Any new New Yorker can attest: you get a whole lot more visitors as soon as you move to this city. Not only is New York City one of the most popular vacation destinations for both Americans and foreigners, it also features some very expensive accommodation options. And part of playing hostess is playing tour guide.
I’m of two minds about playing tour guide. Half the time, I adore showing my friends the parts of New York City (especially Brooklyn) that I absolutely love: my local cafe with the perfect lattes, my favorite restaurant in West Village with the twinkly lights on the sidewalk, the best place to get a photo of the skyline. The rest of the time can be exhausting: going to the same places, seeing the same things, watching the same street performers, and trying to stir up the same enthusiasm of seeing it all for the first time. Luckily, I’ve come up with a fairly solid three-day itinerary that I’ve put in place for quite a few friends: a mix of the tourist-musts and my local favorites.
Have a coffee and a bagel. Nothing better on your first New York morning.
Schedule a tour at the World Trade Center: although it’s free, you need to reserve in advance. Be sure to talk to the volunteers, as many of them have compelling first-hand stories of 9/11.
Enjoy the free market economy, either by seeing the bull on Wall Street and the suits outside the Stock Exchange or scoring a deal at Century 21, the city’s institute of fashion deals.
Check out Washington Square and wander around the beautiful streets of West Village. Have dinner at Aria or Extra Virgin. Have a drink at Bar Fedora, listen to jazz while playing chess/shuffleboard/billiards/Scrabble at Fat Cat or see a show at Comedy Cellar.
Have an artfully-crafted latte at Toby’s Estate. Check out the independent artists on Bedford Avenue and at Artists and Fleas.
Sample the goods at Smorgasburg. Start with a passionfruit or dulce de leche doughnut from Dough to nibble on as you wander the stalls. If you’re with a group, it’s the most fun if everyone picks up something different so that you can try them all. My favorites are the lamb burger and maple bacon from Landhaus, the spicy Korean pork belly sandwich from Deji and the spicy tuna taco from Takumi Taco. End with a people’s pop or a s’more. Take a photo on the water with the Manhattan skyline in the background.
Hop on the downtown East River Ferry to the Financial District. For $4, you get some stunning views of the skyline from the water. If you’re interested in more information and the chance to go all the way around the island, check out Circle Line cruises.
Walk by City Hall and the Courthouse before catching the subway up to Chelsea Markets. Even if you’re not hungry yet, it’s still fun to check out the shops.
I’m partial to taking guests out in Brooklyn now that I live in Williamsburg–save on taxi fare in and out of the city, and I prefer the laid-back but fun vibe of Williamsburg to the stilettos and bottle service of the Meatpacking District or SoHo. My standard is dinner at Caracas, Fette Sau, Roebling Tea Room or Desnuda; drinks at Extra Fancy, Rye Bar, Larry Lawrence or Union Pool.
There’s nothing more New York than a fabulous brunch with friends. Five Leaves is my go-to, but there are wonderful places scattered around the city–use Yelp to find a New Yorker-approved one near you.
Take the train up to around 81st Street and then head downtown through Central Park. You can pop into the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the collection or even just see the park from the roof, and then see the Turtle Pond, Belvedere Castle, the Ramble, the Bow Bridge, the lake filled with rowboats, the Bethesda Fountain, Sheep Meadow…or just breathe in the silence, the trees, the open skies. A hot dog or a soft pretzel–whether in the park or on the steps of the Met–is always a good idea.
If you need to use the bathroom by now, pop into the basement of Bergdorf Goodman–the bathrooms are beautiful! Enjoy the sights on Fifth Avenue: the beautiful windows of the department stores, the sparkling jewels at Tiffany, the soaring facade of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the New York Public Library and Bryant Park. Head up to Top of the Rock for a stunning view of Central Park and the Empire State Building–or keep walking and head up the Empire State Building.
Once is enough, but you’ve got to do it once: see the bright lights of Times Square.