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A First Timer’s New York Itinerary + 10 Tips for 4 Amazing Days in NYC

A First Timer’s New York Itinerary + 10 Tips for 4 Amazing Days in NYC

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Are you visiting New York City for the first time? Check out these 10 tips plus my ultimate New York itinerary for a 4-day trip!
This 4-day New York City itinerary was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

What should a 4-day New York itinerary include? Of course, you’ll want to hit up top NYC attractions like Grand Central Terminal and One World Trade Center.

You can take a tour, hit up a Broadway show, and eat amazing NYC pizza. But there’s so much do to do in this amazing city! Where do you begin?

Especially when it’s your first time in NYC, it can be tricky to know where to start. I know! My husband and I just back from our first trip to New York City, and I’ve shared all the details and tips below!

Don’t have time to read a bunch of New York City blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting NYC with kids.

Popular NYC Tours/Activities

Kid-Friendly NYC Hotels

What Should a New York City 4-Day Itinerary Include?

My husband and I love to travel. We spent our honeymoon in Hong Kong and Thailand. We’ve explored Europe with (and without) our kids.

But, when it comes to the US, we really haven’t been to too many places! New York City has been forever on my travel bucket list.

So, when my mom offered to watch the kids so my husband and I could go on a kid-free getaway, I started planning our perfect 4-day New York itinerary!

For us, that meant tours, iconic attractions, a few NYC hidden gems, and lots of really good food! I’m a planner, and we both had things on our list we wanted to do on our NYC trip.

Now you get to benefit from the itinerary we came up with below! Please tweak and customize this itinerary to fit your tastes. This is your chance to really lean into your role as a tourist.

Take all the pictures. Visit Central Park or Walk the Brooklyn Bridge. And don’t forget about my super helpful tips at the end of this post. They’re a lifesaver for anyone visiting NYC for the first time!

Where to Stay in New York City for the First Time

Since this was our first trip to New York City, we wanted to stay somewhere convenient. We only had 4 days to explore NYC and we wanted to make the most of our time.

I had heard to avoid Times Square (too noisy) and anywhere outside Manhattan (too far away).

The SoHo area sounded like the best bet for us. There are lots of restaurants there and it’s so close to many New York City attractions.

So, after looking for hotel deals in NYC, I landed on the Arlo SoHo in Lower Manhattan. It seemed like a romantic hotel in New York State worth staying at.

Arlo SoHo

We got to the Arlo SoHo hotel around 5:30 PM and made our way to our room. I’d been warned that hotels in NYC are small, so I wasn’t too surprised.

I mean, I had to slide next to the TV to get to the other side of the bed. We’ve had hotel rooms in Europe that seemed spacious compared!

Photo of the Arlo SoHo in New York City, which is a great place when thinking Where to stay in New York City first time #newyorkcity #arlosoho #arlohotels #nychotel
This is the same layout as our Queen room, but this has a city view. Photo credit: Arlo SoHo

But, the view from our room was awesome! While we didn’t see the NYC skyline, we did get to see the gorgeous patio of the Meat + 3 restaurant, complete with tents! And there was a cool mural on the wall.

We definitely got the New York City vibe at the Arlo SoHo. Oh, and the coffee we got in the lobby is possibly the best latte I’ve ever had (and I’m from Seattle).

Where to Stay in NYC with Kids

When we bring our kids to New York City, my husband and I will probably stay in Brooklyn. It definitely has a family-friendly vibe.

Our thought is that we’d go into the “city” for morning adventures and then head back to Brooklyn to relax and play.

These are the kid-friendly hotels in New York City we’d consider: The Box House HotelHilton Brooklyn, or Nu Hotel.

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    4-Day New York City Itinerary for First Timers

    Photo of the Brooklyn Bridge from our 4-day New York itinerary
    Sitting and looking at the Brooklyn Bridge is a top thing to do in New York City! Photo credit: Armando from Flytographer

    New York Itinerary Day 1: Photo Shoot, Walking Tour, and TV Show Taping

    Take a Flytographer Photoshoot

    I’m a huge fan of Flytographer. It’s a company that connects travelers with local photographers. It’s awesome for families, couples and solo travelers.

    Last year, we worked with Olga for a family photo shoot in Paris and Marie for a multi-generational photo shoot in Maui. So, when they had a Black Friday deal, I quickly bought for our first trip to New York City!

    We went through the portfolios of the New York City photographers (and there were a lot!) and chose Armando. He liked to shoot in the DUMBO area of Brooklyn.

