In a New York Minute: Everything I’ve done
Two trips to New York and so much done! But still heaps to go. Over the years I’ve collated so many lists of recommendations from friends and now I’m going to put them all in the one place. Here’s the things that I’ve managed to experience, as well as others that are still sitting on my list.
General tips for New York
- Most people/ places don’t recommend any of the NY passes, but I think if you want to have a massive day and do everything here it can be okay value.
- If you only have a few days, focus on Manhattan.
- But if you have more time, try get out to Brooklyn too. Brooklyn is very spread out, most of the “things to see in New York” are in Manhattan though. Much cheaper to stay in Brooklyn, Queens or New Jersey and commute into Manhattan. Avoid staying around Times Square.
- Supermarkets outside Manhattan are also much cheaper. Stock up on drinks and snacks of course.
- Toilets can be hard to find sometimes. Wholefoods, Olive Garden, Starbucks, McDs, food courts are places to keep in mind. Most hotels seemed locked down to random tourists so that’s not so easy these days.
- Use ticket machines when you can, much faster than queuing for a real person.
- Most places have security checks and some will force you to check in backpacks at the cloakroom. Try and leave any big stuff at home as it becomes a time suck.
- TV show filmings – do your research months in advance but things like The View, Jimmy Fallon, SNL could be available. We did have tickets booked for The View but three hours waiting before the actual filming meant too much time out of our day.
- Avoid the Hop On, Hop Off buses for the oldies. The subway and buses are plenty good.
- I organised my itineraries by doing things that were close together. Central Park and the museums for example. If you’re trying to optimise your time check the forecast so you can spend rainy days indoors.
- Leave some things to do for your next trip!
- Take some cash, there was a few occasions where you can’t use a card.
- Make sure you tip! A good way to get rid of loose change. 15-22% depending how good the service was.
- Prices generally will exclude tax, so keep that in mind. So always end up at weird amounts.
- Get a Metrocard. Cheap and covers everywhere. The subway is 24 hours! Use Google Maps or Citymapper and when traveling out of Manhattan don’t accidentally get onto any Express services (unless that’s what you’re after).
- Download Lyft and Via (alongside the Uber you should already have). I was lucky to get a referral code that gave me five rides for $10 off which was handy. Apparently Via is the cheapest (according to my Lyft driver!). Use the “pool” option for the cheapest fares (if you don’t mind sharing)
- Airports: generally Newark seems to be the crowd favourite. JFK has massive disorganisation and LaGuardia is the process of being renovated. Food at the airport was crazy expensive. Bring bites.
Central Park-ish things to do
- Central Park is so amazing. I loved the turtle pond and there’s always a crowd and some performers. Skip the zoo unless you have kids. On Sundays the roads are closed to vehicles so a perfect day for renting a bike. It’s big, expect a few hours of walking.
- National History Museum – the entry is by donation so you can ignore the recommended price of admission. I paid $1. Don’t worry about the staff, they have rules to not give you a hard time about it, they will say something about how it will exclude the special exhibitons blah blah. It is huge. Pick a few things that you want to see.
- Met Museum – like the Nat History it used to be pay as you like, but that’s only for locals now (not sure how rigorous they police it though). Keep your ticket as it’s good for three days and the other two Met museums (Cloisters and the modern art one). Again, its massive so be selective on what you want to see if you’re short on time. I loved the Egyptian exhibition.
- Guggenheim – worth looking at the building from inside but I haven’t read good things about the art displayed. The reputation is in the spiral and the building’s design more than anything else.
Uptown things to do
- Fifth avenue and all the fancy stores (including Saks)
- MoMA – leave the bag at home if you can. Massive queue for the cloakroom. Is free Friday evenings but I’d be happy to pay to avoid the crowd and queue. There’s still a crowd. And a queue. the MoMA Design Store has plenty of fancy things.
- The LOVE, HOPE signs – good for a quick pic.
- Rockefeller Centre – one of my faves spots. The NBC studio tours have weird times, and to be honest I didn’t get as much out if, not knowing of the shows.
- I did Top of The Rock, most people seem to rank this one better than One World and Empire State in terms of the view. Prices are all the same though, and are steep. Expensive stuff. One pro of the Top of The Rock is that you can see the Empire State in the view. Your ticket is timed, so you might have to kill some time before coming back. You can upgrade your ticket to a day+night one if you pay the extra on the same day.
- St Patrick’s Cathedral – most impressive church building in Manhattan.
- Roosevelt Island Tramway – free with Metrocard, it’s frequent, different and with a cool view. The island itself is nice for some more relaxed time. Nearby the station is Dylan’s Candy Shop which is a cool pit stop. Has toilets.
Midtown things to do
- Times Square – worth checking out for a few minutes (day or night). Quite alive any time of the day and lots of shopping. Don’t ever talk to me if you visit the M&M store but I like the Hershey’s one and they give you a sample. Line Friends was super cute and less common.
- Broadway – TKTS booth at Times Square for cheap tickets. For plays take the other entrance which is super fast. Matinees shows are available from morning, evening shows are on sale from 3pm. If you have a ticket from the last seven days you can use the fastpass queue. Use the app to see what’s on sale (note sometimes the range and prices aren’t that great). Make sure you have a few options ready for when you get to the office, you kind of have to make a decision on the spot and seating/ prices might not always be favourable. Read reviews/ watch trailers to see what you might enjoy but most things will generally be good. Don’t think you can choose a bad show but stick to classics that you’ve heard of if worried. Also see TodayTix.
