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Houstonian’s Guide: 10 Things You Gotta Do on Your First Trip to NYC

NYC first timers

It has come to my attention that a few of my friends have never been to NYC. It’s crazy to me, but I know I should have realized. I got to live there for a few months after college and it was a formative experience full of ruined shoes, long subway rides, and amazing food.

I got to visit a friend a few weeks back and a took a Houston friend with me. She had never seen the city so getting to view it through her eyes and experience was pretty awesome. If you’ve never been to the city that never sleeps (and yes that’s a very accurate name) here’s how to enjoy it!

Catch a show taping

NYC first timers

There are a lot of ways to get in at Jimmy Fallon (I’ve seen him three times, so I should know!). There are also TONS of other shows. Do some research, and, as soon as you book your flight, see what’s available. It’s completely free, so if you have enough time in advance, sign yourself up!

PS. Make sure to read the fine print. There are NO backpacks allowed and no convenient way to check it. Also, who ever signed up HAS to be there in person with ID. The tickets are non transferable. Don’t ask me how I know these rules OH SO WELL.

Eat a bagel

NYC first timers

Most bagel shops will be amazing, but we went to (and loved) Pick a Bagel!

Find a good view

NYC first timers

You gotta find a spot for a great city view, right? We got to go to the new Hudson Yards’ structure called the Vessel. Bunch of winding staircases with amazing views. It’s free, but you gotta book in advance.

I love doing Top of the Rock ($40ish) because you get Central Park AND the Empire State Building. If you go up to the viewing deck of the Empire State Building (also $40ish), then you don’t get the building in your shot, obviously!

Bottomless Brunch

NYC first timers

Soooo many places have bottomless in NYC. Recommend the Hell’s Kitchen area — you can literally just walk around reading the menus for their deals or just hop on a google search too.

Give yourself a tour

NYC first timers

There are so many iconic things to see in NYC that it’s completely unrealistic you can see it all. Here are some things I legitimately love walking through, visiting, or just hanging out around in.

Grand Central Station

It’s everything you’ve ever dreamed of — straight out of all the movies. Don’t miss the architecture and the celestial ceiling of the main concourse. (It’s an active train station and subway stop, so get out of everyone’s way!)

New York Public Library

Not your average library! It’s more of a free museum. Wander the halls to kill time (or even escape the cold).

Times Square (duh)

I mean, obviously. Even though most New Yorkers would avoid Seventh Ave. from 44th to 48th streets like it was the plague, there’s something exciting about visiting this iconic area. It’s even better at night — but stay aware of your surroundings!

Central Park

NYC first timers

Can’t miss a stroll through the park. I recommend hitting one of the waterfronts (you can even kayak!) and definitely the main fountain.

Steps of The Met

It can be pretty pricey getting into the Met, but it’s so worth it. If you’d rather skip it, just hanging out on the steps is entertaining too — tons of street performers and people watching. Plus, you can eat some yogurt and pretend you’re Blair from Gossip Girl.

Highline (summer is the best time to go)

Note: Skip this during the winter. During the summer, the Highline (a former raised train track turned into a park) is booming with people and popsicles. There’s hella construction too, so not the prettiest right now.

Chelsea Market (go hungry!)

Shop and eat. Eat and shop. That and a whole lot of people crammed at the bottom of a building is what you can expect from Chelsea Market. It sounds like hell, but it’s actually so much fun!

Union Square and Flatiron District

Head downtown to check out lower Manhattan. I used to live in the area, so it’s super special to me. Hit up the original Shake Shack in Madison Square Park and pose with the Flatiron (the weirdest looking building ever!) before checking out the breakdancing in Union Square.

Seaport Village and the Financial District, including Wall Street

Grab a lobster roll and browse the developing area! I went to school in the area, and it’s way different than other parts of Manhattan. Think: more room to breathe and fewer tourists. And, if you’re near Wall Street on a weekday, lots of suits.

Brooklyn Bridge

NYC first timers

Another iconic spot — be VERY careful of people on bikes, dropping your belongings, and, maybe more importantly, who might be photobombing your perfect shot! Take a sec to turn around and look at the skyline too!

WTC Memorial and Oculus Station

I got to go to the World Trade Center Memorial before it even opened. It’s honestly super heavy and sad, but important. The two fountains where the two towers were are breathtaking — but sometimes they turn the water feature off depending on weather. Now, you can do a rooftop tour of another tower and peruse the museum.

Bonus: Go to Oculus Station! It’s a new underground shopping area and train station. Think: The Galleria meets a subway station.

Ride the subway

OK, no fun adventure here, but I do think every visitor has got to try the subway! It’s honestly pretty impressive how many humans use this transit system. Hello, there is NOTHING like it in Texas. Honestly, some stations and cars are dis. gust. ing. — but if you get on a newer one (maybe try the N or R line and maybe the 23rd street station) it’s as nice as it gets.

Go to a Broadway show

NYC first timers

You gotta do a broadway show! Highly recommend Mean Girls! If you want cheap tickets, check out TKTS. If you’d rather pick your shows and seats, you’ll have to pay the price.

Watch some improv

There’s plenty of comedy spots around town — from up and comers to big names. We went to the Gotham Comedy Club (gotta buy tix in advance) and we caught some funny acts. Remember, it’s a two drink minimum at these places.

Go to a rooftop bar or speakeasy

NYC first timers

OK, clarification, this isn’t a bar. It’s the Top of the Rock (which I mentioned earlier). I did visit a couple fun rooftop bars you might want to check out. Both were pretty clubby — New Yorkers dress up to go out usually. 230 (230 Fifth Ave.) was the rooftop bar that has igloos and spiked hot chocolate outside and a full raging club inside. I also enjoyed Oscar Wilde, a chill bar (think Okra in downtown Houston).

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