How to Go Beyond the Basic Tourist Attractions in NYC

Empty Nest Blessed by Suzy Mighell
mother and daughter with ice cream cones at the museum of ice cream
We had the BEST time at the Museum of Ice Cream!

I just returned from visiting my daughter, Becca, who is in graduate school at NYU in New York City! Since we’ve been to NYC so many times, on this trip, we went beyond the basic tourist attractions in NYC and explored some fun new spots! Today, I’m sharing where we ate, stayed, and played on our recent trip to NYC!

Know Before You Go

To ensure a great trip, there are three major things I recommend you do to prepare!

woman in airport wearing travel outfit for nyc
Even though I went in mid-April, it was chilly (50s).

Cashmere Tee | Cashmere Cardigan (not available) | Talbots Black Southhampton Slacks (6 colors, 30% off right now) | Burberry Belt (similar) | Gold Sneakers | | Diamond Initial Pendant Necklace | Kendra Scott Abbie Strand Necklace | Kendra Scott Elisa Pendant Necklace in Black | Gucci Disco Crossbody (pre-loved) | Tory Burch Ella Patent Tote | Briggs & Riley Hardside Luggage (All we ever use, because it has a lifetime guarantee!)

1. Watch the Weather

If you’re planning a trip to NYC, the first thing you need to know is that the weather can be variable! The week before we went in April, it was sunny and in the mid-70s. The week we were there, it was cloudy, windy, rainy, and in the 50s.😬 Watch the weather closely as you pack, so you’re not caught unaware! Thankfully, I’d packed a wind-resistant travel umbrella and a light jacket, and I even packed some lightweight silk long underwear. (I’m very cold-natured!) I was so glad I had all of those!

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2. Get in Shape

Lace-up those walking shoes and get in shape before you go to NYC!

What you see above are the actual distances I walked and the flights of stairs I climbed during our spring trip to NYC. The amount of walking we did reminded me of a Walt Disney World vacation or a sightseeing trip in Europe! Note that we also took the subway and took a few Ubers! There are lots of stairs getting to the subways! I slept well every night!😴

3. Get Your Apple Watch Subway Ready

Very few people go to the machines and purchase a Metrocard anymore. Most people tap their phones or watches to pay their subway and bus fares. We set this up ahead of time and felt so cool😂tapping our watches and breezing through the turnstiles! Here’s how to do it on an Apple Watch:

  1. Be sure you have Apple Pay set up on your phone.
  2. Open the Settings app.
  3. Tap Wallet > Apple Pay > Express Mode
  4. Tap the card you want to use to pay, then enter your Apple Watch passcode.
  5. As you approach the fare gate or board the bus, make sure your Apple Watch is turned on.
  6. Tap and enter.
  7. For more details, read THIS article.
  8. For Samsung devices, read THIS article.

Where to Stay

We love New York and have stayed in many different hotels! Here are the ones I recommend:

woman pictured with lenny the doorman at the omni berkshire place in nyc

This time we stayed at the Omni Berkshire Place. The doorman, Lenny, is famous on TikTok and Instagram! He was such a fun guy, and the hotel was affordable (by NYC standards!). We also have family members who’ve stayed at the Lotte New York Palace and rave about it.

Where to Eat

Becca and I both have a lot of food sensitivities, including gluten and various other foods that are migraine triggers, so finding restaurants that are affordable and work for our dietary needs is always an issue. Here are some of our favorite places to eat in NYC.

  • Tea at The Plaza Hotel – A dressed-up special occasion treat! They are wonderful about accommodating dietary restrictions, and they even send the chef out to make sure!
  • Friedman’s – Family-run business, with nine locations in NYC. It serves “American comfort food.” Virtually the entire menu can be prepared gluten-free.
  • Bareburger – Local NYC chain featuring chef-crafted burgers available with gluten-free buns and gluten-free fries. Dairy-free milkshakes are also available!
  •  Pappardella – A delicious and atmospheric Italian restaurant with lots of gluten-free options, including gluten-free garlic bread!
  •  Serafina –  A wide menu! Becca loves their gluten-free Italian food options! 🍝🍕
  • Sensa Gluten – Everything here is 100% gluten-free. It’s also vegetarian-friendly, with vegan options.
  • Los Tacos is a street taco hole-in-the-wall that is popular with locals. It’s counter service, and you stand to eat! There are several locations throughout the city. 
  • The Donut Pub – They have a wall of freshly made donuts, cookies, and croissant donuts that are to die for! They also offer several gluten-free flavors. They’re peanut and tree-nut-free, and they’re open 24 hours a day!
  • Carnegie Diner – (Not to be confused with Carnegie Deli.) There are two locations in the city, and their menu is huge. There is something for everyone, and they’re great about accommodating dietary restrictions.
  • Wild – A 100% gluten-free restaurant in the West Village.
  • Trattoria Dell’Arte – One of our favorite Italian restaurants. The decor is modeled after an Italian artist’s studio with oversized sculptures and drawings, as well as a wall gallery of famous Italian noses!👃😂
  • Modern Bread & Bagel – Fabulous gluten-free and Kosher bagels!

