The Best Things to Do in New York City


Hello, 2020! This is my first official blog post of the new year I wanted to start this years blog series off with the first of a two part blog post, my New York City Travel Guide. It's a good one, probably one of my favorite posts yet and we have got a lot to unpack!

Because there's much to discuss, I thought it'd be best to split the travel guide into two parts; part one: my favorite things to do and attractions to see in NYC and part two: my favorite foods, bars, desserts and places to stay in NYC. Part two will follow next week, so make sure to subscribe to The Bleached Curl now if you haven't yet.

Sight-seeing in Manhattan is a must if you're visiting the city. One of the hardest things I've always faced when traveling to the city is narrowing down my choices of what I can do/see in the amount of time I'm there. And since I know that's one of the biggest anxieties travel-goers face when they're in the city for the first time, I've got you covered!

I spent a month living in New York taking a course at NYU in 2017 and have since been back three times. It's my favorite place in the world so without further ado, here are my favorite things to do and places to stay in New York City (and the closest subways to each location to make your commute a little easier - letters and numbers following the station name are the train lines that run to that specific station.

Parks

Washington Square Park

There are so many reasons that this is the first of things to see on my list, but to keep it short, it's the first ever place I visited when I got to the city. It's a New York statement, the arch and fountain. It's fun to people watch and there's always street performers there. There's also a dog park so if you're a dog lover like me, you can watch them play. A must-see!

Closest Subways:

West 4 St Station (A, C, E, B, D, F, M)

8 Street Station (N, R, W)

Astor Place Station (4, 6)

Bryant Park

I'll admit that during the summer and fall seasons, I only ever took a quick stroll through this park. But when I went to New York in December, this park in specific held a lot of holiday magic. There was a market with tons of shop and food vendors, Urban Space had its own food market (we'll get into what this is in part two!), there was a skating rink and a beautiful Christmas tree to really brought in that holiday cheer.

Closest Subways:

5 Av-Bryant Park Station (7)

42 St-Bryant Park Station (B, D, F, M)

Madison Square Park/Flat Iron Building

This was one of my favorite parks in the summertime. It's typically pretty busy during the day, but not too bad at night. There's a dog park, Shake Shack, and during certain months of the year the park is home to Mad. Sq. Eats. I'll be sharing more about that in part two of my NYC travel guide coming next week. There's a pretty awesome view of the iconic Flatiron Building and Empire State Building as well, so this park is a must visit year-round.

Closest Subways:

23 Street Station (N, R, W)

28 Street Station (4, 6)

Central Park

This is obviously a must-see for anyone and I highly recommend renting bikes to go through this park because it really helps you see the entire thing at once. It's SO large, when you walk, you really only see a small portion of it. If you're not into biking, I recommend at least visiting the Great Lawn, the Pond, the Reservoir and the skating rink (if you visit during holiday season).

I booked this Central Park Bike Rental Groupon. Only $20 for an entire day of rentals!

Closest Subways:

57 Street Subway Station (N, Q, R, W), 5 Street Station - the very front of park, best for the pond, rink, catching horse/bike buggies

72 Street Station (C, B), 86 Street Station (C, B) - Upper West Side

77 Street Station (4, 6), 86 Street Station (4, 5, 6) - Upper East Side, middle of park, closest to The Met, the Great Lawn, and the Reservoir

Best Views of the City

Top of the Rockefeller Plaza

I've done this each and every time I've gone to New York and it seriously never gets old. It's beautiful at anytime of the day and anytime of the year. In the weirdest ways, it's almost peaceful when you're there because you're above all the chaos it's so calm and collected from above. If there's one you need to do in NYC while you're there, it's this.

This Groupon is great if you're planning to do multiple sight-seeing activities that cost money (i.e. Top of the Rock, Statue of Liberty, One World Observatory, MoMA, variety of tours and more...it seriously covers it all).

Tickets are $38 and you can buy them here.

Closest Subways:

47-50 Streets Rockefeller Station (B, D, F, M)

5 Avenue-53 St Station (E, M)

Gantry Plaza State Park/Long Island City

I have an extreme obsession with beautiful views. When I lived in New York, I made it a goal to find the best spots in the city to watch the sunset. And that I did (or at least I like to think so). I'm in love with this spot. It's one of my favorites, if not my favorite place to see the skyline of Manhattan. Right on the edge of Long Island City, Gantry Plaza State Park has and always will be one of my favorite spots in the entire world. If you want a prime view of the skyline, this is it.

Closest Subways (You will be leaving the Manhattan borough so plan on extra commute time--I recommend tracking the sunset and train schedules to a T if you want to get there in time for it):

21 Street Van Alst Station (G)

Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue Station (2)

Brooklyn Bridge/Brooklyn Bridge Park

Like Gantry Plaza, this is another one of my favorite views of the city except this time from a different borough. For one of the best views of lower Manhattan, this is the park to go to.

Alongside the park runs the infamous Brooklyn Bridge and if you're up for a walk, I recommend walking across it (a little over a mile long) for the views of the city (and very Instagrammable shots). I like to take the Subway across the bridge, walk around the park, then walk back to the city via the bridge.

Closest Subways (You will be leaving the Manhattan borough so plan on extra commute time--I recommend tracking the sunset and train schedules to a T if you want to get there in time for it):

Clark Street Station (2, 3)

High Street - Brooklyn Bridge (A, C)

York Street Subway Station (F)

One World Trade Center and Observatory Deck

This was an incredible experience and if you're in for a view of the city from the Financial District up, I would recommend doing this. There is much to see around One World Trade Center, including the 9/11 Ponds and Memorial and Oculus.

