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Caroline in the City Guide to New York City

guide to new york city

New York City is one with dozens of nicknames, whether you prefer the “city that never sleeps” or the “Big Apple.” But one thing is for certain: the five boroughs have more than their fair share of personality squeezed into each neighborhood. Sometimes you forget you’re in a thriving metropolis and feel more like a number of towns. You can visit dozens of times and still not see everything, but this is a good place to start.

guide to new york city

Hell’s Kitchen

The Neighborhoods

On Manhattan alone, there are dozens of neighborhoods worth visiting and that doesn’t even include those in Brooklyn and Queens. While each has their own parts worth visiting, namely Williamsburg, Bushwick and Astoria, I’m going to focus on those on the island of Manhattan.

Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea are where I’ve spent the most time, mostly due to their location near the Javits Center. Hell’s Kitchen was once a rough neighborhood but today is full of good restaurants, Gotham West Market and filming locations for television and movies. Nearby Chelsea is home to landmarks like The High Line and Chelsea Market, the city’s most popular food hall. You’ll also find art galleries, rooftop bars and even a driving range at the piers.

Greenwich Village is typically divided into East and West, separated by Broadway and the NYU campus. In the West Village, check out the Whitney Museum (on the border with the Meatpacking District) and Washington Square Park for a quiet afternoon. Also worth checking out are The Spotted Pig, a beloved gastropub by Chef April Bloomfield, and the Stonewall Inn, home of the modern LGBT movement. Over on the East side, stop by staples like David Chang’s Momofuku Milk BarXi’an Famous Foods and McSorley’s Old Ale House, one of the oldest bars in the city.

Tribeca has a reputation for being upscale, but there are plenty of reasonably priced dishes to be had. The neighborhood below Canal Street is mostly known for the Tribeca Film Festival, started by actor Robert De Niro and held annually. And while not overly budget-friendly, Tribeca has many independent boutiques and shops. One memorable landmark is the Ghostbusters Building, the firehouse used in the movie.

guide to new york city

Chicken and waffles at Genuine

Restaurants and Cafes

One of the best things about visiting New York is dining out. It can be overwhelming trying to decide where to go and getting reservations, but the good far outweigh the bad. Sometimes the best meals can be random neighborhood joints you happen upon. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but here are a few of my favorites from my frequent trips to New York. Most are under $20 per meal and you can also check out the best bites on one of many food tours.

Café Grumpy– This Brooklyn-based cafe has opened dozens of new locations around town and was featured on Girls. The baristas are anything but grumpy and the coffee and pastries are delightful. The Grand Central location is great for people watching.

Pick A Bagel– When looking for bagel sandwiches, salads, and soups, head to this westside eatery. I was impressed to see they even have tofu cream cheese for the vegans and non-dairy eaters.

Sullivan Street Bakery– This small bakery has a cult-like following amongst those in the know, particularly for their pastries, particularly the bomboloni, and the breakfast sandwiches.

Tacombi at Fonda Nolita– I visited this pop-up style restaurant with a friend that felt more like a street in Mexico than a building in New York City. They serve up tacos and cocktails at metal tables and chairs while the kitchen is located in an old VW bus.

Cafe Mogador– This Village cafe was recommended to me by a coworker for its Mediterranean fare and brunches. The decor makes you feel like you could be in Paris, especially the patio. Be sure to try the spicy eggs and a cappuccino.

GENUINE– Located in Gotham West Market, Genuine is modeled after a roadside eatery. Here you’ll find American favorites like fried chicken, breakfast burritos, and fish tacos. Admire the vintage-inspired decor and play a board game while you wait for your food.

Zutto Japanese American Pub– After reading about it in a magazine, my sister and I met a friend at Zutto, which soon became our favorite spot. There may not be many seats, which means you should make a reservation if you can, but the sushi and spicy ramen are worth it.

Pure Thai Cookhouse– The small, authentic Thai restaurant always has a wait, but once you get inside it’s worth it. They serve up stir frys, noodles and bites like egg rolls and buns.

guide to new york city

Cosmos at Onieal’s

Bars and Nightlife

Nightlife is at the center of the city’s heartbeat, as you can find historic pubs that have remained unchanged since the early days of the city to the swanky cocktail lounges where celebrities mix and mingle.

McSorley’s Old Ale House– Named the oldest bar in the city, the bar was established in the late 1800s and men’s only until the 1970s. Nothing has been removed from the walls since 1910 and they only serve their own house beer.

Jeremy’s Ale House– This South Street Seaport dive is memorable for the dozens of bras hanging from the ceiling. The drinks are cheap but beware the bathrooms.

The Press Lounge– Located atop the Ink48 Hotel, here you’ll find sweeping views of the Hudson as well as the westside. The drink prices can be steep and the lines can be long on weekends, but you can’t put a price on the atmosphere.

