Travel Guide: Where to Stay and Dine While Visiting New York City

There are a million reasons to come to New York City, and while your first time might be filled with hitting every tourist site you can see until your feet want to fall off, your second time can consist of much cooler things.

I can’t hate on people who want to see the Statue of Liberty, Times Square and Broadway shows their first time around — I did, too — but there are so many more, less commercialized things to do and I promise you won’t have to elbow other tourists out of your way.

After living here for nearly three years, I have gathered my little arsenal of favorite restaurants, bars, things to do and things to simply look at. And no, none of them require an official tour guide.

Since there is SO much stuff to do, see and eat, I’ll be breaking it down into a couple posts so you’re not overwhelmed.

First things first — when should you come to New York?

Well, it depends on what you want to see. From May to December, you’re likely to have a great time. The spring offers warm temperatures and happier New Yorkers, while nothing beats summer in NYC. You can spend your days lying on the grass by the river and dine outside almost anywhere, then go for a romantic stroll at night while eating ice cream. But what’s even better than summer is fall. The temps are just right, the Central Park foliage is stunning and it feels like you’re in a scene of When Harry Met Sally at all times. But November and December gives you the Rockefeller tree to gawk at, beautiful store fronts to watch and another one of those romantic feelings of everyone bundled up and ducking into restaurants to warm up.

January through April are just cold or rainy and miserable. Stay where you are!

You picked a date. Here’s where you should rest your head:

I’ve never experienced an Airbnb in New York, but I can’t imagine it being that bad. I love using Airbnb to feel like I’m actually living in the city for a short weekend. These are the neighborhoods I’d recommend based on convenience, noise level and overall charm: Chelsea, Financial District, Soho, Upper West Side or West Village.

Personally, I find nothing better than falling into a giant hotel bed after touring a new city. Knowing your room is going to be clean and tidy after a long day of walking around feels amazing. If you go the hotel route, stay somewhere that is close to subway lines — anywhere on 34th street is good (you’ll be in the center of it all) or down in the Financial District where you can hop on literally any line in minutes. Plus, it’s a lot calmer of an area so you won’t feel overwhelmed by all of the honking and people walking mindlessly down the street.

Places to EAT:

Dining at different restaurants is one of the best things to do in the city. There are endless options and for the most part you will be eating really good food. To make the decisions easier, I narrowed the list down to my absolute favorites:

Location: 2nd Street & 2nd Avenue

We go to this authentic Mexican restaurant at least once a month. In the summer we go at least twice. I’d recommend going at lunch time since it can be quite popular at night and it’s hard to be quickly seated. But if that happens, don’t worry — they have the BEST margaritas and cocktails to sip on while you wait, and chips and guac to die for. Our fav dish to order is their beer-battered fish tacos. I’m drooling just thinking about them!

Maison Pickle
West 84th Street & Broadway

This hot spot serves French dips that will make you cry with happiness. We recently went here for a birthday gathering and all had delicious cocktails, dips and giant servings of creamy mac and cheese. Beware: you’ll want to go bed right after from being in a food coma. Well worth it.

El Camion
12th Street & Avenue A

Friends from Michigan first tipped us off to this place (thanks, John and Jon!). We frequent here pretty often for their $11 breakfast that includes a meal, coffee and cocktail, which also translates to “the best deal you will ever find in New York.” Seats fill up fast on the weekend, as you can imagine, so get there by 11:30 a.m. for brunch. I recommend the Huevos Benedictos and a mango margarita.

Hill & Bay
32nd Street & 2nd Avenue

If you’re looking for good ‘ol American food, here’s your spot. They have a delicious brunch but I mostly just look forward to their tater tots when we go. They are served with a little crunch and taste best washed down with an IPA. If you don’t want to go inside, they have an adorable coffee window outside where you can order drinks and pastries on the go. The cashier who works the window is also probably the nicest person I have ever met. You’ll be in a super good mood when you walk away!

Taverna Di Bacco
Ludlow Street and Houston (pronounced “how”-“stoun”)

Oh, man. Our love for this Italian restaurant is strong. We stumbled upon it one night when we just wanted to get a drink. We ordered wine at the bar then some meatballs on the menu caught our eye. The rest is history. Order their kale caesar salad to start and then their spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. The owner is this adorable Italian man (who won Chopped!) and he will indubitably come around to your table to ask how everything is and make you feel at home.

Shake Shack

Several locations. The one in Madison Square Park is the best! Eat in the park. Feel like a New Yorker. Love life.

Apparently these are popping up across the U.S. now, but it doesn’t mean you can’t experience one of New York’s finest dining experiences. The burger joint is popular in rom coms (remember Rachel and Ethan dined there in Something Borrowed?) and it hits just the spot. Order their Shack Burger or Chick’n Shack and crinkle-cut fries and a milkshake. C’mon live a little.

26th Street & 2nd Avenue

We ordered this exact Margherita pizza below every week for a few months and usually consumed it in bed while watching Friends. You can also act like a proper adult and order it in the restaurant but the decision is up to you. All I can tell you is I can eat this whole pizza myself and then want to order another one because it’s. that. good.

Get a bagel

Literally from anywhere! NYC is known for their bagels and they taste so good when you’re walking around the city with a hot cup of joe. One of our fav places is Jack’s Stir Brew Coffee. We try to go every Sunday.

Up next, I’ll post all about our favorite sites to see, things to do and where you can get the best coffee, drinks and dessert (because, priorities).


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