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New York Travel Guide for First Timers

It’s a little surprising that Brandon and I hadn’t been to New York City yet. We are both OBSESSED with the TV show, “Friends”, we’re both theatre people, and just entertainment junkies in general. Plus, the whole idea of Christmastime in NYC is really a dream. And we are obsessed with that time of year. So, when we celebrated our one year wedding anniversary on New Years Eve in 2019, it was obvious that there was only one place that made sense for our one year anniversary trip.

For those of you who don’t follow me on Instagram, I’ve been sharing our infertility journey there. We’ve had a long year of frustrations and medical expenses and heartbreak in our trying to conceive journey, to be completely honest. I’ll share more in a separate post soon, but basically in May of 2019 we realized that Brandon suffers from male factor infertility. It’s just as common for a male to be infertile as it is for a female, but of course it’s not talked about much. He had a varicocele surgery in November and, we’re hoping, 3-4 months after that surgery we’ll start seeing results and will soon be pregnant with our first sweet child together. Knowing that, we were in a “it’s now or never” mood when we booked NYC, thinking that soon we’ll have 3 kids including a newborn (God willing) so we booked the trip and I’m so glad we did!

We read all of the traveler guides and blogs and recommendations before we went so we had a list of places we’d like to see, places we’d like to avoid, and where to make our money really stretch. So, without giving you the obvious takeaways (like, the Brooklyn Bridge is just as dreamy in person as it is in photos), I’ll include my random takeaways as a first-time visitor to NYC.

1. Shoes
When packing, comfort is absolute key when it comes to your feet. NYC is the city of fashion but it’s also a HUGE city and you’ll likely take public transportation everywhere. You’ll see the most beautiful, unexpected landmarks if you just WALK the city. So, pack your most comfortable pair of shoes that can withstand walking several miles a day. We averaged 7-8 miles walked each day. It was crazy! The shoes I got the most use out of were not actually even tennis shoes (going in wintertime with rain and show, I planned on boots). They’re from Target, and I think they’re sold out which is such a bummer!

2. There’s, like, no where to sit. Ever.
It could be the time of the year that we visited, but my general observation is that most restaurants are grab and go, don’t expect to sit and enjoy your $1 hot dog. We were walking around Chelsea on NYE (our anniversary) trying to figure out what we wanted to do that night (we had left our plans flexible that night so we left the hotel with no real plan)… we walked into McDonald’s, Starbucks, small restaurants… all of the seats were taken. So, my suggestion in colder weather where outside seating isn’t going to be available… use time on the subway (if you have service, which is rare) or in your hotel to have a real plan of the day.

3. People are actually really freaking nice.
Coming from The Midwest, you hear horror stories about how mean everyone is in huge cities like NYC. You hear of shootings and burglars and such. Typing that out makes me feel and sound so sheltered. I’m the type of person that is very much aware of my surroundings and it usually takes a lot to make me feel uncomfortable in a public place because I’ve been on my own as an adult since I was 17 and traveled a bit. BUT, you just never know what to expect. The people of NYC are kind, honest, genuine people. They mostly keep to themselves on the subway and give up seats for women or older people. They don’t give you BS smiles and hellos that you experience in The Midwest and I actually kind of preferred that. Lol! You can talk to your husband, surf your phone, just “be” in the same space as other people and there are literally no expectations for you to make conversation with those around you. It was AMAZING for the extroverted introvert in me. 🙂

4. Bring cash.
We knew to bring cash with us because there are many small businesses that do not take credit cards. We basically planned on using cash in most instances unless we knew we were at a huge place of business, like Anthropology, for example.

5. The Top of the Rock is a must.
Forget the Empire State Building, the Top of the Rock is an AMAZING way to get breathtaking views of the city (including the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, etc.). It costs like $45 (I believe) each person but it is well worth the price!

6. Get lots of good photos of you and your loved ones in NYC.
Christmas time in NYC was literally the most magical time. Every corner you turn there are massive, real, trees decorated immaculately (HELLO, Rockefeller Center Tree… all the heart eyes). There have been so many instances in my life with kids that I’ve looked back on times and been like… ugh I wish I got a picture with all of us in the photo at that place, it was so magical. Well, Brandon and I got all kinds of photos in all of these beautiful places in NYC. How? We simply offered to take OTHER people’s photos. If we saw a family or couple trying to take a selfie, we’d ask if they’d like us to take their photo. They usually ALWAYS reciprocated immediately. Don’t be afraid to do this. Those photos are ones that I will treasure forever!

7. New Years Eve in Times Square is not for everyone, and that’s okay.
I originally put NYE in NYC on my bucket list when I was 16 years old with the idea that I’d be in the mix of the crazies in Time Square. Well, 31 year old Kendra is just way more aware of what that means. It meant standing in the cold (rainy or snowy) weather for 18-24 hours without leaving to use the restroom, to get any food or drinks (no alcohol), it meant being stuck in a sea of people and not being able to leave the cages that were set up for the NYE festivities. All of those things are just not on my list of things I wanted to do on my NYE, specifically our fist wedding anniversary. We DID consider trying to go to a Mexican restaurant in the area that night but as soon as we got off of the subway we were met with a gate that was blocking off entrances to the street with police officers. You couldn’t go down the street without reservations or a room key. So, we tried to get a taste of the Times Square experience on NYE, and was like… nah, we’re good. We rang in the New Year overlooking the city with a stunning view from our hotel. And we avoided the mass chaos following the event.

8. Experience the city for it’s culture.
I keep coming back to this, I feel like, but if you really want to appreciate a city like New York, you have to walk the streets, open your eyes, put your phone down, and take it all in. Observe the way people interact, eat the local food, take the subway, stay outside of the city (like Brooklyn, as we did) so it forces you to travel through the city to get places. Go outside of your comfort zone. Visit places like the West Village and Chelsea which are, in my opinion, the most beautiful areas. Areas like Times Square are absolutely made for tourists and not a real taste of what the NYC culture is. Try and block parts of the day in one area of the city and walk between your destinations. There’s just so much beauty around every corner.

What surprised you about your first trip to NYC? Let me know in the comments, here. 😊

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