A BUCKETLIST GUIDE TO THE BEST OF NYC
New York City can seem quite overwhelming as it’s bursting with so much to see, do, eat and drink. In my experience it is the ultimate city break and has something for everyone. Following on from my mini-moon guide to the city (as below), I’ve compiled a guide on some of my best spots, eating drinking hang-outs, things to see and do as well as the two hotels I stayed in on my recent trip. My advice, Don’t leave for NYC without this guide!
Affiliate Links Disclosure: I may receive a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. This is at no cost to you. For further information, read our Disclosure Policy
Pin & Save
Recommended Travel Planning Resources
Best Time to Visit New York
New York City is an all year round destination to visit depending on what your interests are. The summer months are bustling and lively with green foliage, lots of visitors, outdoor events happening, but quite hard to get reservations at restaurants and there will most certainly be queues at many of the attractions. So opting for the skip the line, or booking way ahead will be a must. Winter time is magical, especially Christmas, with snow and pretty Central Park scenes, when the famous ice rink is up. although it can be very very cold and you may want to opt for indoor activities such as museums and art galleries.
Autumn and Spring are great to visit, with less crowds, decent weather conditions and it’s always beautiful to see the city as it transitions through seasons. These area also particularly nice times to hang out at Central Park
How Long to Spend in New York City
Again, this is totally up what you’d like to do. Anything from 3 nights at the weekend to a 7 days is great but allow me to warn you. however long you spend here, it will NOT be enough. But thats why many return -plus New York is a place that has been evolving ad changing from year to year, let alone season to season.
How to Move Around New York City
Firstly, in my opinion, if you’re short of time, get yourself a subway card. It may not be the most glamourous way to travel but its good value for money, you avoid the traffic and can cover a lot of ground. We purchased a seven day card as we were there for 6.5 days for $33 and trust me we saved a lot!
- Website: NYC Subway: Schedule & Prices
Secondly we purchased THE NEW YORK PASS online for a one off fee, which gives you access to a number of sights and experiences and in many cases you can skip the line! We purchased a three day pass and it worked out that we only had to visit three sights and we’d already made what we got the card for back. Additionally it gives you access to certain Broadway shows (for example we saved 20% on Lion King premium tickets!) and also other experiences and restaurants in the city.
Our journey to and from the airport was via cab as post flight, we just wanted to freshen up and hit the ground running! The fare is a flat rate form JFK to Manhattan and is around $62 with a 15%-20% tip and you can most certainly pay via card. Bare in mind with the traffic situation it can take up to an hour!
Selecting Hotels for New York City
My personal view on hotels in NYC is that they are a good base for sleeping, showering and relaxing post exploring the city so I am happy to opt for entry level rooms. As split between our stay to Philly, we stayed in two NYC hotels:
The Hudson Central Park
Located a stones throw from Central Park, The Hudson is well located for Broadway, Times Square and if you like your food, Hells Kitchen. It is also a two minute walk from Columbus station, which has great subway links.
Rooms are small and panelled and can appear quite dark, however the hotel is beautifully designed with foliage and open brick work.
- Address: W 10019, 356 W 58th St, New York, 10019.
- Contact: +1 212-554-6000
- Nearest Tube: Columbus Circle
- Click to read reviews & book a stay at The Hudson New York
A super cool mid-town hotel, affiliated to the Yo Sushi group, think bright airy, funky, and cabin style rooms that have everything you need, including a fabulous view of the Manhattan skyline! Additionally there’s a super cool rooftop terrace and a Yobot, yep you heard that right, a robot that stored and retrieve your luggage.
- Address: 570 10th Ave, New York 10036
- Contact: Tel. +1 646-449-7700
- Website: Yotel Times Square
- Nearest Tube: Times Square – 42nd Street / Port Authority Bus Terminal two blocks away
- Click to book read reviews and book a stay at Yotel Times Square
Sights & City Views
Top of The Rock at The Rockefeller Centre
Breath-taking panoramas stretching miles in all directions, Top of the Rock has the best view in NYC with its perfect view of the Empire State Building, whether you’re visiting day or night. Located 850 ft above ground atop the Art Deco Comcast Building, gives you picture-perfect views of that perfect NYC Skyline
- Address: 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York 10112
- Contact: +1 212-698-2000
- Website: Top of The Rock
- Fees & Opening Times: Plan your visit
- Reviews: See what other people are saying about The Top of The Rock
Be-lavie Tip: Best Time to visit-Early morning or for sunset photography. Great views of The Empire State Building
Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is an American icon and one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Head to the top and enjoy views of up to 80 miles on a clear day, taking in Central Park, Manhattan, New Jersey, Connecticut and even out to Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.
