Roosevelt Island Tramway among others.
3/5 MIDTOWN (coming soon) Read this post to discover information on Times Square, Fifth Avenue (Rockefeller, MoMA, Bryant Park, New York Public Library, Empire State Building), Grand Central, and the Highline walk among others.
4/5 DOWNTOWN: (coming soon) Read this post to discover information on the Financial District (One World Trade, Wall Street, etc.), Chelsea, SoHo, Chinatown, East Village, Greenwich among others.
5/5 Boroughs & New Jersey: (coming soon) Read this post to discover all of the great things to be found on the outskirts of Manhattan, such as a trip to the beach, flea market shopping, a cycle along the Hudson with amazing views overlooking Manhattan, or enjoy a picnic in the park by Brooklyn Bridge with fabulous views of the city.
The quickest way around the city is the subway. If you can navigate the subway then you will save a lot of money and time because traffic can be at a standstill in Manhattan! Once you get the hang of the subway they are pretty easy to use - the main thing to remember is if you are going Uptown or Downtown. You can't go tooo far wrong once you establish that when entering the station/s! 😂 Subway cards can be bought at most subway stations and topped up as you go. Click here for the list of subway card prices.
All subway stations have free wi-fi; this is great because it means that you can search google maps for your point of destination and google maps will inform you of exactly which subway you need to take to get there! I rely so much on google maps for subways while I'm away! The PATH is also located in the subway stations and a subway ticket is accepted for it too. If you wish to go out to enjoy the beautiful views of the Manhattan skyline from New Jersey then it's a PATH subway station that you will need to find.
If you are landing in JFK and on a budget then the Airtrain / subway is the best option to take. A taxi from the airport to the city is VERY expensive (though it's not so bad if you are splitting the fare between several passengers; if you are traveling alone then it is a lot cheaper to take the Airtrain and subway). The Airtrain leaves from inside the airport and will drop you directly to a subway station. From the subway station, you can take a train all of the way into the center of Manhattan...and all for under a tenner!
Staten Island Ferry
The free Staten Island ferry will take you on a quick ferry ride from the tip of Manhattan, at Whitehall Terminal, over to Staten Island. This is a great option as a way to view The Statue of Liberty for free as it travels very close by it.
As a first time tourist who is intending to visit several attractions then it is advisable to check out some of the available NYC pass cards / online deals. I have found the attractions in NYC to be very expensive compared to quite a few other cities that I've visited. Many pass cards include a selection of museums, The Empire State Building, Top of the Rock and, some even include a return bus ticket to Woodbury Common Shopping Outlet (which can be pricey to buy separately). Groupon NY often has good deals on bus tickets to Woodbury Common too. The majority of passes also include options to skip queues at many of these locations. Below are links to some of the websites for these deals:
WHEN TO VISIT
If you love the magic and bright lights of the holiday season then the obvious time to visit NYC is after Thanksgiving and around the Christmas season. There is nowhere as magical as New York during Christmas and it totally renewed the Christmas spirit that I hadn't felt since I was a kid when I visited here as an adult over the Christmas season! There's also some great sales at this time of year, Holiday Markets, spectacular light shows and decorations, ice skating, and even the possibility of some snow. I have visited many times during November / December and although many of the trips required a hat, boots, gloves, and thermals as essentials....there were other cases whereby a jacket was rarely needed when racing around during the day. Don't presume that Winter in New York is always freezing, keep an eye on the weather forecast a few days before your trip because I have found that temperatures can change quickly, especially around this time of year!
It does get much colder in February / March and this is the time of year when you are likely to find the cheapest prices to visit the city. For me, I would personally prefer to spend a bit more for either the Summertime or Christmas period.
If you want to fully enjoy wandering the parks, discovering the streets and the atmosphere of the hustle and bustle dining outside in the sunshine, take in a visit to a beach, a boat ride in Central Park, a trip to the Hamptons, the outdoor cinema in Bryant Park, etc. then Summer is the time to visit! Weather-wise, Summer seemed more predictable any time that I have visited - though we still had a few dull days with some rain...but it tended to clear pretty quickly and was followed by sunshine!
