Visit New York: A Guide to New York City’s Must-See Attractions

For most of my teenage and adult life, I had dreamt of the day I would finally visit New York City. I imagined looking up at the Statue of Liberty, spending a day shopping up a storm in Soho and I wanted to stand in absolute awe, in the middle of Times Square and never leave. I wanted one of those ‘I love NYC’ t-shirts, and every other cliche tourist souvenir you can imagine. Yes, I was (and still am) that person. But that’s okay. It’s okay to dream. In fact, I encourage it! Especially when it comes to seeing the world. Having a dream, took me to my favourite city in the world!

I’m sure you’re wondering why I spent most of my life dreaming of visiting New York. Well, to be honest, I don’t have one answer to that question. Like most kids, I had grown up watching movies and TV shows that were filmed in New York, and seen photos online and in stores. Eventually, New York City had made it’s way to the top of my bucket list. It wasn’t until June 2015 that I finally ticked it off that list. I took the plunge and booked my first solo trip. Although it was a Contiki tour, I had still never traveled solo before, so it was an exhilarating feeling. The lead up to my departure day was super exciting, and my last day at work was even better!

So what were my favourite things about New York City? What is there to see and do? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. I’ve come up with a guide to NYC, including what to see and do, where to stay and more!

Visit New York: A Guide to New York City's Must-See Attractions

Visit New York: A Guide to New York City’s Must-See Attractions

Airport to Manhattan Transfer

If you’re planning a visit to New York, I assume you’re either road-tripping around the United States, or flying into one of the major airports. In regards to airports, your choices are: John F Kennedy (JFK), Newark or La Guardia.

Depending on the time of day you arrive in New York, I suggest catching a Taxi to Manhattan. John F Kennedy Airport is the furthest away from Manhattan, and will take around an hour to arrive in the city. If you opt to catch a Taxi, it will cost around $50 (not including a tip for your driver). A Taxi from Newark Airport will cost around $60, and around $30 from La Guardia (again, not including a tip).

Note: Since I arrived in New York City with an organised tour, I didn’t have to catch public transport or a Taxi to my accomodation. So the above information is what I have found online, and may not be 100% accurate.

Another great option is public transport. Considering traffic can be super busy in New York City, being able to catch a train between any airports within New York and Manhattan, is another affordable and convenient choice if you decide to opt against catching a Taxi. It all depends on your situation and preferred method of transport, of course!

New York City Accomodation

Unfortunately, the rumours you’ve heard are true: New York City can be an insanely expensive place to stay. But you can also do it on a budget. Like anywhere in the world, New York has cheap hostel and hotel options. It all depends on your style, and what type of accomodation you prefer!

You can get a last minute budget hotel (or hostel) for around $100 per night – you’ll obviously pay less if you book ahead. If you prefer to live it up, the most expensive last minute hotel will cost you anywhere up to $1,200 per night. Again, it all depends on your preference.

I recommend Hotel Beacon on Broadway, for decently priced close-to-the-action accomodation. The rooms are excellent, staff are fabulous and the location is perfect! This is where my Contiki group stayed, and I was very happy with their choice.

You can search for hotels in your desired New York neighbourhood by clicking here. Hotels Combined will, well, combine hotels for you! That way, you know you’re always getting the best deal. Which is especially important in an expensive city like New York.

Visit New York: A Guide to New York City's Must-See Attractions | Rhiannon Travels

New York City Public Transport

New York City is fairly easy to travel around using public transport. Their Subway system is fantastic, with a huge amount of stations and different train lines. On average, trains run every 10 minutes (every 2 minutes during peak hours throughout the day). If you’re traveling to Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn, the Subway is definitely your best option!

If you’re planning to travel quite a bit using the Subway, I suggest purchasing a MetroCard. Load some money onto it, and not only is your fare cheaper, but it’s also a lot easier! The lines may seem confusing at first, but it’s pretty simple: you’ve got uptown and downtown. It took me a few shots to get it right, but I was a natural in no time! Grab a city map and it’ll be a piece of cake.

Visit New York: A Guide to New York City's Must-See Attractions | Rhiannon Travels Visit New York: A Guide to New York City's Must-See Attractions | Rhiannon Travels

New York City Things to See & Do

When I knew I was finally going to visit New York City, I started writing a list of everything I wanted to see and do. Obviously, this list was huge. There was no way I would fit it all in to 5 days, so I had to pick and choose. One of the major upsides to traveling with Contiki, is all of the planning is done for you. So I was able to cross off a lot from my New York City bucket list, without having to do any of the organising or planning – which was awesome!

Here is my suggested 5 day guide to exploring New York City. Obviously, there is a LOT that I couldn’t fit, so alter this guide to your own liking and preferences!

