A Visitor's Guide to New York City
When I moved to New York, my dear mom and sister came with me to the Big Apple. My mom had been to the city before, but my sister hadn't been east of Missouri! So naturally, our five days together was jam-packed with sight-seeing, yummy food, and continuous memories. I am so glad that I was able to plan where we were going to go before we left the house in the morning -- New York may be a small island, but the amount to accomplish is astounding. Really, you must have a game plan (or at least, a thought of one) to take on the town with force.
First things first, wear your walking shoes.
My mom and sister were confident that their feet would be just fine in the shoes that they were used to walking around in. Yet one day into our adventure and they were almost desperate for new kicks. Don't worry, we stopped by Macy's (yes, the huge one, the "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade" one) and all got new sneakers. The trick to New York is to bring multiple pairs of shoes you can walk in - two is fine - so you can trade off. Don't doubt me - my trusty Birks and I have gone to war after a bad day afoot.
Group activities together based on location.
When you start planning your trip to the city your mind will be flooded with activities you want to do and landmarks you need to oodle at. Write them all down. I cannot stress this enough - write them down as they come to you so you can go back and group them together based on what part of the city they are in. Aside from our little detour from the Lower East Side to Central Park back to the Lower East side, my family and I did fairly well at this. Here are some of the "must-sees" that we grouped together:
Midtown: Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, New York Public Library, Grand Central Station, 5th Avenue shops, Empire State building, Flatiron building
Lower Manhattan: the Financial District, Battery Park, World Trade Center, Staten Island Ferry, Brooklyn Bridge, Tompkins Square Park (& Tompkins Square Bagels!!!)
Lower Manhattan (ok, there's lots to do here): Washington Square Park, Greenwich Village (stop by the "Friends" apartment), Little Italy, Chinatown
West Side: Chelsea's Market, the High Line, Chelsea Pier, Hell's Kitchen (tons of restaurants here)
Going Uptown: Central Park, Trump Tower, Tiffany's, Museum Mile, more shops
The point is, there is no need to be subwaying back and forth, all over the place. Just look at a map and hit all the things you want to see in the most timely matter. For instance, obviously, all NYC visitors need to at least glance at Times Square, but if you're already seeing a show (we saw "Wicked", would 11/10 recommend) you can take a peek either before or after. Just be strategic so you can spend more time in awe of the city and less time traveling underground.
Choose one main meal a day.
New York is home to thousands of amazing restaurants. This city is a foodie's dream, and it is easy to get caught up in all there is to sample. But when visiting, it can also be very easy to spend a small fortune on tasty morsels. The key to this is mapping out your food in accordance to what you're doing; again, stay in the same part of the city. I suggest that you make your main meal lunch, ideally around 2 or 3 PM. This will help you avoid the dinner rush, give you time to properly digest the delightful dish you've devoured, and keep you energized throughout the day. We generally started our day with either oatmeal or a bagel sandwich in the morning, then ate our main meal for lunch. We could then grab a lighter dinner, a snack, or *best yet* dessert.
Some places I highly suggest you eat: Eataly (Flatiron), Ribalta (Union Square), The Dubliner (FiDi), Los Tacos No. 1 (Chelsea's Market), 10Below Ice Cream (Chinatown)
When in doubt, Uber.
Normally, as a young, broke professional New Yorker (have I earned that title yet?) I shudder at the thought of Ubering somewhere when the New York public transportation system is fairly simple. Metrocards save you SO MUCH money, and you should definitely buy an unlimited one for the length of your stay. But if it's late and you're tired and you aren't totally sure where you're heading, it's best to just Uber back to your Airbnb. If you don't know the city super well, it's better safe than spending hours lost and possibly ending up in Harlem.
New York City may seem like a monster to be conquered, but it's really just a city full of fast-talking people, speaking who knows how many languages, eating Lord knows an atrocious amount of carbs. You'll do just fine -- take it one day at a time and make sure you drop me a line so we can chat over coffee!