Insider Tips for 1st Time Visitors to New York City

Make the most of your time in New York City & beyond.

New York City on a rainy June 2019 Day

NYC and I have been acquainted through business plenty of times, pre 911. I always dreaded the trip. Rush in. Frantic pace while there. Rush out. It was a “time is money” approach to life and “only the strong survive” culture and mentality.

Honestly, I never thirsted to return. Then I did. June 2019. This time as a tourist. What a difference time and purpose make.

As Frankie from Small Bus Tours NYC said, “New York City grew up post 911. It had to. We needed visitors to come back to sustain us. We needed to also start working with one another and treating people right.”

The other major difference on this visit. I never felt unsafe walking in NYC. Police presence was everywhere.

1st Time Visitor Tips

Plan Ahead. There are endless things to see and do in NYC. Make a list of Must-See Attractions and Must-Do Activities. For instance, Statue of Liberty, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Ground Zero 911-Memorial, Wall Street, Broadway, Times Square, Central Park, Staten Island, Brooklyn Bridge, etc.

Prioritize what you’d like your experience to include. Look at maps before arriving. It helps when navigating when there.

Select lodging based on your Must-See and Must-Do List. Choose a central location.

Book a Small Bus Tour NYC in advance. This tour gives a great overview of NYC, including history and other “gems.” https://www.smallbustoursnyc.com/.

In 6 hours (8:30 AM and 2:30 PM departures from Times Square) you will hear about and see most NYC highlights, including a ferry ride past the Statue of Liberty to Staten Island.

Make a list of places to return to after your Small Bus Tour. Seek restaurant recommendations from the Small Bus Tours guide and driver-NYC residents.

Pack walking shoes. NYC, especially Manhattan, is best experienced on foot. You can, and should, take the subway but plan on walking-a lot. NOTE: The subway system is much cleaner and more efficient than I ever recall. It is heavily patrolled. http://web.mta.info/maps/submap.html Download this subway map to your phone.

Buy theatre tickets in advance. You can visit TKTS https://www.tdf.org/nyc/7/TKTS-ticket-booths while in NYC and get significant discounts on the day of the show. Here’s the downside. You may not see the show you really want. You will spend precious time waiting in a line.

Restrooms can be challenging to locate. Download an app like “Where is Public Toilet.” It comes in handy in NYC.

Check the forecast. Pack what’s needed for it. Rain coats and umbrellas or winter boots and parkas? Be prepared.

Avoid overscheduling. There is so much activity in the City that strolling the streets will offer plenty of entertainment.

For instance, Bryant Park https://bryantpark.org/ near Grand Central Station https://www.grandcentralterminal.com/ offers games, musical entertainment, plays, yoga, etc.

Same goes for Central Park. http://www.centralparknyc.org/

Consider staying outside the City. For example, the Metro North Line (Regional train) stops in Port Chester and Rye, NY-both towns have hotels with complimentary shuttle service to the train. If you crave a less active (noisy) evening, this option may be ideal for you. You can ride the train into the City daily and yet enjoy a peaceful, natural setting each evening.

Rideshare.  Download the Uber and/or Lyft apps before arriving. As always, follow all the safety precautions on their apps.

NOTE: Rideshare rates are flat fees. The clock on a taxi stuck in traffic keeps ticking, unless you hop in a flat rate fee-based taxi. Be aware of the fee/rate structure when deciding how to get around.

Airport

LaGuardia Airport https://laguardiaairport.com/

This airport is undergoing a major renovation. Visiting the website prior to arrival is wise. It is the closest airport to Manhattan.

If you are using Uber/Lyft to get to your destination, follow the signage to the rideshare area. You will be instructed to wait in areas marked A-D.

The wait time can be long (ours was nearly 40 minutes due to traffic congestion).

Once in the vehicle, getting out of the airport can also be quite long (ours was over 30 minutes).

Our ride to the Grand Hyatt from the airport was a flat rate of $53, mid weekday morning.

Our return Uber ride to LaGuardia Airport Concourse D from Rye, NY was fantastic. Less time. Less cost.

