The 9 Places you need to visit in NYC (in my opinion)

My biggest goal for my first trip to New York was to experience the city like a local would. This meant no chain restaurants and as little touristy things as possible. Although you’ll see that I did some traditional things a tourist would do in NYC (it’s hard to avoid everything touristy), I also found some hidden gems that your average NYC tourist may not know about! I’m so excited to share the adventures I took on this trip with all of you! I had the time of my life in the three short days I spent there! New York has easily become my favorite city (a close second to New Orleans and Austin)!

Looking at a map of everything we did in that short 3 day timespan, I’m surprised we fit it all in! There is still so much more of the island (and across the island) that I want to explore, so I can’t wait to go back and have even more adventures in the big apple!

Heads up: This is part 2 of my NYC series! If you haven’t checked out part 1, The Best Eats and Drinks in NYC (in my opinion), I would suggest taking a look- but be warned, your mouth will water and your stomach may grumble! πŸ™‚

{Before leaving}

I’m one of those people that get’s a obligatory “I’m going on a trip” photo before I leave (plus, my luggage was super cute so I needed to document). I’m not going to lie, I was terrified to travel. Normally I don’t think twice about it, but this was my first time traveling 100% and completely alone. It took 25 years but I finally bit the bullet and did it. I remember in the days leading up to the trip I confirmed and then reconfirmed with Grant, my best friend I was going to visit, that he would meet me at the airport and be there waiting for me as I stepped off the plane. He was, and by the time I saw him I was energized and ready to go! I flew into Laguardia, which I loved. It’s a small and old airport, but my walk to the baggage claim was short and my bag came out super quick! We did have to walk awhile to get to the taxi stand, but it was decent outside so we didn’t mind!

{The Subway}

Before I got to New York I was super scared to ride the subway. I’m not sure why, as I’ve rode the L in Chicago many times, but because of all the movies and tv shows I’ve watched everything that I associated with the subway was scary (anyone who has seen Suicide Squad will agree with me). But contrary to my preconceived notions about the subway, I loved every single second of it! From experiencing all the different stations and cars, to listening to live music (there are some seriously talented people that display their musical gifts on the subway), the subway was the farthest thing from scary! Not to mention when we got off my first subway ride, there were huge life size picture of Katy Perry everywhere (FYI- I’m obsessed with Katy Perry and she is my queen)! It was the cherry on top of a great first NYC subway experience!

{Times Square//Broadway//Midtown pt.1}

I first experienced Times Square (TS) in the daytime and was pretty underwhelmed, but Grant told me to wait until it got dark. He said that we’d come back and it would be completely different, boy was he right- more on that later.

Something I didn’t realize about TS is that they keep the New Years Eve ball up all year long! It was so crazy to see it in person, as I’ve seen it on TV for the past 25 years of my life. During the day TS is crowded, but not too crowded, granted we were there around 10 on a Saturday morning so some people hadn’t ventured out of their hotels/apartments yet, but nevertheless still a neat thing to experience! We also ventured into the Disney store in TS because, if you didn’t know already, I LOVE Disney! I’m one of those adults that sees every new Disney movie in theatres and has endless amounts of Disney music on my phone. No shame in my Disney game! πŸ™‚

A view of the New Years Eve ball! It’s far away, but it’s still there πŸ™‚

Next we ventured into the streets directly off of TS and we came upon the theatres of some of my favorite Broadway musicals: Hamilton, Come From Away, and Dear Evan Hansen! To say I was fangirling is an understatement. Unfortunately we didn’t get tickets to any of these shows, but we did get tickets to see Kinky Boots! As Kinky Boots does not have a lottery for their tickets we paid $79 (their cheapest tickets that day) for the Saturday evening performance. This surprised me because I always thought that I would have to sell a kidney to afford a ticket to a Broadway show, but I was sorely misinformed! Also, fun fact about Hamilton: They have a store located across from the Richard Rodgers Theatre where they only sell Hamilton merch! So if you can’t get tickets to the show or have tickets to the show and want some items to commemorate your experience make sure to check it out!

The room where it happens πŸ˜‰

{Financial District}

Real talk. Going to the World Trade Center was at the top of my “New York to-do list”. When 9/11 happened in 2001 I was in the 4th grade and since I was so young, I only remember bits and pieces of what occurred that day. Obviously as I’ve grown up I’ve learned and understood more about what happened that day, but I knew that if I visited the site where the towers stood, saw the reflection pools, and went to the museum, I would be able to understand and comprehend 9/11 much more. But I was not prepared for the emotional experience I would have once I arrived. We first went to the Oculus which is a hub for travel and a sort of mini mall. It was hard to capture the whole oculus in one photo and I tried to do it justice, but as my mom always says, “you just can’t capture it on film”.

Inside the Oculus

After we finished at the oculus we headed towards the reflection pools and 9/11 museum. The grounds were crowded so I couldn’t see the reflection pools at first, but as we worked our way through the crowd I saw the north tower reflection pool. It was then that I felt overwhelmed with emotion and began to cry. To be in that place, to experience that atmosphere, it’s a feeling I can’t quite describe.

