The Quick List for Tourists

A Beautiful View of NYC at Night - October 2014
If you're coming into NYC for the holiday season, you're probably trying to make the very best of your trip by asking your friends for recommendations about where to go, what to eat and what are the "must do" things while you're in the city, too.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it's a quick overview of where I may take my guests coming into New York for the very first time -with not only a limited budget, but maybe they are only in for the weekend. Some activities require you to pre-plan a bit - but it's ok if you didn't get to everything, just skip it and do it another time (a good reason to come back!).

Day 1:
Hop on the subway down to the South Ferry and get on the Staten Island Ferry (Transportation options here). The subway ride is $2.50/per person and the Ferry - FREE. You sail by the Statue of Liberty and get your photos. If you missed it going out, then the return trip, you'll get a chance to snap some more pictures.
Check out the beautiful views from Battery Park City or travel over to the 9/11 Memorial Park.
You may just want to walk around a bit in the downtown section for a bit before heading up to Chinatown or Little Italy.
Chinatown and Little Italy are very close to one another. I'd really only eat food in one of them (i.e., Chinatown). There's better Italian joints in the city that aren't a part of Little Italy -so save your money and time. If you ask me, I find it a bit schlocky and too touristy for my personal taste.
But hey! It's NY and people want to see it, if only for the novelty. So go, take your pictures and move on. Chinatown is just kind of fun and you should certainly look for Bubble Tea. I've always liked a milk taro tea with bubbles. There are a lot of options, so just be sure to pick a clean place and it has a prominent letter "A" on the window from the Health Department. (Learn more about those health grades here.)
You may wish to check out their spices and little shops. It's cheaper to get a lot of your touristy items here than it is back in Midtown or other areas of the city, so think about getting those bags, t-shirts and other knick knacks here.
For food, one of the best Chinese restaurants is Oriental Garden (14 Elizabeth St., New York, NY 10013 near Bayard St.). It's not elaborate and it's a bit crude in decor, but you're going for the flavors and the fresh food. Service is also relatively fast - so it's not a leisurely dining atmosphere, either. Get in, get fed, get out. Call ahead for wait times and be sure to check their payment options. At one time, they were cash and AMEX only.
If that does nothing for you, maybe try Dim Sum Go Go. According to Food and Wine magazine, Andrew Zimmerman loves this place and rates it as one of his top 10 in the city.
When you leave Chinatown, no doubt you'll be stuffed and probably need a nap.

Day 2:
Get up an out for an amazing cup of coffee in the East Village at Abra├žo . You may wait in line. It might be cold. It might be rainy. But it will be a damn good cup o'Joe. Just do it. I swear this is the best cappucino I have had in my life. And it's better than anywhere - -
Then just browse that whole area - go on over to 7th Street between 1st and Avenue A - it's one of the best foodie streets in NYC. There are cupcakes, arepas, porchetta sandwiches and the infamous Luke's Lobster all in that little area. Oh yes... and Big Gay Ice Cream. I can't walk by without drooling for a Salty Pimp. That's seriously the name of the delicious sundae that they make. Try it. Tell your friends. Out LOUD in a public area - tell them you LOVE a Salty Pimp.... yep. That was weird.
Travel on down to the Lower East Side and check out what's going on there, too. There's a ton of different things to check out. Wafels and Dinges have a cafe' there and find a way to get over to SoHo, too.
If you didn't want to get up at the crack of dawn to snag a Cronut at Dominique Ansel's bakery - then, by all means, pop in there for a DKA! (I think it's better than the Cronut, if I tell the truth.) During the holidays, he also has "Christmas Morning Cereal" which is my version of a healthy breakfast with or without milk. I'll eat this stuff out of the box, no spoon or any utensils required.
For dinner, find Shabu - Google for a place that is close to your current location on your smartphone or look here.
NYCFG at work with a view!
Late night, if you still have the munchies, get yourself a fabulous all American hotdog at CRIF dogs - you're going back to the East Village for this one - and the vibe is even more interesting at night. Be sure to watch the telephone booth. Weird things go on there....

Day 3:
By all means, if you want to see Times Square. Do it. Just for the LOVE OF ALL THINGS GOOD AND WONDERFUL do NOT eat there! Visit in the evening. See the pretty lights? Go to the M&M store. Ride the ferris wheel inside Toys R Us if you absolutely MUST - but seriously - don't EAT ANY FOOD in Times Square.
See some theatre while you're in the city, too. It's everywhere. Go to our wonderful and mostly free museums!
Check out the Empire State Building (on 34th Street and 5th Avenue). 
Invest in the arts and the lovely culinary treats you'll see all over this great city.
Next: Plan your next trip back to the Crossroads of the World and make a whole new itinerary to see other areas of the city that you just couldn't get to this time.

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