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NYC Travel Guide

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Lauren walking and looking back

I have gotten countless of emails and tweets and questions about my recommendations about where to go and what to do if you’re coming to New York City! I’ve been jotting my notes down for the past month and am finally putting it together for you all. These are all the spots I like to take my family and friends when they are visiting 🙂

All are, of course, from my perspective and according to my opinion. I’m sure there will be LOTS of people to give you lots of recommendations, but these are mine 🙂

Lauren holding Eddie

Where to Stay

When people ask me where they should stay during their visit, I immediately follow up with “well, what do you want to do while you’re here?” If you map out all of the things you’d like to do, try to find a hotel located close to all those things. That way, you’re not burning fare on taxi rides, subways or Lyfts. Generally, I recommend this hotel because it is centrally located and walkable to typical tourist attractions most want to visit like Central Park, Broadway, Rockefeller Center and Times Square. Plus, if you book enough in advance, it’s not too expensive (for New York standards….haha!)

If I am unfamiliar with any area, or I want to see if a specific hotel I’m interested in is worth my money, I always always always check the reviews and photos on Google, TripAdvisor and Yelp. (I typically do check all three.) That usually gives me a good idea as to whether or not I’d like to book. Some of the reviews can be harsh, but as long as its in a good part of town and looks clean, I’m more inclined to book.

Lauren and Blake on the subway

How to Get Around

Before I moved to the city, I was so hesitant and nervous to ride the subway, but as I got used to it, oh my heavens, it’s SO easy, inexpensive and FAST! Traffic is generally pretty awful in the city, so taking the subway is our go-to option. If you are an iPhone user, open up your maps app (not to be confused with the google map app), type in the location you’d like to go and click the blue “directions” button. It will automatically populate with the driving directions and travel time. BUT! There are walk, transit and ride options at the bottom that you can click. I use the transit button ALL THE TIME. It tells me what subway station is closest to me, what trains to take, when to get off and number of stops to get to your destination. It is the app I use the most in the city! It’s also really helpful for walking directions as well. Just double check the directions before you’re pounding the pavement and in the heart of the city because odds are, your cell signal will be bouncing off the buildings around you.

If you are uncomfortable taking the subway for whatever reason, Lyft is generally cheaper than Uber, from the handful of times I’ve compared my experiences. I like these options much better than taxi’s because there is no exchange of physical money; it is automatic. However, keep in mind that both Uber and Lyft charge extra fees during “busy” times of day, which is like, all the time!! If you’re not in a rush, try a rideshare through those apps. It’ll take longer because you’re essentially sharing the ride with a few extra passengers, but it does end up being cheaper in the long run.

Hailing a cab is generally quick and painless, but depending on the time of day, you might not be able to get one. A cab is available for hailing when you see the numbers lit up on the top of it. If the numbers aren’t lit up, it already has passengers.

Lauren holding Eddie up to the lookout point

What to Do

I could write for days on what to do in New York City!! There is lots to do and lots to see. Odds are you won’t have time to do it all, so be picky and do only what you’re dying to do…and then plan another trip to the city! Plan on getting a CityPass if you’d like to do more than 3 of these things. That way, you’re getting your monies worth. It’s a steal of a deal.

