The First-Timer’s Guide to New York City

It’s no secret that New York City holds my heart and remains the defending champion for the oh-so prestigious title of: “My Favorite City in the World”. Throughout this summer, I’ve been lucky enough to make a few trips to the east coast and explore the Big Apple with my favorite adventure partner. In the city that never sleeps, you’ll never get bored, it’s impossible to run out of amazing food options to salivate over, and you shouldn’t run out of things to do if you’re looking hard enough.

I’m not a local, nor am I an expert, but as Tom Wolfe said, β€œOne belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” Even if I don’t live in New York, I belong to there; therefore, I want to give you some of my top recommendations regarding places to go, things to see, and food/restaurants to try out that I’ve loved the most during my times there.


One World Observatory at the World Trade Center: Imagine a 360 degree view of Manhattan and beyond. From the One World Observatory at the World Trade Center, you’ll find yourself walking in circles around the observation deck taking in the vast, fast paced city-life down below. From 100 floors high, you can take in the sight of Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey. You’ll even get a good look of the Statue of Liberty from here! This experience was one of the first things I did during my very first visit to New York and I was completely dumb-founded by the view that’s too overwhelming to verbally describe. If you only have the time or money to do just a handful of things in NYC, this definitely should be on your list.

Central Park: This is another one of those things that needs to be done when you come to the city. In the middle of all the skyscrapers lies something more peaceful and slower paced. You’ll find couples laying together on the grass, friends talking and walking, people playing baseball on the ball fields, and kids eating hot dogs from the hot dog stands. I’ve always wanted to have a picnic in Central Park– to pick up lunch foods from a market, find a fluffy area of grass under a shady tree to lie a blanket down and just observe and enjoy everything going on around me while munching on the goodies we brought. This almost happened the last time I visited; however, rather than pigging out in Central Park, we opted for a different park instead.

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Columbus Circle: Right next to Central Park is Columbus Circle. This is a heavy traffic round-about in the middle of the city with a tall statue of Christopher Columbus propped up right in the middle of it all. Along the round-about, there are fountains and benches to relax on and chill. One morning, my boyfriend and I picked up an acai bowl from a Juice Generation right across the street and took it to Columbus Circle to eat. While it’s not a sight that’ll take too much of your time, it’s cool to see the craziness that surrounds it all.


Times Square: This place is basically synonymous with New York. I’d even go so far as considering it the tourist epicenter of the world. Anyone who visits NYC visits Times Square. Be warned: it’s crazy and it’s crowded; nevertheless, it’s something you’ll totally regret not experiencing if you skip it. Close to Broadway, you’ll find hotels, dining, entertainment, tons of shopping and more. It’s awesome during the day, but at night the place completely lights up.

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Union Square: I visited Union Square on a Saturday morning and it was packed. White tent after white tent were vendors selling fresh fruits, veggies, organic beauty products, flowers and so much more at the famous farmer’s market! Stop by to pick up a carton of fresh strawberries or raspberries and take them to a bench in the park to snack on while you people watch.

Flat Iron Building: The Flat Iron building is just one of those iconic NYC landmarks that you have to see. It’s super popular among photographers and once you get there you’ll see why. When have you ever seen a triangle-shaped building in your life?!

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Madison Square Park: Right across the street from the Flat Iron Building lies Madison Square Park. My boyfriend and I picked up some food at Eataly (which I’ll definitely be talking about later) and set up lunch at a picnic table in the park. You can look around and you’ll see tons of other people doing the same. If the meats and cheese of Eataly nearby don’t appeal to you, there’s a Shake Shack located right in the park!


Washington Square Park: I’m putting this on here for a few reasons. 1. The Washington Square Park arch is pretty neat (see picture below). 2. There is live music. 3. There’s a giant fountain you can hang around. 4. You can play chess against some New Yorkers who will definitely school you. 5. If it’s a sunny day out, you can throw on your swim suit, lay a towel down on the lawn and soak up some rays. I couldn’t help laughing that people were actually tanning here at a park in the middle of the city, but when you live in the concrete jungle, it makes sense.


Rockefeller Center: After picking up coffee and stopping by Time’s Square on the morning of my 21st birthday, my love and I headed over the the Rockefeller Center. To my surprise, there was already an ice rink set up (in October?!). Therefore, we rented some skates and hit the ice! If you visit during the fall time, I’d recommend this a million times. I had tons of fun doing circles around the rink and seeing Constantin eat ice at the end of our skate session made it even better (ahem, funnier). πŸ˜‰ Additionally, if you go during the holidays, you’ll get the beautiful view of a giant Christmas tree above the ice rink.

