EDITED: I am constantly updating this because restaurants are coming and going and I am always finding new food places so this was updated 05/12/2018. If none of this food appeals to you, you are crazy! Just kidding but I have a long list I can send you if you are wanting places I am still dying to try or other places we have tried. I frequently get NYC questions, more so than any other destination so I thought I would create this so I could send people here and not try and remember everything on the spot! Hope this helps, if you have any further questions, feel free to ask. 🙂
Where to eat:
Hands down one of my favorite breakfast/brunch places of all time. Their pancakes are unreal. Unreal. I highly recommend putting their strawberry rhubarb jam on them. They have great biscuits and jam as well. It’s also low key and you can split the big portions, especially if you start with the biscuits.
Normas (Le Parker Meridien).
Get the crunchy french toast $28. Again, big enough to split. I love this french toast. Make reservations.
Union Fare for weekend brunch.
MAKE RESERVATIONS! Make reservations for Saturday and Sunday brunch as soon as you decide where to go, like weeks in advance depending on the place. Anyway, they have such a fun and unique menu from stuffed croissants, breakfast mac and cheese and the cinnamon roll breakfast sandwich.
Space Market Bagels (Greenwich Village).
You can make any combination and I brought up how amazing the bagels were about 15 times the rest of the day. Affordable and I recommend the egg, avocado, cheese and bacon/sausage.
GUYS. THIS PLACE IS THE BEST EVER. Lyle looked up at me during dinner and said “this might be one of the best meals I have ever had.” Boom. We got the Parisienne which is just cut up pieces of steak and it has roasted potatoes and asparagus BUT what sets it apart is they scrap cheese on it table side. We did the garlic cheese and it was amazing. The restaurant is the cutest and coziest place too. It was $29 for this but we split it. Check out their Instagram to see videos of the amazing cheese. This place is one of our new favorites. Run, don’t walk.
Jacobs Pickles (UWS).
Comfort food at it’s finest. We have loved this place forever and when they had a fire last Summer and closed it broke my heart. They always are playing good music and it is open really late. On our most recent trip we popped in at midnight and it was poppin. It was so much fun. They have amazing biscuits and fixins. Amazing. They are huge and the texture of cornbread but taste like a biscuit. They also have amazing fried chicken and mac and cheese and basically everything I’ve tried is the bomb.
I am on a huge ramen kick. This place was highly recommended and the ramen was really good and so were the pork buns. I loveeeee pork buns. Ah. Momofuku also had really good pork buns too.
Loeb Boathouse (Central Park).
I have had this on my “list” since we moved here but I wanted to eat there in the Fall when the leaves were changing and it did not disappoint. It’s pricier but not terrible for the views and service you are getting. My selling point was that they brought around a huge basket of different breads and let you pick what you wanted. Talk about my kinda place…We recommend: Grilled Petite Filet of Beef ($38) or Lyle liked the Seafood Pasta ($32) also the cranberry and pretzel bread. TIP: Make your reservation far in advance. Weekend brunch is reserved weeks or months out! It opens at 12 during the week and a line starts forming beforehand so we scheduled our reservation then. We got seats right next to the window since we were second in line and the views were my favorite.
Cafe Habana (soho).
I don’t recommend Mexican food in NYC but this place is an exception. It’s a cheap, fast little hole in the wall with some of the best elote EVER. I get cravings for this all the time. We recommend: Grilled Corn Mexican Style ($5.95) and any of the tacos (starting at $9.95). TIP: like most NYC food places it’s pretty tiny and seating is limited. If it’s nice weather I recommend taking it to a local park or eating outside on some of their benches.
Patsys 236 W 56th St.
Our favorite Italian place. My biggest thing is if its an Italian restaurant it better have homemade noodles and this place does. Lyle and I tried it when we came up for Christmas a couple years ago and it’s been our favorite ever since. We recommend: Fettucine Alfredo w/ shrimp and Lyle likes the Fettucine with Pesto.
