New York, that city… icon of thousands of movies and series, full of glamor, charm and sophistication, a place which fascinates peopled decade after decade and of course I’m not the exception. From the first day I walked on the island I completely fell in love! I’m already going for my third trip to the city and I would visit it millions of times as NY is one of those places that keeps the “magic” of the first time as well as something new to offer, a museum, a festival, a piece of cheesecake in a little trendy bar or even a picturesque little street that you never paid attention before.
From the airport to the city
The first thing to keep in mind in every trip is how to get from the airport to the city. If you arrive at JFK, the best option is to take the AirTram JFK network, departs from terminal every 10 minutes, get off at Jamaica Station and change to Port Jefferson blue train line, which will leave you at the very heart of the city, Penn Station, where you will find the subway stations of different lines that will take you to any part of the island.
However, if you arrive at La Guardia my recommendation is to take the bus that leaves terminal B called “La Guardia link select bus service (Q70-SBS)” to Roosevelt Ave and then less than a block away there’s the Woodside Station: several train line such as the (Green) Babylon Line, (Blue) Port Jefferson, (Red) Port Washington and (Purple) Ronkonkoma… any of those will leave you at Penn Station.
In the City
Continuing with the transportation subject, the best way to get around the city is without a doubt the metro. The network of metros is one of the largest in the world, connecting every corner of the island and even surrounding neighborhoods, such as Brooklyn or Queens.
A brief summary of the prices and alternatives you have to save since it’s a bit expensive:
For starters, we have the most expensive of all, the -Single Ride- costs about $ 2.75, regardless of the duration/length of the journey (*), of course you can only use it once.
The second option, a little cheaper, is to get the MetroCard which is sold in every Metro stations and costs $1. But attention! We have two types of MetroCard, you will evaluate which one is better for you.
1-The first one is the Pay Per Ride, it works like a prepaid card and the trip will cost you $ 2.50. See? a little bit cheaper, although not much difference. Another benefit that you have, when charging more than $ 5, they give you 5%, so if we charge $ 20, we will receive $ 21. Moreover, up to 4 people can travel with the same card, obviously while having enough credit.
2- The second one is the MetroCard Unlimited, if for example they have in mind to make more than 12 trips in a week… then this is your ideal option. For a total of $30 you get unlimited trips for 7 days! Unlike the other card, this one is personal.* Reminder: For those who take the Single Ride or MetroCard pay per ride know that you can combine (for the price of a single trip) any type of transport, either bus or metro within 120 minutes.
Finally, either because your are on a strict Budget or just want to avoid public transportation … walk! New York is a beautiful city to walk from end to end. I am one of those who think like that, to truly know a city, its corners, its secrets and its people, there is nothing better than walking, entering neighborhoods such as SoHo or Little Italy or strolling through the busy streets of Wall Street. It has no waste at all!
NY Pass, is it worthy?
If your idea is to visit every single attraction of the city, as most travelers will probably do in their first trip to NY, the most recommended thing is to buy the New York Pass: there are different options with different prices, number of days but most of them “include” tickets from Empire State, Top of the Rock, 9/11 Memorial to boat-trips to the Statue of Liberty, Natural History Museum, MOMA.
The most common options are: 1 day $ 109 – 2 days $ 189 – 3 days $ 239 and 5 days $ 299. You can get it online and then withdraw it in the place of your choice! As simple as that!
Usually, there are some deals or discounts for buying online… I know what you are thinking, while the prices are quite expensive, I can assure you that paying the attractions separately will cost you way more!
Festivals and Events: An iconic New year’s eve
The city is full of festivals and events all the time, especially on dates such as Independence Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year. So once you set your travel date you can start to find out what’s in during that period!
I was lucky enough to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eye! It was truly amazing and I highly recommend it. The Christmas spirit invades the Big Apple, streets are filled with lights and decorations, trees, Christmas carols in every block and Santa Claus everywhere! But in the same way that Christmas decorations fill NY, so do people: Imagine that NY is usually chaotic… So it will get much more chaotic than usual! Deals and offers everywhere, people queuing to shop or take pictures somewhere and not to mention the fighting for a turn to skate under the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center. Hey! Nothing makes New York lose its charm and certainly not at this time of year. What if it snows during your stay? The atmosphere will be just complete!
