Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Guest Post: NYC for Newbies

Good afternoon! As I'm currently lounging beachside in the sunny Dominican Republic, I enlisted the help of a friend to write a little travel-inspired post today. Ashley lives in NYC and works as a production assistant for the NY Rangers, so we have a bit in common with our love for hockey. Without further ado, here is Ashley to tell you all about the best things to do on a first-timers trip to NYC!

Hi everyone! My name is Ashley, and I currently live in New York City and blog at Under the Ash TreeSamantha has never been to New York, so I thought I’d compile a list of the must-do NYC things for first time visitors to share with all of you!

When people come to New York they tend to have a list of things they want to see: Times Square, Central Park, the Empire State Building, etc. You should definitely go to all those places. They all are part of what makes New York so great, but I think there are better ways to to the highlights that are way less generic than what the tours and books recommend. 

Central Park Statues
I recommend starting early in Central Park.  Take the subway or a cab to Columbus Circle for the best most beautiful park entrance and just walk. My favorite thing to tell people to do is to go a central park scavenger hunt to find all of the best statues the park offers. It’s truly the best way to cover it.  Do you have kids or happen to like Disney?  Then the Alice and Wonderland Statue at East 74th Street or the Balto Statue—featured in the Balto movie—found on Central Park East Drive & East 66th Street are great little adventures. Or just walk down The Mall to get a look at iron versions of William Shakespeare, Ludwig van Beethoven, Christopher Columbus, & many more.  End your Central Park tour at Strawberry Fields, the John Lennon Memorial at West 72nd, to see the beautiful and famous, “Imagine” sign.

When you’re ready, hop on the downtown-bound C train at 72nd Street and get off 3 stops later at 50th street, you’ll be about a block away from 1650 Broadway, home of Ellen’s Stardust Dinner and right in the middle of Times Square.  Ellen’s is a classic restaurant known for it’s singing waitstaff and is a great place to just people watch around Times Square. Enjoy the performances and the hamburgers before walking over to the Novotel.  Novotel is a bit of a hidden gem.  Not many New Yorkers even know it exists, let alone know how awesome it can be!  Just walk straight in the door and take the elevator up to the lobby level where you will find an amazing bar which overlooks all of Times Square.  Grab a drink (or a coffee) and enjoy seeing Times Square from above without having to pay a penny for the view.

When you’re ready for your next adventure, jump on the 1 train heading downtown and get off at  South Ferry (the last stop) to take the Staten Island Ferry.  The Staten Island Ferry is a commuter ferry that takes New Yorkers from Staten Island to Manhattan (and vice versa) for FREE.  It’s a great resource for city dwellers, and happens to have the best view of the Statue of Liberty in New York City.  It doesn’t take you right up to Lady Liberty, but if you want to get a great view and save the cash, this is 100% free and the best way to do that.  Ferries come every 30 minutes and while you will have to get off the ferry in Staten Island, there is plenty of time to get off and get right back on to head back. If you’re feeling more adventurous, Staten Island does have a pretty vibrant Indian food culture and a zoo.  However, if you’re short on time, just hop right back on that boat.

When you arrive back in Manhattan, you’ll be right nearby Battery Park, a gorgeous 25-acre park at the very southern tip of Manhattan.  Take a look around, do some exploring and when you’re ready for dinner, hop on a 4 or 5 uptown-train from Bowling Green and get off 4 stops later at Union Square.  Union Square is the heart of lower Manhattan bordering Chelsea, Greenwich Village, East Village and the Flatiron District.  It has a ton of restaurants right nearby but the one I recommend most is Max Brenner, also known as “Chocolate by the Bald Man.”  Max Brenner is a chocolate-themed restaurant. They do have good food, but their specialties are deserts and drinks.  Share a main course and splurge on the fondu.  If it’s winter, get some thick, delicious hot chocolate, and if it’s summer go for the milkshakes. It’s not the cheapest of restaurants, but for New York it’s fairy reasonable and highly memorable.

After Dinner, hopefully as the sun is beginning to set, walk up 5th Avenue to 27th street, about 10 blocks from Union Square.  If your tired you can take the the N or R uptown train from Union Square two stops to 28th st and broadway, but walking won’t take much longer.  At 230 Fifth Avenue, you’ll find one of my favorite spots in New York, the bar called 230 Fifth! 230 Fifth is my go to bar for anyone dying for a stunning view of the Empire State building and the rest of the Manhattan skyline.  The best part is that it’s also free!  Sure, a drink is probably required, but unlike any of the other viewing locations in the city, you don’t have to pay a ton to experience a great view.  The best part is it’s open all year round. 230 Fifth is famous for it’s red, fuzzy robes to keep you warm all winter long!

Other things you can mix and match into your first New York City trip are:

Broadway Shows: New York City is famous for its theater and if you're a theater lover like myself going to a show is top of the list. My favorite way to get cheap tickets is to go right at the opening of the box office, most theaters in New York have limited number of $25-$40 day-of tickets, some theaters sell them only to students, but most have a “general rush” policy. Another great way is to use the app TodayTix. It’s an iPhone App, really easy to use and has some of the best deals out there. You may have heard of TKTS, the discount theater provider in the middle of Times Square, but honestly I don’t recommend it. The line is long, and I have always found cheaper tickets than the ones they have.

The Highline: If the weather is nice I highly recommend a visit to New York’s newest–and most beautiful in my opinion–park “The Highline.” The Highline was build on a former railway and stretches down the west side of Manhattan for about 1.5 miles. It’s a great walk, filled with unique photo opportunities and a killer view, but go early on nice days it does get pretty crowded.

The Strand: For any book lovers out there, the Strand– which is right across the street from the above Max Brenners– is the best bookstore in New York. It has everything, and it’s cheap! Even if you don’t want to take anything home, a walk through the bookstore is worth the trip, especially if you’re around Union Square.

Greenwich Village/Lower East Side: Once you get below 14th in New York, the city gets a bit complicated.  Numbers mostly disappear and streets don’t follow the predictable grid system. That’s okay though, the best thing about Greenwich Village and the LES is that it’s so easy to get lost, and that is fantastic. Lots of cute indie, vintage and high end shops, mixed in with cheap off-off-off broadway shows and diverse cultural food opportunities. This makes this area the best when you have a few hours to kill and no real plans!

Honorable Mentions: The Brooklyn Bridge, Harlem, Chinatown/Little Italy & my favorite borough– Brooklyn, but that could be a post all it’s own.

You could spend months in New York and still not see everything there is, but there is nothing quite like your first time in the city. Enjoy it! If you have any questions feel free to tweet me or check out my blog for more NYC info! Thanks Samantha for letting me post today! What are your favorite things to do in NYC or recommendations to visitors?


  1. Thank you so much for sharing! Loved this. I've been to NYC twice but feel all I've done is the main tourist spots. I loved them but want to head back soon and explore more of the city. Some great tips to get me started.

    1. Glad it helped! I haven't made it to NYC yet, but I know that when I do I'll be checking this list out again for sure!

  2. Just pinned this because I'm actually going to NYC this summer! :) Thanks for the great post, girls!

    1. Glad we were able to help ya! Can't wait to read about your NYC trip :)


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