As a New Yorker, I’m always being asked for insider tips and tricks to my hometown. NYC is so big that you could spend a year here and never see everything. Have realistic goals for your first trip. Here are 12 of my favorite attractions for first timers in NYC.
The Brooklyn Bridge has the best view of the NYC skyline. Start out on the Brooklyn side and walk over the bridge towards Manhattan. Try to avoid going during the workday rush hour and make sure you wear good walking shoes because the bridge is over a mile long. While you walk across the bridge make sure you stop in the middle to get the iconic center bridge photo.
Statue of Liberty & Elis Island
If you’re a history buff, take the Elis Island tour and spend the day exploring the exhibits at the Elise Island Museum. If you’re not into the museums save some cash and take the Staten Island Ferry. It goes right by the Statue of Liberty for a photo opp and it’s free.
Pro Sports Game
NYC has eight professional sports teams… and the Mets. If you even have a passing interest in sports, there is an event for you. Catch a Brooklyn Nets game, who knows, maybe co-owners Jay-Z and Beyonce will be courtside. If football is more your thing check out Giants Stadium. Don’t forget about the Yankees! They have a brand new stadium up in the Bronx that is a site to see in itself.
Most people who come to NYC will see a Broadway show at some point. An insider trick is to grab your tickets at the TKTS Booth in Time Square, but all locals know there is another TKTS Booth at South Street Seaport that has about ¼ the line. Plus, at South Street Seaport they don’t sell out as quickly and you can enjoy and incredible views of the Brooklyn Bridge while you wait. If you come to NYC for theater, join The Theater Development Fund for huge discounts on last minute shows.
As a New Yorker, I have to admit, I have a bit of a personal bias against Time Square. It’s loud, crowded and full of slow walking tourists. That being said, I have to admit, It’s a pretty incredible sight the first time you see it. The bright lights, giant crowds and comically large retail stores can be a spectacular sight for someone not used to big city living. Pop into the American Eagle store for a chance to get your picture projected on the big screen outside the store. This is the perfect opportunity for an Instagram worthy shot.
The Apollo Theater is located on 125th street in the heart of Harlem. It’s famous for being the place where dozens of famous acts were discovered. Ella Fitzgerald and Michael Jackson both got their start under the bright lights of the Apollo. Go for Amateur night to see undiscovered performers compete for the chance to make it big.
Prospect Park is like Central Park’s edgier younger sister. Sure, Central Park is glamorous and glossy in all the magazines but Prospect Park is just as cool in a more funky downtown way. Grab a blanket to people watch all the hipsters or take a date to the zoo and relive your childhood for an afternoon.
Street Art in Bushwick
Bushwick is a working class neighborhood in Brooklyn that has become a mecca for incredible street art. As artists were forced out of NYC’s historic Fivepointz last year, street art in Bushwick has soared. If you aren’t sure where to go you can book a free tour with Free Tours by Foot.
The Box is one of those places that everyone in New York has heard a story about. Everyone has a friend of a friend who saw the naked guy eating pizza covered in plastic clothespins. Or knows the girl who did the aerial silks act with nothing but pasties on. The box is a nightclub known for its burlesque-circus style freak-show. If you can get past the velvet rope, you’ll be in for a night like no other.
Christopher street is the birthplace of the LGBT rights movement. For the last 50 years, this neighborhood has been a safe haven for the queer community. Stop at Stonewall, Yes, I’m talking about THE Stonewall. Every LGBT person visiting NYC should see the Stonewall as a tourist destination and pillar of our community. But let’s be real, while it does have some fascinating history, it also is a bar. A bar that has a great casual atmosphere with pool tables and an upstairs dancing area. Head upstairs on a Friday night, it’ll be packed with sweaty people breaking it down to a mix of pop and hip-hop.Don’t forget to check out the small memorial in the triangle park out front. After you visit Stonewall make your way down to what remains of the Christopher street pier and send out thoughts of thanks to the folks who fought for our rights before it was popular to do so.
Lips is a delightfully campy and a tiny bit tacky drag restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Honestly, I’d be disappointed if a drag themed restaurant wasn’t camp and tacky. Lips is a one part American restaurant and two parts drag show where all the performers are drag queens. If you’re really in for a treat go on a Sunday when the drag gospel choir takes us to church.
Leslie-Lohman Museum of LGBT Art
I recently wrote a review on the Leslie- Lohman Museum. You can find it here. That being said, I believe that this small museum is one of the most important LGBT cultural landmarks in NYC. The Leslie-Lohman Museum was built out of a need to preserve the history of the LGBT community during the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. At the time, many people thought that AIDS was going to wipe out the population of queer people. Go to this museum, support our history and make a donation.