Where to Stay In New York City - a Neighborhood Guide

Seasonal Guide to New York City


Any time is the right time to visit New York City, and every season offers its own inventory of highlights. There are so many annual events in the city there’s always something going on -- Summer, Fall, Winter or Spring. Below we list our top favorites for each season.


SUMMER




This is the season for the many outdoor concerts and performances in the parks all throughout the city. Whether it’s Shakespeare in the Park, the Metropolitan Opera in the Park or Summer Stage, if you’re visiting NYC in the Summer, you’ll want to attend a free performance and picnic in the park. Summer is also a great time to escape the heat by visiting any or all the renowned museums and famous works of art found here. NYC is fortunate to have many green spaces as well, where you can enjoy the shade trees and wonderful views of the Hudson and East Rivers.


MUSEUM MILE FESTIVAL - One day in June, date differs each year


Rain or shine, walk a mile on 5th Avenue between 82nd St. and 110th St. and enjoy New York’s finest cultural institutions. There are a vast number of diverse museums and at least seven of them open their doors for free from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM. While the cost might otherwise be prohibitive to visit all these museums, this is a perfect chance to sample them. Some of the free admission museums include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Africa Center, Cooper Hewitt – Smithsonian Design Museum, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, El Musio del Barrio, and the Museum of the City of New York. Check the website for others each year, close to the day of the event for a complete listing. You’ll also encounter live music and art-making workshops as you go. Face painting and chalk drawing keep the kids interested and a block-party vibe rules the night.

  • Museums create different themes each year, so if you’ve been once, you haven’t seen it all!
  • Central Park is on the west side of your walk, so you can easily go there as well.
  • Go early to eat at Bluestone Lane located in the heart of Museum Mile. It’s a progressive café that closes at 6:00 PM…perfect timing so that you’ll be nourished and on your way precisely at as the event starts.

U.S. OPEN - August, September


The nation’s biggest tennis tournament draws fans from around the globe, bringing the world’s best players to New York and offering plenty of music performances, kid’s activities, and great food. Opening night always brings a lot of star power to the stage. The players hit the streets of New York for fun and exploration just as much as the spectators so keep an eye open if you hope to see your favorite player up close. The retractable roof means that play goes on rain or shine, but also that it retains the feel of being outdoors. You still need to bring your sunscreen! When not watching the games, head out to the Queens Zoo or Botanical Garden, or take in a Mets game at Citi Field.


Tips

  • Pay $10 for Arthur Ashe Kids Day.
  • It is free to watch the qualifying tournament.
  • No charge for Grounds Admission on Doubles Day.
  • Check out Fan Fest Week.

HONG KONG DRAGON BOAT FESTIVAL - June


Held at Corona Park in Flushing Meadows, Queens, more than 200 teams gather to race on long boats with dragon heads while paddling to the beat of their boat’s drummer. This colorful and energetic event draws crowds to the spacious grounds of the park where World Fairs have been held in the past. There is plenty of room for everyone to spread out for the day. Pick a team and cheer them on, enjoy music and dance performances as well as martial arts demonstrations, and have a picnic with your friends or family. Plenty of food court vendors means you can sample dumplings, Dim Sum, and shaved ice. The teak boats are made by craftsmen in Hong Kong and are beautiful examples of superior workmanship. Racing kicks off at 9:00 AM; arrive early for best views.

  • Bring sunscreen and hats, and towels or chairs to sit on.
  • The park has six playgrounds to help entertain young ones.
  • There is also a museum, botanical gardens, and promenade for strolling.

WORLD PRIDE CELEBRATION - June




One of the largest PRIDE celebrations in the world happens in New York City in the summertime. The celebration spans several weeks but culminates in a massive parade. It’s actually called a March but very much resembles a parade in that lots of colorful groups will be coming down the street along with floats, and it is free to watch. The opening ceremony and benefit concert is a paid event, with proceeds benefiting various LGBTQIA+ organizations throughout the city. The closing ceremony is held in Times Square with a full slate of influential speakers and global musical talent.


