A Tourist's Guide to New York City

It's known as the Big Apple, the "city that never sleeps," and the "city so nice they named it twice."  No matter the time of day, there is always something going on. Manhattan has more life packed in those few square miles than you could imagine. There's a Starbucks on every corner and more restaurants than you could tackle in a lifetime. More shows, events, parties, and bars than can be counted. The people are eclectic and the atmosphere is electric. 

New York City. 

It's quite possibly my favorite city in the world. I tell my husband on a regular basis that I would move there in a heartbeat and he just rolls his eyes at me. After just having traveled there a few weeks ago, I'm feeling sentimental towards that wonderful city. Looking through my photos makes me want to jump on a plane and head back right this second.

I'm not the best of tour guides and I'm definitely no travel agent, but I've successfully navigated myself and friends through the big city numerous times and have had a ball, so  today, I'm here to share a few tips I've learned along the way that have helped make my visits trips to remember!

New York City is big and intimidating at first glance, but with some easy tips, you'll have it managed in no time. 

1) Make a must-do list. Rank your top sites, restaurants, shows, or shops to visit so you have your list of priorities. There are unending options for things to do in NYC, so unless you go in with a plan, you're likely to get overwhelmed. Having a "top to-do" list will help keep you organized and on track. Whether it be days full of museums, 5th Avenue stores, or 5 Broadway shows, decide early what you MUST see/do when you're there. I may or may not have had each day planned out with times on notecards.

2) Don't be afraid of the subway. It's not a scary place! Get a Metro card and swipe it on the regular. Cabs are expensive and a pain to track down, so if you're going long distances in Manhattan, the subway is your best bet. Go to your App Store and download an MTA New York Subway map--you can put in your location and destination and it will give you step-by-step directions from street directions to the nearest Subway entrance then to the route to take once you're on the subway. It's easy and convenient and much less terrifying than it appears. 

3) With that being said about the subway, WALK. If you're in the city when the weather is nice and you're able to walk from place to place, do it. Explore. Wander. See the city. The walking is when you really get a feel for the uniqueness of each neighborhood. And plus, you get to stop at every cupcake place you see because you're walking off all the calories, duh. Use your map (on your phone or in your travel guides) and get to stepping.

 Rockefeller Center


4) Don't stress over the hotel selection. Make sure you're in a neighborhood close to the action so your commute isn't too far, but other than that, a bed is a bed. If you travel like me, you won't spend much time in the hotel other than to sleep. As long as you've got a clean room and shower, you've got it made. Spend your money in other places, like restaurants, shops, or shows! 

5) Use Open Table for reservations at trendy or popular restaurants. It's a low maintenance way to ensure little wait times for all your meals! You're able to choose your time block, number of guests, etc all from your smart phone--and they keep up with your reservations via email, with reminders to keep you in check! Most every restaurant we came across while planning used Open Table and it made the planning that much easier!

6) Make reservations prior to your visit for the most popular sites, like the 9/11 Museum and Memorial, Empire State Building, or Top of the Rock. There are options such as express passes, timed visits, etc--you can pick your time slot and print off your entrance pass so all you have to do is get the ticket scanned at the door upon entrance. No lines or waiting! For the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock, avoid going at prime times like the middle of the day or right when the sun sets. In my opinion, the best time for the Empire State Building is first thing in the morning (make sure it's a clear day!); the best time for Top of the Rock is at night, a couple of hours before closing (because you can see the ESB all lit up at night!) They may be touristy sites, but they're worth the money.

7) Plan plenty of time for the plethora of museums. From the Met to the MoMA to the Guggenheim and beyond, the museum choices are almost as vast as the restaurant ones. Even if you're not necessarily a "museum fan," it's a must-do while in the city--Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso, you name it, you can find it. If you must pick one museum to tour, I'd pick the Met first and MoMA second--you can spend as much or as little time as you prefer in either, but be prepared to dedicate a whole afternoon (or longer!) if you're interested in really browsing. 

The Met

8) This one's not the easiest one, but it's so fun! Attempt to get tickets to a show taping. Whether it be Kelly and Michael, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, or the likes, go to one! It's an awesome experience. And easier than that? Go to the taping of the Today Show or Good Morning America! We saw a taping of the Seth Meyers show in February and had a blast. Andrew and I were on the Today Show on our previous visit and had such a fun time there too. I'm so glad we ended up doing it.

