New York City truly is an incredible place. There are so many fascinating, important things to see, to do, and to experience in the city. You cannot help but be both in awe and overwhelmed when you are in New York City, especially for the first time. And upon leaving, you wish that you had an extra day or two to spend in the city. I have never heard anyone say that they had enough time to do what they wanted in New York City.
So, with that in mind, what should you do when go? It is impossible to write an exhaustive guide or list of things to do. But I would like to offer some suggestions and general guidelines, particularly if you are visiting the city for the first time. My wife and I spent five days and four nights in the city a little over a year ago. I did extensive research before we arrived and during our stay, along with careful evaluation after the trip was over. This was all very helpful. But there were a few things I wish I had known.
Where to begin? I would suggest you begin with what it is that you really want to do or where you want to first. Then work from there. I often make the mistake of trying to cover everything when I visit a place, being sure to hit each region or area. That simply is not possible in a place as large and dense as New York City.
Rather than give you a list of things to do in Manhattan, I would offer this simple piece of advice: walk the streets. Whatever you do, wherever you go, be sure to walk as much as possible. You do not want to tire yourself out. But one of the true wonders of New York City is the spirit and energy that you find as you walk along the sidewalks. It is also fascinating to see the different areas of the island as they blend into each other. For example, we loved seeing Greenwich Village turn into the Flatiron District as we walked to and from our hotel throughout our trip.
Just as it is with all great cities of the world, as well as all other places, much of your experience will be filtered through the food you eat. Be sure to get a good variety of the different type of ethnic foods, such as the street food in Chinatown. One of our greatest memories is trying all sorts of different foods in little bakeries and stands in Chinatown. And be sure to try the food that New York City is famous for at the places that do it well, such as bagels at Ess-a-Bagel.
Do not be afraid to try some of the touristy things in the city. If you avoid things that feel like tourist traps and try to only have your own, authentic experiences, as I often do in my travels, there simply will not be that much left to do. And you will miss out on things that are worth doing.
For instance, I stood in the long line to go to the top of the Empire State Building. I knew I would be crowded in with people who would annoy me and that I would use up lots of time doing it. But that simply is part of the New York City experience. And my sacrifices were rewarded with incredible views at the op. As an aside, I will try out Top of the Rock on my next trip, as I heard the views there are even better, with shorter lines.
As you should with all of your travels, follow your instincts. Going with a feeling we had, we decided to dine at a place called Penelope in the Flatiron District for breakfast one morning. What an incredible experience! The place simply looked like it was calling our name. The décor and clientele seemed like it fit us. So we went; and we were rewarded with great food.
On the other hand, we had read and been told by friends that we simply had to go to Katz’s Deli (famous from the movie, Harry Met Sally) in the Lower East Side. What a mistake. The food was not tasty to us; and the service was even worse. But the worst part is we had a feeling when we walked up that we just should not go in. We fought the urge and went on in, anyway. And then we felt like we wasted a meal in a city full of such incredible food.
I also recommend to be sure to get out of Manhattan and see the other boroughs of the city. I did not do that enough on my recent trip. I plan to spend extensive time in other parts of the city, such as Brooklyn and the Bronx next time I am in New York City, as they have much to offer that you cannot experience in Manhattan.