  • The Statue of Liberty- we took our kids here and loved our experience! (More here.) We went to the actual island with purchased tickets this past summer. If you want to see it for free, take the Staten Island Ferry and it’ll float right by.
  • World Trade Center Memorial and Museum-the memorial is free, but going into the museum and getting a tour of One World Trade Center. Pretty somber and sad, but still fascinating.
  • New York City Library–just a beautiful building to see!
  • Central Park–iconic!! I’d recommend renting bikes for 2-3 hours so you can peddle around to see the important landmarks within the park: Sheep’s Meadow, Bow Bridge, Bethesda Fountain, the Boathouse, Belvedere Castle and more!
  • Rockefeller Center–super fun if you’re a morning person and want to be in the Today Show audience that waves and cheers outside. Also, at Christmastime, you can go skating on the rink at Rockefeller which would be super fun, methinks.
  • Top of the Rock–best views of the city and especially of the Empire State Building. Buy your tickets a few days in advance for either early in the morning for very few crowds, or find out when sunset is to get gorgeous photos!
  • Empire State Building–I love visiting this building because of Sleepless in Seattle. They also have great views of the city!
  • Broadway Show–I haven’t ever been to any show that hasn’t disappointed! They are all sooooo good! Look for the ticket booth under the red stairs in Times Square for discounted tickets for some shows.
  • Times Square–iconic. A must see.
  • Brooklyn Bridge–walk it part of the way, walk the entire length into Brooklyn. From the Brooklyn end, you get great views of Manhattan. The bridge is 1 mile long.
  • 5th Avenue–hello shopping!!
  • Macy’s at Herald Square–iconic.
  • Chelsea Market–super fun to visit food shops and restaurants, all in one place. Plus they film a lot of Food Network shows here on the upper levels.
  • Washington Square Park–arch and fountain are picturesque. In the summer, you can actually play in the fountains (which is what I did with my kids this past summer.)
  • The “FRIENDS” Apartment Building–only visit it you, like, totally love FRIENDS…like I do.
  • Seinfeld Restaurant–my husband is a Seinfeld LOVER. So, this is a fun, quick stop.
  • Lincoln Center/Juilliard–pretty inexpensive shows and ballet performances here!
  • Columbus Circle–bigger than expected, noisy but cool!
  • Radio City Music Hall–so many different performances take place here! Check the online schedule. Christmas is coming up which means the Rockettes!!
  • Grand Central Station–gorgeous photos, and always hustling and bustling.
  • Eataly–this is a fun stop for shopping and eating!
  • Flatiron Building–iconic New York! Also, get a decent view of the Empire State Building here too.
  • Museum of Natural History–from Night at the Museum!
  • MOMA, The MET or the Guggenheim–art museums that really have a lot to see.

A pizza sitting on top of a table

What to Eat

Again, I could go on and on about what you should be stuffing your faces with while you’re visiting this city. Here is an updated list that is ever changing.

  • Cheese Samples from Murray’s Cheese Shop (Greenwich Village)
  • Banana Pudding and cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery (Lots of locations!)
  • Macarons from Laduree (Soho)
  • Drinking Chocolate from Bouchon Bakery (Midtown)
  • Macaroni and Cheese from Max Brenner (Gramercy Park)
  • Warm chocolate peanut butter cookies (or chocolate chip!) from Levain Bakery (Upper West Side)
  • Frozen Hot Chocolate from Serendipidy (Midtown East/Upper East Side)
  • Margherita Pizza with Pepperoni added on and Cannoli from Juliana’s (Brooklyn)
  • Killer Bee Pizza from B-Side Pizza and Wine Bar (Hell’s Kitchen)
  • Pad Thai and Steamed Chicken and Shrimp Dumplings from OBAO (Hell’s Kitchen)
  • Salty Pimp Ice Cream Con from Big Gay Ice Cream (Greenwich Village)
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cone from DO (Greenwich Village)
  • Pastrami on Rye from Katz Deli
  • Burgers, Cheese Fries and Concretes from Shake Shack (Lots of locations!)
  • Any donut from Doughnut Plant (Lower East Side or Midtown/Times Square)
  • Brioche Donuts (!!!) from Dough (Flatiron District)
  • Rainbow Bagels from The Bagel Shop (Brooklyn)
  • Original Cheesecake from Junior’s (Times Square)
  • Liege Waffle with Nutella and ice cream from Waffles and Dinges (Lots of locations!)
  • Hot Dogs from Grey’s Papaya (Upper West Side)
  • Hot Potato Chips with Blue Cheese Fondue from The Smith (Lots of Locations!)
  • Tutti Frutti mini donuts from The Doughnuttery (in Chelsea Market)
  • Black and White Cookies from William Greenberg (Upper East Side)
  • Hazelnut, Almond, Chocolate or Lemon gelato from Amorino (3 locations)
  • Birthday Cake Truffles and cereal milk ice cream from Milk Bar (several locations)
  • Fried Chicken and Cornbread from Jacob’s Pickles (Upper West Side)
  • French Dip and Duck Fat Fries from Maison Pickle (Upper West Side)
  • Cronut from Dominique Ansel Bakery (Soho)
  • Pancakes from Clinton Street Baking Company (East Village)
  • Pizza from Prince Street Pizza (Nolita)
  • Yummy bowls with lots of food from Dig Inn (Lincoln Center)
  • Ice Cream from Ice and Vice (Lower Manhattan)
  • Crispy Quinoa and Kale Salad from Boulton And Watt (Ukranian Village)
  • Caramel Macaron from Bouchon Bakery (Midtown)