Lodging

Grand Hyatt New York https://www.hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/new-york/grand-hyatt-new-york/nycgh

We chose this property based on our must-see and must-do list. In addition, we were taking the train north to Rye, NY after our city visit. Grand Central Station is next door. The convenience of getting to the train with luggage was worth it.

We had a Grand Central Station room view.

Yes, street noise can still be heard from the 25th floor. However, it also provided a realistic view of NYC. NOTE: If noise is an issue for you, request an inside room. Or, download a bed time fan app. It covers outside noise quite well. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ellisapps.bedtimefan&hl=en

Grand Central Station

This is a stop on the Small Bus Tours route and it is worth exploring on your own afterwards. The architecture and history of the building are worth a spot on your itinerary, even if you’re not taking the train.

Theatre

Beautiful-the Carole King Musical https://beautifulonbroadway.com/

Stephen Sondheim Theatre

Outstanding production. The theatre was a very comfortable walking distance from the Grand Hyatt.

Take a light jacket. The theatre can be quite cool.

Food and beverage are available for purchase.

Central Park

Central Park Carriage Ride

We strolled from our hotel to Central Park, stopping multi times to view interesting attractions like Rockefeller Center. https://www.rockefellercenter.com/directions/

Our day in the Park was truly a trip highlight. We had no agenda. Just comfortable walking shoes and refillable water containers.

You can be spontaneous like we were, or plan your “can’t miss stops” in the Park. Check out the Central Park Website http://www.centralparknyc.org/

Highlights included:

  • Listening to the vast variety of musicians busking in the Park.
  • Watching the many talented athletes playing a variety of sports.
  • Picnicking on a park bench.
  • Enjoying remote sailboats on lake.
  • NOTE: We’d been advised against a carriage ride due to their limited route around the park. We followed the advice.

Dining in NYC

Food was not our top priority on this visit. Of course, we had a slice of New York style pizza. It was delicious! The following were referred us by multiple local residents.

Food Court in Grand Central Station https://www.grandcentralterminal.com/dining-concourse/

Urban Space https://www.urbanspacenyc.com/urbanspace-vanderbilt/

Ray’s Pizza https://www.orderfamousoriginalrayspizza.com/

Juniors for Cheesecake https://www.juniorscheesecake.com/

Applejack Diner http://www.applejackdiner.com/ Open 24 hours. Great service. Try to get an outdoor table. Right next door is a pizza by the slice restaurant that does a tremendous amount of walk-out business.

Rye, NY

Getting There

We took the Metro North Line http://www.mta.info/mnr

Metro North Line

Lodging

We stayed at the Hilton Westchester. It is a full-service hotel on immaculately maintained grounds. https://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/new-york/hilton-westchester-RYEHIHH/index.html

The hotel offers complimentary shuttle service to the surrounding area and train stations, as well as to the Westchester, NY airport.

Hilton Westchester Outdoor Space

Dining

Bar Taco Located in Port Chester-a short Uber ride from the Westchester Hilton Great food. Great service. Can be quite crowded. https://bartaco.com/location/port-chester/

View Outside Bar Taco

Rye Grill & Bar https://www.ryegrill.com/ in Rye. Complimentary shuttle from Hilton. Nice menu selections. Plenty of covered outdoor seating.

The Pub. Check out this gem in downtown Rye. Cold beverages. Fun staff. Interactive locals.

What to Do

We took the hotel shuttle into Rye and wandered the streets of this small town. There are plenty of dining and shopping choices, including a great local grocery market.

Stop in at the library https://www.ryelibrary.org/

Visit the city website https://www.townofryeny.com/ for other things to do.

Consider touring the Sculpture Garden at the PepsiCo Headquarters. https://www.pepsico.com/sculpture-gardens

Enjoy your visit to New York City and beyond.

SHARE this post with all those planning a trip or those wishing to visit NYC.

©July 2019. Linda Leier Thomason All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Would you like Linda to visit and write a feature story on your community? Nominate it here.

What do you think? Let me hear from you.