New York City has been on my bucket list for sometime. It can be overwhelming when planning a trip to New York for first timers because there is so much to do!

I’ve flown through JFK airport several times but never had the chance to spend a few days in the city. So when I had the chance to visit with a friend who had been there multiple times, I jumped on the opportunity.

Surprisingly I love to research and make plans when I am headed to a new destination. I am usually the one who has made all the plans for my trips, but I loved having a personal tour guide and friend that pretty much knew the things we had to see when visiting New York for the first time!

Top Things to do when visiting New York for the first time

Broadway Show

Whether you are a musical lover or not, you must see a Broadway show in NYC! There are many options nightly and it is a fun way to dress up and go out after sight seeing all day! You can check out the TCKTS booth for day of discounted tickets. We saw Tina Turner: The Musical and the classic Phantom of the Opera which I highly recommend.

Bike Central Park

One of my favorites while visiting NYC was Central Park. I loved getting away from the hustle of the City and just enjoying nature. We walked around a bit but we also rented bikes and this was a perfect way to get around Central Park, especially if you don’t want to spend all day there.

Empire State Building

Sure there are taller buildings in New York City, but the Empire State Building is an iconic building and used to be the tallest building in the world. For this reason I wanted to see the amazing city views from its still incredibly tall observation deck. I couldn’t think of a better way to start my first day in the city than to see the view of New York for first timers.

Central Park

9/11 Memorial & Musuem

Words cannot describe the feelings at this museum and memorial. Maybe it’s because I clearly remember the day, but it was a sombering experience to visit Ground Zero.

We spent half our day visiting the museum and memorial. I recommend downloading the app and listening to the tour with your headphones. I found this to be alot easier to listen than read the signs along the way. You can also rent headphones for an audio tour at the guest services.

9/11 Museum

Pizza Making class

Want to learn how to make New York style pizza from scratch? Pizza School in NYC is the place to do so. Now this was not something I would normally not think of doing while vacationing, but it was a blast! We spent 3-4 hours learning step by step process on dough, sauce and toppings and then ate it!

Walk Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge is another symbol of New York and no first timer’s guide to NYC would be complete without a recommendation to see it. We took the Subway into Brooklyn and walked across the bridge towards Manhattan. This way you can get a great view of the City skyline while walking along. We walked at sunset and it was amazing with the colors and the Statue of Liberty in the distance.

NYC Pizza School

Times Square

You don’t have to spend alot of your trip in Times Square but it a must see when visiting New York for the first time. It felt like the busiest and more touristy part of NYC. We stayed closer to Times Square when we visited and I found myself getting frustrated with all the people. As we ventured out to other areas of the city, I realized the rest of NYC isn’t always like Times Square. But the billboard lights and people watching is what you are there for… just go once.

Highline Trail

Another one of my favorite places to escape the hustle of streets of NYC was the Highline Trail. It’s an elevated park on an old rail line stretching from 14th Street all the way to 34th. We walked this trail during the day and night for a different perspective. During the day, take your time strolling and view art pieces along the way. The trail is lit after dusk and the night views are amazing of the cities tall buildings.

Highline Trail


There are over 80 different museums in New York, so you are sure to find something to spend an afternoon or day exploring. I would recommend the MET or Natural History Museum.

Eat lots and lots of yummy food!

I always look forward to trying new foods while vacationing. I knew visiting New York for the first time would give me the opportunity to indulge in some amazing food and it did not disappoint. These were some of my must stops:

    • Eataly – Italian market with restaurants, coffee, pizza and cooking school
    • Chelsea Market – shopping & food hall with amazing collection of variety of foods


If you plan on doing a few attractions in New York, consider Purchasing a CityPASS.

It is a city discount card which will save you money on 5 of the top New York attractions, including several we listed above.

We use them in all major cities we visit (See Seattle and San Francisco).


New York City is BUSY and this is a place you don’t want to rent a car. It can be faster to walk to a destination than to drive sometimes. If your destination is not in walking distance, then opt for subway or taxi.


The Subway can be intimating when visiting new york for the first time but it’s actually the most efficient way to get around the city. Once you get the hang of it, it was easy to navigate. I found it easiest to plan my route by using Google maps. This allowed me to see the options and gave me exact directions on what line to catch.


Taxi/Cabs are available to pick up anywhere in the city. We usually found them to be more expensive than Uber or Lyft. We did take a Taxi from the airport into Manhattan when we arrived and not only was the ride expensive, the van itself was disgusting. On the way back to the airport, we opted for Uber XL and our ride was alot more comfortable and friendly.

Flights to NEW YORK

Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).


There are many different parts in New York City to stay and these are great locations when visiting New York for the first time

Midtown Manhattan

Downtown Manhattan

Times Square

Airbnb Rentals in New York

You can often find great deals on Airbnb rentals in New York. See what’s available below and if it is your first time, save $40 by clicking here.

I am already looking forward to my next visit to New York to explore and eat more delicious food. I hope this list gave you some ideas on what to do in New York for first timers.

Be sure to check out our 10 Travel Safety Tips before heading to visit New York!

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