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New York City travel guide, tours & things to do

Only got a couple of days to get to know a new city? Our Big Five City Guides can help. We break each destination down into culture, history, dining, shopping and relaxation must-sees and dos. Geraldine Massey checks in from fabulous New York City...

The colossal copper structure, its great verdigris arm and symbolic torch punctuating the cloudy sky, looms large ahead of our tour boat.

It is Miss Liberty herself welcoming us to the city that never sleeps. And the reason New York never sleeps is simple: there is so much to see, do, experience, and generally marvel at!

If this is your first visit to the Big Apple (an early 20th century horse racing colloquialism and absolutely nothing to do with apples), then you’ll find this guide a handy resource for key things to see and do across the city. If it’s a repeat visit, you should take the time to delve more deeply into the city’s fascinating history and diverse neighbourhoods.

Enjoy this New York City travel guide.

Ten great ways to save money on travel to New York City

New York City travel guide
New York City travel guide

Five New York City tours we love

New York in One Day Guided Sightseeing Tour

If you only have limited time to get to know New York City, this popular full-day sightseeing tour is a must-do. Travel by bus and boat, and visit Central Park, the Rockefeller Center, the 9/11 Memorial and more. The tour includes a boat cruise around New York Harbor. Enjoy amazing views of the Statue of Liberty and city skyline.

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Guided Tour

For those wanting to get up close and personal with the Statue of Liberty, this 4-hour guided tour will get you priority boarding on the ferry from Manhattan, and a tour of Lady Liberty’s island. You’ll also visit the fascinating Ellis Island Immigration Museum.

Central Park Bike Tour

Central Park is perfect for exploring by pedal power, and you’ll visit many of the park’s most famous landmarks during this guided bike tour. See Bethesda Fountain, Strawberry Fields, Belvedere Castle, Cleopatra’s Needle and the Sheep Meadow. Choose from a 2-hour morning or afternoon ride.

New York City travel guide
New York City travel guide: Bethesda Fountain, Central Park. Image: Bigstock

Bateaux New York Dinner Cruise

This sumptuous New York City dinner cruise offers fabulous cuisine, live entertainment and million-dollar views of the Manhattan skyline. A VIP upgrade is available, which includes a private table and a chilled bottle of bubbles!

New York City Helicopter Tour

See New York’s famous landmarks from the air during this exhilarating 15-minute helicopter tour. You’ll get a bird’s eye view of the Statue of Liberty and iconic Empire State Building, and fly high above the sprawling green expanse of Central Park.

Top cultural experiences in New York City

NYC is a heady cultural mix of theatre, art, music, museums and sport.

Unsold tickets on the day of performance for Broadway and off-Broadway musicals and theatre are offered at hugely discounted prices from the official TKTS ticket booths. The main one is in Times Square. Get there early for the best deals.

For a New York City art fix, take your pick from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Frick Collection or the Guggenheim depending on your interests. MoMA has enough Monets, Warhols and Picassos to keep you oohing and ahhing for hours.

Top New York travel tips

New York City travel guide
New York City travel guide: Admire the collection at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).

If you really want to immerse yourself in a New York cultural experience like no other, jump on the subway and take yourself out to Yankee Stadium for a Yankees’ baseball game. You’ll be treated to a show that’s about so much more than sport. Tradition, music, food, theatre, advertising, instant replays and dancing sandrakers collide in an experience that’s uniquely American and a lot of fun.

Great places to eat in New York City

Street food is part of New York’s very fabric.

Wafting aromas from food trucks and stalls greet you on street corners everywhere. Make like a local and enjoy everything from the humble hot dog, pizza, popcorn and pretzels to contemporary Korean and South American fare. Watch for the vendors that attract local office workers and you’ll know you’re in for a delicious treat.

Great places to eat in New York City

New York City travel guide
New York City travel guide: Try tasty street eats.

A visit to a New York deli to savour sandwiches is also a must. The city’s sandwich tradition is derived from Italian, Jewish, Asian and Middle Eastern cultures. Try Gardenia Deli on West 30th Street for tasty traditional turkey, the famed ‘Chairman Bao’ from the East Village’s Baohaus, or a falafel sandwich from Mamoun’s Falafel in Greenwich Village. Katz and Carnegie Deli vie for the record for the world’s biggest pastrami sandwich. One between two will definitely do it!

New York City travel guide
New York City travel guide: Katz’s Delicatessen

The most cost effective way to enjoy New York’s top restaurants is to look for lunchtime specials and set menus. Michelin-starred eateries include Le Bernardin, Masa and Marea.

New York City for history lovers

New York City’s history is proudly on display, written large in historical areas like Harlem, Little Italy and SoHo.

Seminal buildings like the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the New York Public Library and St Patrick’s Cathedral tell the history of New York just as surely as the delightful and informative displays at the Museum of the City of New York, Ellis Island Immigration Museum and the Morgan Library and Museum. The Lower East Side Tenement Museum is a fascinating look back at the humble beginnings of what are now million dollar apartments!

Purchase a New York Pass for access to 100+ attractions

New York City travel guide
New York City travel guide: Chrysler Building. Image: Bigstock

Guided walking tours are also a great way to learn about the city’s past. New York Historical Tours has options covering specific precincts, and even specialty itineraries like the Jazz Age Tour. You can even tailor a tour to suit your interests.

Where to shop in New York City

New York City is the spiritual home of the department store, and must-visits include Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdales.

You don’t have to be in the market for serious bling to enjoy Tiffany & Co’s flagship Fifth Avenue store, where you’re welcome to simply browse the stylish counters of stunning jewellery and gifts.

For something a little different plunge into one of the many vibrant markets peppered around the city, including the Chelsea Market for food and produce, Manhattan’s GreenFlea Markets, Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market or Artists & Fleas in Brooklyn for vintage and upcycled items.

How to save on luxury travel to New York

New York City travel guide
New York City travel guide: Chelsea Market. Image: Bigstock

Ways to relax in New York City

It may surprise you to learn that 14 per cent of this dense urban jungle is parkland.

Central Park — New York’s backyard and playground — offers everything from hills, woods, lakes, Central Park Zoo and the historic Friedsam Memorial Carousel, to activities including bike riding, ice-skating and boat rowing on Central Park Lake. Several companies offer bike tours of the park, which is a fun way to explore.

The High Line is a raised former railway line that’s been transformed into one of the city’s premier green spaces. It’s a top spot for a relaxing stroll.

Top New York City walking tours

New York City travel guide
Walk the Highline. Image: Brittany Petronella/NYC & Company

Beyond Manhattan, take in the Hudson River views from the Bronx’s Wave Hill or the renewal of the Brooklyn waterfront at Brooklyn Bridge Park on the edge of Dumbo.

One of the best ways to see the Manhattan skyline is from the water. Circle Line Cruises offer Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island cruises, and a Harbour Lights sunset cruise. You can also take the free Staten Island Ferry for great views of the city and Statue of Liberty. Who said there’s no such thing as a free ride?

For more information, please visit www.nycgo.com.

Do you have any tips to add to our New York City travel guide? We would love to hear from you. Please send us a message.

Additional images: Bigstock

Geraldine Massey

About the writer

Geraldine Massey won her first writing prize when she was eight for a story about travelling with Howard Carter on his expedition to discover Tutankhamun’s tomb. It was an early indicator of her lifelong enthusiasm for writing and travel. An experienced corporate communicator and editor, Geraldine once wrote text for Centrelink payment brochures and is now a writer and editor for WeekendNotes. In recent years she has become a ‘wedding traveller’ using family weddings in New Zealand, Argentina and the USA as jumping-off points for further exploration.

 

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