    After looking through his portfolio of photos in DUMBO, we realized that’s where many of the classic NYC photo spots are. So, that’s where we wanted our photos, too!

    Photo in DUMBO area of Brooklyn overlooking the Manhattan skyline in New York City. Photo by Armondo of Flytographer and part of our 4-day New York itinerary
    I still can’t get over how gorgeous this spot is! Photo credit: Armando from Flytographer

    Armando was amazing! We texted the day prior. Then that morning, he got stuck in traffic. But he just kept up to date via text and we agreed on a meeting point.

    He suggested meeting at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. That’s just one of the many amazing ice cream shops in New York!

    We took some photos there, then walked around a bit to get closer to the water. It was fun to see a ton of brides doing photo shoots all over Brooklyn.

    At one point, Armando stopped to show us a photo he’d taken that included Jason Sudekis and Olivia Wilde and family in the same spot we were standing!

    Photo in front of the Brooklyn Bridge at a popular NYC instagram spot in Brooklyn's DUMBO neighborhood and part of our 4-day New York City itinerary
    We decided to do a “Hollywood kiss” in this popular photo spot featuring the Manhattan Bridge. Photo credit: Armando from Flytographer

    Then, we hit up a popular intersection for an iconic shot of the Manhattan Bridge. And while other tourists were waiting in line to get a selfie, we were in and out of there in mere minutes.

    That’s why I love working with professionals! Plus, since Armando shoots in NYC all the time, he knew exactly where we should go for the best photos.

    Photo in Brooklyn with a NYC taxi in front of a graffiti wall in NYC #nyc #brooklyn #taxi #nyctaxi #newyorkcity #flytographer
    We geeked out to get a photo with a yellow NYC taxi in it! Photo credit: Armando from Flytographer

    Next, he asked us if we wanted any street art shots. We thought, why not? We were expecting spray-painted scribbles. So, you can imagine our surprise when he brought us to a beautiful, brightly colored mural.

    And, we even spent extra time here so he could try to get a taxi in our shot to round out our New York City photo shoot!

    Check out this great service and we both get $25 if you use this link.

    Go on a Big Apple Greeters Walking Tour

    We had an amazing experience prior with Paris Greeters walking tour. So, when I saw there was NYC version, I jumped at it.

    And since there are so many things to do in Brooklyn, we figured it would be best to explore with a local.

    Big Apple Greeter runs free, private walks all over New York City. They don’t consider what they do an official “tour.” It’s more like when a friend takes you around their city when you visit.

    Photo of a Big Apple Greeter tour in Brookly Heights in NYC, which is a free thing to do in NYC #bigapplegreeter #nyc #newyorkcity #nyctour #tourofnyc
    Our greeter Jeff explains a bit about Brooklyn Heights to my husband during our Big Apple Greeter walk. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

    And their greeters aren’t professional tour guides. They’re just people who are passionate about NYC and welcoming visitors to their city.

    You can find out how to request a Big Apple Greeter walk here.

    Our greeter Jeff started emailing with me about a month before our trip. He was really flexible about where to meet us and what we’d like to see.

    Then, he created a custom walk for us to do after our Flytographer photo shoot.

    Photo of Juliana's pizza in Brooklyn, NYC, one of the most famous pizza spots in New York City #julianas #nycpizza #nycfoodie #nyc #newyorkcity #brooklyn
    This picture makes me smile every time! Photo credit: Jeff Riback | Big Apple Greeter

    After we sat down with Jeff to talk about the Brooklyn Bridge and the history of the area, we decided to grab lunch. We had our first taste of NYC pizza at Juliana’s Pizza.

    He told us the funny backstory of the pizzeria while we ate. And then we talked about our families and our lives.

    With our bellies full, we headed to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and walked around. He told us about a lot of the historical homes and buildings.

    And he also talked about what’s going on in Brooklyn. It was a great mix of history, current news, and amazing scenery!

    Overall, the tour took a few hours. It was a memorable way to experience a part of NYC we probably wouldn’t have been to otherwise.

    Since Jeff knew we had tickets to Late Night with Seth Meyers, he rode the subway back with us so we could head to our hotel to get ready.

    See Late Night with Seth Meyers at Rockefeller center

    We attended a taping of The Late Late Show with James Corden in LA a few months past. It was a blast, and I was determined to get tickets to a New York City taping!

    Since we love Seth Meyers, we decided to see if we could get tickets to Late Night with Seth Meyers. I did the same process of logging into 1iota and requesting tickets as soon as they were released.

    Yes, I set an alarm on my phone so I could be first in line!

