solo travel new york city is worth it for the sunsets

Is New York City Worth Visiting? My Honest Opinion

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Yup, this is probably the most controversial post that I’ve ever written in my life, haha. I mean, how can I even begin to write a blog post answering the question “is New York City worth visiting?” It’s freakin’ New York City. 

We’ve all seen NYC in movies and television shows, as well as read stories that take place in the East Village or Upper West Side.

For a lot of people, New York City is where you go when you want your dreams to come true. I know visiting here has given me confidence boosts over the years.

However, a lot of time and effort goes into planning a visit to New York, especially if it’s someone’s first time visit to New York City, and I can understand why people grapple with the price and time that it takes to truly appreciate this iconic city.

magnolia's bakery is a great place for a treat
New York City is Worth Visiting for Banana Pudding.

Is New York City Worth Visiting?

Absolutely! Solo travel in New York City is incredible, as well as visiting the city on a girlfriends trip or a romantic getaway. You’ll never run out of things to do in New York City. I’ve lived close to the city for over seven years, and I still discover new corners to explore and appreciate.

So, whether you’re visiting New York City in December to see the iconic Rockefeller Tree or visiting New York City in March to see cherry blossoms in Central Park, this city is thriving no matter what time of year you come and visit. 

However, I want you to keep in mind that the real New York City isn’t the same city that you see in pop culture. You’ll encounter trash on the streets. You’ll see people in desperate situations stemming from drugs, mental illness, and poverty. You’ll probably see a rat or two running around the tracks on the subway system.

As one of the biggest cities in the world, New York has some grit and grime, and while I don’t think it’s dangerous, don’t visit with super lofty expectations either. 

With all that said, I obviously don’t want to discourage you from coming to New York. 

new york city is worth visiting for the gorgeous strand bookstore

What Do I Love About New York

I love New York City. Even with the grittiness and aggravation, I adore visiting New York any time of year.

To be honest, though, it’s still difficult for me to summarize what I love about New York City. This city means so much to me as a content creator and as a person. I dunno. My feelings are impossible to put into words, I guess?

Regardless, I wanted to share some of the best reasons why you should plan a trip to New York City, as well as tangible reasons why a vacation here could be worth spending the money.

even solo in nyc don't be scared to go to broadway

Broadway 

I can’t even write about New York City and not talk about Broadway. On my first EVER trip to NYC, we went to Broadway and it’ll forever be iconic to me.

Without a doubt, going to a Broadway show is one of my all time favorite things to do in New York. Is it expensive? It can be, especially if your heart is set on the hottest new show on a Saturday night.

You can always try your luck with the Broadway Lottery if you’re flexible on what play that you want to see and the time of day. Note that these tickets are all time sensitive and may be partial view. 

new york city is worth visiting for the pizza
Is NYC worth visiting? Definitely for this pizza!

Excellent Food Scene

New York has endless food options, Endless.

Of course, the sheer diversity of food feels overwhelming (in a good way). I’m a big fan of food tours, and believe if you have time, going on an organized food tour is an excellent way to learn about specific neighborhoods and their culinary scenes. 

For example, I recently went on a Lower East Side Food Tour with Like a Local Tours that was absolutely amazing. The guide was very informative, there were many stops in Chinatown and Little Italy, and we had a chance to learn all about this interesting Manhattan neighborhood.

You’ll also walk a ton around the city, so don’t worry about eating as many high-quality pizza and bagels as you can get your hands on. Well worth it. The New York City water makes the dough extra special.

new york city is worth visiting for shopping experiences

Endless Shopping

New York is a shoppers’ paradise. Whether you want high-end fashion, cool vintage home goods, or rare pieces of art, New York has something available for everyone.

For instance, it’s hard for me to travel to New York City and not stop at the amazing Strand Bookstore for all my literary needs. 

As a global mecca for shopping, you have a lot of options. Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue are two of the most famous shopping streets in the world, but they are far from the only areas with top-notch retail therapy. 

And you want something a bit more adventurous and gritty, then you need to go to Canal Street in Manhattan’s chaotic and glorious Chinatown. Just be sure to bring cash.

exploring the met museum of art in new york city

Fantastic Museums 

Obviously, New York City has plenty of world-class museums where you’re able to learn something new. Art lovers will especially fall in love with all of the options available to them.

Personally, I adore visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art whenever I decide to have a “museum day” in New York City. You won’t be able to see everything on a single trip to the Met, but spend a few hours here anyway, simply wandering and letting yourself feel enriched by incredible artists. 

New York City also has many amazing history museum options, such as The Tenant Museum on the Lower East Side and the Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side.

Unfortunately, unlike other major cities such as Washington DC and London, you need to pay to go to most of New York’s most famous museums, although some discounts are offered to students and seniors. Check in advance.

nyc is worth visiting for the street art
Street Art in the Lower East Side is Amazing.

Neighborhood Exploration

New York City has plenty of fantastic neighborhoods that are perfect for exploration. You can easily spend an entire afternoon appreciating one neighborhood, which is how I honestly suggest planning a visit New York City, so you’re not wasting tons of time on the subway.

I’ve listed a couple of my favorite NYC neighborhoods below, and will continue to add to this ever-growing list.

exploring chelsea's shopping in nyc
Walking Through Chelsea in NYC.