Located in Midtown Manhattan, the views from its 86th-floor observation decks are phenomenal. As with the Top of the Rock, this is included with the NYC pass.
- Address: 20 W 34th St, New York, NY 10001
- Contact: +1 212-736-3100
- Website: Empire State Building
- Fees & Opening Times: Plan your visit
- Read reviews and book your Empire State Building visit (skip the line)
Statue of Liberty & Staten Island Ferry
If you don’t fancy making the trip to Ellis Island to get a glimpse of The Statue of Liberty, then you can catch the local Staten island commuter ferry, which is absolutely free. I have previously visited Ellis Island and learnt of the immigration history so was keen to get a different perspective on Lady Liberty this time.
The Ferry is every half hour and does get very busy. I was told you can get around 3,000 people on it! Watch out there is a stampede when the doors open to get a window spot!
Be-lavie Tip: Avoid the ferry in commuter times and weekends as it can get very crowded. Try and head for an open view as soon as you get on. There can be a lot of tourists on board, so try and get a good spot, preferably on the right hand side on the way there and left hand side on the way back from Staten Island.
One of the world’s most iconic parks! I love spending Sunday morning strolling around the park, from the carousel, Belvedere Castle, the reservoir, the Zoo, Bethesda Fountain, Minton Tile ceiling, Bow Bridge and Strawberry Fields, there is just so much to do in this much loved green space.
- Address: 59th-110th Street. New York.
- Website: Central Park
- Things to do: Plan your visit
- Must Visit: Loeb Boathouse (brunch or dinner with lake views in Central Park)
Be-lavie Tip: Central park is a vast space so factor in about half a day for a wander and boating or even ice skating in the winter months.
Greenwich Village & Sex & The City
Having been an avid fan of Sex & The City from day 1, I love walking the streets of Greenwich and reminiscing about what Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte got up to. It’s a leafy suburb full of pretty boutiques, steep stepped townhouses and delicious bakeries and cutesy shops in general. It used to be well known for it’s artist and bohemian hangouts in the 19th century.
Take a stroll past Carrie’s house on Perry Street or grab a cupcake and coffee as the girls did in SATC from The Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street.
Things to do in Greenwich Village
- Visit Carrie Bradshaw’s front door in Sex & The City
- Grab a Red Velvet Cupcake at The Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street just like the SATC ladies!
- Tours to Book: Sex and the City Bus Tour
The Meatpacking District
One of my favourite neighbourhoods on a par with Brooklyn, is made up of warm toned warehouse style blocks, wide streets and a cool hip urban industrial vibe filled with bars and restaurants galore. Definitely worth a meander during the week or weekend! As the name suggests, the converted warehouses were used for the meat packing businesses that once monopolised the area.
- Learn more about The Meatpacking District
- Book Tours: Private Meatpacking District and Surroundings Tour
- Wining & Dining: Best Restaurants & Bars in the Meatpacking District
- Read Reviews & Book Tours: Chelsea Market, Meatpacking District & The High Line
Located minutes away from the High Line, lies the uber cool Chelsea Market. If you like your food and locally produced and sourced food and drink, this is your place. There is a huge selection of eateries from pancakes, to Ethiopian food to steak, pizza, fab desserts and coffee houses. If you go before you walk the High Line, you’ll even get a chance to walk it off!!
- Address: 75 9th Ave, New York 10011.
- Contact: +1 212-652-2111
- Website: Chelsea Market
- Nearest Subway: A, C, E, or L train to the 14th Street (8th Avenue) station. Walk West to Ninth Avenue and 15th Street.Reviews: Read what others are saying about Chelsea Market
The High Line
Essentially a park and walkway 1.45 miles long on the west side of Manhattan created form a disused railway track. A beautiful walk starting at The Meatpacking district and ending at Hudson Yards, giving you views of the concrete jungle skyline. It has been installed with beautiful pieces of art work and provides a green space attracting wildlife.
