New York City is the mecca of the modern world. The Big Apple, as it is colloquially known as is the kind of place that just keeps moving and moving. This could also be the reason it is also known as The City that Never Sleeps. Regardless of what it is known as one thing is for sure. This is truly a city that is so lively and packed with attractions, activities, and everything else that it can almost be impossible to come up with the perfect itinerary if it happens to be the first time there. If you’re planning to visit New York City for the first time, here’s everything you need to start planning your trip. Base your itinerary around any ticket availability for any Broadway Shows, performances, or events that you may want to see while you’re there. We’ll also help you find a vacation rental home that’s centralized for all the things you want to do.
Sites You Won’t Want To Miss
The Empire State Building
Once touted as the tallest building in the United States, the Empire State Building remains an extremely popular tourist destination. Located in Midtown Manhattan, the Empire State Building is a must-see for admiring panoramic views across the Big Apple. Travel up this Art Deco building in a high-speed elevator to stand on the open-air observation deck. This site has impressive observatories on the 86th and 106th floors. At an elevation of 1,050 feet, it still stands as the highest of its type in New York City. It features four promenades, one on each side, and a glass-covered section for protection against the summer heat or the wintry chill. The second observatory is even higher up. The enclosed Top Deck is located on the 102nd floor, which is at an elevation of 1,250 feet.
Pro traveler tip: Some say one can see to Delaware on a clear day from the top. Be sure to choose a clear day to scale this landmark because the view will be much better.
The Brooklyn Bridge
This 125-year-old Brooklyn Bridge connects Brooklyn and Manhattan. Opened in 1883, it was the world’s longest suspension bridge at that time. The historic bridge is famed for its suspension cables and Gothic towers and arches. You can ride, bike, run or walk across the bridge that stretches for a little over one mile. Stop at the viewing platform for views of the East River, Manhattan, and the Statue of Liberty. The views are amazing so plan on snapping some photos. The steel suspension bridge reaches over the East River and took 14 years to build from 1869–1883.
There’s plenty to do in Brooklyn, and it’s worth considering booking your vacation home rental there if you’re not so keen to stay on the other side of the bridge. Brooklyn Botanic Garden spans 52 acres and one of its highlights is the Japanese-style garden, which features cherry blossoms, Japanese maples, wooden bridges, and ponds. For families with young kids, one of the best places to visit in NYC is Brooklyn’s famous amusement site, Coney Island. It comprises numerous amusement parks, a museum, eateries, bars, and the New York Aquarium.
Pro traveler tip: Be sure to bring a camera on the visit to the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge itself, as well as the surrounding parks and neighborhood, make for the perfect snapshots.
Radio City Music Hall
Visiting NYC tips would have to include purchasing tickets ahead of time for popular shows. This includes shows like the famous Radio City Rockettes® at the Radio City Music Hall in the Rockefeller Center. These dance performances have been entertaining audiences for more than 90 years. You can also tour the restored music hall without seeing a performance. This historic theater was built in 1932 and continues to be a sightseeing attraction.
Pro traveler tip: Be sure to check ahead and see what the schedule is like for upcoming artists that may coincide with your vacation. It is the perfect opportunity to catch an artist performing at their prime in this magnetic city.
Check Out the Financial District
Huge skyscrapers line the streets in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan. Expect to stumble upon Wall Street, hipster bars, young entrepreneurs, and investment bankers. Grab lunch or dinner at one of the famous restaurants. You’ll see museums and upscale shops in this bustling area, and the first bank was founded where the New York Stock Exchange exists today. The bar scene kicks in after-work hours.
Pro traveler tip: Wall St. makes up only a small portion of a much more magical area. This is the perfect place to use as a checkpoint so wandering around the city will be made simple.
Chinatown is a crowded part of the city full of fish markets and Asian restaurants. Try the chopsticks as you dine on authentic Asian food like fried dumplings, dim sum, and spicy garlic noodles. The oldest restaurant in Chinatown is Nom-Wah Tea Parlor, which has been serving food since 1920. While you could certainly eat your way through Chinatown, you’ll also find shops tucked into narrow corridors, pagoda-style buildings, and a Buddhist Temple.