Okay I lied, this is the most epic of food destinations. You absolutely have to go here on a Saturday or Sunday from Spring to Fall. Lyle asked if we could go here every other week in the Summer. It’s the perfect place for big groups because everyone can get what they want and the choices are endless. The outdoor market in Williamsburg is closed for the season but it goes til Novemberish. We recommend: the elote (of course), the HUGE mozzarella sticks, the ramen burger, everything, you can’t go wrong with any food truck. TIP: it’s pretty packed in the summers so the picnic tables go fast but its in the middle of a park and everyone has picnics so take a blanket! Also apparently theres an indoor Flea and Smorgasburg located at Skylight One Hanson (1 Hanson Pl).
Places worth mentioning:
Shake Shack. The Madison Square Shack Shake location is glorious in the Spring/Summer with the cutest lights.
Julianas. for pizza in Brooklyn. or Joes, Little Vincents cold slice, Prince Street Pizza…hard to go wrong here.
Lukes Lobster. If you are feeling lobster rolls.
I try to avoid most places by Time square too. They have a lot of touristy places and are way crowded. Also if you saw a food item or a place you want to try make sure they still have it and that its open. Places are always closing and opening and a lot of the menu items are just temporary so I have gone to places for a specific thing to find out it was a one time special. Just an FYI.
***One question I get a lot is where to go for nice dinners for special occasions. I would recommend Patsys, Bergdorf Goodman cafe overlooking central park (ate here for my birthday lunch and had the best view!), Loeb Boathouse, Ritz Carlton or Mandarin Oriental for Central Park views and 230 fifth. Most of these have amazing views so that makes them pretty special and unique to celebrate in the city. Some places I want to go that are still on my list are River Cafe in Brooklyn (book as far ahead as you can if you want sunset dining…also $$$$), Print, Strip House and Peter Luger.
What to do:
Brooklyn Bridge: I absolutely LOVE Brooklyn. I always joke to Lyle that we somehow manage to always find our way into Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Bridge never gets old. I can’t tell you how many times we have gone across it and I still love walking on it. I think you should spend a whole day in Brooklyn. If you go in the Summer walk across and do the Smorgasburg, take a ride on Janes Carousel, take in the AMAZING views at Brooklyn Bridge Park, go to the Museum of the Moving Image (REALLY cool if you are into media), venture out to Coney Island, eat at Julianna’s for lunch, get some cool pictures in DUMBO and spend an evening at Brooklyn Bowl. <—we haven’t made it to Brooklyn Bowl but it sounds really cool and was on my list all summer! Everything else I can vouch for.
Highline- The Highline is an above ground park and it has some awesome views. It’s so unique and in the Summer has little ice cream vendors and really cool photo ops. I would visit this and then get off and explore the Chelsea Market. Chelsea Market has really yummy food options and shopping! Take a 15 minute walk to the Friends apt building if you are as obsessed as I am while you’re at it.
Explore Greenwich/Soho- I had to put both of these because they are my favorite spots! Greenwich is the prettiest area in NYC if you ask me. The cobblestone streets are so dreamy. One of the prettiest neighborhoods I’ve seen in the city is right next to Washington Square Park. You can wander the park, see the arch and make your way over to Greenwich. They have such quaint little shops and food places and you might even glimpse a celebrity. Soho is another favorite because they have some of the best shopping!
Museums: There are tons of museums. The Whitney Museum of American Art, the American Museum of Natural History, Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Cloisters to name just a few. My absolute favorite is the MET and IMO the main one you should see if you’re short on time. I loved the fashion exhibit and Lyle loved the medieval one. What’s cool is they do have a recommended price but theres actually no set price, you pay what you want to get in which makes it affordable for everyone! I also love the Met rooftop, its one of my favorite things about the Met. Also, from 7-10 pm on Friday nights it’s pay as you wish at the Whitney which is a big deal because its $22 for adults and $17 for students in advance/online.
9/11 Museum & World Trade Center Observation- Pretty heavy but most people always want to come see this when they visit.
