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NEW YORK CITY TRAVEL GUIDE


SUMMIT One Vanderbilt Bowery Mural Los Tacos #1, NYC
Welcome to the bigroads.com travel guide to New York City! The intent of this page is to provide travel recommendations to help you plan your next trip to the Big Apple. Like any guidebook or website, the recommendations on this page are opinionated and could not possibly include every great attraction or restaurant that exists in the city.

Take note that I build and maintain this website primarily as a hobby and public service. I take joy in performing travel research and sharing my experiences and adventures with others. Your constructive feedback about this site and its content is encouraged. Please email me if you have any suggestions, corrections, and/or ideas for improvement.

Author/Contributor: Greg Parsons

 OVERVIEW


New York City is justifiably one of the biggest tourist destinations in the United States. There are literally hundreds of worthwhile things to see and do in the city. It's also one of the most walkable cities on Earth. The food is also world-class, offering every type of cuisine you could possibly think of. Altogether, the city sees more than 50 million visitors annually.

 TOP 25 THINGS TO DO IN NEW YORK CITY


Here are my selections for the top 25 things to see or do in New York City. Many of these are completely free to visit. Others require paid admission, often with advance reservations/tickets required or at least highly recommended.

✪ = indicates a FREE attraction
= advance online reservations/tickets are required or highly recommended

American Museum of Natural History - natural history museum
Broadway shows/theater - e.g. Lion King, Hamilton, Wicked, etc.
Brooklyn Bridge - famous pedestrian bridge
Bryant Park - green space/public park
Central Park - green space/public park
Chelsea Market - retail and dining center
Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration - history museum
Empire State Building - skyscraper observation decks
High Line, The - green space/public park
Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum - military museum
Little Island - green space/public park
Madison Square Garden - sports/performing arts venue
Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) - art museum
Museum of Modern Art, The (MoMA) - art museum
National 9/11 Memorial & Museum - history museum
New York Public Library - iconic library
One World Observatory - skyscraper observation deck
Radio Center Music Hall - performing arts venue
Rockefeller Center and Top of the Rock - skyscraper observation deck
St. Patrick's Cathedral - iconic church
Statue of Liberty - famous monument
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt - skyscraper observation decks
The Edge / City Climb - skyscraper observation deck
Times Square - dining and retail center + billboards
Vessel and Hudson Yards shopping center - dining and retail center + public art

I personally think Times Square is one of the most over-hyped tourist attractions in the U.S.. However, the flashy billboards are eye-catching, the people watching is good, and there are a few fun shopping experiences there too (e.g. Disney Store, Hershey's Chocolate World, M&M's, etc.). Times Square is also conveniently located within a few blocks of many other central Manhattan attractions. If you decide to visit Times Square, go as soon as the attractions and stores open.

I recommend only doing one skyscraper observation deck experience per visit. Visitors often visit multiple observation decks, but it's very expensive and it likely prevents you from being able to visit other great NYC attractions. SUMMIT One is generally considered the best, but The Edge is a very close second.

SUMMIT One Vanderbilt   Statue of Liberty   FDNY Memorial near the 9/11 Memorial  
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt   Statue of Liberty   FDNY Memorial near the 9/11 Memorial

 MANHATTAN MAP


Here is an overview map showing a rough outline of the various neighborhoods of Manhattan. Take note that in reality, neighborhood lines are not as well-defined. Personal opinions exist as to where neighborhoods start and end. There are also a variety of small neighborhoods that I have not included in this map. I also have not included the uppermost portions of Manhattan. If you can digest the general locations of the major neighborhoods shown below, you will have developed a great sense of the overall layout of Manhattan.



A more detailed map of the various neighborhoods of Manhattan can be found here.

Here are some common acronyms used to describe various Manhattan neighborhoods:
UWS: Upper West Side
LES: Lower East Side
UES: Upper East Side
SOHO: South of Houston St.
NOHO: North of Houston St.
NOLITA: North of Little Italy

When you are in central Manhattan, 1-mile south or north equals about 20 blocks (e.g. walking south from 48th Street to 28th Street is about 1-mile).

 5-STAR NEW YORK CITY ATTRACTIONS


NYC has hundreds of attractions. It can be absolutely overwhelming for visitors to determine how to spend their precious time and money. To help, here is my opinionated list of everything I consider to be a 5-star rated attraction in the city. This list is first organized north-to-south by major NYC area, and then west-to-east according to specific neighborhoods of that area.

= indicates a FREE attraction
= advance online reservations/tickets are required or highly recommended

UPTOWN: NORTH OF CENTRAL PARK

Morningside Heights / Harlem / Upper Manhattan
Apollo Theatre - a beloved and historic music and performance venue
General Grant National Memorial - a memorial to, and resting place of, Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th president of the U.S.
Met Cloisters, The - also known as 'The Cloisters', this museum focuses on European medieval art and architecture
Morningside Park - a slender, 0.75-mile long inland public park and green space found north of Central Park from 110th St. to 123th St.
Riverside Park - a slender, 4-mile long public waterfront park along the Hudson River that stretches from 72nd St. to 158th St.
Tom's Restaurant - take a photo of the famous restaurant from the TV show Seinfeld; located at the junction of Broadway and 112th St.

UPTOWN / CENTRAL PARK

Upper West Side / Lincoln Square
American Museum of Natural History - one of the finest natural history museums in the U.S.; amazing dinosaur fossils and animal exhibits
Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine - one of the most visually impressive and historic churches in NYC
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts - a complex of several performing arts theatres; a major center for jazz, opera, and ballet
Riverside Park - a slender, 4-mile long public waterfront park along the Hudson River that stretches from 72nd St. to 158th St.