Onieal’s– I went to this bar on the Sex and the City Tour, as it’s where Steve and Aiden opened Scout, but it was also a Prohibition-era bar with a tunnel to the police station.

Professor Thom’s– The college crowd and beyond loves the cheap drinks and events like television viewing parties. The bar is named after the country’s first celebrity bartender Jerry Thomas.

Brooklyn Brewery– And, of course, visit the city’s original craft brewery, located in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. They’re open for tours daily but get there early.

guide to new york city

Morgan Library

Things to Do

New York City has hundreds of things to do for both first time visitors and locals. Once you’ve done the big ticket items, like the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and Times Square, look for the more cultural experiences and check out the city’s many public parks.

The Morgan Library & Museum– What started as a private library for robber baron J.P. Morgan is now a museum devoted to art and the printed word. See the historic library, with its original volumes. It’s a worthy break in the standard museum mile.

High Line Park– Perhaps the most popular green space to be created in the last fifty years, the High Line is made of a converted elevated rail line that now hosts concerts, art shows, and food vendors.

Ground Zero– It’s important to visit the September 11 Memorial at Ground Zero even if you decide not to go to the Museum, which opened last year. Visiting both require purchasing tickets.

Brooklyn Bridge – The famous bridge is free to walk across and has great views of the city. Just be sure to watch out for bicyclists who won’t hesitate to veer around you and yell if you’re walking slowly or in the wrong lane.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum– There are many art museums worth visiting in New York, including the Met and MOMA, but the Guggenheim is recommended for its famous Frank Lloyd Wright-designed architecture and exhibits on modern art.

Circle Line Cruises– There’s no better way to see New York City than by water. I took the Harbor Lights cruise, which left from the Westside down to Battery Park and the Freedom Tower, past Hoboken, looping around Brooklyn, and returning past Lady Liberty at night.

I also recommend checking out some of the On Location Tours NYC TV & Movie Tour that visit your favorite locations from Sex and the City, The Sopranos and many more. For local experiences of New York City neighborhoods, check out Urban Adventures tours.

guide to new york city

Strand Bookstore


It’s easy to go crazy when shopping in New York City, particularly when it comes to the major flagship stores here. There are also bargain lover’s dreams to be had at places like Century 21. Apart from clothing, here are a few of my favorite stores to check out when in town.

ABC Carpet & Home– Design lovers will fall head over heels for this store that sells so much more than carpet. Their displays are like Anthropologie but better, featuring home furnishings and other gift items. They also have an in-house restaurant.

The Strand– Dubbing itself “18 miles of books,” you could spend hours roaming through the shelves of this New York City landmark. They carry all genres and regularly host author readings and relevant events.

Eataly– The restaurant/beer garden/classroom/Italian food hall sells everything a foodie and Italophile could want, from fresh pasta to small-batch olive oil to espresso.

guide to new york city

Cozy room at The Row

Where to Stay

Finding a deal on a place to stay in New York City depends heavily on what neighborhood, time of year and price range. The further away you are from areas like Times Square and Central Park, the less expensive it’s bound to be.

Ink48– My go-to hotel in New York is usually this Kimpton property, which was chosen by my bosses, but it’s a great hotel that provides daily tea and coffee, bike rentals, an in-house restaurant and bar and plush bathrobes. There’s also a spa and they provide C.O. Bigelow toiletries.

Ace Hotel New York– For a hip and more pricey stay, the Ace is where you want to be. I haven’t yet had the pleasure of staying here, but I have visited their bar. They have all sorts of rooms, including bunk beds in smaller rooms to full suites.

The Row NYC– Similar to the Ace, The Row is a new property in the heart of Times Square and just as busy. You choose what size room you want and can take advantage of amenities like the free Wifi, computers for use, bar and restaurant and 24-hour shop.

The Jane Hotel– Another small but quirky property, The Jane has bunk bed rooms and larger rooms for a higher rate. All are reminiscent of sleeping on board a ship as it was originally a home for sailors.

Don’t forget about AirBnB as an option either, but expect to find more options in the outer boroughs like Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and across the river in New Jersey.

guide to new york city

Alice in Wonderland Mosaic at 50th Street Subway Station


New York City is easy to get around if you know where to find the subway stops. MetroCards can be reloaded and are good for a number of years. You can use them on buses and trains, which can take you from the airport. Get yourself a map or an app on your first day to figure out where you’re going. Also keep in mind that the entrance to the direction you want to travel might be across the street or down the block. Be mindful of how late your chosen train runs and make sure you don’t accidentally end up on an express train that skips your stop, as I did once. Follow the MTA website for rail delays and updates.


