Visiting New York City is one of those bucket list items that every American needs to experience at least once in their life. In fact, it’s probably an item that every person needs to take in, including those outside the United States. Often considered the greatest city in the world by many, visiting the Big Apple is truly an event that will create memories that will last a lifetime. The city is so vastly different than anything anyone will experience in their hometown, so first time visitors are sure to be in shock by the city which offers so much.
First time visitors will not only be culture shocked by NYC’s people, but will be amazed and in awe of everything else the city has to offer which is a never-ending list of things to do, see and experience. Some first timers might feel it’s too much to handle, but most will be astounded into wanting to come back time and time again, many of whom decide to stay permanently. Here are 25 thoughts everyone has when visiting New York City for the first time.
25 Why Can’t I Hail a Cab?
If you’re trying to get around the city, the first manner of transportation that comes to mind for first time visitors is the infamous yellow New York City taxi cab. We’ve all seen them in some form of media or pop culture reference with the all-famous “hailing a New York cab” scene. Unfortunately for newbies to the city, it’s not exactly as it appears in movies. There’s a certain way to do it. First off, you have to make sure you aren’t standing at a bus stop or you’ll get completely ignored. Secondly, you have to look like you belong so you need to raise your hand with some conviction!
24 There is So Much Traffic Here!
If you are able to successfully hail a cab, you’ll quickly take notice that the taxi you are in is not moving much. That’s because New York City is one of the most heavily congested cities in the world when it comes to traffic, most especially in the Manhattan borough. The city itself is actually pretty small in terms of size, but there are so many people looking to move around that you are bound to get stuck in traffic. You truly are better off using a combination of the public transportation and walking to get around.
23 There’s No Way I’m Riding Those Subway Trains
Once you’ve decided it’s smarter to venture down into the subway tunnels for efficiency reasons, you are likely going to be taken aback by the grittiness that is underground NYC. Don’t expect to find beautiful shining turnstiles, benches and platforms down there. Instead, you will find a very real look into the world of public transit that is used by millions of pedestrians every day.
For many outsiders who are used to the comfort of their cars back home, the subway train will be an immediate turnoff at first glance… but give it a chance.
22 Oh Wait, These Subway Trains Are Great!
After you have gotten over the grit and grime of the NYC subway system, you’ll quickly learn that not only is it not so bad down there, but it’s actually really great! You’ll be hard pressed to find any other mass transit system that is more efficient. The subway system is incredibly thorough and covers just about every part of the city you would want to visit, stretching through the major boroughs including the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan.
You’ll find that the cheap fare coupled with the quick rides far outweighs any benefit you get from an expensive yellow cab. Also, the musicians, artists, dancers and underground acts are worth the train ride alone.
21 New Yorkers Are Always in a Rush
Tourists in the city, who are walking around, gawking up at the incredible skyscrapers and bright lights surrounding them, will soon find that the people around them are in no mood to lollygag and stare at their environment in awe. Native New Yorkers have seen everything you are marveling at and just want to get to work or class on time and are in a hurry to get past the never-ending sea of crowds in front of them.
It is true that New Yorkers seem to always be in a rush, with their natural walk seeming like a very brisk pace to the rest of the country.
20 I Can Walk To So Many Places
New York is one of the most walkable cities in the country, if not the most. Not only does the subway system facilitate getting around, but once you are back above ground, the city is small enough that you can likely walk to your destination after your subway ride. It’s also designed in such a way that makes it incredibly easy to get around without major fear of getting lost.
Each city block is basically a perfect square and most of Manhattan’s streets are literally in chronological order, making it easy to be a pedestrian for even a nine-year-old.
19 My Feet Hurt!
You’ll find that walking is so convenient, that many tourists get carried away and abandon all other forms of transport. This isn’t necessarily the best idea though. Although the city is not giant by any means and much of it is confined to small spaces, it is still a major city, nonetheless.
No matter how much you try to avoid it, sore feet are inevitable by the time the day is over and a great number of attractions have been visited. Use the subway when it makes sense. Your heels and shoes will thank you later.
18 There’s More to NYC Than Manhattan?
Most tourists stick to Manhattan during the duration of their vacation stay and get all their walking done here. But many will be pleasantly surprised to find out that there is more to New York City than the main island. There are four other boroughs to explore – Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island. With the exception of the last one, the first three have an endless number of incredible sights to see and attractions to visit.
