Last Updated on November 9, 2021
For those who have never been to New York City before, it can be a little overwhelming to figure out how and where to start exploring this sprawling city of nearly 9 million people. With five boroughs and hundreds of neighborhoods to choose from, the diversity of this city is unrivaled. There are so many things to do and see, but where to start? Planning a trip to New York City can be quite overwhelming.
NYC has five boroughs: Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island. All of them offer something unique and all of them are full of culture. In this article, I’ll break down the best of the five boroughs for you!
For centuries, Brooklyn has been a place for artists to experiment, taking on new roles and pushing boundaries. But the borough is more than just the birthplace of hipster culture — there’s an abundance of things to see and do.
The Brooklyn Museum has around 1.5 million items in its art collection and is a must-visit spot for art lovers. There are also smaller art galleries in neighborhoods like Bushwick and Dumbo. Prospect Park is Brooklyn’s version of Central Park and is worth visiting at any time of year: go for the blossoms in the spring, a snowy walk or ice skating in the winter, a picnic in the summer, and to marvel at the fall foliage in the fall. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden are just a short walk away, and they’re especially worth seeing around cherry blossom season in April.
In the summer months, Coney Island is the place to go. There is an amusement park right on the beach that has rides, games, and New York’s oldest roller coasters. The Coney Island Cyclone is arguably the best ride in the amusement park – it’s been in operation since 1927 and has survived multiple fires, hurricanes, and storms. Then there is the Boardwalk, which is great for people watching and snacks like Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, and of course the beach, so pack your bathing suit!
Looking to get a taste of the more traditional Brooklyn? Atlantic Avenue is one of the borough’s oldest streets, and is known for the Middle Eastern culture, including Sahadi’s (Brooklyn’s best Middle Eastern grocery store) and many excellent Middle Eastern restaurants, such as Hadramout or Bedouin Tent.
Make Brooklyn your base when exploring the boroughs because it’s less expensive than Manhattan and the hub of a thriving culture. It won’t be hard to find a boutique hotel at a reasonable price.
Manhattan is the most popular of the five boroughs of New York City and is one of the world’s major business, cultural, and entertainment centers. There are so many attractions and activities that it can be hard to choose just a few! Broadway theaters, Central Park, Times Square, the New York Public Library, the Flatiron Building, Washington Square Park — these are just a few things you should check out when you’re in town.
If you want to visit a place that’s not very touristy, head to Hudson River Park. Located on the West Side of Manhattan, the park offers unparalleled views of the Hudson River and New Jersey. If you’re on the southern tip of Manhattan, you can take in panoramic views of Lady Liberty and Ellis Island by just by sitting on one of the benches that line the waterfront. Bring a picnic basket for a romantic lunch on the shore, or rent a bike to cycle the entire length of Manhattan. The bike lane here is well maintained and protected from car traffic.
Some other places that you should not miss are the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and one of the observation decks for great views over the entire city.
Located north of Manhattan, this vast borough is rich with history, culture, and art, and the perfect destination for travelers looking to experience something off the beaten path.
Start with a visit to the famous Yankee Stadium for some tailgating before catching a game. Continue with a tour of Mott Haven Historic District with its beautiful row houses, built between 1863 and 1865. Don’t miss Alexander Avenue, once known as “The Irish 5th Avenue” and “Politicians’ Row”.
The Bronx Zoo is one of the largest zoos in the United States. It features over 4,000 animals, including many endangered species. Not far from the zoo are the New York Botanical Gardens, which often feature exhibits by internationally acclaimed artists, but are also worth visiting for the vast green spaces, outdoor gardens, flower displays and conservatories.
With a land area of 109 square miles, Queens is the largest of the five boroughs in New York City. This diverse borough has so much to offer – from world-class restaurants to incredible parks and interesting neighborhoods.
If you want to enjoy some great food, you must visit the multicultural Flushing neighborhood – better known as the biggest of New York’s three Chinatowns. With its shopping district, live music venues, and fantastic restaurants, this area has everything from fine dining to casual cafés and food halls.
If you’re a New York Mets fan, don’t miss Citi Field and the New York Mets Museum & Hall of Fame. Music fans will want to add a tour of the Louis Armstrong House to their itinerary.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park is one of the largest parks in the city and best known for the Unisphere, a spherical stainless steel monument right in the center of the park. During the summer months, visit on a Saturday and combine your trip with a visit to the popular nearby Queens Night Market (6pm – midnight).
Staten Island has plenty to offer for a day away from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. With beaches, parks, and historic sites, you can’t go wrong with a day trip to Staten Island.
Your trip will start with the magnificent views over the Lower Manhattan skyline from the Staten Island Ferry, which doesn’t cost anything. The deserted Fort Wadsworth is an interesting stop for anyone interested in history, especially military history and the Revolutionary War. You can visit the Fort daily from 9am to 6pm; there are no entrance fees.
Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden is filled with beautiful 19th-century buildings and has a fantastic botanical garden (with beautiful cherry blossoms in the spring). Take in the stunning architecture of this historic site, which was built by immigrants as a retirement home for sailors (and is now a museum and art center).
If you want to go all the way to the southern tip of Staten Island, Conference House Park makes for a nice stroll near the water and has some interesting historic buildings. In the summer, Cedar Grove Beach and Midland Beach make for a great beach getaway.
Visit the Historic Richmond Town and learn about Staten Island’s history. This living history museum will keep you entertained with tours, exhibits, and reenactments that depict life from the 1700s to the 1900s.
If you like shopping, stick to the St. George neighborhood near the ferry terminal. The shopping centers here are filled with some of the latest stores around, including Gap, Express, Lululemon, and more. You also get great deals at the outlet mall here.
Staten Island is also famous for its pizza, so add one of these iconic pizzerias to your itinerary: Joe & Pat’s, Pizzeria Giove, Brother’s Pizzeria or Denino’s.