North America Travel Planning

A First Timer’s Guide To New York City

NYC is my forever home, and I’m so proud of my city. The hustle, the diversity, the beauty… I love it all so much. Every day I seem to discover a new side to New York, and I’ve been here for years! As the city re-opens, I’m so excited to share some of my favorite things to do in the city.  I will be continually adding to this guide filled with with must-do activities, some hidden treasures, my absolute favorite eateries, rooftop bars and photo stops as well! New York City is back!

To Do

The Edge

As the city started to re-open, I couldn’t wait to make my way to the city’s newest observation deck, The Edge, located in Hudson Yards. From the moment I watched Jlo’s Pa Ti music video during the midst of the pandemic, I have been counting down the days until I could enjoy the epic views myself! Beware: their glass floor atop the 100th floor is not for the faint-hearted but it is so fun! The 360 degree views of the city and Jersey are awe-inspiring.

Top Of The Rock ​​​​​​​

Getting an iconic shot of the New York City skyline is a must for first timers, if you ask me! Because you want a view of the city with the iconic Empire State Building in it, Top Of The Rock is my top recommendation of observation decks. Plus, it’s the only deck with epic views of Central Park.

Insider Tip: reserve tickets in advance because they sell out! I personally love coming to Top Of The Rock at 8am because it’s the only time you can get photos without crowds in them!

The Empire State Building 

Just as beautiful as Top Of The Rock’s perspective, and you’ll get a chance to see the well-established and world famous Empire State Building from the inside out. Every inch of the building is filled with such history!

One World Trade Center 

No modern trip to NYC for a first timer is complete without paying homage to the One World Trade Center. It’s such an emotional experience learning about the history here… and the architecture is simply stunning. It’s a fantastic place to people watch and have a moment of reflection. I also adore the viewpoint from One World Trade Center because you can see both downtown and uptown views, Brooklyn, New Jersey and the Statue of Liberty.

A First Timer's Guide to NYC

P.S. I’d highly recommend coming to these places later in the evening. Observation decks are best to visit and photograph during golden hour/sunset!

Brooklyn Bridge

Sitting at 6,000 feet long, the Brooklyn Bridge has become just as recognized as the Manhattan skyline… and it’s simply not to be missed. No first timer’s guide to NYC would be complete without a recommendation to see the Brooklyn Bridge for yourself. Seeing the bridge early in the morning is an incredible experience. Minimal crowds, cool air and a stunning sunrise – it’s a photographer’s delight.

A First Timer's Guide to NYC

Little Italy

Little Italy is perhaps the most charming of the Manhattan neighborhoods This Italian immigrant haven has transformed over the years in Lower Manhattan, but it’s retained its traditional flair and commitment to the families, restaurants and businesses who brought it to life.

A First Timer's Guide to NYC

Williamsburg

Take a trip to the other side! If you have the time in your itinerary, I’d highly recommend exploring Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. P.S. a trip to Williamsburg’s William Vale is the perfect vantage point to get a look at the Manhattan skyscrapers from the riverfront.

A First Timer's Guide to NYC

The Vessel

New to the NYC skyline is the modernist structure you’ve probably seen scattered around Instagram… the Vessel! Created as part of the Hudson Yard’s Redevelopment Project, this climbable landmark is the perfect place to people watch. The sculptural, honeycomb-esque design is truly unique against Manhattan’s skyscrapers and it’s the perfect backdrop for some photos too!

Dumbo

Once home to the ferry landing, Dumbo has become such a trendy part of NYC! I have a soft spot for it’s cobblestone streets, chic converted Brooklyn warehouses and up and coming cafes and restaurants. You’ll find people from all walks of life here, including many photographers soaking in the beauty.

A First Timer's Guide to NYC

Where to Stay

INNSIDE New York NoMad

I’m absolutely in love with this hotel, located in the perfect location of NoMad, which is a very central area without being too touristy (like in Times Square and/or Midtown). The views from the City View rooms are so iconic New York and a unique perspective than what you usually see in the city. It’s also pet friendly (I brought my cat Brooklyn with me!) and the staff is so kind and attentive. The rooms are clean and minimal in design and there’s also a great restaurant onsite, The Wilson.

Where To Eat & Drink

Biggie’s Cafe

If you want to feel like a local, head to Biggie’s Cafe in the Lower East Side for brunch. This is where all of the hip and cool New Yorkers hang. “We didn’t want this place to be a Biggie museum, we wanted it to be a place where Biggie would want to hang out” – @biggiescafenyc 🍹 Don’t forget to check out their bathroom decor (you won’t be disappointed!) and order the Biggie’s Choice cocktail, inspired by Biggie’s fav drinks. Their burger was one of the best and most flavorful burgers I’ve had in a long time!

Loopy Doopy Rooftop Bar

Prosecco & Ice Pop cocktails with stunning river views? Yes please! The Loopy Doopy rooftop bar is located inside of the Conrad New York Downtown, near the Oculus and is an absolute must visit during the summer months. They also offer a fun list of small plates which were all so delicious. my favorite were the Feta Sliders!

Au Za’atar

Au Za’atar has quickly become one of my favorite restaurants in the city! Their Lebanese/Middle Eastern menu is so special. Fresh ingredients, homemade recipes, an inviting space and a great vibe – I couldn’t recommend it more and their table side shawarma makes it such a fun experience!

A First Timer's Guide to NYC

The Loeb Boathouse

The Loeb Boathouse is one of my all-time favorite spots in New York City. The restaurant is set on the most peaceful pond where you can watch the row boats go by while having a drink outside on their patio or lunch/dinner inside of the restaurant. It’s my go-to destination to take New York first timers to get away from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan.

Queensyard

Queensyard has one of the best views of The Vessel – and its British inspired menu is top notch! It’s the perfect mash up of English classics with an American twist. It’s an excellent brunch spot!

A First Timer's Guide to NYC

Sweets

Supermoon Bakehouse

Famous for its cruffins (a delicious mix of croissant and muffins) – Supermoon Bakehouse puts a twist on traditional pastries and then some!

Eggloo

Hong Kong’s famous egg waffles right in the heart of NYC! Their ice cream concoctions are so much more than just photogenic, they’re incredibly delicious.

Van Leeuwen Ice Cream

Vegan ice cream that actually tastes even better than the real thing (trust me). Van Leeuwen must do some kind of magic to create such delicious flavors!


I hope you enjoyed this first timer’s guide to NYC! There’s no place quite like New York, that’s for sure. Be sure to check out more of our NYC posts!

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