Brooklyn has the world-famous Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Queens has its incredible Queens Museum of Art and the Bronx has its famous zoo and Yankee Stadium. Each borough has its own unique identity that its residents are firmly proud of.
17 There’s So Much Incredible Food!
This is a realization that will come very quickly for just about any visitor to the Big Apple. With representation from just about every country in existence, New York’s melting pot of cultures makes for a just-as-amazing melting pot of culinary dishes available on every corner.
With New York style pie (pizza), street cart hot dogs, Indian cuisine, Cuban sandwiches, Dominican dishes, Chinese and Vietnamese shops everywhere, and countless more to choose from, every palate will be satisfied and then some while visiting NYC.
16 There Are So Many People!
As you hit the streets of Manhattan, the number of people around you will overwhelm you in a heartbeat. These busy streets are nothing like what you experience back home, no matter where you call home. With so many pedestrians constantly walking around, the city is not only incredibly populated, but also feels just as busy. New York City is the most populated city in the country at nearly nine million residents within the city limits. But that’s only including the city proper.
When including the metro area which is all surrounding areas that are closely acclimated to the city, that number balloons to more than double at 20.3 million, according to opendatanetwork.com.
15 And They Are From All Over the World
When it comes to NYC’s diversity, greatamericancountry.com puts it perfectly, “with almost 200 languages spoken, 40 percent of the NYC population was born outside of the United States. Combine the cultural and ethnic diversity of the residents with the hundreds of consulates, embassies and permanent U.N. missions and you have a cosmopolitan city unlike any other.”
The city represents people from every corner of the world, making for a beautiful and eclectic culture that cannot be matched anywhere else in the world.
14 There Are So Many Buildings!
If one of the first thoughts you have when looking up while in the City that Never Sleeps is “I’ve never seen so many buildings”, then you are certainly not wrong. According to nyc.gov, there are nearly 6,500 high rise buildings with 113 of those considered skyscrapers (at least 600 feet tall).
No other city in the country can even come within earshot of this astounding fact. The city truly is a concrete jungle with a skyline that really is something to marvel at.
13 The Statue of Liberty Really Is Beautiful
No matter what state you call home, just about every single person has seen an image of the Statue of Liberty at some point in their lives, making her quite possibly the most famous statue ever built. There’s little doubt that she looks incredible on TV or in photographs found online. But when first-time visitors see her up close and in person, her beauty is awe-inspiring and more magnificent than anyone can truly imagine.
Rather than spending time going inside the statue, it’s best to take in her giant, graceful beauty from one of the many boats that pass by her in the New York Harbor.
12 Times Square Really Does Seem Larger Than Life
We’ve all heard of Times Square and all of its grandeur, with its incredible lights and billboards, whether in movies or while watching the infamous New Year’s Eve ball drop on live TV. It’s one of those ultimate bucket list places and with good reason. But nothing can really prepare tourists for how overwhelming Times Square can truly be when visiting in person.
The constant flow of traffic, thousands of pedestrians, LED billboards, advertisements signs, glowing lights and countless retail shops really are larger than life and unlike anything back home.
11 The Freedom Tower is *HUGE*
When first-time visitors find themselves in the quieter part of Manhattan, in downtown, the biggest standout attraction is the World Trade Center’s Freedom Tower, which quite literally stands out above the rest of the city. At 1,776 feet tall, a symbolic height paying homage to the year the Declaration of Independence was signed, the Freedom Tower will strike visitors as absolutely gargantuan.
Not only does the blue windowed tower stretch high into the sky, but its width is impressive, taking up what seems like several city blocks, much bigger than the average building in the city.
10 The Brooklyn Bridge is Impressive
The Brooklyn Bridge has been the star of countless movie scenes, playing the character of romantic location time after time, where lovers meet, fall in love, kiss for the first time or profess their undying love. There’s a reason why the Brooklyn Bridge has built up such a grand reputation in romance lore… it truly is impressive, magnificent and the hopeless romantic’s ideal location for passionate adoration.
It’s beautiful in its own right with all its history, antique façade and perfect location over the East River.