Central Park
Alice in Wonderland statue - several large statues of beloved storybook characters; eastern side of the southern end of the park (76th St.)
Bethesda Fountain and Terrace - arguably the most impressive water fountain in NYC; middle of the southern end of the park (72nd St.)
Belvedere Castle - an 1872 Gothic/Romanesque castle with fine views of Central Park; middle of the center section of the park (80th St.)
Billy Johnson Playground - a small but fun playground with a fun and fast curvy slide; eastern side of the southern end of the park (67th St.)
Central Park Zoo - a small but fine city zoo; eastern side of the southern end of the park (64th St.)
Conservatory Garden - a lovely set of gardens near the northeastern corner of the park (105th St.)
Heckscher Playground - a large and fun playground for kids in the middle of the southern end of the park (62nd St.)
Horse Carriage rides - although controversial, taking a guided horse carriage ride through Central Park is a NYC tradition
Mall, The - a long and beautiful park walk that starts near 65th St. and leads to the Bethesda Fountain and Terrace at 72nd St.
Wollman Rink - a small pond that offers outdoor ice-skating in winter (purchase tickets online)
Strawberry Fields Memorial - a small but moving memorial near where John Lennon was murdered; western side of the park (72nd St)

Take note that the above list is just a sample of what Central Park offers. There are many other statues, walking paths, gardens, arch bridges, scenic viewpoints, playgrounds, great lawns, and more to explore in the park. For most first-time visitors, I recommend spending at least 3-4 hours in the park. However, avid walkers could easily spend 1-2 full days exploring all sections of the park. The entire park has about 58 miles of walking paths, and is 3 miles from top to bottom.

Upper East Side / Yorkville / Lenox Hill
Frick Collection, The - an art museum featuring Old Master paintings and European fine and decorative arts; temporarily closed as of 2023
Madison Avenue - one of the premier high-end shopping streets in NYC, Madison Avenue is home to many fashion and jewelry designers
Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) - the largest and arguably best art museum in the U.S.
Museum of the City of New York - a good history and art museum that primarily focuses on 19th and 20th century NYC exhibits
Roosevelt Island Tramway - an awesome aerial tramway that provides great views as it travels between Manhattan and Roosevelt Island
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum - an art museum that is perhaps best known for its landmark Frank Lloyd Wright-designed architecture

MIDTOWN MANHATTAN

Midtown West / Hells Kitchen / Clinton
Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises - offers very popular boat tours, including some that encircle Manhattan
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum - explore the USS Intrepid, a World War II–era aircraft carrier; there are also some aircraft on display
Silver Towers Public Park - an attractive but small children's playground that features a 30-foot long bronze sculpture of an stick figure

Midtown / Times Square / Theatre District / Bryant Park
5th Avenue shopping - a major shopping destination in NYC that has many flagship retail stores; nearby streets offer even more shopping
American Girl NYC Store - one of several U.S. stores of the beloved doll company; offers many doll and child experiences (e.g. hairstyling)
Birdland Jazz Club - a longstanding jazz club near Times Square; a 'classic place to listen to jazz in NYC'
Broadway shows/theater - at any one point in time, several world-class theatre productions are being shown on Broadway (e.g. Lion King)
Bryant Park - a small public park that is best known for its outdoor movies in summer, and winter market and outdoor ice skating in winter
Carnegie Hall - a prestigious and historic performance venue popular with classical music performances and other concerts
Disney Store - a flagship, two-story Disney retail store located in the heart of Times Square
Empire State Building - experience guided tours and/or observation deck experiences in this iconic building (e.g. 86th & 102nd floors)
Escape Game NYC, The - one of several top-rated escape game experiences in the city
FAO Schwarz - NYC's most iconic toy store; located in Rockefeller Plaza
Giant Needle Threading A Button - a roadside attraction of a giant button and thread; located between Times Square & Bryant Park
Hershey's Chocolate World - a large retail store that also offers chocolate-focused experiences
Madame Tussauds New York - one of the most impressive wax museums in the World; take photos with wax figures of many famous people
M&M's Store - a fun, two-story retail store dedicated to M&M candy
Museum of Modern Art, The (MoMA) - one of the largest and best modern art museums in the World
National Debt Clock - an alleyway sign displaying the current level of the U.S. national debt; located between Times Square & Bryant Park
NBC Studios Tour - take a behind-the-stage tour of the famous TV studio near Rockefeller Center
New York Public Library: Main Building - this famous library is known for its architecture and historical collections; guided tours available
Nintendo Store - a two-story, Nintendo flagship retail store located in Rockefeller Center
Radio Center Music Hall - a gorgeous art deco theatre featuring concerts and the Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes show
Rockefeller Center - a shopping center famous for its giant Christmas during the holidays; offers outdoor public ice-skating rink in winter
SPYSCAPE - an 'immersive interactive adventure into your hidden (spy) powers'; an 'experiential museum' where you pretend to be a spy
St. Patrick's Cathedral - the largest church in NYC is also one of its most visually impressive and historic
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt - generally considered the premier observation deck experience in NYC: offers three levels of fabulous views
Times Square - the tourist center of NYC; there are many retail shops and billboard signs here; VERY touristy
Top of the Rock - an excellent observation deck experience at the top of the Rockefeller Center

Midtown South / Garment District / Koreatown
B&H Photo Video - widely considered the premier photography retail store in the U.S.; it may also be the largest (I'm not sure on that)
Macy's @ Herald Square - the flagship Macy's store and the largest department store in the U.S.; features lots of holiday decorations
Madison Square Garden (MSG) - a major indoor sports and entertainment venue; home of the NHL's Rangers and the NBA's Knicks
Morgan Library & Museum, The - a small museum and research library with rare books and impressive architecture

Midtown East / Turtle Bay / Sutton
Grand Central Terminal - a massive transportation hub that features impressive architecture, many eateries, and several shops
Greenacre Park - a small but attractive green space/park with a photogenic waterfall
World's Largest Chessboard - a roadside attraction of a giant chessboard on the side of a building; bring chess/checkers and play on tables

