I LOVE traveling, and I love sharing restaurants and things to do so other people can enjoy the same amazing destination. There are so many options, ESPECIALLY in a place like New York City, that the lists of good eats and things to do and see are endless. My getaway guides are simply meant to give you a head start so you’re not going into a trip totally clueless. You’ll find middle of the road restaurant options, and a few things to get your day started with adventure. I’m a huge fan of going with the flow when I travel, but I’ve found doing a bit of researching and pre-planning helps me get the most out of a new city or area. So, consider this your basic research. I’m going to give you deets by area so you have some places to hit as you explore the island.
A few tips I have for traveling in NYC:
Use the subway, but definitely get the experience of hailing a taxi. If you’re only there a few days, just pay per trip for the subway, but if you’re there more than 3 days (or plan on island hopping and lots of exploration), just get the week pass!
Make reservations. It goes without saying that NYC is a busy place, so I highly suggest making reservations (even for brunch and lunch if you plan a sit down). Try the Open Table app.
Fly in early and fly out late. If you're just going for the weekend, catch an early morning flight and an evening flight on your day out. You can get a solid 3 days of exploration in with only 2 nights of lodging.
Pack light. There is a LOT of walking, and if you plan on taking the metro from the airport, there are plenty of stairwells and packed trains that will have you regretting a big suitcase.
Wear comfy shoes!!!! Do all the walking, the island is best seen by foot, but your trip will be a bummer if your feet are screaming.
If you’re going in winter, bring a coat that goes to your knees (or at least covers your bum). The cold and wind can find it’s way to places you won’t like. lol
Don’t get caught up in the touristy things. Sure, see all the typical NYC staples, but live like a local. Go to hole in the walls, eat dinner late, ask locals where to hang. The island is way more enjoyable when you do.
I’ve been to NYC in every season, and stayed in several different areas (including Brooklyn, the Financial District, Upper Eastside, and right on Times Square (don’t unless you like hoards of humans)). I’ve settled on a go-to area of town to stay, and that’s east midtown. It’s central to all the trains which makes it easy to get to literally anywhere, but it’s just away enough that you can experience life as a local. I don’t spend much time in the hotel (and suggest you don’t either), so a central location is key for me!
If you find yourself in that area, a great pop in breakfast or lunch spot is Urban Space. There are LOTS of options (market style) from fresh juices to Mediterranean to pizza to a yummy coffee joint with the cutest branding.
You’re also not far from one of my favorite NYC restaurants, the Smith. Call be basic, but I’m a huge fan of this twist on comfort food, and eat at the Smith every time I’m in town! Their truffle gnocchi (holy smokes, y’all), spicy salmon tartar, and Gatsby cocktail are my go-to! The best idea you’ll have on the trip is ordering several plates and sharing! There are several locations around Manhattan, so definitely put this on your list!
The Horny Ram (haha) is a good spot to grab a drink on your way to the Smith.
If you haven’t, peep Times Square at night. Personally, I think it’s one of those places that once you see it, you’ve seen it, but you definitely should see it once. If you're staying in east midtown, you’re within easy walking distance of Times Square, Rockafellar, the original Saks, St. Patrick Cathedral, Radio City, Broadway, and the NYC Library (which is beautiful inside!). You’re also just south of Central Park and the infamous designer shops on 5th Ave.
Places to Eat/Drink:
The Smith, Urban Space, Ellen’s Stardust Diner (I’ve only heard), the Horny Ram
Things to See/Do:
Times Square, Rockafellar, the original Saks, St. Patrick Cathedral, Radio City, Broadway Shows, the NYC Library, 5th Ave, Central Park
Central Park/UPPER EASTSIDE
The south end of Central Park is definitely where you’ll find all the tourists and tourist attractions. I’ve done both a carriage ride and a bike cart tour during Christmas, and the bike cart tour definitely worth the money (you can usually haggle a bit on price). We learned so much, and got to see a ton of the park! I’m not usually one for tours, but this one was extremely memorable. The horse tour is cool to say you did, but it didn’t enrich my life a ton.
