First Time in New York? Here’s What To Do

Times Square at night

New York City is without a doubt one of the most vibrant, interesting cities in the world. There is so much to do that you might find it difficult deciding how to plan your first time. You know when you travel somewhere for a few days and around the middle of your vacation, you feel like you’ve seen everything the city has to offer? New York City is the exact opposite of that. No matter how many times I visit, I feel like there’s always more to see.

If you’re going to New York for the first time, there are the obligatory touristy things you have to do. If you plan to do all or most of them, you may save money with the City Pass, which includes admission to some of the most popular tourist spots. For $114 (for kids under 17, the price is $89), you gain access to some of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, while giving you some options to tailor your trip to your tastes. The Empire State Building and the 9/11 Memorial, for example, are stops most people don’t want to miss when they’re in the NYC. With the City Pass, you can also take a Circle Line sightseeing boat tour around Manhattan or visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis island. The sightseeing tour takes you from the Wall Street area all the way around to the Statue of Liberty, all the while you learn interesting information about the buildings and bridges you pass on the way. The other ferry option stops at the Statue and Ellis Island.

View of the New York skyline from a ferry tour.

If you like museums, New York City is the place to go. With the City Pass you gain access to the city’s most famous and world-renowned museums including the American Museum of Natural History, the Guggenheim, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, more commonly referred to as just The Met. For the art lover, this is a dream. You could comfortably spend a week there and just enjoy the city’s museums. The Met, in particular, is definitely quite an undertaking. With three floors and 19 different departments ranging from Roman to American and modern art. You could easily spend a day in The Met. It’s like its own tiny city.

So you’ve been to the Empire State Building, gone to three museums and taken a boat tour around Manhattan, all for $114. What now? You can keep it cheap by visiting the iconic parts of New York without spending a dime except maybe on subway fare. You can see Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, Wall Street, Trump Tower, Little Italy and Chinatown all for free. If you have an extra hour or so and you come at the right time of year, you can enjoy a little bit of ice skating in Rockefeller Plaza for about $25-30. If you like shopping, you can shop at some of the best stores in the world. If you thought you could spend all day at The Met, try an 8-story Macy’s.

If you enjoy tours, the city has tons of fun little tours. Some of the most talked about and recommended tours are the Real New York Tours and the NBC Studio tour. The Real New York Tours, the highest rated tour on Trip Advisor, gives you a local perspective and a look at some of the sites you might not otherwise look for or notice. At NBC, you can get a little bit of TV history while checking out some of the studios where your favorite shows like SNL are filmed.

Another one of the must-do activities in New York is to catch Broadway play or two. If you want to save on tickets, you can buy day of performance tickets for up to 50% off at TKTS booths in Times Square or South Street Seaport. If you want to enjoy the city’s nightlife, you can go just about anywhere to have a few drinks and stay up all night. And if you still have some time to kill, you can take a have a picnic in Central Park – maybe even check out the Central Park Zoo and see some penguins and polar bears in the middle of Manhattan.

And the food! I haven’t even mentioned the food! It is said that if you live in Manhattan for a year, you could eat in a different place for every meal of every day. That should give you a good idea of the options you can expect to choose from when you visit the Big Apple.

If you’re still not sure what to do in New York for the first time, the short answer is almost anything. New York City has it all and it is all there for you to experience.