How To Plan The Best Trip To NYC
It’s already October – and who isn’t craving a trip to New York this time of year? It’s the travel and planning that can be super overwhelming. For me, a 3-day trip to NYC is perfect and gives me just enough time to see and do what I want without feeling exhausted. I briefly lived in New York during an internship in college and find myself going back whenever I can for weekend getaways. I’m sharing everything you need to know as far as airports, hotels, restaurants, bars, coffee, bagels, shopping, touristy things, and more. Happy Fall (officially)
There are pretty much three options for airports surrounding Manhattan: LGA, Newark, and JFK. Even though LaGuardia (LGA) is known as one of the worst airports in the world, it’s the closest to the Midtown Manhattan area and is where I typically fly into. I can find nonstop flights into LGA for under $250 from almost any major airport. Depending on the traffic and where you’re staying, it normally takes anywhere from 25-45 minutes to get to the city. I’ve also flown into Newark, which is in New Jersey but still pretty close to Manhattan. I have not used JFK airport, but all three of these are good options if you can find a decent flight!
If it’s your first time to NYC, you might think you want to stay in Times Square. This is absolutely one of the busiest and most touristy areas I have ever been! It’s kind of chaotic. I personally prefer to stay elsewhere in Midtown Manhattan, or to stay on the outskirts of Times Square. All of the different areas in NYC are just within blocks of each other, and when you go to New York City you expect to walk a little, right? Find a hotel a few blocks away and walk to Times Square to avoid the crowded mess. There are sooo many hotel options it’s hard to even recommend just a few! Hotels with ‘Midtown’ in the name are typically a good location. Midtown is the heart of the city. Some other areas I recommend staying are Chelsea, Flatiron, Garment District, Bryant Park – all centrally located and reasonably priced. Be aware that hotels in Times Square or near Central Park might be more expensive.
A few hotel options:
INNSIDE by Melia New York NoMad – $$$ – Chelsea
Hilton New York Fashion District – $$ – Garment District
Courtyard by Marriott Manhattan/Chelsea on W 30th St – $$ – Chelsea
Courtyard by Marriott Manhattan/Fifth Ave. – $$ – Bryant Park
Four Points by Sheraton Midtown – $$ – Times Square
Ace Hotel New York – $$$ – Flatiron
Paramount Hotel – $$ – Midtown
The New Yorker, A Wyndham Hotel – $$ – Garment District
The Lexington Hotel, Autograph Collection – $$ – Midtown
Hilton Garden Inn Manhattan/Chelsea – $$ – Chelsea
Renaissance New York Midtown – $$$ – Midtown
COFFE & SWEETS
Cha Cha Matcha – $$ – Flatiron & SoHo
Ess-a-Bagel – $ – Midtown East
Bibble & Sip – $ – Midtown
Bluestone Lane – $ – Midtown
Pick A Bagel – $ – Midtown
Milk & Cream Cereal Bar – $$ – Little Italy
Dominique Ansel Bakery – $$ – SoHo – World famous for their cronut (croissant doughnut) that always sells out – also must try the chocolate chip cookie shot & frozen s’more! There will be a line.
Holey Cream – $ – Midtown – The absolute best doughnut ice cream sandwiches.
Best Bagel & Coffee – $ – Midtown/Garment District
Joe & The Juice – $$ – Multiple Locations
Magnolia Bakery – $ – Midtown
Milk Bar Midtown – $$ – Midtown
Brown’s Bagels – $ – Midtown
Tavern on the Green – $$$ – Central Park
Sarabeth’s Central Park South – Amazing brunch directly across the street from Central Park
Beauty & Essex (pawn shop speakeasy) – $$$ – Lower East Side (Personal favorite – must get the grilled cheese/tomato soup dumplings, bbq fries, doughnuts, bacon, and lemon pancakes!)
Jack’s Wife Freda – $$ – SoHo
Jane – $$ – Greenwich Village
NORMA’S – $$$ – Midtown
The Smith – $$ – Upper West Side
Serafina Italian – $$ – Multiple locations
ABC Kitchen – $$$ – Flatiron
Black Tap Craft Burgers & Shakes – $$ – SoHo & Chelsesa
Ainsworth – $$ – Chelsea – Sports bar good for food or happy hour (must get the mac & cheese burger)
Friedman’s – $$ – Midtown (connected to Brown’s Bagels)
The Smith – $$ – Midtown East
Max Brenner – $$ – Union Square
Dog Haus NYC – $$ – SoHo
Shake Shack – $ – Multiple Locations (check out Madison Square Garden location)
99 Cent Pizza – $ – All over the city. New York has the absolute BEST foldable pizza, and it’s cheap.
Rosa Mexicano – $$ – Multiple Locations
Tony di Napoli – $$ – Times Square
Palma – $$$ – West Village – Super cute aesthetic, quaint, romantic garden area
Tao – $$$ – Uptown & Downtown locations
Lavo Italian – $$$ – Midtown
Carbone – $$$$ – Greenwich Village
Locanda Verde – $$$ – TriBeCa
Trattoria Trecolori – $$ – Midtown/ Theater District (some of the best authentic Italian food I’ve had in New York)
Lupa – $$$ – Greenwich Village
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse – $$$$ – Midtown
Nobu Fifty Seven – $$$$ – Midtown
Catch NYC – $$$ – Meatpacking District
Eataly NYC – $$ – Flatiron – You should already know that Eataly’s Pizza & Pasta is one of my absolute favorites!