Where to Play

If you’ve never been to NYC, be sure you hit all of the basic must-do tourist attractions!

The Basics

Beyond the Basics

Repeat NYC visitor? Ready to go beyond the basics? Try these spots.

  • Museum of Ice Cream – Becca and I had the best time at this Instagrammable, happy place where the price of admission gets you all the ice cream you can eat. Book your tickets online and go first thing in the morning to save money and beat the families with kids!
  • Central Park Zoo — Memorialized in the animated movie Madagascar, this adorable zoo is easily do-able in a half-day. Afterward, grab lunch at the Central Park Boathouse!
  • Hudson Yards — This stunning indoor mall is perfect for a rainy day! Don’t miss The Vessel out front!
  • The High Line — View nature, art, and design as you walk this 1.45-mile-long public park built on a historic freight rail line and elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side.
  • Little Island — An island park developed by Barry Diller, Little Island is located in Hudson River Park and has an amphitheater and dramatic views.
  • Roosevelt Island — On a beautiful day (which it was NOT when we went!), take the 4-minute tram ride across to this charming, walkable island. Visit parks, shops, and cafes and take in the views of the NYC skyline and the East River. We’re already planning to go back on a pretty day!
  • The Strand Book Store — This historic landmark book store offers an enormous variety of new, used, and rare books totaling more than 18 miles(!), including a vast selection of out-of-print books.
  • Harry Potter Store — If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll have so much fun browsing and drinking Butterbeer at this beautifully-themed store.
  • Shopping — From the Shops at Columbus Circle and Grand Central Terminal, to iconic 5th Avenue (Midtown Manhattan between 49th Street and 60th Street) and the Macy’s Herald Square (our fave!), the shopping in NYC is spectacular.
  • Unique Tours — From the Chocolate Tour to Exploring the New York Catacombs by Candlelight, there are lots of unique NYC tours to enjoy! Plan ahead and book through a reliable company like Viator (owned by Trip Advisor).
  • Parks — Go beyond Central Park and take in favorites like Union Square, Bryant Park, and more!
Woman dressed in black standing in Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park

Burberry Reversible Wool & Silk Scarf | Burberry Fernleight Quilted Jacket | Black Wool Burberry Novacheck Trimmed Cardigan | Black Cargo Pants | Black Brooks Sneakers

Planning a trip to NYC? What are your favorite beyond the basic tourist attractions in NYC? I’d love to know so I can check them out on my next trip! Leave me a comment, okay?

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  1. I’m a native New Yorker but have been living in the desert of California for almost 6 years. We return every summer when my son participates in the navy seal swim across the Hudson. It takes place downtown and it’s always fun to trek around the Financial district. Don’t miss the observatory at one World Trade Center. The ride up in the elevator flashes the building of the city right before your eyes. Well worth the price up! Also, I graduated from The Fashion Institute of Technology a long time ago and now like to go back and check out the exhibits at their museum. It’s located at 227 West 27 Street. NY will always be my home and I never tire of visiting!

    1. Linda,

      These are great suggestions! Thank you so much! We’ve done a tour of the Financial District and we learned so much! Fantastic!

      Thanks again for your ideas! I appreciate you!


  2. This is a precious post Suzy and the snap 📸 of you and your daughter with the ice cream🍦cones is the sweetest ever! I love NYC, and visit as often as I can. Christmastime is absolutely magical in the city, with the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular and then a visit to Mamans for truly the best chocolate chip cookies 🍪 in the city – Be sure to check them out on our your next visit and perhaps I’ll see you there or on the beach ⛱️ #Sanibel xo 🤗

  3. Kate,

    Those are great suggestions! I haven’t been to the Tenement Museum, but I DO love Chelsea Market! Need to go in and add that to this post! Thanks so much for the suggestions!

    I’m grateful for you!


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