Traveling to New York City can be daunting if you’ve never been, but not to worry, I got ya covered. For my sister’s bachelorette, she wanted to go to NYC and see what it was all about so my mom, three sisters, and I took off to the big city. It was a lot of fun. Super cold, but fun. We were there the week of Thanksgiving and it was the second coldest Thanksgiving in history… so there’s that.
Back to the travel guide. Let’s talk about things to do, what to eat, and where to stay. And listen, I’m not an expert, but I love to travel and I love to share what I learned with each trip.
I’m a carry-on kind of traveler. I don’t check a bag because 1. It saves money and 2. I never need as much as I think I do. I personally use an Away bag, which I love. But when you travel to a cold city and you need layers, it can be hard to pack enough in a carry-on. How do you get by? You wear your thickest items on the plane and sweat to death. ha. Kidding. But not. You do need to wear your heavier items to avoid having to cram those into your bag and then roll those other clothes up as tightly as you can to fit them in your bag. Another tip is to only take one pair of shoes. I know, that can be difficult for most women. Make sure they are comfortable and warm and just deal with it. Trust me, when you’re doing that much walking and it’s 19 degrees, you’re not concerned about looking super cute. You want to be warm.
Another thing to note is that our apartment did not have a washer/dryer in the unit and while that may not mean much for some people, if you only travel with a carry-on, you’ll have to potentially wear the same thing twice. I promise it’s not that bad. 😉
Where To Stay
We stayed in Brooklyn and if you want to save some money during a busy time of the year, I recommend staying there. As with most of the places I travel to now, we used Airbnb and it was great. We didn’t spend a lot of time exploring Brooklyn but there are plenty of restaurants and coffee shops to enjoy, which I’ll touch on later. We stayed in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood and it was mostly residential. The subway was a short walk from our place which made traveling into the city relatively easy, for the most part. Again, more on that later.
There were a few local grocery stores and some restaurants within walking distance, but honestly, the selection was kind of sparse. We later learned that there are other areas of Brooklyn with more within walking distance and that makes a big difference. The Williamsburg area is an example of this. One last tip, often times check-in will be around 4pm or after and if your flight is early you’ll have extra time between landing and arriving at your place. That means you get to carry your luggage around with you for a few hours. We opted to find a cafe close to our place so we didn’t have to walk too far but we still had to figure things out while standing on the street with carry-on bags and backpacks. Plan ahead is my advice.
This is your primary mode of transportation if you want to save money and really learn what it’s like to live in NYC. Sure, there are some moments when it can feel a little sketchy, I won’t lie, but nothing feels more New York than experiencing the subway. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- There are local trains and express trains. A local train makes more stops. An express train is obviously moving along faster and stops at fewer places. How do you know which is which? There’s an app for that, of course. But even the app won’t tell you everything. When you hop on the subway an announcement will come over the speaker and say something like, “this is a Brooklyn bound local train” and then you’ll know. To be honest, we found out the hard way many times. However, the app was super helpful and gave us insight as to what train to take.
- You’ll have to get a MetroCard to ride the subway and you can load as little as $5.50 on it or as much as $80. The cost per ride is $2.75 and to buy the initial card is $1. Here’s the thing, you have to keep up with it. I might’ve lost mine once. :/ It was a bummer when I realized there went 4 subway rides. haha. Sure it’s $12, but still. There is an option to buy an unlimited card for $32 and that will last you seven days. Looking back, we should’ve done that. We ended up spending somewhere between $35-$40 per person to ride during our six-day trip.
- Sometimes you can transfer trains and not have to swipe your card again. Say you’re headed from the city back to Brooklyn and you need to take two trains to get there. You can transfer trains at certain locations and not need to swipe your card again.
We took a Lyft from the airport to our place and it was the best way to go. It cost around $40 – with the tip – and took us much less time than it would have had we had to navigate the subway as our first adventure in NYC.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a bit of a food snob, I’ll admit it. I love finding great local places and discovering new delicious foods. While we didn’t do as much of this as I’d like, we found some great places that I can recommend.
I recommend the lavender latte and the vanilla latte.
I loved the vanilla latte.
Their lavender latte was my favorite. Can you tell I’m either a vanilla latte or a lavender latte lady?
This was one of my favorite places we ate at. It was so good! The chive pork dumplings and Wei’s spicy chicken are my top two recommendations.
This was a one minute walk from our place so we gave it a try and I liked it. Not the most memorable pizza I’ve ever had but eating pizza in New York was on the list of things we had to do.