The same Groupon for the Top of the Rock can also be purchased for this.

Tickets are $40 and you can buy them here.

Closest Subways:

World Trade Center Station (E), Courtlandt Street (R, W) - I would recommend getting off here if you want to see the Oculus as well

Fulton Center (4, 5)

Attractions and Entertainment

The Oculus Station and Mall

With it's eye-catching architecture, this ever-growing shopping and travel hub is one of my favorite tourist-y spots in the Financial District. It's decked out during the holidays so it's a must-see. Each time I've visited the city, more and more is added to it. This is a must-visit if you're headed to One World Trade Center or the 9/11 Memorial because it's all within the same grounds.

Closest Subways:

See One World Observatory Stations above.

Helicopter Tour over Manhattan with HeliFlights

This was truly a once in a lifetime experience and something I'll never forget. Me and my sister had always wanted to do one of these and so I booked this Groupon for us and it was the best decision ever. The helicopter tour over Manhattan was a view that you don't get to see every day and one that had me speechless. The staff was great, the pilot was informative and it was all around a 10/10 experience. And no, this is not an ad 😁 Just my honest testimonial. You can book the Helicopter Tour here.

Closest Subways:

Directions will be sent once purchased.

Rockefeller Plaza

A historic staple of New York City, Rockefeller is one of the most tourist-driven spots in Manhattan but I always recommend walking through it because it's home to many things like the Today Show, Rockefeller Center, The Tonight Show, Top of the Rock, dining and shopping, the infamous Christmas tree, year-round skating and so much more.

Closest Subways:

See Top of the Rock above.

Times Square

It's a given, I know. But at any time of day, Times Square is alive. There's always a crowd there, always something to see. Most of the stores are open super late (like the Forever 21 until 2 a.m.),and there's tons of places to dine. Broadway runs straight through so a lot of the theaters are in this area as well. I always recommend visiting at night because it's like you're there during the day.

Closest Subways:

Times Sq-42 Street Station (N, Q, R, W)

42 St-Bryant Park (B, D, F, M)

The Vessel

This unique piece of art comes with an absurd amount of stairs but incredibly cool views of Manhattan. Located at the Hudson Yards (which is also a must-do), you can go to this attraction for free but you must reserve tickets beforehand. It's worth it if you're looking for something unique to see! Get your free tickets here.

Closest Subways:

34th Street-Hudson Yards Station (7)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met)

Looking to channel your inner Blair Waldorf, anyone? The front steps of The Met are an infamous Insta-worthy spot but the museum has its beauty too. There are both ancient and contemporary pieces, and you can really spend a huge chunk of your day walking through it. Tickets are $25 and you can get them here.

Closest Subways:

See Central Park Stations above.

See a Broadway Show

As if you don't know this already, New York Broadway shows are the epitome of a live performance, musical and play. I've gone to two, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Mean Girls, and they were both so good in their own ways. Mean Girls was definitely my favorite of the two (#MeanGirlsonBway) because it was so funny and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was extremely interesting in a live adaptation! I would recommend going to any Broadway show because they're just that good. Tickets are fairly inexpensive as well (depending on the show) and there's always such a great variety of shows running at any given time.

Closest Subways:

Varies by theater

See a show at Madison Square Garden

This. Was. So. Cool. (!!!) Me and my sister went to the Z100 iHeart Radio Jingle Ball in December and it was one of the most fun (and longest) concerts I had ever been to. The Garden in general was really cool to see, as it's the most famous in the world. It was easy getting in and out of it as well which was surprising because you know concerts and you know New York.

Closest Subways:

Pennsylvania Avenue Station

Walk around the West Village, Little Italy, Chinatown, and Soho

The quaint chicness of the West Village and Soho are reasons I love them. If you're a Swiftie like me, Cornelia Street is right in the West Village. There's also a variety of shops and places to dine as well in the two areas (as if there aren't everywhere else, lol).

Chinatown and Little Italy are also so diverse in culture that it's like you're in a completely different world. I love all of these places and tons of my favorite foods/desserts that'll be featured in part two are here.

Closest Subways:

Varies by Neighborhood

Honorary Mentions

Grand Central Station/Market - One of my favorite markets to shop in, plus the Train Station is a staple of the city. You can shop and dine in the concourse as well.

Shop on 5th Av - Because you have to. If you're there around the holidays, Saks Fifth Avenue is a literal must-see. You cannot miss it. The holiday light-show they put on is amazing.

Lotte New York Palace (during holiday season) - it's absolutely beautiful and the tree outside during the holidays is stunning and gives you all the Xmas feels.

9/11 Ponds and Memorial Museum - I recommend this to anyone who visits the city. Tickets are $26 for the museum and you can buy them here.

The Staten Island Ferry - It's free and it's a beautiful view of the city. Plus there's some good food over there that we'll talk about in part two. Plan on a half hour trip one way.

Macy's in Herald Square - It's the biggest in the country and it's absolutely decked out around Christmas.

And there you have it! This concludes part one of my New York City Travel Guide. I'm so excited to share part two next week; the best food, drinks and desserts in New York City.

If you haven't yet, follow me on Instagram and subscribe to The Bleached Curl to see and shop my daily looks, be updated on when a new blog post goes live, see my travel adventures and more.

Xoxo,

Abby

*All photos in this post were taken by and belong to Abby Graf. Please contact here with inquires or questions. Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.*

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