Whether you’re finally taking your first vacation to NYC, passing through on business or just dropping by on the way to MaxFunCon East, there’s no reason why your first trip to our great city should be anything less than spectacular.
There’s a lot to see in the city, more than one trip could ever hope to contain, but if you spend the whole trip waiting on line to see the Empire State Building or in your hotel room trying to book Hamilton tickets that might be all you remember of your trip. Instead, check out these can’t-miss sites that will give you taste of beauty and wonder that is our city.
The following recommendations have been pulled from a thread on the MaxFun NYC Facebook Group.
The High Line
The High Line is something so incredibly unique that I suggest it to everyone visiting. It’s old elevated railroad tracks in Chelsea that after a long and interesting battle got turned into a really innovative park that passes by buildings, has artwork and just feels really futuristic. And it’s right by the Chelsea Barcade, which I also suggest people stop by for beer and vintage arcade games followed by a meal at the nearby Meatball Shop.
Or Artichoke Basille’s on 17th St. if you’re feeling the need for cheese.
The American Museum of Natural History
Obviously, the American Museum of Natural History is a must. It’s a fine museum, but it’s also old enough to have a history all its own and has been the setting of so many TV shows and movies that you could get a kick out of going for building alone. But that would be a crazy person thing to do. Instead, check out the section on dinosaurs and early mammals (including the giant Moose), and maybe swing by the Japanese samurai armor.
Also the Planetarium!
Oh, that’s right! The Hayden Planetarium is attached to the building (I think you can get a combo ticket). Neil DeGrasse Tyson runs it, so there’s always the chance you’ll see him.
My favorite tour for first time tourists is a pretty obvious one but hits everything up that’s fairly close to each other. Grand Central → Bryant Park → Times Square. And if they’re not tired yet, up Broadway (bonus on the way up: Ed Sullivan Theater) to Columbus Circle and the corner of Central Park.
The whispering arch in Grand Central is worth a visit.
Times Square at night is a must-see!
Don’t go to the top of the Empire State building; instead go to Top of the Rock which has a large open-air rooftop and an excellent view of the Empire State Building. Go about an hour before sunset, because it takes about 40 minutes to actually get to the top. (You watch videos and whatnot along the way.) If you time it right, you’ll see daylight, sunset and nighttime. It’s lovely and nowhere near as cramped as the ESB.
TriBeCa + Little Italy + Chinatown
Taking a walk around Little Italy and Chinatown. These neighborhoods are iconically NYC, and being right next to each other, they make for a great few hours of wandering, eating, people watching and picture taking.
So long as you’re walking around that part of Manhattan, you should definitely check out TriBeCa. It’s a historic district now, lots of converted turn of the century factories, wrought iron and cobblestone streets. There’s a lot of fashion stuff going on in that neighborhood too so don’t be surprised to see a photoshoot on the street. There’s also boutique shopping if you like nice things and have money to burn.
And the Ghostbusters fire house!
I used to work in TriBeCa and it’s still one of my favorite neighborhoods. I love the non-grid streets of lower Manhattan where there are surprises around every corner.
Central Park favorites: walking from the Mall to Bethesda Fountain, the Shakespeare Garden and Belvedere Castle, wandering through The Ramble
I like Central Park because it’s one of the few common spaces where you’re really going to see people from every socioeconomic strata getting along. And that where the zoo from Penguins of Madagascar is!
I always loved wandering Prospect Park, Central Park, or Fort Tryon Park when I visited. The Cloisters too are unique.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Met. It costs whatever you want to pay and it’s awe-inspiring.
I always make it a point to tell people it’s pay as you wish because a lot of people (especially tourists) don’t know this. As for what to see there, my person favorite is the Joan of Arc painting.
South Street Seaport
Walk around Wall Street and consider remember that it’s called that because there was a wall there to keep wild pigs away, and enjoy the irony. Once the douchechills get to be too much, head to South Street Seaport, which was a major renovation so successful that even Springfield tried it. Jeremy’s Ale House, (no relation) offers giant beers relatively cheaply, and the ceiling is littered with bras.
Everything about Governor’s Island is amazing. Rent a bike, go to all the art exhibits and shops in the houses on Colonels Row. Not only are the exhibits interesting, but I love going into these old houses and wandering through the rooms, imagining how cool it must have been to live in these houses. Go into Fort Jay which has cannon firings and tours. Pack a picnic or eat at one of the many food trucks. And I don’t have a kid, but I see that their playground areas are really cool, even for adults.
Walk the bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Then down into the park to walk along the greenway. There’s food and drink options all along (Luke’s Lobster and Shake Shack are always yummy). Gotta go to Ample Hills Creamery at Pier 5, and then on to Pier 6 and the Governors Island Ferry
If you love books, especial old and rare ones, you should check out the New York Public Library. If you them so much you want to take one home with you, I’d recommend The Strand which boasts 18 miles of shelves and over 80 years of supplying New York’s thinkers and students.
Yes! And if you’re going to Strand, you should have brunch at Max Brener.
Staten Island Ferry
Staten Island Ferry is a must for first time visitors. Best free view of the city.
It apparently has very cheap beer onboard, which is certainly a plus.
If you make Park Slope a destination, you can’t miss Greenwood Cemetery, one of my favorite places in NYC. Gorgeous architecture, rich history, and a lovely walk when the weather is good. The range of tombs really takes you on a fun and fast tour of the fashionable trends in architecture spanning the 1800s and early 1900s. I have only ever heard of one person thinking it was “morbid”, everyone else I have recommended it to has been wowed. If your trip is less than three days, and nothing else is bringing you to the area, maybe save it for round two, as it is not a tourist hotspot.
See a Show
New York isn’t the city it is because of all the parks and buildings, it’s the people who make it so great. Every park, building and museum will still be here on your second trip, but you never know if you’ll get to see your favorite band, musician or podcast live again. We feature some interested events on our own calendar, but to really check out everything that’s on offer you need to visit our Guide to Recommended Event Sites.
Have a Drink with the Flop House Housecat
Fans of The Flop House podcast might know that Stuart Wellington, one of the hosts, opened his own place, Hinterlands Bar, in the Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn. We’ve since had some great meet-ups there, and it’s an awesome place to visit. You’ll especially love the bathroom wallpaper which is made of pages from old Dungeon Manuals. Since Stuart is usually around (and posts when he’s going to be there), it’s a great way to meet one of your favorite podcasters!
Got a suggestion for us? Tell us about it in the comments and it might make our list!