- The Public Library – real nice. Check out the Winnie the Pooh toys in the kid’s section too.
- The High Line – and the walk through the Meatpacking District and Chelsea Markets. A favourite of quite few people I know. I’m a bit more meh on it.
- Grand Central Terminal – the whispering wall (right by the Oyster Bar) is lots of fun and the station is incredible in itself. You’ll recognise it from a wealth of films.
- Greenwich – very cool area. There’s the Friends’ apartment but kind of not that interesting.
- Chinatown, Koreatown, Little Italy – worth a short stroll through the areas.
- Dover Street Market – multi-level shop with lots of hip brands.
- Fashion District and Mood Fabrics for the fashion focused. Good visit for a Project Runway fan.
- Brooklyn Bridge – takes fifteen minutes to get to the walkway, an hour to cross. Don’t go on the bike lane. Check out the sunset from Brooklyn Heights at the end.
- I’ve read good things about the Frick Collection (art) and the Tenement Museum (history).
Downtown things to do
- SoHo – lots of super shopping. Uniqlo seemed cheaper in this country and was excited about picking up a pair of sneakers from Allbirds.
- 9/11 Memorial – powerful and very well done. Nearby is Wall Street (see the bulls) and Twin Towers. Done the museum but probably can skip if time-constrained.
- Staten Island Ferry – completely free 25min cruise with a (distant) view of the statue and back to Manhattan. There’s not much to do on the island itself, so most people seemed to jump right back on. I’d probably skip this one, but it runs until midnight so possibly a good option for late evening activities.
- Statue of Liberty / Ellis Island – expect huge lines. Worth doing the cruise so you can get a decent view of it, thought I missed out a bit on the last visit.
- Coney Island- pretty far from Manhattan but so fun and a huge contrast from the city. Carnival games, rides, boardwalk and beach.
- Helicopter ride – over the top, but if you’re gonna do one, where else will you see as much in a 5 minute ride?
Food (in kind of an order of importance)
- Ess-a-bagel – I went at lunch time and the queue was tiny/ non-existent. Sunday morning it was insane. Super customisable delicious bagels, but my Canadian friend preferred the Montreal style!
- Katz Deli – worthy of the hype. Don’t lose your ticket and bring a friend or prepare yourself for a big meal! So juicy and tender.
- Ivan Ramen – yay for the dandan noodles. The ramen was less impressive actually.
- Eataly – love this place, though not much seating depending which one you go to. Pastas, sandwiches, gelato, pizza and more. Locals love it.
- Momofuku Noodle Bar – quite good! (the other Momofuku’s are also as nice appaz, one is Italian, one is Korean and one is desserts)
- Burger Joint – a bit a tourist hotspot, but cool as it’s a rundown-looking burger shop hidden in a luxury hotel. But I’m gonna say I preferred the burger at Bareburger which had more exciting fillings. Burger Joint only has one base option. Good toilets as it’s the one in the hotel.
- Joe’s Shanghai – painful wait for a table (ticketed and you need everyone to be present) but the soup dumplings are the best and everything else was tasty. Wacky seating arrangements mean you might make a buddy alongside your meal.
- Egg – American-styled brunch over in Brooklyn. Good for some more modern classics.
- John’s of Bleecker Street: hated the service and the pricing ($4 per topping!!) but I guess, a proper New York-styled pizza.
- Breads Bakery had some good breads.
- White Gold Butchers – very good meat stuffs.
- White Castle – ha! handy chain for when you need a late night bite. Sloppy product though.
- Wo Hop City – not sure I made it to the right one. Was a bit average but the staff were super nice.
Places I didn’t make it out to but were told they are good
- Shake Shack – it’s kind of everywhere but I never went, as I never liked the one in London.
- Num Pang – banh mi and Vietnamese bowls. A few around the place.
- Luke’s Lobster Rolls with free pickle
- Lomardi’s in Little Italy for pizza
- The Butcher’s Daughter
- Grimaldi’s for pizza
- Halal Guys
- Gray’s Papaya
- Levain Bakery – got real confused as there’s two stores in the same area. Ask which ones are fresh out of the oven as the gooey chocolate is worth it. My favourite biscuit ever!
- Patisserie Chanson – pricey af but tasty.
- By Chloe – awesome vegan chain.
- Dunkin Donuts – love their stuff even thought its mass market. So cheap and so prolific. Coupled with Baskin Robbins a lot.
- Grom Gelato – I remember this from Nice, France. It’s great stuff.
- Junior’s – over the top cheesecakes. Make sure you share as the servings are insane. The mains are like three serves (and at triple the usual price).
- Big Gay Icecream – underwhelmed and surprisingly boring.
- Milk Bar – didn’t hit my expectations at all and the staff were sour. But it has a following.
- Dominique Ansel – had that in London, all about the cronuts.
- Peter Pan Donut – out in Brooklyn, but a more classic donut shop.
- Doughnut project – a modern donut shop, two locations with one near Central Park.
- Comedy Cellar
- Shows on Broadway
- Nitehawk Cinema – Brooklyn
- Times Square – never sleeps
- Please Don’t Tell
- Upright Citizens Brigade
- Beauty & Essex
- The Donut Pub