A first-timer’s guide to What to Eat and See in New York City.
A couple weeks ago my friend Lauren (from Lauren’s Latest) and I flew across the county to explore all we could of New York City for 3 days.
This was both of our first time to explore the city, so we each had a list of things we wanted to accomplish, and we marked off several. Obviously this is a massive city, so there are tons of things we missed, which just means we’ll have to go back again.
Here are some of our favorite things we did –
There are MANY iconic bakeries in NYC, so we made it a point to try as many of them out as we could.
Levain Bakery was one of the bakeries that was on both of our lists of MUST SEE.
I can not recommend this place highly enough. The cookies were larger than life, warm, and practically melt in your mouth.
The bakery itself isn’t large. It’s tucked away in a half underground building. Don’t let the modest exterior fool you, this place was hopping! When we arrived there was a decent line, but by the time we grabbed our cookies the line was at least 20 people deep.
Levain Bakery has more than cookies. There is also bread and coffee. But one look at their signature cookies and you’ll forget all about the breads.
Here’s a tip – ask for warm cookies! They’ll go in the back and grab a fresh cookie right out of the oven for you. Amazing!
RIDING BIKES THROUGH CENTRAL PARK
Want an affordable way to see the sites in central park? Hop on a bike and ride around!
Lauren and I rented some bikes for 2 hours ($24 each) and were able to ride around the 6.2 mile loop and see all the sites.
Central Park is a beautiful green escape from city life. It’s filled with lakes, bridges, parks, fields and loads of playgrounds.
We even stopped at a vendor to grab a soft pretzel. Just a side note- there are vendors located throughout the park, but most serve only beverages and snacks like pretzels and hotdogs.
Cash only at these locations, so come prepared!
This was a great way to see a lot with our short time frame. We LOVED this experience and highly recommend it!
CENTRAL PARK BIKE RENTALS
117 W 58th St
New York, NY 10019
STATUE OF LIBERTY
Obviously we couldn’t go to NYC without seeing Lady Liberty!
My friend had recently been to NYC and told me a great way to see the Statue of Liberty up close and for FREE was to take the ferry from Manhattan to Staten Island.
This was the BEST idea ever. Just make sure you pay attention to the ferry schedule for busy times and try to avoid them.
There will be an area for you to stand outside, under a covering to see the Statue of Liberty, but there is also an indoors with benches for you to sit and relax. Once you get to Staten Island, just turn right around and hop on the next ferry heading back to Manhattan. The whole trip took us less than an hour!
Definitely a must see.
TWIN TOWERS MEMORIAL
The Twin Tower memorial is not very far from the ferry port so we just walked there after we got off the ferry.
This was a beautiful and completely surreal experience to see.
Each memorial is the footprint of where the buildings once stood. There are waterfalls that fall down into the center, then again into another center.
The names of the victims are engraved all around. White roses are left on the names of those who would have been celebrating their birthday that day.
It’s a beautiful memorial, and so completely humbling. God Bless America.
TV SHOWS & BROADWAY
I’ll be honest with you… our whole trip was based around one thing – The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
We scoured the Tonight Show’s twitter page and found out that in order to get tickets (which are free), you have to request them over a month in advance. So the first of September we waited until the the tickets were released and quickly jumped on to claim them.
We were lucky to get two tickets, which landed us front row!
Sorry the photos aren’t the greatest, they wouldn’t allow any picture inside the studio, so I took a screen shot of us from the TV!
There we are, front row, bottom right!
So if you’re wanting tickets, make sure you plan WAY in advance. But there are also standby ticket, which, if you get there early enough you might get in. We heard from many that getting actual tickets to this show is one of the most difficult to do, so definitely plan ahead!
One of my absolute favorites was when we went to Gershwin Theater and saw Wicked.
This was my first time watching it, Lauren had already seen it, but said she would see it again. I would watch it infinity more times, because it was the most amazing show ever!
Definitely one you don’t want to miss!
ROCKEFELLER CENTER –
This is where a lot of the TV show you see on NBC are filmed!
We didn’t go ice skating, but just seeing this famous location in person was pretty awesome. It was a lot smaller than I thought it was going to be.
Take the “Top of the Rock” tour, which takes you all the way up to the top of Rockefeller Center and you can see the most gorgeous views of the NYC skyline. We planned to go during sunset, but the night had rained out and visibility was low, so we went first thing in the morning. It was gorgeous!
You can see Central Park on one side and the Empire State Building on the other.
It’s amazing how big this city is!
GREAT PLACES TO EAT
We ate at so many different places, really, you can’t go wrong in New York.
THE SMITH –
New York, NY 10023
The Smith was a bustling restaurant that you’ll usually need reservations for, but we were lucky to be able to walk right in on a weekday for lunch.
The atmosphere was lively and the food was spectacular.
I ordered the Vegetarian Bimbimap (I’m not sure that’s spelled right), which is fun to say, but even more fun to eat. It’s a Korean inspired dish that comes out in a scalding hot stone bowl, so it continues to cook the food right in front of you. The way to eat this is break the yolk up into the rice and stir, letting it coat everything in the hot stone bowl.
Lauren and I both fell head over heels in love with their signature Blue Cheese Fondue with Homemade Chips. This quick appetizer is absolutely addictive. I wanted to just bring a bag of these chips with me everywhere we went. Get them!
MAX BRENNER –
New York, NY 10003
Another favorite place to eat was at Max Brenner. This place is known for it’s crazy chocolate concoctions, and we couldn’t resist trying some of them out.
Some of our favorites were:
- Really Cheesy, Really Crunchy Mac and Cheese
- Sweet Potato Tots
- Onion Rings
- Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate
ANGELOS PIZZA –
New York, NY 10019
Of course we couldn’t leave New York without getting a slice of pizza!
The rule of thumb, is that ANY pizza in New York is delicious, but DON’T get the $0.99 pizza. Angelo’s was not too far from our hotel and it had great reviews on Yelp, so we gave it a try. So good! We ordered the White Pizza with garlic and ricotta cheese, and loved every bite!
Naturally we searched high and low for the most amazing milkshakes and found TWO fantastic places to satisfy your sweet tooth.
SUGAR FACTORY –
700 8th Ave
New York, NY 10036
The milkshakes at Sugar Factory are quite literally what dreams are made of. Chocolate and candy coated frosty mugs are filled with a cool and creamy milkshake and topped with all the goodies. Above is the Twinkie Dinkie milkshake – fun, but it tasted mostly like a vanilla milkshake.
This Nutella Banana Milkshake was a delicious concoction that I think was my favorite of the two. The shake tasted like a chocolate banana mixture, but was the most fun was dragging your spoon up the side of the mug to get all the chocolate and then dunking it in the shake.
BLACK TAP –
248 W 14th St
New York, NY 10011
For a fun and totally crave-worthy experience, try out Black Tap. They’re famous for their burgers and these out of this world milkshakes! These milkshakes were my personal favorite. The flavors of the milkshake were more in depth and the extra goodies on top are always a nice touch.
FIRST TIMER TIPS AND ADVICE –
Here are some tips and advice for those of you going for the first time.
- Bring comfortable shoes, and bring at least two pairs.
- Sign up for Lyft to schedule rides between locations. It’s a app that connects you with a driver nearby, they pick you up, drop you off and all payments are made through the app. Use code: SHAWN71385 when signing up!
- Bring a backpack or comfortable over the shoulder bag. You’ll be out walking a lot, so having your hands free is always nice.
- Make reservations when possible.
- Pack light and expect to bring souvenirs home.
- Have fun!