Happy Thursday! I am so excited to finally be sharing my full guide to New York City. With all of our recent travels and now our upcoming move (June 2nd), I delayed this post later than I originally planned. Thinking back to our experience, NYC is definitely a must-visit destination. It was both Jake’s and my first visit to NYC, which seems crazy to me. I am already craving a trip back, since there is so much to do and see. You could literally go to NYC every weekend and do something completely different, it’s that big. When I planned our trip I was honestly extremely overwhelmed with the amount of options and having so little time to do it all in. After our first visit, I feel like our next trip will be way easier to plan now that I have a sense of the city.
How long should you stay?
I started with this question, since I felt our trip was way too short. With it being our first NYC visit, there were so many things we wanted to see, but not enough time. We will definitely be going back! We only had 3 nights and 2 days. Our first night, we got in pretty late and just had time for a casual dinner and dessert. Also, one of our days was rainy, so that limited us a lot on sight seeing. I think at least 3-4 full days would be more ideal next time, and 4-5 would be even better.
Where To Stay:
We stayed at the Hilton Times Square and, although it was a very nice hotel and a good central location, Time Square is not where I want to spend much of my time. I found that out very quickly! Times Square is a must-visit area, but it’s not somewhere I want to spend most of my trip at. It is very touristy in my opinion and is packed with tons of people and every chain restaurant you can think of. When I am traveling, I aim to visit more unique local places vs. popular nationwide chains.
Next time I think we will plan to stay at the Midtown Hilton instead.
Traffic in NYC is really bad, so sometimes walking a few miles is worth it to save some time. We did end up being very exhausted though (on our busiest day, we ended up walking over 9 miles!). For further destinations/nighttime we Ubered/rode in Taxis. We found it a lot easier to do taxis instead of Uber because it was hard for Uber drivers to find your exact location or the app made you walk a ways with pretty poor directions to find them, which got challenging sometimes. The subway is supposed to also be great/inexpensive. We didn’t do it, but will have to try it next time.
- Map Out Where You Want To Go: With so much to do and so little time, it is crucial to map out the logistics in advance. This honestly took me a while, so do it soon after booking your flight to save you the stress. I am extremely visual, so I printed a map and marked each destination. I then went into Google Maps and planned the order of destinations, moving to the next closest spot on my list each time.
- Comfy shoes: You will walk a ton in NYC; as I said, we literally walked over 9 miles one day. I would personally recommend tennis shoes or these Sperry’s that are extremely broken in were perfect. I am a little embarrassed to still have them from my college sorority days, but hey, they’re comfy!
- Crossbody Purse: Although I mostly felt safe in NYC, there were a few crowded/sketchy areas I was happy to have a crossbody, so I wouldn’t have to have a death grip on my bag.
- Download The Curb Taxi App: This app is seriously incredible. Uber is extremely difficult to use in NYC; you often have to wait a really long time for your driver and usually are given walking directions to a place to meet your driver, and this walking destination can be really hard to find. Meanwhile, taxis are everywhere, so you can almost instantaneously get a ride if you don’t do Uber here. At first, we were hesitant about using taxis, as we really prefer how Uber lets you just link your credit card to an account and pay that way. Thankfully, we discovered that the Curb app basically turns taxis into Uber. Once you hop into your taxi, every cab in the city has a TV screen with a code on it. If you have an account on Curb, you just enter that code into the app and, voila, your account is paired with that ride and your card is seamlessly charged, just like if you were in an Uber! After an instance where we ordered an Uber and initially had a 2 minute wait turn into an estimated 25 minute wait, we just started hailing the nearest taxi and using Curb for every trip.
- Find A Walking App: iPhone maps were awful with walking directions, so we would recommend finding a different app that is designed specifically for walking. We saw Walc was a highly recommended app and tried that out, but it wasn’t very good either. There are several other similar apps, so we plan to look ahead of time and download a better one next time. Part of the problem may be that, in spite of NYC being the most populous city in America, the data on your phone is absolutely terrible most places. Jake and I both have AT&T, and oftentimes we would have to be hoping for free WiFi wherever we were if we wanted our data to not run at the speed of old-school dial-up Internet.
- Plan In Advance: NYC is a very popular destination, so make reservations early. I noticed most brunch places don’t take reservations for 2, but most dinner places do.
Where To Eat:
NYC is definitely a foodie’s dream destination. We ate our way through NYC, but due to limited time did not get to visit many places on our list.
- Joe’s Pizza: We ate there day 1 right when we got to NYC. The pizza was good. Note: They only accept cash, but have an ATM outside just in case. Joe’s was highly recommended and it is good authentic pizza. I feel like Joe’s is a NYC staple because it was recommended over and over by many people.
- The Smith: After being a little let down with brunch at Jack’s Wife Freda (it’s good, but didn’t live up to the hype for us), I wanted a dinner place that was on the safe side. They have multiple locations and we picked the Lincoln Square one due to it being closest to us. The food was excellent and they had the best Moscow Mule I’ve ever had. They make their own ginger beer and it was amazing. We split the Mac and Cheese appetizer, then I had the shrimp and grits for dinner while Jake had a pork chop. Having Southern food in NYC was a little different, but it was surprisingly amazing. We did not expect anywhere in NYC to be able to cook authentic tasting Southern food.
