New York City, often referred to as “The City That Never Sleeps,” is on many travel bucket lists. But with its reputation for being expensive, dirty, and crowded, it’s valid to ponder the question: Is New York City worth visiting? As a local New Yorker and seasoned traveler, I’m here to provide an in-depth perspective on this dilemma.

My NYC Story

I moved to New York from London in 2018. I arrived on a very rainy day and it rained for the entire first week I was there.

I thought to myself “What have I done?”

I’d visited New York City before at Christmas time and in summer, and I LOVED it. But this time it hit different. It was April, and rainy, and my new roommate picked me up from JFK in her little Smart car. We had to drive over giant potholes that felt like we were driving on the surface of the moon. (Seriously why are there so many potholes in NYC and where does all the tax money go?).

When we got to NYC I couldn’t help but notice how much trash there was on the streets. Which is funny because I’d never really noticed it that much on my previous visits.

I think when you’re a tourist you’re so caught up on all the fun stuff that you don’t notice these things as much, but having just made a big move across the pond, I noticing everything. And I was starting to feel a little bit homesick.

But then a couple of weeks later we had a heatwave, and all of a sudden it was rooftop season in NYC. The city came alive, it was blue sky everyday, and soon my friends and I were taking day trips to Fire Island and doing all sorts of fun stuff.

I fell in love with NYC, and I’ve been here ever since. Well technically I live in Jersey City now, but it’s so close I’m in NYC almost every day. There’s just so much to do in NYC and so many restaurants to discover that I’ll never get tired of it.

Anyway, enough about my story. Is NYC worth visiting? Definitely! Although it also has some drawbacks too. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons so you can make your own mind up.

Reasons Why NYC is Worth Visiting

It Just Has an Energy About It

You’ll hear a lot of people talking about the “energy” of NYC. The city pulsates with life and is just such an exciting place to be. The towering skyscrapers, the busy streets, the hustle and bustle – there’s something about the energy in NYC that you just can’t describe.

Have a look on the @whatisnewyork Instagram page and you’ll see a lot of weird and wonderful stuff happens here. New Yorkers have a sense of humor and there’s always something going on in the streets.

NYC is like a magnet. It draws people in. Once you’re here it’s just so damn hard to leave. My friends will often talk about taking weekend trips, but then when the time comes, there’s always something fun going on in NYC.

Iconic Landmarks

The first thing that entices many visitors to New York City is the impressive array of iconic landmarks. The Empire State Building, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Wall Street, and Brooklyn Bridge: names known worldwide that conjure images of spectacular cityscapes.

These landmarks embody not only the architectural aesthetics but also the essence of the American spirit and history. You definitely won’t be bored on your visit to NYC because there are endless things to do.

Amazing Museums

New York City is also home to an extensive assortment of museums spanning across the various boroughs. The Natural History Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim – a veritable smorgasbord of art, culture, and history await you. If you’re into museums, you’ll be spoilt for choice in NYC.

Home of Broadway Shows

The Broadway theater scene in New York City is second to none and offers a delightful selection of shows, including timeless classics and newest entries. It’s a prime hub for theatre lovers who relish the sensation of witnessing the magic on stage in real time. While Los Angeles is home to the movie industry, NYC is home of theater.

Amazing Food

Every gastronome knows that New York City is a paradise of diverse cuisines. From the humble hotdog stands and ubiquitous pizza joints, to refined culinary artworks in the Village or Michelin-starred establishments around the city, NYC imparts a gastronomic journey that will satisfy every palate and budget scale.

Don’t leave NYC without trying these must-try foods:

New York-Style Pizza – Visit iconic spots like Lombardi’s, Di Fara, or Joe’s Pizza for a slice of the thin-crust, hand-tossed masterpiece that is New York pizza.

Bagels – With a slightly crispy exterior and a chewy inside, NYC bagels are legendary. Top picks include Ess-a-Bagel and Russ & Daughters.

Pastrami Sandwich– Katz’s Delicatessen is the go-to for a classic New York pastrami sandwich, piled high with hand-carved meat on rye bread.

