Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning that if you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.
NYC, The Big Apple, Manhattan, The City that Never Sleeps…whatever name you give it, one thing is true, New York City is one of the most widely visited cities in the world. When you visit New York, you’ll naturally want to see it all, but with hundreds of attractions, it can feel a bit overwhelming. So, to help you decide what to see and do during your stay, I have compiled a list of handy tips for visiting New York City for the first time.
Tips for visiting New York City for the first time
DO go to the top of the Rockefeller Centre at night, for awesome views of the Empire State Building and the New York skyline lit up.
DON’T pay to go on a ferry to see the Statue of Liberty. Take the Staten Island Ferry instead for FREE! Not only does it go right past the Statue of Liberty but it provides fab views of the Manhattan skyline from the water. But…
DO make sure to take the Staten Island ferry on a clear day. We made the mistake of jumping on the ferry on a cloudy, rainy day and didn’t see very much due to the mist on the journey!
DO walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s quite a walk but worth it for the iconic photo and view of Manhatten Island!
DON’T take an inappropriate selfie at the 911 memorial…be respectful people.
DO purchase a New York Pass to maximise your time and save money too! Check out this post for a guide to the New York Pass.
DO take a stroll through Central Park on a sunny day. In a city as busy as New York, it’s great to have some green space to escape the crowds and just wander aimlessly. But…
DON’T wander in Central Park after dark. Most local New-Yorkers will tell you to steer clear of Central Park at night. You may be fine, but due to its seclusion and badly lit areas, you’re better safe than sorry.
DO head to the Roof Garden Bar at The Metropolitan Museum of Art for stunning views of the New York skyline over the trees of Central Park.
DON’T forget to tip. Everyone from taxi drivers to doormen, from bellhops to waiters, will all expect a tip. Taxi drivers and waiters should be tipped 15-20% and doormen and bellhops tipped $1-2 for each bag they help you with.
DO purchase an Unlimited 7-Day Metrocard. The $33 may seem steep initially, but it will save you money in the long-run and make it really easy to hop on and off the subway without having to worry about finding loose change for your ticket.
DON’T use the Subway for every trip. The best way to see a city is on foot, so get a decent map and take a hike, or even better, use Google Maps on your phone (so you don’t stand out as a tourist). NYC is a very walkable city and by walking as much as possible you will stumble across attractions and hidden gems that you may not have seen otherwise.
DO get away from the mainstream areas and tourist hot-spots. Of course, you are going to want to see Times Square and the Empire State Building (who doesn’t?) but some of the best trips begin when you head off the beaten path and wander aimlessly.
DON’T eat in popular tourist areas. It goes without saying that you will pay a lot more if you eat in restaurants close to Times Square. So, wander off the beaten path and try some of the lesser-known, family-run restaurants. It will be cheaper and, quite often, the food is better! Head to these New York eateries for great food.
DO head straight for Times Square to soak up the atmosphere! Forget what people say about it being touristy, it’s just something you have to do. You haven’t visited New York until you’ve been to Times Square.
DO stay in The Pod 51 Hotel. We absolutely love this hotel come hostel. You can opt for a private room with private bathroom, or a private room with shared bathroom. We opted for the shared bathroom as a cheaper option and always found the facilities to be clean and available when needed. Pod 51 also has an amazing roof terrace with awesome views.
DON’T forget to look up! You will feel tiny and small and insignificant but totally in awe of the sheer size of the buildings.
DO climb the Empire State Building and the Freedom Tower for breath-taking views. Remember, Rockefeller at night, Empire State during the day.
DON’T forget to hit a rooftop bar. If there is one place in the world, where you should head to a rooftop bar it’s NYC. 230 Fifth on Fifth Avenue is my favourite as it offers fab views of the Empire State Building lit up at night.
DO wear comfortable shoes!
DO take a good camera and learn some basic photography tips to ensure you can capture great images of the city that never sleeps.
DON’T try and fit too much into your day. New York is a big place with lots to see and do but, to really experience it, you need to take your time and soak it all up. Make a rough plan of what you want to see before you go to make sure you don’t miss anything.
DO take time to check out the different neighbourhoods in New York. Each neighbourhood has its own distinct feel and are all worth a visit in their own right.
DO research which museums you want to visit and on which days. New York has a museum for everyone, whether it’s the The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the American Museum of Natural History or The Guggenheim to name just a few. Most museums have certain days and certain times when you can get in for free or at least pay what you want. So research this in advance to save yourself some bucks.
DO fall in love with New York and enjoy every minute of it. We found New Yorkers to be very friendly, so don’t worry too much about anything and just go with the flow.