    We scored free tickets to a taping of Late Night with Seth Meyers at Rockerfeller Center in New York City #sethmeyers #nbcstudios #rockerfellercenter #latenightwithsethmeyers #freethingtodoinnyc
    Since we couldn’t take photos inside, here’s a photo of Seth Meyers! Photo credit: NBC Studios

    I have no idea how they select who gets tickets. We were put on a waitlist as soon as I requested tickets. Then, a couple weeks before our trip, I got the email that our tickets were confirmed!

    The whole experience was really fun! The show is taped at Rockefeller Center. All the waiting happens indoors and the waiting area features plush couches and fun video clips.

    We played a few games and then headed into the set. Our seats were on the right side of the audience about halfway up.

    Seth Meyers came out and did a mini monologue for us that was hysterical! And after a quick song from the band, the show started taping.

    The coolest part is that Seth Meyers came into the audience and answered questions for about 10 minutes off-camera. His answers felt really sincere and it seemed like he was genuinely excited that he got to meet new people every night.

    We left feeling like this was such a hip way to end our first full day in New York City!

    If You Have More Time

    If you’re looking for more things to do on the first day of your NYC itinerary, consider more of these Brooklyn attractions!

    • Brooklyn Bridge Park: You’ll find hours of fun with ball fields, running tracks, playgrounds, eateries, and more!
    • New York Transit Museum: Located inside an old subway station in the heart of DUMBO, this interactive museum is fun for children and adults like.
    • Eat at Time Out Market New York: This new waterfront food court by Time Out is housed inside a stunning old industrial building. Inside you’ll find family-frendly eateries and some of the best rooftop bars with sunset views in NYC!

    New York Itinerary Day 2: Full-Day Tour of Manhattan + Broadway Play

    If you don’t already have theatre tickets booked, head to the TKTS booth early in the morning or use an app like Today Tix to get discounted Broadway tickets.

    Book Real New York Tours

    We chose to do this New York City in a Day tour because it featured most of the classic New York City sights that we wanted to see on our first trip to New York City.

    While we could have done it on our own, I figured this would save us time and stress. I was right!

    Photo of the Federal Building in New York City, famous stomping grounds for Alexander Hamilton #nyc #newyorkcity #federalbuilding #hamilton
    Hamilton fans will geek out over seeing the Federal Building. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

    This New York City sightseeing tour had about 12 people total. It was all adults, but I know they allow kids.

    However, if you’re visiting New York City with young children, this tour might move too quickly and be too long for you. I’d suggest this one instead.

    In this 6.5-hour tour, we trekked all over Manhattan by walking and using the subway.

    We buzzed through Times Square, SoHo, Little Italy, and Chinatown. Then we went from Wall Street, the World Trade Center site, and Greenwich Village, up to Central Park.

    Our seasoned New York City tour guide told us interesting facts and showed us details on buildings we wouldn’t have noticed on our own.

    Photo of the Greenwich Village fountain and Washington Park Arch in New York City, which is a top instagrammable pot in NYC #greenwichvillage #washingtonparkarch#nyc #nycphoto
    Washington Park Arch is probably the most recognizable spot in Greenwich Village. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

    I’m glad we did this early in the trip because we had the energy and stamina to keep up! We ended up walking almost 10 miles during the tour.

    By the end of the tour, we were very comfortable using the subway by ourselves. And I definitely felt like we saw a lot more than we would have on our own.

    The tour ended in Central Park, which is a nice spot to explore on your own. But we had tickets to a Broadway play. So, we hopped on the subway back to our hotel so we could rest before the show.

    See a Broadway Show

    We booked tickets on the Today Tix app that morning. About 45 minutes before the show, we met the Today Tix staff member right in front of the theatre to pick up our tickets.

    He was easy to find and the whole process took less than a minute!

    We saw The Play that Goes Wrong and it may be the funniest play I’ve ever seen. The show starts as the audience makes their way to their seats.

    You’ll see some stagehands fixing up the stage and walking through the audience asking questions. As it gets closer to curtain, it’s clear they’re all part of the production.

    Photo of The Play that Goes Wrong on Broadway. Photo credit: Simon Turtle, Jeremy Daniel, and Matthew Murphy #theplaythatgoeswrong #broadway #newyorkcity
    I haven’t ever laughed this hard during a play! Photo credit: Simon Turtle, Jeremy Daniel, and Matthew Murphy

    So, the plot of The Play that Goes Wrong is simple: it’s a play within a play. It’s opening night of The Murder at Haversham Manor and everything that can go wrong, does.

