This post has been really hard to write, because there is just SO MUCH to do in New York. I cannot possibly include everything. The 10 things that I have included below are MY favourite things to do in the city, and they are things that I would do if I were to go back. I have been a few times to NY at Christmas, Autumn and early summer, so I have included things that may only suit specific times of the year.
You do not need to spend longer than 4/5 nights here. Not only is it so expensive, but you can cram in a lot of things to those 5 days. Hotels are pretty expensive (with very small rooms), so I suggest you phone hotels directly and ask them for deals (I've stayed a couple times at The Wolcott Hotel which has a great location. The other option is to stay near the airport and get the train into the city each day (we had to do this when our flight home was canceled and we were stuck in NY for an extra 3 days.. Tragic right?). The hotels by the airports are huge and really affordable, but you do have to pay for the train back into the city everyday, and you don't get to experience staying in the city.
I really hope this is helpful to anyone thinking of visiting NY. It really is a beautiful city and it definitely never sleeps!
1) HELICOPTER TRIP - The number one thing you should do in New York is without a doubt a helicopter trip. I have flown three times, and each time is just as incredible. The views are out of this world!! You only need a 12-15 minute flight as you see plenty. We like the company Liberty Helicopter's. Be very careful though because my Dad's card got cloned by one of the companies when we paid in person, so I suggest you pay for your flight online before your trip.
2) CITY PASS - Buy a city pass! They give you entry into the Empire State Building, 9/11 memorial, Top of the Rock etc, and they give you discounts in shops, restaurants and some tours. The passes include a ferry ride to The Statue of Liberty which gives you great views of the Liberty Island and Downtown Manhattan. There are two great ones: New York City Pass is cheaper but includes less attractions, and the New York Explorer Pass has more. They definitely save you a lot of money, we also ended up going to multiple places we had never even heard of.
3) BUS TOUR - It is super touristy but as I have mentioned before, it is the best way to see a city. You can get off whenever you want, it stops at all the major attractions, you can listen to a guide telling you about the city, and it is super affordable. There are lots available and some even include free ferry trips (like the city pass) and discounts into some major attractions, so check them all out to see which is best for you! If you buy one that lasts a few days then you will save a tone of money not having to pay for taxi's. Obviously you must hail a yellow cab just once for the experience, but they are way too expensive to use every day in my opinion. I also suggest you do a night bus tour that drives through Times Square (spectacular at night) and over the Brooklyn bridge. The views of Manhattan are gorgeous.
4) ROCKEFELLER CENTER - I actually prefer the views of the Rockefeller Center to those from the Empire State Building. Obviously both are absolutely incredible, but even though it is a bit smaller in height, you get beautiful views of Central Park and the Empire State Building from the Rockefeller.
5) CENTRAL PARK - Central park is huge. I have probably only explored half of it. You can walk through the park, get a boat, hire a bike or hop on a horse and carriage. Hiring a bike sounds like the best option but I warn you now, they can rip you off and be a bit mean! There was this time where my breaks didn't even work and they refused to give me another bike; it wasn't the most enjoyable bike ride of my life.
6) 9/11 MEMORIAL - A very sad thing to do but also an important one.
7) FOOD - My favourite place in New York to eat is John's Pizzeria of Bleecker Street or Times Square. Oh my goodness. HUGE NY pizzas, HUGE Meatballs, just delicious. Another great place to eat is the Brooklyn Dinner, they have names on the walls so you can see which celebs have sat in your seat, pretty cool idea! I also liked eating breakfast/steaks/burgers at Martinique Cafe which is close to the Wolcott Hotel.
8) GRAND CENTRAL STATION - the famous station!
9) SHOPPING - Walk down 5th Avenue and have a look at all of the designer stores. Pop into Bloomingdales (I still have my ''small brown bag'' from over 10 years ago haha, I don't know if they still make them but I made sure I bought about 6).
10) ICE SKATING - If you are visiting in the winter time, go ice skating!! I used to be a keen ice skater and only like skating with hockey skates, so after my Dad told me I could not bring mine with me to New York (lol) I was very happy to find out I could hire hockey skates instead of figure skates. My sister and I skated in central park with the city as a backdrop, it was super fun and a great experience.
Thanks for reading! Hopefully this gives you some ideas of things to do in NYC. It really is a fantastic place to visit!