Close up on a cheeseburger

So there you have it!

Of course, the longer I live here, the more I will continue adding to these lists 🙂

What are some of your favorite spots in New York City to visit or eat at? I’m always looking for somewhere new!

Have a great day friends! xo Lauren

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75 Responses
  1. Natalie Bland

    I live in Oregon and was so fortunate to have an amazing trip to NYC and DC last August. I am dying to come back. We didn’t do half of the things on this list, so hopefully someday I can come back and take some of your advice. 😊

  2. Megan Hadley

    I love this one!!! I’m a nanny in NYC, and always looking for fun things to do with the kids. Central Park and Lincoln center are my favorites(: it can be kind of tricky and a little stressful to do too much adventuring, (I babysit a two year old and a 6 month old) but we’re slowly branching out into the city!! Waho!!

  3. Marisa

    Obsessive Chocolate Disorder in the East Village has incredible chocolates! It’s the cutest little shop on 4th Street. Super nice owner and staff 🙂

  4. JoAnne Atwood

    Thanks for all your info! We were in NYC July 2018 and stayed in Times Square. We found Mexicue not far from our hotel(https://www.mexicue.com/) and loved the food. My 10-yr-old son wanted to go back every night!

  5. Chrysti

    Thanks for these food recs! I’ve tried and loved several of them, but this gives me some new options to try this weekend when we are visiting again!

  6. Jane S.

    Hi Lauren! I’m leaving a comment on this post because it was so helpful to me when I was planning a weekend visit to NYC with my daughters. We took advantage of several of your suggestions and were not disappointed! We especially loved B-Side Pizza, Max Brenner’s, and Amorino. Can’t wait to come back and try more places! Thanks!

  7. Diane Brinkmeyer

    Your posts about family life in NYC are my favorite. How a family from Idaho is adapting to the big city life in NYC is fascinating to me. You’ve seen to do it with ease but I’m sure there were bumps along the way. Tell us more on how your have managed this – school, shopping, making new friends, etc. I can’t even imagine with a family of 5 taking this on but you have done it!

  8. Annie

    I have tried so many times to leave a comment and it never goes through. I love your recipes, but your website has me very confused. I want to put some of your recipes but I can’f find a Pinterest icon on the recipes. So, I have to go to Google, look up the rec ipe, and hope it i on there so I can then transfer it to Pinterest. There must be an easier way.

  9. Michelle Hiser

    Thank you for putting this together! My husband and I love to get away to NYC every year since it’s a short drive from Maryland and I’m always overwhelmed by all of the options!

  10. Brenda

    Thanks so much for this! such great information. I hope we are able to make a trip to NYC in the next few years & I will be referring back to this.

  11. Jenafor Donng

    Went to NY with my mom over 10 years ago and need to go back, so much to still see. Love this post and will use it when I get to go back and visit!! Thank you 😊

  12. Patricia Dickler

    For Gluten Free Pizza go to Wild Restaurant
    535 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014 (SoHo/Greenwhich Village). They even have dairy-free cheese! Perfect for my 9 year-old with Celiac and food allergies. He loves it!!

