For months we have been planning for the visits of friends and family and last week we had the first installment and welcomed Will and Marcelina to NYC.
They got in at 23:30 on Saturday night; Marcelina from LA and Will from London, so for the first couple of days we were trying to accommodate 3 different time zones. This meant that we definitely had to take it easy as jet lag was playing havoc with both of them.
First things first - get your walking shoes on. The best way to see Manhattan for the first time is to walk around to get a real sense for the place. Yes, the subway is super useful for getting from A to B, but you won't get a feel for how the city connects unless you dodge in and out of the traffic and watch the subtle changes between each neighborhood. If accessibility is a consideration get in a yellow taxi and do it in style.
We have lived here for nearly 6 months now and we kept saying that we would check out a classic American Diner but for some reason it never happened. Having Will and Marcelina here meant that we had the perfect excuse to pig out on pancakes, bacon and maple syrup for breakfast (tip: if you see Canadian style bacon it's more like thick ham/gammon to British people). The Metro Diner at W 100th Street and Broadway was awesome – super busy but with a really quick turn around and a hearty, scrumptious, quintessential breakfast.
2. Let yourself wander away from the plan.
There is always something unexpected popping up in NYC. We left the diner planning to head straight to Central Park but a market had popped up on 96th and Broadway, so we took some time to meander through the crowds, listen to some of the live music and browse the stalls. As we'd already eaten we skipped the food, but there are always some tantalizing options at these pop up markets. If you're ever trying to build up your book collection having moved to NYC, track down one of these markets, the selection is pretty varied and this one was just one or two bucks per book.
3. Central Park
There's so much to do in Central Park that you could dedicate well over a whole day to listening to buskers, discovering the statues, gazing at lakes, watching volleyball, baseball pitches, fountains, walkways, cycle paths, picnic spots, the zoo and places to eat and drink etc. Also, the park is a great place to whip out your camera and get some incredibly picturesque views to fill up your Instagram feed.
4. Something Free
There is so much in NYC to spend your hard earned cash on, but one of the magical things about this city is that there is always something free to check out. We keep ourselves up to date with the Time Out New York app, so make sure you have it downloaded and see if you can catch a classic New York experience without digging into your pockets.
It's all about the views on your first day in the city so we managed to pop into the 'Open House' to view the empty venues of Jazz at the Lincoln Center and were wowed with Columbus Circle and Central Park.
5. Walk Midtown: Bryant Park & Rockefeller Plaza are priorities.
a) Bryant Park
I guess it's not the biggest attraction in itself (though a lovely example of the wonderful smaller parks dotted around the Manhattan grid) but you'll get great views of the Chrysler and the Empire State building, not to mention it backs onto New York Public Library. You're surrounded by the hustle and bustle of NYC where you can sit, recoup and take in your hectic surroundings. In the summer you can find people picnicking and watching open air performances, and in the winter the park houses an ice skating rink and one of the most charming Christmas markets in the city (tip: you can find hand made beautiful Christmas tree ornaments here that don't say 'I love New York' on, which is pretty hard in this city).
b) Rockefeller Plaza
At all times of the year I love this view. If you want to go UP in this city, this is the building to start with, because if you choose to go up the Empire State Building first something will be missing from your classic NYC skyline... the Empire State Building. It has a great atmosphere down at ground level too with the awesome flagged plaza, which hosts the famous New York Christmas tree from the end of November and a beautiful ice rink (can you tell I'm excited for Christmas in New York? I just can't wait!).
In all honesty, there are many places that will make your first day in NYC a day to remember. So many awesome neighborhoods and places haven’t made it onto this top five, and that isn’t to say they’re not in my top five NYC places, but rather, this would be a good start to a New York trip, to get acquainted with the city. And I’ve only included Manhattan on this list – sorry outer boroughs! If you’ve been to New York, what would you recommend as the top five things to do on your first day?