New York City has a population of over 8.5 million people spread across its 304 square miles of towering skyscrapers, sprawling parks, and cheap pizza shops, and every year 50-60 million tourists join them.
The city that never sleeps has long been a hot spot for sightseeing, and with good reason. There are so many things to do and see, that even most life long residents haven’t truly seen it all. So with that in mind, how do you see it all when you only have a weekend?
The unfortunate fact is that you can’t, which means we’ve gotta be smart when planning our itinerary. Luckily, I’ve got you covered. I present to you, 8 tips on where to go, what to eat, and what to skip on your adventure in the big apple!
So What’s Worth your time in NYC?
Like any big tourist city, some things are 100% worth it, and some things are nothing but another tourist trap. In my experience, these 8 spots (in no particular order) make the cut.
1 ) The Top of The Rock
Skip the Empire State Building! I repeat Skip the Empire State Building! I’ll give you 2 great reasons why.
a) Lines! Don’t expect to walk right in to this tourist attraction. Lines for this building are usually wrapped around the block! Talk about a waste of time.
b) If you’re going to pay the big bucks to see the city from above, don’t you want to be able to see the most iconic building instead of being on it?
Enter the Rockefeller Center. The building itself isn’t incredibly impressive to look at when compared to the Empire State Building, but that’s exactly why it makes the perfect building to ascend. Look out over the whole city, from the Empire State Building, to the One World Trade Center, to the Chrysler, to Central Park, to even Lady Liberty in the distance. The photos speak for themselves. The Rock is where it’s at.
2 ) Staten Island
Want a fantastic view of the New York City skyline, and some amazing shot’s of the Statue of Liberty while you’re at it? Then take the Free Staten Island ferry! It’s 100% worth your time, especially at night when the city is all a glow. However, I’ve got some tips for you to maximize your experience as learned from a New York local who gives tours for a living
- Don’t be tricked by the people on the street trying to sell you tours to the island. The ferry is FREE and runs every 30 minutes.
- Be the LAST person aboard the ferry. Trust me, no matter how full you think the lobby is, there will be room for you on that ferry, AND while everyone else is running up the front to try to get that first glimpse of Lady Liberty, you’ll have a front row view of the Manhattan skyline as you cruise away from it. As soon as the employees put up the ropes, you’re welcome to step out onto the landing platform and soak in the beautiful view.
- Also, don’t worry about missing the Statue of Liberty by staying aboard the back. It won’t take long for her to pop up to your left. About this time, several of the people who ran for the front will realize that they missed out and will come back to the back of the boat to join you. But you’ll have already secured your spot with a view of the skyline, and the Statue of Liberty! You lucky duck, you must have read Emma Eiram’s blog 😉
3 ) Joe’s Pizza
Getting hungry? Want to grab a slice of iconic New York City pizza with the locals? Head on down to Joe’s Pizza at 7 Carmine Street. To get there, just take the B or D line on the subway to W 4th St and from there it’s a 2 minute walk.
If you get there and there’s a long line, don’t panic! Joe’s pizza is so famous that it’s a common sight. However, they’re well prepared for the heavy crowds, and a line that looked to my group like it should have taken 45 minutes or even an hour for us to get a single cheese pizza took less than 10 minutes.
One thing to note about Joe’s is that there isn’t really indoor seating, so their pizza is designed to be taken away. However, there is a lovely little park just across the street from the pizzeria with lots of benches.
Joe’s Pizza is so good, that as I was feeding some of my leftover crust to a few friendly pigeons, a local commented happily to me about how lucky those pigeons were to be getting a taste of Joe’s crust. I wholeheartedly agree.
4 ) Times Square/ Broadway
Of course, you can’t go to New York City without visiting it’s most iconic site. Night or Day, Times Square lives up to the hype. It’s a chaotic, overwhelming mess of flashing signs and creative billboards that come together to create something beautiful. If you look for it, you can also see the legendary New Year’s ball, awaiting its next moment of glory.
If you fancy a walk while taking in the busy city, walk along Broadway down to the New York City Public Library. Lot’s to see on the way there, and the end of the road will greet you with the beautiful Bryant Park, and the majestic…
5 ) New York City Public Library
I’m gonna level with you now. Touring elegant and old buildings is probably my least favorite aspect of travel. Call it sinful but I grow bored of architecture quite easily. However, if beautiful buildings are you thing, I can definitely see the draw of coming to this library.
If you’re like me and think that once you’ve seen one grandiose building you’ve seen them all, don’t discount the library just yet. This is where I picked up quite possibly the coolest souvenir ever. Head on into the library and find the gift shop. Nothing special at first glance, however, the bookcases hold a special surprise.
Want to own a small piece of history? Pick up a book from the gift shop. These gems previously held a spot on the shelves of the New York City Public Library, and still have their original library property stickers on them. I grabbed a copy of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (one of my favorite books as a kid) for 3 dollars and was quite pleased with my purchase. Maybe it’s not the souvenir for everyone, but for book lovers, it’s about as cool as it gets.
6 ) Central Park
Moving on, one place you simply can’t miss is central park. Perhaps the most iconic city park in the world, Central Park is truly beautiful.
Walk the grounds and take a picture with one of the many statues including Balto, William Shakespeare, Alexander Hamilton (I see you out here Hamilton fans) and Alice in Wonderland (my personal favorite).
Take a stroll to the iconic Bethesda fountain, and while you’re out grab a bag of those roasted nuts that always smell so good!
Personally, I think the lower half of the park is more interesting, and unless you’re a die-hard Beatles fan, I would skip Strawberry fields. Spoiler Warning: There sadly aren’t any actual Strawberries, just a large crowd and a lot of vendors selling overpriced Beatles merch.
Okay, this one is really just for the Broadway fans, but a large portion of the people who visit New York City go to see a Broadway show, so this one’s for you guys!
Everyone loves getting dinner and a show, but this is a special kind of show. Enjoy your meal while your waiters and waitresses serenade you to the tune of Broadway’s biggest hits!
While I was there, they performed You’ll be Back from Hamilton, Never Enough from The Greatest Showman, Defying Gravity and For Good from Wicked, a Grease medley a mashup of iconic Village People hits, and several other wonderful songs that I unfortunately can’t recall.
As a herbivore myself, I’m happy to report that they also have several delicious vegetarian and vegan options too! So there’s something for everyone 🙂
One thing to note, is that the diner tends to have extremely long lines. If your only chance to make it is Saturday afternoon, it’s not worth it. However, if you can go early in the morning, or on a weekday (we went Monday for lunch) you may just be lucky enough to walk right in like we did. Either way, it’s just a quick walk away from Times Square, so if you’re in the area, and you enjoy show tunes, it’s always worth checking!
8 ) Grand Central Station
My final pick makes the list for several reasons. First, it’s easy to hit. If you’re using the New York City Subway to get around the city, (which you should be!) then you’ll find that you naturally pas through the belly of it several times.
Second, it’s an iconic New York landmark that really is as beautiful as everyone says, and that’s coming from a person who previously denounced most architecture!
Finally, and this one comes from the tech geek in me, the Apple store. Okay listen, I add this point for good reason. Anyone who’s been to an Apple store knows that they tend to have a clean, boxy look to them. This store however is quite literally in the heart of the station. On on the balcony, in the great hall that you’ve seen in countless movies, sits an actual apple store.
Maybe it’s just me, but I still find the whole concept so bizarre, and definitely worth paying a quick visit to.
And there you have it
Hopefully you found something helpful in this post! If you did, consider checking out the rest of my blog for more travel tips, tricks, and stories.
Oh, and before you go,