I have not yet visited New York during Autumn but the weather can be quite pleasant and the colors of Central Park look so pretty that time of year!
WHERE TO STAY / DINING
Click on the below to read my prior posts on:
One of my favorite things about NYC is that every time I visit I find a new exhibition or museum to explore! Below lists many of the museums that I have visited to date.
Modern/Contemporary: I love modern and contemporary art so a trip to MoMA was a necessity for me! I have visited this museum several times now. You can gain free access to MoMA every Friday from 5:30-9:00pm, however, expect it to be quite busy during these hours. The Guggenheim Museum, just by Central Park, is a beautiful spiral building and another great Museum for contemporary art. I have returned here a second time because I loved it so much! The Whitney (all the way downtown in Chelsea) is another museum that I very much enjoyed. It features American art of the twentieth century to the current day. The Museum of Arts & Design is located just off Central Park and focuses on the work of art, craft, and design. While I enjoyed my visit here, I was not expecting so much craft work on display, and, for me personally, I would prefer the other museums that I previously mentioned. Next on my list to visit is the New Museum, similar to the Guggenheim this funky looking building provides some art through its building design alone!
The MET: Of course, you can't talk about Museums in New York without mentioning one of its most famous - The Met! It is the largest art museum in the USA (the fourth most visited art museum in the world) so be prepared to spend a lot of time here!. The Met is located roughly halfway up Central Park and in an absolutely stunning building. It also features a rooftop garden bar which provides great views over Central Park. The museum includes exhibitions from musical instruments, costumes, classical antiques and sculptures, paintings by the European Masters, weapons, and armory to name a few. Personally, as more of a modern art lover, I prefer to visit the modern art museums but at least one trip to the Met is recommended too.
Smaller Galleries: If you are an avid art lover, don't just rely on the usual large museums found in NYC. If you have time, check out what is happening in some of the smaller galleries found around the city too. New York is a hotspot for great art and, with the abundance of talent in the city, you will often find very impressive exhibitions in the smaller galleries too! I am a big fan of the artist Yayoi Kusama and I was lucky enough to be in the city when one of her exhibitions was on in the David Zwirner gallery. I did have to stand in queue for an hour...but it was worth it! This gallery is located close to the High Line walkway (Chelsea) so you can just take a detour to stop by some of the great galleries found in this area if you have the time!
For a true fashionista, I would recommend a trip to The Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology)! I visited this small museum a few years ago and I must admit, though I was glad to have made the visit because it had been on my to-do list for a while, I didn't quite enjoy it as much as I had hoped. I am a huge fan of fashion, however, not so much the finer details such as textiles, patterns, history of fashion, etc. which is what this museum covers. However, if this sounds like your thing and you are in the area then it would be worth popping into...especially as it is free! I will cover some more on shopping tours in Manhattan when I publish my shopping post for NYC so keep an eye out for that too!
Top of my list of other museums that I visited would be The Tenement Museum (loved it so much I visited it twice too!) and the 9/11 Museum. Also, the stunning library found in The Morgan Library was worth a visit. There are some art exhibitions on display in The Morgan too.
The American Museum of Natural History is a large museum, with over 30 million artifacts, and it consistently receives great reviews. I was happy to have visited here but I wouldn't tend to be a huge fan of Natural Museums, so at times I was slightly bored. I did still spend a lot longer than I had planned to here though! The Museum is very big, 1.5 million square feet, so if you are a science lover then you should put a lot of time aside to spend in here because there is a lot of space to cover!
I also visited The Frick Collection, though I didn't spend too long here either. The Frick allows you to gain insight into how the mansion houses of the Upper East Side were lived in during the 20th Century. The Frick is an old mansion house and holds an impressive collection of old master paintings and fine furniture. Its website provides a great virtual tour if you wish to take that instead!