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Mets Game: Located in Queens, Citi Field is the home of the New York Mets. I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of the sport but I am a die hard fan of great ambiance and unbelievable food– two things that you’ll most definitely find at a Mets game. My tummy was doing somersaults of excitement from the fried mac and cheese balls, buffalo chicken balls, pizza balls, nachos, chocolate chip cookie dough, and cute souvenir cup margarita that we had. Oh and the game part was pretty fun too.




Coney Island: Coney Island is so cute. Head to the southwestern part of Brooklyn to enjoy a couple hours at the beach swimming in the ocean, working on your tan, or playing some frisbee. If you’re into fishing, cast a line off the pier. If you’re more about adrenaline and rides, make your way to the amusement park to get your thrill. Indulge in a Nathan’s hotdog or piece of pizza and top it off with a mint-chip cone from Coney Island Ice Cream. It’s a great place to get away if you need space from the hustle and bustle of the city.

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Brooklyn Bridge/Boardwalk: I wish I would’ve walked across the bridge but due to time constraints (okay, and laziness), we just took the subway from Manhattan to Brooklyn. There’s also the option to take a ferry. From the Brooklyn boardwalk you can get an amazing view of the bridge and the Manhattan skyline all at once. While we were taking pictures of the bridge, we actually ended up seeing an engagement proposal on the lawn behind us and I just about died from how adorable it was.

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High Line: For nearly 1.5 miles, you can walk 30 feet above the west side of Manhattan through a unique kind of public city park built on top of an old rail line. Art, wildflowers, and sweet city views along the way? Sign me up!


China Town: Because I lived in China, this area of Manhattan (not surprisingly) very much appealed to me. It brought me back to the culture and country I had grown to love over a whole semester– one that I still get homesick for, even to this very day. Get this: it even smells like China! Side note: China doesn’t smell good. But that just shows how authentic this place is! Here, you’ll take a small step into a different culture. You can even find some yummy and authentic Chinese food from the small, hole-in-the-wall restaurants that are scattered throughout the area.

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Fly NYON Helicopter Ride: The absolute best thing that I have ever experienced in New York City was this doors off helicopter ride. If you have the time and/or are willing to splurge a bit for this once in a lifetime experience, please please do it!  There is no view on Earth like this one and it’s easily my #1 recommendation for NYC.  I know this sounds intriguing (it’s a helicopter ride over the greatest city in the world for goodness sakes!?!), so you can read all about my experience and the company I went with in one of my previous blog posts by clicking hereIt’s an adventure that you’ll never, ever forget.

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Eataly: Oh my gah. I love Italian food. I’ve been on a total antipasto kick lately and meats, cheese and olives have been my outright favorite snacks. Straight from their website, Eataly describes themselves as the largest Italian marketplace in the world, comprising a variety of restaurants, food and beverage counters, bakery, retail items, and a cooking school. Guess what? In the creperie there were jars of nutella bigger than milk gallons. Talk about paradise. Wanna know what was even better? The huge selection of meats and cheeses on display for us to sample and pick from. We picked our meat and cheese variety, added olives and bread to our basket and headed to Madison Square Park to stuff our faces. Take a quick trip to Italy (Eataly) and engulf yourself in food heaven.

Piacere: Right next to China Town you’ll find Little Italy. Because I just expressed how obsessed I am with Italian food I’ll keep this short. Brick-oven baked pizza, wine, antipasto (!!), Nutella crepes for dessert… all. so. yummy. It’s a small space with a rustic and relaxing ambiance to enjoy some of the best pizza your taste buds will ever experience.

Caliente Cab Co: I was scrolling through Facebook the other day and came across one of those travel foodie videos. You can find a giant margarita made with a full bottle of tequila in New York City. Why didn’t I know about this when I went?! After I started watching the video, I realized I had just gone to that restaurant about a week prior, but somehow didn’t see that this insane drink was an option. 30-year-old Caliente Cab Co is a super well know Mexican food establishment with some mouthwatering and authentic food options and (dare I say) even better margaritas. I got the tajin-rim spicy watermelon margarita and it tasted like Mexican candy in drink form. Ummm… yum?!


Cook Shop: Two words: Huevos. Rancheros. I’m almost drooling just thinking about them. Come here for brunch. Enough said. Moving on.

(Cook Shop is also located right across the street from the High Line if you were interested in walking along the rail way turned garden/park before/after eating.)

Northern Territory: My boyfriend’s sister invited us to meet up for drinks at this roof top bar. Located in Brooklyn, you get an amazing view of Manhattan from the rooftop while chatting over drinks and delicious food (they even had chicken wiener schnitzel for my love!?). Aesthetically pleasing establishments are among my top favorite things in life and Northern Territory did not disappointment: wooden surroundings, hung up light strings and beautiful views. I’m all about it.


If you have any questions regarding anything related to the above information, don’t be hesitant to ask in the comments on this post below! I’ll try to help the best that I can. If you do choose to check out these places, I hope that you love it all as much as I do.

Enjoy your trip in the best city in the world.




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