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Let me just start by saying that New York City is special, it glitters and captivates you then fully consumes you. It can be busy, it can be dirty and sometimes it can even be harsh, but it still holds a magic that keeps you coming back for more, it is a charm that I have not felt be replicated by another city I have visited yet.
I am fortunate enough to have visited the big apple three times now and I still feel like I have only brushed the surface of everything this place has to offer. For your first time visiting the city, I recommend fully immersing yourself into tourist mode taking in the top attractions ( I love NY t-shirt is optional).
Times Square is iconic and is actually pretty hard to avoid, it is also a different experience during the day than to at night, so go at various times on your trip. Ensure you visit the massive Toys’R’us complete with an indoor Ferris wheel, eat at Bubba Gump’s and buy reduced Broadway show tickets.
Purchase a New York Pass
New York is a big city and there are lots of fun things to do and see. It can be challenging to plan an itinerary and determine which attractions to spend your money on.
Getting the best value for money is my #1 factor when planning a trip and the New York Pass was rated the number 1 New York tourist pass by Trip Advisor. They’re also recommended by Expedia and the New York Pass currently has a TrustScore of 4.4/5 on Trust Pilot.
With the New York Pass, you can save time, money, and enjoy stress-free sightseeing to New Yorks’ top attractions.
The New York All-inclusive pass is a pre-paid sightseeing card which gives you FREE entry to the city’s top tourist attractions (over 100), including entrance to the Top of the Rock, Empire State Building, 9/11 Memorial & Museum and a Marvel & DC Superheroes Walking Tour.
The pass also features skip-the-line access – which is fantastic during the busier periods and for those short on time in New York City.
How To Get A New York Pass And Save Money:
Choose which pass duration you want to buy (1 – 10 day). Click here to purchase your New York Pass in advance and access further discounts. Redeem your voucher and go sightseeing!
Statue of Liberty
Situated on Liberty Island is the beautiful Lady Liberty, a symbol of freedom and democracy. There are various tours available on Liberty and Ellis island all of the varying costs, an option is available to climb to the top and look out of her crown (booking in advance recommended for this). However every time I have always ridden the free Staten Island ferry, which gives you amazing views of the Statue of Liberty and great for photo opportunities (you will not get to go on to Liberty Island on this ferry).
Here are some more New York Tours from Get Your Guide which all have great reviews and prices. Generally, I book all my tours in advance when I have limited time in a city this helps to ensure I get a place on the tour I want as well as paying the best price:
Over my different trips to New York, I have seen ground zero at various stages, but each time has brought an overwhelming feeling of sadness.
Despite this I still feel everyone should visit, it is an important piece of American and world history which has gone on to shape our current world situation, it just evokes so many emotions and seeing the names of all lives lost that day really puts everything into perspective.
You will also see so many people posing happily by the memorial fountain for family photos, which personally I cannot understand but each to their own.
Empire State or The Top of the Rock?
I personally prefer the Top of the Rock for the views and experience as a whole but the Empire State Building is iconic and makes you feel like you are in the film Elf.
If you have the money available, I would say experience the Top of the Rock during the day and then visit the Empire State Building at night-time, but this can get expensive ($32 each).
I would also recommend booking in advance or you might end up queuing a very long time, these are two of the busiest attractions in New York.
You can book your tickets in advance here:
Pro Tip: If you are considering booking a swamp tour as well as some of the other attractions mentioned here then you will most likely save money by purchasing a New York Pass instead.
The Museum of Natural History
It took me until my third trip to do this but I wish I had gone sooner. Also known as the set for the ‘Night at the Museum’ films, this incredibly beautiful building is fascinating for ecology and history buffs alike.
Suggested entry price is $22 (+ extra for special exhibitions) and that is what we paid, which is a bit pricey seeing as the majority of London’s museums are free but you can spend an entire afternoon there.
Grand Central Station
Located at: 89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017.
Despite it being a very busy central hub for transportation in New York City, due to its many appearances in films such as a Friends with benefits and Just my Luck ( I never said I had good taste in films!), Grand Central has also become a must-visit tourist attraction.
Although this station is very rarely quiet, avoid rush hour commuting times to get the best experience.
Central Park is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, although vast in size the skyscraper borders make for the perfect contrast to this green escape.
Spend an afternoon relaxing and people watching, one thing I would not recommend is visiting the Central Park Zoo, no wonder the Penguins in Madagascar were always planning their escape.
If you are lucky enough to visit Central Park when there is snow, it is essential to recreate the Elf snowball fight scene.
Where to Stay in New York:
Every time I have visited New York I have stayed in the Hotel Penn, with less than a ten-minute walk to Times Square but still incredibly affordable!
Use my link to receive £15 off of your hotel choice on booking.com: www.booking.com/s/samnth00
or if you prefer Air B’n’B use this link to receive £30 free credit: www.airbnb.co.uk/c/slouise65
Despite my poor choice of films to make reference to, I hope you now got some inspiration for your first trip to New York. As much as I always mention finding the unique and off-track things to do on your trip, sometimes being a complete-guide-book-in-hand tourist is incredibly fun and New York City is the place to do this.
I can also guarantee the wonderful undesirable charm of this city will have you coming back for more and each time will be a different experience.
Planning on shopping while in New York?
Read Next: How to visit New York on a budget