New York For Newbies: A First Timer’s Guide To The Big Apple

island in the hudson, big apple, 5th avenue, statue of liberty

New York!

New York For Newbies: A First Timer’s Guide To The Big Apple

Visiting New York is one of the most popular places on travel wish lists and bucket lists. After all, the skyline is iconic and there are  many famous sights to see and cultural activities to indulge in. It is a relative smorgasbord for tourists! The Big Apple can be a little intimidating for first time visitors because of its size, but luckily, even if you are a first-time visitor, you can have an amazing trip!

Getting your bearings

New York is a surprisingly simple place to get the hang of geographically. This is because it is split into just five districts, called boroughs. The first is Manhattan, probably the most famous, and the one that is located on the island in the Hudson. Then there are Queens, Brooklyn, The Bronx, and Staten Island.

With New York’s excellent subway and bus transport system, it shouldn’t be too tough to find your way around, even without a car. In fact, the roads in New York are known to be somewhat hair-raising, even for the most confident driver, so newbies visiting the city may wish to skip hiring a car for their first visit entirely.


Another surprise for first time visitors to the Big Apple is that New York is one of the safest cities in the world! Of course, there are still the usual risks that you will encounter in any big city, and one in particular to avoid are pickpockets. I know all about pickpockets, as I have been a victim of them twice! They are good at what they do, so watch your bags and do not leave zippers exposed!

Pickpockets in New York operate on the subway or in crowded spaces like in Time Square or where street performance is occurring. They often use a bait and switch scam which is when one person creates a scene and while someone else relieves you of your wallet, smartphone, and valuables. With this in mind it’s best to avoid keeping things in trouser or coat pockets, and instead, use a bag that is worn and accessible only to you. I’ve had people get into my backpack, so keep your stuff on your front!

Also, concerning safety, it’s always smart to not mark yourself out as a tourist or newbie as much as possible. What this means is that if you need directions, ask a storekeeper rather than a stranger on the street, or use your headphone for Google Maps.

Lastly, keep the guidebooks to a minimum, and carry minimal cash, who doesn’t take credit or debit cards these days?

Don’t miss sights and attractions

Which of New York’s famous sites and attractions you should visit on your first trip? There are plenty of choices!

Be sure to head to the center of the city where you will be able to marvel at the structure of Grand Central Station, take a walk in the famous Central Park, and head over to 5th Avenue for some high-end shopping.

Then there the famous Lady Liberty herself, a gift to America in 1886 by the French and located on Liberty Island in the Hudson River. The Statue of Liberty is an iconic attraction that all New York Visitors must see, and you can access the site via a ferry tour, although it is worth considering booking before the day you go, to avoid long queues.

island in the hudson, big apple, 5th avenue, statue of liberty

Statue of Liberty is always a thrilling sight.

If you are up for a bit of culture on your Big Apple Visit, then there’s nowhere better than the rather spectacular MOMA or Museum of Modern art on 53rd street in Manhattan. You can make it a triple whammy by taking a trip to the Metropolitian Museum of Art, on 5th Avenue and the Guggenheim, designed by Frank Lloyd-Wright, also on 5th Avenue on, as well!

Last of all, if you are looking for some high energy fun, why not head on over to the theatre district and take in a show like Anastasia on Broadway, now showing at the Broadhurst? Such musicals are known for their stunning costumes, and substantial production values, making them a very entertaining activity to partake in.

Alternatively, if you would rather be out and about why not take a walk around The Bustling street of Chinatown? There you can visit the very vintage Nom Wah Tea Parlor, or The Golden Unicorn, and treat yourself to an authentic chinese meal.

New York delicacies

Talking of food, it would be a crime to visit New York without partaking of some of the particular delicacies that are “street food”.First and foremost this means hot dogs, which are pretty much available on every street corner, especially in central New York. Although Crif Dogs and The Cannibal Beer & Butcher are rated among the best.

There are other places to eat as well as thehot dog carts, and particularly popular right now are the food markets, and the Heartland Brewery on 8th Avenue. Try the soft pretzels with cheese dip, pulled pork sandwich, or the pastrami egg rolls which are getting rave reviews!

Alternatively, if you fancy something with a little more kick then why not head on over to Los Tacos No. 1, on 9th Avenue? There is often a long line! Luckily it moves quickly and is a favorite with locals for tacos, tortillas, and carne asada. Yum!

Last of all, with a strong Jewish heritage, it’s no surprise that you will find some fantastic bagel joints and delis in the Big Apple as well. You probably won’t have time to try everything on the menu as they are so vast! Don’t worry though because a classic pastrami Reuben is always a good choice, as is cream cheese and lox. Just remember to ask for it ‘easy on the pickles’ if you’re not into gherkins! Plus, no one will spot you as a newbie if you start to master the local lingo!

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About the Author ()

I am an avid scuba diver, underwater photographer, amateur historian; interested in all people and cultures. For me, the unexpected is usually the norm! My motto? I am an Empty Nester who likes to Renew, Revamp, and Reinvent Life! Contact me at

Comments (18)

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  1. Kim Acedo says:

    Great post, Tam! I’m going to have to reference this again when I take my parents to NYC for the first time 🙂
    Kim Acedo recently posted…Midlifers, Stop Baby’ing Your Parents… AND Yourself!My Profile

  2. I worked in Manhattan and you’re right; once you understand the city’s grit, you can manage finding lots of iconic sites! Your guide is excellent for newcomers and will be appreciated I’m sure!!
    Marilyn Jones recently posted…This computer is a laptop and a tablet!My Profile

  3. OH ive never been and I want to go so much! Your post has made me want to go every more! thanks for all the tips 🙂

  4. Lauren says:

    These are great tips! So much to consider for my second trip to NYC!

  5. Anna says:

    Oh how I love and miss New York City! What a lovely job you’ve done, creating this guide for the first time visitor!! Love it!

  6. What a wonderful taste of NY City! This great newbie’s guide to the Big Apple is very helpful for those who want to get the most out of their first trip there. I’m sending the link to this post to my nephew!

  7. Melissa says:

    I’ve been to New York City to Times Square and The Statue of Liberty before, and I had a great time! I’m excited to come back and maybe go to Central Park or 5th Avenue for shopping like you suggested!

  8. Angie says:

    I LOVE NYC, and I can’t wait until I can go again someday.

  9. Ashley - says:

    NYC has always been on my list of places to go, and I totally forgot about the pickpockets! I’m used to Minneapolis homeless, but they don’t really pickpocket, so thanks for the head’s up! Chinatown is somewhere I really think I would love.

  10. NYC has always been on my list of places to go, and I totally forgot about the pickpockets! I’m used to Minneapolis homeless, but they don’t really pickpocket, so thanks for the head’s up! Chinatown is somewhere I really think I would love.
    Ashley-GrowingSpangs recently posted…30 Easy, No-Prep Activity Ideas For Young Kids That Inspire LearningMy Profile

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