CENTRAL/LOWER MANHATTAN

Chelsea / Hudson Yards / Meatpacking District
Chelsea Arts District - a district with several dozen art galleries (many of which are high-end / museum-level quality)
Chelsea Market - one of the city's best food and retail marketplaces; this place oozes with personality and includes a Los Tacos #1 eatery
Chelsea Waterside Playground - a small but quirky and fun playground; features the best and fastest children's slide in the city
Edge, The - an excellent observation deck experience; also offers a thrilling outdoor 'City Climb' experience
High Line, The - a 1.45-mile long elevated walkway on a former railroad that features gardens, art sculptures, and fine views of the city
Hudson Yards - one of the premium shopping destinations in NYC; the giant and impressive Vessel sculpture is found just outside of it
Little Island - a beautiful waterfront park that rests on concrete tulips; opened in 2021, this is one of the very best green spaces in NYC
Museum at FIT, The - one of the best fashion museums in the U.S. (e.g. garments, accessories, etc.)
Vessel - an impressive metal and glass sculpture outside of the Hudson Yards shopping center; you can look at it, but you can't climb it
Whitney Museum of American Art - an excellent art museum that primarily focuses on 20th and 21st century American art

Gramercy Park / Union Square / Flatiron
Eately - an Italian marketplace with authentic Italian products and several restaurants/take-out counters; several locations in the U.S.
Escape the Room NYC - one of several top-rated escape game experiences in the city
Flatiron Building - a visually impressive triangular building in the Flatiron District
The FRIENDS Experience - a tourist attraction with TV set recreations and many photo opportunities
Harry Potter New York - an impressive two-floor Harry Potter-themed retail store; a must visit for any Harry Potter fan
LEGO Store - one of two LEGO retail stores in NYC (both of which are significantly more impressive than most other LEGO stores)
Madison Square Park - a 6-acre public square and green space
Museum of Sex - a museum that explores human sexuality; this is obviously intended for adults only
Union Square - a lively public square and green space that features a popular holiday market from mid-Nov to late-December

Greenwich Village / West Village / Hudson Square
Color Factory - a participatory art museum primarily geared towards children; lots of fun photo opportunities
Comedy Cellar - an iconic NYC comedy club
Friends apartment - take a photo of the exterior of the famous TV show apartment; a great restaurant is also on site (Little Owl)
Hudson River Park - a waterfront park along the Hudson River with pedestrian and cycling paths; several good playgrounds are nearby
Sex in the City apartment - take a photo of the exterior of the famous TV show apartment
Washington Square Park and Washington Square Arch - a nearly 10-acre public park and green space; offer a child splash pad in summer

Bowery / Noho / Nolita / East Village
Bowery Mural - an ever-changing, large display of impressive street art; many other murals can be found in the surrounding streets
Strand Book Store - the best new and used book store in NYC (and certainly one of the best used book stores in the U.S.)

Kips Bay / Murray Hill
Dalmatian & Taxi Sculpture - although there's little else around this area, this impressive 38-foot sculpture is 100% worthy of a photo op

LOWER MANHATTAN/DOWNTOWN

Tribeca / Soho
Bean Sculpture, The - NYC's take on the famous Bean/Cloud Gate of Chicago; located 56 Leonard St.
Ghostbusters Headquarters - see the iconic firehouse featured in the Ghostbusters movies; corner of N. Moore St. and Varick St.
New York City Fire Museum - the official museum of the FDNY is one of the premier firefighting museums in the U.S.
Staple Street Skybridge - one of the iconic portrait photography spots in NYC; features a dark-green colored residential skybridge

Some might argue that the Museum of Ice Cream needs to be included in the list above, but I think it is severely overpriced.

Financial District / Battery Park
Battery Playscape - opened in 2021, this playground area offers multiple kid slides, elevated playhouses, and more
Brookfield Place - an upscale shopping center near the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum; several green spaces are close by as well
Charging Bull sculpture - a large bronze statue of a charging bull in the Wall Street district near junction of State St. & Broadway
Eately - an Italian marketplace with authentic Italian products and several restaurants/take-out counters; several locations in the U.S.
Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration - take a boat tour to visit this famous immigration museum; combine with Statue of Liberty
FDNY Memorial Wall - a moving memorial of fallen FDNY heroes; located very close to the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum
Fearless Girl - a bronze sculpture of a girl promoting female empowerment; she's looking at the New York Stock Exchange building
HeliNY - a top-rated NYC helicoptering experience; take note there is a 275lb weight limit
National 9/11 Memorial & Museum - two memorial pools (free) and a museum (admission) at the former site of the World Trade Center
National Museum of the American Indian - one of the premium American Indian museums in the U.S.
Oculus Center - a modern transportation hub and architectural marvel that also has several dozen retailers; adjacent to the 9/11 Memorial
One World Observatory - a highly-rated, 360-degree observation deck viewing experience from the highest point in NYC
SeaGlass Carousel - a one-of-a-kind fish-themed carousel located in Battery Park
Staten Island Ferry - take a free ferry for fantastic views of NYC and the Statue of Liberty; 'the closest free way to see the Statue of Liberty'
Statue of Liberty - book a book tour to visit the island and statue, or take the (free) Staten Island Ferry to get a great close view of it
Teardrop Park - a small urban park with a fun and long children's metal slide; one of the best playground slides in NYC
Trinity Church - one of the most visually impressive and historic churches in NYC

Lower East Side / Chinatown / Two Bridges
Brooklyn Bridge - walk across this famous pedestrian bridge to explore great waterfront public parks (and eat great food) in Brooklyn
Economy Candy - the most iconic candy shop in NYC; prices are actually very reasonable!
Immersive Gamebox - offers interactive, room-based gaming experiences; this type of attraction is rapidly expanding across the U.S.
Tenement Museum - guided tours of two historic tenement buildings with exhibits covering the NYC immigrant experience

BRONX

Bronx Zoo - NYC's best zoo has more than 6,000 animals from more than 700 species
New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) - a 250-acre 'urban oasis' featuring gardens, tram rides, and walking paths
Yankee Stadium - the historic home of the New York Yankees professional baseball team

The Bronx is located northeast of Manhattan, and can be reached via subway.

