This is your free New York City Guide! The “Big Apple” is great city to visit at any time of the year and there’s always plenty to do! It’s huge though, so plan where you stay and what time you have to make the most of it. Here are our personal recommendations to you.
WHAT TO DO IN NEW YORK
Statue Of Liberty – She’s the icon of New York and you’ll find her just off the southern edge of Manhattan Island. You can book a trip to Liberty Island from Battery Park or on the Statue Cruises website and included in your ticket is access to the statue’s ‘pedestal’. Book early though to get the much sought after ‘crown tickets’ which allow you to climb up the statue. The cruises to the island are always busy, so if you can’t get a ticket, our advice would be to hop on board the Staten Island Ferry which is free. It will give you some great views of the New York skyline as well as taking you nearer to the Statue. The only downside is that you have to wait for a ferry back – they are frequent though.
Statue of Liberty: Read more, ticket prices, hours & map…
Ellis Island – Just off the southern tip of Manhattan, this island and its grand buildings were the gateway to a new life in the USA for immigrants arriving between 1892 and 1954. It’s now the National Immigration Museum after being restored in the late 1980s. Many original features remain so you get a real taste of what it would have been like to arrive as an immigrant and we thought it was fascinating. Access to the museum and island are free, but you’ll need to pay for a joint ticket with the Statue of Liberty cruises to get you there.
Ellis Island: Full review, tickets, pictures & map…
Brooklyn Bridge – You’ll see it from a distance on the ferry mentioned above, but we’d recommend you see it up close too. You can walk right the way across it from City Hall on Manhattan Island to the small park in Brooklyn. On a nice day it’s another great way to see the NY skyline. We’ve done this at night too and we felt entirely safe.
Brooklyn Bridge: Read more, pictures & map…
Empire State Building – It’s on 34th Street West at the junction with 5th Ave, but you can see it almost everywhere on Manhattan Island. If you take the trip up it, be prepared for lots of elevator rides and an incredible view. It’s always busy though so be prepared to wait in line. You really feel the sense of history when you go up the Empire State Building and the art deco interior is beautiful, but if you don’t want to wait in line we’d recommend you try the Top of The Rock attraction instead (see below).
Empire State Building: Full review, ticket prices & map..
Rockefeller Center – This is almost a district in itself, but the highlights are the ice rink in the winter and the “Top of the Rock” observation area. Personally we preferred this to the Empire State Building as the views were better and it was much less busy. You can also take pics of the NY Skyline with the Empire State Building actually in them!
Rockefeller Center: Full Review, Top Of The Rock discount tickets & map…
Radio City Music Hall – Some of the worlds biggest acts have performed here and it’s still famous for its “Rockette” dancing girls. The art deco interior is amazing and the behind the scenes tour is thoroughly recommended – we loved it.
Radio City Music Hall: Tour review, tickets & map…
Central Park – It’s absolutely huge! You won’t be able to walk around it all, so decide which bits you want to see before you go. Highlights include the mini castle, a large lake, ice skating rink, the zoo, the reservoir, sport pitches and plenty of long walks. On a Sunday, the park is full of New Yorkers enjoying their free time. It’s probably best not to visit the park after dark.
Central Park: Read more, pictures & map…
Grand Central Station – This has to be one of the most beautiful train stations we have ever been in. If you like impressive architecture, then you must go. It’s almost more like a stately home than a station. Downstairs there are lots of food outlets too. It’s on 42nd Street at the junction with Park Avenue.
Grand Central Station: What to see, pictures & map…
Times Square – You can hardly move here on a busy day, but you have to see it! It’s most impressive at night and you’ll find it where Broadway crosses 7th Avenue at 44th and 45th Street. Just down from the square on Broadway, the authorities have widened the pavements and added seating. Grab a coffee or smoothie, take a seat and watch NYC bustle around you.
Times Square: Read more, pictures & map…
The United Nations – Not the most impressive of buildings, but the flags outside are certainly eye catching. It’s a building you’ll have seen many times on TV and you can do a tour inside too which includes the huge Assembly Hall. It’s at the East end of 42nd Street.
United Nations HQ: Read more, tours & map…
New York Public Library – It’s free to go inside and despite the movie “The Day After Tomorrow” it remains fully intact! The solid marble architecture is grand, and there are free tours available too. Strangely, you hardly see any books in the library, but if you look at the building from the adjacent Bryant Park, the narrow windows that you see are where most of the books are kept. There are also storage areas under the park itself. The library is on 42nd Street at the junction 5th Avenue.
