New York City (NYC) is required visiting for any globetrotter or casual traveler - even if you tend to be more the “outdoors type” than the city-slicker. This guide will help you with everything you need to know about planning a trip to NYC. Food, entertainment, music, history, art, even outdoor activities, if it exists, you can probably find it in New York. Maybe that’s why people call it the Capital of the World.

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There’s so much to do in New York, you’ll never have time to do it all, especially not on a short trip. In fact, there’s so much to do, you might find planning a trip more overwhelming than easy.

But this is the City That Never Sleeps we’re talking about, so you have 24 hours in everyday to check off all you can in whatever time you have in the city. Here’s our take on how to spend a few days in New York, New York.

Table of contents

West of Central Park in New York City
West of Central Park in New York City
Prospect Park Boathouse in Brooklyn, New York City
Prospect Park Boathouse in Brooklyn, New York City

WHEN TO VISIT NEW YORK CITY

In short, the answer to when to visit NYC is – anytime. There’s always plenty going on in New York City, no matter the time of year. Spring is pleasant, if rainy, and the perfect time to explore Central Park as things start to bloom. Summer can be hot but is otherwise a great time to be out and about; everybody comes out to enjoy the beautiful weather, and there are always free events and festivals going on.

Fall is gorgeous and mild, perhaps the best time of the year. Winter can be frigid but seeing the city all lit up for Christmas is a can’t-miss-classic. Just bring a hat and gloves!

Colourful houses in SoHo on city-walk in New York City
Colourful houses in SoHo on city-walk in New York City
View of Central Park from Skyscraper on city-walk in New York City
View of Central Park from Skyscraper on city-walk in New York City

HOW TO GET TO NEW YORK CITY

Flying to New York City

New York is served by 3 major airports that make getting to the city easy from anywhere in the world. We mean that. JFK is the primary airport, where hundreds of international and domestic flights land daily. LaGuardia, in Queens, has domestic flights to and from virtually anywhere in the US, as well as Canada and the Bahamas. Newark International is only a short train, bus or cab ride away.

Trains to New York City

Going on a train to NYC is really comfortable. If you enjoy a relaxing train ride, you can take the Amtrak to New York’s Penn Station; 14 different routes stop there. If you’re nearby and don’t want to drive into the city, New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Railroad both offer regional rail service.

Bus to New York City

By Bus: NYC is serviced by dozens of bus routes from virtually anywhere in North America, with the usual suspects (Greyhound, Megabus, Peter Pan) as well as many regional carriers, all operating into the Big Apple.

Driving to New York City

Driving to NYC is easy, as several major interstate highways run right into Manhattan. From the North, take I-95 or I-87. From the South, you can take I-95 to the George Washington Bridge. And from the West, you can take I-80 or I-78 all the way through the Holland Tunnel into lower Manhattan. Just bear in mind that parking in New York City is pricey – often $50 or more a day.

Getting around NYC

NYC is a walker’s paradise and almost anything you want to see is within walking distance. If you need to cover more ground, take the Subway with its 472 stations, or call a cab or Uber. (Or, if the weather is nice, rent a bike and explore some of the parks and bike paths.) Whatever you do – don’t drive! The traffic is awful and the parking expensive.

Main Concourse at Grand Central Terminal on city-walk in New York City
Main Concourse at Grand Central Terminal on city-walk in New York City
Walk Ups around St Marks Place in Manhattan on city-walk in New York City
Walk Ups around St Marks Place in Manhattan on city-walk in New York City

WHERE TO STAY IN NEW YORK CITY

Choosing where to stay in New York City is pretty easy. Accommodations in New York can be pricey, but with so many options – there’ll be something to fit your budget.  We recommend staying right in Manhattan, where you’ll be just steps away from all the food and fun.

One classic but quite reasonably priced place is the Roosevelt Hotel, located just steps from Grand Central Station and blocks to Time Square and dating back to 1924. Rooms are classy old-fashioned, but have all the comfortable amenities you could need, and feel cozy – not stodgy. There’s dining and bars downstairs, too.

