New York: The city of dreams, endless possibilities, and no sleep. They say if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. But what if you’re only here for a few days?
Even as a visitor, you can still make your mark. If you blend together classic tourist activities with local favorites, you will get a full experience that will have everyone thinking you’re just a regular New Yorker.
Here, we’ve broken down where to go, what to do, where to yoga, and where to eat in Manhattan. Some tourist points of interest are left off (sorry, Statue of Liberty!) because otherwise this guide would turn into a chapter book. These are the hits from a local’s perspective, and please use TripAdvisor and any other preferred travel sites and books to plan out your full city adventure.
EXPLORE & DO
We’ll start at Times Square, which is at the top of every first timer’s list and the very bottom for every local. This is the busiest part of Manhattan. There’s Broadway, M&M’s World, tons of shopping, and the New Year’s ball atop One Times Square. If you’re able to, get tickets to a Broadway show. Popular shows like Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen are a challenge to get tickets for unless if you book incredibly far in advance or win the ticket lottery, but there are many great shows out – Kinky Boots and The Lion King – that you’re bound to find something! Another fun activity is to see a comedy show at Caroline’s on Broadway, a famous comedy club.
Next, head to Bryant Park. Enjoy meandering and stopping off at the Wafles and Dinges stand for a snack. There is always something going on here, including yoga in the park during the summer and the Winter Village markets during the holiday season. Opposite to Bryant Park is the New York Public Library. Explore this landmark and then walk up Fifth Avenue for shopping at your favorite stores. During the holidays, the department stores famously pull out all the stops for their window displays – most notably Saks Fifth Avenue and its light show.
Then check out Rockefeller Center, home to the Christmas Tree, the 30 Rock building, and the TODAY Show Plaza. Take the NBC Studio Tour to learn about the network’s history and famous sets including Saturday Night Live. The Museum of Modern Art is also a few blocks away – there are always cool exhibits there.
Another favorite is Grand Central Terminal. This landmark transports you back to an era of glamorous travel. Check out the main concourse and then go downstairs to discover New York classic eats interwoven between train platform entrances. Plus, there’s Grand Central Market to take a snack (or two) home.
Flatiron is also a great area. While technically still in Midtown, it has its own vibe. Check out the Flatiron Building, Madison Square Park, and Eataly. There are plenty of good restaurants and streets to explore here. And, if you continue south, you will get to Union Square.
Back up north is Columbus Circle, which borders Central Park West. Fun fact, it is on the Thanksgiving Day Parade Route. Step inside The Time-Warner Center, A.K.A The Shops at Columbus Circle, for gorgeous views overlooking Columbus Circle and the Park.
Upper West Side: This is one of my favorite neighborhoods with its tree-lined streets and beautiful, well-kept brownstones. Lincoln Center is a must-see performing arts mecca that is fantastic at night with its twinkling lights. During the day, you can enjoy the public seating areas. Then head over the Jacques Torres Chocolate Upper West Side location for some divine hot chocolate. You may even see Mr. Chocolate himself there! For museum-lovers, the Museum of Natural History borders the park. Don’t forget to meander – you will find so much charm in this neighborhood.
Upper East Side: Yes, this is where Gossip Girl took place. But, there is also Museum Mile, which includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Guggenheim also calls the Upper East Side home. For sugar lovers (guilty), the Ladurée New-York Madison shop is here for macarons and Dylan’s Candy Bar for everything else sweet.
From gorgeous brownstones in the West Village to the architectural delights of SoHo, enjoy some of the most charming (and most expensive) parts of Manhattan. It’s easy to feel like a local walking through these streets. Plus, there are plenty of top-rated restaurants, bars, and shops. New York University is around here, as is Washington Square Park. And, for more of a “classic,” grungy city feel, the East Village is your spot to explore.
Financial District is also a favorite with its narrow streets and high skyscrapers. One World Trade is the biggest point of interest. My personal feeling is that if you lived through the day in any capacity, the 9/11 Museum isn’t necessarily a must-do. This is a somber area that brings back memories of the day – and you will feel it by the memorial fountains.