BROOKLYN

Brooklyn Botanical Garden - a 52-acre collection of botanical gardens
Brooklyn Bridge Park - a great public park with excellent views of the NYC skyline; accessible from the Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Heights Promenade - a 0.3-mile long platform and pedestrian walkway offering great views of the Manhattan skyline
Coney Island - an old fashioned, summertime entertainment district with amusement parks, beaches, and other waterfront attractions
Dyker Heights - a neighborhood that goes completely overboard with holiday lights and decorations
Jane's Carousel - a historic, wooden 48-horse carousel built in 1922; located near the Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge Park
New York Transit Museum - a museum with exhibits on NYC subway, bus, and commuter rail systems; includes several vintage train cars
Washington St. view of Manhattan Bridge - an iconic photo op of Manhattan Bridge; often referred to as 'the famous DUMBO view'

Brooklyn is located southeast of Manhattan, and can be reached via subway or by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge from lower Manhattan.

For an overview map of the various neighborhoods of Manhattan, see my map above or click here.

Little Island   Times Square   The Bean  
Little Island   Times Square   The Bean

 WHAT IS NEW YORK CITY FAMOUS FOR?


Here are some things that New York City is famous or well-known for:

9/11
bakeries
bike paths/lanes
billboards (e.g. Times Square)
bridges (e.g. Brooklyn Bridge)
Broadway shows/theater
cultural diversity
holiday shopping markets (e.g. Bryant Park, Union Square, etc.)
horse drawn carriages
finance/banking industry
landmarks (e.g. Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, etc.)
immigration history
museums (e.g. American Museum of Natural History, the MET, MoMA, etc.)
observation decks (e.g. The Edge, Empire State Building, One World Observatory, SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, Top of the Rock)
pedicabs
professional sports teams (e.g. New York Yankees)
skyscrapers
street vendors selling fake merchandise
subway system (it's huge)
upscale/high-end shopping
urban/public parks (e.g. Battery Park, Bryant Park, Central Park, Washington Square Park, etc.)
yellow cabs/taxis

See section below for a list of the famous foods of New York City.

NYC skyline from Brooklyn   Charging Bull (Wall Street district)   Bryant Park ice skating  
NYC skyline from Brooklyn Bridge Park    Charging Bull (Wall Street area)    winter ice skating at Bryant Park

 MUSEUMS IN NEW YORK CITY


NYC is a world-class destination for museum lovers. Here is a list of NYC's finest museums:

= advance online reservations/tickets are required or highly recommended

World-Class Museums
American Museum of Natural History - one of the finest natural history museums in the U.S.; amazing dinosaur fossils and animal exhibits
Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration - take a boat tour to visit this famous immigration museum; combine with Statue of Liberty
Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) - the largest and arguably best art museum in the U.S.
Museum of Modern Art, The (MoMA) - one of the largest and best modern art museums in the World
National 9/11 Memorial & Museum - two memorial pools (free) and a museum (admission) at the former site of the World Trade Center

Other Top-Rated Museums
Brooklyn Museum
Frick Collection, The
Fotografiska Museum
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Jewish Museum, The
Met Cloisters, The
Morgan Library & Museum, The
Museum at FIT
Museum of Sex
Museum of the City of New York
National Museum of the American Indian
New York City Fire Museum
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Tenement Museum
Whitney Museum of American Art

I don't consider the New York Public Library or Madame Tussauds as 'museums', but I can appreciate why some might.

Take that many of NYC's museums offer discounted days or even admission-free days.

 OBSERVATION DECKS IN NEW YORK CITY


NYC offers several excellent observation deck opportunities that offer scenic views of the city. This includes:

Edge, The - located in Hudson Yards
Empire State Building - located in Midtown South
One World Observatory - located in Battery Park near the southern end of Manhattan
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt - located in Midtown
Top of the Rock - located in Midtown within Rockefeller Center

Advance reservations are recommended for all observation decks (and they usually sell out). Before visiting, always check their website to see a list of prohibited items.

If I had to choose just one observation deck, I would choose SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, and I would make a reservation for 60-90 minutes prior to sunset. However, all five experiences listed above are worthwhile, although they are all admittedly very pricey. I haven't done it yet, but the 'City Climb' at the Edge looks like an awesome, adrenaline-pumping experience.

 PLAYGROUNDS IN NEW YORK CITY


NYC offers many excellent outdoor playgrounds for children. Several are considerably more extensive and impressive than a typical park you'd find in a smaller city or town.

My favorite playgrounds in NYC currently include:
Ancient Playground - Central Park
Battery Playscape - Battery Park
Billy Johnson Playground - Central Park; this medium sized playground offers a steep and unique curving slide that is built into the landscape
Chelsea Waterside Park - Chelsea Park; this fun and attractive playground features fish-themed elements and has a large and fast metal slide
Heckscher Park - Central Park; this is the largest playground in the park, and it is also surrounded by climbable rocks and boulders
Hippo Playground - Upper West Side; this small playground features several photogenic hippo sculptures
Hudson River Park - Tribeca
Pier 6 Playground - Brooklyn
Rockefeller Park Playground - Battery Park
Silver Towers Public Park - Hell's Kitchen; this attractive but small playground that features a 30-foot long bronze sculpture of an stick figure
Teardrop Park - Battery Park; this small playground has rocks to climb and an extra long and fast metal slide

