New York City Travel Tips (For First Time Visitors)
New York City can seem overwhelming because of its fast pace and bright lights, but don't let that stop you from planning the ultimate first trip to the Big Apple. Start your journey here by learning more about the unique neighborhoods and how to get around this massive city. Our list of essential attractions in NYC will help you get started on planning your trip!
Here's the ultimate travel guide for your first time in New York City!
Getting to New York City
As one of the largest cities in the world, New York has plenty of major airports to get you where you need to go!
John F. Kennedy International Airport is the busiest airport and connects NYC to all the major cities of the USA and the world. If you plan to stay near Brooklyn or Park Slope, this airport is your best bet.
Adjacent to the Big Apple is the Newark Liberty International Airport. It is in New Jersey, but it’s convenient for people staying in Manhattan.
Moments after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ended, I made my way through the crowd and avoided traffic from the massive event by walking to New York Penn Station and taking the train. I was all checked in for my flight after a short 30 minute train ride and quick shuttle ride to the Newark airport.
If you're coming from Queens, Brooklyn or Long Island, then LaGuardia Airport is a better choice for you. It is located in Northern Queens and fairly easy to navigate.
You can also get to NYC from neighboring cities by train or bus. Plus, it's a pretty grand welcome entering into the stunning concourse and shops of Grand Central Station. Driving into the city is also an option, just be mindful of finding and paying for parking during your stay and encountering heavy traffic while you're there.
Where to Stay
New York City is a massive place, and planning a trip and deciding where you'd like to stay can be overwhelming. Not only are cost and amenities all factors in choosing your accommodations, but so is location. Start your planning by determining what neighborhood is the best base for you to see and do the things you want during your vacation!
The Boroughs of New York
The city is divided into five boroughs, or areas that belong to a different county, all having unique cultures and vibes of their own. If you’re familiar with New York, then I’m sure you’ve heard of at least one borough by name and what it's most known for.
It's the most famous borough that is pretty much synonymous with New York to most visitors. Get ready for the crowds because it might be the smallest borough, but it’s the most populated!
Did you know that it’s technically an island? Yup, Manhattan Island is home to the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty among the most iconic buildings and attractions of New York City in Midtown and Hell's Kitchen.
Situated on the western tip of Long Island, it is surrounded the water on all sides and has artisan coffee shops on every block in Williamsburg. The famous Brooklyn Bridge connects it to Manhattan. Home to many celebrities and some of the hippest people around, Brooklyn is famous for Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Museum, and Brooklyn Heights.
Queens is the largest and most diverse of them all with neighborhoods like Astoria and Long Island City. You can catch the biggest grand slammers of world tennis battle it out at the Flushing Meadows, home of the US Open.
You can check out the Unisphere, the Insta-worthy giant globe in the heart of Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Stopping by the Bohemian Beer Garden, Downtown Flushing, the Contemporary Art Center and just breathing the same air as my favorite nanny, Fran Drescher, all make Queens deserving of a visit when in New York.
This is the only mainland borough of New York at the northernmost tip separated from Manhattan by the newly-restored Harlem River.
It is primarily a residential borough with its waterfront being used for shipping and industrial purposes, but you can spend a lovely day hitting up Yankee Stadium, Bronx Zoo, and the Botanical Garden.
Albeit relatively small, it still has a lot to offer a person who’s been to most of the usual attractions or someone looking to enjoy a more “local” scene in New York City.
The must-see things to do include Staten Island Yankees, the zoo, Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, and the Botanical Garden. It's like the Bronx's baby bro!
How to get around New York City
You can get to NYC from neighboring cities by train or car. Once you're in the city, there are a handful of ways to get around.
- Walk - Fit in with the locals by stepping out and walking to where you want to go. Most neighbohoods in NYC are quite walkable, you’ll get some good people watching in, and sometimes it’s the faster option! Trust me, I once waited longer for a car to pick me up than it would have taken me to walk to my destination.
- Ride - If walking isn't possible, then you can take your pick of luxury cars, budget cabs, or rideshare services. Uber and Lyft are great when you are unsure how to get around and the destination is too far to walk to. NYC has one of the best cab services in the country with plenty of cheap and luxury cars at your service.
- Public Transportation - Getting around New York is simple with its easy-to-navigate train and bus services. The MTA Subways will take you to every nook and corner of the city and you’ll feel like a true New Yorker while riding ‘em!
Both the Top of the Rock and Empire State Building have the best views of the sparkling city skyline and surrounding rivers, and Central Park.
In NYC, you can feel like royalty in a horse-draw carriage ride through Central Park, glide into the holiday spirit by ice skating and shopping the Christmas market in Bryant Park, or enjoy a bit of lush nature in the heart of the concrete jungle in Prospect Park.
Whether you prefer modern art to contemporary or simply enjoy marveling at stunning architecture, you can't go wrong with visiting the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa), The Guggenheim, or the Metropolitan Museum of Art ("The MET").
A trip to New York City wouldn't be complete without stepping foot in iconic Times Square and strolling down Broadway getting lost in the bright lights and marquee signs. It's something you should do at least once in your life.
Catch a game
New York is a sports fan paradise. You can catch a Knicks or Nets basketball game, enjoy a Yankees or Mets ball game, see the Giants or Jets in an old pigskin game, or watch a tennis match or two or the entire US Open! Hockey fans have 3 teams to choose to see and soccer fans have 2 teams they can support in the area.
Moon New York City Travel Guide
No matter how overwhelmed I by trying to tackle it all, I always referred back to my handy Moon New York City travel guide for key recommendations and trusted advice on NYC! It's worth it to feel like you've got your own local tour guide right in your back pocket.
What are some first time travel tips you can share about New York City?