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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! First timer’s in the city might feel overwhelmed by all there is to see and do in dear ol’ NYC – but today, I’ve gathered up my top recommendations. (After hosting many friends and family members, it’s always nice to have a go-to itinerary suggestions!) Without further ado, here is my first timer’s guide to NYC! Filled with must-do activities, some hidden treasures, my absolute favorite eateries, rooftop bars and photo stops as well.

To Do

Use The City Sightseeing Pass

If it’s your first time in NYC and you’re not keen on taking the subway just yet and not interested in wasting tons of money on expensive cabs and Lyfts all day, hopping on the Hop On / Hop Off bus on The Sighseeing Pass is one of the best ways to get around. ​​​​​​​

We know, we know… it sounds touristy, but it’s an efficient way to see majority of the city in a short time frame (especially if it’s your first time in the city). It also helps you get a the lay of the land. Just leave your bags with an NYC luggage storage company and start riding! This is super helpful, because you can mental notes of where you’d like to go back to visit and spend more time. The stops are in the most convenient locations and the buses run frequently too!

Head Downtown

Consider spending time in Downtown as the area has grown quite a bit over the years since 9/11. There are tons of things to do! Be sure to stroll along Stone Street and stop at the many bars and restaurants. Don’t miss out on check out the beautiful architecture at the Oculus (which also serves as a mall and a train station). Shopping at Brookfield Place is a treat… and afterward, I’d recommend heading to Pier 17 to catch stunning views of Dumbo and the water.

Rooftop Cinema

A movie night on the rooftop? Rooftop Cinema has a mission to transform nights at the movies to cinematic events like no other. Starlit evenings, cocktails, snacks, and a great movie selection… what’s not to love?

A First Timer's Guide to NYC

Best Observation Deck – 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!

Runner Up For Best Observation Deck – 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


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!


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 Eat & Drink

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

Supermoon Bakehouse

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


What once began as a Mexican BBQ food truck is now a full fledged staple in the city! Tacos, tequila, lots of interesting combinations of Americana/Mexican staple foods… it’s simply a great spot to meet up with friends.

A First Timer's Guide to NYC


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.

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 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

Mister Dips

An airstream trailer serving burgers, fries and soft serve ice cream? Yep! You read that right. Only in New York! Mister Dips is parked at the William Vale hotel, a 15,000 square foot public outdoor park overlooking the Williamsburg waterfront. It’s the perfect little spot to enjoy the weather, catch a view of the water and catch up!


Come here for one of the best bagel experiences in the city! Sadelle’s is a New York establishment with lots of history. A first timer’s trip in New York without a delicious bagel would be a sin.

Van Leeuwen

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!

Brooklyn Bagel

Another exceptional spot for a New York bagel! This time with a dash of more color and pizzazz. Brooklyn Bagel’s doughy goodness is hand rolled, kettle boiled and the perfect combination of chewy and crunchy. It’s a great breakfast spot!

Black Tap

The best burgers and milkshakes place! Black Tap has such a cool vibe. Their Soho menu is top notch and in a great location too! Be sure to order one of their infamous Crazy Shakes.

A First Timer's Guide to NYC

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!

Journal North America

A Love Letter To New York from Nora

It’s a strange thing to live out of a carry-on and backpack, filling the days in between flights being homesick for places I’ve never been to – for far off islands with turquoise waters and impossible sunsets setting into orange sand dunes. I’ve lived airplane ticket to airplane ticket for the last 4 years, marking time with passport stamps and suitcase wheels lost to moving sidewalks, moments measured by a compass rather than a clock. Ten consecutive days was the longest I had spent in one place. And then I came to New York.
I was initiated into city life by taking a pigeon wing to the face, and by watching the guy I was on a first date with stride across the bar to kiss another girl within an hour of meeting me. This was what everyone had warned me about – the brutal city that would rip your heart out and throw it in front of a speeding cab. The city of garbage lined streets, the smell of trash spilling out from alleyways and occasionally masking the stench of urine wafting up from hot asphalt. The over-sized rats that dart in and out of subway tracks, an occasional distraction from the honking and the crowds and the relentless loneliness.
And yet, New York, I love you. And I don’t mean that in the colloquial way, but in that ridiculous all-consuming inconvenient can’t live without you kind of way. As Simone De Beauvoir so aptly put it, “there’s something in the New York air that makes sleep useless.” And it takes a certain kind of unconditional love to love living here, despite the potholed streets and absurd prices and the guarantee of noncommittal heartbreak and rejection.
Because in two subway stops, you can travel through twelve countries. From the cannoli lined storefronts of Little Italy, to the rainbow facades of Chinatown and all of the winding alleyways in between that promise adventure. Where every single subway ride is the most random sampling of humanity, people of all walks of life confined to a single space if only for the briefest moment. Where my morning coffee on the fire escape is imbued with dreams emanating from passerby’s skin in an almost tangible, completely irrational way. Because everything about New York transcends rationality.
In my very first blog post in February 2016, I wrote: You see, no one has ever given me a reason to stay in one place. If and when someone does, I’ll know it’s real. I’ll know that I’ll be able to happily call a place home, because sometimes, home isn’t four walls or the familiar curve of your favorite pillow. It’s wherever another soul calls you to return to day after day. Until then, my heart yearns for the unfamiliar and distant corners of this tiny planet that each and every one of us calls home.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that a city could imbue me with the desire to stay put and the impossibly foreign concept of homesickness. Because when I’m not in New York City, my mind wanders to the views from Rockefeller Center onto the circuit board streets dotted with cabs and food vendors, pink sunsets against mirrored skyscrapers tinged with the unwavering resilience of every human who calls this city home.
North America Reviews

