There’s nothing quite like the excitement that comes with booking, or thinking about, a trip to NYC. Even more so when it’s going to be your first time. Naturally, you’ll probably want to start looking up things to do the second that flight confirmation pings through the inbox, but after a few hours something feels off. Suddenly, planning becomes an absolute mission. For this reason, you’ll find my NYC guide for first timers pretty damn useful. This is not your typically-structured itinerary. Instead, it’s a ‘pick and mix’ type post for you to fully customise your time. Think of it as this, my experiences, but your options, for a wicked few days in New York.
So why should you read this post? Good question. My answer though, is going to be an honest one. Following a trip to New York on the back-end of a short layover in Iceland, I made extensive note of everything. Travel blogger life, eh? When gathering material together, one thing was obvious. Endless entertainment. Train delays turned into very spontaneous photoshoots, rainy days became the perfect opportunity to seek out indoor street-food stalls, and faulty postcards were laughable stories to tell. As I was satisfied that I had both a productive and amusing trip, it made perfect sense to share my plans. Including the spontaneous moments. I want to help you recreate NYC travels of a lifetime.
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Take My Exact Itinerary For 4 Days In NYC:
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This NYC guide for first-timers is exactly the type of information you’ve been looking for, if you want to combine touristy activities, teamed with local suggestions, with a major splash of aesthetic vision board. Let’s fuel your wanderlust like no other.
No-Nonsense, Fun, and Budget-Friendly Ideas For Day 1 In New York.
We can’t be maxing out the card straight away, can we? Day 1 in the ‘Big Apple’ was set around checking out as much as possible, whilst making all-important time for Instagrammable locations in New York City, touring 1 dollar pizza stores, and getting emotional…
Early Riser? Make Your Way To Times Square To Give Your Camera Roll Breakfast.
You probably won’t have a late morning on your first day. Whether that be from a desire to get out and about, or because of jet lag. This works to our advantage though, as getting Times Square to yourself is realistic when it’s the crack of dawn. There’s something eerily spooky about this spot before it gets crowded, but there’s no denying the sensational photo opportunities.
Now, Let’s Feed Your Stomach. Head To The Krispy Kreme Flagship Store.
Might as well pop into the Krispy Kreme Flagship whilst you’re at it. Not that you need convincing. See, the impressive glaze ‘waterfall’ coating the donuts is one thing, but exposure to exclusive toppings is another. NYC style. Although, I’ve said before and will say again, original glaze reigns supreme. Right?
Krispy Kreme Flagship Address: 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019, United States.
Need To Walk It Off? Central Park Is Going To Be Your Best Bet.
First-timers in NYC usually gasp when they reach the ‘Central Park’ part of any travel guide.
And that’s due to the size of the place. However, there’s more to Central Park than vast patches of grass. Yoga classes, walking tours, live shows, the notorious Wollman ice-rink, sporting events, and questionable hotdogs doesn’t even cover the half of it. Keep your eyes open, and handbags close by.
But All That Wandering Sure Builds Up An Appetite. Let’s Do A Dollar Pizza Crawl.
You might side-eye the $1 pizza stores dotted around central regions, but the scent of cheese and tomato fresh out the oven will have you handing over dollar bills like no tomorrow. When it comes to free or cheap things to do in New York, I’d suggest scoffing down a slice at one of these joints as a priority.
If You’re Into Iconic TV Shows, You’ll Want To Run Towards The ‘Friends’ Apartment.
Hate it or love it, Friends has earned a place as one of the most legendary series of our time. The sentiment of witnessing fans gaze at the fictional apartment, whilst looping the opening soundtrack on their devices, makes for quite the memory.
Friends Apartment Address: 90 Bedford St, New York, NY 10014, United States.
If The Above Isn’t Your Version Of An Iconic View, Flatiron Building Will Be.
If you’ve unfamiliar with the name, I’m going to give you the biggest clue. The architecturally-pleasing triangular building which indirectly screams ‘I’m in New York’. All first-timers in NYC should be guided here.
Flatiron Building Address: 175 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010, United States.
Lafayette Bakery To See The Viral Item Which Has Everyone’s Tastebuds In A Chokehold.
I know, I know, internet sensations are risky.