On Thanksgiving Day we were walking around the city and wanted lunch but of course, Thanksgiving Day means that some places are closed. Luckily, NYC has more options than most cities and there were some open places for us but we were in an area of town where our options were a little limited. It all worked out. We found this place and it was good. I will say that they do charge a gratuity fee that is more than even a really good tip. I noticed this after we left, as I was wondering why the added tip was so much. I quickly googled this place and found that other reviewers made note of this. Just something to be aware of. The calzone was good, but not that good.
Cannot recommend the Compost Cookie enough. It was amazing! I think that might be what they are known for but we also tried the Confetti Cookie, the Blueberry & Cream Cookie, and the Fruity Cereal Ice Cream.
Not the same as the one above, but also delicious! We tried the Apple Jack Avalanche, the Chocolate Cocoa Crunch, and one we made ourselves with Lucky Charms ice cream.
Not the original location – this was the one close to Times Square. I had an original cannoli and my sisters had cupcakes. Both were delicious.
We tried the macarons here and man oh man they were good. I don’t remember all of the flavors we tasted but I do remember the Red Velvet and the Birthday Cake. Yum!
Things To Do
We chose to only spend money on one tourist thing, but we did walk to many of the other tourist spots because you have to, right?
- Empire State Building – This was our one thing and it was totally worth it. We visited right after sunset so the moon was low in the sky and the city was lit up. It was beautiful! Cost: $40 per person. I do think we visited at a busier time of the year so it may not be that expensive always.
- Central Park – We walked through for about an hour or so and it was so gorgeous to see the skyline of the city while walking through the park.
- Brooklyn Bridge – Walking across this bridge is so awesome! It’s surreal how beautiful it is and the views are gorgeous. I took way too many photos. The walk is a little over a mile but you don’t even realize it because you’re too busy soaking up the views and taking a million photos.
- Times Square – It is crowded but you have to see it.
- Rockefeller Center – This was fun to see the ice skating happening. Definitely something we had to do this time of year.
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral – The most beautiful church I’ve ever seen. The detail is unreal. Walk inside and take it all in.
- Grand Central Station – Hard to photograph in color but gosh, it’s a place to see. Crazy to think about how many people are moving through here every day and it’s fun to observe all of the travelers.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art – We did not go inside but I will most definitely make museums a top priority on my next visit. You can visit museums for free during specific time frames on certain days so be sure to check the websites before you go and plan accordingly. Here is a great guide!
- Upper East Side – You know that feeling when you’re walking into stores, bypassing the guard to browse and then purchasing an incredibly expensive item at Alexander McQueen’s Flagship store? Yeah, me either. haha! It was fun to walk by stores of designers that I once studied – I started out as a fashion design major in college, FYI.
- The Garment District – Again, for a fashion design girl, this was a highlight for me.
- 911 Memorial – It is sobering but a beautiful memorial and makes you aware of how many lives were lost on that fateful day in America.
- The Statue of Liberty – We did not take the ferry over and visit but got a glimpse from the Brooklyn Bridge.
Plan ahead. To really soak up your time there, I recommend planning ahead. There’s a lot to do and see and it can take up a lot of mental energy to be planning it as you go. It’s better to have a game plan so that you can enjoy your trip to the fullest. Plus, you definitely don’t want to look like a tourist. Tourists are targets so don’t make that mistake.
Group things together. To make the most of your time, visit several places that are near each other.
Reality is sometimes not as gorgeous as filtered social media images make it seem. New York, while lovely in many ways, is dirty and there is a lot of trash. We see these beautiful images of the city and Central Park and we think it’s going to be so beautiful. In a lot of ways, it is. But over eight million people live there and people produce a lot of trash.
Be aware of your surroundings at all times. I hate to continue with the bad news but sometimes bad things happen and we have to be vigilant. Especially as women. My sister’s phone was pickpocketed. We were in a very crowded area and she took her hands out of her pockets for just a moment, which is when we assume it happened. She had her hands in her coat pockets the entire trip and for one moment she didn’t. We learned the process of reporting a stolen phone and I can say now that you definitely want to make sure Find My iPhone is on and you have your phone backed up to iCloud. Also, you can call your phone company and blacklist the phone. This will make your phone unusable, essentially a brick that cannot be reused. You just never know.
Google Maps. I have learned that Google Maps is easier to use than Apple Maps and if you put it on the satellite version, it gives you a better picture of exactly where you are.
That’s all I have for you. Be sure to leave a comment with any tips you have if you’ve traveled to the Big Apple. I definitely want to go back so I’d love to hear what you’ve experienced and loved while there.