Statue of Liberty- I mean how can you come to NYC and not do the statue of liberty?! It’s $18 for the normal reserve ticket which gets you on the ferry and stops at both Ellis Island and Liberty island. The first time I did the normal reserve and for Lyle’s first time we did the crown reserve $21 where you can go up into the crown! You need to reserve this months in advance if its something you want to do although I wouldn’t say its necessary. The windows on the crown are tiny and you can’t really see too much out of them and if you’re claustrophobic I wouldn’t recommend it either but if you are going anyway and want to spend an extra $3 for it then go for it.
Central Park- There are a million things to do in Central Park. From rowing boats to the Central Park zoo to the Belvedere Castle and Conservatory Gardens. The Belvedere Castle is really cool. It’s not super big but again, it has cool views! My favorite spot in Central Park is Bow Bridge. It’s close to the Loeb Boathouse and the fountain and you can watch all the people in the boats. If it’s warm you can have a picnic and people watch in Sheep Meadow or walk around the gorgeous Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. Renting a bike is one of the best ways to see the park, it’s huge.
view from Belvedere Castle.
Top Of The Rock- I would pick this over the Empire State building any day. I have done both and the views on the Rock are better. I like that it’s not so closed off and the glass allows you to see more plus I think it has cooler picture opportunities which is big if you’re me ;). If you are visiting you would probably want to choose between the two because it’s pretty pricey to go up into either. For the main deck at the Empire its $34 and $54 for the top and main deck. For the Rock its $34. Tip: It’s a million times more crowded to go at sunset. A worker told us that it the busiest time so going during the week in the early morning or afternoon would be your best bet to beat the crowds. I think it’s only $5 more to get the pass that allows you to go up during the day and once after sunset to see it at night too which would be a cool option!
Comedy Cellar- One of our favorite date nights in the city was going to the comedy cellar and then grabbing Insomnia cookies after. The Comedy Cellar is where a lot of the big names got their start and it’s so much fun. Be warned it’s not like Comedy Sports in Utah haha you don’t know what some of the comedians will say. It’s just something different to do!
Broadway- seeing a broadway show is a MUST! But they aren’t all as pricey as you think and don’t forget about the lottery! Most of the lotteries aren’t done in person like they used to be but you can enter most of them online the day of which is a lot easier if you ask me. Lyle and I have been entering for Hamilton tickets for quite some time so picking a less popular one will make your chances easier. The lottery is pretty easy, just type in Wicked lottery to google (or whatever show you want) and it will tell you the easy instructions. Each one has different times they close and open so look into in a couple days before you are arrive so you don’t miss those times. We’ve seen Matilda, Lion King and Aladdin in NYC and Wicked in London. We both loved the Lion King and I was crazy about Aladdin. I thought Aladdin was such a great one for kids too, even better than Lion King because it was so theatrical and the sets were cool and the blingy costumes were amazing.
The Late Night Shows: These are really cool opportunities that a lot of people miss out on when they come to NYC. There are so many opportunities to see these shows in person and it’s really cool! So heres how it works. Lyle and I got tickets to Jimmy Fallon. His twitter tells when the tickets are going to be released for the following month. Mark the time down in your phone and don’t be late because they go FAST, I’m talking as soon as it hits you should be on the site. You have to have an 1iota account which is free tickets for fans to the different shows so create one and fill out all the information because it makes your chances better for getting the tickets. There is the monologue and the actual show. You want tickets to the actual show so you click on it and put how many tickets you want. You will most likely be waitlisted and then they notify you a week or a couple days before where you have to confirm it. Try and get as many days as you can so you can help guarantee your chances. Having everyone who will be with you enter is also helpful. It was such a cool experience! We got to meet Jimmy and give him high fives and he stood right in front of us and talked to all the fans and answered questions and he was the nicest most down to earth guy. He is just as funny behind the scenes as he is on camera! It’s a little bit easier to get some of the other tickets but its the same process for Late Night With Seth Meyers, the Late Show With Stephen Colbert, The View, etc. We are in the process of getting those ones next! SNL is a whole lot harder. They only allow you to enter in the month of August for the whole next year and you don’t have any say of when or if you get tickets. You just email all your information to an email and then if you get lucky they tell you a week or so in advance if you were selected for that show.