Day One: Explore the City & World Trade Centre Museum

Start your first full day in New York, by heading out to do some exploring. Depending on where your accomodation is located, you can see quite a bit of the city just by walking. So choose a direction, and head out! There’s so much to see around New York, and you’re bound to come across some hidden gems. Don’t give yourself too much of a plan, or even anything to tick off a list you’ve made. Just explore as far and as wide as you can!

After you’ve explored some of the city, head to lower Manhattan. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is definitely something I recommend every visitor to New York City experiences. It’s pretty easy to find, and most Subway lines can take you there. If you’re unsure, just ask at a Subway station, or even ask a local for directions while exploring the city.

The 9/11 Museum has a few different sections to it. In the historical exhibition, there are three parts: the day of 9/11, before 9/11 and after 9/11. Take your time wandering through the exhibits – there’s no time limit once you’re inside the museum. The memorial exhibit commemorates the people who lost their lives on September 11. You can reserve your tickets to the 9/11 Museum by clicking here. Tickets cost $24 for an adult and $15 for a youth (age 7-17).

End the night on a positive note, and head to Times Square! The bright lights and endless amount of people will put you in awe, and make you realise just how big and popular New York City is. There are a ton of shopping and food options for every taste. Don’t worry about seeing every inch of Times Square in one night. I guarantee you’ll be back.

Visit New York: A Guide to New York City's Must-See Attractions - Times Square | Rhiannon Travels

This was the first time I saw Times Square! Fresh off a plane and a bus from the airport, we dropped off our luggage and caught the Subway at 11pm!

Day Two: The Statue of Liberty

You can’t leave New York without visiting the Statue of Liberty. Literally. They actually stop you at the airport and ask if you’ve seen it, then kick you out if you tell them you haven’t. Nah, I’m just kidding (obviously). But in all honesty, it’s just one of those things that you just need to do. Even if you’re not a fan of being all touristy and seeing all the hot spots.

You can purchase tickets from the State Cruises website by clicking here. For access to just the grounds and the first viewing platform, it will cost $18.50 for adults and $9 for kids. For Crown Reserve tickets (which gets you to the crown viewing platform), tickets cost $21.50 for adults and $12 for kids. The fee also includes your return ferry ride. Bargain.

Visit New York: A Guide to New York City's Must-See Attractions | Rhiannon Travels

Tip: Since it’s a safe bet that The Statue of Liberty is the most popular and visited attraction, it’s always going to be busy and filled with people. For photos free of selfie sticks and other travelers, head to either side of the Statue. There are hardly any people (everyone wants that front on shot), and you’ll be able to get a much better photo. You’re welcome.

Visit New York: A Guide to New York City's Must-See Attractions | Rhiannon Travels

It was a super busy day with tons of people, but you wouldn’t be able to tell! We took our photos from the side of the Statue of Liberty!

Day Three: Central Park & Times Square

Whenever you hear New York City, Central Park is one of the first things you think of, right? Well that makes sense. Central Park is one of (if not THE) most famous park in the world. Even though it’s essentially just a park, there’s a ton of awesome stuff to do and see. For example, my Contiki group and I did a bike tour around Central Park. It was a cool way to see the park, and I definitely think I saw more being on a bike than I would have if I was walking!

Within Central park, There’s also Central Park Zoo, a carousel, Belvedere Castle, a theatre and much more!

After exploring Central Park, head back to Times Square. Trust me, you’re gonna wanna see it more than once. There’s so much to experience. So many restaurants and shops, bars and unexpected things to see. I remember the moment I stepped out of the Subway, and saw Times Square for the first time. It was one of those ‘I can’t believe I’m actually here’ moments in my life. Standing amongst the craziness, thousands of people and bright lights is something I’ll never forget.

Visit New York: A Guide to New York City's Must-See Attractions - Times Square | Rhiannon Travels

I still get goosebumps looking at these photos! My first Times Square experience.

Day Four: Top of the Rock & The High Line

I know there are a lot of people who think the Empire State Building has the best views of New York City (and yeah, the views are great!) but I recommend heading to the Top of the Rock in Rockefeller Plaza instead. For absolutely amazing views – and the oh so popular shot of Central Park – the Top of the Rock is well worth the entrance fee. For around $35, you’ll get incredible views of the Park, Midtown and Downtown Manhattan. This was definitely one of the highlights of New York for me. I know that’s super cliche and tourist-like, but that’s okay!