Cheesecake – New York-style cheesecake is famous for its rich and creamy texture, with Eileen’s Special Cheesecake and Junior’s being among the best places to indulge.

Hot Dogs – Nothing says NYC like a hot dog from a street vendor, but for an elevated experience, try the offerings at Gray’s Papaya or Nathan’s Famous in Coney Island.

Cronuts – The cronut, a croissant-donut hybrid, was invented in New York. Dominique Ansel Bakery is the birthplace of this innovative treat.

Egg Cream – A unique New York creation, the egg cream is a soda fountain drink made with milk, carbonated water, and chocolate syrup. Try it at Gem Spa or any old-school diner.

Chinese Dumplings – For authentic and delicious dumplings, venture into Chinatown. Fried or steamed, places like Vanessa’s Dumpling House or Joe’s Shanghai are local favorites.

Street Food (Halal Guys) – The Halal Guys started as a food cart and became a NYC street food icon. Don’t miss their famous chicken and rice platter topped with the legendary white and red sauces.

Black and White Cookie – This glazed, half-chocolate, half-vanilla cookie is a NYC bakery staple. Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery and William Greenberg Desserts offer some of the best.

World-Class Shopping

NYC also boasts of mesmerizing shopping avenues like the glamorous Fifth Avenue, quirky boutiques in SoHo, or vintage shops in Williamsburg, satisfying the desires of every avid shopper.

The city also home to tons of flagship stores, such as Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Apple Store 5th Avenue, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom and Adidas flagship store.

Many people visit NYC to do their Christmas shopping and see all the beautiful window displays at Christmas.

Best Place to Celebrate Christmas

Speaking of Christmas. New York City turns into a winter wonderland at Christmas and it’s one of the best times of year to visit. With its grandiose tree at Rockefeller Center, ice-skating in Central Park, and enchanting store window displays, it’s truly magical.

As soon as December hits, I love to visit all the Christmas-themed bars that are dotted around the city. Places like Oscar Wilde, Rolf’s, Loreley Beer Garden, Pete’s Tavern and Miracle on 9th Street are usually decked out in over-the-top Christmas decorations.

Rooftops Galore

Come summer, the city’s vibe shifts to make way for rooftop parties and beach day-outs. New Yorkers flock to the city’s rooftops to enjoy the warm summer weather and stunning views of Manhattan’s skyline.

There are so many rooftop bars in NYC, but some of my favorites include Nubeluz, The Crown, Overstory, Le Bain and ART Nomad. Nothing beats gazing out at the skyscrapers of Manhattan with the warm breeze on your face and a cocktail in hand.

NYC Ferries and Boat Rides

Manhattan is surrounded by water and it’s really fun to ride the ferries. If you’re planning to visit DUMBO or Williamsburg, you can catch the ferry from Wall St Pier 11 for a scenic ride. Alternatively you can hire a boat for the day or book yourself on a sunset cruise to the Statue of Liberty.

NYC is best viewed from the water if you want to capture photos of the city’s skyline. I’d also recommend visiting Grand Banks, which is a beautiful historic ship moored on the Hudson River. There’s an oyster bar and a cocktail bar onboard – perfect for sundowners after a day of sightseeing.

Islands and Beaches

Sometimes NYC can get stiflingly humid in summertime, but not to worry, because beautiful beaches are just a quick train ride away.

Rockaway Beach is easily reached by subway or ferry from NYC and is great for a day trip. Alternatively, you can hop on the Long Island Railroad to visit beach destinations further along the coast, including Long Beach and The Hamptons.

One of my favorite day trips from NYC is a trip to Fire Island, which is a very narrow island that runs parallel to Long Island’s south shore. There are no cars on the island and it’s the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

An Adventure in Every Neighborhood

Each neighborhood in New York City has its unique personality. From the artistic soirees of Brooklyn to the grandeur of Upper Manhattan, from the cultural heart of Harlem to the bohemian spirit of Greenwich Village, there’s indeed a neighborhood for everyone.

My personal favorite is West Village – I love the cute brownstones, tree-lined streets and the myriad of amazing restaurants to choose from. I also love SoHo for its cobbled streets, shopping and cast-iron buildings.

