Monday, January 7, 2013

A Unique First Time Visitors Guide To NYC

I decided to write this post due to reading some guides that I felt were just so “typical” of what to tell a first-time visitor to New York City. The “key” to this post is the word “unique” as when you visit any city for the first time, you want to see what really makes it special. You do want to visit some sites that are listed in magazines and guide books, but it is also fabulous to visit “the real NYC”, to feel that energy felt by those who live there everyday. In a city like New York, you will never see everything on a first visit, but I would like to give you my list of the “must see places”.

This is a long list, as there are so many great places to visit, but if you want to narrow it down, you can pick from this selection. You will not go wrong with “any” of them in my opinion. They are in no particular order.
Metropolitan Museum of Art – One of the best museums in the world, a must visit, and be sure to hit the roof when open for refreshments and a view that is breathtaking. If you visit during the holidays, the museum has a gorgeous Christmas tree to enjoy. Admission is suggested at $25.00, but they will accept any amount given, which helps those who may be on a budget. 
Times Square at Night – One of my “least” favorite places, and the one listed in every guide book. I suggest doing this at night, only because the lights are the main attraction here. It is overly crowded, and the stores are pretty much of the chain kind. This is not the “real” New York, but it is something to see for your first visit. After that, I would leave it off the list. I will say that  Juniors here is a favorite of mine, as well as the Inglot shop. There is also a Baked by Melissa's here as well if you wanted to grab some of the popular mini cuppies after a Broadway show. I tend to pop in and out of this area, as again, the crowds are just a bit too crazy for me.
The West Village – The West Village makes you feel like you are not in New York City. It is a quaint village with fabulous cafes, shops and parks. Bleecker Street is the most famous, but I also enjoy Christopher Street which has amazing unique shops. If you walk all the way over from Christopher, you find yourself in Hudson River Park, which is a real treat.
The East Village – This area really gives you a sense of the “real” NY, as it is mostly a residential area, but also has great shops, restaurants and bakeries. Venierio's is a must in this neighborhood.
Walking Tours – The Hop on/off buses are usually recommended, but I so prefer walking tours. There are some great companies that offer these, and usually they are given by a person who lives in the city. These tours are great for photography buffs, and NYC is really a walking city. Check out my page which shows some of the walking tours I have taken the last few years right HERE.
Soho – A favorite with the famous folks, a real cozy feeling with cobblestone streets and vintage architecture. Marie Belle Café and Chocolate Shop, TopShop, Sur la Table, a new Laduree tea room coming very soon, Dominique Ansel Bakery, Pearl River Mart, Muji Soho, Opening Ceremony are just a handful of fun places to visit.  
Central Park – a real treasure in the city, a most fabulous and huge park with even it’s own zoo! Free to roam around and great if you have children, buy some lunch from a food cart and enjoy it in Central Park. Many events go on throughout the year, so check their website for when you are visiting.
Your Own Cupcake Tour – The city of cupcakes. I do j’dore them as they are wonderful little bite size treats,  and the bakers are getting so creative these days. You could do a google map (love those things!) and list places asMagnolia Bakery, Crumbs, Baked by Melissa, Billy’s Bakery, Buttercup Bakeshop, Amy’s Bread, Two Little Red Hens to plot out your tour. Dean and DeLuca also carries products from some great bakeries, so you may wish to add them to your map as well.
above photo from 

9/11 Memorial - A way to pay great respect to those who lost their lives on Sept. 11th is a visit to this memorial. They are still working on the museum, but the memorial is here for you to visit and say a few prayers. You need to receive a pass to visit, which can be ordered on their website. September 11th is a day which will never be forgotten, and has made us a stronger nation as a whole.

Top of the Rock at Night - Even though it is also gorgeous during the day, Top of the Rock at night is something special. It is worth it any time of the year. The views are just spectacular. Breathtaking. The price may be a bit steep at $25 for adults, seniors $23 and children $16 (6-12), but this is one splurge I would say you should consider at least once.

St Patrick’s Catherdal - A real New York City landmark. It has been standing for 130 years, and is in the process of a huge restoration so the new generations will have it to enjoy. You can light a prayer candle. A little over 5 1/2 million visitors are received each year. It is a true architectural wonder and a must see for a first time visitor. St Patrick's is also on twitter, and they can be followed HERE
The Green Flea Market - New York City has many great flea markets, such as the Brooklyn Flea but I am going to suggest The Green Flea Market. This flea, which runs on Sunday mornings, gives it's proceeds to 2 public schools on the Upper West Side. You have an indoor and outdoor market here, so if weather is not great, you can still hunt for vintage treasures with the vendors inside. 
Brooklyn Bus Tours – If I were to recommend a bus tour, this would be it. A day in Brooklyn is a real different view of one of New York City’s best boroughs. Brooklyn is becoming quite popular, and many great shops and restaurants are locating here. If you are visiting for the first time, it is nice to have Tony take you around and show you his town. He has a few varieties of tours such as the Neighborhood Tour, Pizza Tour and during the holidays a Christmas Lights Tour. He leaves from Union Square area, which makes it easy as well to get to the bus and then brings you back to the same spot upon return.
The Plaza Hotel and The Plaza Food Hall - This is another one that is in most of the guidebooks, although I am not sure if the food hall is listed. If you are a foodie, you must visit here. I cannot get enough of it. Whether I am solo, or with friends, it is a true destination. The Plaza Hotel is a New York Landmark and really a gorgeous building. With the addition of the food hall in Spring, 2010, it has become the "place" to be. There is also the gorgeous Palm Court, where you can enjoy afternoon tea, in a setting out of a movie. The best part of the food court is you have many different selections which is good for groups who like to eat different cuisines. 
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge - Something I even have yet to do but on my list for 2013 on a nice, not too humid day. The views from here are amazing and it is such a gorgeous bridge. 
Grand Central Terminal - This New York Institution will celebrate it's 100th birthday in 2013. What an amazing feat, given all it has gone through. You can read about it's amazing history HERE. With 68 shops and 35 dining options, even if you are not taking a train from here, a good place to spend a few hours. It is also a treat to marvel that is the beauty of Grand Central Terminal. Happy Birthday !! And here is to 100 more years !!
plant installation from 2008 from The Highline website 