North tower reflection pool
Freedom Tower
South tower reflection pool
South tower reflection pool

After we paid our respects at the reflection pools we headed into the museum. I only took one picture inside the museum because, to be honest, I was so overwhelmed. You could literally spend a whole day or two inside that museum. If you do nothing else in New York, you need to do this.

Art inside the 9/11 museum- “No day shall erase you from the memory of time”

After we went through the museum we headed over to Wall Street. Another thing I had on my to-do list was visiting the fearless girl on Wall Street. If you couldn’t tell from my picture with her, it was jam packed. I literally had to fight my way through a crowd of people to get a photo with her. So worth it though! If you didn’t know, the Fearless Girl stands directly in front of the famous Bull statue on Wall Street. I didn’t even try to attempt and get a photo with the bull because there was literally people taking up every square inch of space on and around him. Again- we were there on a Saturday, so it was a popular time, but I was just happy to get a photo with the Fearless Girl! πŸ™‚

{Battery Park}

I was one of those weird New York tourists that didn’t want to get up close and personal with Lady Liberty. So instead of wasting half of the day and paying tons of money to go out to the island the statue is on, we found a nice spot in Battery Park and had a photoshoot with her instead! I know some people get really excited to go out and see her, but I wasn’t one of those people…haha Also, everyone I talked to prior to my trip said it wasn’t worth the time or money, so I took their advice!

Hey there Lady Liberty!
There she is! If you squint and get really close to the screen you may be able to see her πŸ™‚

{Times Square//Broadway//Midtown pt. 2}

After we had our time with Lady Liberty we went back to Grant’s apartment to get ready for the evening, then headed back to Midtown for my first Broadway show! πŸ™‚ We got tickets to Kinky Boots earlier in the day and for buying tickets day-of, I think we got pretty decent seats! We sat in the 2nd to last row in the balcony, but since the Kinky Boots theatre wasn’t super big, we still got a great view of the show! After the show Grant and I went to the stage door so I could get my program signed by the cast members. If you’ve never done this, I 100% suggest doing it! It’s super fun, plus you get to tell the performers how much you loved the show and have a conversation with them! I especially loved it because the actor who played Lola, the main character, complimented me on my winged liner! Grant and I used to go to the stage door after shows we saw in Chicago all the time when we were younger, so it made me feel super nostalgic!

Our seats for Kinky Boots- Not too shabby! πŸ™‚

After we got autographs from the cast members we went to Times Square which was just a few blocks away! Like I mentioned earlier, we went to Times Square during the day, but at night it’s a completely different beast. It was so bright that I felt like I needed sunglasses. It was so crowded, but so fun at the same time (I’m pretty sure I photobombed about 50 different people’s pictures in the short 15 minutes we were there)! It’s a sensory overload but so worth seeing and experiencing even if just for a short while!

I wasn’t kidding when I said it was crowded…

After feeling like I was going to go blind from all the light in Times Square, we ventured out to find Radio City Music Hall! Along the way we found the Rainbow Room, where SNL is filmed! I about died because I absolutely LOVE SNL. I’ve been watching it since I can remember, so it was super special and neat to see the Rainbow Room in real life! A definite must-see if you’re a SNL lover like me!

If you didn’t know, because I didn’t before I saw it in real life, the Rainbow Room is right down the street from Radio City! So you can easily kill 2 birds with one stone and knock out both places within a few minutes of each other! I was really excited to see Radio City because I’ve been watching the Rockettes since I was a kid, so seeing where they perform made my inner child jump for joy! Β Also, Jimmy Fallon’s studio is right around there, along with the NBC store- which we didn’t get to go into since it was so late when we were down there, but it was huge and looked super fun!

{East Village//Soho}

We went to the East Village to meet Danielle, one of our friends from high school, for brunch and while we waited for her I took some shots of the buildings around us. Something I love about New York is how each building is different. I also loved seeing all the fire escapes, so strange I know, but I think they’re so cool!

Buildings in the east village

After brunch we strolled through Soho and headed towards Washington Square Park! Something I loved about Soho was not only all the cute shops and fun atmosphere, but the cobblestone streets!

A building in Soho

Washington Square Park was also a priority on my to-do list. One thing you may not know about me is that I love movies. One of my favorite movies is “I am Legend” with Will Smith. If you’ve seen “I am Legend” you may remember that he lives in the red brick houses right next to Washington Square Park, so naturally I had to go and have a photoshoot with the iconic park arch and red brick houses.

Washington Square Park arch, recognize the red brick houses on the right? πŸ™‚
Grant, me, and Danielle posing in Washington Square Park! Also, notice the Empire State Building peeping through the middle of the arch? πŸ™‚

I was ready to go take a picture on the porch of the house Will Smith’s character lived in, in the movie but there was construction going on, so I had to settle from observing and taking pictures from across the street. Still an awesome experience!

