Heading to New York City can be both exciting and daunting, but there is no denying that it is one of the best places in the world to visit. The last time I travelled there was in June 2017 – it felt alien and familiar all at once and I fell completely and utterly head over heels in love with it.
I had extremely high expectations, it was the main place I had day dreamed about when I was growing up. To come home at the end of that trip with my expectations not only met, but exceeded beyond my wildest imagination, was astounding.
I swore I would go back later that year, but as life would have it, different opportunities came my way and I ended up in many other wonderful places instead. So, I haven’t been back since.
My 20’s really came to life when I started to travel, so it feels right that as they come to an end, I should revisit my favourite city to mark the occasion. 😊 I’m turning 30 in May so this milestone birthday feels like a great excuse to do something I love.
I booked my flights a few weeks ago with Norwegian Air and got an amazing deal on them (€219 RETURN). Their website is very well designed and allows you to see the price of flights in calendar format – you need to select ‘show low far calendar’ when searching for flights. You end up on the screen below, which makes it so easy to work out the cheapest dates.
Obviously, peak times are a lot more expensive, however if you’re flexible you will pick them up for next to nothing. The €219 allows me to take a 10kg carry on bag and a second piece of hand luggage – perfect for a five-day trip. This isn’t a shopping trip, so I’m hoping won’t need a bigger bag than that. (Famous last words!)
When I decided to make this list, I thought about the things I did last time and I also sought some help for new ideas. I posted a series of questions on my Instagram stories asking people about their experiences in the Big Apple, what they would do if they were going back or what was on the bucket list of those who hadn’t been yet.
The result? The epic NYC bucket list below. It’s a mix of ideas sent in by you guys and also some of my own. Most of these are timeless so whether you are heading there this year or it’s on your lifetime travel plan, these are things you won’t want to miss.
Hope you enjoy.
There are certain iconic spots in the city that every traveller has to visit at some point in their lifetime. I don’t necessarily think you should try to cram them all in to one visit, it will cost you a small fortune and you will also miss out on so many other wonderful NYC experiences by doing that. If you’re like me and you plan to return to New York time and time again, then leave some for future visits. Last time I didn’t go near the statue of Liberty, but I’m looking forward to taking the Ferry out there this year.
- Brooklyn Bridge – It’s quite a long walk and there are lots of people, but it is pretty epic. I cycled it in 2017 and it was so much fun. This time I’m aiming to get up really early one morning and jog it.
- Empire State building – It’s relatively expensive to go to the top of the building, the cheapest ticket is $38 and that’s not to the very highest point. Personally, I think there are plenty of free entry roof top bars in the city where you can enjoy the views instead, however it is on my lifetime bucket list.
- Cable Care to Roosevelt Island – For those who don’t mind heights, the views look amazing and it’s a must do.
- Rockefeller Plaza and Top of the Rock – Take a guided tour of this famous art deco building or visit Top of The Rock. This is another popular observatory deck and again tickets are quite expensive, but it come highly reccomened by anyone I know who has done it.
- Time Square – One of the suggestions I got was to take a stroll around it at 3am when there are no crowds. I might not be brave enough to do that by myself, but it sounds like a lovely idea for a couple or group of friends.
- 9/11 Memorial Site and Museum – I’m in two minds about this, and I don’t feel good about putting it in a list of tourist attractions. However, it is a very real part of New York history, there is no denying that it happened and that it deserves to be respected and remembered. Going to see the site, even without visiting the museum, is extremely moving. Just remember, you are standing on the grounds where a tragic event took place, so keep those selfies for another place.
- Statue of Liberty – It’s a well-known travel trick that if you want to see the iconic statue then you should take the FREE Staten Island Ferry. Take in the views of Manhattan from the water and pass Lady Liberty on the way. A official tour boat will cost you around $20.
Famous buildings and areas
I have zero knowledge of architecture, but I do recognize a pretty street or a funky building when I see one. There are also lots of places dotted around the city that are fun to both see and photograph.
- Friends building – I missed this building last time but I am a huge fan of the show Friends, so I am 100% putting it on my list for April.
- Flat Iron – For no reason other than it looks pretty awesome.
- High Line Park – Another place that was on my list for last time which I didn’t get to. It’s a former elevated railway that has been turned into a park.
- Grand Central Station – There’s something undeniably magically about this station. Wander around and see if you can find the market – it’s well worth visiting.
- CBGB’s – Once the birth place of NYC’s Rock, Folk & Punk music scene, it’s now a funky clothes shop. The shop still has lots of memorabilia and is worth dropping in to stand where many Iconic musician once played.
- 66 Perry St – AKA Carrie Bradshaw’s Apartment.
- Washington Square Park – This park has so much history. Go and listen to some street music, watch an artist at work, peek at some locals playing chess or just enjoy the scenery. Also, movie buffs, the house from I AM LEGEND is right across the street.
I did say that this upcoming trip isn’t going to be a shopping expedition, but come on – I’m not made of stone!
- Sephora – Makeup lovers worldwide make it their mission to seek out this brand when in the US. I definitely want to see what all the fuss is about.
- Macy’s in Brooklyn – I didn’t visit a Macys store last time, but I was told there is one in Brooklyn that is worth checking out.
- Sax Fifth Avenue – I have a feeling that Sax isn’t really my style (or price range) but I would still like to drop in and see how the other half live.
- Tiffany & Co. – Can you actually have breakfast at Tiffany’s? If so – I’m there! If not, I’d still like to have a browse in honour of Audrey.
- Vintage shopping in Williamsburg – Now this is way more my scene.