Is it actually good, or a case of ‘if they had it, I want it’ mentality? I’ll tell you. Whilst Lafayette Bakery definitely wins points on visuals of the hybrid-like pastry/donut combo, there isn’t a case of exterior triumphing over interior with this creation. Your eyes are going to roll backwards the moment you bite into the flaky pastry, rammed to the brim with your chosen filling.
Lafayette Bakery Address: 380 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10003, United States.
Let’s Pay Our Respects.
It would be a missed opportunity to visit NYC without stopping by the historical 9/11 memorial. There’s great difficulty in explaining the exact emotions of sadness one might feel when viewing the names of departed souls, but it’s down to each individual to ensure their memory will not be forgotten.
9/11 Memorial Address: 180 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007, United States.
Day 2 In New York City. The Theme Is ‘Effortlessly Cool’
The following morning, I decided to embrace aspects of local life. The perks of having a best friend who lives in the heights of NYC! This part of my travels included taking a cable car to Roosevelt Island, dribbling from a distance at the food in Chelsea Markets, whilst finishing the night with Broadway.
Chelsea Markets Will Be The Place You Pick Up A Memorable Souvenir.
This, what feels like underground, space is home to rows of street-food, independent stores and a marketspace for creatives to advertise their talents. You know it has to feature in a NYC guide for first timers, when I re-visited multiple times within the span of 4 days.
Chelsea Market Address: 75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011, United States.
Word Of Advice. Look Up When You’re In Grand Central Station.
You might not need to make any travel connections here, but it’s in your best interests to peek inside Grand Central Station. Suddenly, all of our local stations back home feel even more unappealing than usual.
Grand Central Station Address: 89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017, United States.
Summit One Vanderbilt Is The Closest We’ll Get To Seeing Mars.
Or at least, that’s what the futuristic spot feels like.
You see, Summit One Vanderbilt isn’t your typical observation deck. This is a whole experience.
From the moment you’re asked to take a photo to be turned into a 3D cloud, you’re offered a portal to escape reality. Things feel surreal here, and you can bet your last coin that you’ll capture some seriously jaw-dropping skyline snaps. To not include this gem would be outrageous.
Summit One Vanderbilt Address: 45 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017, USA.
A Break From Tourist Activities? See You At Roosevelt Island.
From one escape to another.
Roosevelt Island’s overlooked positioning between Manhattan and Queens becomes the ideal location to remove yourself from big city life, for a moment. No wonder it’s one of New York’s best-kept secrets, from the perspective of tourism*.
*If you purchase a MetroCard to navigate transport, the cable car is included within the terms of your ticket.
Before Welcoming The Night With A Broadway Show…
Broadway feels unavoidable in NYC. Posters and commercials are everywhere, the distinct neon signs can be seen from a mile away, and there’s constantly a queue at Times Square for last-minute discounted seats. This was a lot to understand for someone who had only ever seen one musical.
However, seeing ‘& Juliet’ was an experience which ranked surprisingly high in my memories of NYC. The enthusiasm of the crowd really jumps into your soul, even if you think musicals aren’t your thing. A 10/10 experience, made even sweeter by the fact my best friend and I would unanimously break into song at every given opportunity.
The Adventures Continue. Day 3 In New York City Focuses On ‘Feel-Good’ Moments.
Over on day 3, we’ve got a place which encourages you to get stuffed, a zone where you’ll find a thriving bar culture, and a seriously respected visit to THE Madison Square Garden venue. Who said slowing down on the antics meant being boring? Not me!
Breakfast Of Champs? Unlimited Sugar At Museum Of Ice Cream.
I had first heard of the ‘Museum Of Ice-Cream’ through Tik Tok, and from what I witnessed, it’s a pop-up style site combining novelty ice-cream props with unlimited portions of the good stuff. A nod to your inner childhood, if you will.
Museum of Ice-Cream Address: 558 Broadway, New York, NY 10012, USA.
Pick Up A Free Travel Keepsake At RIMOWA’s Photobooth.
Seeing as you’re in the Soho area, make your way to RIMOWA to pick up a few snaps from the free photobooths. The logistics of whether the passport prints can actually be used in a genuine document are debatable, but it makes a nice addition to the scrapbook or vision board.
RIMOWA Soho Address: 99 Prince St, New York, NY 10012, USA.
See What The Hype Is All About With A Slice Of Joe’s Pizza.
