Visited by more than 65 million people a year, New York is the ultimate epicenter for foodies, art lovers and trendsetters. With secret speakeasies hiding behind unmarked doors, world-famous museums and thrifty markets with hundreds of vendors — you'll want to get lost. From the soul-grabbing Broadway to mind-blowing places like the new Highline and Times Square, the best way to explore New York is to strap on some comfortable shoes and walk it.
Arguably the most dramatic and cultural area of New York City, Broadway is a major attraction for locals and tourists alike. With fan favorites like "Hamilton," "Wicked" and the "Lion King" and up-and-coming shows like "Dear Evan Hanson" and "Kinky Boots," there's something for everyone.
Getting your hands on a ticket is an experience in itself. World-famous shows like "Hamilton" can command crazy ticket prices. But don't despair at the price tag, there are a bunch of ways you can score cheap tickets.
Find discounted tickets online or enter a ticket lottery. The ever-popular TKTS booths require you to line up in person on the day, but also offer up to 50% discounts. There are plenty of other sites and ticket lotteries you can check online. Or head to the theater's box office as soon as it opens to see if you can get what's called "rush tickets" the day of the show.
Part of Broadway theater tradition is eating at nearby restaurants before the show. Maybe you'll catch a glimpse of the cast or strike up a conversation with a theatre critic. Mark Peikert, editor-in-chief at "Playbill," suggests Pasta Lovers for their enormous wine glasses, well-priced menu and Grandpa's Pie. For pre-show nibbles, head to Sushi of Gari 46 for light riceless cucumber rolls, or get a table at Joe Allen for American foodie classics.
If massive musicals aren't your scene, remember that you can always catch a more intimate and experimental performance at one of the 100-seat off-Broadway theaters.
New York has around 200 museums — each packed with culture, curiosity and a whole lotta NYC pride.
No cruise from New York is complete without a visit to the most famous museum of all, The Metropolitan Museum of Art or "the Met." Opened in 1870, the Met is home to 5,000 years of art history. Along with iconic impressionist works by Van Gogh (Gallery 826) and classics by old masters, there are plenty of diverse exhibitions to explore. Head to Gallery 501 to see the impressive wooden Gubbio Studiolo, a room entirely inlaid with ordinate wood, or go to Gallery 131 where you'll find the only complete Egyptian temple in the northern hemisphere!
Take a trip through time at the Tenement Museum, which shows the restored apartments of America's first immigrants on the Lower East Side. Or visit The Natural History Museum where the popular movie "Night at the Museum" takes place — the dinosaur skeleton alone is worth the trip. And don't forget to pass by the Guggenheim if you need another dose of world-famous artwork.
For kids between 6 months and 10 years old, head to the Brooklyn Children's Museum. They have three wacky floors of interactive science and cultural exhibits plus popular painting sessions at their Colorlab. If you like funkier museums, try out the weirdly fun National Museum of Mathematics or the incredibly fanatical Skyscraper Museum.
Is there such a thing as "The Best Restaurant in New York"? Probably not. Instead, there's a constant turntable of old favorites, new hotspots, fantastic inventions and cuisines from around the world. For example, have you ever had a cronut? How about THE cronut? Dominique Ansel Bakery in Soho is home of the first cronut, and they keep producing more delicious bites. Try the kouign-amann — a muffin-donut creation that's dense and caramelly.
It's well-known that New York has a massive Italian American population. You can barely walk around a city block without coming across three or four pizza joints. And every local New Yorker has an opinion on where to find the best slice. Walk into Forlini's in Baxter street for a quintessentially Italian experience. Started in the '40s, people go there for the massive portions, cheap red wine and lively atmosphere.
If you want to taste history, Lombardi's is the original birthplace of New York Style pizza (officially) and the first pizzeria in the United States. Set in the Little Italy neighborhood, you can't go wrong with its coal-baked pizza topped with fresh mozzarella and a healthy heaping of basil. But if you can't decide on a restaurant, walk around the Little Italy neighborhood and let your nose (and the crowds) guide you.
Of course, no trip to New York would be complete without a trip to China Town — one of NYC's top foodie destinations. Whether you're craving Japanese Ramen, Chinese dumplings, Vietnamese Pho or half a pig's head — you can find it here. Grab a greasy portion of late-night noodles at Great New York Noodletown. Though the restaurant is inconspicuous from the outside, its ginger scallion noodles have been approved by celebrity chef David Chang. The "salt fish w.chicken fried rice" is rumored to be an excellent hangover cure among locals.
For more fine dining, try classic French fare at The NoMad or go to Nur to bite into Israel's finest flavors. For a more casual experience, book a table at Grand Central Oyster Bar and Restaurant. Opened in 1913 on the lower level of Grand Central, its arches and classic decor are simply iconic. The 100 Club is reserved for restaurants that have been open for over 100 years. Peter Luger Steakhouse has been open for over 130 years, and boy do they know meat. Head there for the daily lunch special or celebrate a special occasion at dinner. Just be aware that they don't accept credit cards.
