NYC is, by far, my favorite place in the country, and maybe even the world that I’ve seen thus far. There really is just something about that city; there’s nothing else like it. Any given street could have a totally different setting. NYC breeds inspiration, with so many of the residents working to make their dreams become a reality. It is the ultimate melting pot and the epitome of the American Dream.
Planning a trip to NYC can seem like a very daunting task. It is seriously impossible to experience the city in its entirety in a short period of time. And every trip can be wildly different. So, here is my guide on how to plan the perfect trip to the Big Apple.
I am a huge fan of planning, in general. I love to write things down in my large, hour-by-hour daily planner. But when it comes to planning a trip to NYC, start way early. I mean like months in advance.
For example, I am currently planning a trip to NYC for October, but I wish I had started even a bit earlier. Deciding on a time frame for visiting New York is another obstacle. New York is like a different city every season. You may have more free time in the summer or the winter, but you’ll be battling very hot and very cold weather. NYC in the winter is a sight. Amongst the snow, you’ll see brightly lit and decorated window designs. You can also see the Christmas Tree and go ice skating at Rockefeller Center. NYC in the summer is very hot and is probably not my favorite time to go. However, you’ll still be able to have a great time. In my opinion, spring or fall would be the best times to visit.
At this point, you’ll want to figure out what you want to focus on during your trip. Do you want to see all of the typical sightseeing spots? Spend more time at museums? Focus on nice restaurants and foodie spots? Or do you want to see an award-winning Broadway show, like Hamilton, that you’ll need to buy way in advance? Regardless, to get the most out of your trip, you’ll want to start very much ahead of time. Start about two to three months ahead- more if you want good seats for Hamilton that aren’t a million dollars.
Tourist attractions for first timers
The Statue of Liberty-
The Statue of Liberty is a must see for anyone traveling to NYC. However, it’s kind of a one time sight for me. You have to take a boat out to see it, so it’s a bit of a hassle. If you’re lucky, and you plan very well, you can actually go inside of the Statue. When I was in the 5th grade, I got to walk to the top of the pedestal with the group I was traveling with. It’s a pretty cool thing, but going all the way to the crown is hard to get access to and requires climbing some very steep and narrow stairs.
Oh, Times Square. Constantly bustling with people of all kinds.. and selfie sticks galore. What I once thought was the coolest place, is now somewhere I actually try to avoid. Don’t get me wrong, if you’ve never been, I absolutely recommend it. It is absolutely a sight to see, but after you’ve experienced it a time or two, you get a bit tired of the mobs of people. Still very cool though! And great if you love M&M’s!!
Central Park is great and requires no planning ahead! I haven’t been able to really explore of Central Park yet, but it is a great place to get away from the loud and hectic city. Especially great for people and dog watching. Central Park has two famous restaurants; Tavern on The Green, and the Loeb Boathouse. Tavern on The Green is great; I was able to get into this restaurant for a very early dinner (about 5pm). Getting a reservation at prime time is pretty hard though.
NYC has tons of live tapings of TV shows that you can see for free! One of the most popular is The Today Show. All you have to do is register online and get up very early to get a good spot. It’s a lot of standing around and it’s super early, but it’s such a cool experience! The Today Show always has some kind of guest; I got to see Martha Stewart! There are other tapings as well, like Saturday Night Live(extremely hard to get tickets for), The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Late Night with Seth Meyers(very funny, definitely recommend), and tons more! Most of them are free, so plan early and reserve your tickets as soon as possible.
Top of The Buildings-
Top of The Rock, Empire State Building, One World Observatory. These are just some of the options you have for a prime view of NYC. Top of The Rock is one that I liked a lot because you get a view with the Empire State Building in view.
The Rockettes was a show that I was not particularly thrilled to see, but I was SO impressed! They have a summer and a winter/Christmas show, and I preferred the summer, but they were both great!
There are SO many great shows in New York all the time! I can honestly say that you will not be disappointed with any of the classics like The Lion King, Kinky Boots, or one of my favorites, Wicked. Some newer shows that are very good are Hamilton- of course, and The Book of Mormon, and Cats, which is old but just came back! Also, look for some smaller productions. I once saw a great one-man show starring Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Mitchell from Modern Family) in a tiny theater, and it was only on Broadway for a few months. Plan tickets in advanced for some more popular shows, but go day-of to the TKTS booth in Times Square for some of the cheapest options. Just beware of scammers!
I haven’t nearly done the amount of museums as I’d like to, but NYC is home to so many renowned ones! There’s the famous Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, American Museum of Natural History, The 9/11 Museum, and tons more! Museums do take up a lot of time though, so plan accordingly if you want to focus on those.
If you want to make the most out of your dining experience and eat your way through the city, start by figuring out what kind of restaurants you want to go to. Would you rather go to a few Michelin-starred restaurants or do you want to check out the trendy foodie spots? If you want to go to fancy restaurants, you’re going to need to make a reservation at least a month in advance. Check out the reservation policies of the places you want to eat. Check out my post about some of the Best Places I’ve Eaten for a few recommendations.
Now that you’ve figured out what you want to focus your trip on, I suggest making a chart. I chose to use the table in a Word document. I’m focusing my trip around food, so I had the top row labeled with each day of the week and the left column with lunch and dinner labels. I then went through the hours and days that each restaurant is open and fit them in accordingly.
If you’ve made it this far, you should hopefully have the beginnings of a well-planned trip. Now, you need to plan how much it’ll cost. Yay! (not actually yay). If you are the kind of person who doesn’t need a budget, go ahead and skip this part and swipe your plastic freely!
Although budgeting isn’t my favorite word, I’m not bad at making one (sticking to the budget is the real issue). To be realistic, NYC is very expensive. The shows are expensive, the restaurants are expensive, and the shops are expensive. That’s not to say that you can’t do New York without breaking the bank though. Figure out the cost of the tickets, look up menu prices of the restaurants you’re going to, look up hotel rates, look up air fare, and estimate how much you’ll spend on transportation. Then add $100-$200 to that. It’s always better to have more than you plan to use. In NYC, where anything can happen, it’s very good to have some extra money accessible.
The cheapest way to go about it is to save money on hotel and transportation. Find a hotel that is located near most of the things you want to do, so then you can save on transportation by walking. Or choose a cheap hotel near a subway station. Choose the worst airplane seats. Buy resale tickets for the shows. Go to the free shows. Spending less in these areas will make the actual aspects of your trip so much better.
Once everything is planned all you have left to do is book, pack, and go! Search the web for deals and use airline or hotel points when booking.
Hopefully, by now you have a well-planned trip! If not, I hope this post has inspired you to start planning your trip to The Big Apple. I hope this post will allow you all to enjoy and love NYC the way that I do. Comment if you have any questions, share, and subscribe!