9) See a Broadway show! This one is a no-brainer. We ordered our tickets ahead of time (we saw If/Then and it was phenomenal,) but there are ticket booths near all the theaters where the shows sell discounted tickets for shows that haven't sold out. If you have a couple of extra hours, see if you can find some cheap show tickets. You can't go wrong with ANY show you choose to see!

10) Don't be an obnoxious tourist. We already stick out like sore thumbs with our cameras and maps; try to be respectful and keep up with the pace on the sidewalks, avoid stopping short in subway entrances or on busy walkways, and try not to marvel at all the skyscrapers as you walk by. But at the same time, be yourself and do your thing. Be confident, but don't be afraid to ask for directions, tips, recommendations if needed. You'd be surprised at how nice people can be if you just ask! 

11) My husband suggested this and I totally agree with him--save your last afternoon (or morning or the time period before you fly out) for sites that you want to do again or didn't know about prior to planning. On our second trip, we had an extra afternoon and we ended up doing Top of the Rock during the day and got some great shots from those visits. We also ended up spending some time in Chelsea Market and were able to walk the Highline, which we hadn't planned on doing before. It was nice to have that built in extra time to do something "off the schedule." 

12) And my favorite tip? The one I've been waiting for? The BEST PLACES TO EAT. As I said earlier, there are 3,487,209,578 places to eat in NYC (I made that statistic up) so the options are literally endless. Some of my tried and true favorites are the ones I'll name today; these are places I've been with friends and would recommend to anyone! I've included links to every place so you can browse the menus.

Best brunch spots:
Sarabeth's (hands down, favorite spot!)
Norma's (Nutella pancakes...hello.)

Best lunch spots:
Shake Shack (the best "fast" food you'll ever eat; lots of locations!)
The Grey Dog (delicious paninis, sandwiches, and mac-n-cheese!)
Corner Bistro (great burger!)

Best dinner spots: 
Tavern on the Green (pricey but perfect NYC atmosphere)
Eataly (Italian lover's dream!)
Don Antonio's Pizza (hole in the wall pizza that's pretty much incredible)

Favorite sweets:
Crumb's Bake Shop (chocolate chip cookie dough cupcake!)
Little Cupcake Bake Shop (my favorite is the Blue Velvet cupcake)
Magnolia Bakery (order the banana pudding)
Ladurée (MACARONS!)

Again, I'm no travel agent or master of the city--I'm just a Southern girl who has a heart for traveling. I like to plan trips and get itineraries scheduled down to the minute, because every second counts in a trip of a lifetime. For all of you who are thinking of traveling to NYC soon, GO! And any of you who have any extra room in your suitcase, let me know. I might just tag along with you! My heart will always be in New York City! Xoxo


  1. Rach!! Alice's Tea Cup is my favorite breakfast spot in all of NYC. I have only been once but it was for 11 days over Christmas. We stayed in an apartment with my family and literally felt like locals...it was amazing to have Christmas there! :) Such a fun trip you got to have!

  2. One day I hope to travel there - I'd like to go at Christmas to see Rockefeller Center tree :)

  3. What hotel did you stay at in NYC?

  4. I want to go back sooooooo badly! I have gone at Christmas but I am dying to go back when the weather is a little but more bearable for this Texas girl! You had some great tips that I will for sure use when I plan that trip... eventually!

  5. a stop by Serendipity for dessert is also a must! I dream of the frozen hot chocolates and strawberry fields sunday! yum!! And I agree, Top of the Rock has the best views! Best season to visit, by far, is early December (as in the first week).. weather is perfect, the coolness keeps the "NYC stench" at bay, and all of the store front displays are amazingly prepared for the holiday season. Not to mention The Tree! You have me wanting to book a flight right now!!

  6. I've been twice and would love to return. I'll keep these close in case I do return. Happy week!

  7. Just pinned this for future reference. Thanks for all the tips!

  8. Such a good list--I love NYC!

  9. It's honestly a better place to live than it is to visit! You would love living there!!