The latest addition is the Oculus, which connects nearly all of the major subways as well as the Path to New Jersey (the original hub was destroyed in the attacks). The all-white interior and beams make this an architectural wonder. The transit hub and tourist destination triple as a mall, too.
Brookfield Place is right across from One World Trade. Here you will find more shopping and Le District, a French market with the most delicious cheeses, crepes, and chocolates ever. Outside of Brookfield is a view of New Jersey across the Hudson and Lady Liberty standing proudly.
New York City has a plethora of hybrid workout classes and any variation of yoga you can think up. There is a huge fitness scene here and we have some intense yogis. But for those of us who still love the classic flows, some favorites include Yoga to the People, Om Factory, and Laughing Lotus complete with its own glitter bar. What makes Yoga to the People so unique (and so crowded) is that classes are donation-based. While you are probably less than an inch away from fellow yogis on all sides of your mat, you know you are helping a great cause to give yoga to everybody. YogaWorks also has New York locations.
In the summer, outdoor yoga pops up, like Bryant Park, Central Park, and the rooftops of select studios. The best way to find these is a simple Google search.
“We’re going in to the city – where should we eat?” Hardest question ever. New York is a melting pot. There are so many places to eat and types of cuisine that you’re never starved for options. These are just a small sampling of my personal favorite spots, but there are literally thousands to choose from.
Pomodoro (Italian, Upper West Side): Delicious, quality Italian food. Many celebrities have dined here, so you may be sharing a corner with your favorite star.
Carmine’s (Italian, Midtown & Upper West Side): This über popular family-style restaurant serves meatballs the size of your head. Get a reservation here – it’s hard to get a table otherwise. I recommend the Upper West Side location because it’s less crowded, but the Midtown one is perfect to go to before or after a show. Their biggest dessert is a mammoth ice cream sundae called The Titantic. So, yeah.
The AOC (French, West Village): Classic French dishes, mouthwatering fries, and divine desserts. The AOC is my favorite restaurant in the city. A salad niçoise with a side of fries – to keep it balanced – is that perfect Bad Yogi meal.
Marseille (French, Midtown): Fantastic French food in a delicate setting. If you’re looking for brunch in Midtown, this is your place.
Santa Fe (Southwestern, Upper West Side): Probably some of the best Mexican food in Manhattan, this is a small place that has a great lunch and dinner menu.
ABA (Turkish, Midtown): Serving up traditional Turkish cuisine, even the simplest of dishes are delicious.
Murray’s Cheese Bar (American, West Village): Imagine enjoying mac & cheese with a side of grilled cheese made with the creamiest cheeses you’ve ever had. You’ll thank me later.
Jack’s Wife Freida (American, SoHo): This cozy restaurant is incredibly popular for good reason. It has a Mediterranean-inspired menu with simple dishes that make a brunch lover’s heart swoon. Expect a wait.
Hide-Chan Ramen (Japanese, Midtown): There are plenty of ramen places in the city, but this is my recommendation of where to get your fix.
Joe’s Shanghai (Chinese, Midtown): You can try out one of the many restaurants in Chinatown, or Joe’s Shanghai in Midtown for delicious dumplings.
Levain Bakery (Upper West Side): This is a very popular bakery known for its massive cookies that are golden on the outside and gooey in the center. The line is always out the door.
Molly’s Cupcakes (West Village): Lots of places do cupcakes. No one does them like Molly’s. These cupcakes are infused with your favorite goodness – cookie dough, caramel, fruit – and are perfectly delectable.
Morgenstern’s (Nolita): There’s a reason Kanye West collaborated with Morgenstern’s and that it was featured on Master of None. This is the best ice cream ever. That is all.
Grom (West Village): This gelateria is in the heart of the West Village – and will be at the center of your heart once you have a bite.
Big Gay Ice Cream (Multiple Locations): If you can comfortably eat an ice cream cone called the Salty Pimp, this is your place. The ice cream is so good, and the atmosphere may be the best part.
There’s a reason so many songs are about New York City! Have you been? What are your favorite places?