- Tavern On The Green: We ate here on our last night and it was the perfect way to end our trip. It is iconic for a reason. The food was solid (not the best we’ve had though). We split the pork chop and a lobster mac and cheese, and it was perfect. Even if you decide to not do dinner there, I highly recommend visiting for a cocktail. It has a beautiful view of Central Park and is a must-visit place.
I have such a huge sweet tooth, but usually don’t get dessert because I am too full at that point. In NYC I made sure to save room no matter what because there are so many great places for a sweet treat.
- Sweets By Chloe: I had seen By Chloe on Instagram and though it looked adorable, but decided to not visit because it’s vegan. Nothing against vegan food, but my hubby would not be happy eating a meal without meat. After dinner at Joe’s, I saw we were really close to Sweets By Chloe. I totally forgot it was vegan, but we decided to try it, as vegan dessert is much more bearable than vegan meals. Let me tell you, it is incredible. Some of the best dessert I have ever had. We both loved the Peanut Butter pie.
- Serendipity 3: Chances are you probably have heard of the famous Serendipity 3. I sure had and was devastated before our Vegas trip because I wanted to try it there, but had read it shut down. Luckily NYC has the original one, so we went and tried the famous frozen hot chocolate. They have a per person minimum charge, so we had to get 2 desserts to meet the minimum. We ended up also trying the strawberry ice cream too and it was literally the best ice cream I’ve ever had. The frozen hot chocolate was great, but the strawberry ice cream blew it out of the water. It is definitely a must-visit place. I want to go back and try a brownie sundae too.
Even if you don’t drink, a roof top bar is absolutely a must do for a non-alcholic beverage. NYC is so gorgeous, so to see it from up top is priceless.
- Bar SixtyFive at Rainbow Room: We didn’t get to visit, as you must have reservations far in advance. It sounds like the view is incredible.
- Stillwater Bar: If you’re an Oklahoma State University graduate like Jake and me, this is a must-visit place because it has memorabilia from our university. If you’re not, then there is really no reason to go. It wasn’t as cool as I had hoped, but I am glad we visited.
- Haven Roof Top Bar: If it’s rainy or winter, this is a perfect roof top bar to visit because it is enclosed. On a sunny day, an open one would be more ideal.
What to do/see:
There are a million things to do in NYC, here is what we did:
If it’s rainy, click here to read what to do on a rainy day.
- See Times Square: I have mentioned it’s not my favorite area, but it is definitely a must-do for your first trip
- See a Broadway Show: We saw The Play That Goes Wrong and it was hilarious. Next time I want to see something more traditional
- Brooklyn Bridge:The views from the bridge are insanely gorgeous. We walked the whole mile into Brooklyn. Next time I want to go into the cobblestone streets in Brooklyn and get a picture over there.
- NYC Public Library: This was pretty close to our hotel, so it was nice to get to see it. It is a beautiful old building.
- Bryant Park: We briefly saw Bryant Park and it is so cute.
- Battery Park: After Brooklyn Bridge, we went to Battery Park. You get a view of the Statue of Liberty, but it is pretty far. Next time we will do a cocktail cruise instead to see it up close. With the rain one day, we sadly didn’t get to do it.
- Wall Street: We did go see Wall Street and I think it is totally skippable. There is not much you can really see.
- 911 Memorial: Although we didn’t go into the actual museum, it was a moving experience to visit Ground Zero. I still remember 9/11 like it was yesterday.
- Washington Square Park: This is one of my favorite areas that we saw. Although it was pretty crowded I could have spent a long time there. The arch was gorgeous and you get a view of the Empire State Building from afar. The area nearby is very cute too. It is actually right by the NYU campus; I cannot imagine how neat it would be to walk by that area everyday as a student.
- Union Square Park: It was not my favorite place, but it was a stop we took when walking and is on the way to the Flat Iron Building. The famous Shake Shack is there, but we skipped it because Birmingham is getting a location.
- Flat Iron Building: What a neat building. It is a must-see. If you’re hungry, make sure to stop by Eataly, which is across the street and has lots of very authentic Italian food. We were not hungry, so sadly skipped it. We did explore the building though and it was cool to walk around.
- Empire State Building: We walked into the Empire State Building and sadly it was an hour wait to go to the top. We didn’t have the time, so we skipped it. Next time we will go to Top Of The Rock or Bar SixtyFive at Rainbow Room. I hear those are the best places for a view.
- See the Flagship Macy’s: Oh my goodness, the Macy’s in NYC was incredible. I am not usually a fan of Macy’s in Oklahoma City or Texas, but I was blown away by this one. It was huge.
- 5th Avenue: I didn’t have any intention to purchase anything, but it was a must-see
- The Plaza Hotel: You cannot get far into it unless you are a guest, but it was beautiful to see. I hear they have a food court area too, so I will have to check that out next time.
- Central Park: This was my favorite spot of the trip. I loved it so much that I did a whole blog post about it. You can find it here.
Wow that was a lot! We seriously had a incredible visit to NYC and look forward to going back someday. We have a very special weekend, as Jake is graduating from medical school on Saturday. I am so looking forward to celebrating with both of our families. I am not going to lie, I have been extremely emotional lately about his graduation. Med school has been a rough journey, but seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is very rewarding!
Stay tuned for my Napa/San Francisco posts soon. We just got back on Monday!