New York Public Library: Read More, tour times & map…
Bryant Park – It’s a little oasis of peace and greenery that should not be missed on a trip to New York. Take a seat on one of the little green chairs and watch the hustle and bustle around you. We really love this park – it has so much character!
Bryant Park: Read more, park features, pictures & map…
Greenwich Village – In this residential district of New York, you’ll find a real village feel with tree-lined streets packed with lovely town-houses and sweeping stairways. Some highlights in “The Village” include the Magnolia Bakery with its infamous cupcakes and the fictional home of Sex & The City’s Carrie Bradshaw. We think the best bits of Greenwich Village surround Greenwich Avenue, between West 14th Street and 6th Avenue.
Greenwich Village: Read more, pictures & map…
SEE OUR MINI GUIDE TO SEX AND THE CITY FILMING LOCATIONS
Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum – If you love any of the things in the title, you’ll love it. It’s based around the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier on the Hudson River at the end of 48thSt West. Other highlights include a Concorde and a submarine.
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum: Read more, opening times, prices & map…
Union Square – This square was originally the heart of fashionable New York life and a home for political protest. Nowadays its a location for good food, from both the restaurants that surround the square and from the Farmers’ Market that’s held here several times a week. The square is also often used as an exhibition space too. You’ll find it on Broadway at 14th Street and it has it’s own subway stop too.
Union Square: Read more, pictures & map…
South Street Seaport – This former port area on the lower east side is now a funky shopping area with restaurants and designer shops. It includes several piers, of which Pier 17 is being converted into a new shopping complex. It’s also worth visiting to get great views of Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Bridge.
South Street Seaport: Read more, pictures & map…
Wall Street – To be honest, apart from the grand frontage of the New York Stock Exchange, there’s not a lot to see in Wall Street itself. While you’re here though, make sure you call into Trinity Church which is on Broadway at the end of Wall Street. It’s a beautiful building and there’s something quite calming about being inside too.
Wall Street: Read more, pictures & map…
Lincoln Center – This collection of buildings is dedicated to the performing arts. It was completed in the 1960s has provided homes for the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York State Theater and the Julliard School for the Performing Arts. We enjoyed just walking around the plaza, watching the water fountain and looking at the buildings. Lincoln Center is on Broadway at 64th Street.
Lincoln Center: Read more, tours & map…
OUR TOP TIP IN NEW YORK
We loved Central Park. It’s a great place to escape to for peace and quiet in a busy day of sight seeing. We’d recommend taking some sandwiches and heading for the first lake (parallel to 71st to 78th Streets). There are plenty of benches, seating areas, pagodas, or just grass to sit down and eat whilst watching the joggers and tourists.
MORE THINGS TO DO IN NEW YORK
We have stayed in a number of hotels in New York, but there’s only one we’d really recommend to anyone else. It’s the Affinia Manhattan hotel which is opposite Penn Station. It’s a great location to be near the main sights, but it’s also luxurious, modern, friendly and clean. Many of the rooms here are much bigger than most of the hotels in New York and you can use Penn Station to get to and from JFK airport too. Check out the latest customer reviews here before booking.
GETTING AROUND NEW YORK
Don’t be scared to use the Subway. The dark stairways down to some stations can seem daunting, but it really is quite safe and most stations are manned. It’s impossible to walk everywhere in Manhattan and the Subway is a cheap and quick way to get around. Buy your tickets at the machines – they’re easy to use, but bear in mind they usually only take small denomination notes. If you really don’t want to use the Subway, opt for the busses. They follow major roads and are easy to use but they do get stuck in the traffic. There are also tour busses which run a variety of Hop-on, Hop-off routes and some include admission to popular attractions like the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock or the Statue of Liberty.
New York is served by 3 major airports – La Guardia, John F Kennedy and Newark (New Jersey). All have good public transport links to Manhattan but if you’d like a more personal option, check out the latest prices here: Private or Shared NYC Airport Transfers. If you’re planning to get a taxi you can expect to pay a $52 set fee plus tip, tolls and surcharges from JFK, up to $30 (plus tip and tolls) from LGA and up to $40 (plus tip and tolls) from Newark (2016 prices). Beware of anyone approaching you at the airports and offering a taxi ride – only use taxis in the official taxi hailing area. Some family members were caught out in a scam like this in August 2010 where a man in an official looking outfit approached them in the baggage hall offering a taxi ride for a fixed fee. They later realised they’d paid well over the correct price, plus the vehicle didn’t seem to be licensed and probably wasn’t insured to take fee paying passengers either!
MORE ON NEW YORK
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New York CityPass – Great value admission to major NYC attractions
NYCgo.com – Official visitor site
New York Guide Books – Amazon.co.uk