The set of houses Will Smith’s character lives in during “I am Legend”

Danielle and Grant wanted to take me to another park, so we headed to Union Square Park! They had some super cute spots to sit and enjoy the weather, so that’s exactly what we did! This was also the spot where I got pooped on by a pigeon- my trip to New York was now 100% official πŸ™‚

Something that I loved about Union Square Park, other than the cute spots to sit, was the water fill up station they had! You could use a fountain to get a quick drink or fill up your water bottle for free! Although it wasn’t super humid when I was there (thank goodness), I still needed to hydrate from all the walking and exploring we were doing, also because I used the majority of my water bottle to wash the pigeon poop off my arm, so this was perfect!

{Broadway//Midtown pt. 3}

I told Grant before I visited that I didn’t want to spend a lot of time in Times Square/Midtown but it turned out to be one of our favorite haunts during my trip πŸ™‚ We ended up winning lottery tickets to see CATS on Sunday night. This was extra wonderful, not only because the tickets themselves were $40 each, but because we were seated in orchestra center- we had an amazing view of the stage! CATS is a very special show to me because it was the first show I ever saw. It was the show that introduced me to the wonderful world of musical theatre. I owned the VHS when I was kid and watched it until I broke it. I would perform “Mr. Mistoffelees” and “Memory” in my room until my family members couldn’t take it anymore. To say I love CATS is an understatement.

Our lottery seats for CATS! Orchestra center row S- dead center!

I was excited enough to be sitting in the audience for CATS that when Grant told me we were allowed to go on stage during intermission, I almost stopped breathing. Since we were sitting in the middle of our row, we had to wait for everyone else to move, but once they did we booked it to the stage! They didn’t announce it to the audience, so people didn’t catch on until they saw others going up. We beat the rush of people and got a good view Old Deuteronomy (one of the members of the cast). He stays on stage during intermission and takes pictures with the kids in the audience. I hoped he would make some time for some kids at heart like me, but he made an announcement saying he would be taking photos with kids and if there was time, he would take pictures with the adults. I was kinda bummed, but I knew I would meet the actor at the stage door afterwards so I was ok with it! Since taking photos with Old Duet was out of the question, Grant and I had a photoshoot around the stage! The set is so intricate that it’s so neat to be able to see it up close. If you go to CATS definitely try sitting in the orchestra so you can easily make it up to the stage! A fun experience for kids and adults alike!

Old Deuteronomy talking to the crowd

Β Living out my dream of standing on a Broadway stage!

We’re ready to travel to the heavy side layer! (peep the CATS staff member to the right telling us to leave the stage)
So excited to be in the junkyard!

{Central Park//Bethesda Terrace}

During my last night in NYC we went to Central Park (CP), another place I had on my list to visit! I wasn’t too particular on where I wanted to go in CP but Grant literally read my mind when he chose to take me to Bethesda Terrace. No spoilers, but if you’re a fan of Gossip Girl you’ll understand why πŸ˜‰ It was cloudy, but that didn’t matter, it was still absolutely breath taking.

Gossip Girl fans will recognize this place and understand why I’m so excited to be standing here! πŸ™‚

{Upper West Side}

After we wandered around Central Park for awhile we headed out for our next adventure! For my last night in town Grant surprised me with reservations to The Empire Hotel Rooftop, again Gossip Girl fans will understand how exciting this was! Although we didn’t have the best view of Manhattan we had a wonderful view of the sunset! It wasn’t too crowded, which was perfect. I’m more about going to places that are chill and not super crowded so this was right up my alley! The service was amazing and everyone was really friendly! We sat on the side opposite the “Hotel Empire” sign, but the staff happily allowed us go over to the other side of the rooftop to take all the photos and videos we wanted!

The Hotel Empire lobby, super swanky!

{Hells Kitchen}

To end my whirlwind trip to New York, we spent the rest of the evening at Feinstein’s 54 Below, a small cabaret located in Hells Kitchen. Grant and I got student rush tickets, since I am a student, and paid $20! We didn’t get to choose our table, but I think we got pretty great seats! πŸ™‚ We weren’t really sure what to expect when we went, but am I glad that we chose to go that night! We saw the “New Writers at 54” show featuring the work of Kailey Marshall. From the second she started playing the first song I was hooked. It was like she was singing about my life. I felt so connected to her music because I could relate to literally every song she wrote. I cried throughout the whole show. I made sure to go up and introduce myself after the show and we took a selfie! She was so sweet and friendly! It was the cherry on top of a wonderful trip to New York!

Kailey and me taking a selfie after her show at 54 Below!

Back to reality…

Now that I’m back from vacation and settled back into my daily routine, I can’t wait to go back and experience more of New York! It’s hard to put into words how much I loved my trip to NYC…well I guess I just did- over 3,000 of them πŸ™‚ I know this isn’t even half of the things you can do in the city, but hopefully whether you’re planning a trip to the big apple or just like reading about travel adventures, you got something out of this babbling and photo filled post!

What are some of your favorite places/sights in the big apple? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll add them to my running NYC to-do list! πŸ™‚

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