Domino Park in Williamsburg (which is north of Brooklyn) also includes an impressive playground, but I haven't visited with my daughter yet. The Seaside Nature Wildlife Park Playground on Staten Island looks promising too. Slide Hill on Governors Island also looks fun.

views from Central Park   John Lennon Memorial, Central Park   Alice in Wonderland statue, Central Park  
views from Central Park   John Lennon Memorial, Central Park   Alice in Wonderland statue, Central Park

 SHOPPING IN NEW YORK CITY


New York City is a shoppers' paradise. Here are some of the iconic shopping areas/streets in the city:

5th Avenue
Brookfield Place
Chelsea Market
Columbus Circle
Hudson Yards
Madison Avenue
Times Square

Both Bryant Park and Union Square offer excellent pop-up winter markets. Bryant Park Winter Village is typically open from late October through early march, and Union Square Holiday Market is typically open from mid-November through Christmas Eve. Although run by the same company, I highly recommend visiting both. I also recommend the outdoor ice skating while you are at Bryant Park.

 LIVE PERFORMANCES IN NEW YORK CITY


Here are some of NYC's premier performance venues:
Carnegie Hall
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
Madison Square Garden
Radio City Music Hall

In addition to those performance venues listed above, there are more than a dozen other theaters that present various Broadway productions. Some of the more popular Broadway productions at the current moment include:
Aladdin
Book of Mormon, The
Chicago
Hamilton
Les Miserables
Lion King, The
Moulin Rouge
Phantom of the Opera, The
Rent
West Side Story
Wicked

The Blue Man Group also performs in NYC (in an 'off-Broadway' theater).

I recommend getting tickets well advance for Broadway shows, although it is sometimes possible to get day-of tickets to some shows. Last minute discounted tickets may also be possible.

 OUTDOOR ICE SKATING IN NEW YORK CITY


New York City offers several outdoor ice skating experiences in the late fall and winter seasons, including:
Glide at Brooklyn Bridge Park - located in Brooklyn
LeFrank Center at Lakeside - located in Brooklyn
The Rink at Brookfield Place - located in southern Manhattan near the National 9/11 Memorial
The Rink at Manhattan West - located in Midtown South
The Rink at Rockefeller Center - located in central Manhattan (a few blocks northeast of Times Square); very expensive!
Winter Village at Bryant Park - located in central Manhattan (a few blocks southeast of Times Square); free if you bring your own skates!
Wollman Rink in Central Park - located in Central Park in central/upper Manhattan

My personal favorite spot for outdoor ice skating in NYC is the Winter Village at Bryant Park. I recommend arriving early to beat the crowds, especially on weekends. You can bring your own skates or rent some from there. If you bring your own skates, it's FREE!.

The Edge also currently offers a 'Sky Skate' experience, where you can indoor ice skate on the 100th floor of a skyscraper.

 NEW YORK CITY WITH CHILDREN


Depending upon their age, I would say that most attractions in NYC are child-friendly. However, I have constructed the list below to indicate what I would consider the premier child-friendly attractions in NYC:

= indicates a FREE attraction
= advance online reservations/tickets are required or highly recommended

Central/Upper Manhattan
American Museum of Natural History - one of the finest natural history museums in the U.S.; amazing dinosaur fossils and animal exhibits
Central Park - the largest urban park in NYC has many playgrounds and other interesting areas for kids (e.g. climbing on boulders)

Older children may also enjoy the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the MET). Younger children are also likely to enjoy the Children's Museum of Manhattan and the Hippo Playground.

Central Manhattan
American Girl NYC Store - one of several U.S. stores of the beloved doll company; offers many doll and child experiences (e.g. hairstyling)
Disney Store - a flagship, two-story Disney retail store located in the heart of Times Square
FAO Schwarz - NYC's most iconic toy store; located in Rockefeller Plaza
Hershey's Chocolate World - a large retail store that also offers chocolate-focused experiences
LEGO Store Fifth Avenue - one of the best/flagship LEGO stores in the U.S.
Madame Tussauds New York - one of the most impressive wax museums in the World; take photos with wax figures of many famous people
M&M's Store - a fun, two-story retail store dedicated to M&M candy
Nintendo Store - a two-story, Nintendo flagship retail store located in Rockefeller Center
Silver Towers Public Park - an attractive but small children's playground that features a 30-foot long bronze sculpture of an stick figure
SPYSCAPE - an 'immersive interactive adventure into your hidden (spy) powers'; an 'experiential museum' where you pretend to be a spy

Older children may also enjoy the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and/or one of the observation decks in the area (e.g. Top of the Rock or SUMMIT One Vanderbilt). There are also several kid-friendly Broadway shows, including Aladdin and Lion King.

Lower / Central Manhattan
Chelsea Waterside Playground - a small but quirky and fun playground; features the best and fastest children's slide in the city
Color Factory - a participatory art museum primarily geared towards children; lots of fun photo opportunities
Harry Potter New York - an impressive two-floor Harry Potter-themed retail store; a must visit for any Harry Potter fan
Hudson River Park - a waterfront park along the Hudson River with pedestrian and cycling paths; several good playgrounds are nearby
LEGO Store Flatiron District - one of the best/flagship LEGO stores in the U.S.
Little Island - a beautiful waterfront park that rests on concrete tulips; opened in 2021, this is one of the very best green spaces in NYC
Museum of Illusions - part of a growing chain of small museums that focused on optical illusions; several fun photo opportunities
Washington Square Park - a green space that includes a playground and also a splash pad in summer

Older children may also enjoy the observation deck at the Edge.