    It’s perfect for theatre enthusiasts as well as people who don’t usually enjoy plays!

    If You Have More Time

    Looking for a place to eat in Midtown Manhattan between attractions? Consider these excellent food stops:

    • Junior’s Restaurant & Bakery: A New York tradition, this restaurant and bakery is perfect for a sitdown meal or grabbing a sandwich or cheesecake to go.
    • Ellen’s Stardust Diner: This retro-themed diner is every theater-kid’s dream! Enjoy American classics while the waitstaff performs musical numbers!
    • La Grande Boucherie: Enjoy gorgeous art deco interiors and heartwarming French fare in this light-filled bistro in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.

    New York Itinerary Day 3: The Met, Katz’s Deli, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Off-Broadway Show

    The only thing we had planned when we woke up was The Metropolitan Museum of Art tour.

    But since we had so much fun at last night’s Broadway play the previous night, we went back onto Today Tix and got tickets for another one. Then, we grabbed coffee and took the subway to The Met.

    Museum Hack Tour of the Metropolitan Museum

    When I originally planned our 4-day New York itinerary, I purposely left off all museums. I knew we’d be back with our kids and hit up a bunch of museums as a family.

    But then I heard about Museum Hack.

    Basically, they lead tours that show the “un-highlights” of New York City museums. You know, the pieces that most people would walk right past. And these pieces have some crazy stories behind them!

    We did The Metropolitan Museum of Art: The “Un-Highlights Tour” and it was AMAZING!

    Photo of the Museum Hack tour recreation of "Washington Crossing the Delaware" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City #themet #washingtoncrossingthedelaware #museumhack #nyc #newyorkcity #nyctour
    We took a moment to recreate “Washington Crossing the Delaware” after learning all the historical inaccuracies of the painting! Photo credit: Kevin Hurley | Museum Hack

    After explaining everything wrong in the painting, our tour guide Kevin had us re-enact “Washington Crossing the Delaware.”

    Then, he emailed it to us after the tour with a link to review them on Trip Advisor. This was a brilliant marketing move!

    I don’t want to give away too much about the content of the tour. It’s really better if you go in not knowing the backstory of the pieces or what games you might play.

    But I will say that we loved the tour so much that my husband and I immediately sat down to see what tours were offered the next day.

    Then, we signed up for The American Museum of Natural History: The Un-Highlights Tour right on the spot.

    The Museum Hack tour of The Met: The Un-Highlights Tour is possibly the quirkiest NYC tour #nyc #newyorkcity #museumhack #museumtour #themet #metropolitan
    Our tour guide Kevin is a professional comedian and he kept this tour fun, fresh, and energizing! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

    If you are looking for a quirky museum tour, this is it! Just make sure you understand that it truly is the “un-highlights” and not the famous museum pieces.

    But I’d encourage you to stay after this 2-hour tour to see some of the highlights!

    Have Lunch at Katz’s Deli

    You know that famous diner scene from the movie, When Harry Met Sally? Yep, THAT one. It takes place here at Katz’s Deli.

    This is New York City landmark and a very popular Kosher deli serving up amazing pastrami sandwiches. So be ready for plenty of company (but it’s worth it!)

    When we entered Katz’s Deli, we received a yellow ticket. This is so they can take your order at the counter. Then, it’s cafeteria-style seating.

    There’s also an option to be seated at a table and have a server take your order. We chose this option. They sat us next to the nicest mother/daughter duo who were visiting from France. We were literally at the same table.

    It was the best thing because we chatted while we waited for our food. They had actually spent the morning at The Met, just like us!

    Photo of Katz's Deli in New York City, which was a stop on our New York City 4 Day Itinerary #katzsdeli #nyc #pastrami #newyorkcity
    My husband was so excited to see what Katz’s Deli pastrami was like fresh! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

    So, one of the reasons we trekked out to Katz’s Deli is because my husband’s parents get pastrami shipped from Katz’s Deli at least once a year.

    It’s an excuse to get the family together and we all eat big pastrami sandwiches and usually watch the Seahawks play.

    Since we’ve only ever tasted it heated up in the oven, we figured we should see what it tastes like fresh.

    I was really happy to get the matzo ball soup. I’m not Jewish and I didn’t grow up eating matzo ball soup, but it’s basically the only clear soup that I crave. It always hits the spot. The matzo ball soup at Katz’s deli is no exception.

    And I got to try Egg Cream for the first time. It’s one of those drinks that is very regional to New York. Basically, it’s a fizzy chocolate milk and it was incredible!

    Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

    If you tell a New Yorker that you are visiting NYC for the first time, chances are they’ll ask you if you are planning to walk the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s one of the top free things to do in New York City.

    The trick is to walk from Brooklyn to Manhattan, so you can see the iconic NYC skyline.

    Photo on the Brooklyn Bridge walking across it into Manhattan #brooklynbridge #manhattan #newyorkcity #nyc #freethingstodoinnyc
    We saw so many photographers on the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

    Years ago, I remember watching an episode of “Making the Band” where P. Diddy had the band members walk the Brooklyn Bridge at night as a bonding activity.

    They made it look like it took all night and they seemed so exhausted. So, naturally, I was a bit intimidated to think about it.

    In reality, it was much shorter and took much less effort than I expected. The bridge is about a mile long. Set aside max 2 hours if you want to take your time and stop along the way.

    And it was TOTALLY worth it! We saw a ton of tourists, but we also saw New Yorkers walking home after work. And lots of cyclists.

    Photo of a sign on the Brooklyn Bridge banning "love locks" #lovelocks #brooklynbridge #nyc #nycsign #newyorkcity
    Don’t even think about putting a “love lock” on the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

    In hindsight, we should have done this in the morning so we wouldn’t be facing the sun as we walked from Brooklyn to Manhattan. This is especially important if you are planning on taking photos.

    My Instagram feed always has at least one fashion blogger posing on the Brooklyn Bridge every day and I’m sure they are there early in the morning for the best lighting.

    See An Off-Broadway Show

    My husband and I just binge-watched all the Harry Potter movies on HBO before our trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios.

    We tried to get tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway, but tickets are very difficult to get. Plus, it has 2 parts, and you have to book 2 show times.

    So, we opted for the next best thing: Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic!

    Photo of the off-Broadway cast of "Puffs" a Harry Potter inspired play in New York City #harrypotter #jkrowling #puffs #hufflepuff
    The cast of off-Broadway play “Puffs” cheering on the Hufflepuffs.
    Photo credit: Puffs

    Puffs is a parody of Harry Potter. I like to think of it as Harry Potter fan fiction.

    Sadly, Puffs is now closed (though you can also watch it online now!). But you can find excellent off-Broadway performances showing throughout NYC!

    All “off-Broadway” means is that the show is in a venue of less than 500 seats. And I think these smaller performances are some of the best ones!

    If You Have More Time

    Want to switch things up? Consider these other iconic Manhattan attractions:

    • Washington Square Park: Grab take-out and head to this infamous park for a truly authentic NYC experience. From street performers to historical sites, you’ll find it all here! Sit on a bench and feed the pigeons or watch NYC students hanging out by the fountain.
    • Rockefeller Center: There’s so much to do here! Go to the Top of the Rock observation deck for amazing Manhattan views or go ice skating at the Rink at Rockefeller Center. You can get a glimpse of shows being filmed, peruse high-end stores, or see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall.
    • Empire State Building: Going to the top of the Empire State Building is an unforgettable experience! You can explore 2 observation decks, a museum, and a gift shop. They even take your picture with King Kong!

    New York Itinerary Day 4: Central Park, American Museum of Natural History, Souvenir Shopping, Statue of Liberty, and Grand Central Station

    For our last day in New York City, we only had our American Museum of Natural History tour scheduled. We knew we wanted to hit up some bakeries for food souvenirs and then see where the day took us.

    Walk Through Central Park

    After grabbing coffee at the hotel, we arrived at the American Museum of Natural History much earlier than we expected. Luckily, it’s located right across the street from Central Park.

    So, we took advantage and did a leisurely stroll through the park before our tour.

    Photo of the Manhattan skyline from Central Park in New York City, which is a free thing to do in NYC #centralpark #manhattan #manhattanskyline #nycphoto #travelnyc #nycgo
    When we got to this spot, my jaw dropped! So gorgeous! Photo credit: Darren Cheung

    While we had seen a small section of Central Park on our New York City in a Day tour, we barely scratched the surface. The area across from the American Museum of Natural History is simply stunning!

    I recommend bringing a camera and doing a photo walk in the morning light.

    My husband pulled up a map of Central Park on his phone and we headed toward a few of the bridges.

    From one of the bridges, we were able to see lots of turtles swimming and sunbathing on the rocks! And we also saw people rowing boats.

    Un-Highlights Tour of the American Museum of Natural History

    Since we had such a fun time on our Museum Hack tour of The Met the previous day that we wanted to do another one. For us, it really didn’t matter where!

