New York is blessed with glamour, elegance and timeless beauty. For the first-time Big Apple visitor, here's your definitive guide to the city that never sleeps!
1. Visit New York with a local — for free!
The Big Apple Greeter matches visitors from around the world with a New York local. Because arriving in a new city, especially one as feisty as NYC can be intimidating, allow a born-and-bred NY resident show you the ropes. With over 300 volunteer greeters, where possible you’ll be paired according to language, neighbourhoods requested and special interests; spending between two and four hours soaking up the highlights from a local’s perspective. Completely free of charge, volunteers take no tips (although donations are welcomed) and will dish out all the hacks on how to deal with the New York hustle and bustle.
HOT TIP: Submit a Visit Request Form as soon as you've booked your NY holiday.
2. Buy a Metrocard.
Allowing for all buses and the NYC Subway, a Metrocard is your ticket to navigating the city better than a cabbie in a Knicks' cap. And for a fraction of the price of his taxi, we might add! Grab an Unlimited Ride pass for the time period that suits your stay and you’ll be well on your way.
3. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge.
Catch the subway over to Brooklyn and walk back over the Brooklyn Bridge. There are two pedestrianised lanes that cross the iconic structure, one for walkers and one for bikes. For the most part, cycling the bridge belongs in the realm of commuters, whereas visitors prefer to walk it. Give yourself a good hour to cover the entire stretch (plus stoppage time) and once you’ve reached the other side, replenish your energy levels with the quintessential New York snack — a just-baked bagel. Nom.
HOT TIP: Try to walk the bridge early in the morning as there are huge numbers crossing it during the day.
5. Easily find a loo.
We all know that a full day of sightseeing comes with more toilet stops than it does mugs of "kawfee" (as the locals say). So here’s the trick: Go inside any hotel and use their foyer facilities. It works a treat for anyone who finds themselves caught short.
HOT TIP: As with any travel endeavours, always have tissues, wet wipes and sanitizer to hand, just in case a public bathroom turns into your only option.
6. Eat in a classic New York diner.
Speaking of "kawfee," there’s nothing more New York than an American diner. And with a tagline reading “Raising New York's cholesterol since 1929,” you can't help but love the authentic Big Apple buzz of Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop. Located at 174 5th Avenue — just around 23rd Street — this is where the locals go for all day breakfast, BLTs and fried eggs — sunny side up, of course! Sit at the classic counter and watch the theatrics of a dozen New York chefs working their magic. Inhale the unmistakable smell of bacon, burgers and jug-brewed coffee, while sparking up a convo with the local to your left.
HOT TIP: There aren’t many authentic places like Eisenberg's left in the city. It’s fast, noisy and beautifully chaotic, but an absolute must-do in New York.
7. Book a table at an old school music club.
Here are three of our favourites:
- Blue Note Jazz Club: One of the premier jazz clubs in the world and a cultural institution in Greenwich Village. Go for the Monday Night Series, or the bi-weekly Late Night Groove Series which showcases New York's up-and-coming jazz musicians.
- Terra Blues: Modern yet laid-back blues tavern on the second floor of a Greenwich Village club. The whiskies will do for your taste buds, what the music does for your ears. And both are good for the soul.
- Iridium: Jazz, Rock and Blues — oh my! Host to one of the USA's critically-acclaimed TV music series (Front and Center) and substantially renovated in 2015, you won't get a better acoustic sound, or experience, than Brooklyn's Iridium.
HOT TIP: If you book a table at a club, get there as early as possible because the arrangement is first in first served. Regardless of how far in advance you’ve booked, the best ones go as soon as the doors open.
8. Dine at restaurants you can trust.
In New York, every restaurant has an ABC Rating. "A" is the best and "C" is the worst. We recommend you stick to the A ratings — don't worry, there are plenty!
HOT TIP: Restaurants are required to place a placard showing their letter grade in the front window. Potential diners can take a quick look before donning a napkin.
9. Grab a pint in the city’s oldest pub.
You’re in one of the busiest cities on the planet, so duck inside McSorleys Old Ale House for some low-key respite. Enjoy the small town feel of a traditional Irish pub, and the oldest Irish tavern in New York City. Loud, fun and a guaranteed good time, the beams date back to the mid-19th century and the walls creak under the weight of their secrets. The pub pours two beers only, light and dark, served with a healthy dose of atmosphere, cosiness and charm.
HOT TIP: Better known as simply McSorley's, it stands as it has done for centuries at 15 East 7th Street, in the East Village neighbourhood of Manhattan.
10. Visit the 11 Tears Memorial Tribute.
Being in New York you’ll undoubtedly want to visit the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, and we highly recommend you also stop at the nearby American Express Tower at 200 Vesey Street. Here you’ll find the 11 Tears Memorial Tribute to commemorate the lives of eleven American Express employees who died on September 11, 2001. Sitting in the foyer of the building, this beautiful tribute is extremely well done, with drops of water falling from the ceiling into an 11-sided black granite pool. Each employee’s name is also etched into the granite, accompanied by five words or phrases to describe them. Hauntingly elegant, each victim is remembered personally and gracefully.
HOT TIP: Take subway E to World Trade Center. Walk west on Vesey Street and use the pedestrian overpass to cross West Street. Enter the American Express Tower via West Street and Vesey Street. Open daily 7am - 9pm.
12. Visit the Cloisters and Fort Tryon Park.
Escape the bustle of the city and discover unbelievable quiet and peace at the northernmost point in Manhattan. The Cloisters is a famous branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that specialises in European medieval architecture, sculpture and art, and it sits surrounded by stunning gardens that will leave you feeling miles from the urban pace.
HOT TIP: Stop in nearby Tryon Public House for a hearty feed and a sampling of excellent local beers.
12. Find the Bronx's Little Italy.
Everyone knows about downtown's famous Little Italy, but fewer have heard of Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. You'll find delicious Italian restaurants, drool-inducing markets and a real local taste of the immigrants who made New York the city it is.
12. Find the Highline.
New York is a sprawling concrete mass of skyscrapers, hawkers, workers and honking horns so you’ll seldom get any proper peace and quiet, unless of course, you make a beeline for Highline Park. With few crowds and a world away from the chatter of New York’s hoots and toots, this public recreation area is cleverly built on a historic freight rail line. Elevated well above the streets of Manhattan, it’s a great place to simply relax, enjoy a bite to eat or attend one of the events that are regularly held, such as stargazing, concerts and sports.
HOT TIP: There are free walking tours of the area at certain times of year, so you can find out more about the history, design and landscape of the park.