Lower Manhattan
Battery Playscape - opened in 2021, this playground area offers multiple kid slides, elevated playhouses, and more
Economy Candy - the most iconic candy shop in NYC; prices are actually very reasonable!
Immersive Gamebox - offers interactive, room-based gaming experiences; this type of attraction is rapidly expanding across the U.S.
Museum of Ice Cream - an arguably overpriced 'museum' that admittedly has many fun, ice-cream based photo opportunities
SeaGlass Carousel - a one-of-a-kind fish-themed carousel located in Battery Park
Sloomoo Institute - the ultimate NYC 'slime' experience for kids
Statue of Liberty - book a book tour to visit the island and statue, or take the (free) Staten Island Ferry to get a great close view of it
Teardrop Park - a small urban park with a fun and long children's metal slide; one of the best playground slides in NYC

Older children may also enjoy the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum and/or the One World Observatory.

Outside of Manhattan
Bronx Zoo - NYC's best zoo has more than 6,000 animals from more than 700 species
Coney Island - an old-fashioned, summertime entertainment zone in Brooklyn with amusement rides, beaches, and other attractions
Yankee Stadium - the historic home of the New York Yankees professional baseball team is located in the Bronx

Chelsea Waterside Playground   Heckscher Playground, Central Park   Silver Towers Public Park  
Chelsea Waterside Playground   Heckscher Playground, Central Park   Silver Towers Public Park

 NYC RESTAURANTS / FOOD BY NEIGHBORHOOD


NYC offers an amazing assortment of fantastic restaurants. You can practically find every type of ethnic food in the city. Here is a sample of highly rated restaurants by Manhattan area/neighborhood. There are likely dozens more restaurants in NYC that are worthy of addition to this list, and I will try to add them as I visit the restaurants over time. If a restaurant listed here has closed or moved, please email me at gparsons66@hotmail.com so that I can update this page.

Upper West Side / Lincoln Square / Morningside Heights
5 Napkin Burger (hamburgers)
7th Street Burger (hamburgers)
Absolute Bagels (bagels)
Barney Greengrass (bagels/smoked fish)
Carmine's (italian)
Celeste (italian)
Jacob's Pickles (southern food)
Jean-Georges (french)
Levian Bakery (cookies/bakery; arguably the best cookies in NYC)
Maison Pickle (american/french dip)
Per Se (french)
Tavern On The Green in Central Park (american)
Virgil's Real BBQ (BBQ)

Upper East Side / Yorkville / Lenox Hill
7th Street Burger (hamburgers)
Avra Madison (mediterranean)
BLT Prime (steakhouse)
Flex Mussels (seafood)
JG Melon (hamburgers)
Levian Bakery (cookies/bakery; arguably the best cookies in NYC)
Piccola Cucina Uptown (italian)

Midtown West / Hells Kitchen / Clinton
5 Napkin Burger (hamburgers)
Bea (american)
Empanada Mama (latin american/empanadas)
IL Punto (italian)
Meatball Shop, The (italian/american)
Mom's Kitchen and Bar (breakfast/brunch/american)
Pio Pio (peruvian)
Schmackary's (cookies)

Midtown / Times Square / Theatre District / Bryant Park
7th Street Burger (hamburgers)
Avra Rockefeller Center (mediterranean)
Black Iron Burger (hamburgers)
Burger & Lobster Bryant Park (seafood/hamburgers)
Chazz Palminteri Italian Restaurant (italian)
Gabriel Kreuther (french)
Gallaghers Steakhouse (steakhouse)
Halal Guys, The (halal food)
Indian Accent (indian)
John's of Times Square (pizza)
Junior's Restaurant & Bakery (american + cheesecake)
Le Bernardin (french)
Los Tacos #1 (mexican/tacos)
Marea (italian)
Nobu Fifty Seven (japanese)
Oceana (seafood)
Osteria del Bianco (italian)
Quality Meats (steakhouse)
Virgil's Real BBQ (BBQ)

Blue Box Cafe (aka Breakfast at Tiffany's), Carmine's, Ellen's Stardust Diner, and Patsy's Italian Restaurant are enormously popular restaurants in Midtown, but they are incredibly touristy and locals tend to avoid them. It's your choice whether you want to visit these restaurants or not, but I think the odds are fairly high that if you do, you'll vow not to eat there again.

Here are a few great restaurants near Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall: Avra (mediterranean), Del Friscos (steakhouse), Le Bernardin (french), Oceana (seafood), and Osteria del Blanco (italian). Bill's Bar & Burger is extremely popular but overall reviews seem to be good but not outstanding. If you want cheap and fast, there's a Five Guys as well.

For cheap eats around Times Square, you can't go wrong with either Los Tacos No. 1 or Joe's Pizza Broadway.

Midtown South / Garment District / Koreatown
Best Bagel & Coffee (bagels)
Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer - 35th St. (hamburgers and 'CrazyShakes')
Burger World (hamburgers)
Hill Country Barbecue Market (BBQ)
Keens Steakhouse (steakhouse)
Liberty Bagels Midtown (bagels)
NY Pizza Suprema (pizza)
Rocco Steakhouse (steakhouse)
STK Steakhouse Midtown NYC (steakhouse)

Midtown East / Turtle Bay / Sutton
7th Street Burger (hamburgers)
Aquavit (scandinavian)
Avra 48th Street (mediterranean)
Club A (steakhouse)
Liberty Bagels 5th Ave (bagels)
Los Tacos #1 (mexican/tacos)
P.J. Clarke's (american/hamburgers)
Sparks (steakhouse)

Chelsea / Hudson Yards / Meatpacking District
Buddakan (asian)
Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company (bagels)
Chama Mama Chelsea (georgian)
Cookshop (american/brunch)
Coppelia (cuban/lomo saltado)
Doughnut Pub, The (donuts)
Little Spain (spanish)
Los Tacos #1 (mexican/tacos)
Old Homestead (steakhouse)
Pastis (french)