The Highline - A very unique park. The length of one mile which connects three neighborhoods on the West side of Manhattan. Here is some information from their website:

The High Line is a public park built on an historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. It is owned by the City of New York, and maintained and operated by Friends of the High Line. Founded in 1999 by community residents, Friends of the High Line fought for the High Line’s preservation and transformation at a time when the historic structure was under the threat of demolition. It is now the non-profit conservancy working with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation to make sure the High Line is maintained as an extraordinary public space for all visitors to enjoy. In addition to overseeing maintenance, operations, and public programming for the park, Friends of the High Line works to raise the essential private funds to support more than 90 percent of the park’s annual operating budget, and to advocate for the preservation and transformation of the High Line at the Rail Yards, the third and final section of the historic structure, which runs between West 30th and West 34th Streets.
The High Line is located on Manhattan's West Side. It runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th & 11th Avenues. The first section of the High Line opened on June 9, 2009. It runs from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street. The second section, which runs between West 20th and West 30th Streets, opened June 8, 2011.
Access to the High Line is possible via any of the access points listed below. The High Line is fully wheelchair accessible.
  • Gansevoort Street
  • 14th Street (elevator access)
  • West 16th Street (elevator access)
  • West 18th Street
  • West 20th Street
  • 23rd Street (elevator access)
  • West 26th Street
  • West 28th Street
  • West 30th Street (elevator access)
Sounds pretty cool, doesn't it? A very neat stop for the first time visitor to New York City. 
Shopping – Icons like Bergdorf Goodman (if for only to see the merchandise, well worth the trip), Bloomingdales, Macy’s (just undergoing a huge renovation), Saks Fifth Avenue and areas like Soho, the West Village display exclusive items that you normally do not see at home. I would highly suggest going in shops you do not have in your local area. Try to find something that looks unique, and different, that you can buy gifts for family and friends, or items for yourself. Always seek out a place that will make you oohhh and ahhh, I love when I walk in and I am just blown away!! 
Eataly - I waited a little while to visit this Italian food mecca. Once I walked in, my eyes were amazed. There is a market, restaurants and a cooking school. Located on 5th Avenue, near 23rd and 24th streets, the flatiron district, a great area to walk around and shop. You will not be disappointed here. It is true Italian food at it's finest. The way it should be. Total Perfection. 

A Free Day - Yes, that is what I said, A Free Day. Pick an area, do not make an agenda, and just walk. New York City is one of the best cities to do this and you end up having a fabulous day. As they say, "Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans". Itineraries are a great idea, don't get me wrong, but it is nice to just let the plans go and see what new finds you come across. 

I know I have many New York folks who read this blog, which I find as a huge compliment. What unique place would you suggest to a first time visitor? What have I missed, as I am sure I have, even though this list is pretty long.

Today's Words of Wisdom: Trust Your Intuition

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. These suggestions are based on my own experiences visiting New York City. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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s.c said...

Great posting here. I have recommended the two muse a and the highline to a lot of friends and colleagues but I shall add your blog also. Very handy for a visitor.

Chic Delights said...

Great recommendations. I like the Soho area very much. Next time, I would love to visit Eataly. Thank you for sharing.

Beth Anderson said...

This is fantastic! You definitely hit all the key spots. A perfect post for anyone wondering what to do on their first visit. I went to the Highline and Chelsea market for the first time last summer and I'm in NYC frequently. Always something new to see!

Lisa Gordon said...

This is absolutely fantastic!
Thank you!!

nycstylelittlecannoli said...

Thank you Lisa Gla d it is helpful for you!!

Content Director - Strong Female Leaders said...

What a wonderful guide. And unique indeed. Though my husband and I have been to New York many times, I still want to do the stuff you suggested. My favorite part of the city is the Brooklyn Bridge.

nycstylelittlecannoli said...

Yes, the Brooklyn Bridge is really quite fabulous! There is so much to do, and always new events to attend as well. Have a great week!!

Sandy at You May Be Wandering said...

This is a fantastic guide for first timers (or even people like me who have lived in the area for almost 30 years!).

Thanks for sharing, Rosemary!! xoxoxo

miss b said...

A wonderful guide with a good mix of well-known tourist places and local knowledge. I like the idea of a cupcake tour! Thank you for all your
excellent recommendations.

Unknown said...

Loved this post, I have always wanted to travel to New York, I'm on the west coast. I am hoping to finally make it sometime this summer, so I am bookmarking your site!

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