New Year’s Eve … who did not see in some movie the emblematic ball falling in Time Square with its countdown and fireworks? Millions of people gather every year along 7th Avenue to see the show! Yes, millions! According to the estimates of the NYPD, the amount would be around 3 million people, so you can imagine the chaos that rules the streets.
Everything is fenced several streets around and with a large security operation, the entrance opens around 3pm, so if you want to have a privileged location should approach at that time. But attention! Things to keep in mind, very much in mind, I would say, the income is divided by blocks and works as follows: the first block is enabled, that is, the closest to the stage, once it is full, it is passed to the next block and so on. Important!
Once inside the fence, you cannot go out again, I mean… you cannot leave without losing your place… You will have to make the entire queue again in the block that takes place at that momento, which might be several streets away. My advise is to go prepared with appropriate clothes to wait in the cold and water & snacks! Another important fact, if you were far behind to see the ball, in Central Park there is also a nice fireworks show with a massive screen!
For those who already experienced New Year’s Eve at Time Square and want to change or if you directly want to opt for another choice, the city is full of parties and restaurants offering special menus and shows. In my second New Year’s Eve in NY I choosed a party @ Pacha! The event started around 8pm and runs until 3am (even 6am)… Super famous DJs rock the stage! The main stage was under Alesso’s vibes!
There are different types of tickets like in… everywhere! The popular one, VIP access, free bar add-on, etc. You will find all the options online!
What to do?
Museums and Galleries
New York is a city with innumerable museums and art galleries, I think we could spend our entire stay visiting them. If you don’t have many days, my advice is to select those wich most interest you, ancient history, modern art, sciences or … sex! Being a museum lover, on my first trip it was very difficult to decide which ones should be left out this time, but in my opinion the 3 that should not be missing from the list of your first trip are: MET, MOMA and Natural History.
Here is a list of some of the places I recommend most.
MET, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The star of the museums in the Big Apple and the most visited one! Also my favorite without doubt, if you love archeology, ancient history, mixed with great pieces of art, this is the place! It has works from all over the world, from treasures of ancient Greece, Asian art, to great works by famous artists such as Rembrandt, Rafael or Picasso. Even an entire Egyptian temple!
The ticket is included in the NY Citypass. It’s open every day! Sunday to Thursday: 10-17:30hs and Friday & Saturday: 10-21hs.
Its acronym means Museum of Moder Art, and obviusly that’s what you will find: Pieces of classical artists of the twentieth century such as Van Gogh, Dali, Mondrian and even Andy Warhol coexist with works of these days… which particularly couldn’t understand much? Canvases completely blank, sculptures made only of wire and wigs… things upside down… hmm I believe I don’t have a good eye for modern art.
Like the MET, the ticket is included in the NY Citypass. It is open from Sunday to Thursday from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm and Friday and Saturday from 10:30 to 8:00 pm.
Tip! On Fridays between 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., admission is free! Yesss!
Museum of Natural History
One of the largest and most famous Natural History Museums in the world! You could spend the whole day walking around it! I recommend you reserve at least a morning.
This museum is also famous for being the place where the films “One night in the museum” was shot. That movie with Ben Stiller, remember? It has fossils of dinosaurs of millions of years, remains of meteorites, minerals and even artifacts from ancient cultures.
The ticket is included in the Citypass, otherwise the entrance fee is $22. You will see that these 22 dollars are listed as “suggested price” which means you can go to the desk and pay less. I really don’t know how this method works and if it includes all the rooms and exhibitions, since I entered with the pass. It’s open every day from 10am to 5:45 pm!
Museum of Sex
Despite its short existence, opened only 15 years ago, it’s one of the most popular museums of the city. The place is mainly about the sexual evolution that the human has had throughout history.