Walkable and Easy to Get Around

NYC’s grid system is really easy to follow (except maybe in Greenwich and West Village where everything seems to get jumbled up). But if you’re visiting as a tourist, all you need to know is that the avenues run vertically, while the cross streets run horizontally across Manhattan.

1st Avenue runs up the east of Manhattan and 11th Avenue is furthest west. Streets go up in number as you head north up Manhattan.

Most tourist sights are concentrated in the Financial District, SoHo, West Village, Chelsea and Midtown, and it’s surprisingly walkable. If you’re wearing comfy shoes, it’s actually easy to walk between places. And if the distance is too far to walk, the subway will get you there in no time.

A single ride on the subway costs $2.90 and will take you anywhere you want to go in Manhattan (there’s no tiered zone system like in London). Most of the stations now have contactless turnstiles, so you can easily tap your card or phone to pay instead of buying a ticket at the machine.

The City That Never Sleeps

NYC is nicknamed “the city that never sleeps” and has a 24-hour subway system. So you can stay out as long as you want and still have a way to get home. Many restaurants and bars serve till late, so if you’re feeling hungry at 10pm, there are always options. And if you can’t find something open, there are always the bodegas (small convenience stores making sandwiches and bacon, egg and cheese. Yum!).

Easy to Meet People

If you’re traveling solo and want to make friends, it’s actually really easy to meet people in NYC. If you pull up a seat at any bar people will usually talk to you. I think it’s a bit of a misconception that New Yorker’s are rude. Yes they’re often in a hurry, they’re sometimes blunt and will speak their mind, but they’re some of the most social people ever.

The Flip-Side: Challenges of Visiting NYC

Like every city, visiting NYC comes with its set of cons that are essential to address. However, the city’s vibrant spirit often overshadows these aspects.

It’s Expensive

Undeniably, New York is expensive. Accommodation and dining can burn a hole in your pocket if you’re not careful. But ways are there to mitigate these costs. Opt for budget-friendly neighborhoods, local diners, or food trucks for meals, and use public transport over taxis.

When I first visited NYC I was on a budget and was a big fan of the $1 pizza slices. I travelled everywhere by subway or walking and I took advantage of CityPass for my attraction tickets.

Traffic and Crowded

Yes, NYC is crowded. It’s busy all the time, everywhere. Rush hour traffic is a real pain and the city’s attractions are crowded with tourists.

But this is the pulse of the city – the constant hum of life and energy that makes it exciting and dynamic. If you plan on traveling in rush hour, try to stick to the subways to avoid traffic. If you want to walk across the bridge with nobody in it, make sure you get up at sunrise.

Trash Everywhere

Another argument against NYC is its cleanliness, or rather lack of it. The grime is real. Don’t be surprised if you see a giant rat eating a slice of pizza in the subway system or mountains of trash bags waiting for collection. See this article in the New York Times for what I’m talking about. While other cities have been putting their trash in garbage bins for decades, NYC’s sidewalks are full of overflowing plastic bags.

Crazy People on the Subway

One thing you will notice about NYC is that there are a lot of homeless people, especially around places like Port Authority and in the subway stations. Many of them are on drugs, so you’ll often see them talking to themselves and saying nonsensical things. It can be pretty intimidating sometimes, but they’re mainly harmless.

However, there have quite a few incidents in NYC’s subway system. People have been pushed onto the train tracks and shot at. Millions of people use NYC’s subway system without hassle, but it’s always important to stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings. I usually make sure I don’t walk near the edge of the platform and I watch out for any people that are acting erratically.

The Verdict

So, is New York City worth visiting? Of course there are cons to New York City, but the positives still outweigh the negatives. NYC is one of the most famous cities in the world, known for its melting pot of cultures and towering skyscrapers. From the bright lights of Times Square to the leafy pathways of Central Park, there are so many iconic things to see and do in The Big Apple.

Truly, the city has something for everyone, and the memories etched here will indeed be unforgettable. New York isn’t just a city to tour; it’s a city to experience and live, even if it’s just for a little while.

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