Listen, when I saw a pair of newlyweds get their wedding photos taken here, I knew this place was deep in the heart of New Yorkers. That is all.
Or If You’re Way Hungrier Than A Few Slices, Try Your Luck At Rubirosa.
I say try your luck because ‘Rubirosa’ gets BUSY. To define busy, I mean like, by 11:30 am, the only available tables were at the bar lol. Definitely a restaurant you’ll feel less stressed approaching with a reservation under your belt.
Rubirosa Address: 235 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10012, United States.
What’s Cooler Than Being Cool? East Village.
For an edgy feel, where you can hop around to live music in vibrant bars, ‘East Village’ will deliver. A creative fashion scene and promises of artistic flair also form part of the package. I feel like upcoming designers would feel inspired in these ends.
But Then We’ve Got A Stop At Madison Square Garden.
I don’t know if it was luck or destiny, but the fact my trip naturally aligned with the dates of a New York Knicks game felt like winning the lottery. Game day atmosphere will always be unbeatably good vibes, in what has been labelled ‘The World’s Most Famous Arena’.
However, even if you aren’t able to get tickets which coincide with your trip, the venue is still worth visiting. Trust me.
Madison Square Garden Address: 4 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY 10001, USA.
Genuinely Authentic Ramen, Memorable Sights + Shopping To Round Off NYC.
Final full day in NYC, let’s get it! What better way to finalise a first-timers NYC guide than seeing one of the most symbolic landmarks of all time? Without splurging on a specific ‘Statue Of Liberty’ package? Keep reading…
Soak Up The Stardom At Radio City Music Hall + Rockefeller Centre.
Whether you decide to embark on a tour, or take matters in your own hands by opting for a self-hosted route, roaming around both Radio City Music Hall and Rockefeller Centre will give you main character energy.
Turn Casual Browsing Into A History Lesson At The MLB Flagship.
On the surface, you might be thinking, Yaz it’s a baseball store? But it’s not just any baseball store! If you head downstairs, you’ll see a selection of locked-up collector’s items retailing into the hundreds. Nothing like an imaginary session of ‘I’d buy that one if I was rolling in cash’. As the store is located directly outside Radio City Music Hall, you don’t lose anything by making a quick detour.
MLB Flagship Store Address: 1271 6th Ave, New York, NY 10020, United States.
Ready For Photos? Brooklyn Bridge Makes For A Wicked Backdrop.
There’s a few landmarks which are so distinctly recognisable as being part of New York, that geo-tagging the location is not needed. Brooklyn Bridge falls into that category, in my eyes. You already know the camera is going to be working overtime.
Get Cosy In The Booths At Ichiran Ramen.
Now, if the concept of eating alone fills you with fear, you’re going to adore what I’m about to say next. EVERYONE IS PUT INTO A PRIVATE BOOTH TO EAT AT ICHIRAN. Yes, you’re free to sip, slurp and inhale your food in complete peace.
Heads up though, there’s only one dish on the menu. Tonkotsu ramen. Yet, the way it’s fully customisable? Down to the tenderness of how you like your noodles, and the salt levels? I can guarantee you won’t be eating the same dish as the person next to you.
You’re About To See A Magical View On The Way To Staten Island.
I had to end the guide on NYC for first-timers with the greatest memory of them all. Getting close and personal with ‘The Statue Of Liberty’. Well, as close as you can get with the Staten Island Ferry. During sunset.
Weather forecast looking tragic? Skip the cloudy scenes with a strategic night-ride instead. The vision of countless flashing lights illuminating the city won’t disappoint.
To catch the ferry towards Staten island, make your way to Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan.
Additional Must-See Things In New York City:
If you’ve gone over the above recs quicker than anticipated, add in Dumbo, East River Greenway, Bushwick Inlet Park, and Pebble Beach to continue maximising enjoyment. You’ll continue to fall in love.
And there you have it. A bumper guide on NYC aimed with first timers in mind. Exhale, you’ve made it and can now get excited about planning New York again. With that being said, it’s time for me to jet back off to Europe for the foreseeable. There’s a whole load of Barcelona content waiting for you, and a little something if you’re down for a weekend in Lisbon…
If you’re after more content though, I think you’ll like my vibe-y inspo posts on Instagram. I’ll catch you over there.
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