    So, last minute we added the American Museum of Natural History on our New York City itinerary. I recommend you do the same thing!

    If you find something you really enjoy on your first NYC trip, don’t be afraid to switch things up. You’re on vacation, so live a little!

    A little fun before our Museum Hack tour began! Photo credit: Darren Cheung

    I didn’t know much about the American Museum of Natural History, except that it was the setting for the movie Night at the Museum.

    The American Museum of Natural History: The Un-Highlights Tour was entertaining. We found out about a lot of crazy characters involved in the museum, played a few games, and saw a lot of museum “mistakes.”

    To be blunt, I think we would have been bored doing this museum on our own.

    Photo of Museum Hack tour at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City #amnh #americanmuseumofnaturalhistory #nyc #newyorkcity #museumhack
    This was a souvenir we got at the end of our Museum Hack Tour. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

    Our tour ended with our guide taking photos of all the tour guests posing as a T-Rex in front of the skeleton.

    I think this photo sums up the vibe of Museum Hack! We can’t wait to do more of their tours in other cities.

    Lunch at Barney Greengrass

    We really wanted to eat at a New York City bagel shop. My husband did a quick search on his phone and came up with Barney Greengrass.

    It’s a smoked fish shop that’s been around since 1908. They have an extensive menu featuring smoked fish platters, sandwiches, soups, salads, desserts, and more.

    My husband did the traditional bagel and lox and holy moly was it flavorful! I wasn’t as hungry, so I did the cream cheese and jelly bagel, which was also tasty.

    There were a lot of locals eating lunch around us and the place had an “authentic NYC” air.

    Shopping for NYC Food Souvenirs

    I’m a huge fan of bakeries. Whenever I travel, I always want to try local desserts and pastries. New York City bakeries are legendary for having specialty items only found in NYC.

    Being the planner I am, I did hours of research before our trip to find the top bakeries and what to order.

    Photo of the Pink Lady bread at Recolte Bakery in New York City #nyc #pinkladybread #nycbakery #recolte #newyorkcity #foodie
    This is the most incredible bread I’ve ever had! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

    William Greenberg Desserts was our first stop. They’re known for their black and white cookies. I wasn’t sure they’d be my thing. I’ve never been more wrong in my life!

    We ordered the mini black and white cookies, and they were the perfect size. We brought back a dozen, and I was able to freeze half. And they still taste amazing after being frozen.

    Next was Levain Bakery, which I fell in love with a while back after finding them, on Instagram. Their walnut chocolate chip cookie is the size of a large scone!

    We ordered 4 and I froze 2 of them. They tasted pretty good after being frozen, but I did have to warm them up to soften them.

    Our last stop was Recolte Bakery. I read about their Pink Lady bread and my mouth instantly watered. It’s a breakfast-type bread that has strawberry, lychee, and rose flavors.

    We cleaned them out of their large and mini loaves. I like to toast it and spread butter and eat with my morning coffee. We froze 2 large loaves and they have thawed quite nicely.

    Take the Staten Island Ferry to See the Statue of Liberty

    Many of my ancestors immigrated through Ellis Island, so the Statue of Liberty holds a special place in my heart.

    I really wanted to do the whole Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island experience, but I knew we would do that when we came back with our kids.

    Photo of the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island ferry, which is a free thing to do in NYC on a 4-day New York Itinerary #nyc #statueofliberty #freethingtodoinnyc #statenislandferry
    My husband took this photo of the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

    However, we found out that the Staten Island Ferry cruises right past the Statue of Liberty. And it’s a free thing to do in New York City! So, we headed to the ferry terminal and took the next boat to Staten Island.

    The trick is to immediately head to the right side of the boat as you enter. The ferry fills up quickly and the right side is where you’ll see the Statue of Liberty, coming from Manhattan.

    You won’t get as close to the Statue of Liberty as you would with an official tour, but you’ll definitely see her in all her glory!

    The whole trip takes about 20 minutes with ferries running about every 20 minutes. When you get to the other side, just stay on the boat and soon it goes back to Manhattan.

    Dinner at Benjamin Steak House

    My husband loves a good steak house. Our native New Yorker friend recommended we try to get reservations at Peter Luger in Brooklyn.

    But you have to book reservations about 2 months in advance! We tried, but with no luck.

    When we told this to Jeff on our Big Apple Greeter walk, he recommended we try Benjamin Steak House. It’s a Peter Luger derivative located somewhat near Grand Central Terminal.

    I’m not normally a huge steak eater, but holy moly was this place incredible! They also had the best seared brussels sprouts I’ve ever tasted!