Tips

  • Check the website each year for the parade route…sometimes it changes.
  • Wear sunscreen and comfortable shoes along with whatever amazing outfit you choose.
  • Carry some cash for vendors and tipping.
  • Drink a lot of water…there are water fountains in Washington Square Park to refill bottles.

MACY’S JULY 4th FIREWORKS SPECTACULAR




Anyone who loves fireworks will want to see this extravagant display at least once in their lifetime. For years the display was held over New York Harbor and along the Hudson, but in 1976 it moved to the East River, and may move again in the future. Check each year for the exact location. The largest fireworks display in the nation can use up to 75,000 shells per show. Fantastic musical moments are combined to make a magical movie-like score to accompany the fireworks, resulting in the Macy’s Fireworks Spectacular. While multiple barges are used as a launching pad, additional special effects are set off along bridges. Macy’s sends out scouts each year to find the latest and greatest new fireworks from around the globe; you can always be sure of a breathtaking exhibition.


Tips

  • Best neighborhoods for seeing the display are Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, west side of the Financial District and southern part of the Lower East Side.
  • The grand finale isn’t until after the patriotic tunes.
  • Since you’re in NY, go to Nathan’s 4th of July Hotdog Eating Contest at Coney Island.
  • Another favorite viewing spot is from one of the many rooftop bars; go early and prepare to pay.

FALL


The cool, fresh air of fall makes it the perfect time for bike rides, walking and strolling. It’s a brief period of time when the summer crowds are gone and holiday season hasn’t yet started. You can find great deals at hotels and it’s almost like having New York to yourself. Well, not entirely to yourself, because September is the start of the new Broadway Season, there will be a Columbus Day parade, and Oktoberfest begins. Yet relative to the other seasons, Fall is the time when you can avoid the most crowded conditions, enjoy great weather and find great deals. You can also enjoy these annual events:


MACY’S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE – November


Probably the most famous event in New York is Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade which officially marks the start of the holiday season. There’s a 72,000 square foot warehouse where approximately 30 skilled artists work year-round creating the larger-than-life inflatables, floats, and other magical elements. The parade begins at 9:00 AM from 77th St. and Central Park West and heads down to 34th St. to Macy’s Herald Square. The atmosphere is jolly and usually freezing as well, so be sure to bundle up! Check this world famous event off your bucket list this year! If you’re planning to eat Thanksgiving dinner out at a restaurant, be absolutely sure to make your reservations in advance.


Tips

  • If you want the front row, set your alarm clock and be there at 4:00 AM.
  • The inflatables are so high that you don’t need to be up close to see them.
  • Find a spot close to a fast food or deli place so that you have access to food and a restroom.
  • Check the weather forecast and never underestimate how cold how many layers you need.

NEW YORK COMIC CON - Early October


Comic books have been around since the 1930’s in the U.S., and everyone is familiar with the golden age of superheroes, but the world of comics has evolved a lot since then. Comic Con (fan convention) is dedicated to Western comics, graphic novels, anime, manga, cosplay and video games, for starters. This is a nerd’s dream come true where attendees collect free swag from generous vendors and often dress up as their favorite characters. You’ll be elbow-to-elbow with crowds of like-minded people out to meet authors, actors, screenwriters, directors or producers, and be entertained by cosplayers. The main campus for this event is the Javits Center and secondary campuses are at Hulu Theater, Hammerstein Ballroom, and Hudson Mercantile.


Tips

  • All attendees over the age of six must have a badge to attend, and in order to purchase the badge you must create an online Fan Verification profile. Go to https://www.newyorkcomiccon.com/About/NYCC-Fan-FAQs/ for all the details.
  • Go to Artist Alley to rub shoulders with inkers, colorists, writers, and others.
  • There are rules for cosplay props…check the website.

NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL – September/October


Getting the most out of this famous film festival does mean that you’ll be planning months ahead to purchase tickets for the films you want to see. The Film Society of Lincoln Center presents one of the longest-running and most prestigious film festivals in the U.S. and you will go to their website to find the “main slate” of 20-30 films plus the line-ups in numerous special categories such as Documentary, Revivals (of old films), Projections (experimental films), and incredible Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality experiences in interactive storytelling. Standby tickets are usually available but it’s impossible to tell in advance what films will have openings. Feel free to stand in lines and take your chances though; you could be the lucky one!


Tips

  • Alice Tully Hall, where the films are shown at the Lincoln Center has a 3-story glass lobby with a café and bar.
  • Seating capacity is just over 1000.
  • While there, take yourself on a tour of the entire Lincoln Center campus which includes the Metropolitan Opera House, David H. Koch Theater, the Juilliard School, and the David Geffen Hall.
  • If you’re not staying at the Empire Hotel, which is located just adjacent to Lincoln Center, go anyway to the Lobby Bar made famous in Gossip Girls or head up to the indoor/outdoor rooftop bar.

NEW YORK COMEDY FESTIVAL – November


This five-day festival was created in 2004 and now features more than 200 comedians performing in more than 60 shows at venues throughout the city, including Beacon Theatre, Town Hall, and Carolines on Broadway. What a great opportunity to get in some sightseeing between shows! Celebrate laughter at this big bonanza that draws national headline acts as well as the best of local comedy. Standup, Sketch, Improv, Variety, and everything else is on the menu so there’s plenty to satisfy anyone’s appetite for comedy. This event keeps getting bigger every year and is sure to tickle your funny bone.


Tips

  • The lineup each year isn’t announced until some time in August so you’ll need to check the website http://nycomedyfestival.com/ or follow it on social media.
  • While in town visit the Greenwich Village Comedy Club.
  • If you’re an aspiring comedian, take a chance on yourself and perform at The Industry Room at Broadway Comedy Club. Sign up in advance here: https://www.theindustryroom.com/#perform

NEW YORK CITY MARATHON – November


This annual race courses through all five boroughs and is the largest marathon in the world with nearly 2 million spectators and more than 58,000 runners. If you’re coming to run, you need to register and secure your spot in January or February. If you’re coming to watch, some of the best viewing spots are listed on the marathon’s website: https://www.tcsnycmarathon.org/spectators/spectator-guide. There is more musical entertainment along the course than anywhere else in the world with an average of five acts per mile. From brass bands to bagpipers, punk to country, it’s all there to keep you and the runners pumped up and cheering from start to finish.


Tips

  • Entertainment and Cheer Zones help you help the runners. Many have sign-making supplies, noisemakers, and pom poms.
  • Cheer for everyone from all around the world!
  • Get the app to track your runner.

Winter




There is nothing quite so dazzling as NYC at the holidays. This is the time of year to alternate your indoor and outdoor activities, enjoying the invigorating cold and warming up with hot chocolate inside your favorite shopping mecca. If there’s a good snow day while you’re in New York, head to one of the many popular sledding hills for an enchanting good time, with or without kids. Pop-up Christmas shopping sites bring an exciting and compelling reason to get outside even when it’s blustery and cold. Visit New York during the season of good cheer!


ROCKEFELLER CENTER TREE LIGHTING and Ice Skating




In late November or December each year, the lighting of the 100-foot-tall Christmas tree at Rockefeller is an exciting tradition marking an official start to the Christmas season. Be sure to check the calendar for the exact date each year, as it’s an event you won’t want to miss if you’re in town. Prior to the lights being turned on at 9:00 PM, there are live performances by top singers and others. It is always crowded, so if you want to actually get close it’s best to arrive by 3 PM. Luckily, the towering evergreen is easy to see from other vantage points as well, and the lights will come on every night through early January from 5:30 to 11:30 PM. December 25 the lights are on all day and on New Year’s Eve, they go off at 9:00 PM.


