I would use this to get around: SUBWAY. It’s iconic, it’s cheap and it’s so incredibly easy. The only downside to using the Subway is that you sometimes (oftentimes, actually) miss the spontaneous and surprising bits of NYC that happen above ground and in the spaces between tourist attractions. So I would use the Subway to get from one part of town to another, but then I would budget time and energy to do lots of meandering along the way. I would also take a taxi at least once, because hailing a cab in Manhattan makes you feel kind of like a movie star.
I would stay here: I would rent an apartment in SoHo or Greenwich Village using a website like AirBnB or Home Away. If you’re really keen to stay at a hotel, they are obviously in massive supply and range from roach-infested to $8 bajillion/night. There’s a historic, cool little hotel called the Jane that I would look into if I were you. It’s quirky, it’s in a cool neighbourhood and it gives you that “only in New York” kind of experience, in a really good way.
I would eat here: Obviously, restaurants in NYC are seemingly infinite. Here are a few go-to staples that I never, ever fail to hit when in town because they never, ever fail to make me love my life to a ridiculous degree. My first and forever gastro-love is Mexican food done well, and Manhattan has two great options: Rosa Mexicano is a bit higher-end and they make the guacamole right at your table to your liking (and you will like it quite a lot, I’m suggesting) and Dos Caminos, which I actually prefer because it’s a bit more casual and so am I. The Spice Market is another reliable hit. I’m not sure which is the bigger draw, the phenomenal food or the incredible decor. Either way, it’s right in the middle of the Meat Packing District, which you’re not allowed to miss when visiting New York, so you should definitely check it out while in the neighbourhood. Finally and against all reason, I always eat street food in NYC. I’m sure it’s covered in city germs and general grime, but a hot dog on 5th Avenue always hits the spot and saves time/money for all the other things you’re getting yourself into on 5th Avenue. It’s cliché, I know, but so is New York.
I would drink here: The Standard Hotel at the High Line has a bar at the top that is really quite something. There is a dress code which, according to the snooty girls at the door is best described as Aspiring Actress/Model Barbie, so don’t even think about going in your everyday regular person clothes. Also, drinks cost as much as a meal at most restaurants, so there’s that. But the view and the interior decor are what make the experience count. Especially the view from the bathroom – definitely go to the bathroom while you’re up there. My favourite spot to grab a drink, though, is Puck Fair on the Lower East Side near Soho at 298 Lafayette. It’s just a normal pub with a busy happy hour scene and an impressive craft beer menu, which is exactly my kind of place.
I would do this: Basically, I would give myself enough time to spend a full day in each of Manhattan’s major neighbourhoods because they all add unique detail to the bigger picture that is New York City. In terms of the obvious tourist attractions, a few are really essential: visiting Ground Zero, spending time in Central Park, checking out at least one museum (my fave is the MoMa and I actually don’t recommend the Met, unless you have a specific reason to go), seeing the Statue of Liberty from Battery Park (no need to go all the way out there – she is stunning even from across the river) and seeing a show on Broadway (get half price tickets in Time Square the day of the show or see a matinee for cheaper options). A few not-so-obvious-but-equally-essential visits: the little chapel across from Ground Zero that served as first responder HQ following 9/11 and is now a beautiful museum/memorial, taking the Subway to Brooklyn and then walking back across the Brooklyn Bridge, taking a stroll along the new High Line Trail and going on a Banksy tour of NYC (the British graffiti artist took the city by storm in 2013 and left his unmistakable mark in some unusual and surprisingly beautiful places). When in doubt, hit up the Village Voice (online or in print, both free) for live music and current events or New York magazine.
I wouldn’t do this: Say anything bad about New York, especially to a New Yorker.