Three Perfect Days in NYC – A must-do guide to New York City for first-timers and seasoned vets
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It’s hard to believe that anyone could make it into their 30’s without having visited NYC. After all, the city is the icon of our nation, it’s the birthplace of creativity and food. It’s the melting pot of our country’s culture. It’s the reason for PIZZA! And Broadway! And seedy dive bars! It’s the setting to some of our most beloved T.V. shows, movies and theater and it’s the subject of chart-topping songs throughout the century. It’s hard to believe that someone like my boyfriend Dylan, could make it to 32 years of age without ever feeling the pulse of the city or having experienced the vibration of light in Times Square. But if he’s out there… then surely many more of you have never experienced New York and I am here to help! As a first-timer, journeying to NYC can be overwhelming. Everyone will have a million recommendations of things you need to do and see, and knowing where to start can be paralyzing in itself. You can easily waste half your time just trying to find your way around, so it’s good to have a general plan of attack - the rest will follow. The beautiful thing about New York City is that with each turn of the block you’re in for surprise sighting or delightful experience. But don’t be fooled, it’s easy to get lost and frustrated in the city - especially when you only have a few days to soak it all in. So, I’ve put together my Top 3 Perfect Days for a first time visit (or anytime visit) to New York City.
Getting to Manhattan:
Start by booking your trip to NYC on Delta.com. Delta Air Lines offers dozens of round-trip flights to all of NYC’s surrounding airports. Dylan and I live in a tiny little town in the mountains and usually have to connect to our final destination by way of another airport. Fortunately, we’re always able to find options with Delta that get us to our final destination within a reasonable hour. Check out deals and flight options by visiting Delta.com
Once you’ve arrived in NY, you have two options for getting into the city itself – Manhattan is about an hour away from all major airports. You can either Lyft (it’s a 50+ min ride for ~$60 - $80) or if you’re flying from JFK, you can embark on your first subway adventure for less than $15. I always recommend the latter. Taking the subway is one of the most empowering experiences. There’s something about navigating your way through the city like a local that evokes independence and acute sense of awareness. Pay close attention to signs and train stops, though! Taking the subway is not an easy feat! In fact, it can be quite frustrating and disorienting, so be patient with your navigation skills and lean into the adventure. When you’ve reached your stop, you’ll emerge from the below ground subway station into the heart of the city; skyscrapers and busy pedestrians towering over you. In the words of T-swift, “Welcome to New York.”
Once you’ve arrived to the city, do the immediate essential - grab a slice of pizza, a bagel or a Cosmo. NYC is not a carb conscious city, so enjoy it. Plus, you’ll need the fuel for your adventures ahead. Expect to walk no less than 10K steps (5 miles) per day. Now the fun begins, here are the top 3 adventures I recommend:
1: Take a Sightseeing Bus (Downtown Loop)
Seriously. I know it seems extremely touristy, and I had never considered taking one of these before, but all my friends who live in New York highly recommended taking a “hop on, hop off” sightseeing tour bus whether you’re new to New York or have experienced it a dozen times. These buses are EVERYWHERE and the convenience of them is that they drop off at all the top spots, which means you don’t have to worry about navigating. Plus, you get a view of the city from above ground - offering the best lay of the land and skyscraper views. We hopped on our bus in Midtown / Times Square and took the downtown loop (Times Square / Empire State Building / Flatiron / West Village / SoHo / World Trade Center memorial / Battery Park / Chinatown / East Village). The downtown loop will take an entire day in itself, so be sure to plan a second day if you want to do the uptown loop. There are multiple bus companies and they all offer different sightseeing packages and guided audio tours. We opted for the most basic fare and wandered on our own at each drop off. Fares should run you about $25/person. This was the best way to show Dylan as much as possible in a short amount of time. Needless to say, this goofball was like a kid in a candy shop. He loved being able to photograph the architecture and says “the perspective from the bus rooftop was impressive!”
2: Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
If crowds aren’t your thing, hate to say it, New York may not be your thing either. Don’t expect to have the Brooklyn Bridge all to yourself like you may see in many influencer’s posts. Word on the street is that you have to be there at sunrise to escape the crowds and get a solo shot of you on the bridge. Unfortunately, waking up at sunrise isn’t mine or Dylan’s jam when we’re on vacation, so we roughed the crowds. Needless to say, the bridge is remarkable. If you’ve never experienced suspended architecture of this scale, it will blow your mind. The bridge takes about 30 minutes to walk across – depending how many photos you stop to take. We walked from the Brooklyn side to Manhattan, but had lunch and did some shopping in Dumbo before our walk.
3. See a Broadway show
It seems obvious that I would encourage you to see a Broadway show, but YOU HAVE TO SEE A BROADWAY SHOW. Dylan had never seen a theater production EVER, and I couldn’t let this escape our weekend to-do list, so we went big and saw Hamilton. Dylan was blown away! There is nothing more New York than taking in the theater. If there’s one thing I can recommend people spend their wad of money on, it’s this. Save money on food and souvenirs and splurge on Broadway. Don’t skimp, theater is magical and the opportunity to see a show on Broadway is *almost priceless. There are dozens of shows you can see, and I encourage you to take a leap of faith on a new production. Ask the locals what’s up and coming. Or heck with it, go all out and see Hamilton like we did. It was worth the pretty price tag. Tickets to most shows can be purchased up to the day before showtime, but I warn you; it can get expensive! You can get discounted tickets by waiting in an enormous line in Times Square, but I don’t recommend it because you have better things to do with your time. It’s Broadway. It’s New York. Splurge on the occasion - you will never regret it. All the Broadway theaters are in the heart of Times Square, so after your show lets out, you get to experience Times Square all over again by night - which is a completely different view! To finish the night right, grab a slice of pizza at 2am.
I could write a blog with a list of over 100 things you can do / see on your first trip to New York, but it would be overwhelming. Instead, take a bite-size-bite off the big apple and start with these must-dos. Each neighborhood has hidden gems within it, and you’ll end up seeing more than you think just by wandering around the block. Enjoy New York and send your “must do’s” and recommendations in the comments below!