  13. Tamara

    Thank you SO much for sharing your thoughts and ideas on all things NYC! I just booked my family’s first trip to New York for this June and your guide is coming with me. I appreciate this so much!

  14. Casey

    My husband and I are planning a trip to NYC next fall to celebrate our 35th birthdays! I’ve never been and am SO excited to see all the sights, shows and most importantly…. eat all the food! You’re guide will definitely come in handy! Thank you!!

  15. LT

    I highly recommend Absolute Bagels in Morningside Heights for the best NY bagels! Long lines on weekend mornings but it moves quickly 🙂

  16. Kim Henrichs

    I lived in NYC so long it made me jaded – I love so much when people travel there and love it and lets me see things in a new light. Sure am missing the food right now though…

  17. Celeste Blinn

    I used to live in DC (now Texas 😏) and I would head up to NYC every so often for a quick weekend trip. Your travel guide makes me miss it! I need to go back!!

  18. Sallie Wiggins

    I absolutely love NYC and love following your adventures! I am keeping a “to-do” list based on your adventures for our next adventure!!

  19. Val Skallet

    I love NYC! You’ve provided great suggestions! I applaud you for living there. I couldn’t do it. With kids, no less. I LOVE the city, but I am always happy to return to my quiet, slow paced life in northern Minnesota. (Then, I get bored ands start planning my next vacation. )

  20. Lisa Romm

    This is such a great post! My daughter just moved to the city and we are coming up to visit over Christmas. Can’t wait to do some of these things and try all the great food!! Thanks for sharing.

  21. Cassidy B

    Oh my gosh! Thank you do much for this post. My 9 year old is obsessed with New York City and when we go this will be so helpful! I hope you enjoy city life!

  22. Peggy King

    Thank you for taking your time to compile this informative guide for your readers! I have it saved to my photos for our trip next week! You are an amazing lady! Thank you for all your posts and keeping us informed. Happy you had a relaxing Thanksgiving with your family!

  23. Taylor

    Wow! I love New York, but after ready your travel guide I feel like I barely know NYC! Thank you, there are so many cool places to see. One of my favorite things to do is just find a hole in the wall restaurant to try! ????

  24. Mataya Thomas

    My best friend and I are going to NYC in March so we’ll definitely be hitting up some of these places. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Susan Crawford

      This is my comment for your contest give away. But I am so excited to tell you that next summer we are leaving Vancouver Washington with our travel trailer and heading out across the Big USA to see it all. I have never been to NYC and this will be my chance. That’s why I went to this blog to make my comment on. I just read parts to my hubby about transit and the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I have also shared this blog with others who have gone to NYC. Our biggest problem is figuring out how and where we will put the trailer and commute into the city. But it is going to be epic! So keep on updating everything NYC! Thank you so much!,,,

  25. Katie

    We went to NYC at the beginning of October. It was my husbands first time. Luckily he loved it and next time we go back I’ll use your guide! Can’t wait!

  26. Nina

    I’ve been to New York quite a few times as a tourist (I’m from Germany), but it’s my favorite city to visit in the world, so I’ve bookmarked this post to come back to if and when I get to visit the city again!

  27. This Week at the Brennan's - Lauren's Latest

    […] spent a good three hours compiling/trying to remember information for my NYC Travel Guide! If you haven’t read it, hop on over to give it a good read. Do you want to come to NYC and […]

  28. Donna

    this comment is a question about your pie crust recipe, could not find a place there to ask this: you say use 2/3 lb of shortening but which shortening? liquid or solid? the receipe already has 1/3 lb butter flavored shortening so was confused thanks

    1. Justin Lund

      Going to be running a meet at the armory in 2021 and making plans now for myself, wife and my 10 year old daughter. Comments about traveling around nyc with a child?

      Thanks for all of the tips food was one of those things I wanted to experience especially pizza and burgers.