Visit New York: A Guide to New York City's Must-See Attractions - Top of the Rock | Rhiannon Travels Visit New York: A Guide to New York City's Must-See Attractions - Top of the Rock | Rhiannon Travels Visit New York: A Guide to New York City's Must-See Attractions - Top of the Rock | Rhiannon Travels Visit New York: A Guide to New York City's Must-See Attractions - Top of the Rock | Rhiannon Travels Visit New York: A Guide to New York City's Must-See Attractions - Top of the Rock | Rhiannon Travels

Once you’ve finished admiring the beautiful views of New York City from the Top of the Rock, I suggest heading to the High Line. If you’ve never heard of the High Line before, basically it’s an old train line from the 30’s, which was turned into a garden and relaxing place to sit and people watch! There are a few different sections of the High Line, but just Google the High Line Start Point and you’ll be there in a jiffy!

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Day Five: Shopping in Soho & The Friends Building

New York City is pretty great when it comes to shopping. You could spend hours in the Forever 21 in Times Square (and trust me, I did). But Soho is on a whole other level. It’s crazy confusing to navigate if you’ve never been before, and I definitely gave Google Maps a workout that day, but it’s totally worth it! I spent a couple of hours (and over $250) exploring Soho on my second to last day in New York. Let’s just say, my suitcase was pretty damn heavy after that unexpected shopping trip.

There are a ton of awesome stores and definitely something for everyone. Just make sure you either bring lots of cash or a credit card, because it’s very hard to not buy absolutely everything! Unless of course, you don’t enjoy shopping. In which case, disregard everything I have said about Soho!

Visit New York: A Guide to New York City's Must-See Attractions - shop up a storm in Soho | Rhiannon Travels

If you’re a fan of the classic sitcom Friends, you need to add this to your itinerary. The exterior building used as Monica’s apartment, is actually in Greenwich Village! It’s super easy to find, just put this address into Google Maps: 90 Bedford Street, and it’s at the corner of Bedford and Grove Street. Don’t worry, even if you’ve only seen five minutes of Friends, you’ll know it when you see it. There will probably be tons of tourists snapping photos and having selfies in front of the building. Just like I did!

I grew up watching Friends, and it’s been my favourite show for most of my life. So I was more than ecstatic to finally see this famous building in person!

Visit New York: A Guide to New York City's Must-See Attractions - Friends Building | Rhiannon Travels

Other New York City Attractions & Things To Do

Helicopter Flight over New York City

There are thousands of things to do in New York City. But again, since I only had a few days, and limited free time, I wasn’t able to see everything that I wanted to! But I do have a couple of other suggestions to fill out your time in NYC. As part of my Contiki tour, we had the option to purchase extra activities. One of those activities, was a helicopter flight over Manhattan! I spent quite a bit of time trying to decide whether to spend the money, but eventually decided to go for it.

Considering there is a pretty hefty price tag of just over $200 for 12-15 minute flight time, not everyone will be able to experience the helicopter tour. But at the time, I was living at home, didn’t have any expenses and had saved for quite a while for this trip, so I figured why not! The views from the helicopter are best on a clear day, but regardless of the weather, it’s an experience you’ll never forget!

I’m not entirely sure if this is the tour I did, but it’s very similar!

Click for a list of my must-see New York City locations! #newyorkcity Click To Tweet
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Catch a filming of the American Today Show

Okay, this was purely fluke. We were exploring near Rockefeller Plaza, and happened to notice that there was a group of people crowded around a window across the road. So being nosy, my Contiki friends and I went to see what the fuss was about. Turns out, they were filming the day’s live episode of the Today Morning Show! How cool. My grandma has watched the American Today show for as long as I can remember, so I knew it pretty well. It was a cool experience being able to see them film it!

Visit New York: A Guide to New York City's Must-See Attractions | Rhiannon Travels

Next door is the NBC Experience Store where you can buy a whole bunch of cool souvenirs and TV show merchandise. I left with a Friends mug, which is actually the size of a small bowl, rather than a mug. There’s a ton of different merchandise available, definitely something to interest most people!

Visit New York: A Guide to New York City's Must-See Attractions | Rhiannon Travels

Visit New York: A Guide to New York City's Must-See Attractions | Rhiannon Travels

Oh yeah, I also had a selfie with this guy from the Today Show. Pretty cool for a cardboard cutout. (I’m fully aware how lame I am, thank you very much).

Well, that’s about all the tips I have for you about New York! Seeing this wonderful city had been my dream for such a long time. Finally being able to visit, will always be one of the best moments in my life. I know there are people who dislike the city and wouldn’t visit New York if someone paid them, but that’s okay!

Have you had the chance to visit New York City before? What’s your favourite part about it? What was your favourite attraction/restaurant/shop/experience? Tell me down below!

If you’re interested in doing a Contiki tour, I’ve published a post about my experience! You can read all about that, here.

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Disclaimer: This post contains an affiliate link. Which means, if you click on the link and make a purchase, I receive a tiny bit of commission at no extra cost to you. Any commission I receive, goes back into growing this blog and being able to provide as much useful information that I can! This will never change the fact that I always give my 100% honest opinions and advice!