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Mentioned in this post
  1. Gotham West Market
    Restaurant in NY New York

    600 11th Ave
    NY New York
    (212) 582-7940
  2. Chelsea Market
    Attraction in New York City New York

    75 9th Avenue
    New York City New York
    (212) 727-1111
  3. Whitney Museum
    Attraction in New York New York

    945 Madison Avenue
    New York New York
    (212) 570-3600
  4. Washington Square Park
    Attraction in New York New York

    New York New York
    (212) 639-9675
  5. The Spotted Pig
    Restaurant in New York New York

    314 West 11th Street
    New York New York
    (212) 620-0393
  6. Stonewall Inn
    Restaurant in NY New York

    53 Christopher St
    NY New York
    (212) 488-2705
  7. Momofuku Milk Bar
    Restaurant in NY New York

    15 West 56th Street
    NY New York
    (347) 577-9504
  8. Xi'an Famous Foods
    Restaurant in New York County New York

    24 W 45th St
    New York County New York
    (212) 786-2068
  9. Ghostbusters Building
    Attraction in NY New York

    55 Central Park West
    NY New York
    (212) 504-4115
  10. Café Grumpy
    Restaurant in NY New York

    224 W 20th St
    NY New York
    (212) 255-5511
  11. Sullivan Street Bakery
    Restaurant in New York New York

    533 W 47th St.
    New York New York
    (212) 265-5580
  12. Tacombi at Fonda Nolita
    Attraction in New York New York

    267 Elizabeth St
    New York New York
  13. Cafe Mogador
    Restaurant in New York New York

    101 Saint Marks Pl
    New York New York
    Attraction in NY New York

    600 11th Ave
    NY New York
    (212) 582-7941
  15. Zutto Japanese American Pub
    Restaurant in NY New York

    77 Hudson Street
    NY New York
    (212) 233-3287
  16. Pure Thai Cookhouse
    Restaurant in New York New York

    766 9th Ave.
    New York New York
    (212) 581-0999
  17. McSorley's Old Ale House
    Restaurant in NY New York

    15 E 7th St
    NY New York
  18. Jeremy's Ale House
    Restaurant in New York New York

    228 Front St
    New York New York
    (212) 964-3537
  19. The Press Lounge
    Attraction in NY New York

    653 11th Ave
    NY New York
    (212) 757-2224
  20. Onieal's
    Restaurant in New York New York

    174 Grand St
    New York New York
    (212) 941-9119
  21. Professor Thom's
    Attraction in New York New York

    219 2nd Avenue
    New York New York
    (212) 260-9480
  22. Brooklyn Brewery
    Restaurant in New York

    79 North 11th Street
    New York
    (718) 486-7422
  23. The Morgan Library & Museum
    Attraction in New York

    225 Madison Ave
    New York
  24. High Line Park
    Attraction in New York New York

    210 10th Avenue
    New York New York
    (212) 500-6035
  25. Ground Zero
    Attraction in New York New York

    New York New York
  26. Brooklyn Bridge
    Attraction in New York New York

    Brooklyn Bridge
    New York New York
  27. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
    Attraction in New York County New York

    1071 5th Ave
    New York County New York
    (212) 423-3500
  28. Circle Line Cruises
    Attraction in New York

    Pier 83
    New York
  29. Century 21
    Attraction in NY New York

    22 Cortlandt St
    NY New York
    (212) 227-9092
  30. ABC Carpet & Home
    Attraction in New York New York

    888 Broadway
    New York New York
    (212) 473-3000
  31. The Strand
    Attraction in NY New York

    828 Broadway
    NY New York
    (212) 473-1452
  32. Eataly
    Restaurant in NY New York

    200 5th Ave
    NY New York
    (212) 229-2560
  33. Ink48
    Hotel in New York County New York

    653 11th Ave
    New York County New York
    (212) 757-0088
  34. Ace Hotel New York
    Hotel in New York City

    20 West 29th Street
    New York City
    (212) 679-2222
  35. The Row NYC
    Hotel in NY New York

    700 8th Ave
    NY New York
    (888) 352-3650
  36. The Jane Hotel
    Hotel in New York New York

    113 Jane St
    New York New York
    (212) 924-6700

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3 Responses to Caroline in the City Guide to New York City

  1. Rebecca October 12, 2015 at 9:25 am #

    What a great summary of all things New York! Have pinned this for the next time I get to NYC :-)

  2. Chanel | Cultural Xplorer October 31, 2015 at 7:26 pm #

    Nice list – I love partying at the Jane Hotel or going there for a drink during non-party hours :D Also, some other neighborhoods people should consider staying in are Long Island City and Harlem! :D

    • Caroline November 1, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

      Thanks, Chanel! I need to do some more exploring myself!

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