Pro traveler tip: It is very easy to get lost and turned around on these winding streets. Be sure to use a GPS or map when traveling around this area as to not wind up losing vacation time to find out where you are.
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Possibly the first landmark that enters everyone’s minds when thinking about New York is the Statue of Liberty. Get a good view of it from Battery Park or take the Staten Island Ferry to Liberty Island to get up close to this iconic symbol of freedom. Book in advance to walk up to the crown and enjoy the panoramic view across New York Harbor. Or simply walk around Lady Liberty’s base and go inside the pedestal. While you’re there, take the time to stop at Ellis Island and visit the Immigration Museum to learn about the experiences the immigrants went through when they arrived at the immigration station to be processed so they could enter the United States.
Pro traveler tip: Be sure to bring a few snacks along because hitting all of these spots at one will be a whole day trip. If the time is available split it up into different days.
No matter what time of year you visit NYC, make sure you visit Central Park in Manhattan. Wander through its pathways, have a picnic on the grass, take a boat ride on the lake and even go ice skating on Wollman Rink in the winter. The park spans 843 acres and is home to many attractions. Tour the park in a horse-and-carriage ride or learn about the park’s history and architecture when you embark on a guided walking tour. Enjoy bird-watching in spring and special events, such as Shakespeare in the Park, in summer. Pay homage to the Beatles at Strawberry Fields, which is a memorial to John Lennon, who was assassinated in the street across from this area. Take in the panoramic views offered at Belvedere Castle, which include views of the Ramble, the Turtle Pond, and the Delacorte Theater.
Field packs to help you explore the park are available at Belvedere Castle, and you can also look at natural history artifacts inside the building. Gaze at the many famous sculptures within the park, such as Balto the sled dog and Alice in Wonderland. Staying in a vacation rental home near Central Park means you’re near many of the best attractions in the city. The American Museum of Natural History, as an example, is just off Central Park West.
Pro traveler tip: There are so many different things to do and see in this massive green space. Check ahead to see if any special events are being planned there to make the visit there that much more special.
In the heart of Manhattan, you’ll find Times Square. Teeming with throngs of crowds, the area has plenty of activities to offer, including shopping, restaurants, and attractions. See a waxwork replica of your favorite celebrity in Madame Tussauds New York, encounter creatures from the deep at the National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey, and immerse yourself in the NFL Experience. At night, the bright lights of the many digital billboards and displays are hard to miss. When you’re in Times Square, don’t forget to take in a show at one of the surrounding Broadway theaters. If you haven’t already purchased tickets to a show in advance, simply go to Times Square’s TKTS booth and get discounted same-day tickets.
Pro traveler tip: It can be quite overwhelming coming here as a first-time visitor. However, there are many police officers, city workers, and guides on every corner to steer you in the right direction.
Where to Stay in NYC
The neighborhood you stay in can have a big impact on your New York vacation experience. When you’re deciding where to set up your home base while you’re away, think about the things you want to do and the overall vibe you want your trip to take on. You can find a wide variety of great vacation rentals in New York City, from Manhattan to neighborhoods across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Greenwich Village is heavy on classic New York City charm, from its tree-lined streets to its historic brownstone walk-ups. It’s the setting for many iconic TV shows. This neighborhood was a hotspot for music, art, and literature in the ’50s and ’60s, and it still maintains a creative atmosphere. If you opt for a vacation apartment in Greenwich Village, expect to spend lots of time admiring historic buildings, leisurely sipping coffee in classic New York coffee shops, browsing independent boutiques, listening to live music, and enjoying the food at great restaurants. Local attractions include Washington Square Park and the Stonewall Inn, and you can easily get to other landmarks such as Central Park, the Empire State Building, and Times Square.
Favorite local spots: Caffe Reggio is a must-see cafe in Greenwich village. Stop by here any time of day to get a truly authentic NYC experience. Be sure to try the Penne alla Genovese.