- Book Tours: Secrets of the High Line
- Recommended Tour: Hudson Yards & The High Line
- Nearest Subway: To start at the bottom of the park, take the A/C/E or L to 14th Street and Eighth Avenue; for the top, take the A/C/E or 1/2/3 to Penn Station or the 7 to 34th Street-Hudson Yards
Stairway to Nowhere (The Vessel)
Right at the end of The Highline, sits a tall structure known as the ‘Stairway to Nowhere’, aka The Vessel. It takes pride of place in the new Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project and has been designed by British Heatherwick Studio. I would definitely recommend climbing to the top! Something tells me this part of town is going to look very different when I return to NYC.
- Address: 20 Hudson Yards New York 10001
- Website: The vessel
- Booking Tours: High Line & The Vessel vessel guided experience
- Reviews: See what others are saying about Bryant Park
This little outdoor space in the middle of mid-town Manhattan has so many things going on from concerts to games, to petanque tournaments, readings and recitals. There’s also a lovely café set-up. It can get a little busy but has a great local atmosphere.
- Address: New York, NY 10018
- Contact: +1 212-768-4242
- Website: Bryant Park
The Flatiron Building & District
The iconic FlatIron building was built as the headquarters of a construction company but was later renamed the FlatIron due to it’s unusual shape of the triangular plot! It’s 22 storeys high and opened in 1902 and has been said to be a very popular photo spot ever since it opened. When you see it in person, you’ll know what I mean.
- Address: 175 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010
The Brooklyn Bridge connects Manhattan and Brooklyn, it has a main span of 4.83 miles and is one of the oldest roadway bridges in the United States and was the world’s first steel-wire suspension bridge! Walking the bridge is a must and you have to take the walk from Manhattan to Brooklyn and back again.
It takes about 20 minutes but stick to the walking lane as cyclists will get annoyed if you’re in their lane!! It’s only fair! You get some great pics of Manhattan Island and the skyscrapers from here.
- Address: Brooklyn Bridge, New York, NY 10038.
- Website: Brooklyn Bridge
- Read Review & Book Tours: Brooklyn Bridge & Brooklyn half day tour walking tour
It’s unbelievable to think that Dumbo didn’t exist a few years ago, it was a bunch of warehouse end businesses. Today it’s a trendy, cool hub of small creatives, aesthetically eye-catching restaurants and small green spaces. Architecturally industrial but with the most jaw-dropping views of The Brooklyn Bridge and Washington Bridge, captured in one panorama.
For a great Rooftop bar experience, check-out The 1 hotel at Brooklyn Bridge and tell me what you thought! Dumbo is located right below the bridge and a few minutes’ walk from High Street Station in Brooklyn. Additionally Washington Street is Dumbo’s most Instagrammable street. We stumbled upon it by accidents and there were swarms of tourists and wedding parties there however, it started thundering and the crowds cleared at sunset, so I thought it would be rude not to take a snap! Sometimes Mother Nature works her magic!
- Website: Welcome to Dumbo
Williamsburg & The Bushwick Arts Collective
If you’re a street art fiend like me, this tour is for you. It introduces and takes you through the history of street art, which originated in the streets of The Bronx right up to modern day and how these artists are now commissioned to paint on the sides of the warehouses and buildings. It’s truly fascinating.
- Website: Williamsburg
- Nearest Subway: G to Lorimer St, Metropolitan Ave, Broadway; J, M, Z to Marcy Ave, Hewes St, Lorimer St; L to Bedford Ave, Lorimer St, Graham Ave, Grand St.
- Book Tours: Tours by Foot Bushwick Arts Collective or Williamsburg Food Bites Tour
Grand Central Terminal
This historic world-famous landmark in Midtown Manhattan is not simply a hub for transportation but also has 60 shops, a phenomenal food hall with 35 eateries and a full calendar of events. The grand clock has been a meeting point for decades and in the words of the Jackie Kennedy Onassis
- Address: 89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017
- Tel: +1 212-340-2583
- Website: Grand Central Station
- Book Tours: Secrets of Grand Central Terminal
Located on the site of the original World Trade Centre, the 9/11 memorial pays homage to the 2983 victims of the 1993 and 2001 attacks. The museum takes an in-depth look at the story through artefacts, testimonies and first-hand accounts. Look at the reflecting pools and take in the tranquil pavilion of the 9/11 memorial before learning more about the Twin Towers tragedies through respectful interactive exhibits. Just to note, this is a truly emotional and overwhelming experience
- Address: 180 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007
- Contact: +1 212-312-8800
- Website: 911 Memorial
- Book ^ Read Reviews: Tours 9/11: Ground Zero Tour, Memorial and Museum, timed entry
Possibly the world’s most glamorous Westfield, In New York’s Lower Manhattan, architect Santiago Calatrava’s Oculus transportation hub rose from the debris of the September 11th terrorist attacks, as an organic form within a field of towers and the memorials representing them. It is situated in the World Trade Centre and serves as a transportation hub, shopping mall and restaurant complex. Definitely a pieces of architecture worth visiting.
