New York First-Timers: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet Guide

Ready to take your first bite out of the Big Apple as you’re traveling to New York for the first time? Then this guide has got you covered! New York is a must-see destination on the travel bucket list and planning your first trip is exciting, but can also get a little overwhelming. The sheer size of New York and the endless things to see and do here can make planning your trip a bit confusing but, worry not, here is the perfect guide for first timers to New York!

This guide covers itinerary ideas, getting around NYC and tips on places to eat to help you plan your trip to New York and get the most out of your stay in this incredible metropolis. Basically, everything you need to know as a New York first timer will be answered.


New York First-Timers Cheat Sheet Guide

Getting To New York City

Three major airports serve New York City: JFK, LaGuardia and Newark. If you’re flying into JFK or Newark, commuter train and the subway goes from both those airports into the city. If you’re arriving at LaGuardia, your best option is to take a taxi, which is metered and will take about an hour to get you into Manhattan. From JFK, you can take a New York City taxi to Manhattan for a flat fee of $52, not including tolls. You can take the subway into Manhattan from JFK for about $10 total per person.

If you are coming from the North East, you can take one of the commuter trains right into New York City. Cheaper still, you could take a bus to NYC’s Port Authority Bus Terminal which will take you right into the heart of Manhattan.


New York Itinerary

First stop for a quintessential New York City experience is Times Square. Here you can witness the frenetic pace of the Empire City first hand. Immerse yourself in the NYC atmosphere and stand in awe of Times Square’s neon signs and bright lights. But we warned as a New York first timers you might be overwhelmed. You might need to push your way through the crowds and take in all the sounds and the chaos of midtown New York.

While you’re busy soaking up the frenzied vibes in Times Square, make sure that you keep an eye out for one of the TKTS Booth. The TKTS Booths sell tickets for Broadway performances that are taking place on that day at discounted prices. Check out the TKTS app to find out what shows have cheaper tickets that are on sale on any given day. The best part thing about these booths is that you don’t have to waste your precious sightseeing time standing in line for your discounted ticket – do as the locals do and go to a TKTS half an hour before the show starts. Tickets are always available and the queue will be much shorter.

If there is a particular show that you are set on seeing though, you should check out Broadwaybox to purchase discounted tickets in advance to avoid disappointment. Whatever you decide to do, catching a Broadway Show is an absolute must-do on your NYC itinerary!

When you’re ready to move on from Times Square, make your way over to Rockefeller Center. To get there, head east on 50th Street, cross 7th Avenue and 6th Avenue. On the way, keep an eye out for a rockin’ Rockette as you pass Radio City Music Hall! Rockefeller Center is an historic New York City landmark consisting of 19 commercial buildings, including 14 original Art Deco buildings for you to feast your eyes on. The Rockefeller Center Plaza is jam packed with restaurants, shopping and events. You can take in panoramic views from the observation deck, known as the “Top of the Rock”. If you’re planning your trip to New York City in the winter, join the skaters at the rink in front of the iconic Christmas Tree in plaza for some classic festive fun.

Next stop on your classic NYC tour? Fifth Avenue. As you leave the Rockefeller Center, walk east toward 5th Avenue. On your way, stop into St Patrick’s Cathedral. With its stunning Neo-Gothic façade, you can’t miss it. Take a guided tour or download the audio guide app and go it alone.

Continue onto 5th Avenue, also known as Millionaire’s Row, one of the most expensive and elegant thoroughfares in the world. Check out all the designer stores including the iconic Tiffany’s and Bergdorf Goodman. Depending on your budget, you can indulge in some actual shopping or just settle for window shopping while you’re here!

The next famous NYC landmark on itinerary is the iconic Empire State Building, the star of so many Hollywood movies such as Sleepless in Seattle and King Kong. Take in the breathtaking views from the deck on the 102nd floor. To get there from 5th Avenue, head south toward 34th street.

While you’re making your way to the Empire State Building, it could be worth checking out Bryant Park and the New York Public Library along the way. After you’ve scaled the dizzying heights of the Empire State Building, you could head to Macy’s and Herald Square, just one block west at 34th Street and 6th Avenue.


Recommended: 4 Day New York City Itinerary 


Getting Around In New York City

Make sure to pack your walking shoes – the easiest way to get around NYC is to walk or go by subway or take a taxi/ride share app. Don’t even think about driving – traffic and parking, especially in Manhattan, is horrendous.

Check out these tips for navigating your way through Manhattan’s famous grid of streets and avenues like a true New Yorker.

  • Streets run east–west, most of the streets are numbered and the street numbers get higher to the north.
  • Avenues run north–south, with numbers ascending as you move towards the west of the island.
  • Fifth Avenue is Manhattan’s dividing line that separates New York streets east–west.
  • Broadway, the world’s longest thoroughfare, runs diagonally through the grid system, going Northward from the tip of Manhattan right into the Bronx.


Suggested: The 7 Best Ride Share Apps For New York City


Save money on taxi fare, and your feet from all the walking, and get familiar with the Subway. This extensive underground system serves the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx so it’ll get you to almost anywhere you need to go in NYC.

  • To ride the subway and make use of public transport during your time in NYC you’ll have to get yourself a Metrocard. You can get a Metrocard from one of the automated machines in the subway stations or from a ticket.
  • The Metrocard costs just $1 for the card itself, before you load any money onto it.
  • You have a few different options when choosing your Metrocard – you can go for the pay-per-ride option or the unlimited weekly or monthly passes.
  • The fare for the subway costs $2.75 each way.
  • Helpful tip: On the subway map, the express train stops are denoted by a white circle and local stops by a black circle.


A final option to consider is renting a bike during your visit. If you decide to bike it, stick to the parks and bike paths but avoid the city streets to make it a safe, scenic and active way to get around the city.

These are some ideas to help you to fit in many of the major NYC touristic sites within walking distance in one day. You can add to or take from these sites as you wish, just make sure you enjoy every New York minute of it!

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