Oh New York City, how I love you. I was born in New York, outside the city about 45 minutes. Both my parents are born and raised in New York and it is definitely a part of my identity. Although I may not have lived there long, I still consider myself a New Yorker. For many reasons. One, I’ll never forget being made fun of as a kid living in Montreal for saying “watermelon” funny (I mean it’s WOR-ter-melon, right?) and I attribute my fast paced, no bull shit attitude to my New York roots that were instilled in me by my parents at a young age. We visited often in the summers, and now go back every so often. Myself more for work and pleasure too.
New York City is a massive yet also tiny island. It’s exhausting but also inspiring. It gets me excited and also has me feeling immense regret that I never lived there in my early 20s. So many emotions when I’m in the city but I can 100% attest that I feel MOST at home in this city than almost anywhere else in the world, that even includes Atlanta. The people, the vibe, the culture, I see myself more in New York and the people than I do anywhere else.
NYC is quite big so although this New York City travel guide is just a list of my personal favorite things, it may not make ANY sense to visit this one restaurant in the East Village. Or to treck up to the Upper West Side for a Levain cookie. But if you can, go, the cookie is insane. These are my favorite places that I’ve been to after years of visiting the city. I clearly have more to add to the list so now I’m debating another trip to expand my list of restaurants! Bu here are my favorite things to see, eat and do in NYC.
Getting To New York City
Flying In – It seems as though each airport has their people. I personally usually fly into Laguardia (LGA). A complete shit storm of an airport, but closest to the city. There’s a bus you can take to get into the city that takes you to Port Authority for all of $16. But then consider where you’re staying from there. I typically just take a taxi and it’s always around $55. I’ve heard JFK is much more enjoyable in terms of the airport itself, but it’s not super close to Manhattan so your cab ride may be much longer and more expensive. I say, choose what’s more important. Flight times/budget and if you’re willing to spend more time in the car. And always consider where you’re staying in the city as it may play a role in which airport you should fly into.
Getting Around Town
I am ALL ABOUT that subway life. You can just use your iPhone Maps App and switch your directions to transit and it will show you which station to walk to, which line to take in which direction and so on. It’s insanely easy. I highly recommend the subway since it’s faster, cheaper and honestly, super easy. It’s safe, just as always be aware of your surroundings and don’t be an idiot.
There are also Ubers/Lyft and lots of taxis. Just hail a cab by holding up your hand, it’s truly that simple. Well if there’s a cab nearby that’s available. Always look for the light in the middle to be lit to know if it’s available! And don’t forget that cabs turn over at 4pm which makes it nearly impossible to get one at times.
My Favorite Neighborhoods
New York City can be a little confusing since there are boroughs and neighborhoods. NYC Is made up of 5 boroughs. Manhattan (where all of this post is a guide to), Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island, and Queens. But within Manhattan are loads of great neighborhoods. Here are some of my favorite because they’re full of great restaurants, are charming and where I’d like to live one day.
Lower East Side – Also known as Alphabet City, this part of town is an eclectic part of town that was more recently gentrified. There is still a ton of Jewish heritage here as it is home to Katz’s Deli and Russ & Daughters. Personally, skip Katz’s and definitely hit up R&D (bagel seen above is from them!)
Chelsea – One of my favorite neighborhoods in the city. It’s so charming and full of residential streets. It’s also home to Chelsea Market, a must visit place for all the best food. Plus, it’s where you can pick up the High Line. An elevated walkway through the city. This is one of the best things to do in the spring time!
Greenwich Village – Below Chelsea, is Greenwich Village. Nearby is Meatpacking District and the West Village. So many great little restaurants in this area and stunning homes. A few must-visit spots in this area is Washington Square Arch
Where To Eat
Breakfast & Brunch
Russ & Daughters
Russ & Daughters Cafe
Le Pain Quotodien
Citizens of Chelsea
Any Bodega Near You (no seriously)
Quick & Casual
Urbanspace Vanderbilt – Food Hall
Chelsea Market – Food Hall
Gotham Market – Food Hall
Citizens of Chelsea
Lunch & Dinner
The Spotted Pig
Coffee, Cocktails, Pizza & More!
Coffee Shops, Juices & Treats
Cha Cha Matcha
Levain Bakery – best cookie ever
Big Gay Ice Cream
Stumptown Coffee Roasters
Joe Coffee Company
Pizza & Bars
Air’s Champagne Parlor
2 Bro’s Pizza – $1/slice can’t beat it
Where To Stay
Sites To See
Top Of The Rock – Rockefeller Center observation deck. Amazing views of the city. I’d say give yourself at least an hour to do this
Central Park – Stay as short or as long as you like. You could easily spend half a day here!
Empire State Building – I have always been told to go to Top Of The Rock to see the Empire State Building, no need to visit it.
Flatiron Building – A popular photographic corner that’s also close to Eataly!
Rockefeller Center – While at Top Of The Rock, be sure to visit Rockefeller Center and go ice skating if it’s open!
St. Patricks Cathedral – Across from Rockefeller Center
The Met – Metropolitan Museum Of Art
9/11 Museum & Observation Deck – Get the tissues ready, this was the toughest museum I’ve been to next to the Holocaust Museum. It’s really the only museum as a millennial that we can walk through and remember it happening.
Grand Central Station – A bustling destination. Visit the oyster bar upstairs for a cocktail and oysters!
Times Square – An absolute zoo, but worth a quick visit if you’ve never been.
Empire State Building – I’ve personally never done this!
What To Pack
Must Pack Items
There are a few things I always recommend having on hand when you’re visiting NYC. An external charger (you’ll be relying heavily on your phone for Maps and subway info or ordering an Uber). Plus, comfortable shoes. You’ll be doing a ton of walking and the comfier the shoes the better. I’m almost always in a sneaker in NYC. I also usually like to carry bags that can hold extra items like a backpack or tote. This makes it easier since you’ll spend most of your day away from the hotel exploring and you’ll want to pack essentials like a water bottle, external charger and so on. If there’s a chance of rain, be sure to pack an umbrella just in case.
Best Photo Spots in NYC
Photos in NYC make me SO insanely happy. They’re some of my most favorite content I’ve ever created for the blog. The city has so much character. And there’s a million great places to shoot. Below are a few personal favorites (although I have yet to do Brooklyn Bridge). If you’re looking for photographers to work with in the area I recommend Allie Provost or Lydia Hudgens.
- Brooklyn Bridge
- Minneta Street x Minnetta Lane (photo to the right was taken on that street)
- Flatiron Building (Broadway & 5th for that iconic shot!)
- Central Park Gapstow Bridge
- Plaza Hotel
- Washington Square Park
- Grand Central Station (inside or outside!)
- Tribeca (anywhere, but Vestry Street x Greenwich Street are in my opinion most iconic to the neighborhood vibe)
- Top Of The Rock – TIP, go up one story while your subject is on the viewing deck to get an epic shot!
Photos by Hannah Lozano