Even if you’ve never been to New York City, its name probably brings to mind a multitude of symbols: the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Wall Street, Broadway, yellow taxicabs, kosher delis, and on and on. But as potent as the city’s presence in the imagination can be, there’s nothing quite like experiencing it firsthand. Once you’ve taken a stroll through Central Park in autumn or crossed the Brooklyn Bridge on a perfect day in spring, it’s easy to see how the Big Apple has inspired so many movies, TV shows, books, and songs.
New York for First-Time Visitors
You may crave an authentic, local experience, but you’ll kick yourself if you don’t pay a visit to these spots at least once.
- Empire State Building: A bona fide American icon. Take the elevator to the observation deck to re-enact scenes from An Affair to Remember or King Kong.
- Times Square: The country’s monument to sensory overload. Neon signs, wraparound news tickers, costumed street performers, megastores, and more tourists than you could possibly imagine make this Midtown commercial plaza the so-called Crossroads of the World.
- Central Park: For a breather from all the hustle and bustle, step into the city’s 800-acre oasis, designed in the 19th century by master landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Visit the zoo, snap a photo from Belvedere Castle, and pay tribute to John Lennon at Strawberry Fields.
- Statue of Liberty: An enduring symbol of freedom and promise for generations of immigrants, especially those entering via nearby Ellis Island (which is also worth a visit).
- Where to stay: For an over-the-top experience, splurge on a stay at the Ritz-Carlton, where top-hatted, tuxedoed doormen greet guests from the hotel’s location alongside Central Park. To be near the most popular attractions, try The Hotel @ Times Square, a property within walking distance of just about everything worth seeing.
New York for Foodies
- Food tours are a good way to get to know the city and its multifarious culinary scene. Sign up for one of the offerings from Foods of New York Tours to learn more about the history and culture of areas such as Chelsea, the Meatpacking District, and Greenwich Village.
- Chinatown: To feel like you’ve entered an entirely different country, head to this bustling neighborhood chockablock with vendors selling unusual foods next to restaurants serving up cuisine from pretty much any part of China you can think of.
- Celebrity chefs: Go all out on a meal at one of New York’s many Michelin-rated restaurants. Eric Ripert’s Le Bernadin, Masa Takayama’s Masa, and David Chang’s Momofuku are all stand-outs.
- Where to stay: Hotel Mulberry, a quiet boutique hotel in Chinatown, is close to a multitude of eateries as well as the subway.
New York for Culture Vultures
In the city that never sleeps, you’ll never run out of things to do. Cultural offerings are around every corner in this artistic mecca.
- Broadway: Head to the Great White Way to see shows such as The Phantom of the Opera, Aladdin, or Wicked.
- Museum of Modern Art: MoMA houses an indispensable trove of modern and contemporary paintings, photographs, and sculptures, including work by Picasso, Matisse, van Gogh, and Gauguin.
- Lincoln Center: Home base for the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Philharmonic, and the New York City Ballet
- Where to stay: The Empire Hotel, an upscale boutique hotel close to Lincoln Center and a few blocks from Central Park
New York Beyond Manhattan: Brooklyn
Inhabited by 2.5 million people, this vast borough contains dozens of unique neighborhoods, many of which have exploded in popularity in recent years.
- Park Slope: Trendy restaurants, 19th-century brownstones, and boutique shopping can all be found in this area.
- Williamsburg: Self-consciously divey bars, a thriving live music scene, and coffee shops every few feet
- Green-Wood Cemetery: A lesser known Brooklyn gem, this 175-year-old graveyard is everything the rest of NYC is not—serene, pastoral, and almost silent. Great views of the Manhattan skyline.
- Coney Island: World-famous amusement park, home to the Cyclone Roller Coaster, amazing hot dogs, and a lively boardwalk along the Atlantic Ocean
- Where to stay: The Park Slope Bed and Breakfast lets you live like a local in a historic brownstone steps from Prospect Park.