It has been quite a while since I last went to New York City, but I have been going through old pictures and making a list of recommendations for a friend who is about to go, and I simply cannot help but share my love for this unparalelled city.
For a city of this size and diversity it is difficult to suggest what to see if someone only has very little time. Obviously, you will want to see the main attractions everyone talks about, but then (if you are a little like me) you will also want to see places off the beaten track, places locals prefer and recommend.
When I went on my high school semester abroad I was lucky enough to be placed close to the city, which means I was able to go on different occasions and see a great number of places. If you had a week in NYC, you should spend each day in a different part of the city. To cover Manhattan you will need several days, but there should be enough time to venture out to the other boroughs.
In Manhattan you should definitely spend a day or two in Midtown, go and see Greenwich Village, SoHo and Chinatown on another day, and then also spend a day in Lower Manhattan. I’m guessing you’ll also want to see the Statue of Liberty. When you do so, definitely take some time to go to Ellis Island as well.
As for the other boroughs, namely Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island, I have spent some time in each of them but for the Bronx, but I do not have any recommendations on what you should definitely see. They are mostly residential areas. But if you have watched any movies filmed in any of the boroughs and you fell in love with them that way, be sure to reserve a day or two to see those as well.
I recommend doing NYC on foot, because that is the only way you can take in its immense size, but for far distances you would probably like to take the subway. A MetroCard is needed for the subway, which costs $1 dollar in addition to the $5.50 you have to charge the card with (this will be valuable for 2 rides). After purchasing it you can refill the card as often as needed. If you are traveling in a group, it should not be a problem to acquire one card for all of you to then use consecutively.
You might already need your MetroCard right after arriving. If your flight arrives at JFK International Airport, the subway is the easiest way to reach any place in the city. If you land in Newark taking the train up to Penn Station in Manhattan is the quickest way to enter the city. From there you can also take the subway to your hotel.
If you want to find out more about a specific part of Manhattan, check out the corresponding posts, and if you have any questions about the city in general, don’t hesitate to contact me.