New York City, what can I say? It’s worth all of the hype, everything is so aesthetic. This was my first trip to New York and I will definitely be going back for more. While I love Chicago, New York has found a special place in my heart. I wasn’t originally going to do a “travel guide” because I am definitely not an expert on New York, but after my trip I knew I had to share about the amazing places I visited.
Thankfully, the train system is amazing because Ubers/Lyfts are pretty expensive and that cost adds up. If you are going to be in New York for more than 2 days, I recommend getting a Metra card, it’s only $1 and it will save you money in the long run. You guys know I am all about saving money where I can. Navigating which platform you need to be on can be confusing, the stations are basically an underground maze. The signs help out tremendously, if you are paying attention to your surroundings you will have no problem finding where you need to be.
Protip: If you are using maps on your phone, you can select train (instead of walking/driving) directions and it will tell you where to get on/get off and which trains or connections you need to make.
New York is famous for it’s boutique hotels. Boutique hotels offer you a different experience at a more affordable price (usually). There are hotels in all price ranges, it just depends on what you are looking for. We stayed in the City Rooms in Soho, it is a cute budget hotel. When I say budget, I mean it. They offered coffee and had only the basic hotel necessities. It was clean and the staff were very nice. We booked this trip only a month or so before leaving for the trip, since we had planned on spending more time out of the hotel, we didn’t prioritize a ”fancy” hotel. If you are looking for a more luxurious experience from a hotel, I recommend checking out other options here: https://boutiquehotels-newyork.com/ Something else to take into consideration, when visiting New York, breakfast at hotels are a plus but it’s really not necessary, there are so many coffee shops and cafes that you NEED to try out.
Cafés & Restaurants
You really can’t go wrong with food, you could probably live in New York for a year and eat somewhere different everyday and still not get to all of the amazing restaurants. I will list all of the places we visited because they were all amazing. There are still so many places I want to try out, so I will need to plan another trip!
While we were Young – This is so on brand for me. Everything is so aesthetic and Instagramable. This brunch spot is very cozy (small), you will need a reservation. The drinks here are a little pricey, but they are a masterpiece and worth every penny.
Park Avenue Season’s Restaurant – This is a totally different experience depending on the season in which you go. The décor and menu changes each season. It was gorgeous! I would have loved to have brunch here to be able to see it in the daylight. This is another place that you will need a reservation.
Artichoke Basille’s Pizza – Another great restaurant, they have pizza slices as big as your head. The line was out the door for these $6 slices. I would recommend getting their signature Artichoke Cream Cheese pizza.
Chelsea Market – Chelsea market is full of shops and restaurants. This market is right off of the highline board walk. There are so many options for lunch and dinner. We ate at the Lobster Place, they made fresh sushi in front of us.
Absolute Bagels- This little bagel shop isn’t aesthetic at all but it has AMAZING bagels. I got a cinnamon raisin bagel with a cinnamon apple cream cheese and it was to die for. They have so many bagel sandwich and traditional bagel options. If you are looking for a NY bagel, I highly recommend this place.
Laduree – This is a must! If you have followed me for a while, you will know that I am OBSESSED with macarons. While it would be amazing to flit off to Paris for macarons, it’s not practical. This is as close as it gets and I have never had a better pistachio macaron in my life, which is saying something. The vibe is very Parisian aka an Instagram must.
Tipsy Scoop – I am always down to go to a great ice cream place, regardless of whether it has alcohol in it. We found Tipsy Scoop on a whim, I was craving ice-cream and Rosy, being the yelp expert she is, found Tipsy scoop. They had seasonal flavors and your traditional vanilla, chocolate, etc. It was delicious and you really couldn’t tell that there was alcohol in it until you felt the buzz.
Halal Guys – You have to try out the street food when visiting a big city, it’s part of embracing the experience and culture. I was hesitant to try Mediterranean food from a cart, but let me tell you, this food was amazing. If you find yourself downtown NYC at lunch time, try out Halal Guys. I had the small Gyro platter with a lot of white sauce.
Urban Backyard- This is a cute coffee shop in SOHO, it has a bohemian vibe with lots of plants and minimalist décor. They had the cutest lattes and cupcake selection. Oh, and did I mention this place also has pistachio macarons? There are so many places to take a photo in this cafe, the door step has the perfect tiling and the seating area is so quaint.
Max Brenner- Apparently this is a chain, I have never been here before and the idea of a chocolate bar was intriguing. We weren’t that hungry, so we got an appetizer and the chocolate fondue. So much fun! We roasted marshmallows at our table and dipped fruit into chocolate, definitely not a meal but a great experience.
Peachy’s – This is in China town and it’s a bar that is essentially in a basement, but the atmosphere is amazing. They have neon signs and flowers hanging from the ceiling, best of all were the drinks. I had what was called a “Horny Buddha.” This drink was served in a Buddha figurine and it is probably the best drink on the menu.
The Campbell – If you are a Gossip Girl fanatic, this is a must see. It looks just like the it does on the show, and it’s a pretty cool bar to grab a drink down town.
The Straylight – This is a bar in the basement also, they also have a restaurant but the bar portion reminds me of a speakeasy. It’s pretty dark but the drinks were cool as well, I was noticing a trend in NY, every place we went to had amazing signature cocktails.