Great NYC Neighborhoods

  • Astoria, Queens: Located right across East River, Astoria is affordable and packed with lots of great Greek restaurants. Check out my guide to Astoria Queens and book your stay!
  • Chelsea, Manhattan: This part of Manhattan is known for it’s wonderful art galleries and the gorgeous High Line park. There are so many things to do in Chelsea that you could easily spend a whole day there. 
  • DUMBO, Brooklyn: The neighborhood right across the Brooklyn Bridge. Go to Washington Street between Front and Water Streets for the most instagrammed spot in all of Brooklyn.
  • East Village, Manhattan: A youthful neighborhood known for it’s trendy nightlife. Stay here if you want to experience New York after the sun goes down.
  • Greenwich Village, Manhattan: This was the center of the counterculture movement in the 1960s. This neighborhood is home to NYU and Washington Square Park.
  • Upper East Side, Manhattan: Such a super ritzy area! I love it! If you have the money (or just wanna window shop), go to Madison Avenue and ogle at the designer merchandise. Furthermore, not only can you explore Central Park, but visit some of New York’s best museums such as Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and El Museo del Barrio.
  • Upper West Side, Manhattan: This neighborhood is where the American Museum of Natural History is located. I like the Upper West Side’s relative quietness, as well as the incredible brownstones which are decorated nicely for Halloween and the holiday season.
  • Williamsburg, Brooklyn: Another cool Brooklyn neighborhood worthy of your time. Like beer? Definitely come and visit the Brooklyn Brewery to sample a variety of brews. Also if the Brooklyn Bridge is too crowded for you, take a leisurely walk across the Williamsburg Bridge.

i love all the gorgeous street art in the lower east side

What Do I Not Love About New York

On the flip side, there are also aspects of New York City that I don’t particularly love. Honestly, I’m able to overlook them, but at the same time, other travelers might have different priorities and I want to be totally truthful in this post.

Sure, others may disagree with me, but if you’re on the fence about whether or not New York City is worth a trip, then you’ll want to do as much research as possible, and these negatives are part of my own lived experiences.

NYC has a lot of publications

Big City Problems

I’ll be honest, while I still feel very safe in the New York City, the city has had challenges since COVID. I won’t “get political” here, but as a big city, New York has societal problems that impact all cities. It’s just a fact.

Do I think visiting Manhattan is dangerous? Absolutely not! I’ve gone to New York countless times since COVID, and I have always enjoyed myself. Just use “common sense,” and you’ll likely have no issues. While you might see unnerving headlines every so often, it’s still extremely rare for a tourist to fall victim to random violent crime, especially in busy areas in the middle of the day.

Still, though, if you live in a small town or city, you might be shocked at the poverty you see in New York City, especially compared to fictionalized versions of the city in television shows and movies. 

Lastly, New York City is in the midst of a housing crisis, so it’s important to view people who are struggling with compassion rather than distain. You don’t have to give money, but realize that New York is an expensive place to live and as a result, some people will have a hard time making rent.

Which leads me to my next point …

Going for Brunch in NYC isn’t Cheap.

Expensive 

Ugh, New York City is expensive. There’s really no getting around it. Even when I try to save money, I always spend way more than I intended to coming to the city for a weekend or even a day trip. 

Sure, you can do some things to lower the cost, such as using the Subway instead of taxis and perhaps staying in New Jersey rather than Manhattan, but I don’t think New York City can ever truly be a “budget destination” unless you triple down on not spending money, and really, what’s the point of a trip here if you can’t do anything?

6 days in new york city means taking lots of cabs

Getting In and Out

Traffic in New York City, all five boroughs, is a nightmare. For example, Manhattan is on a peninsula with only a few entrances. You need to plan how to get into the city as well as how you’re going to leave. I’ve even written a whole guide for how to reach New York City from Newark Liberty International Airport since it involves looking at NJ Transit schedules in advance.

My advice is to plan your arrival and departure to the city in advance. If you’re taking a taxi to major airports, such as Newark Liberty or JRK International, then you need need need to account for the sheer amount of traffic. Your airline will not hold the plane for you if you’re stuck in traffic.

Furthermore, I suggest you arrive to the airport at least two hours in advance for the domestic flights and three hours in advance for international flights. 

You’ll also want to consider rush hour for trains and subways. Sure, while most major companies now have flexible office policies after COVID, these companies still mostly have hybrid schedule and rush hour is still very much “a thing” in New York City. Plan accordingly.

times square is always a bit of a cheesy experience

Obvious Tourist Traps

A lot of visitors who come to New York City complain about tourist traps, especially the area around Times Square in Midtown, which draws the most travelers.

I know I’m going to sound like a snob but it is what it is. Don’t bother hanging around Times Square. Sure, you can see it, but then move on. The restaurants are expensive and not great, and you’ll also encounter petty and ridiculous scams. 

Personally, I think walking around Central Park is a much better use of your time if you want to see an iconic area without the tackiness of Times Square. 

solo travel new york city tip: you have lots of hotels to choose from

Where to Stay in New York City

Last but not least, I wanted to share a couple of centrally located hotel options for New York City. These options aren’t too too expensive, but of course, holiday weekends will be higher than a random Wednesday in March.

  • Hotel 50 Bowery: A youthful and fun hotel located in Chinatown. Although a bit more expensive, you can still find some good deals on rooms here. This is one of my personal favorite hotels in New York. See prices on Expedia.com | Booking.com 
  • Pod Times Square: This fantastic location places you close to all of Midtown’s main attractions, and is especially awesome if you plan to go to some Broadway shows. The room was surprisingly spacious too! See prices on Expedia.com | Booking.com 
  • The Time New York: If you want a hotel that’s influenced by all the art and theaters that surround you, then look no further than The Time. You won’t be too far from Central Park either! See prices on Expedia.com | Booking.com

relaxing on a gorgeous sunny day in new york city

I hope this post helped you figure out if New York City is worth visiting for you. As you already know, I adore this city, and think it’s well worth your time and money, but realize everyone is different. Happy travel planning!