Postcard from New York City | Mini Travel Guide for First-Timers

Hi everyone!

Before sharing another one of my travel adventures with you all, I wanted to give a quick blog update: In order to better manage my time and my workload at my full-time job, I've decided to stop posting on a bi-weekly schedule from now on. I'll do my best to post whenever I can until I've decided on a better posting schedule. Thanks so much for understanding, and I hope you enjoy my NYC mini travel guide below!

View of Lady Liberty on Liberty Island from the ferry.

Similar to my last travel guide on Seattle, today’s post is a mini travel guide for first-timers in New York City. From the “hustle-and-bustle” of Times Square, to the iconic landmarks like the Statue of Liberty, to the lush greens of Central Park, this urban metropolis undeniably overflows with energy and rich culture. Below is a photo recap from my recent trip, as well as my top recommendations on things to do and places to eat/drink!

Recommended Things to Do:

  • Pay a visit to Lady Liberty. Liberty Island.
    No first-time NYC trip is complete without visiting this landmark. My best advice would be to book early if you want to reserve tickets for Crown Access (at least a few months in advance), and to go before noon to avoid long lines and crowds. The views of the Manhattan skyline from the ferry and Liberty Island are amazing on a clear day! While you’re there, remember what the Statue of Liberty symbolizes: democracy and the land of the free. :)
  • Relax in Central ParkCentral Park.
    Central Park is a great place to relax and find peace in such a fast-paced city. If you’re short on time, just taking a stroll is enough for you to fall in love with this place. If you have more time, you can go boating at the lake, go for a bike ride, check out the zoo within the park, or spread out a blanket and have a nice picnic. I would love to come back here in the autumn season to see the changing foliage as well!
  • Watch a Broadway Show: The Lion King! Theatre District, Midtown West.
    This breathtaking Broadway reproduction of a Disney classic: The Lion King was my very first Broadway musical and it did not disappoint. Everything - the sets, the costumes, the makeup, and the music - was extremely impressive. The performers put on a stunning show and it was hard to believe they sang live to all the songs so perfectly from beginning to end. If you haven’t watched this play yet, I highly recommend watching it in New York.
  • Experience the organized chaos in Times SquareTheatre District, Midtown West.
    Times Square is a tourist spot that is a must-visit for first-timers, but I would suggest only spending an hour at the most here. Really take in the neon lights, the big, bright billboards, and the overload of tourists in one spot. The never-ending energy and adventurous atmosphere of this place makes it a mesmerizing experience.
  • Walk The High LineMeatpacking District, West Village.
    A once old elevated rail line has been renovated into a beautiful park promenade that sits high above the NYC streets. The park is populated with plenty of benches, trees, shrubs, observation areas, and even small eateries! I love that, in rebuilding this space, the planners left some organic railway tracks to preserve some of its history.
  • Shop and eat in the SoHo districtSoHo.
    SoHo stands for “South of Houston,” an area located exactly where its name states: south of Houston Street. This area is a shopper’s dream! It’s a unique neighborhood in Manhattan, full of upscale boutiques, clothing stores, and restaurants with delicious food options. Many of these shops and eateries are housed in beautiful architecture on cobblestone streets.

Recommended Places To Eat/Drink:

  • EatalyFlat Iron District.
    Eataly is an indoor Italian marketplace that has everything from restaurants, grocery shops, food vendors, and cafes all in one place. There are tons of yummy Italian food options to choose from, which makes it a great place to grab coffee, lunch, or dinner. This place is worth checking out if you like Italian food, but it does get really packed!
  • Shake ShackFlat Iron District.
    Shake Shack in NYC is like the In N’ Out on the west coast. There are several Shake Shacks in the city, but check out the one in Madison Square Park, right across from the Flat Iron Building (near Eataly) for the most iconic experience! You can expect long lines, but the outdoor seating and lovely park atmosphere make it so worth it in my opinion. The Shack Stack burger and cheese fries are to die for. This is now my favorite fast food burger place (even over In N’ Out - sorry west coast). Wishing we had a Shake Shack in San Francisco!
  • LadureeSoHo.
    Laduree was first established in France in 1862, and now has multiple locations all over the world. They are most known for their delicious macarons and pastries. While there are 2 Laduree locations in New York City - one in the Upper East Side and one in SoHo - I would recommend going to the one in SoHo if you are already shopping and/or eating in that district.  The SoHo location has a gorgeous European tea room interior. It’s a great place to grab coffee to-go and a beautiful box of macarons to bring back home for family and friends!
  • The Mercer KitchenSoHo.
    Located in the SoHo district, this is the perfect restaurant to go for a nice meal after shopping in the nearby boutiques. I love the swanky vibe and chic interior which makes it a great spot for date nights or girls’ nights. My boyfriend and I ordered a lot of food items, but our favorites were the oysters and The Mercer burger. Reservations are recommended, as this place does get very crowded - especially during dinnertime.
  • Ippudo NYEast Village.
    There are 2 Ippudo ramen restaurants in NYC - Ippudo NY is in the East Village (and is also the one I went to), and Ippudo Westside is in the general vicinity of the Theatre District, Hell’s Kitchen and Midtown West. Ippudo NY has good ramen with flavorful broth, but what really stands out here are their mouthwatering pork buns - they’re so delicious! I would recommend this place if you don’t mind the long wait as they don’t take reservations.
  • Momofuku Milk BarEast Village.
    There are multiple locations in the city, and I specifically went to the one in the East Village after eating lunch at Ippudo NY. This unique dessert spot and bakery serves everything from milk and cookies to soft serve ice creams. I came here for the classic cereal milk soft serve, which tastes just like refreshing cereal and milk with bits of corn flakes on the sides. This alone is reason enough for me to go back the next time I’m in New York. It’s ridiculously good. Some people are die-hard fans of Momofuku’s pies and cookies as well.

I hope this mini first-timers’ travel guide will help give you ideas for your future vacation getaway to NYC! There were so many things that we didn’t get to do, due to time constraints - but that just gives us a reason to go back. ;) If you’ve already been to NYC, I’d love to hear about your favorite spots in the comments below!

Thanks so much for reading and I look forward to sharing more of my travel adventures with you soon. :)

Photography by Nathan Liang & Diana Youn