Updated: Jul 17, 2020
Here is my complete guide to New York City. Where to stay, where to go, and what to eat. Also, I added my favorite NYC Christmas spots!
My favorite airport is La Guardia Airport (LGA) because I like to fly via Southwest Airlines.
The main reasons why I love to fly Southwest Airlines is:
a) rapid reward points
b) companion passes
c) I have “A list status” so I can board early
(No, I am not getting paid to write this about Southwest.)
Another popular airport is the John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). I suggest shopping around and picking the airport that you can score the best flight deals on.
La Guardia Airport is under construction. In order to take a taxi from the airport, you must first take a shuttle to the taxi service area. A taxi from La Guardia Airport to NYC should cost around $33.00. Do not get scammed by the people holding up Uber signs and asking if you want to skip the taxi shuttle line by using their Uber service. They will try to charge you $75 and they are not with Uber. Trust me we fell for it because we were tired and lazy.
I believe the best place to stay is in Time Square. That will put you in the heart of all the tourist attractions and the middle of everything. Seriously, you can even walk to the Broadway shows.
What to do and where to eat.
Day 1 in NYC
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
We took a taxi from Time Square to Battery Park in Lower Manhattan.
If you want to go up to the statues crown, then you need to purchase tickets at least 6 months to a year in advance. If you want tickets to the pedestal, I suggest 3 months in advance.
Be Prepared, all American historic sites in NYC have strict security procedures that are equal to the security procedures at the airport. Trust me I learned the hard way. I lost a good can of pepper spray that day to the trash.
We bought our tickets online through Statue Cruises. I suggest picking the earliest time available because the later in the day the longer the lines will get. Statue Cruises will drop you off at the Statue of Liberty then Ellis Island. Make sure you are on the right hand side of the cruise ship so you can capture some amazing memories. The cruise ship will circle the Statue of Liberty which is perfect for pictures.
Once on the Statue of Liberty Island, you will see some incredible views of NYC and the Statue of Liberty. Do I think going inside the Statue of Liberty is necessary? No, it’s just a bunch of stairs. Be prepared, for a good workout.
Also, the Statue of Liberty Museum is located on the island and it is free.
Once completed, you can jump on the next ferry that runs every 20 minutes. It will take you to the next stop, Ellis Island, which is free with your Statue Cruise’s ticket.
Check the information desk for movie time. Included with your ticket is a 30 minute movie about Ellis Island. They even offer free tours of Ellis Island.
Trinity Church Cemetery-Free
*Use the “Google Maps” app on your phone to find your way around NYC. Once you plug in the location then select walking directions*
After the Statue Cruise we walked from Battery Park to the church. Trinity Church is gorgeous!
This is where Alexander Hamilton is buried. This place is for all the people who love the Broadway show “Alexander Hamilton” or for the people who just love history.
“How does a bastard, orphan son of a whore
And a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean
By providence, impoverished, in squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar?
My name is Alexander Hamilton
And there’s a million things I haven’t done
But just you wait, just you wait”
Hungry? Well you need to try the New York pizza while in New York.
Right down the street is the famous Joe’s pizza. Is it good? Heck ya.
Look at all the celebrities who love Joe’s Pizza. Their walls is covered with pictures of celebrities at Joe’s Pizza. You will understand why everyone stops at Joe’s when they are in New York! It’s Mmmm good!
I remember this episode where Kim Kardashian stopped for a slice of pizza before she started her “fitness journey” aka diet. This would be one of my stops too, if I was about to start a diet.
One World Trade Center- Free
Once you leave Joe’s, head on foot to the One World Trade Center.
It is the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Center. Just enjoy its beauty.
9/11 Memorial- Free
Keep walking until you come across the 9/11 Memorial. This place will bring tears to your eyes. I remember coming to this location after 9/11 and seeing a pile of rubble. It is sad to see the rubble gone, because now it just makes it more of a memory and less of a reality for me. Never Forget, but I guess at some point you need to let go and rebuild.
Westfield World Trade Center- Free
Next door, is the underground shopping area. We boarded the subway in the underground mall so we could go back to Time Square. If you want to shop, then here is your chance. Go shopping then board the subway!
It was only a few blocks from our Time Square hotel, therefore we walked.
There is nothing better in this world than to hear them say on stage….
“You can be anywhere in the world right now and you are here with me in New York City.”
Watching a Broadway show on Broadway is a once in lifetime experience for a traveler like me. I felt beyond blessed! If you can fit a Broadway show into your schedule then do it!
We saw Alexander Hamilton, which is an award-winning musical for a reason. This was the main reason why my college student wanted to come to New York. I now completely understand! I am now OBSESSED with the musical soundtrack. You can even hear my kids singing the songs around our house. I’m that obsessed with it. My four year old daughter was just singing the song a few minutes ago while she was playing.
Broadway Dress Code:
Honestly, it seems like people in my hometown dress up more for the musicals than the people in New York City. I love to dress up therefore I was wearing a sequins top with black dress pants. I saw that most people were just wearing jeans and basic shirts.
Ellen’s Stardust Diner
This diner is located at the end of Time Square, therefore it was a short walk to breakfast for us.
This is where a lot of the Broadway stars are discovered. Hello, it’s right down the street from Broadway. While eating your meal, their world famous waitstaff performs live, right in front of you, as they deliver coffee to their tables. It’s insane! Talk about talent.
We had breakfast at Ellen’s Stardust, because we wanted to beat the long lines. Seriously, the lines will wrap around the building all day long. The earlier you arrive the better. Although, the lines are long, they go super-fast. Do not let the lines discourage you. It’s worth the wait. I promise.
The breakfast was surprisingly good.
Next time, I want to try one of their colorful bagels.