Find a Hotel in New York City

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A more modern, but still affordable, option might be the CitizenM Hotel. This modern, vibrant hotel very close to Times Square is accessible and chic, with compact but comfortable rooms, exceptional city views and a rooftop bar for taking in the skyline by nighttime.

Pricier, but swankier, is the Park Terrace Hotel. Right across the street from Bryant Park in the heart of Manhattan, the Park Terrace offers upscale accommodations both modern and classic NY. It’s just an 8-minute walk from the Empire State Building and has a swanky rooftop bar and lounge.

Really though, there are countless, fantastic hotels in NYC – from the classic and ritzy to the budget. If you plan in advance, you’ll be able to find some sweet deals to spend the night in comfort and style

Broadway and Spring Street on city-walk in New York City
Broadway and Spring Street on city-walk in New York City
Williamsburg Bridge street scene on city-walk in New York City
Williamsburg Bridge street scene on city-walk in New York City

WHERE TO EAT IN NEW YORK CITY

Where to eat in NYC? Well, what do you like? New York has everything – it’s essentially the Restaurant Capital of North America. You can live here multiple lifetimes and still only experience a fraction of the many restaurants this city has to offer – from steaks to Greek.

So instead of telling you the “best, can’t-miss” restaurants in New York, we’ll just share some of our favorite spots to grab a bite (or a full meal).

How about a New York Strip? Head to the Bowery Meat Company and order the fattiest strip steak they have. Get some potatoes and a glass of wine to go with it…and enjoy. The service is top-notch and the atmosphere is on point at this classy, old-timey joint. You better be prepared to dish out, but hey – you’re in New York.

You can’t go to New York City without trying some good old New York NY pizza. Pizza might just be the food that the city is known for, and there are dozens of great pizza spots. We suggest stopping by the famed Joe’s Pizza – the quintessential New York pizza shop. They’ve been making perfect pies and slice in the famed Greenwich Village since 1975 and are regularly called one of the best pizza places in the world – let alone New York.

If you’re in Brooklyn, head to Paulie Gee’s, known for its unusual and creative takes on pizza – from Porkypineapple to Ricotta Be Kidding Me.

Like Mexican? Need something quick and cheap? Head over to Oaxaca in Hell’s Kitchen. This closet-sized joint serves up some of the most authentic Mexican tacos (and more) in all the city; ingredients this fresh and zesty are hard to find. Bonus points: is BYOB, so you can grab a beer from the nearest corner store and enjoy it alongside your barbacoa.

Another spot for a quick bite is the classic New York deli Katz’s Delicatessen, on the Lower East Side. Get their classic corned beef and pastrami sandwich and take in the atmosphere of this long-time New York establishment.

Brooklyn Bridge at Sunrise on city-walk in New York City
Brooklyn Bridge at Sunrise on city-walk in New York City
St Paul's Cathedral on city-walk in New York City
St Paul's Cathedral on city-walk in New York City

WHAT TO DO IN NEW YORK CITY

Like we said before…there’s so much to do in New York City, you’d never be able to see it all. Here are  just a few of the places and attractions we recommend checking out.

 

See A Show in NYC

Like the Performing Arts? New York is home to Broadway and literally every other kind of performing art in the world. Grab tickets to a Broadway show one evening. If you like classical music, see who’s playing at Carnegie Hall or see the New York Philharmonic at the Lincoln Center. See a ballet. If you love theater, find an Off-Broadway show or two. Go ahead and see them all – you’ll never run out of shows.

Want a good deal on tickets for Broadway or other shows? Swing by one of several TKTS booths in the city and snag some same-day discounted seats.