Do not go with the idea of finding explicit stuff or grotesque but quite the opposite, treat the subject in a very conservative and didactic way as within the collection are works of art, photographs, different clothes, costumes, condoms and even technological inventions.
The entrance is around 20 dollars and opens from Sunday to Thursday from 10am to 8pm and on Fridays and Saturdays from 8pm to 9pm.
The Guggenheim Museum
Considered one of the most beautiful buildings in New York so it’s well worth visiting, even just a glance from the outside. Although it has all the appearance of being a new building, of those futurists who are seen more and more often, the reality is that it’s almost 70 years old!
The museum is also known for appearing in the movie Men in Black.
Opens every day except Thursdays! Keep in mind that even though tickets are included in the CityPass, you must choose between The Guggenheim or the Top of the Rock…Want both anyway? You will have to pay it separately.
Empire State and Rockefeller Center (Top of the Rock)
Two symbols of the city, really the landscape of New York would not be the same without these two giants! The best option is to choose one to go up at night and the other during the day so you can see the city at both times. My recommendation is to go during the day to the Empire State and at nightfall visit the Rockefeller Center, to be able to see the city along with the beautiful illumination of the Empire.
I went with the NY pass that I told you before but you can also buy the ticket right there for about $ 35 each, something a little more expensive than the pass if we make the account, no matter what time of year you go, New York is a city that is always full of tourists, so expect long queues to go up and once up… you must be super patience and wait to find that spot where to take the photo. Hey! Totally worths it!.
Impossible to visit New York and skip the Statue of Liberty in our first stops, the thing is that it’s been so many times that we saw this monument in movies, bombed, devastated by giant waves, destroyed by aliens!! This por statue suffered from everything we could imagine (according to Hollywood).
But I have to say it! And sure many of you have already visited it, that when you get there you are like… hmm this is it? Not to take it down but it’s much smaller than it seems in the movies, you really expect something giant, which is seem from hundreds of miles away, but the reality is that it’s much smaller, not least impressive.
We have several ways to see this emblematic icon of the city:
The first one and above all things, free! Is to take the ferry to Staten Island, leaving from the port every half hour approximately: the journey takes 25 minutes and you will be able to see from the water not only the Statue of Liberty and Elis Island, moreover you will have a nice view of the skyscrapers of Manhattan! If you just don’t want to stay at Staten Island just get off the ferry and take the other one back to Manhattan.
- The second option is the mini cruise, which docks on Elis island, giving us some time to explore it.
If you bought the NY pass you will see that it’s included! Keep in mind depending the time of the year maybe the boat just goes around the statue without stoping at the island. It has happened to me one of the times we weren’t able to stop at the island: A few weeks before a hurricane passed through the área destroying the small port!
Well this is a pretty obvious point, but it’s worth mentioning! Walking around it is without a doubt a MUST, it’s best to let go and get lost in the depths of this park. Stroll around the lake, take the time to disconnect a bit of the chaos of the city, a good idea is to take lunch-hour to make a picnic and then continue touring the city, that … if the weather allows of course!
Along its entire length, Central Park has several monuments and more than 30 statues, some well known! One of the most famous corners is the Literary Walk where we will find the largest amount of sculptures in the park, more or less at the 65th Street. It owes its name to the fact that most of the statues are of great poets and writers.
A must-see is the statue of Alice in Wonderland! She poses next to the rabbit, the cat and the mad hatter! Kids love to climb it and playa round it… and why not the ones not that young too? It’s located at the 74th Street.
Another must-see is the “Imagine” mosaic in homage to John Lennon at the intersection of Central Park West and the 72nd. It is one of the most visited places in the park so there is usually a lot of people all the time.
It could be said that it is one of the most famous bridges in the world or perhaps the most famous? Walking from one end to the other is the best way to get to know the picturesque neighborhood of Brooklyn, less chaotic than Manhattan, but with a special charm. On my first trip to NY, I took it out of my itinerary thinking that it wasn’t worth much… GREAT mistake!
