The best of New York City’s sights, food, shopping, and more

For first timers

Hit up some of the big sights that sound interesting to you, but don’t overdo it and try to see everything at once. Aim for 2 or 3 big sights with time for wandering and eating.

  • Statue of Liberty. Take pictures with the iconic statue or make the climb inside. Then head to Ellis Island, which is included in your ferry ticket, to get a sense of history.
  • Central Park. This massive park spans the upper half of Manhattan and is completely free to stroll through. As long as you stick to well lit areas at night, it’s typically perfectly safe for tourists.
  • Times Square. You’ve seen it in movies, now go there in real life. You’ll only find chain restaurants here, so head anywhere else for a bite to eat.
  • Rockefeller Center. This cute shopping center features high-end shopping and an ice skating rink in winter. Head to the Top of the Rock for iconic views of the city while you’re there, or find a nearby rooftop bar like Cloud or Skylark for a cheaper alternative.
  • Little Italy &¬†Chinatown. No visit to New York is complete without some authentic restaurants and shopping. You could spend all day in Chinatown alone then hit up the main drag in Little Italy for dinner on an open air patio.
  • Coney Island. Get some sun at the beach or get your game on at the boardwalk. Skip this one if you’re not visiting in the summer; even March is usually too chilly to enjoy the ocean views.
  • Broadway. While you’re in the city, see if there’s a play or show for you. Consider an Off-Broadway show to save a bit, which are typically in a smaller theater but with similar production values as the real deal.
  • Pro tip: Download the free app TodayTix to get free and discounted tickets to shows, typically under $50. Expect to pay $100 for a full-price ticket.

For shopaholics

With no shortage of great shopping, you’re sure to pick some favorites of your own as you wander New York’s many streets. Add these top picks to your list of can’t-miss shopping destinations.

  • Best vintage shopping: Brooklyn Flea, 241 37th St, Brooklyn, NY
  • Best Chinatown shopping: Pearl River Mart, 395 Broadway Ave
  • Best bookstore: Kinokuniya Bookstore, 6th Ave
  • Best antiquing: Manhattan Art & Antiques Center,¬† 1050 2nd Ave
  • Best seasonal winter market: Bryant Park, 1073 6th Ave
  • Pro tip: Skip Rockefeller Center’s ice skating rink and head to Bryant Park instead. It’s less crowded and more affordable.

For foodies

New York has something for everyone, but the staples are still bagels, pretzels, and pizza. Make sure you check off those three foods from your list to complete your authentic NYC trip. Beyond the basics, check out the top restaurants in New York curated by our experts:

  • Pro tip: For picky eaters or dietary restrictions, go to a food court with a variety of food like Essex Street Market, or Eataly’s upscale Italian market with several restaurants to choose from.
  • Italian: Eataly NYC Flatiron, 200 5th Ave
  • Korean: miss KOREA BBQ, 10 W 32nd St
  • Pub fare: Beer Culture, 328 W 45th St
  • Japanese: City Kitchen, 700 8th Ave
  • Pizza: Scarr’s Pizza, 22 Orchard St
  • Vietnamese: Pho Vietnam, 87 Chrystie St
  • Breakfast: Pies n Thighs, 166 S 4th St, Brooklyn, NY
  • Food court: Chelsea Street Market (honorable mention: Essex Street Market)

For the cultured

  • Pro tip: MoMa offers free admission every Friday night, typically around 5 to 9 pm. Try going later to avoid the commuter crowd.
  • Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has one of the best Ancient Egyptian exhibits, among other world class collections and rotating displays. For more contemporary pieces from around the 1800s on, the Museum of Modern Art or MoMA is also a top pick for lovers of art.
  • Science. You could spend all day in the Museum of Natural History, with exhibits ranging from dinosaurs and fossils to ancient civilizations and space exploration. Visit during the week to avoid crowds.
  • Music. Listen to chamber and orchestra music or special performances at The Juilliard. You can find free or cheap performances nearly every day, mostly for recitals or youth musicians.
  • Architecture. Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Grand Central Station, and the New York Public Library for a unique tast of the city’s architecture.

For the frugal

New York City’s not a cheap place to visit, but these fun options are all affordable for travelers on a budget.

  • Walk the High Line. Midtown’s converted railroad tracks are now a popular walking trail to take in great city views from above the street.
  • Take the free ferry. Ride the Staten Island ferry from the South Ferry. It’s free, comes often, and only takes 30 minutes each way. You’ll get some of the best views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline. Bundle up in winter because it gets cold on the water.
  • Shop in Chinatown. Cheap eats, cheap produce, and cheap goods abound in Chinatown. Pick up fun, affordable souvenirs on its many side streets or big shopping malls.
  • Explore Central Park. There’s always something to see in this massive park any time of year, from Alice in Wonderland statues to the castle in the middle of the park. Pick a path and start wandering.
  • Hit the beach. Coney Island’s just a cheap subway ride away. Walk the boardwalk and take in the ocean views or hop in the water during a summer visit.

For nerds

New York City’s a friendly place for travelers with any interest, including gamers and geeks. Hang out at an adult barcade or get your merch on at some of our top shopping picks for nerds.

  • Comics & collectibles. Midtown Comics at 459 Lexington Ave has the widest selection of comics and gaming stuff to geek out over. Plus you can drop off your bag while you shop if you need to kill time before your room’s ready.
  • Gaming merch. Nintendo fans will love the photo ops with life-size characters and cool merch at the Nintendo Store at Rockefeller Plaza. Pick up a comfy t-shirt while you’re there.
  • Barcade. Chill with classic arcade games and a wide variety of beer at Two-Bit’s Retro Arcade in Manhattan or Barcade in Brooklyn.
  • Local landmark. It’s a bit out of the way of the standard landmarks, but fans might want to make a pit stop to visit the Ghostbusters fire station at FDNY Ladder 8, 14 N Moore St. Even if you aren’t able to take a peek inside, you can still spot the famed logo on the ground.

Final thoughts on your NYC trip

Use our expert list as a starting point to build your ideal itinerary based on what you’re most interested in and which neighborhoods you’ll be visiting. You can’t see all of New York in one visit, so get the highlights that interest you and ignore the feeling that you’re missing out. There’s always next time to hit up anything you missed!

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