 Visit A New York City Museum

Art lovers, rejoice. New York is filled with the stuff. First, head to the Metropolitan Museum of Art – or the Met – and take in over 2 million works of art and artifacts spanning 5,000 years of human history. Exhibits rotate throughout the year, too. Then, head over to the MoMA and enjoy modern art from the likes of Basquiat. Finish your Museum Day at the American Museum of Natural History, where you can see everything from dinosaur bones to 63-foot long canoes from the 1870’s. You should probably also visit the Guggenheim – even if just to say you did.

The Statue of Liberty on one of the beautiful city-walks in New York City
The Statue of Liberty on one of the beautiful city-walks in New York City
Madison Square Park views in New York City
Madison Square Park views in New York City

Get Outside – See The NYC Parks

Being in the city doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the outdoors. If the weather is nice, spend an afternoon exploring Central Park – by foot or with a bike rental. It’s the most famous park in the world, covering 843 acres (even bigger than the country of Monaco) and provides some peaceful respite from the hustle-and-bustle. You can even go bouldering – sans rope – in Central Park, at Cat Rock and Wave Rock. It’s a total must-see.

Get this, though – Central Park is only the 5th-largest park in the NYC. Pelham Bay Park, in the Bronx, is 3 times as large.

You can also spend an afternoon exploring Prospect Park – a 526-acre public greenspace in the center of Brooklyn. It’s quieter and more tranquil than Central Park, and is the perfect place for a morning run, afternoon bike ride, or family picnic.

As the sun starts to set, take a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge – one of New York’s most famous landmarks. Opened in 1883, it’s an impressive and iconic feat of engineering and provides one of the finest city views in the world – the Manhattan Skyline twinkling over the East River.

East River views from the bridge in New York City
East River views from the bridge in New York City
Upper West Side views of New York City
Upper West Side views of New York City

Visit the Top of the World: The Empire State Building

No trip to NYC is complete without a trip to the top of the Empire State Building. It’s one of the world’s tallest and most iconic buildings, and the sweeping view of the city from the Observation Deck is jaw-dropping. Get tickets in advance if you don’t want to wait in line. There’s even a mini museum with exhibits on the top floor, showcasing the building’s history – from its construction to King Kong.

Want another epic view? Visit One World Observatory at the Freedom Tower. At 104 stories high, it’s the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and has some pretty sweet views of New York Harbor and the rest of the city. Or if you would like to gaze at the majestic skyline of New York in a relaxed environment, check out the list of some great rooftop bars in NYC.

 

Walk the High Line in NYC

The High Line is a 1.5-mile long elevated park – literally, a park built on an old stretch of elevated railway on Manhattan’s West Side. Take a stroll, see all the public art on display, and see the city from a totally different viewpoint – above the street. Grab drinks at one of the many bars that sit along or under this elevated greenway.

Explore the NYC from the Sky

You can get one of these amazing sightseeing flights over NYC and explore the Big Apple as few people do. Depending on the pace and type of experience you want, you can pick from a helicopter, an airplane, or a hot air balloon flyover.

Beautiful houses in Upper West Side of New York City
Beautiful houses in Upper West Side of New York City
View at Chelsea from the Highline on city-walk in New York City
View at Chelsea from the Highline on city-walk in New York City

MORE NEW YORK CITY FACTS

Why is NYC called the Big Apple? NYC got its world-famous nickname from a newspaper’s horse racing section in 1920. Before it became a nickname for NYC, the “Big Apple” was used to describe the grand prize in horse races around the city.

How old is NYC? After the Dutch had settled along the Hudson River in the year 1624, they started establishing colonies. In 1626 they have built the colony of New Amsterdam on Manhattan island. After the British took control of the colony in 1664, they renamed the colony to New York.

How was Central Park created? In the middle of the 19th century, the city has decided to create a small-scale countryside oasis for New Yorkers. It took 20 years to put together. Altogether they used 10 million carloads of soil and rock to create the 843-acre sized park.

What is the population of New York City? The estimated population for New York City is 20.106 Million.

Central Park in NYC is a birdwatcher’s paradise. Birdwatchers have spotted 275 different bird species in Central Park. During the migration period, it’s possible to see 100 different species a day.