- Address: New York, NY 10007
- Website: The Oculus at The World Trade Centre
The most famous square in the world, you most certainly won’t miss it located in mid-town Manhattan! Personally I try and stay away from this area as it’s very crowded but I do think it looks better at night illuminated than during daylight hours. It’s very touristy and you won’t see many locals around here, but you have to visit, it’s iconic!
Radio City Music Hall
Situated inside The Rockefeller centre, this music venue has seen some pretty famous acts perform here. Check out their website to see if there is anything that takes your fancy! It also houses the Rockettes, who are an American precision dance company. If you like your art, I believe there are a few collections available here for your perusal.
- Address: 1260 6th Ave, New York 10020.
- Contact: +1 212-465-6741
- Website: Radio City Music Hall
- Book Tours: Radio City Music Hall Stage Door
- Reviews: See what other people are saying about Radio City Music Hall
The Best Places to East & Drink in New York City
For all my lowdown on rooftops bars, have a read of my post below! There’s a range of bars for all budgets and differing skyline views of NYC. Cheers!
OK, one of my favourite bars has to be Lillies! My lovely Instagram friend turned real life BFF, Tori took me there for a few mimosas one Sunday afternoon and I loved it! She couldn’t have picked a more apt or lovely place. Quiet, not touristy and the perfect place we could chat the afternoon away! Felt like catching up with an old friend!
The décor was based around a Victorian theme and it had cute balconies and a beautifully ornate bar! Not the message paying homage to friends on the door!
- Address: 13 East 17th Street, New York 10003
- Contact: +1 212-337-1970
- Website: Lillies
Brunch is most definitely a New Yorker’s constitution, especially on the weekends when bottomless mimosas are flowing and three course brunches are glowing!! Peruse my guide to Brunch in NYC below for more options!
There are a plethora of places to eat in NYC and guess what, if you’ve been following along, you’ve already read about them in my last post but if not, here’s the line up..
Cake & Coffee Stops
In my opinion, cake and coffee stops are a must and I plan in as many as possible amongst walks to give me sustenance! Who am I kidding eh?! I just love cake and coffee!! Time to share my faves..
Yep, the Sex & The City Ladies made it famous but I’m in love with their red velvet cupcakes with the most delectable icing! Plus I love the cutesy décor inside and can dream about Carrie walking in there with her Manola Blahnicks!
- Address: West 11th Street, 401 Bleecker St, New York 10014
- Contact: +1 212-462-2572
- Website: The Magnolia Bakery
Baked by Melissa
The most cutest bite-size treats in the form of mini-cupcakes exist at Baked by Melissa. There are many locations around NYC and can be bought either individually (not recommended as you WILL NEED more!!) or in packs (definitely recommended!!). To celebrate Love and Pride month they had produced a line of Pride cupcakes with 10% of net profits going to LGBT Community Centre in NYC.
- Address: 7 East. 14th Street, New York 10003 between University Place & 5th Avenue
- Contact +1 212-842-0220
- Website: Baked by Melissa
Dominique Ansell Bakery
Located in the super cool Soho district of NYC, is Domique Ansells Bakery! Yep the original hangout in NYC where it all started. I did not try the cronut, despite all the hype, just isn’t my thing not being a doughnut lover, however I tried the vanilla panna cotta in a pot with strawberry compote, a hint of star anise, fresh fraises des bois and a white chocolate lid and that my friends was bloomin gorgeous!
- Address: 189 Spring St, New York 10012.
