Many people often reach out asking for recommendations when traveling to New York City. I love being a tour guide and sharing some of my favorite places with everyone, therefore, I've decided to create this one of a kind Guide to NYC filled with all of my personal favorites for all of you who wish to be a VAGA or VAGO (lol) and take on the city like a true New Yorker! I've been here for 3 years and have lived in Brooklyn, worked, attended school and now living in Manhattan so I think I've gained enough credibility and am somewhat allowed to call myself a New Yorker, right? I'll try to keep it concise and to the point! Feel free to reach out if you still find yourself having any questions!
Safe travels!! xo
HOTELS & LOCATION
I cannot vouch for many hotels as I've hardly ever stayed in any because I have my own apartment. But, I can speak on hotels family and friends have stayed in and that I've visited. As far as location, I'd suggest Manhattan. Let me backtrack and provide y'all with a quick geographic lesson. For those of you who may not know, NYC is made up of 5 boroughs.
1. Manhattan: (also known as "The City") being the most popular and what most likely comes to mind when you think of NYC.
2. Brooklyn: which is now becoming super popular (and gentrified), especially Williamsburg... if you're into the Hipster scene, this is your neighborhood! Williamsburg and Bushwick have cool bars and so many restaurants to check out. Bedstuy, home of Notorious BIG. Also check out Brooklyn Bridge Park (one of my faves with some of the most breathtaking views!)
3. Bronx: where the Yankee stadium and Bronx Zoo is located.
4. Queens: is HUGE, some locations worth checking out are: Jackson Heights, an ethnically diverse community with tons of delicious Indian, South East Asian, Colombian, Ecuadorian, Mexican cuisine. Astoria is a cute neighborhood. Long Island City has some beautiful views of the City skyline! Citi Field home of the NY Mets is also here.
5. Staten Island: I have no idea whats there cause I've never been.... and I can't think of any reason why you should find yourself wanting to visit lol. There is a ferry that takes you there and that's about all I have to contribute about Staten Island. Sorry!
Back to hotels, anything below Central Park or 58th Street is fair game in my opinion (see map image below) Why that particular location? Well, because most likely your hotel will be near a subway station (which is a necessity) and probably near all of the attractions or restaurants you're going to want to visit anyway. I personally love the chaotic lifestyle of NYC so as a tourist I would probably choose to stay somewhere central and in the midst of all the chaos (ex: Midtown) lol. Others would prefer more quiet neighborhoods of NYC (Upper East/West Side, Brooklyn, Queens etc), so, think about what experience you'd want and go from there. Honestly, wherever you stay, whether in Manhattan, Brooklyn or Queens, you can get to any destination in under 30 minutes, so don't choose to stay in one location simply because it's near one attraction you want to visit.
As far as Air Bnb, my brother and other friends have found the cutest places to stay in Manhattan. Other friends have chosen to stay in Brooklyn; Williamsburg, Bushwick or Downtown Brooklyn area. I'd personally suggest Brooklyn if you're looking for something more affordable, as long as its not too far deep into BK. Again, anything that is near a train is a winning location. Do some research and I'm sure you'll be able to find cute, affordable places in great locations!!
Check out my London Trip + Travel Tips for recommendations on general information for booking airfare, hotels and planning tours and attractions here: https://www.hervagaboundroots.com/single-post/2018/06/18/VAGANDO-POR-EL-MUNDO-London-Travel-Tips
Hyatt Centric Times Square
Night Hotel Times Square
New York Marriott Downtown
Conrad New York
The Avalon Hotel
If you come to New York City and do not use the subway to get around the city, did you even come to NYC? The subway system is a whole 'nother city on its own! Make sure you experience it! I know in Los Angeles using public transportation is not custom and is almost frowned upon but here in NYC, public transportation is THE thing to do. Everyone here rides the subway or buses. Occasionally you'll hail a cab, which can sometimes be somewhat more expensive than ordering an Uber or Lyft.
New York offers MTA Metro Cards: One ride is $3.00 but I suggest if you're visiting for a week or even a few days, buy the Unlimited Week Metro Card which is $32.00. You'll most likely be riding the subway multiple times a day and buying an individual ride would not be the smartest thing to do because you'll end up spending more than $32.00 dollars in just two days.
Download the Google Maps app. I lost count how many times the Iphone Maps app has gotten me lost, but google maps is accurate and great! Type in your destination and it'll literally list the trains you need to take from start to finish, including where you need to get off and/or transfer. It's awesome and user friendly. You can have the worst sense of direction but if you're capable of reading and following directions then you'll master the subway system in no time, I promise.
One of my favorite things about NYC is having the capacity to have ANYTHING you're craving at whatever time of day. The city is literally a melting pot, rich and full in diverse, ethnic and cultural food. From Indian, Greek, and Colombian, to Mexican, Italian, Caribbean food, you can find anything to satisfy those taste buds of yours!
I will say I am a little selective when it comes to food and while I try and step out of my comfort zone most of the time I always stick to my favs. I'll try and list a variety of foods inclusive of my faves and also just popular places in NYC. I won't go through each of them in detail, but just know if they're on the list- they are worth checking out! Bon appetite!!!
(Side note: download the Yelp app. I usually use the app to find highly rated/ popular restaurants near me when I am trying to find something new to eat! Also, the pictures are always worth looking at lol)
Grimaldis (Brooklyn under the BK Bridge)
Ruby rosa (Manhattan)
Roberta's (Brooklyn) order the Bee Sting
Di Fara Pizza (Brooklyn)
Sorbillo Pizza (Manhattan)
Julianna's (Brooklyn, she is Grimaldi's owner's sister, so essentially youre having the same pizza lol)
Prince Street Pizza (Manhattan)
Joe's Pizza (Manhattan)
Paulie Gee's (Brooklyn)
Malatesta Trattoria (Spinach Gnocchi)
San Marzano Pasta Fresca (bomb freshly made pasta)
Lillia (Pasta in Williamsburg)
Patrizias of Williamsburg
Tacos #1 (Chelsea Market and also the BEST tacos I've ever had!!)