9 The View from the Rockefeller Center is Magical
New York City is a town full of skyscrapers and the only way to truly appreciate its majestic skyline is from up in the sky. There are several observation decks that can be found throughout the city, but none will ever live up to the magical views offered from Rockefeller Center’s Top of the Rock Observation Deck.
With sprawling 360 degree panoramic views of every borough and every major landmark the city has to offer, there isn’t a more breathtaking view in all of New York. First time visitors are sure to get lost in the views for hours while up there, losing track of time.
8 The Empire State Building Really Does Feel Iconic
Perhaps the most famous building in the world, the Empire State Building is not only incredible to look at, but it also feels very much like a part of the city’s important history. Built during the Great Depression, the Empire State Building is very much a part of the genetic makeup of NYC, iconic in more ways than anyone can count.
The skyscraper, although no longer the tallest, stands above the rest in midtown Manhattan, lighting up the beautiful nighttime sky with its ever-changing colors and instantly recognizable spire.
7 Brooklyn Has Some Serious Flavor
For those tourists who decide to vacation the right way and venture outside of Manhattan for even just a day, they will find that the other boroughs have plenty to offer. Brooklyn is the most obvious choice to explore more of the remaining boroughs and with great reason. Visitors will find that it is basically a city unto itself with plenty of flavors and its very own New York identity with its residents being very proud of their Brooklynite uniqueness.
With more to do than can fill up a week-long itinerary, Brooklyn offers visitors a distinct experience with plenty of character.
6 Queens Does Too!
Although Brooklyn gets plenty of love when it comes to the lesser visited boroughs, Queens deserves just as much attention. Often considered a poor man’s version of the up and coming Brooklyn, Queens also has its own individual personality that makes it a must-see area.
Home to great nightlife, rich culture and incredible food, Queens proves why it has become a fan favorite by natives, visitors and pop culture, alike.
5 There Are So Many Bridges!
According to nyhabitat.com, there are more than 2,000 bridges in the city of New York. That’s an astounding number of bridges which are not just there for aesthetics, but serve an important purpose that connects the city’s boroughs. Manhattan is an island so there are a significant number of bridges that connect the mainland to all of the other boroughs, some small and some enormous.
The city is home to some of the most famous bridges ever constructed including the Brooklyn Bridge, The George Washington Bridge, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge and the Queensborough Bridge, to name a few. Each of them are distinct and magnificent in their own ways.
4 Central Park is Gigantic
At two and a half miles long and half a mile wide, Central Park is absolutely massive in size. First-time park goers will be in awe of just how large the park is, finding very quickly that it is impossible to explore all of it in a day.
It would take a whole week to truly appreciate everything Central Park has to offer which includes several important landmarks like Strawberry Fields, the Alice in Wonderland Statue, the Bethesda Bridge and the Central Park Zoo.
Simply looking at an aerial view of the park within the city highlights its impressive size.
3 This City Really Never Sleeps
Most cities in the United States essentially shut down by midnight. There are bars and clubs that stay open a couple hours past that until 2AM, but for the most part, cities begin to wind down when the sun goes down. NYC is unlike any other city and this is one of the biggest differences with its lights never turning off, essentially staying awake and never getting any shut-eye.
One of the many monikers associated with NYC is the City That Never Sleeps and it’s a well-earned name, considering a significant number of bars stay open until 4AM and it’s perfectly normal to walk outside in the middle of the night and see a bevy of people still walking around as if were the middle of the day.
2 It Really is Nothing Like Back Home
Not only does the city differ in its very essence from any other place in the country, but even just its physical appearance is vastly unique, made up of islands connected by bridges, with large sprawling green parks surrounded by endless concrete and gigantic skyscrapers.
First-time tourists flying over the city on an airplane arriving can already see how different NYC is upon arrival, but they are sure to get a culture shock once on the ground and exploring.
1 I Love NYC
This is sure to be the last thought first-time visitors will think of as they are departing the city. “I Love NY” will cross anyone’s mind as they are heading back home, hoping to extend their stay just one more day, knowing that no vacation can ever fulfill seeing the entire city.
It’s pretty commonplace for visitors to fall in love with what many believe to be the greatest city in the world. The “I Heart New York” T-shirts are a best seller because first-time tourists fall in love and never want to leave, ready to return as soon as possible.