Lower East Side
The Lower East Side has shrugged its shabby roots to become one of the chicest neighborhoods in Manhattan. This area is home to trendy restaurants, world-class galleries, and boutiques filled with the latest fashions. If you want to experience the nightlife while you’re in town, you can find lots of great bars and clubs within walking distance of your front door, including famous names like the Bowery Ballroom. The Lower East Side is a convenient distance from the Brooklyn Bridge, Williamsburg, and Greenwich Village, and the subway can quickly take you to Midtown.
Favorite local spots: Check out Wild Air for a new take on traditional American cuisine. This luxurious spot is sure to satisfy the tastebuds with something on the menu for anyone that comes in for a meal.
Not all of the action happens in Manhattan. Williamsburg is a fantastic place to find vacation rentals in NYC, and its young, hip atmosphere is a huge draw. This Brooklyn neighborhood boasts great restaurants serving everything from sushi to burgers, rooftop bars that give you great views of the Manhattan skyline, and quirky stores that sell locally made goods. If you want to venture into Manhattan to see the sights, a quick subway ride or a walk across the Williamsburg Bridge gets you to the Lower East Side.
Favorite local spots: Check out Grand Ferry Park for a truly magical experience while in Williamsburg. A fantastic view of the NYC skyline will be sure to blow spectators away.
If you’re looking for a quieter place to spend your nights, Park Slope in Brooklyn makes an excellent choice. This neighborhood is popular with young professionals and artists, and although it’s heavy on green space and quiet streets, you can still find lots to see and do. Local attractions include Prospect Park, which has its zoo, and Old Stone House. You’ll find it easy to get to the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and Manhattan.
Favorite local spots: Prospect Park is a must-see attraction that draws millions of visitors every year. Spend an afternoon in the quiet park that also allows for fun of all ages within its borders.
Meatpacking District and Chelsea
Art and fashion play big roles in the daily life of the Meatpacking District. Its former slaughterhouses and warehouses are now home to chic loft-style apartments, trendy galleries, and excellent restaurants. This is a nightlife hotspot, so you can dance the night away without venturing far from your vacation rental. If you’re looking for a quieter atmosphere but want to stay somewhere central, look for options next door in Chelsea.
Favorite local spots: The Whitney Museum for American Art is a fantastic place to take in the arts and culture of America and specifically NYC. Be sure to stop here for an inquisitive experience.
Top Travel Tips
Strategize The Location Of Your Vacation Rental
Before you start looking for a vacation rental in the big city, it may be helpful to look at a map and understand not only where New York’s five boroughs are located but also where important spots like museums, parks, and transit hubs are located. This will make it much easier to choose a rental in the right part of town. Though New York is physically small, the sheer volume of people in the city — more than 27,000 per square mile — often means that getting from place to place is harder than you’d expect.
New York for the Budget Conscious
When budget is an issue, it may make sense to look into New York’s outer boroughs. However, you’ll want to stay focused on your ideal activities itinerary and keep your distance in mind. For example, Staten Island is home to some of the city’s most affordable neighborhoods, but it’s a literal island that’s separated from the rest of New York by water.
Spending a full week on Staten Island would mean commuting to Manhattan and other parts of NYC by ferry, and while that might be fun for a day or two, it could become time-consuming over an entire week. Queens, which is connected to the subway system and easily accessible by car, provides a good balance of affordability and access.
Stay For A Week If You Can
The great thing about visiting New York for a full week is that you’ll never run out of sights to see, places to go, and amazing things to eat — even if you do end up in a relatively quiet corner of the city. Pro tip: it’s not necessary to rent a car for a week to explore The City That Never Sleeps. Use the subway, cabs, or rideshare options to get around so you can see as much of the city as possible on your vacation. One important tip for finding the right week-long vacation rental: check to see whether your rental has conveniences like air conditioning and an elevator. A single night in a 15th-floor walk-up apartment might not be so bad, but it’ll get old after a few days.
There’s no place quite like New York City. Each visit will uncover even more to do, whether it’s going to a different show, touring a museum, or finding a cool pub! New York City is a place where just about anything can be seen, heard, or tasted. Truly a city of magnificence this is the place to go for anyone looking for an adventure around every corner. Hopping by train, bus, or boat from borough to borough is a life-changing experience that will bring a new perspective into any visitor’s life. The Big Apple awaits.