New York – you either love it or hate it. The Big Apple is one of the most exciting cities in the world, although it can also be one of the most chaotic. Between the throngs of tourists, overpriced hotels and restaurants, and trash-lined streets, you might be wondering if New York is actually worth visiting. In this article, we’ll share all the good (and the bad) sides of New York to help you make your decision easier.
Is New York Worth Visiting?
New York is definitely worth visiting at least once in your life. Although it can be expensive, crowded, and hectic, it’s also a vibrant and diverse city unlike any other place in the world. Between the world-class cultural venues, iconic landmarks, and eclectic neighborhoods, all travelers are guaranteed to find something to enjoy.
New York is a fascinating city, but it isn’t for everyone. While there are many wonderful reasons to visit, there are also a few not-so-nice things to keep in mind while planning a trip.
- Transportation: New York has a well-connected subway system that allows you to explore different sights and neighborhoods with ease. It’s also very walkable, which means you won’t have to rely on public transportation or taxis to get around.
- Attractions: You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to things to do. Museums, restaurants, festivals – you name it, New York has it. In the city that never sleeps, you’ll always find something to keep you entertained during your visit.
- Diversity: New York is a melting pot of cultures with over 200 different languages spoken on a daily basis. In fact, roughly 36% of the population was born outside the US. You can feel comfortable walking the streets dressing or acting however you want without any judgment from others!
- Safety: According to the FBI, New York is the safest big city in the country. Although you should still keep an eye out for petty theft and pickpocketers as you would in any other city.
- Food: The food scene in New York is nothing short of incredible. You can find a restaurant from almost every country and for almost every budget. And for fine-dining enthusiasts, New York is also home to 64 Michelin star restaurants.
- Cost: It’s true- New York is a costly city to visit. However, you can enjoy your time here without spending an arm and a leg on accommodation and entertainment (we’ll explain more about that later).
- Weather: The weather in New York is only pleasant a few months out of the year. Summer is incredibly hot and humid, while winters are bone-chillingly freezing.
- Crowds: There are a lot of tourists and residents in New York, which means the streets, subways, and restaurants are often packed to the brim. You can expect long lines and lots of people almost everywhere you go.
- Sanitation: You’ll likely see a lot of dirt and trash walking around the city (it usually wins the top spot for the dirtiest city in the country). And don’t be surprised if you see a rat or two scuttling from one garbage bag to the other.
Top Things to See in New York
From museums and landmarks to restaurants and clubs, there’s a seemingly endless number of things to see in New York. But if it’s your first time to the Big Apple, then make sure to at least check the following things off your bucket list.
Explore Central Park
If you need to escape the chaotic streets of the city, take a stroll through Central Park. Covering over 840 acres, it’s one of the largest urban parks in the cities. And although it’s one of the most visited attractions, its lush atmosphere and abundance of recreational activities offer visitors a chance to unwind and relax.
There are 6.1 miles of trails in the park as well as tennis courts, soccer fields, baseball fields, and 21 playgrounds for children. You can also wander around the different lakes, including Central Park Lake.
Rent a boat and enjoy the pristine natural surrounding with the towering skyline in the background.
Wander Through Times Square
Covered in neon lights and flashing billboards, Times Square is one of the most iconic districts in New York. It’s located at the intersection of Broadway and 7th avenue and is home to a plethora of museums, shops, restaurants, and cafes.
As one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city, you can expect Time Square to be overpriced and overcrowded (over 330,000 people stop by here each day). However, it’s still an unforgettable experience that represents the vibrant, lively atmosphere New York is known for.
See a Play on Broadway
You can’t visit New York and not catch at least one Broadway show while you’re here! Along with the West End in London, Broadway is home to some of the biggest and best musical and theatrical performances in the world.
There are 41 professional theaters in the city (only three of them are actually on Broadway). Grab tickets to the Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic, Wicked at the Gershwin Theater, or Hamilton at the Richard Rodgers Theater. You can also choose to see an off-broadway performance to see smaller, up-and-coming plays and musicals in the New York area.
Visit the Museums
There are approximately 100 museums in New York City. And while you won’t be able to visit them all, you should still plan to see at least one or two during your stay.
The three most popular museums include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and the Guggenheim Museum. However, there are many smaller galleries and offbeat museums that cater to all types of travelers.
Pay Tribute at the Freedom Tower and 9/11 Memorial
Visit Ground Zero to remember the lives lost during the 9/11 attacks. The memorial is located where the twin towers once stood and features the largest artificial waterfall in the country.
