Hi, I’m Taylor Taverna – a NYC-based travel specialist and content creator. I grew up in the suburbs just 30 minutes outside of Manhattan. Welcome to my travel guide on the best things to do in New York City and surrounds.
Why New York City should be on your Bucket List
New York City is a hectic, vibrant and beautiful place all in one! It’s a destination that can appeal to so many different types of people. The city has some of the best restaurants in the country, tons of art and culture, and so many hidden gems that are still waiting to be discovered.
The people of NYC live a fast and goal-oriented life. Our nickname “The City That Never Sleeps” is accurate. There is definitely a go-go-go mentality but people are passionate about a range of different topics.
I have lived in New York for most of my life. For this reason, I’m always comfortable in crowds. What I love most is the access to events, networks and communities of people. NYC is a wonderful place to discover yourself.
Favourite Place in New York: Cobble Hill (Brooklyn)
I always take my best photos in Brooklyn and moved to the adorable Cobble Hill a few months ago. It’s one of the cutest areas in the city which is often overlooked by tourists. Cobble Hill was an area that I dreamed of living in – and I am so happy to call it home now.
Best Things To Do in New York City and Surrounds
New York City and surrounds is bursting with attractions and hidden gems. From the incredible architecture and street artwork, to the boutique shops and world-class dining restaurants, to the amazing day trips on offer in New York State. Check out a few of my favourite things to do below:
1. Walk the High Line of New York City
The High Line is a historic rail line which takes you through 1.45 miles of gardens and greenway. It’s located on the West Side of Manhattan. On this walk you can experience beautiful gardens, view creative art and eat delicious food – all while enjoying a unique view of NYC.
2. Explore the Brooklyn Neighborhood of NYC
Located east of Manhattan is the Brooklyn neighbourhood of New York. This borough is the third-most populous area of the US and is home to some amazing attractions like Coney Island, Brooklyn Bridge and Prospect Park. You can also find the best pizza in town here!
3. Attend a Secret Sofar Sounds Concert
Sofar Sounds offer a range of intimate music gigs all around the world. The performances in secret venues across New York are always worth checking out when you’re visiting. These concerts are a fantastic way to discover some underground artists. Order a couple of cocktails and enjoy the night.
4. Have a Picnic in Central Park or Dumbo
Central Park is one of the most iconic places in New York, right up there with the Statue of Liberty. There are many beautiful spots to enjoy a picnic in this massive green space. On the other hand, Dumbo in Brooklyn is a trendy neighbourhood where you can have a picnic on the waterfront.
5. Wander the Halls of The Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Modern Art is a great place to visit for the afternoon. Wander through the halls and admire the most thought-provoking contemporary art in the US. This institution is committed to exploring the art, ideas and issues relevant to the 21st century.
6. Bar Hop in the East Village and Lower East Side
Walking through the East Village, the first thing you notice is the amount of bars in the area. This is the perfect spot to go bar hopping for a night with some friends. The Lower East Side is another bar hopper’s paradise home to craft beer bars, cocktail bars and cider-specialists.
7. Take a Day Trip to the Unique Governors Island
Governors Island is a former military base located in the heart of New York Harbor. This 172 acre island is located only 800 yards from Lower Manhattan, making it an easy place to visit for the day. Here you can go on picnics, take bike rides and relax on hammocks in the sun.
8. Watch the Sunset from a Rooftop Bar in NYC
New York is home to many incredible rooftop bars where you can take in a classic city sunset. Berry Park in Williamsburg offers a large rooftop space with unparalleled views of the Manhattan skyline from their second floor. Order a couple of German or Belgium beers and let the good times roll!
9. Go on a Brewery Tour of Long Island City
Microbrewing has come a long way in the last decade in New York City. One of the best places to enjoy this phenomenon is in Queens’ Long Island City. There are many fantastic breweries to explore on foot such as Alewife, Big Alice Brewing Co, Fifth Hammer Brewing, Iconyc and LIC Beer Project.
10. Check out a Concert in Prospect Park
Prospect Park is the flagship park of Brooklyn which hosts many fantastic concerts throughout the year. Make sure you do some research before your trip so you can time your visit with one of the shows. The park is also a great place to go for a walk, bike ride or rollerblade.
Best Day Trips in New York City and Surrounds
If you plan on visiting New York for a good couple of weeks, then you will have the chance to go on a few day trips in New York State. This state is full of surprises and beautiful destinations often overlooked by travelers.
The best hiking spots are the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains. A road trip from NYC to the Catskills takes around two-and-a-half hours. Here you can hike up mountain summits, discover hidden waterfalls and wander through the woods. Perfect for hikers of all abilities.
The Adirondack Mountains, on the other hand, are further away but are no less beautiful. Driving here takes around four-and-a-half hours. On arrival you will be spoilt with many towns, mountains and lakes to explore. This is the largest protected natural area in the lower 48 states of the USA.
If hiking isn’t your cup of tea then you can always day trip to the many cute towns of New York State. Some of my favourites include New Paltz, Kingston and Hudson. All worth visiting if you’ve got the time!
Best Places to Eat in New York City and Surrounds
Food is a big part of the culture in New York City and it’s simply incredible! You can literally find any type of cuisine that you want at any hour of the day. A few of my favourite spots in New York City and surrounds include:
- Tortaria – bodega-style eatery serving hearty Mexian food
- Souvlaki GR – little taste of Mykonos in the heart of NYC
- Panna II Garden – delicious Indian food in a unique setting
- Joe’s Pizza – the best slice of pizza in NYC in my opinion
- Vinny’s in Carroll Gardens – friendly neighborhood Italian restaurant
- Vanessa’s Dumpling House – range of different Chinese snacks
- Jajaja Plantas Mexicana – plant-based Mexican restaurant
Travel Tips for your Visit to New York and Surrounds
Your experience of New York City and surrounds will all depend on how much time you allocate to this destination. The great thing about NYC is that it’s a 24 hour city that never sleeps. Even if you only have a weekend, you can still explore around the clock and see so much.
New York City can feel a bit overwhelming for tourists if you’re in a rush. I recommend giving yourself a full week so you can take your time and soak in the city slowly. Of course, if you plan on seeing more of the state and want to hike the mountains – then two weeks or more would be ideal.
A few things to remember: don’t take taxis as the subways are perfectly safe, book your accommodation in Brooklyn or Queens for cheaper and authentic options, try the classic foods of NYC such as pizza and bodega bagels, and wake up for sunrise to take the best photos!
Thanks for reading my guide on the best things to do in New York City and surrounds! I hope to see you here one day soon 🙂 For more NYC inspiration feel free to follow me on Instagram and check out my blog.