Part two of the New York City post! This time a guide on all the must-sees in the city. Some may be a little touristy but hey – you’re there to see it all! Bonus: as student tourist’s guide only two things on this list cost money ($), the rest are completely free to do! Of course there are many, many more amazing things to do and see in NYC that are not on this list, these are only what I experienced while I was there.
Transportation note: we did A TON of walking to avoid the cost of expensive transportation. We had great weather and wanted to enjoy every part of the different city streets while walking so it never seemed as much as it actually was. For the extra far lengths we did take the subway, (a single ride subway ticket is generally around $2.75 or $3.00) although the system may seem a bit confusing at first, we were surprised to find how quickly we got the hang of it! Don’t be afraid to try it, not only will it save you time by avoiding the constant city traffic but it’s part of the New York City experience as well!
(The list is in no particular order.)
- The Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn bridge was even more amazing than I had imagined. It’s just a little over a mile in length and a very enjoyable walk. Amazing views of both sides of skyline and even benches half way to sit and take a break. I was there on a Monday afternoon and was surprised by how packed it was with walker and bikers.
- Water Street, Brooklyn (Gossip Girl’s Humphrey Loft)
If you’re a fan of the Gossip Girl series this iconic location of the Humphrey loft is a fun spot to see in person! Just after crossing the Brooklyn bridge it was a short five minute walk over to Water Street. Even if you’ve never seen the show, this location is a stunning place for pictures and a great area of Brooklyn!
- Central Park
I was completely blown away by Central Park it was so easy to spend hours upon hours exploring, at times it felt as if you couldn’t be further from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Some of my favorites within the park were the mall; a beautiful walk surrounded by trees and a great place to listen to talented musicians do their thing! Another favorite being the Bethesda Fountain and Proposal Bridge. The park itself is 843 acres, 2.5 miles long and .5 miles wide so the best advice I can give is to find a map, pick out the things you’d like to see the most and check which direction to get there instead of aimlessly walking to search!
- The Today Show live taping!
This is definitely a must do (and it’s free!!)! The Today Show does a live taping every morning Monday through Friday with most of the outdoor activity happening from 7:00am-9:00am. The taping takes place in Rockefeller Center between 48th and 49th streets 5th Ave. and the Avenue of the Americas (6th Ave.). It’s a very cool experience to watch everything behind the scenes happen right in front of you! We went on a Tuesday morning and arrived around 8:00am, we were surprised to find that it wasn’t as packed with people as we had imagined and that we hadn’t missed anything by the time we got there. On a day where there isn’t a concert taking place we were told it generally looks as it does in the picture above; plenty of room to comfortably stand and no waiting in line to get in. Around 8:15am the anchors came out, shook everyones hands and made small talk with the audience until they went live on TV. Overall one of my favorite things we did, best advice I could give is that there really was no need to arrive earlier than 8:00am!
- Grand Central Station
Truly spectacular, pictures do not do it justice! Much more “grand” than I had imagined and the perfect place to people watch.
- Times Square (Day & Night)
The ultimate tourist move I know!! But you have to see it at least once, especially at night! Times Square is a constant mess of bright lights, construction and the biggest tourists you’ve ever seen but it truly is quite the sight to see. After we saw Chicago the Musical on Broadway (see earlier post for details) it was the perfect time to experience the night life and it definitely lived up to my expectations. If I had to pick between seeing it during the day or at night, I would pick at night hands down.
- Ellen’s Stardust Diner ($)
This was definitely one of our favorite parts during our trip. Although it’s touristy, it truly is a very fun experience and a great place for a meal! It’s open from 7am-midnight with diner style American food at reasonable pricing. We went for dinner at around 5ish before we saw Chicago the Musical and the food was fantastic! We only waited in line for about 10 minutes before we were sat, even then it wasn’t completely packed. The environment is so much fun, all of the waitstaff are either Broadway hopefuls or have already made their Broadway debut. They are constantly singing and performing on the tables and up in the balcony. Everyone was immensely talented and interacted a lot with the customers (our waiter even gave Liv a little solo in the mic during his song!) I cannot say enough great things about this place, we found ourselves constantly smiling in awe paying attention to the performers instead of eating! If you don’t have the opportunity to see a Broadway show while in NYC, this is a fantastic alternative! Highly, highly recommend.
- Statue Cruises to Liberty Island and Ellis Island ($)
The statue cruise was a really great affordable way to see both islands round trip with one ticket. This company has two boarding ports, one on the New Jersey side at Liberty State Park and one on the New York side at Battery Park (you can not get on at one and off at the other). We bought our tickets and boarded at Battery Park, the ticket cost was only $18 with both islands included in that price. This price includes: access up to the Fort Wood section of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, priority entry into the Boarding Queue which saves you wait time at the departure point, access to the grounds of Liberty Island and Ellis Island and audio Tours of both islands. There is another ticket option with statue crown access for $21 (tickets can also be purchased online, but we had no problem getting ours quickly in person when we went at 2:30pm). The boat begins boarding at 8:30am and again every twenty minutes with the last boat boarding at 3:30pm. Please take note that each day after 2:00pm you have to pick between getting off at Liberty Island or Ellis Island (still paying the full $18) due to the time restrictions. This happened to us and it turned out to be just fine. We decided to chose Ellis Island as Liv and I both have relatives who came through Ellis when coming to the United States for the first time. The boat stops at Liberty Island first and even though we didn’t get off at that point, we were able to take wonderful pictures of the Statue of Liberty from the boat (see above). The second stop is Ellis Island where you can walk around the grounds (great views of the NYC skyline), read the names of everyone who came through Ellis as well as check out the indoor museum. I would definitely recommend this on a beautiful day where you can sit on the top deck of the boat and enjoy the view, but they run the boat rain or shine and there is a lower deck where you can ride as well.
A couple other places that you’ll definitely want to check out are Radio City Music Hall (they offer tours), the new World Trade Center as well as the memorial, NBC Studios (they offer tours), the MET and The Shops in the bottom level of the famous Plaza Hotel. More not pictured: Madame Tussauds wax museum, the Top of the Rock observation deck at Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building observation deck.
I hope all of these places can be added to your itinerary for when you visit! NYC truly makes you want to wake up, do things all day and stay up all night. I know you’ll have the best time!