Seriously my favorite part of this whole thing…
We have tried almost every single treat place in the entire city hahaha. We have some definite favorites so I will list them all an some that you should pass up.
Mollys Cupcakes- These cupcakes always taste so fresh and moist. They have the best flavors and IMO are the best in the city. I love that they do seasonal flavors too, the pumpkin one was SO GOOD.
People always tell you to go here when in NYC and I agree. It’s talked about so much for a reason. They are best known for their Banana Pudding which, even if you don’t typically like it, it’s good! It even ships so if you fall in love you can have it mailed to you so I’ve done this for my mom a couple times. The cupcakes and different treats are all good though!
They are so huge and the middle is gooey. I wish they had more flavors though! Also, the line moves fast here too.
This is Lyle’s favorite cookie place in the city. I also love this one. The deluxe cookies are really good. I love the smores and Lyle likes the reeses and you can also do ice-cream sandwiches!
Ample Hills Creamery.
There is NO shortage of icecream places in the city. Ample Hills is one of our favorites because it’s not all show with crazy toppings and cones it’s just a really good selection of unique, amazing flavors. They have a honeycomb one that we got in NZ! Emack and Bolios is good but pretty pricey for icecream…for 2 cones it was like $18?! They are instagram worthy cones though. Big Gay is one of the best ones and Momofuku Milk Bars Icecream as well.
The frozen smores is my favorite! That, the cronut and the cookie shot are the must haves here. The cookie shots are served after 3 pm though and the cronuts sell out fast!
When Lyle and I first went to Black Tap it wasn’t crowded and you didn’t have to wait in a line around the side of the building…so I liked it a little bit more. If you are gonna go here go early. They do have two locations now which helps but still. They are the most fun milkshakes we’ve ever had! They are decorated so fun and they have so many fun flavors! I don’t think the milkshake itself is out of this world but they are good and really fun. Black Tap does have really good burgers too.
Worth Mentioning: Max Brenners & Waffles and Dinges. Milk and Cream Cereal Bar.
Skip: Holey Cream. I know it looks cool as a donut ice cream sandwich but the donut isn’t good. If Lyle thinks it’s not that good then it isn’t haha. Pass up all the places you can get elsewhere too. When I go to a place I want to try places that are unique to that place. Sprinkles is a TX thing and the cupcakes are kind of boring anyway, Laduree is a paris thing and yes it’s cute but I would skip that too, same with Georgetown Cupcakes. Also skip Baked by Melissa. They are tiny and cute but they all taste the same and are not worth it.
Another question I get asked is when is the best time to visit NYC and I can never answer this question. I think every season is amazing and there are so many different things to do! Christmas in the City is like NO OTHER. It’s so dreamy, this will be my 3rd year spending time in the city at Christmas and it never gets old. Below I decided to throw some random fun activities to do in each season to help you decide when to visit! Some of them I just placed in a random season but you can do them anytime.
Most activities at this time are interchangeable. In the Spring the Cherry Blossoms are in full swing so you can see them in Central Park or attend the Brooklyn Botanical Garden for the Cherry Blossom Festival.
-See Hamilton. So. so. so. freaking. amazing.
-see a Yankees game
-yoga in the city
-attend one of the rooftop bars (you don’t have to drink alcohol)
(We have friends that go to the Spyglass Rooftop all the time)
-Pier 25 mini golf
-free Summer movie series (you can google the schedule)
-Go into Lindt and the Hersheys store and get free samples (HA)
-See the Oculus (one of my favorite buildings)
-Shakespeare in the Park (Lyle and I won tickets to this. If you are more into Shakespeare than us you will love it)
-Chelsea Pier for rock climbing, batting cages, etc (anytime. they also do adult gymnastics classes that I am dying to do)
-One of the many farmers markets
-sail NYC harbor
-Trapeze School of New York Trapeze class (you can do this all year but I want to do the outside one!) SO FUN
-Ride Bikes in Central Park
-Tea at the Plaza
-Sea glass carousel in Battery Park
-cheap foot massage in Chinatown
-Morgan Museum and library
-Fat Cat Bar that has live music and ping pong tables and open way late
-Momofuku Cake Class (loved this!)