The Skyscraper Museum is another museum that I have visited. It is quite small and mainly consists of reading, photos, and models so I wouldn't recommend it unless this is truly an interest of yours. The Federal Reserve (though not quite a museum!) offers a guided tour that covers the history of the roles and responsibilities of the Federal Reserve, artifacts, and even the chance to go underground and view the gold bars in the gold vault! The Federal Reserve tour is free but needs to be pre-booked before you visit (spaces fill up quickly so book it as soon as you can). It was quite the experience traveling all of the way underground to the vaults!
Still on My List
Next on my list to visit is the Colorfactory and Museum of Ice Cream. Both of these look like they will be fun and colorful trips...they should be good fun if you have children too! Other museums that I have not yet visited but often see advertised online include the Museum of Sex and the more kid-friendly SPYSCAPE! Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is another popular museum that I hope to visit one day too!
NIGHTLIFE & SHOPPING
Separate posts on these topics coming shortly!
Below lists a variety of tours that bring you all over different areas of the city! For details of things to do in specific locations of Manhattan then check out my posts by location (Uptown, Midtown, and Downtown). Click here for my complete New York series to date.
As I usually visit New York during the Winter season, walking tours in the cold are not always top of my list! However, I do want to return during the Summer months and take in some of these tours! I have not yet been on either of the following tours but they gain great online reviews; Experience First and Free Foot Walks. Also, as I will detail in my shopping post, for those interested in fashion there are shopping walking tours available in the Garment District. Click here for more details about shopping tours. Two popular shopping tours that receive good reviews online include Style Room and Shop Gotham. Another walking tour that sounds good is the Rock n Roll Walking Tour. For architecture, check out the Small-Group Walking Tour of New York City Architecture. Please let me know if you take any of these tours and how they go!
We took the Downtown Hop on Hop Off bus tour. This tour was a great way of gaining a good overview of the different areas and neighborhoods of downtown New York. The tour included stops in areas such as Greenwich Village, SoHo, the Financial District, Chinatown, and the Lower East Side. Unfortunately, it was raining and very cold on the day that we took the tour...so sitting upstairs of an open-top double-decker bus was not so enjoyable and it was not very tempting to get off at the bus stops to explore these areas in the rain!
Christmas Light Tours
Renowned for its holiday lights, there is nowhere quite as magical as New York during the Christmas season! So much so that there are even several Christmas Light Tours on offer over the holiday season. On Locations offer a Holiday Lights & Movie Sites tour which I'm sure would get you very much into Holiday mode! City Sightseeing is another good company that provides a tour of the Holiday lights. We took one of the Christmas light tours along Fifth Avenue which provided a much better view of the lights than from the busy footpaths below. However, we got a great deal online and I must admit that I would not have paid the full price for this tour as it was quite expensive for what you got. Probably the most popular Christmas lights tour is the Dyker Heights Tour. My aunt is a huge fan of Christmas and took this tour and said it was one of the highlights of her trip!
Movie & T.V. Tours
With so many movies and t.v. shows set in New York, there are tours on offer which will show you some of the famous filming locations of many of these popular shows and films! On Locations are one such company. They offer tours such as Gossip Girl, The Sopranos and Sex and the City. I took the Sex And the City tour (twice!) and loved it both times! This tour was not only very fun (and of course with a cosmo included along the way), but it was also a great way of seeing around a lot of the city too! The tour took us to many different locations in both Midtown and Downtown and our tour guide was a lot of fun and provided a brief overview of the areas that we traveled through too!
Cruise & Helicopter
I have not taken a cruise or helicopter tour as yet (and I don't foresee myself taking a helicopter tour!) but I very much want to try out a cruise tour on one of my next visits. I mostly visit over the Christmas period so I'm waiting for a Summer trip to take in a cruise!
For a mixture of walking, pub crawls, shopping tours, and nightclub tours check out Uncle Sams New York website. I haven't taken any of these tours as yet, however, the company receives good reviews and there are a few unusual tours advertised on their page than that of the regular touristy ones!
Please let me know if you have any tips for trip number 16!
Thanks for reading,
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