How Amtrak is Reinventing Train Travel Within the US With Acela Express

Train travel within the United States has just gotten faster, more efficient and more comfortable than ever before with Amtrak‘s Acela Express. Having just moved to New York City about a year ago, I’ve decided to go on more weekend getaways, especially around the East Coast and with over 500+ destinations to choose from, there’s no better way to embark on these mini journeys than with Amtrak. As I made my way from New York City to Boston, I couldn’t help but appreciate how enjoyable the ride was.  Here’s why I think you should consider Amtrak train travel within the U.S.:

  1. Fast WiFi and plenty of power outlets
    Being a digital nomad has never been easier than it is today. I travel quite often so features such as easily accessible power outlets, fast WiFi and a comfortable seating are essential. All of this was made possible during my journey on the Acela Express and if you need a change of scenery, the cafe has tons of outlets and seating as well. Also, if you prefer peace and quiet, Amtrak offers a quiet car and they’re quite strict when it comes to keeping the noise down there.

  2. Friendly customer service
    Sometimes travel plans change and it’s not always easy to make these changes (especially with airlines!) but I thought I’d give it a shot anyway. As I requested an earlier train, I was immediately presented with a new ticket with my desired time free of fees, no headaches, no issues. Thank you Amtrak!
  3. Sight see during the journey, not just when you arrive
    With Amtrak’s large windows and observation decks, you can sight see during your journey. We stopped in Providence and I spotted the Rhode Island State House right from the comfort of my own seat! Not to mention the stunning views of lakes, oceans, mountains and more along the way. Another feature I really loved was the Location Tracker on the AmtrakConnect website that gives you a real-time perspective of where the train is and what stops are coming up ahead.

  4. Snack car
    As mentioned before, the train’s Acela Cafe has tons of outlets, seats and large windows but it also offers an extensive list of options to snack on during your ride so you’ll never grow hungry.
  5. Generous luggage and extras policy
    Want to bring your pet along for the ride? your bicycle or two carry ons and two suitcases? don’t fret- Amtrak won’t give you any trouble for bring along any of these things as they have one of the most generous policies.

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. I was invited as guest in partnership with Amtrak. As always, all opinions are my own.







Food Hotels North America

Hotels We Love: LUMA Hotel Times Square, New York City

Located on a quiet street between two opposite worlds: the peaceful Bryant Park and the energetic Times Square, LUMA Hotel Times Square is the new modern and tech savvy hotel in town.

photo courtesy of LUMA

The perks of staying in a brand new hotel like LUMA are many. First off, the rooms are strategically equipped with USB outlets in every corner that a digital nomad like myself would need them! The brand new building in the heart of Manhattan, also offers something that is quite unheard of in majority of NYC hotel rooms: Double King Sized beds. Perfect for families who want to stay in one room together. The rooms are all quite spacious for New York and are super modern and clean.

And don’t let the Times Square location fool you into thinking that you may not get enough sleep due to noise. Quite the contrary, thanks to the black out shades, comfortable beds and location of the hotel: far enough to avoid the loud noises of Time Square yet close enough to admire the views.

photo courtesy of LUMA

#DTinsiderTip: Definitely book a room with a view since the other side of the hotel is facing a brick wall which may not be ideal for most people, especially if it’s your first time visiting NYC.

Additional touches that we appreciated:
Etro amenities
Nespresso machine
Speedy and free wifi
Friendly service

The hotel’s restaurant, Ortzi absolutely did not disappoint. We were tried a couple of the many delicious crudos on them menu, a burger with onion jam (amazing) and delicious lamb chops full of flavor. The service was great: attentive and timely and the bar seating makes for great people watching during lunch.



All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site.

I was invited as guest by LUMA Hotel Times Square. As always, all opinions are my own.