Tips

  • Best location for a perfect picture is from 5th Ave. at the entrance to the Channel Gardens.
  • While you’re at the Rockefeller Center you can go ice skating, have breakfast with Santa, and see the Radio City Rockettes in the spectacular Christmas show.
  • ALWAYS dress warmly

TIMES SQUARE NEW YEARS EVE




The world watches in eager anticipation as midnight approaches on December 31 in Times Square. Be there to see the famous sparkling Waterford Crystal New Year’s Eve Ball descend and join the revelers to welcome in the New Year.


Tips

  • Get there early and be aware that there is no returning to “your spot” once you step away.
  • Hit the bathroom first at the Port Authority bus terminal.
  • No backpacks or alcohol allowed – lots of pockets are helpful for your food/drink/entertainment while you wait.
  • If the weather is too cold or you don’t love getting your toes stepped on, consider an alternate indoor party at a hotel, club or bar in Times Square. Better yet, stay at a hotel in Times Square. and enjoy the festivities from the comfort of your room!

WESTMINSTER KENNEL CLUB DOG SHOW – February


This dog-lover’s delight never fails to entertain all ages. Whether you want to watch the agility contests, Best of Breed shows, or see it all, a variety of ticket types are available. The event takes place during the day at Piers 92/94 and in the evenings at Madison Square Garden. Check the schedule here https://www.westminsterkennelclub.org/plan-your-visit/general-info to find your favorite events.


Tips

  • Meet the Breeds is an awesome family event where you can pet hundreds of dogs and cats and talk to breeders.
  • Museum of the Dog is newly opened in midtown at 101 Park Ave. Interactive displays let you find your match/look-alike!
  • Take an outdoor winter wonderland walk in nearby Bryant Park.

RESTAURANT WEEK


This fun week occurs TWICE each year. Exact dates vary but typically the Winter one is in late January or early February. It actually runs for more than one week but what would you name something that runs for two to four weeks? The world’s first-ever event of its kind debuted in 1992 and encourages New Yorkers and others to sample the extensive culinary offerings available throughout New York. Special prices are in effect so that you’ll be able to visit places you may not be able to afford otherwise. Take a special someone to a special place during New York’s Restaurant Week.


Tips

  • Score a top table by booking for lunch.
  • Some restaurants pair beverages with their meals.
  • Search here https://www.nycgo.com/restaurant-week for the type of restaurant you want, what’s on the menu, location, and other criteria

WINTER VILLAGE AT BRYANT PARK


Manhattan’s Winter Wonderland at Bryant Park is in midtown Manhattan behind the Public Library. New York’s only free admission ice skating park is open through February, as is The Lodge, a new rinkside bar and food hall featuring a festive cocktail bar and a full range of delicious eateries. The European-inspired Holiday/Christmas open-air market means you can check off your Christmas shopping list while having a blast for hours. Reserve a cozy igloo for the ultimate winter dining experience.


Tips

  • It’s fun to see at night with the Christmas lights adding to the cheer.
  • Dress for outdoor fun. Layers are great, especially if you are skating.
  • While admission is free, ice skating requires skate rental if you don’t have your own.

HOLIDAY WINDOW DISPLAYS


Take yourself on a free walking tour (or join a guided one) that will really put you in the Christmas spirit. Gaze at the enchanted New York City department store windows all decked out for the holidays. Extravagant displays make the shopping district an exciting place even if you are not planning to spend a dime. It’s hard to imagine a store window could be a destination; you have to see it to believe it!


Tips

  • Major stores include Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman’s, Barney’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord and Taylor.
  • Visit Santaland and Santa himself at Macy’s if you are there late November through Christmas Eve.
  • Enjoy “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” at the Blue Box Café at Tiffany & Co. or have lunch at Saks Fifth Avenue in Café FSA.

SPRING




In New York, everyone is thrilled when the earth warms up and the beautiful blossoms emerge throughout the parks. The city is filled with glorious trees in bud, flower shows, and Easter activities. The Yankees and Mets have their season openers, the rooftop bars are opening, the Hudson River banks are greening up as new life begins another cycle.


TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL – Late April through early May


The Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan is the place to celebrate independent films. The festival’s program lineup includes family-friendly films, documentaries, narrative features, and shorts. The festival draws about 3 million people, including some of the more-elusive celebrities from the worlds of art, music and film. Festival screenings are unique because directors, cast and crew are often on hand for Q&A. These films are not yet rated so you’ll need to refer to the online Film Guide to help make choices. https://www.tribecafilm.com/filmguide/ Live music events, talks, and interactive installations add to the fun.


Tips

  • Know where to go by checking the schedule online (or via app) for the show you want to see – there are five downtown venues.
  • Restaurants around the venues frequently offer specials and food trucks show up everywhere.
  • You MUST be on time…so go early to your show.

ST. PATRICK’S DAY PARADE – March


The oldest and largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world can be viewed along 5th Ave. between 44th and 79th Streets. Two million spectators show up to watch 150,000 parade participants play bagpipes, dance, march in bands, and float down the street. It’s a very jolly atmosphere celebrating many of the city’s earliest immigrants -- but of course, on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish!


Tips

  • The city’s bagels and beer go green for the occasion.
  • An 8:30 AM Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a ticketed event.
  • Remember that the weather can still be quite cold in March – layers recommended.

CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL AT THE BROOKLYN BOTANIC GARDEN – SAKURA MATSURI – Late April




Buy tickets in advance for the gorgeous Cherry Blossom Festival (Sakura Matsuri) held each year at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. In addition to viewing the pink petals, magnolia trees and other Spring blooms, you can visit a Japanese Tea Room and listen to taiko drummers and other traditional Japanese music all day. Watch the dancers and samurai sword masters, then peruse the markets for wall scrolls or silk wraps. Raaka chocolates are the perfect complement to a meal at the Yellow Magnolia Café or Canteen. Celebrate the coming of Spring nibbling on traditional Japanese treats as you watch a giant origami demonstration or cosplay game show. This one’s fun for the whole family.


Tips

  • Weather could still be chilly or even cold. Dress accordingly.
  • Continue the cherry blossom viewing by taking yourself on an Uptown Cherry Blossom Walk at Sakura Park in Morningside Heights, Riverside Park, and University Campus.
  • If it’s rainy, see the blooms at Chelsea’s Sato Sakura Gallery
  • Put a cherry on top of your day at Bar Goto where you can order a Sakura martini

NEW YORK DANCE PARADE and Festival – May


10,000 dancers step off from Broadway and 21st Street and continue to Astor Place, where they turn East and end at Tompkins Square Park for a festival celebrating all things dance related. Free dance performances and free lessons throughout the day means that you’ll have plenty of chances to participate as well as watch. There will be open air social dancing and a kids and elders stage too! Each year the parade has a different theme but always the object is to encourage and celebrate the massive diversity of dance styles. The New York Dance Police, a playful brigade of uniformed officers, helps ensure that onlookers are having fun and tapping their toes.


Tips

  • For the very best viewing of parade, tickets can be purchased for the Grandstand at Astor Place, which is walking distance to the Park.
  • All dance groups (approximately 100) perform in front of the Grandstand.
  • Parade is ordered chronologically, honoring the history of dance from ancient to contemporary.

NEW YORK INTERNATIONAL AUTO SHOW, MANHATTAN – Just Before Easter


New York offers something for everyone and the International Car Show helps prove the point. Held at the Javits Center every year, the show ushers in the latest automotive trends and showcases all the cutting-edge technology and design, demonstrating that innovation just never stops. With four floors of displays from the world’s automakers, nearly 1,000 cars and trucks will surprise and entertain, offering a glimpse into the future. Most of the cars are open so that you can sit in them and imagine yourself the proud owner. Whether you just want to check out the cars you might actually buy or dream futuristically, this is a great place for anyone who just loves cars.


Tips

  • You can bring your own food and drink into the event, although there are plenty of food and drink vendors as well.
  • Anyone interested in the Auto Show may also enjoy the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum located at Pier 86, W. 46th St.
  • Fun Fact: ¾ of Manhattan residents and 2/3 of Brooklyn residents do not own cars.