During the day, the park is quieter up north. Stop in for a macaron at the Plaza Food Hall (just below the Plaza Hotel), then head upstate. A few stops along your way are Bethesda Terrace (if Gossip Girl fan, this is where Chuck and Blair got married), the Loeb Boathouse (where you can grab a bite or take a romantic little boat ride), and plenty of quiet little hills to sit and people watch or picnic. By this time, you won’t be far from the MET. You could spend a whole day there, or simply pop in to see the latest featured installation.
A few of my favorite places to stop in for a bite or drink or just good ‘ol fashioned entertainment are on this side of the island. If you’re wanting to shake things up and love Thai food like me (a fave!!), Up Thai is THE cutest. Their Pad Thai is delicious! The Penrose is super vibey with great bites and cocktails, and from there, you can head to Brandy’s Piano bar which is sure to be a good time. If you catch it on the right night, the bartenders-turned entertainers are known for their show-worthy musical talents and brash, but endearing demeanors. It’s a hole in the wall that’ll never disappoint. From there, head next door to Trinity Pub for an intimate and authentically Irish experience.
Places to Eat/Drink:
Up Thai, The Penrose, Brandy’s Piano Bar, Trinity Pub, Dorrian’s (I’ve heard), Insomnia (all over the island), Joe’s (Coffee)
Things to See/Do:
Loeb Boathouse, Bethesda Terrace, Central Park bike cart tour, The Met
I love this area of the island, it’s probably my favorite. A ton of the goodness has popped up in recent years, and it seems to be the spot for 20-somethings. It helps it’s blocks from NYU. When I think of Friends, this is the area I imagine them in (hilarious, I just googled Friends apartment, and it’s in Greenwich…no wonder). There are coffee shops, pizza joints, eclectic bars, and cute shops. You’re not far from the iconic Bleecker street or the western shore overlooking New Jersey.
Chelsea Market is home to local artisans, plenty of lunch spots, the Doughnuttery, and an entry way for the High Line. Stroll down the High Line for beautiful street and water views and to get a different perspective of the city. Pop in to see the Starbucks Roastery, it’s impressive. You’re not far from the Frying Pan, which is a must hang if the weather is nice. Grab a drink and enjoy this unique bar scene located on a historic lightship on the water. For dinner, I’ve really enjoyed Fig and Olive, a twist on Mediterranean food. Catch, next door, is a good cocktail stop.
Kesté Pizza and Vino! They are a shoebox sized Italian joint that does $5 (Neapolitan wood-fired) pizzas along with yummy Italian wine. It’s the perfect afternoon stop if you’re planning a late dinner. Sticking with the Italian theme, Rosemary’s is a light and airy spot of goodness. If the food is anything like the margs, you’ll wanna stop into Suprema. A few blocks north is The Donut Pub, known for their croissant donut, and a few blocks south is DŌ, delicious edible cookie dough.
Places to Eat/Drink:
Fig and Olive, Catch, Chelsea Market, the Frying Pan, Kesté, Rosemary’s, The Donut Pub, the Doughnuttery, DŌ, Eataly (Flat Iron district)
Things to See/Do:
Chelsea Market, Highline, Starbucks Roastery, The Friends’ Apartment, Washington Square, NYU campus, Kleinfeld Bridal (for my brides)
OTHER THINGS TO DO:
Other things to do: 911 Memorial/Museum, Staten Island Ferry, Brooklyn, Statue of Liberty Tour
There ya have it. Again, my guides are simply to get you started. Your possibilities are endless in NYC. You can find literally any type of food, entertainment, or person. It’s a beautiful fusion of every culture yet Americana in its own right. If you prepare for hustle and bustle, lots of walking and train rides, and dirty ears and nostrils, you’ll have a blast!
Do you have go-to’s and places you love to see or do in NYC? Drop them below to add to the list! Happy Traveling!
photos below by Garrett Lobaugh