There is always live music in NYC. If you find yourself in the city in the summer with an evening to spare, get yourself down to Prospect Park for some epic free summertime concerts. They host big-name indie rockers, pop artists and more. So get yourself a patch of grass, a couple of beers and dance the night away!
For a little nighttime troublemaking, catch the subway to Charles Hanson's 169 Soul Jazz Oyster Bar. With cheap drinks, a pool table covered in leopard print and $3 beer-and-shot happy hour, a fun night is practically guaranteed.
If you're on a date night, head to the 25-year-old Japanese speakeasy Angel's Share for wacky cocktails with even wackier names (like "Smoke That Gets Into Your Eyes"). Or head to Birdland in Times Square where you can pull out your swankiest cocktail-wear and listen to some of the best jazz musicians in NYC.
For a classic all-American bar that's been featured in movies and TV shows like "The Godfather Part II" and "Jessica Jones," go to a bar called 7B in East Village. Expect old-timers, a student crowd and a jukebox that invariably plays a lot of metal music.
The best way to enjoy New York's many markets is to shop until you can't anymore, then refuel on some market snacks and drinks. Go to the Grand Bazaar NYC to get your thrift on and scour over the wares of 100 vendors, or walk the Pearl Plaza to find the vintage-crazed Brooklyn Flea (with over 80 vendors). Pop in at the Chelsea Flea Market for even more antiques and collectibles.
For a more cultured shopping experience, find the Artist and Fleas Markets in Chelsea, Williamsburg and Soho. Each offers a different collection of jewelry, designer clothes, refurbished antiques and handmade products.
If food is your focus, go to the Queens Night Market. It's a one-stop spot for food from more than 80 countries. It opens from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. every Saturday and has a great lineup of live music and performances.
West Village is the kind of place you want to get lost in. You'll wander the picturesque streets wondering why you don't live there. Nearby, Meatpacking is where you can find the gorgeous new Whitney Museum of Art and plenty of night-life. Soho has some of the best shopping and Little Italy some of the best food. Grab drinks at the rowdy Jake's Dilemma with half-price happy hour or head to the "Godfather"-inspired Carbone for a classic Italian meal. Stay at the elegant Mercer Hotel or the kid-friendly Crosby Street Hotel.
Flatiron is a great hub if you intend on visiting lots of places in the city. Easily accessible from everywhere and packed with its own range of activities and restaurants, it's both a convenient and exciting place to stay. There are plenty of markets for you to explore for morning brunch. Visit Union Square Farmers Market, Chelsea Market and Eataly for foodie delights and easy souvenir shopping. Walk the popular new Highline packed with arts and activities, and marvel at architect Zaha Hadid's new take on city living. For a good laugh and timewarp dance, catch the Rocky Horror Picture Show run by volunteer actors at Cinépolis Chelsea Cinemas every Friday and Saturday at midnight.
For dinner, go to Michelin star restaurant 15 East where you'll find fresh sushi served in inventive styles. If you're on a budget, stay at the versatile Freehand New York Hotel where you can get anything from a hostel-style bunk bed to a cozy suite. Or check-in at the boutique High Line Hotel where you'll get cushy rooms and antique decor.
Central Park is world-famous for its beauty, and visitors often underestimate its sheer size. At 840 acres and surrounded by skyscrapers, it's a sight to behold. According to locals, visitors who enter at 59th street don't get the full benefits of the park. Take the subway to 72nd street and enter from there, instead. That way you'll be able to see the Sheep Meadow, Bow Bridge, the Loeb Boathouse, the Alice in Wonderland statue and more without exhausting yourself with a long walk. Best of all, it's totally free!
Once the tallest building in the world, the Empire State Building is visited by more than 4 million people each year and has been featured in cult-classic feature films like "King Kong." At 103 stories, you can get 360-degree views of the Statue of Liberty, the Hudson River and more. Go to the observation deck on the 86th floor ($20), or head even higher to the indoor deck on floor 102 ($33) where you can see Central Park in its entirety.
If you've never been before, Times Square is sure to take your breath away. Packed with people and billboards, it's one of the most Instagrammed places in the world. And it's so bright that astronauts can see it from space! Whether you go in the day or night, the square is always bustling. Take a walking tour to discover all the hidden secrets (there are plenty) and the history of this iconic landmark.
It goes without saying, the Statue of Liberty is a must-see. Tickets up to the Statue of Liberty's crown are booked months in advance, so make sure you plan ahead. If you can't get a ticket, keep checking the statue cruises website for last-minute cancellations. If you go to the ferries in Battery Park and ask in-person, you might get lucky. Most go early in the morning, so if you book the last slot of the day, crowds should be a bit thinner.
Last but not least, don't miss the famous Bronx Zoo. Kids are sure to be delighted by the giant anteater, two-toed sloth, mini Nubian goats and adorable alpacas. Explore the Congo Gorilla Forest, check out the Sea Lion Pool or lose yourself in the Butterfly Garden. Enjoy a camel ride with the kids, or travel back in time on a Dinosaur Safari. Not only is a day at the zoo educational, but it's thrilling. From lions to tigers to bears (oh my!) a trip to the Bronx Zoo is sure to please the whole gang.