Mariscos (Chelsea Market)
La Esquina (tacos)
Taquerias in East Harlem
Breakfast & Brunch:
Order a "bacon, egg & cheese on a roll" at a bodega or local breakfast spot
PMF Pardon My French
Gordos Cantina (Mexican, Long Island City)
Jack's Wife Freda
Ravagh Persian Grill (Best chicken Shish Kebob)
Katz Delicatessen (the best pastrami sandwhiches)
Burger and Lobster (delicious Lobster roll)
Original Halal Guys (from the streetcart or check out their restaurant)
Luke's Lobster (lobster roll and Lobster bisque is so good!)
H&H Midtown Bagels East
Bread Brother's Bagel Cafe (Rainbow bagels, also try the Cragel breakfast sandwhich (Croissant & Bagel, bacon , egg and cheese)
Randolph Beer (brunch in Brooklyn)
La Havana (Cuban food, Ropa Vieja, Empanadas, Mojito)
Malecon (Dominican food in Washington Heights)
Smorgasburg (food fair in Brooklyn)
Ippudo Westside (pork buns & Ramen)
Beecher's Handmade Cheese
Ichiran Midtown (Ramen)
Amy Ryth's (soul food in Harlem)
Red Rooster (Harlem)
Momofuku Ssam Bar
Cafe Cortadito (bomb Cuban food in like LES: lower east side)
Cachapas y Mas (Washington Heights)
Peter Lugers Steakhouse (juicy aged beef)
Philippe (high end Chinese food and also Cardi B's favorite restaurant)
The Beatrice Inn
Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse
Beauty & Essex
Emack & Bolio's
Laduree (Famous French Macaroons on Madison Ave)
Dough (cookie dough ice cream)
Bars & Clubs:
Bar 65 at Top of The Rock (beautiful views and need to book reservations online)
The Brooklyn Barge (literally on a barge, spectacular views)
The Garret (East or West)
Pod 39 Hotel
La Marina (Washington Heights)
Mamajuana Cafe (Washington Heights)
230 Rooftop Bar (they have Red robes to wear during fall/winter)
Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge
The Press Lounge
Iguanas (Latin Music)
Los Feliz (in LES, Lower East Side)
Mr. Purple (LES)
Hotel Chantelle (LES)
Northern Territory (Brooklyn)
ATTRACTIONS AND THINGS TO DO
There is so much to see and do in NYC. When friends and family visit I often have them make a list of the top 10 things they want to do or see so we are able to schedule an itinerary. I suggest you do the same to maximize your time here. Many attractions and sites are free.99 if you do your research (download or google Eventbrite to see what events are happening in NYC during your stay. They always have cool activities or parties you can RSVP to).
Other more popular location do cost money therefore I always recommend family and friends to purchase a "City Pass". The pass costs $126.00 but its worth every penny because it includes ticket admission to 6 different attractions (3 preset tickets and 3 option tickets, see list below). If you do the math this booklet saves you money and time, as tickets are more expensive when purchased separately and able to skip long lines to purchase tickets at each attraction.
Note: They also have a more affordable version for $82.00 and includes admission to 3 attractions rather than 6. The booklet includes the following locations (the ones in bold are my personal faves):
-Empire State Building ( single ticket costs $37.00)
-American Museum of Natural History
-The Metropolitan Museum of Art
-Top of the Rock Observation Deck (must do, ticket costs $40.00) OR Guggenheim Museum
-Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island (25.00) OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
-9/11 Memorial & Museum (ticket costs $24.00) OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Click here to buy: https://www.citypass.com/new-york-comparison
Seeing a show on Broadway while in NYC is a must!!!!
Download "TKTS" and "Today Tix" app on your phone for deals up to a month in advance, also check out the TKTS booth
underneath the Red stairs in the middle of Times Square (starting at 2:00pm) to get discounted tickets for that day's evening shows! I've seen a few, some that I loved and others that put me right to sleep lol. Browse through the shows and choose one that is popular or that you've always wanted to see!
The Lion King: MY FAVORITE
Jersey Boys: So good!
Wicked: Was cool
Chicago: A staple in broadway but very long lol
A Bronx Tale & Aladdin: want to see, invite me
Cats: cute for kids
The Book Of Mormon
Come From Away
Dear Evan Hansen
St. Patrick's Cathedral (this and the next 3 locations listed are all in the same vicinity)
Its absolutely beautiful! It's right on 5th Avenue and while there is so much going on outside the minute you walk into the cathedral you are met with this instant wave of serenity. It is GRAND. I have visited a few Cathedrals and honestly this is still one of my favorites. Its open to the public daily and on Sunday they hold mass. When you visit take some spare dollars and light a candle in honor of yourself or your family.
Radio City Music Hall
Radio City Music Hall is an iconic entertainment venue so visit their website and check out who will be in town performing while you're here! This place also hold a special place in my heart as this is where NYU Silver School of Social Work held our 2017 commencement ceremony. Memories to last a lifetime!
During the holidays this is one of my favorite places. Here is where they have the famous "Lighting of the Tree", the HUGE christmas tree and performance they have every year in December. The tree sits at the foot of Rockefeller Center. Here they also have a huge skating ring, however, unlike Bryant park where there is no fee to skate, here there definitely is $$$.
Stroll down the iconic 5th Avenue and do some light shopping at all the high end stores that line 5th Avenue.