NEW YORK CITY Tourist Guide

{Back when I wore glasses – Spring 2013 at Gantry State Park/East River Ferry Stop in Long Island City}

I’ve lived in NYC for NINE YEARS YOU GUYS. NINE. NINE. So close to being considered a “real” New Yorker, although I think my bitterness and avoidance of eye contact makes me already there? In any event, as my wedding is coming up more and more out of town family and friends have requested that I put together itineraries and suggestions of where to shop, what to see, and where to eat. I’ve played tour guide for many friends and family members before, so without further ado, here is my New York City Tourist Guide – the most exciting sights we’ve seen and places we’ve been.

the met nyc we heart beauty larisa mar

{The day Mike proposed! Visiting the Met – Summer 2014}

Planning Suggestions:

I’ve been taking people around the city, showing them the sights for their first time, since 2008. I’ve loved having guests from across the country and showing them all that New York City has to offer. Over the years I’ve fine tuned my strategy and have narrowed down the best planning suggestions I think are imperative to a successful trip.

– Do everything by neighborhood. New York City seemed so small to me when I first moved here so I would try to cram all the “big” sights in together, in one day. Empire State Building, Wall Street, Lincoln Center, all in one day. That’s outrageous. Make sure to plan things out geographically and preferably within walking distance. This way you won’t be spending too much time navigating public transportation or paying for expensive taxis or Ubers.

– Speaking of Uber, download the Uber app! Ubers in NYC are much faster than yellow cabs – they come in less than one minute in some cases. Reminder: Uber drivers can rate you and decide if they want to pick you up or not based on previous trips, so maybe skip the car karaoke?

– If you don’t have kiddos, I’d suggest that you don’t plan every meal. This way you can give yourself the freedom to check out the menus around whatever neighborhood you’re in – that’s half the fun!

– Leave downtime towards the end of your trip! Try to keep one afternoon or evening towards the end of your trip free. There are bound to be things you didn’t get to do, even items on your itinerary that you were too wiped out to complete. I always save some time towards the end of the trip. This way if you need a power nap you know its’ okay to grab one: there’s time at the end of the trip to complete whatever you tapped out from earlier.


I’ve seen many different suggested itineraries for NYC, and while a lot of them are fun they’re always simply one or the other: classic NYC or incredibly trendy NYC. But here’s the truth: both versions of NYC are pretty great and not to be missed. You can have a nice blend of quintessential/touristy and local/unique. Here are my suggestions.

SHOP: Chelsea Market in Chelsea. Great location for a bunch of random and fun finds: everything from earrings and cufflinks to soaps and wall art.

SHOP: Book Court in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. Great selection of books, including a fun kid’s section.

SHOP: Paper Presentation in Chelsea. Stationery and notebooks and wrapping paper and more! Maybe that’s just me?

SHOP: Soapology in Meatpacking District. Create your own bath soaps and shower gels, even your own perfume. Select from dozens of different scents and mix it up to create your own new signature scent.

Brooklyn Bridge reflection brooklyn dumbo art house

{Brooklyn Bridge Park – Summer 2014}

SEE: Top of the Rock vs. Empire State Building… we’ve done both, but the view from the Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center) is unbeatable simply because the Empire State Building is a part of it. It’s also a much more fluid experience: there’s the NBC experience downstairs, plus Rockefeller Center in the main plaza with tons of shopping and your classic, typical sights. The Empire State Building is a stand alone spot with not much in the surrounding area accept for Starbucks and Hale and Hearty. Top of the Rock is where it’s at.

SEE: If you want a tour of Central Park without having to walk the entire thing, head to Columbus Circle and find one of the Pedi Cabs. These guys will give you a tour of the park for around $60. They can pedal up to two adults and one child and will take you past all the famous Central Park views, like Strawberry Fields and Balto! This is by far one of my most favorite things to do with people when it’s their first time to the City.

SEE: The Met and the American Museum of Natural History (aka the museum with the dinosaurs) was my first dates with Mike. We had a big “play tourist” city date and saw the Met before lunch and went to the History Museum before dinner. Both places are not to be skipped. Plus, don’t miss the Hayden Planetarium at the History Museum. It is HUGE and one of the coolest things I’ve seen, to the day.

SEE: The East River Ferry is our favorite way to get from Queens to Brooklyn to Manhattan. Fun for kids too – take them under the bridges and see the views without spending big bucks.

SEE: Brooklyn Bridge Park and Gantry State Park Queens. This goes along with The East River Ferry because that’s the easiest way to these two parks. At Brooklyn Bridge Park you’ll enjoy the classic New York Views, walking around the impossibly beautiful neighborhood. Favorite thing? Choosing a restaurant to eat at – they’re all amazing! At Gantry State Park in Queens (where Mike proposed!) there’s an outdoor bar area so you can enjoy beer or wine while watching the sun set over the city while lounging close to the water. Ah, New York.

east river ferry, williamsburg bridge

{East River Ferry – Summer 2014}

SEE: Times Square… you’ll want the classic NYC picture in Times Square, I know. Just don’t plan to eat around there – it will all be over priced and not that delicious.

SEE: The High Line is an interesting public park built on an elevated section of a former rail line. The food options in this neighborhood are amazing, so come hungry! PRO TIP: the public restrooms here and in Chelsea Market are small (only one or two stalls each). The bathrooms at the High Line Hotel are clean and not that many people know to use them. Walk in, grab a coffee or pastry from their lobby patisserie, and head for the restroom. #win.

SEE: Grand Central Station. It’s just as beautiful as you think it is.

the high line we heart beauty nyc guide

{The High Line! Spring 2013}

EAT: Jacob’s Pickles on the Upper West Side. Southern Comfort food and mason jars. Sorry not sorry. Get the beer float (not root beer – a weird but delicious combination) and don’t skip the mac and cheese!

EAT: Piccolo Angelo in the West Village. We’ve celebrated every anniversary and major milestone at this restaurant. It’s small and crowded but has the best Italian food. It’s right near the Meatpacking and if you really want, after dinner you can walk the few blocks to the West Side Highway and check out the view of New Jersey (West) and the Freedom Tower (South).

EAT: Cookshop in Chelsea. The first time we were here, Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield were dining a few tables away from us. So basically we had brunch with famous people. PLUS this is close to the High Line, which is fun to walk when it’s nice out.

EAT: Cupping Room Cafe in Soho. Good for a mid day bite in between Soho shopping. Delicious menu, plus they serve a mean iced coffee.

shake shack we heart beauty


EAT: Shake Shack, multiple locations. Okay guys: I say it’s better than In and Out. Blasphemy? Decide for yourself.

I’m a firm believer in trying to vacation as both a tourist and a local, no matter what city I’m in. I’m sorry I can’t make any suggestions on nightlife but if you wanted that you’ve come to the wrong blog ;). Whether you’re coming to NYC any time soon or not, I hope this information is helpful! There’s so much to do, but there’s no reason why you can’t do a little bit of everything.

Want more NYC content or not-so-touristy places to check out? Right this way