Visiting New York City for many is akin to unlocking a major life achievement. It's been hailed as one of, if not the greatest, cities in the world, which makes it a bucket-list destination for millions of people. Stepping foot into the city for the first time is overwhelming, exciting, and nerve-wracking, and the energy of it alone is enough to have one's brain firing on all synapses.

Chances are, visitors won't get lost in the city nor will they experience any of the rumors that they've likely heard. What they will experience is a diverse blending of lifestyles, cultures, and cuisines, and be faced with more options for a cup of coffee than they've ever had in their lives. The beauty of the city lies in the exploration of it, and newcomers can use this to jumpstart their ultimate NYC experience.


Related: Eat Your Way Through New York, Part I: New York City

What To Expect On The First Day In New York City

Granted, that first step out of Penn Station, Grand Central, or out of the taxi from JFK is overwhelming. There's no denying that the hustle and the bustle of this urban metropolis are enough to initially knock anyone off their axis, but it's something to embrace rather than fight.

Pro Tip: Visitors should allow themselves exactly five seconds of 'ooh'ing' and 'ah'ing' before finding their focus and committing to the first stop: their lodging accommodations.

Where one chooses to stay in the city is of the utmost importance because this will also dictate which type of transportation one relies on during the duration of their stay. With that being said, the very first step is to make it to the hotel, hostel, VRBO, or Airbnb. While rentals offer great amenities for those who are well-versed in the city, hotels are the better option for anyone who's new to its busy streets:

  • The concierge will be able to answer a plethora of questions (which visitors will always have).
  • Visitors can rely on the hotel for reliable transportation.
  • Hotels and restaurants go hand-in-hand; where there's a cluster of restaurants, there's often a hotel nearby. Some hotels even have rooftop bars, lounges, and other amenities that will make visitors feel more comfortable.
  • Many hotels offer incredible views of the city.
  • Booking a hotel near Penn Station or a subway entrance is the key to fast and convenient travel.

Quick & Dirty Guide On Where To Stay In Manhattan

Things can get a bit confusing; New York City is made up of five boroughs: Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. First-time visitors will want to head to Manhattan, which is technically considered 'the city.' Queens and Brooklyn are close seconds and provide good access to Manhattan, but are not for those who aren't well-versed in the train or subway.


This is the ideal location for first-timers as it provides great access to everything that's centrally located. There is a seemingly endless number of options in regard to hotels here, as well, and many of the city's main attractions will be within walking distance.

  • Pro: It's the perfect central location.
  • Con: It's also the busiest part of the city, especially in Times Square, so be prepared for crowds.

Consider staying at Pod 51, The Bowery, or citizenM.

Upper East Side (Manhattan)

In terms of luxe, the Upper East Side is where visitors will get a taste of the good life. It's home to many major museums and caters to high-end shopping, as well as quick access to Central Park.

  • Pro: Visitors will have a quieter experience and access to East River Views.
  • Con: It's very pricey, and will require a taxi, subway, or a lot of walking to reach from Midtown.

Consider staying at Garden Suites Hotel by Affinia, Lowell Hotel, or The Pierre.

Greenwich Village

On the opposite side just below Chelsea and about a 30-minute walk from the Hudson is Greenwich Village. This progressive, laid-back part of the city is good for those looking to get away from the touristy aspects of Midtown, while still getting a feel for city life. There's some great food here, good nightlife, chic shopping, and it has an artistic vibe, to boot.

  • Pro: It's easy walking and will provide visitors with access to a number of diverse restaurants, affordable shopping options, the High Line, and the Empire State Building.
  • Con: It's pretty far from major tourist attractions, which might concern some travelers.

Consider staying at Arlo SoHo, The Jane, or The Ridge Hotel.

Lower East Side & Soho

Those interested in potentially visiting Brooklyn should consider one of these two city spots because it'll provide the easiest access back and forth (the Lower East Side, especially). While Soho has been referred to as hipster central, it does have a cool, hip vibe that will be appreciated by those open to Avant-garde things.

  • Pro: It's super laid-back and provides quick access to the Brooklyn Bridge and, thus, Brooklyn.
  • Con: It's the furthest away from the 'city' part of the city, so visitors will need to rely mostly on the subway to get back and forth (or some expensive taxi rides).

Consider staying at Sohotel, Nolitan Hotel, or The Ridge Hotel.

Next: Here's How To Make The Most Of Your Day In Greenwich Village, New York City