NYC Trip Re-cap: First Time Visitor NYC Guide

NYC guide first time NYC

It has been a crazy busy couple of a weeks of traveling y’all! This past weekend I was in NYC for a few days for Fashion Week. NYC is one of my favorite cities for a lot of reasons: the energy, the ease of getting around, all the sights and all of the food (okay, maybe not the dollar pizza slices – those are not great!). I’ve written about how to experience the best of NYC in one day (here), but for first time visitors there’s a lot more than knowing the sights to see and places to eat in order to have a great time!

This past weekend, I revisited some of my favorite spots, experienced NYFW, and did a LOT of shopping. Can I just say how fantastic Banana Republic’s show was? Oh my goodness. Their pieces are on point! One thing I’m really glad to see is that the off-the-shoulder trend is here to stay. I’m always a bit nervous to try new trends until I know it’s not just a one season thing. Off-the-shoulder sweaters are going to be so hot this fall, y’all!

NYC travel guide nyc guide first time visitor nyc
While I was walking around and thinking about post ideas, I thought about sharing a few things I’ve learned about exploring NYC. If you’re a first time visitor this NYC guide is for you! You probably know all about the major tourist attractions so I’ll skip those!

NYC travel guide nyc guide first time visitor nyc
Here are a few things I’ve learned from living in the area and multiple visits:

Transportation: Getting from the airport into Manhattan can be tricky, but once you’re at your hotel it’s much easier to get around! The Subway is your best bet (cab/uber generally only saves a minute or two) and Google Maps is your new best friend.

Depending on which airport you’re coming in from the easiest way to get to your destination is going to vary. If you fly into Newark it’s super easy. Hop on the NJ transit train to Penn Station and take a cab to your hotel (if you’re staying further than a few blocks from Midtown, take the subway. From Penn Station the A/C/E, 1/2/3, and N/Q/R lines are super easy to get on). If you fly into LGA, it’s a little more difficult. Depending on the time of day, I would go ahead and pay the $40-$50 cab fare to get into Manhattan. Your other options are: take the Q70 bus to Jackson Heights or Woodside and transfer to whichever subway line you need or take a cab/uber to the subway (this is what I usually do!). If you fly into JFK, there’s a train that will take you to different stops and it is much easier than the bus at LGA!

Once you’re ready to explore, if you haven’t already, get a Metrocard. If you’re staying 3 days or more, buy the unlimited pass for a week. It’s $30 but you’ll use it enough to make it worth it. Google Maps has saved me more times than I can count. Simply plug in your destination and tap on the train icon. It will tell you which line to take and the map will show you where your destination is in relation to where you are (so you’ll know whether you need a downtown or uptown bound train).

Navigation: While using the grid layout of NYC is a pretty good way to get around (The larger the street number, the further north you are and avenue blocks are numbered from east to west) but, Google Maps, Google Maps, Google Maps is the BEST way to navigate. Especially if you’re further downtown (Wall St, Greenwich Village, WTC area) where the streets aren’t numbered.

I love all of the cute streets in the West Village/Chelsea area!

NYC travel guide nyc guide first time visitor nyc

NYC travel guide nyc guide first time visitor nyc


Cabs
: I rarely, rarely use cabs/uber to get around. In the outer-boroughs, yes. Or if my feet hurt and the subway line I need requires too much walking, I’ll take one to the subway line I need.

Shoes: WEAR COMFY ONES. If you want to look cute for pictures (I do this!) carry your heels in your bag to slip on for pics or for dinner, etc. On average when I’m exploring NYC I walk about 8 miles. I’ve never walked fewer than 5 miles and once I walked 13 miles (definitely earned a milkshake from Black Tap that day!).

Restrooms: This is another tip you probably won’t find in most guide books or travel sites. Public restrooms are few and far between (and not the cleanest!). Most coffee shops and Starbucks have restrooms for customers and all you need to do is buy a water/coffee/cookie/etc.

Times Square: Walk through, take pictures, do some shopping (the Ann Taylor Loft store here is fantastic!), people watch, etc but avoid eating here. There are so many cute little restaurants in NYC and fabulous pizza places, none of which are in Times Square. It’s entirely chain restaurants and long waits. Speaking of food:

NYC travel guide nyc guide first time visitor nyc
My favorite bar in NYC. German style beer and the best pretzels I’ve had!

Food: My absolute favorite part of the city. I could write an entire book dedicated to my favorite places. I’ll narrow it down to the must-eats. Pizza. Anything from Dominique Ansel’s bakery. Bagels. Brunch anywhere. Burgers (Shake Shack is overrated, try Ainsworth in Midtown or Hoboken instead). Katz Delicatessen (The place from When Harry Met Sally). For a more comprehensive list of some of the best food, this article is fantastic (although I disagree about Tacos and BBQ – I’m from Texas, we do BBQ and Tacos way better). For cheap NYC eats this list is phenomenal!

Pizza: Juliana’s is hand’s down my favorite. It’s located in DUMBO just off of the Brooklyn Bridge (walk it, don’t take the subway in). In Manhattan, I like Rubirosa (NoLita), Lombardi’s (NoLita, oldest pizzeria in NYC) and John’s (West Village).

Brunch: Jack’s Wife Frieda, Clinton Street Baking Co, Agave (awesome bottomless drinks deal!), Santina, and Sarabeth’s. There’s other great brunch places too but these are my faves!

Lastly, rooftops. You can’t leave NYC without visiting at least one. There’s a ton of great ones, but I think The Monarch is perfect for a first NYC visitor! The view is incredible and right under the Empire State Building.

NYC travel guide nyc guide first time visitor nyc

NYC travel guide nyc guide first time visitor nyc

NYC travel guide nyc guide first time visitor nyc

NYC travel guide nyc guide first time visitor nyc

NYC travel guide nyc guide first time visitor nyc

Hopefully y’all found this helpful! What’re your favorites in NYC? Any recommendations for a first time visitor in NYC?

  • Melissa Chee

    AMAZING photos. NYC is one of a kind

    • Thanks Melissa! I fully agree. In my opinion it is one of the most photogenic cities. While I love the landscaping of the California coast, city wise NYC wins. I cannot wait to post my Macy’s Day Parade + Holiday in NYC guide. The holiday time is so magical there! 🙂

  • Gwen Mulholland

    Your photos are terrific and these are great tips. One day I will get to NYC.

    • sara.hernandez013@gmail.com

      Thanks Gwen! 🙂

  • I love New York and would love to go back one day! These photos are beautiful! I love the name of your blog too 🙂

    Kirsten – http://thewanderingbrunette.com

    • sara.hernandez013@gmail.com

      Oh my goodness! I love the name of your blog too! I’m going to follow you! :))) NYC is fantastic, and I am in love with it!

  • Elizabeth Owens

    Great article! I love visiting NYC

  • Dave Kearns

    Great info! Wish I’d of seen this for my last trip. Though we did good getting around. We used the hotel shuttle (free, included with room), Uber and trains/subway.

  • Boxwood Avenue

    Great tips! My husband and I talk about making a trip to NYC, I have never been!