Carmine’s Italian – $$ – Midtown Times Square
Bar Pitti – $$ – Greenwich Village (cash only)
STK Downtown – $$$ – Meatpacking District
The Skylark Rooftop – $$$ – Midtown
Rare View Rooftop – $$ – Chelsea
The Roof @ Viceroy Central Park Hotel – $$$$ – Amazing view of central park, terrace bar gets crowded for obvious reasons!
The Biergarten at The Standard, High Line – $$ – Meatpacking District
Refinery Rooftop – $$$ – Midtown
Rooftop 93 – $$ – Chinatown
Haven Rooftop – $$ – Midtown
Loopy Doopy Rooftop Bar – $$$ – Battery Park
The Dead Rabbit – $$ – Financial District
Lavo Nightclub – $$$ – Midtown
Tao Downtown – $$$ – Meatpacking District
PHD Rooftop Lounge at Dream Hotel – $$$ – Chelsea
Catch NYC Rooftop – $$ – Meatpacking District
Brass Monkey – $$ – Meatpacking District
Le Bain – $$$ – Meatpacking District
The Stanton Social – $$$ – Lower East Side
Rolf’s German Restaurant – $$ – Literally a hidden gem. If you’ve been following me on Instagram for awhile you might remember the Christmas bar that I’ve posted a few times. Well, this is it. It’s an old German restaurant that turns into a fully decorated Christmas bar every year. It’s a huge attraction and if you go closer to Christmas, there can be a line to get in (it’s a very small bar). Go during the day to try one of their holiday-themed drinks and sit at the bar. It’s sooo cozy.
Central Park – One of the main attraction in New York City. This beautiful park stretches for miles; there’s even a small Central Park Zoo.
Hop on the MTA Underground Subway – I’m all about grabbing a yellow cab or Uber, but you have to take the subway at least once in your life. Use the public transit app on your phone to map out where you’re going and to find the right subway line to take, take the steps down to the subway platform and buy your MTA card. Since SoHo and Battery Park are both a bit of a drive from Midtown, consider taking the subway to save time and $.
Metropolitan Museum of Art – Does the ‘Met Gala’ ring a bell? The Met is one of the most popular museums in the world, and it’s huge! Decide which parts of the museum you really want to see before going in, or you can spend your entire day in there.
Top of the Rock @ Rockefeller Center – My favorite observation deck in NYC with an amazing full-length view of Central Park and Manhattan.
See a show on Broadway – I highly recommend seeing Wicked or Hamilton.
Empire State Building Observation Deck – Try going super early in the AM or late at night to avoid huge crowds.
The High Line – A 1.5 mile long elevated park with free access, formerly a New York Railroad.
Chelsea Market – A cool indoor food & shopping hall with trendy eateries – I can’t remember what they’re called, but look for the mini doughnuts!
Bryant Park – I used to work across the street from the park & Public Library and it’s the perfect spot to sit and eat pizza or enjoy a coffee. Bryant Park hosts an annual ‘Bank of America Winter Village’ in the center of the park with tons of unique pop-up shops, food trucks, and an iceskating rink (Oct.-Jan.). Must see if you are visiting during these months! During the summer, they have movies on the lawn.
Madison Square Garden – Catch a NY Knick’s game or a concert at MSG.
Times Square (W 42nd St. – W 47th St.) – Walk through Times Square to take in all of the light-up billboards, chaos, shopping, eating, and entertainment. I personally think TS looks the coolest at night!
Madame Tussauds Celebrity Wax Museum – Something fun to do if the weather isn’t all that great – located right in Times Square.
Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Boat Cruise – You have to travel down to Battery Park (about a 25 min+ cab from Midtown) to catch a boat to Liberty Island & Ellis Island for a tour of both islands and the statue, so buy tickets in advance!
Grand Central Terminal – Stop and get a picture in this world famous train station that has been featured in tons of movies.
9/11 Memorial – Guaranteed to be an emotional experience, but it’s a must see.
Radio City Rockettes – Every year, Radio City Music Hall hosts it’s Christmas Spectacular featuring the famous Rockette dancers.
MoMA – The Museum of Modern Art
Brooklyn Bridge – Take pictures in front of the famous Brooklyn Bridge.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral – A historic landmark located on 5th Ave.
In New York City you can shop…pretty much anywhere and everywhere. You’ll also find your typical chain retailers mixed in, and there is a Zara store about every few blocks in Midtown.
5th Avenue is known for it’s high-end designer shopping (Gucci, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Bergdorf Goodman, and every other high-end fashion designer you can think of).
Garment District – The Garment or Fashion District is located in Midtown Manhattan from W 34th to W 40th St between Broadway and 8th Avenue.
Macy’s Flagship @ Herald Square – Also located in the garment district on W 34th St. This isn’t your typical Macy’s department store; it takes up an entire block and is one of the largest department stores in the world. It also houses designer boutiques like Gucci.
SoHo – My favorite place to spend the day. The SoHo area is much quieter/laid back than Midtown and has a younger, trendy, fashion-forward vibe. SoHo is packed full of stores, boutiques, bakeries, and quaint restaurants. Up and down Broadway you’ll find every chain retailer you can think of such as Bloomingdale’s, Zara, Topshop, H&M, Adidas, Aritzia, and more. Making your way down the brick side streets you’ll find more high-end designer boutiques like Chanel, Gucci, Tom Ford, YSL, Celine, Off White, etc. Pretty much any designer or retailer you can think of has a storefront in SoHo. You can also find high-end resellers like Rebag and TheRealReal in the area. I typically spend at least a half day in SoHo!