New York is divided into 5 boroughs. You’ll never visit them all in a day. Better to break your trip into key areas, focusing on individual neighborhoods. Here’s a quick guide:
Where all of the touristy things are placed. If you plan well enough, you can hit up the main sites all in a day. Start your morning at the Empire State Building, when crowds are smaller, then head up to Bryant Park and the New York Public Library. Grab lunch at Rockefeller Center or Grand Central Terminal, then cut across the bottom of Central Park and pop into Carnegie Hall, or check out the architecture around Columbus Circle. Make your way down into Times Square (yeah, you gotta go there) where you can take all the touristy selfies and try and figure out how much electricity this place generates in an hour. End the day with dinner and drinks at one of the Thai or Mexican restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen.
Another area filled with landmarks and sites of interest to travelers. It’s also the oldest in the city, which most people take for granted. Take a moment to admire the old Dutch-style architecture around Stone Street, William Street and Wall Street, then pay your respects at the 9/11 Memorial. City Hall Park and the buildings around it are also a fresh change from the skyscrapers stacked high elsewhere. Grab some karma points by congratulating new brides at the NYC Marriage Bureau on Worth Street. Pro tip: Take your Statue of Liberty pictures from the Staten Island Ferry, which is free to ride. Plus then you get to check out “the Forgotten Borough” once you get to Staten Island.
Above 96th Street
Even New Yorkers will tell you they don’t go above 96th street unless they live there, which makes this part of town one of the most legit and laid back. Parks like Marcus Garvey park are less crowded, restaurants like Rao’s and Patsy’s are super local and have been there for years. The Hispanic Society of America puts on some pretty dope exhibitions, and if you really want to get back into nature and develop an appreciation for what Mannahatta used to be, Inwood Hill Park provides the oldest, most preserved piece of New York history in its forests, caves and salt marsh.
Williamsburg and Bushwick, Brooklyn
A short trip on the L train brings you to the Hipster Promised Land. It may feel a bit like a circus at first, but checking out the cute jewelry from Catbird, or catching a show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg can make you feel like you’re part of the city. A bit further out you’ll find Bushwick, Brooklyn’s quickly-growing “it” neighborhood, and one in the midst of a cultural revolution. Grab a Famous Original or a Bee Sting pie from Roberta’s before heading to Pearl’s Social and Billy Club, or if you’re feeling especially adventurous, get insulted by the salty barmaids at Boobie Trap.
Venture into this part of Queens and get more of a laid-back, neighborhood-y feel. The row houses feel sort of like if your suburban hometown packed up and headed for the big city, but there’s still tons to do. Check: Greek food at Stamatis, beers and card games (all day) at the Bohemian Beer Garden. Films and cool movie memorabilia at the Museum of the Moving Image. Sweet views of skyline at the Socrates Sculpture Park.
The West Village and Soho
What New Money in New York is all about. The cheapest thing you’ll be able to afford is a cup of coffee at FIKA, but stepping into quirky boutiques like The Little House, or taking pictures at the Ghostbusters Firehouse, are totally free. Check: the Stonewall Inn, (now an official New York City Landmark), ice cream at Big Gay Ice Cream shop, people watching in Washington Square Park. Work your way up to the Meatpacking District, and party on the rooftops of The Standard or the The Gansevoort hotels.
The East Village and the LES
From roach-infested, tenement-style apartments, to where all the rich artists now hang out, this part of town has seen a complete design-focused revolution. Work your way through crowds of college kids heading to the Crocodile Lounge and past the vintage shops and find Sake Bar Decibel, a teeny tiny Japanese Speakeasy you’ll probably walk past the first time. Chill with the hipsters relaxing in Tompkins Square Park before ending your day at Mehanata, which may or may not feel like what Communist Bulgaria would be if hip-hop existed in the 1970s.