    If you are looking for a memorable (and spendy) date night dinner, this is the place to go.

    Explore Grand Central Terminal

    During dinner, we realized that we had a few souvenirs for our 4-year-old but hadn’t picked up anything for our toddler. I knew he’d love a little NYC taxi toy.

    We asked the staff at Benjamin Steakhouse about the nearest place that sells New York City souvenirs, and they suggested Grand Central Terminal! So, we walked over there.

    I’d seen Grand Central Terminal in movies but was not prepared to be in awe of the sheer massiveness. I felt like a movie star walking down the staircase into this historical landmark!

    Besides it being an actual train station, there are lots of restaurants, shops and even a produce market.

    By the time we got there, most of the shops were closed. It was a pity because there were quite a few I wanted to explore!

    So, we hopped on the subway to Times Square and found a little yellow taxi car for our toddler. It is a HUGE hit and I’m so happy we brought it back for him!

    If You Have More Time

    There were so many places I wanted to see. Here are a few other stops I recommend considering for your New York City itinerary:

    • New York Public Library: This is the iconic library with the lion statues in front (from the Sex and the City movie!). Inside, it’s like a museum! And it’s just around the corner from Grand Central Terminal.
    • Chelsea Market: Inside Chelsea Market you’ll find fusion restaurants, trendy desert stands, and artisan shops. Come pick up souvenirs and sample fun food in this old industrial space turned retail hub.
    • High Line Park: Another free thing to do in NYC, this is a really cool elevated park made from an old train track that runs above central Manhattan! There are cool outdoor attractions along the 2-mile length. It goes over Chelsea Market, too!

    10 Tips for Visiting New York City for the First Time

    Photo in the DUMBO area of Brooklyn in NYC, next to the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline #dumbo #brooklyn #flytographer #nycgo #nyctips
    I highly recommend spending some time in DUMBO. Photo by Armando of Flytographer

    1. Stay in Manhattan

    While we enjoyed exploring Brooklyn, it’s about a 25-minute subway ride into Manhattan. And if you want to go during rush hour, the subway will be packed.

    It’s a lot easier to stay in Manhattan, especially if you are short on time and want to see as much as possible.

    2. Make a Plan

    Before your trip, think about what you want to see in New York City. Then, figure out where everything is located.

    Even though you can get just about anywhere on the subway, it can still eat up some time. Instead, focus on one area at a time and do all the activities that are nearby.

    And come up with a few alternate plans just in case the weather doesn’t cooperate, or you don’t have the energy for your original plan.

    Even if you aren’t a planner, jot down some general ideas. New York City is HUGE, and the possibilities are endless. You don’t want to waste time trying to figure out where to go next.

    And don’t feel like you have to try to see everything. Only see things you’re interested in.

    3. Get a Subway Pass

    While we used taxis from time to time, we mostly relied on the subway. It’s easiest to just get a pass so you don’t have to buy tickets each time you want to use the subway. You can buy them in the subway station.

    4. Go to a Show

    I feel like NYC has a Broadway show for everyone. You don’t have to be a theatre enthusiast to enjoy the shows. And I learned that you don’t have to dress up to attend (although I think you should try to look nice).

    5. Hire a Photographer

    If this is a special trip, or you just want some nice photos in New York City, hire a photographer. We had good luck with Flytographer, but you can also find some good ones online or through Instagram.

    My husband and I both enjoy taking photos on our trips, but we wouldn’t have known where to go for the best photo ops in NYC.

    6. Book a Tour (or 2 or 3)

    I think the easiest way to explore New York City is with a tour. Guides can quickly navigate the subway system and give you a lay of the land.

    If you like group tours, I recommend doing the New York City in a Day tour on your first full day. You’ll see most of the main NYC attractions in Manhattan quickly. Then, you can decide if you want to go back and spend more time at any of them.

    Plus, you’ll get a lot of experience with the subway system so you can do it on your own.

    If you have some lead time, try to get a Big Apple Greeter walk. These are free, private, guided walks with volunteer “greeters” who are passionate about NYC.

    You can choose to see the top attractions in New York City or take time to really explore a neighborhood. Either way, it’s an amazing opportunity to explore the city and really get to know a New Yorker.

    And if you are planning on visiting The Met or The American Museum of Natural History, I highly suggest you book a Museum Hack tour. It’s a fun, energizing way to explore the museums while learning more interesting things than you would with a simple tour.

    They even have tours that involve wine!

