NYC travel tips from an expert

Everything you should about New York City before you go

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Steffen Kneist

Want a taste of the Big Apple? NYC expert Steffen from Loving New York shares travel tips, tricks, and favorite experiences to help you make the most of your trip to New York.

A regular visitor for the past decade, Steffen Kneist knows NYC inside and out. Having been to New York over 20 times, Steffen considers NYC his second home and loves to share fun facts and insider tips about this popular city.

What are your top travel tips for someone traveling to NYC?

  1. New York City is always busy. Therefore, you should plan your trip a bit in advance. What should be on your must-see list? A walk through SoHo, the Meatpacking District, DUMBO in Brooklyn, and the Village. Additionally, don't forget to visit one of the many observation decks.
  2. My budget travel tip for NYC: If you plan to visit more than three main attractions, check out the New York City Passes that cover most of them. You can quickly save up to 50 percent.
  3. Plan and book your must-sees in advance, but don't overplan. Leave plenty of buffer to get a drink, take a detour, and discover all the lovely little spots and hidden gems between each point on your itinerary.
  4. See New York from above. Either from one of the amazing observation decks, a helicopter flight, or even from your table at Refinery Rooftop in Bryant Park, my personal favorite.

What should I do on my first trip to NYC?

New York City's skyline is iconic, so try to see it from a few angles on your first trip to NYC. Start at one of the city's observation platforms, like Edge or One World Observatory, and take a boat tour to see Manhattan from the water. Don't miss these iconic neighborhoods: SoHo, the Meatpacking District, DUMBO, and Greenwich Village.

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What are some hidden gems in New York City?

A travel tip I often give people in NYC is to go to the Grand Banks at Pier 25 on the Hudson River or Domino Park in Williamsburg. Both have sensational city views for free and with less crowds.

How much time should I spend in NYC?

To explore the highlights of New York City and not feel rushed, stay at least five days. That way, you can visit the most important spots and have enough time to enjoy them, but still have time to let the city work its magic on you.

What food is New York known for?

NYC is food lover's paradise. Start with the cream cheese bagels at Russ & Daughters in the Lower East Side, try the pastrami sandwiches at the iconic Katz's Deli or Pastrami Queen, and grab an iconic New York pizza slice. Sweet tooths shouldn’t miss Juniors — it has the best cheesecake in the city.

What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit NYC?

First-time visitors should book their hotel in Manhattan if possible. It's NYC's busiest and most famous borough, and all the biggest attractions are within easy reach here. I particularly like the SoHo, Tribeca, Lower Manhattan, and Murray Hill neighborhoods in Manhattan. The neighborhood guides on Loving New York can help you find which suits you best.

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What is the best way to get around NYC?

The best way to get around New York is on foot, but bike-sharing programs like Citi Bike are super easy to use and affordable too. I also like to use the NYC Ferries, which can shuttle you between Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens on the East River for the price of a one-way subway ride, with much better views. There's an extensive subway system, and hop-on hop-off buses are great for getting around the big landmarks. Of course, New York's iconic yellow taxis are both a fun and efficient way to travel, if you don't get stuck in traffic.

What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?

New York and shopping go hand in hand. Fifth Avenue is the most famous shopping street in the world, but SoHo and the lower part of Broadway are great options too. Times Square tends to cater to tourists, and prices can be inflated, so save shopping for elsewhere.

What is the best thing to do in NYC for couples?

There are a ton of romantic spots in NYC. A visit to the Empire State Building in the evening (from 10:00 PM, Thursday to Saturday) is a real highlight. During these late-night openings, a saxophonist plays as you take in the dazzling view. Dinner cruises and helicopter tours are also a romantic and exciting way to see this spectacular city.

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What should people avoid in New York City?

  • Times Square at peak hours — it's a must-see, but consider walking through it early in the morning or late at night when it's quieter. The Midnight Moment show at 11:57 PM every night is a perfect time to go.
  • Chain restaurants in touristy areas — NYC has a diverse food scene with numerous local restaurants, so don't spend your time eating something you can get at home.
  • Madame Tussauds, unless you're a big fan of wax museums. This one is similar to others around the world and can take up precious time that could be spent seeing unique NYC sights.

What are your top 5 favorite experiences in New York City?

There is a lot that I enjoy doing in NYC, but my favorite experiences are: