1. Little Italy
Little Italy stretches for a block or so on the Lower East Side (a convenient 10 minute walk from where I'm staying this summer!). The street is lined with authentic restaurants complete with comfortable outdoor cafes perfect for people watching. I've taken my family and friends here for lunch, and I've never been disappointed with anything I've gotten. The food at all of the restaurants is generally the same, so don't stress over researching the restaurants beforehand. Make sure to save room for an Italian cappuccino, gelato, or cannoli! YUM!
2. The High Line
The High Line is an old railroad track turned into an elevated public walking path, stretching from the Meatpacking District (specifically Gansevoort Street) to West 34th Street. The path is lined with trees and greenery, and is a nice escape from the sidewalks surrounded by concrete buildings. I've never heard of the High Line before coming to NYC, but apparently many other tourists have since it was packed both times I've visited. Nevertheless, the pretty views and unique atmosphere (as well as the awesome Mexican food station near the 14th Street entrance) make the visit worthwhile.
If you're looking for a cheap meal in NYC, take a visit to Chinatown. You can buy authentic Chinese food for a cheaper price than take-out! My favorite place is Prosperity Dumpling, where I get four dumplings for $1 or beef noodle soup for $4. That being said, I'm not a huge fan of actually walking through the heart of Chinatown. I find it extremely overwhelming and a little too hectic.
4. 34th Street
The area around West 34th Street is always crowded and touristy, but the sights are worth the hustle. The Empire State Building, Madison Square Garden, Penn Station, and the gigantic James A. Farley Post Office Building are all on 34th Street. The original ten-and-a-half-story Macy's, which is apparently "America's Largest Department Store," takes up an entire block and has very scary old escalators (see picture below). I spent an hour looking at the entire floor of shoes! 34th Street also has other stores like H&M, Forever 21, Aldo, Sephora, Zara, and Victoria's Secret.
SoHo is a great place to spend an afternoon. Luxury boutiques and more affordable shops (think chain stores) stretch for blocks. Bring lots of money and be prepared for large crowds.
6. Flatiron District (and Eataly)
If you're in a shopping mood, the Flatiron District should be on your itinery. The area has a nice mix of stores, including Anthropologie, Kate Spade, Trader Joe's, Club Monaco, H&M, and Madewell. Of course, the iconic Flatiron Building is right on 23rd Street. Madison Square Park is right across from the building. If you're a fan of Italian food, you should check out Eataly- an huge Italian marketplace on Fifth Avenue. In Eataly, you can buy anything from dried pasta, meats, and sauces to hot coffee and gelato. Oh, and they have a Nutella bar!
7. Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village is probably my favorite park in NYC. Although it's usually crowded, I've always found somewhere to sprawl out among the hundreds of benches. People are always relaxing in the grass, reading, or playing in the iconic fountain.