Welcome to New York - The city that never sleeps! NYC is divided into five Boroughs: Queens, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Staten Island, and in the center of it all, Manhattan. Famous for its skyline, landmarks, restaurants and people, New York can give every visitor memories and photo opportunities to last a lifetime, but still leave you wanting to come back for more.
Ryan, the author of this post, lives in NYC
Metropolitan Museum of ArtRegarding NYC's general layout, the avenues are numbered low to high from East to West, and streets are numbered high to low going North to South until you reach downtown...where streets are in no order, so a map is necessary. Central Park is a beautiful get-away in the middle of the city which starts at 59th St. and continues all the way to Harlem. Check out the Metropolitan Museum of Art near Central Park, with only a "suggested donation" for entry. As you head south from Central Park you will get to Time Square in the mid-40s. This area is fun for kids, great for photos, and where the majority of Broadway shows are going to be found. For cheap tickets, go to the TKTS ticket booth to receive up to 50% off! Rockefeller Center, just east of Times Square, is where you can find everything NBC and is a beautifully decorated spot around the holidays. The Empire State Building is off 34th as you make your way downtown. You can see the building from everywhere, and while some love the views it gives of the whole city from the top, I suggest you save a few bucks and find the same view from a rooftop patio on many buildings throughout the city.
Getting closer to downtown you will encounter excellent shopping in Union Square, followed by SoHo, and then the Little Italy and Chinatown neighborhoods. Make sure you stop by Ground Zero where I recommend seeing the memorial, comprised of two fountains in the spot the Twin Towers originally stood. Admission to this is free, just print tickets off before hand. Another short walk and you'll get to Battery Park in the financial district. From here you'll have a view of the Statue of Liberty. While you can take a cruise to Liberty Island to walk around, I recommend taking the Staten Island Ferry which is quicker, cruises right by the Statue, and best of all, is free!
Statue of Liberty from Battery Park
Getting around Manhattan is simple, but can be incredibly time consuming. Taking the subway will give you free transfers and cost around $2.50 each way (search MTA for transportation details). While subways do entail packed trains, especially around rush hours, if you want to view life as a local, this is the best way to travel. Otherwise, cabs range from $10-$50 depending on distance, but often take around the same time door-to-door as the subway to reach destinations.
To get the most out of your stay, make a plan each morning and always try to keep track of where you are in the city. Asking people for directions can result in vastly different answers, sometimes even an incorrect route! If the weather is decent and you are in good shape, walking most of the route I described above is very doable, and you'll recognize many famous attractions in the neighborhoods along the way. Enjoy the Big Apple!