Gramercy Park / Union Square / Flatiron
Burger & Lobster Flatiron (seafood/hamburgers)
COTE Korean Steakhouse (korean/steakhouse)
Craft (american)
Dough Doughnuts (donuts)
Eately (italian)
Eleven Madison Park (american)
Gotham (american)
Gramercy Tavern (american)
Hill Country (BBQ)
Ilili (middle eastern/lebanese)
Strip House Steakhouse (steakhouse)
Tacombi (mexican)
Union Square Cafe (american)

Greenwich Village / West Village / Hudson Square
7th Street Burger (hamburgers)
Bleecker Street Pizza (pizza)
Don Angie (italian/american)
Emily (pizza)
Joe's Pizza (pizza)
Little Owl (mediterranean; this restaurant is also located directly below the apartment featured in the TV show Friends)
Mermaid Oyster Bar (seafood/lobster rolls)
Minetta Tavern (french/american/hamburgers; the hamburgers are amongst the best rated in NYC)
Molly's Cupcakes (bakery)
Olio e Piu (italian)
Pommes Frites (french fries)

Bowery / Noho / Nolita / East Village / Ukrainian Village
7th Street Burger (hamburgers)
Balthazar (french)
Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company (bagels)
Cafe Mogador (moroccan)
Hanoi House (vietnamese)
Ippudo NY (japanese)
Levian Bakery (cookies/bakery; arguably the best cookies in NYC)
Momofuku Noodle Bar (asian)
Russ & Daughters (bagels and smoked fish)
Somtum Der (thai)
Tompkins Square Bagels (bagels)
Veniero's Pastry (bakery/cannolis/cheesecake)
Veselka (ukrainian)

Rose Hill / Kips Bay / Murray Hill
2nd Ave Deli (sandwiches)
7th Street Burger (hamburgers)
Bagels & Schmear (bagels)
Jackson Hole Burgers (hamburgers)
Upland (american)

Tribeca / Soho
Balthazar (french)
Blue Ribbon Brasserie (southern food)
Blue Ribbon Sushi (sushi)
Bubby's (american)
Dominique Ansel Bakery (bakery/cronuts)
Eileen's Special Cheesecake (cheesecake)
Le Coucou (french)
Locanda Verde (italian)
Los Tacos #1 (mexican/tacos)
Odeon (french/american)
Osteria Morini (italian)
Piccola Cucina Estiatorio (italian)
Piccola Cucina Osteria Sciliana (italian)
Prince Street Pizza (pizza)
Raoul's (italian)
Rubirosa (pizza)
Tamarind Tribeca (indian)

Financial District / Battery Park
7th Street Burger (hamburgers)
Crown Shy (american)
Delmonico's (steakhouse)
Joe's Pizza (pizza)
Kesté Pizza e Vino (italian)
Liberty Bagels Wall Street (bagels)

Lower East Side / Chinatown / Two Bridges / Little Italy
Beauty & Essex (american)
Clinton St. Baking Company (breakfast/pancakes/chicken & waffles)
Doughnut Plant (donuts)
Freemans (american; Taylor Swift ate here in December 2023)
Good Thanks Cafe (breakfast/brunch)
IL Cortile (italian)
IL Laboratorio del Gelato (gelato)
Ivan Ramen (asian)
Joe's Shanghai (asian)
Katz's Delicatessen (sandwiches/pastrami)
Nom Wah Tea Parlor (asian)
Russ & Daughters (bagels/smoked fish)
Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery (bakery/cupcakes/banana pudding)
Supermoon Bakhouse (bakery/cruffins, which are croissant muffins with various fillings)
Sweet Chick (american/fried chicken)
Wo Hop (asian)
Wu's Wonton King (asian)
Xi'an Famous Foods (asian)

Take note that most NYC residents would agree that the best Italian food in the city is generally NOT in Little Italy. Good Italian food is spread all over Manhattan.

 FOODS TO TRY IN NEW YORK CITY


There are some local food specialties to consider trying while visiting New York City:

bagels - try at Brooklyn Bagel or Liberty Bagel
cronut - try at Dominique Ansel Bakery
halal food - try at The Halal Guys (Midtown near the intersection of 6th Avenue and W 53rd St.)
hot dogs - try at Nathan's Famous (Coney Island in Brooklyn)
New York-style cheesecake - try at Junior's (Times Square) or Eileen's Special Cheesecake (Soho)
New York-style pizza - try at Joe's Pizza (several locations in Manhattan) or John's of Bleecker Street (Greenwich Village)
pastrami sandwiches - try at Katz Delicatessen (Lower East Side) or Pastrami Queen (Upper East Side)
peroigi sandwiches - try at Little Poland (Stuyvesant), Baba's Pierogies (Brooklyn), or Pierozek (Brooklyn)

While visiting NYC, you should also try cookies from Levain Bakery and pork, chicken, and/or steak tacos from one of the Los Tacos #1 locations.

Best Hamburgers in NYC:
5 Napkin Burger, 7th Street Burger, Bills Bar & Burger, Black Iron Burger, Black Tap Craft Burgers, Burger Joint, Burger World, Corner Bistro, Jackson Hole Burgers, JG Melon, Minetta Tavern, Peter Luger, Pig n Whistle

Best Steakhouses in NYC:
BLT Prime, Club A, Capital Grille, Delmonico's, Gallaghers Steakhouse, Keens Steakhouse, Old Homestead, Peter Luger Steak House, Quality Meets, Rocco Steakhouse, Sparks, Strip House Steakhouse, STK Steakhouse Midtown, Wolfgang's Steakhouse

 TIPS FOR VISITING NEW YORK CITY


Here are a few tips for visiting New York City:

LENGTH OF STAY - If you are visiting New York City for the first time, I recommend staying for at least 4-5 nights. New York is a monstrous city and there is just so much to see and do. If you can stay an entire week, great! (you won't get bored, I promise). Staying in central or lower-central Manhattan is very desirable, but also very expensive. Cheaper options may exist in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, or across the river in New Jersey.

