Planning your trip to New York is a bit like navigating the city’s subway system for the first time. It’s a maze that excites you because of the places you want to see, but it also frustrates you during your planning stage.
If your tabs look like a chaotic mix tape, let us provide you with our curated NY playlist to help you exit this information maze in the next few minutes.
Before taking an adventurous bite of the Big Apple, download our “Best of New York City,” post which contains all must-see sites, food that represents the city, borough creme de la creme, underground tips, and whether a New York City tour guide is right for you.
Harmony In Numbers: New York City
Leaving the subway for the first time, and stepping onto the crowded NY streets surrounded by towering skyscrapers is a magical travel moment one will never forget. I certainly didn’t.
New York City feels like an entire ecosystem on its own, caught up between being an entertainment hub, a center of multiculturalism (over 700 languages are spoken there!), a culinary mecca, and home to a staggering collection of iconic landmarks.
Despite the drop in visitors due to the pandemic, 20.3 million found their way into the City That Never Sleeps in 2020.
But did tourism recover in NYC? Yes! The city became the number one holiday hot spot after the pandemic. With 56 million visitors last year, numbers are expected to reach pre-pandemic levels and beyond in the upcoming years!
You probably have multiple sites in your head that make New York the tourism magnet it is, but there’s always more than meets the eye.
Get ready to groove to the ultimate New York playlist, packed with the city’s greatest hits!
Exploring New York: The Sound of the City
From the echoes of footsteps on the bustling streets and the roaring horns of yellow cabs, to the humming of neon signs and the distant sirens of the Hudson River, New York feels and sounds inimitable.
These are the sites that scream “New York City” like no other.
NYC’s Biggest Hits
- Statue of Liberty- Symbolizing the spirit of freedom and democracy, this iconic landmark is a gateway into the country’s history. A globally recognized icon, Saint Liberty is a must on your New York trip.
- Empire State Building - Centered in the heart of Manhattan, this architectural marvel is a testament to human achievement. Plus, the panoramic view at the top of the building is unbeaten, no matter when you visit.
- Central Park - Amidst the urban jungle lies a natural haven perfect for escaping the city's hustle. Ideal for recreational activities or visiting your favorite film location, Central Park provides natural tranquility on 843 hectares.
- Times Square- If the Empire State Building is the city's heart, Times Square represents its heartbeat. Neon lights, billboards, and energetic crowds are the best ways to describe this magnificent place on Seventh Avenue.
- Brooklyn Bridge - Connecting the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, this bridge is the ideal walking spot, and perfect for soaking up the city's beautiful landscapes. Completed in 1883, it stands as an emblem of the city until this day.
Music tip #1: You’ve probably heard Jay-Z and Alicia Keys's mega hit “Empire State of Mind”. But did you know that Brooklyn-native songwriter Angela Hunte and writing partner Janet Sewell-Ulepic wrote the song? If you like the vibe of this song, be sure to check out Hunte’s“Brooklyn’s on Fire”.
Not only an entertainment hub and setting of countless movies, books, and TV shows, New York is famous for its vibrant art scene. Be sure to have these spots on your list!
- Metropolitan Museum of Art- The “Met” is home to countless treasures from endless corners of the world, ranging from a reconstructed Egyptian temple complex to ancient Greek crafting and timeless sculptures like Rodin’s “The Thinker”.
- Museum of Modern Art- Featuring immortal artists like Vincent Van Gogh, Picasso, and Andy Warhol, this museum represents the pinnacle of creativity from the 19th century onward.
- Guggenheim Museum- Not enough Modern Art? Then the Guggenheim is a must-visit on your museum bucket list! Climbing up the circular ramp while experiencing mesmerizing modern paintings and room installations makes for an unparalleled experience.
- The Frick Collection- An ideal spot for encountering art in an intimate setting ranging from Renaissance paintings to decorative arts through the 19th century, the Frick Madison Museum offers the best of both worlds.
- Whitney Museum of American Art - Dedicated exclusively to American art, the museum celebrates contemporary and brand-new voices of the scene. And if you’re already there, don’t forget to enjoy the view from the museum’s rooftop.
- Street Art in Brooklyn - Scattered around the city along places like the Bushwick Collective or the beautifully tagged streets of Coney Island, there are countless places to experience the creativity of local artists spray painted on the city’s walls.
Travel Tip: Have more than one museum on your mind? Then a New York museum pass might be a good choice!