After breakfast we headed on foot to the Rockefeller Center. We passed the Giant Christmas Ornaments at 1251 Sixth Avenue.
A popular spot to visit is the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. You can see a 360-degree view of the Manhattan skyline for $38. I suggest ordering your tickets online in advance. We skipped this tourist attraction and elected for a higher New York view experience, so waited for the Empire State Building.
However, we did visit the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and skating ring. The tree is HUGE. My best friend would love it!
FAO Schwarz Toy Store and the Lego Store are only a few steps from the Rockefeller Center.
Of course, my college student had to go into the toy store.
After exploring the Rockefeller area, we headed back on foot to explore Time Square.
Just like in Hollywood, you will find people dressed up as characters. Make sure you negotiate prices. If they ask for $10 offer $5. My son is obsessed with Thanos so we had to send him this picture.
I suggest exploring on your own. My favorite stores are the M&M, Hershey’s, & Disney Store.
Hershey’s store has some delicious snacks!
Central Park- Free
We walked from Time Square to Central Park.
There are several ways you can get around central park:
A) Walk or Walking Tour– Central Park is huge so be prepared to walk.
B) Rent a Bike– This was my first option. However, without a tour guide you can easily miss out on entire sections of Central Park
C) Horse Carriage Ride– I did this once and I loved it. It’s crazy expensive! Sadly, they never stop, so you never get to really explore central park. If you want a relaxing view of Central Park then this is the way to go.
D) Pedicab Tour– This was perfect for us. You have a tour guide who will take you to all the major Central Park spots. You are allowed 15 minutes at each spot to explore.
Pedicab Tour through Central Park- $120
Make sure you negotiate on price.
Here is our tour guides contact information:
He was chill, laid back, and amazing!
My favorite spots in Central Park:
This is where Chuck and Blair got married on the popular series Gossip Girl.
“New York, I love you. XOXO”
“Three words, eight letters”- Chuck Bass
You will pass by The Plaza from the movie “Home Alone.”
Also, the spot where the snow fight went down in the movie “Elf”. We were there in late December, but no snow like in the movies.
Bridges and Arches of Central Park
This is a great spot for family photos.
This is where you will find “Friends” fountain.
Strawberry Fields in Central Park
John Lennon Memorial in Central Park
John Lennon and Yoko Ono lived on the top floor. He was killed right outside this building by one of his fans. His wife still lives on the top floor and she can see his memorial that she designed from her window. Talk about a sad, true story.
Seriously, you could spend an entire day in Central Park. There is so much to see and do.
Grand Central Station- Free
We walked to the Grand Central Station. This place is massive.
Gossip Girl Fans
“Hey Upper East Siders. Gossip Girl here. And I have the biggest news ever. One of my many sources, Melanie91, sends us this: “Spotted at Grand Central, bags in hand: Serena van der Woodsen.” Was it only a year ago our It Girl mysteriously disappeared for “boarding school”? And just…”
FYI- If you are hungry then you can find a mall-like food court underground.
New York Public Library- Free.
We walked from Central Station to the New York Public Library.
Is it worth a visit? Yes, it is breathtaking!
If there’s something strange
In your neighborhood
Who you gonna call?
Do you remember this spot in the first movie?
Right next to the New York Public Library.
This park has a Christmas Tree and Skating ring just like the Rockefeller Center.
Also, this park has year-round shopping and food.
I even found a store named after me. Do you get it?
Dinner in NYC
While in New York, you need to try a street hot dog for $5. OMG so good!
Also, you need to try a New York Cheesecake. I think we prefer our Southern Cheesecake over the New York Cheesecake. However, at least we gave it a chance. Which do you like better?
Empire State Building
We took the subway from Time Square to the Empire State Building.
*Use your “Google Maps” on your phone to find the subway stations.*
After 3 days of walking we were exhausted so we slept till noon. Once we woke up we were ready to head out to the Empire State Building.
FYI- The lines are long and the security is intense. I would say it’s equal to airport security.
We selected the cheapest option which is the “Main Deck & 2nd Floor Museum” ticket for $42 a person. We had access to a 360-degree view of NYC from the 86th Floor Observatory. You can pay a little more and go to the 102nd floor, aka Top Deck. I’m not sure if that’s necessary considering you can see all over NYC from the 86th floor. If you have sensitive ears, I suggest bringing gum. My ears were popping in the elevator. Look at this view. It was worth the $42.
Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge- Free
We took the subway from the Empire State Building to the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn bridge.
I suggest doing this at night. Start on the Brooklyn side and walk across to the New York side. The view is stunning at night! I wish my pictures gave it justice. We went right around 5:00pm when the sun was going down. `When you are walking across, you can even see the Statue of Liberty light up. It really is a spectacular view.
Dinner in NYC
Carmine’s Italian Restaurant
Two blocks from Time Square.
You must have Italian food while in NYC. Please! I beg you to do it.
This restaurant is famous for a reason, because it is DELICIOUS. Reservations are not required. We didn’t have reservations and waited 2 ½ hours for a table. I suggest making that reservation online.
It’s family sized servings. Literally one meal can feed an army!
We even made a mistake and ordered an appetizer that could feed an entire army. We knew when the appetizer came out that there was no way we would have room for the main meal.
The free bread is to die for.
I hope I have you excited about your NYC trip. New York City is my favorite city in the United States. I understand that New York isn’t for everyone. If you hate crowds and people then this is not the city for you. If you love the fast pace, neon lights, and the hustle life style, then you will love NYC. Honestly, if I could afford to live in NYC, I would pack my bags right now. NYC is a big city for people with big dreams, and those dreams are what makes this world turn.
Looking for a NYC hotel click here.