-shop and eat in Grand Central Station (anytime)
-Go boating in the row boats in Central Park (can do this through Fall too)
-go Jet-skiing around the Statue of Liberty (kinda pricey but Lyle leaned forward and told me this was one of the best activities I’ve ever planned. It was such a fun way to see the city and I would 100% recommend this over anything)
-Go to Citi pups and hold puppies. (i do this like every day…)
-take the ferry to Governors Island (anytime)
-See all the stoop/door displays on the UWS and in Greenwich
-try all the seasonal pumpkin treats at the local bakeries (i can give you a list or do a post if wanted)
-See Seinfeld’s Toms Restaurant
-Oktoberfest in Central Park
-Central Park Pumpkin Flotilla
-Visit Flight Club (our favorite sneaker place in the city)
-Halloween Parade in the Village on Halloween
-St. Johns Divine Halloween Extravaganza
-Helicopter ride (I put this in the Fall for the foliage but it can be anytime)
-Macys Thanksgiving Parade (best viewing spot IMO the UWS Central park side. We got there at 6:40 a.m. and lucked out with front row spots but I would say get there even earlier! People had blankets and chairs set out in front of the barriers and were just chilling with food and games, so why not make it a party?! Lyle was like a little kid getting so excited about the Ninja Turtles and yelling out to all the characters haha but it was worth it guys!) There were also lots of celebrities (mostly country music much to the dismay of all the guys around me) Kelsea Ballerini, Easton Corbon and Brett Eldridge along with Tony Bennett and Ben Rector to name a few!
-Iceskating at Wollman Rink, Rockefeller Center & Bryant Park (Be prepared, they are all really expensive. Wollman has the best views, Rockefeller is what you see in all the movies and Bryant Park is the cheapest)
-Roosevelt Tram (anytime)
-Write wishes for the ball in Times Square
-Holiday Markets (Union Square, Columbus Circle & Bryant Park)
-Dyker Heights Christmas Lights (Brooklyn) (34th street is my fav!)
-City Bakery for hot chocolate
-Go inside St Patricks Cathedral
-see the tree at The Lotte New York
-Economy Candy for Gingerbread house candy
-Christmas at Rolfs (German Restaurant decorated over the top)
-Rangers Hockey Game
-See all the stores elaborate Christmas Displays
-Rockefeller Tree lighting & see the tree in general
-See the Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes (seen twice, a really great show!)
-Free Holiday Train Show inside Grand Central Station
-See all the amazing Trees in the hotel lobbys
-Christmas Eve Caroling at the Arch in Washington square (tons of the trees do caroling and treats for the tree lighting)
-Episcopal Church of The Heavenly Rest Christmas Eve Pageant
-See the NYC Ballet perform The Nutcracker (on my list this year!)
-Macys Flower Show (March)
-St Patricks Day Parade
Before you come I recommend saving all the places on your maps so when you come you hit everything in the same area at the same time. One day do the Upper West Side and some of Central Park. If everything is saved it will prevent you from going down to soho then back up to the park and so on, that gets tiring fast. It is fun to wander and see what you stumble upon so take a day for that. Take the subway! Taxis are nice but expensive. Get the unlimited 7 day pass for $31! We live on the subway and no, I have never felt in danger, its so convenient. You can type in where your going on your phone maps and it will tell you exactly what lines to take so don’t worry about getting lost and if you do just ask, New Yorkers are a lot more friendly than they get credit for. Woah this post is so long but I tried to be as thorough as possible! When it comes to staying in the city do Airbnb. We stayed on the UWS and now I always want to stay there! It was amazing getting up and working out in Central Park.
Remember, there is always something exciting happening near NYC whether it’s a concert, the US Open, popup shops and museums so if you are planning a trip check into all of this. If you have any other questions or things you’d like me to cover then ask me in the comments or on Instagram!