5 Different Genres: The 5 Boroughs of New York
5 boroughs (distinctive districts of a city), 5 different vibes. Manhattan, Queens, The Bronx, Staten Island, and Brooklyn…all give the town its unique charm. New York wouldn’t be New York without them. So let’s discover them in detail. Press play!
- The High Line- Strolling above the bustling streets has never been more stylish! A uniquely urban experience, walking along these elevated railway tracks while enjoying the beautiful panorama when visiting Manhattan is a must.
- Smalls Jazz Club- Ready for a jam session? Take a seat in this ambient jazz club packed with a fantastic lineup. Experience NY jazz in its purest form!
Travel Tip: Wanna listen to how it sounds? Then check out their YouTube channel!
- The Oculus- Located in the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, this architectural marvel blends modern design and functionality. Shop, experience, or simply be in awe in the eyes of this magnificent building.
- Flushing Meadows-Corona Park - The fourth largest park in New York, Flushing Meadows transports you into an endless open space full of beautiful gardens, a tranquil lake, and countless cultural events.
- Rockaway Beach - Easily reachable with the subway, ferry, or bike (recommended!)This welcoming beach is home to a die-hard surfing community, exciting food avenues, and an astonishing view of the Atlantic Ocean.
- Queens Botanical Garden- Need a break? Then, strolling through this peaceful oasis will be the ideal place for calming you down as you drift off next to various beautiful plants and themed gardens.
Music tip #2: Marc Rebillet is an excellent New York musician known for his improvised live streams in the city. No one captures the sound of NYC better than him!
- The Bronx Zoo- Known for being one of the largest metropolitan zoos in the world, entering this place feels like stepping into a new world. Divided into several regions representing various ecosystems, the Bronx Zoo is also known for its dedicated wildlife preservation, making this an educational and beautiful visit at the same time.
- Yankee Stadium- If you’re in the Bronx, catching a game at this historic stadium is a must! If you’re a Baseball lover, don’t miss out on this experience!
Travel Tip: Be advised that tickets on game day can be pricey or sold out. It’s always best to buy your tickets in advance.
- The Grand Concourse - Iconic is probably the best way to describe this magnificent boulevard. 5.2 miles long and running through multiple neighborhoods, the Concourse is filled with museums, restaurants, shops, and public places. If you’re looking for something, you will find it on this street.
Safety tip: You might be asking: Being known for its high crime rate and relatively unsafe reputation, Is the Bronx safe to visit? Yes it is, if you stick to the populated areas and the usual tourist spots. Also, it is generally not recommended to visit the Bronx at nighttime.
- Staten Island Ferry- A vital means of transportation for NY citizens, taking the ferry also means having a stunning view of the Statue of Liberty, the New York skyline and Lower Manhattan.
- Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden- Established as a home for sailors over a century ago, this sprawling complex is now home to historic buildings, art galleries, lush gardens, and a stunning view on the New York waterfront.
- Conference House Park- A borough staple and testament to Staten Island’s heritage, this Georgian-style mansion is a national historic landmark.
Travel Tip: All these sites sound sweet to you? With the New York City Pass, you’ll be able to see most of them!
- Williamsburg - A prominent hipster neighborhood, Williamsburg is filled with unique boutiques, cool street art, green spaces, and culinary delights.
- DUMBO - Another trendy neighborhood, Dumbo gives you the Instagram-look on the Brooklyn Bridge. An Acronym for “Down Under The Manhattan Bridge”, this thriving neighborhood combines its industrial past with an innovative present, full of tech companies and co-working spaces.
- Brooklyn Flea Market- always on the hunt for the newest trends? Then don’t miss out on this lively flea market and go on a treasure hunt for antique furniture, handmade crafts, and vintage clothing every Saturday and Sunday.
Travel Tip: Truly rising to fame with his daily vlogging, Casey Neistat, popular YouTuber and filmmaker, makes sure that New York is always the protagonist of his videos. Want to get an authentic look at the city? Casey’s videos are the ideal gateway.
What To Eat in NYC: From Delicious to Obscure
- New York City-Style Pizza - Quick baking time, minimalistic toppings, thin crust, and large slices. These are cornerstones of the NYC pizza, a culinary staple of the city.
- Bagels & Cream Cheese - Initially brought to the States by Jewish refugees in the 1800s, bagels and cream cheese are now integral to the New York culinary landscape. If you combine convenience with a traditional symbol for New York itself, you get, you guessed it, a bagel with cream cheese.