    7. Eat, Eat, and Eat!

    New York City has some of the best restaurants in the world. I urge you not to waste a meal at McDonalds or Pizza Hut. Instead, grab a slice of authentic NYC pizza, enjoy a bagel, and check out the bakeries.

    And if you MUST eat fast food, at least pick one you can’t find at home.

    8. See Times Square and Then Leave

    For a first trip to New York City, it’s worth standing in the middle of Times Square and looking around at the flashing signs and tall buildings. But it’s one big tourist trap.

    I love touristy things, but I hated every moment of being in Times Square. It’s full of other tourists and people trying to sell things to tourists.

    And if you are planning on seeing a Broadway show, you’ll already be in the area so there’s no need to plan an additional trip here.

    10. Uber to the Airport

    While we had no problem taking the train and then a taxi from Newark Airport with our luggage, going back was another story.

    If you have an early flight, you won’t want to be in the train station. It’s so stressful. And even if your flight is later in the day, you will probably be so wiped from all the walking that you won’t have the energy to haul your luggage on public transportation.

    We found that Uber was cheaper than a taxi and it saved us a lot of stress!

    Thanks to Museum Hack and Real New York Tours for providing tickets for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

    Looking for more NYC content? Check out FREE Private Tours of New York City with Big Apple Greeter, New York City travel tips, NYC tours for families, best NYC day trips, How to Save Money In NYC, best New York City hotels for families, Real New York Tours: New York City Sightseeing Tour, Museum Hack is the Best Metropolitan Museum of Art NYC Tour, How to Get Free Late Night with Seth Meyers Tickets in NYC, Kid-Friendly New York City in 7 Days Itinerary

    Want a mix of NYC top attractions as well as some unique things to do in New York City? Read my detailed 4-day New York itinerary and tips for visiting New York City for the first time. Click to read more or pin to save for later. www.marcieinmommyland.com #nyc #nyctour #nycitinerary #newyorkcity #newyorkcityitinerary #nyctips #nyctraveltips
    Heading on your first trip to New York City? Get my New York City 4 day itinerary plus tips for visiting New York City for the first time. Click to read more or pin to save for later. www.marcieinmommyland.com #nyc #nycitinerary #newyorkcity #nycattractions
    Want to make the most of your first trip to NYC? Read my detailed 4-day New York itinerary featuring some of the top attractions in New York City. Click to read more or pin to save for later. www.marcieinmommyland.com #nyc #newyorkcity #nycitinerary #nyctour #4daysinnyc

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      Sunday 21st of April 2019

      Hi Marcie, your photos are lovely and you've written a really informative post. I've been curious about doing Flytographer for a while now, and it looks like a lot of fun! However, as a Brooklyn resident, I wanted to point out a small correction. The spot where you did your "Hollywood kiss" with Flytographer is actually the Manhattan Bridge, not the Brooklyn Bridge. (See photo for reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manhattan_Bridge#/media/File:Manhattan_Bridge_Washington_Street.jpg). Just wanted to let you know in case your readers wanted to recreate that shot. Otherwise, thanks for sharing your NYC finds.


      Monday 22nd of April 2019

      Oh my gosh! I appreciate you letting me know! I just updated the post. Thanks so much for your help and I highly recommend Flytographer for photos in your neighborhood or anywhere you travel!

      Becca Talbot

      Sunday 1st of July 2018

      This post brings back memories of my own trip to NY back in 2015 - it was my first solo travel adventure, so I was both nervous and excited :) unfortunately Blizzard Juno hit just as I landed, so I didn't get to experience nearly half the stuff I wanted to. I'll definitely have to head back at some point, so I can do a few more of the things you've listed x


      Sunday 1st of July 2018

      Oh bummer! What crazy timing! See, you'll just HAVE to go back!

      Tiffany Haywood

      Sunday 1st of July 2018

      I grew up less than a 30 minute train ride from the City and I don't think I've done or seen any of what you have!! I will be saving this post for our next visit because I want to check a few of these off my NYC List :)


      Sunday 1st of July 2018

      Oh that's so cool! Glad to help!


      Thursday 28th of June 2018

      Oh wow what a great idea to hire a photographer! Your photos look epic. I'd love to do the greeter walk too as its a fab way to be able to see new things and ask questions xxx


      Friday 29th of June 2018

      I'm a huge fan of hiring photographers while traveling!


      Thursday 28th of June 2018

      What a cool post! I cant wait to take another trip to the big apple. I want to take my kids. They are dying to get to visit. Thanks for sharing! :)


      Thursday 28th of June 2018

      Yes! My 4yo wants to see the Statue of Liberty!

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