My family spent a good ten years in the NYC area, and now I fly there regularly - So I am excited to document all the places I visited on my last trip this past Spring and over the years - I love NYC!
If you are flying into NYC, sometimes, the route that the plane takes as it near the city is surprisingly scenic. If you get lucky, you may be able to get a picture like this one, so be on the look out!
NYC is like a grid, divided into streets and avenues. Avenues run north-south and streets run east-west. You will hear locals giving directions in terms of street coordinates: "Meet me at 37th and 6th" - which basically means, meet me at the intersection of 37th Street and 6th Avenue. So, learn the jargon!
To minimize travel time, you should break up your explorations into three parts:
Lower Manhattan / Downtown NYC
Each area offers wonderful things to explore. I personally prefer midtown the most because we used to live in this area when we first got married and we have a ton of great memories here. I also think Uptown is great for folks who want to focus on museums and performances, it is also the most upscale. Downtown has many of the must-do attractions so you can't miss it.
When you look at the cost of air tickets and hotels, you will find that Summer and Fall rates are higher. Midtown NYC between 50th and 60th is likely to be pricey but any hotel with oomph and views may be more expensive irrespective of location. Play around with this interactive hotel booking app to get approximate pricing.
From penthouses with their own plunge pools and lofts with city views. to pink art-inspired homes and pretty homes with a swing and a ton of toys, you are likely to find really interesting properties in NYC.
You should obviously download the Uber and Lyft apps but I would also recommend learning to use the subway system. It is so much easier than trying to find a cab in the city. And, no getting stuck in traffic jams! So, try the famous yellow cab once, but then - be brave and try the subway!
If you punch the locations on Google Map, you will get some quick information on which train to take and which station to get off on. If you going toward Downtown, you choose the downtown train. If you are going uptown, you choose the Uptown train - It is not that difficult, you will learn it quick! Just buy one refillable MetroCard for the entire family and swipe it for each member at the entrance of the stations. Once it runs out of money, go back to the machine and re-fill it.
If you have limited time, get yourself on a Hop Off - Hop On bus. This is a great way to see the city!
Big Bus is one of those options but there are others too. You can buy the tickets online and then meet your tour bus guide at a designated meeting spot. They even have an app so you can track your bus route in real time.
Must-do things in Downtown NYC
Freedom Tower aka One World Observatory (Downtown NYC)
This is the best way to get a 360° view of the NYC skyline. The observatory is located on floors 100-102 of One World Trade Center, with exhibits & restaurants. The SkyPod™ Elevators climb 102 stories in 47 seconds. You need to buy tickets in advance for both general admission, guided tours and restaurants. Make it a date night with this special treat!
9/11 Memorial & Museum
This memorial honors people killed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993, recognizes the courage of those who survived, and salutes those who risked their lives to help others. The museum is open 6 days a week, buy your tickets here.
Photo credit: Paul Sableman
While you are there, do a quick exploration of the SeaGlass Carousel, a ride that gives you a feeling of underwater weightlessness! This is an activity for little kids, of course but parents are allowed to ride with their child.
Statue of Liberty
Visit the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Ferry service to both Liberty and Ellis Island is the only way to get there. Most people choose to only see the statue and not go to the island at all but if you wish to go, plan 2-3 hours and know that the museum may close earlier. You need to buy separate tickets to get inside the pedestal but the trip up to the crown is closed since 2001.
You can choose a cheaper, more reasonably priced ferry ride during the day or a sunset cruise to see the statue in the evening. The day we got married, Puneet and I took a sunset cruise, which is really romantic! The statue looked beautiful.
Check out the futurist-looking Oculus
This structure represents the city’s strength and a beacon for resilience. It took about 12 years to create and is now a transportation hub with shopping and dining options. To see it, take the subway lines stopping at Fulton Street and Cortlandt Street or take the PATH to WTC.
Spend an evening at the South Street SeaPort
After the destruction left behind during hurricane Sandy, this neighborhood restored itself. You would love the energy here! It is only about a 15-minute walk from the New York Stock Exchange - A fun place to shop, dine and to meet people!
Photo credits: South Street Seaport
Things to do:
Party at the Rooftop Pier 117
Visit IPIC, the Seaport spot for a full restaurant-and-movie theater experience
Check out the Tom Fruin's plexiglass, and 'The Canvas' shopping space that highlights sustainable brands and the culinary experiences in the 'Tin Building 'by Jean-Georges
Eat at TAGMO, Momofuku, Dante or Malibu Farm among others!
Stop by the Financial District and say Hello to the Charging Bull and the Fearless Girl on Wall Street
New York City's Fearless Girl has drawn countless tourists and is a symbol of the fight for gender equality. Wall Street is the business heart of NYC and visitors love to check out the New York Stock Exchange, banks and brokerage houses. Whenever they are available, you can also do a tour of the Federal Reserve.
Photo credit of the raging bull and fearless girl: NPR.org and AP
Explore Lower Manhattan: SOHO, Little Italy and China Town
An acronym for South of Houston Street (SOHO) is all about shopping, art galleries, architecture, luxury boutiques and independent designers! SOHO is a popular neighborhood, one that you must plan to visit.
Check out the Museum of Ice-cream if you can - You will need to reserve tickets but this is a multi-level sensory experience and you can eat as much ice-cream as you want!
Just 15-20 minutes away from SOHO, you can get a cultural experience and also grab a bite in Little Italy or China Town. West Village is also known for its restaurants!
Must-do things in Midtown Manhattan
The most happening part of town, hands-down. Be OK with crowds and photo-taking tourists. Personally, I prefer going to this area in the evening when the billboard lights are shining bright!
Bang in the middle of Times Square, you will find a few attractions that you should check out:
Madame Tussaud's NYC where you can get up close to the 'wax figures' of your favorite celebrities. 234 W 42nd St
Participate in a TV show recording: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, etc. If you are lucky, you can get tickets, check a few months in advance. 513 W. 54th St., between 10th and 11th St. Get your tickets here.
Looking to bike or Segway? Start your journey in midtown.