Travel tip: Want to know how B&W cookies are made? Check out this authentic NY Black and White Cookie method!
- Black and White Cookie - Another historic snack of New York, initially brought in by German immigrants (which makes me proud!)These delicious yin-and-yang sweets are known for their cake-like texture.
- Al Pastor Tacos - Translated into “Shepard Style”, this traditional Mexican dish has a special place in the hearts of many New Yorkers.
- Pastrami - Known for its intense, smoky flavor, New Yorkers love to serve their Pastrami on rye bread with mustard. As with the other dishes, this sandwich is a quintessential culinary experience if you visit New York.
The Weather in NYC: Finding the Right Rhythm
With its four distinctive seasons, there is beauty in every visit to New York City. But: different seasons mean different conditions. When’s the ideal time? Let’s find out together:
Spring (March-May): Waking up from a cold winter sleep, New York blossoms in mild temperatures (55-70°F/12-22°C), making it ideal for strolls, sightseeing tours, or enjoying the view from one of the countless rooftops. With warmer weather, festivities slowly find their way back to the city, such as the Easter Parade on 5th Avenue. That said, be sure to bring an umbrella, as rain can be plentiful at that time.
Summer (June-August): Packed with festivals, energy rises in the summer days of the city. Perfect for spending the day at the many beaches around New York, museums are perfect indoor activities that save you from the humid weather (68- 86°F/20-30°C) outside.
Autumn (September-November): As the leaves slowly turn red and temperatures sink (60-77°F/16-25°C), New York presents itself from a cozy, comfortable side. With the New York Film Festival (very cool!), The Greenwich Halloween Parade or the Fashion Week, your cultural calendar will fill itself in no time.
Winter (December - February): With chilly temperatures (32-49°F/0-9°C) come less crowded streets, allowing for a more intimate travel experience. Prepare for holiday magic, as festive lights and shiny decorations will bring you in the perfect christmassy mood. Downside: Be prepared for temperatures below 0 and occasional snowfall…best enjoyed with hot chocolate and comfort food.
In general: It’s safe to say that each season offers a unique experience. That being said, spring and autumn provide a gentle climate, fewer people, and ideal opportunities to explore the city and beyond.
Music tip #3: There is no better way to connect with this beautiful city than listening to Frank Sinatra’s“New York, New York”. Although born in New Jersey, Sinatra had a deep connection with the city that you can read more about.
And always remember: “If you can make it here [New York], you can make it anywhere.”
Hit The Right Notes: Do’s and Don'ts In NYC.
New York definitely has its own rules. To make sure you stay on the right track and don’t skip the “Do’s and Don’ts” playlist, here’s how to behave in the Big Apple.
Staying Safe in New York City
Despite a moderate crime rate of 49.72 (lower than London or Paris), New York definitely has a reputation for being a crime-ridden city. While there can be some sketchy areas you should avoid (especially at night), simply keeping your belongings in sight and sticking to populated areas in New York is generally safe for traveling.
Does that count for female solo travelers as well? Yes! After all, New York was named one of the safest cities in America this year. If you’re still unsure, keep these things in mind:
How do I feel safe in the city?
Most things go without saying: Always ensure your belongings are in plain sight, especially in crowded places. Store everything safely in your hotel that you don’t need.
Also: don’t get into empty subway cars at night. Instead, stick to populated subs. You’ve seen the NY traffic, so don’t have your music too loud while crossing the streets. In general, better safe than sorry should be your motto. The city is exciting enough on its own, trust me.
What do I have to prepare?
It’s always good to research a little bit about your destination before you head out. Check the last train and ensure you can get home without using areas you don’t know or are unsure about.
Did I miss something?
Don’t forget to book extra travel insurance! Hospitals in America can be insanely pricey, so have insurance before starting your journey.
Has New York been stuck in your ear (and your mind)? Then you’re not alone. Taking on the Big Apple is as exciting as it sounds, and when you add your own itinerary and personal guide, you’ve hit the tour trifecta.
- With a GWG local expert, touring New York can be convenient and comforting. Having a local by your side can help you:
- Gain deeper knowledge of New York’s traditions and way of living through the eyes of a local.
- Let your guide be the bridge to new, exciting interactions with locals, making memorable friendships alongside exploring the city.
- Explore the unknown side of New York with a guide capable of uncovering the city’s hidden gems.
The only thing to do now is add your New York to your Travel playlist…and don’t forget to hire a New York City tour guide to ensure you stay in rhythm and catch the city beats you have on your itinerary!