SUBWAY - The NYC subway system practically travels all over Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. On Manhattan, the subway system is divided into three areas: Uptown (anything north of 59th St.), Midtown (between 59th St. and 14th St.), and Downtown (anything south of 14th St.). Knowing that Harlem and the Bronx are generally 'north' and Downtown and Brooklyn are generally 'south' will also help you navigate. The cost to ride the subway is the same no matter how long or far you travel. Please refer to this website to learn more about the subway system, including the various colors and letters/characters used.

PEDICABS - in Midtown and in Central Park, it is very easy to hail a pedicab, which is a small, human-powered tricycle. Most can accommodate 2 or sometimes even 3 people (2 adults + 1 child is usually fine). In general, the cost is $7-$10 per minute as of 2023.

DRIVING - Driving in Manhattan is challenging, but having street numbers based on a grid does help a lot. The street numbers decrease as you travel south down Manhattan (e.g. 48th St. to 34th St is heading south) and the avenue numbers decrease as you head east (e.g. 9th Ave. to 5th Ave. is heading east).

TAXIS - NYC has a million taxis. They are often easier than Uber/Lyft, but not always cheaper. It is customary to tip your taxi driver in NYC. I like to give $5.00 for short/medium length rides, and 10-15% of the cost for longer rides.

PARKING - Parking is difficult but not impossible in NYC. It is always very expensive though. In November 2023, we paid $62/night in the Chelsea neighborhood for an underground garage, and we considered that a reasonably good deal. As of 2023, overnight parking can range up to $80 or even $90 per night. Street parking is extremely difficult, and near impossible to find near any touristy area. I wouldn't plan on finding street parking if I were you.

FREE THINGS TO DO - click here for a great article from Town and Country Magazine about free attractions and things to do in NYC. A top free thing to do is to take the Staten Island Ferry from lower Manhattan to see the Statue of Liberty. Take note that if you take this ferry, you will have to unboard and reboard on Staten Island to return back to Manhattan.

RESERVATIONS - Some people like itineraries and some people like to figure it all out on the go. I recommend having at least a rough plan for NYC. You'll also need reservations for many restaurants (especially at dinnertime, observation decks, and many other attractions. I would maybe think about planning half of each day and leaving blocks of a few hours between set times.

OVERRATED ATTRACTIONS - Every city seems to have some disappointing major tourist attractions, and NYC is no different. Times Square is certainly overrated. The Empire State Building, while an iconic building, doesn't offer the best observation deck experience (try Edge or SUMMIT One Vanderbilt instead). Little Italy doesn't have the best Italian food in NYC (not by a long shot). In terms of food, Ellen's Stardust Diner is probably the most overrated restaurant in the city.

HOLIDAY SEASON - NYC is magical around the holidays. In general, all the holiday decorations are put up the week of Thanksgiving and taken down within a few days after New Years. To see festive decorations, I recommend visiting Rockefeller Center, the streets around Radio City Music Hall, the windows and interior of Macy's Herald Square, and the exterior of Saks Fifth Avenue. You could also travel over to Brooklyn to see the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights. I would avoid Rolf's restaurant, which is heavily decorated for the holidays but consistently generates horrible reviews from travelers.

 NEW YORK CITY WEATHER


New York City has a 'humid subtropical' climate. This means the city is characterized by cool, wet winters and hot, humid summers. Rain is common year-round, and snow typically occurs several times between December and March. The average annual snowfall for NYC is about 33-34 inches. Every few years, NYC will experience a large snowstorm (most often in January or February) that will dump 1-2 feet of snow.

Here are the average monthly temperatures for New York City by month:

January - high 39°F, low 26°F
February - high 43°F, low 29°F
March - high 52°F, low 36°F
April - high 64°F, low 45°F
May - high 72°F, low 54°F
June - high 80°F, low 64°F
July - high 84°F, low 69°F
August - high 84°F, low 69°F
September - high 76°F, low 61°F
October - high 64°F, low 50°F
November - high 55°F, low 42°F
December - high 44°F, low 31°F
(Source: NOAA)

I think the best times to visit NYC are in late April/May, Sept/Oct, or during the holidays anytime from the week before Thanksgiving until the week after New Years. The holiday decorations generally start to go up the weekend before Thanksgiving and remain until the first week of January. Summer can be very hot and that may limit how much outdoor walking you are willing or able to do. Early-to-mid November is typically when NYC (including Central Park) experiences peak fall foliage.

NYC 24/7 Memorial (Chelsea)
NYC 24/7 MURAL
(Chelsea neighborhood
)

Ghostbusters Headquarters
GHOSTBUSTERS HEADQUARTERS
(corner of N. Moore St. and Varick St. in the Tribeca neighborhood)


Economy Candy
ECONOMY CANDY
(Rivington St. in the Lower East Side neighborhood)


Vessel @ Hudson Yards
VESSEL
(outside of the Shops and Restaurants at Hudson Yards
)

St. Patrick's Cathedral
ST. PATRICK'S CATHEDRAL
(5th Avenue near Rockefeller Center)


Dalmation & Taxi Sculpture
DALMATION & TAXI SCULPTURE
(Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital in the Kips Bay neighborhood)


Giant Needle Threading a Button
GIANT NEEDLE THREADING A BUTTON
(corner of 78th Ave and W. 39th St. between Times Square and Bryant Park)


Billy Johnson Playground, Central Park
BILLY JOHNSON PLAYGROUND
(southeastern section of Central Park; parallel with 67th St
)

 RECOMMENDED GUIDEBOOKS


In addition to the information found on this web page, I personally recommend purchasing one of these New York City guidebooks. Click on any link to read reviews and/or purchase these books on Amazon.com.

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As an Amazon Associates affiliate, this website contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase any products after clicking any Amazon.com link, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. I only endorse products that I have personally used or those that come highly recommended by trusted peers.

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