- Chelsea Market – Urban food court, no further explanation needed.
- Greenwich village – Vintage, thrift and boutique, this area has all the kind of shops I love.
Visiting New York should involve more than just sightseeing, there are lots of other things you can do and try out while there. I find that doing activities (Oh god, I sound like Will Ferrell!) is a great way to really immerse yourself in the place you are in. Here are a few bucket list activities to consider.
- Visit a jazz club – There are many famous jazz clubs in Manhattan, ‘Blue Note’ for example, however if you are into the jazz scene then keep Brookly in mind. Brooklyn has lots of cool venues to check out that are less crowded and much cheaper to enjoy a few drinks in.
- Cycle or Run in Central Park – If I could design the perfect day for myself, a cycle around central park on a sunny day would be top of the list. It is one of my favourite memories in life to date. If you’re not feeling so energetic, you could take a leisurely horse and cart ride around it instead. Whatever way you do it, just don’t skip Central Park!
- Yoga – I’m on a mission to find a good yoga studio to visit on my trip this time. If anyone can recommend one, please get in touch. I’m pretty sure you can even do a class out in the open in Central Park so I will be looking in to that closer to the time.
- Yankees Baseball game – This must be such a fun experience for sports fans, its not on my own list but it’s definitely something to consider for those who like that kind of thing.
- Boat trip on the River Hudson – It is breath-taking to see Manhattan from the river, especially at night time. If you prefer to keep your feet in dry land, then head back to Brooklyn bridge for that night time view. Or, hop on the subway out of Manhattan and take a stroll along the Brookly shore.
- 230 fifth roof top bar for sun set – I mentioned rooftop bars earlier as an alternative to the costly tourist observatories. this one was recommended by one of you guys on Instagram and it looks fab.
- The Press Lounge – Another rooftop bar that has incredible views. The price of a drink may give you a shock but it’s worth it even just for one, I promise! You’ll feel like you’ve just stepped in to an episode of Sex and the City.
- Take in a show on Broadway – The theatre is on my wish list this year and apparently heading to the TKTS Booth in Duffy Square is the best way to get tickets at a reasonable price.
- Ice Skating – The Ice rink at the Rockefeller opens from October 8th – April 8th every year.
- Use the subway – Ok so this isn’t really an activity, but it deserves a mention. Using the subway in NYC can seem complicated, but trust me it’s not. It is the easiest and fastest way to get anywhere in the city. Make sure you buy the weekly pass for $30 (approx), otherwise you will end up spending way more in the long run.
- Visit MOMA – Easily one of the best art museums in the world. Everyone from Andy Warhol to Frida Kahlo are on display there.
- Visit the MET – I spent many hours of my life last year glued to Gossip Girl, so a visit to the Met steps is a must.
- Coney Island – Need a break from the city life? Then you could head to the iconic Coney Island for a day trip. This famous beach has featured in too many TV shows and movies to name.
- Visit the natural history museum – Not everyone knows this well kept secret, but this museum only asks for donations, so you can either go in for free or donate a couple of dollars (I gave $10 last time because I felt awkward taking a free ticket). It is home to lots of dinosaur skeletons as well as an Earth and Planetary Sciences hall too.
- Do a walking tour around the city – Last time I was in New York I did a walking tour that was set up by the hostel I was staying in. It didn’t take in any of the usual tourist spots and was an amazing way to see the real city. I’m actually going to stay with Greg, the tour guide, for a night when I go back in April. We became good friends and he has since been to Ireland with his other half. I’m really looking forward to catching up with them both and seeing where in the city he might show me this time! Click HERE for the blog I did on the walking tour in 2017.
Neighbourhoods to explore
Choosing an area to stay in NYC can be tricky. Most people gravitate towards Time Square, but for me that wouldn’t be my location of choice. The city has so many other fabulous neighbourhoods and thanks to the subway you are only ever a few minutes away from all of them. Whether you choose to stay or visit, here are some cool places to check out while in the city.
- Greenwich village (also known as the West Village or just The Village) – Gorgeous architecture, trendy restaurants, jazz clubs and brownstone buildings.
- China Town – A little slice of Asia right there in the Big Apple – the distinctive sights and smells make you feel like you have just teleported out of Manhattan and landed somehwere in Asia.
- Brooklyn – There are lots of neighbourhoods to visit within this borough, all of which have their own charm. Visit Dumbo for its galleries, cobble stone streets and cafes, Williamsburg for live music, vintage scene and street art, and visit Greenpoint for artists’ studios, converted warehouse venues and amazing waterfront views.
- East village – This is the place to go in Manhattan for night life with lots and lots of venues. There are also some great places to eat and if you fancy relaxing you could check out the Russian and Turkish Baths.
- Lower East Side – This neighbourhood is overflowing with history and heritage because of the people who came to live here from all over the world. The Tenement Museum is a must visit in this area, in particular the Irish Tour.
- Tribeca – If you want to try do some celeb spotting, Tribeca is your best your best bet. Home to people like Scarlett Johansson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, it is considered THE place to live in Manhattan.
- Soho – Fashion and nightlife, if those two things appeal to you then head directly to Soho!
- Hells Kitchen – Food from all over the world, art and theatre. Hells Kitchen is a cultural hub within a cultural hub.
Regardless of what you do, where you go or how you choose to spend your time in New York city, one thing is certain – you are in for the time of your life when you get there.
If you think there are some other things that should have made it on to this list, then please get in touch. Leave a comment below or find me on Instagram @lovelytomeetme. I am planning to do a NYC foodie bucket list before I head off too, so stay tuned.
As always, this post was written with love,