The First Timers Guide to New York City

At its best, New York City can be the most thrilling, cosmopolitan, and entertaining city you ever visit. For first-timers, though, NYC can also be a little overwhelming with its metropolitan chaos and dizzying array of things to do and see. To make the most of your inaugural trip, you’ll need to know what to expect from the city as well as what sights and experiences you can’t afford to miss. With this first-timers’ guide to the city, you’ll have all you need to make your trip to the Big Apple unforgettable.

What to Expect

The uniquely bustling and expansive nature of New York City has the potential to throw first-timers for a loop, which is why you should arrive with the right expectations. Here are some things you should be prepared for:

  • Crowds: in a city that houses 8.5 million people and hosts almost 50 million tourists per year, crowds come with the territory. NYC doesn’t really have an off season, but tourism drops slightly from January to March if you want to avoid the worst crowds.
  • Expense: the cost of living is high, so you should expect to pay more for everyday things. However, you can save by hitting attractions at off times. For example, The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) is free from 4 to 8 p.m. on Fridays, and Broadway shows are cheaper if you see matinees.
  • Walking: the best way to experience the city, especially its parks and local shops, is on foot, so bring your walking shoes.

What to See & Do


Image via Flickr by Anthony Quintano

It would take years to see and do all NYC has to offer, but if you can fit these things in, you’ll have experienced most of the city’s highlights.

  • For dazzling views: visit the observation decks of the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center for 360-degree views of the city
  • For scenic walking: Central Park is a 778-acre heaven, and a trek across the Brooklyn Bridge affords spectacular views
  • For the experience: don’t forget the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, and Ellis Island
  • For culture: see a show on Broadway and at least one major museum
  • For shopping: Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue have big-name shopping, while the Lower East Side has myriad indy boutiques
  • For dining: Le Bernardin has been named NYC’s #1 restaurant five years in a row. Try the steamed halibut and finish with the famed Mandarin dessert (a lemon sponge cake).

Where to Stay

In choosing a place to stay in NYC, use a site like that offers competitive prices as well as thorough reviews of popular hotels. The site lists the name, features, and photos of each hotel in addition to a five-star rating system based on guests’ experiences. Each hotel listing also shows the percentage of guests who would recommend it to others.
You don’t want to venture into the city that never sleeps without preparing yourself for all its wonder. Now that you know what to expect, what to do and see, and where to stay, you are ready for what will undoubtedly be the trip of a lifetime.