  • Ahhh New York is such a spectacular city — I can’t wait to get back and explore more. Could spend a lifetime in NYC, it is just jam packed with fabulous things to do.

    Thanks for another fantastic post Rhiannon 🙂

    Lucy x

    • It really is, isn’t it! There is so much to see and do, impossible to see it all in a week. Thanks for reading, Lucy 🙂

  • Looks like you had such a great week in NYC! I have never been to NYC yet, but it is high on my list. Thank you for sharing this post, I found lots of good tips!

    • I definitely did have an amazing time! I hope you get to visit one day, you’ll have an amazing time! Thanks for reading 🙂

  • This looks like the ultimate NYC experience! I’m just back from New York and I absolutely loved it! It was my second time there. It is by far my favourite city in the world!

    • I definitely agree! It’s my favourite city in the world, too! What’s your favourite thing about the city? It’s awesome that you’ve been twice, gives you a chance to see and do more! Thanks for reading 🙂

  • This is awesome! I lived in New York for a year so I got to know the city really well. I completely agree that the view from Top of the Rock is better than the Empire State Building and The High Line is one of my favourite things in NYC! I would also really recommend seeing a broadway show in New York. If you get same-day tickets you can get huge discounts for almost all the shows!

    • I’m so jealous you lived in New York! How is it to live there? Since I only visited for a week, it’s hard to imagine living amongst the craziness. Did you live close to the city? I was disappointed with the fact there are the bars as opposed to the glass like on Top of the Rock! I never got the chance to see a Broadway show, but definitely when I go back I will make sure I do! Thanks for reading, Christie 🙂

      • It’s such a fun city to live in because it’s impossible to run out of New and exciting things to do. It is really busy and stressful too though, so it’s the kind of city that’s great for a few years but not to live forever 🙂 I love all the amazing brunch and happy hours around the city. I lived in Brooklyn, so away from the craziness but not far from the city!

  • You never stay in hostels? We, as a couple, do it all the time! They have private rooms as well, you know. 🙂
    Whoops, we didn’t visit the Statue of Liberty, just spotted her from the ferry. But we did visit every other spot you mentioned. Oh no, we didn’t see the Friends building either, but we did see Carrie Bradshaw’s house. 😉 Seeing Central Park from the Top of the Rock was definitely one of the highlights of my trip to New York City. It’s one of my favourite photos of our entire trip around the world. The park is just massive!
    I really liked Brooklyn Bridge as well! Oh, and you have to try the Halal Guys at least once during your visit to NYC! Sooooo good!

    • I guess I always associated hostels with groups of people, so I have actually never considered staying in one as a couple! Thank you for making me realise it’s possible, haha! Are private rooms still fairly cheap?
      It’s such an amazing view, isn’t it! And I love the fact that you get a clear shot – nothing in the way! Thanks for reading 🙂

      • Not as cheap as a dorm of course, but usually still pretty cheap, as you should divide the price over you two for comparison with the price of a dorm. In New York City we rented an AirBnB though, as we shared it with Brecht’s parents. 😉

  • Wow, this post is incredible! Thanks for sharing. This is a fantastic comprehensive guide to New York. I usually have to do all of the price-checking before we go somewhere, so you’ve saved me the hassle. Sounds like you had a goos time in the Big Apple too!

    • I’m so glad you found it helpful! Yeah, it’s definitely a good thing being prepared for the costs of traveling to certain places. I like to know beforehand, so budgeting and saving is easier! Thanks for reading, Sally 🙂

  • New York is definitely one of a kind. Haven’t been in almost 20 years now, but still remember it all as if it was yesterday (and still feel the neck aching from constantly looking up :)).
    Pinned these tips for later – would really love to take the kids there soon!

    • Wow, I think you need to go back and visit again! Yep, that’s definitely the case with New York haha. So many tall buildings, bright things to see and so much going on around you! I’m sure your kids would love visiting New York! Their eyes would be wide with amazement! Thanks for reading, Jurga 🙂

  • As a native New Yorker, I really have to say that I would NEVER take a taxi and I really disagree with you here. It’s a FLAT rate to/from the airport within NYC (know your rights), but seriously it is faster/better to take public transit. Traffic is a misery in rush hour and getting to/from the airport is very easy with good signage. New York is expensive enough as is and there’s no reason to waste money on a taxi from the airport. There are also shuttles that go direct to Manhattan for around $20.

    • Thanks for your input, Karen! I know there are a ton of different ways to get to and from the airport, and now that I think about it, public transport would definitely be a great option. I will edit the post to include your suggestions as alternatives. Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Thanks for putting together such a great resource!

  • Thank you for share your pictures in NYC this is really a fantastic post you have posted. After watching it I too wanna walk in New York .