- Contact: +1 212-219-2773
- Website: Dominique Ansell NYC
Cupcakes baked by batch daily and throughout the day, yes please. Mollys located in Greenwich village makes the most delicious cupcakes and you can even custom-build your own. I devoured a strawberry shortcake cupcake with a refreshing lemonade, whereas Dr C accompanied his coffee with a white chocolate cookie. I loved the swing style seats at the counter and also the games corner where you could play your favourite board games!
- Address: 228 Bleecker Street. New York. 10014
- Contact: +1 212.414.2253
- Website: Molly’s Cupcakes
Brooklyn Coffee Roasters
Some of NYC’s best coffee can be found at Brooklyn Roasting Company. Located on Dumbo’s famous Instagram central, as I call it, lies this pretty amazing roasting establishment.
In keeping with Dumbo the décor is industrial and reclaimed and this speciality coffee roaster and café serves Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance and Organic certified and sustainable coffees from throughout the Americas, East Africa, Indonesia and various islands. Brooklyn Roasting Company offers coffee, espressos and tea, along with sandwiches and pastries sourced from local Brooklyn shops. The roastery / headquarters includes seating and WiFi. There is also another location on Washington Street.
- Address: 25 Jay Street. Brooklyn NYC
- Contact: +1 718-855-1000
- Website: Brooklyn Coffee Roasters
With a few locations dotted around in Brooklyn, this was hands down my favourite coffee hangout! Amazing coffee, relaxed atmosphere and fabulous service plus they accommodate all dietary requirements. One more thing, the biggest and best cookie in town and in this case yes, size is everything!
- Address: 49 Bogart Street. Brooklyn, New York 11206
- Contact: +1 (718) 381-1944
- Website: The Swallow Cafe
Masseira Caffè & Bakery
I adore this authentic Italian cafe and bakery situated in Mid-town Manhattan. It may be small but stocks the best cannoli and Italian pastries! If you want an on the go sweet treat, this is your place!
- Address: 235 W 48th St, New York, NY 10036.
- Contact: +1 212-582-2111
- Website: Masseira Caffee & Bakery
You’re in NYC, don’t miss the chance to see one of the many shows on offer in 41 theatres concentrated around Times Square. I have previously seen Phantom of the Opera and on my recent trip, I saw the incredibly phenomenal Lion King! We got a whopping percentage off the price and also incredible seats with The New York City Pass.
Quick Tip: If you love illuminations, The Minskoff theatre, the home of the Lion King, you can get great views of Times Square so be sure to hang around post show and grab some snaps!
- Address: 00 W 45th St Minskoff Theatre, New York City, NY 10036-3901
- Website: The Minskoff Theatre
- Book Tours: New York City Museum of Broadway Ticket
When it comes to shopping I have previously headed to Woodbridge Outlet, for designer discounted goods, Greenwich village and West village for hip and trendy boutique stores as well as 5th Avenue for high end goods. My personal favourites would be boutiques like Sezane or the small shops in Soho.
Come on ladies, we’ve all seen breakfast at Tiffany’s and so it’s only fair we have a little perusal around the store and maybe even make a purchase! Tiffany’s has actually started serving breakfast and lunch in their Blue Box café. But booking is almost impossible with dates being released so late!
- Address: 27 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022
- Contact: +1 212-755-8000
- Website: Tiffany’s NYC
- Reviews: see what other people are saying about Tiffany & Co.
If you’re a culture vulture, then I can recommend the following museums (that is if you can fit them in between all the other sights and experiences the city has to offer!), The Guggenheim, MOMA (Museum of Modern Art), Tenement (NYC’s immigration story) and The Natural History Museum. There are many more that I’ve not heard of or been to!
Full Disclosure: All photography labelled as ‘Photoshoot by Travis for Shoot my Travel’ was part of a collaboration.
- UK Citizens can visit USA with a VISA waiver, called an ESTA. But do check entry requirements for further advice. Esta’s are $14 per person (£9) and last for 2 years from date of purchase.Apply for your Esta
- Additional advice for visiting USA can be obtained from the USA Embassy
- Easily convert the US Dollars here at Google Currency Converter
- Vaccination and medication information at Fit for Travel
- Flights: Check the best flight rate for your NYC Trip
Find Things to do in NYC
What’s Next: Related Reading
Planning a NYC Honeymoon?
Find out how to successfully plan a bucketlist honeymoon for all budgets in Be-lavie’s article featured on Get Your Guide: Honeymoon in New York City – 17 Most Romantic Things To Do