There are so many places to hit in New York city, we walked 50 miles in 4 days to try to hit everything. There are few places I still want to go, that were closed or that we didn’t have time for. I will still include these in my list of must visit places!
Brooklyn Bridge – This iconic bridge is a must and great for photos. If you want to get a good photo with no one in the back, be prepared to get to the bridge at 7am. If you wait till 9am, you will have no chance. We went early in the morning to get all of our photos and came back later to go to Dumbo in Brooklyn and is was SO CROWDED.
Dumbo – This is a neighborhood in Brooklyn that has a great view of the Manhattan Bridge. This is another spot that you want to get to early. This is photo spot is all over Instagram and has become a staple.
Wall Street – Wall Street is a few blocks away from Trinity Church and a 12 minute walk from the 9/11 Memorial. If you are trying to hit all three of these spots, its easy to hit them all in an afternoon. There isn’t anything too exciting at Wall Street other than to say you visited. This is also a cool photo spot if you get creative. We tried to get a photo here but it didn’t turn out due to several circumstances out of our control. (Lighting, people, banners, etc.)
Trinity Church – This church is gorgeous. It’s also in the movie National Treasure and the resting place of Alexander Hamilton. This church brings out the history buff in me. I love learning about history. Unfortunately, church was under construction when we visited and we didn’t actually get to see the grave of Hamilton. Hopefully, when you visit it will be fully open.
9/11 Memorial Pool– This is more of tourist location instead of a photo op, but its a must see and a huge part of America’s history. It’s a gorgeous monument and tribute to those who lost their lives on that day, I would definitely recommend paying a visit here.
Highline – The Highline is a park of sorts, it’s an outdoor walk way with a view over Western Manhattan. It’s a great walk, if you don’t have time though, I’d recommend putting other things on this list as higher priority.
Hudson Yards / The Vessel – This is another great photo spot or a great place to get cardio. This is an edgy sculpture made from stairs, that you can actually walk up. The Vessel is a recent installation as of March 2019, so it is sure to be a highly trafficked site. Since it’s so large, it’s pretty easy to get a photo with out a ton of people in the background.
Washington Square – This is a great place to relax, people watch, and take pictures. The arch in the square is very Parisian and is an amazing piece of architecture. This is another place that you will need to arrive early, if you are coming in the summer and you want a photo with no one in the background. Fortunately, we were visiting in the “off season” so it wasn’t as popular. Though there are still several people in the background of my photos.
Flat Iron – A must have photo spot. We arrived to this location with excitement, after seeing tons of inspo photos on Instagram and Pinterest, only to find the entire front of the building covered in scaffolding. There is a train stop directly next to (underneath?) the flat iron building, so it’s easy to get to and to travel elsewhere.
Top of the Rock – Ignore all those who say the best view is from the Empire State Building. Go to the Rockefeller Center, you will get the entire sky line and the Empire State building in the back of your photos. It’s such a great view! The entrance is inside the building on the first floor, but we took so many different paths and turns as instructed by the staff that I couldn’t give directions. I would recommend planning to have an extra 15 minutes to locate the entrance because it’s tricky to find.
Central Park – If you have time to take a walk, do it! Central park is a gorgeous escape from the city life. You almost wouldn’t believe you are still in the city. We walked through the entire park and saw the forest, the ponds, and all of the architecture.
The Met – We didn’t have time to go inside but as far as photo spots, the outside of this building is so aesthetic and can’t help but think of of Blair Waldorf and her snarky remarks of “moving down a few steps.”
Time Square – New York Signature place is Time Square, sure Tokyo, Japan has their “Time Square” but it’s nothing compared to NY. I was expecting a disappointment, but I was honestly overwhelmed by the traffic, the signs, and the many shops. I would recommend stopping by here in the daylight about an hour before the sun goes down, so that you get the experience of the lights in the daylight and at night without making two trips.
Grand Central Station- We didn’t take a train to Grand Central because we were already in Time Square so it was an easy walk. It amazes me that some people take the train and walk through this building daily. Another great photo spot, but be prepared to get creative with the angles in order to not be standing in a crowd.
Statue of Liberty / Ellis Island – We took the first ferry and went to the Statue of Liberty and rushed to get a quick photo before the crowds of people got there, something I would recommend you do as well. After we got our photo, we spent about an hour in the museum. Then we had to head to the ferry to get back to the mainland. It would be easy to spend 2 hours in the museum, if you enjoy learning about history and landmarks. I wanted to visit Ellis Island and know that I could spend the entire rest of the day exploring, but we were on a tight schedule and had to keep it moving so we didn’t miss our flight.
Soho Neighborhoods – These neighborhoods are packed with gorgeous architecture, the best coffee shops, and adorable boutiques. Almost everywhere you look is a photo opportunity. If I ever move to New York this would be the ideal spot. It’s fun to check out all of the amazing places and to explore. (I would recommend booking your hotel in Soho)
Stuyvesant Street Corner – Great Photo Spot, we hit up this location after we found out that the Flat Iron building was under construction. This corner is the perfect example of how picturesque everything is in NYC.
This is probably the longest post I have ever written. I hope you enjoyed it and will use it to help guide you on your next visit to NYC. What are your favorite tourist and photo spots? Let me know in the comments below!