Give it a little time at least, even rushing! Another good option can be by bike, the bridge is prepared for both pedestrians and bicycles! And for the laziest the subway will leave you right in the neighborhood of Brooklyn, but obviously you will miss the experience of walking on this iconic bridge and appreciate the amazing landscape!
What can I say about this place, with its thousands of lights and giant billboards became one of the icons of the city. I believe it makes no sense to talk about what to see or what to do in the area, it’s best to get lost in the and chaos and enjoy it in your own way but with patience, the crowds can get a bit overwhelming. Everything you want … here you will find it! Bars, museums, theaters, restaurants, toy stores, high end clothing stores… everything!
World Trade Center
After the terrible attack of 9/11 this area was rebuilt and put to new use, also known as “ground zero”. Although there are still things to be done, several new buildings were recently built, including the “One World Trade Center”, in which we can access its impressive observatory with beautiful views! Remember that’s super important to buy tickets in advance.
Another important stop is the 9/11 Memorial where tribute is paid to the victims of the attack, two huge waterfalls that fill endless pools in the exact place where the Twin Towers were located, surrounded by beautiful white oaks.
High Line Elevated Park
Relatively new place in the city, it was inaugurated in 2009 and one of the favorite green spaces for both tourists and locals. The curiosity is that it was built on an old elevated railway line! During its 2 km you will find food trucks, benches, places to lie down to sunbathe and a lots of green!
New York by Neighborhoods
New York is divided into several neighborhoods, very different from each other, probably that’s why many say that visiting this city is like traveling to several places in the world at the same time… as we can go from the chaotic China Town to the quiet neighborhoods of Soho with its characteristics Little houses, passing through the colorful Little Italy.
The good thing about Manhattan is that it no matter where this neighborhood is you will find a nearby metro station! Super easy to cross them all. Just remember to buy the “MetroCard” as I explained above.
Here’ the list of the most famous ones so you don’t miss any them:
Broadway: The vibrant Theather District, known for its world famous shows such as “The Lion King”, so if you are planning to get some tickets this is were you go!
China Town: Noisy and everything but tidy, full of restaurants, asians practicing martial arts, playing board games in the street, shops that sell everything that you can imagine (even knock offs), vendors selling exotic fruits in the streets and some poor animals, like rabbits, waiting to be someone’s dinner.
Little Italy: Little is left of the original neighborhood, where it used to be the home of many capos of the Italian mafia… what we see today is a very good staging of what was once: Many restaurants with delicious pasta and the typical pizza napolitana, stores with cheese everywhere, everything is set up perfectly for the tourists.
Wall Street: It is one of the most important and most famous financial districts worldwide! Here is the New York Stock Exchange, the largest stock market in the world… Also in the area is located the emblematic statue of the Bull that commemorates the spirit and determination of the American people after the crisis of the stock market in 1986.
The best way to get to know Wall Street in all its splendor is to walk around here one day a week, you will be immersed in a maelstrom of people! Men in suits rushing from side to side with their coffees in hand of course and super elegant women going from meeting to meeting without taking their eyes off their phones… And much more!.
Soho: the bohemian neighborhood by excellence in Manhattan, old warehouses and factories that were transformed into picturesque lofts, apartments and shops. However, in recent years the focus has shifted somewhat towards a more commercial district than the alternative neighborhood it used to be. Many of the artists that used to live here moved to Chelsea!
So if you want to shop and at good prices … this place! Most of the venues are concentrated in “Prince Street” although you will also find several more in the adjoining streets.
Chelsea: this neighborhood was transformed completely, from being a purely industrial place to being a center of contemporary art and vibrant nightlife.
- “Chelsea Market”, former factory of Nabisco transformed into fair-like premises with things from all over the world.
- Chelsea’s Flower district “a market of colorful flowers and plants of the most varied, do not forget!
- In this neighborhood is the High Line Elevated Park that I told you above.
Even though these aren’t in the list of the main attractions, here’s some sites that you can’t miss.
- Grand Central Terminal
- Federal Hall
- Catedral de San Patricio
- Chrysler Building
- Public Library