Nearby is the Freedom Tower (the tallest building in the country), which was rebuilt in 2013. You can buy tickets to the top of the One World Observatory to admire the fantastic views of the sprawling Manhattan skyline.
What to Avoid in New York
If you want to make the most of your time here, there are a few things you might want to avoid during your time in New York.
Spending All Your Time in Midtown
Most first-time visitors will want to base themselves near the majority of sites and attractions. And while midtown and Times Square are fun places to see, there’s an entire world waiting to be explored outside of these neighborhoods.
Visit the Lower East Side for hip restaurants and boho cafes or Greenwich Village for historic dive bars and music venues. SoHo is great for boutique shopping, while the Upper East Side is known for international brands and high-end designers. Or venture over the bridge to Brooklyn for beautiful architecture, laid-back restaurants, and some of the best views of Manhattan!
Dining in Chain Restaurants
Choosing a chain restaurant can be familiar and comfortable, but it doesn’t represent the diverse culinary scene of New York. Mouthwatering meals can be found on every corner in every neighborhood, and it’s worth exploring the New York food scene to see what excites your taste buds.
Grab authentic dim sum in Chinatown, a high-piled pastrami sandwich in the Lower East Side, or a spicy curry in Jackson Heights. And don’t forget to try the bagels and pizza (two of New York’s most delicious specialties).
Visiting the Empire State Building
As a tourist, visiting the Empire State Building is probably at the top of your to-do list. However, this is one of the biggest attractions in the city, which translates to extremely long lines and exorbitantly high ticket prices ($77 a person to visit the top deck is outrageous!).
Instead, consider soaking in the city views from the Brooklyn Bridge or the Esplanade. Not only are they free, but they’re also significantly less crowded.
Taking a Central Park Pedicab or Horse Carriage Rides
Although it may seem romantic, taking a pedicab or horse carriage ride through Central Park is a major tourist trap. They are overpriced and won’t take you to the hidden corners or quiet places that you could reach by foot.
Another option is to hire a Citi Bike instead. For a fraction of the cost, you can peddle through Central Park, exploring the different sights and attractions at your leisure.
Booking a Statue of Liberty Boat Tour
Visiting the Statue of Liberty is a must, although there are more affordable ways to do so than by a guided boat tour. From Battery Park, you can take the Staten Island Ferry (which takes you right up to the statue) for free.
If you want to go up the statue, you will have to pay. But in our opinion, it’s not worth it as the best views are from the water.
How Much Does It Cost to Visit New York?
New York is considered to be one of the most expensive cities in the country to visit or live in. For this reason, many people feel that the price they pay vs. what they get in return doesn’t make New York worth it. And while it’s entirely possible to blow your entire paycheck on hotels and entertainment, there are ways to visit New York on a budget.
Your accommodation in the city is likely to be your biggest expense. Luxury hotels can cost upwards of $500 to $700 a night! However, budget hotels are probably going to be around the $100 to $150 range.
If you don’t mind staying in a hostel, you can also save money and pay around $50 a night for a dormitory bed.
While New York has plenty of fine-dining and Michelin-star restaurants, you don’t have to spend a lot to eat like a king. For three meals at a café, street food cart, or a casual restaurant will cost you around $40 a day. Of course, you can always splurge on a fancy meal and spend $100 to $200 too!
Taking the subway is one of the most affordable ways to get around town. A single ride costs $2.75, although you can also buy a 7-day unlimited ride pass for $33. Taxis are very expensive and can cost anywhere from $20 to $40 for a ride from one neighborhood to another.
If you’re planning to visit museums or cultural venues, be prepared to spend a pretty penny on tickets. Most museums (MoMA, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Natural History Museum) have a $25 entrance fee for adults. It’s worth getting the New York Pass if you want to visit several attractions a day. For $134 a day (or $219 for 3 days), you can visit over 117 attractions.
How many days do I need in New York?
There is so much to see in New York that you could spend a lifetime here and still have plenty of things to discover. However, most first-time visitors spend 5 to 7 days in New York. This will give you a good feel of the city while allowing you to tick off a couple of museums, sights, and attractions.
If you’re short on time, 3 days is also sufficient, although you’ll likely have long, action-packed itineraries to see everything the city has to offer.
When is the best time to visit New York?
There’s always something happening in New York, so you can book your trip any time of the year. Weather-wise, it’s best to come during spring or fall.
Not only is the weather bearable to walk outside, but it’s also when you’ll find cheaper flights and accommodation. If you don’t mind the low temperatures or snow, winter (outside of the holiday season) can also be a good time to visit.