Visiting Colleges in NYC: Consider a Weekend in the “City That Never Sleeps”

Visiting colleges in NYC

Visiting colleges in NYC would not be complete without taking in the view from the top of the Empire State Building

New York City and the surrounding burrows are home to some of the best colleges in the country: NYU, Columbia, Fordham, Pace, Julliard, Parsons School of Design and so many more. If you’re visiting colleges in NYC, why not combine your college search with a weekend in the city?

Visit the colleges on Friday or Monday, and spend the weekend in the city enjoying all New York City has to offer, getting a “bigger bang for your travel buck”. It’s a mini-vacation combined with your college search: a win-win!


The museums in the city are the biggest and the best. I’ve visited two of them extensively: the Museum of Natural History and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. But be warned, you can easily spend an entire day in each of them. They are massive.

My grandson and I spent the entire day in the Natural History Museum, most of it in the spider and dinosaur exhibits (he’s four). The museum has four floors of history and it’s so extensive that they provide an app to help navigate; and trust me, I used it. It has a GPS locator that guides you to the exhibits of interest. Without it, I know we would still be in there experiencing our own version of “Night at the Museum.”

The dinosaur exhibit at the Museum of Natural History

The dinosaur exhibit at the Museum of Natural History

On a previous trip, my daughter and I spent an entire day in the Museum of Art. We are fans of the Impressionists: Monet, Renoir, Cezanne and others. If you’re an art connoisseur, you can spend hours gazing at these talented painters. Paintings are only a small part of art the museum houses: sculptures, costumes, Asian art, Egyptian art, and more. You can also download their free app as well to help navigate the huge collection.

For a list of museums in NYC, click here.


New York City is a shopper’s paradise. Whether you gravitate toward the more upscale purchases from stores like Tiffanys or Sax on Fifth Avenue, or choose to meander around the original Macy’s, there’s something for everyone. If you’re a souvenir hound, you will be in heaven. The streets are lined with souvenir shops stocked with all kinds of New York memorabilia.

Looking for a bargain? Take a stroll down Canal Street where sellers beckon you into their small shops, offering the best prices in the city (or so they say); not to mention all the street vendors offering discounted merchandise.


The city is a mecca for the architecture buff. Buildings like the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the newly erected World Trade Tower, churches, New York brownstones, and of course, numerous other skyscrapers that line the streets. Take a stroll through Greenwich Village or down some of the side streets around Fifth Avenue. Admire the amazing architecture of the Plaza Hotel or the newly constructed memorial at the site of the World Trade Towers.


Looking down a typical NYC street with the Chrysler Building in the background.


A trip to NYC would not be complete without a visit to some of the most famous landmarks the city has to offer: the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Ellis Island, Times Square, the moving memorial at the site of the original World Trade Towers, and even Central Park. Central Park is home to a zoo, miles of running trails, a lake, restaurants and cafes, and grassy area to spread out a blanket and enjoy some of the city’s excellent street food.


The Statue of Liberty


I recently spent a week in NYC with my daughter and grandsons. A local New Yorker friend of mine recommended a restaurant near Broadway called “Ellen’s Stardust Diner”. If you like entertainment while you are dining this is the place. All the servers are struggling Broadway singers. During your meal, you are treated to some of the best entertainment the city has to offer—and it’s free. Of course, you have to buy a meal (but you have to eat) so why not get two for the price of one? A meal and entertainment. These guys and gals enjoy what they are doing and the service is superb, not to mention the quality of the entertainment. We heard songs from Les Miserables, Alladin, Phantom of the Opera, Cats and so many more. End a long day of sightseeing with dinner at this gem nestled among the towering buildings of NYC.

If diner fare is not your cup of tea, New York is home to some of the best food in the country. Choose from Chinese in Chinatown, seafood in Chelsea Market, authentic Italian in Little Italy, deli at Katz Delicatessen or 5-star restaurants run by winners of Top Chef. If you’re feeling adventurous, partake in some of the street food: hot dogs, chicken on a stick, fresh pretzels, gyros and of course, NY-style pizza.

NYC Chinatown

Enjoying a meal in Chinatown, one of NYC’s great foodie neighborhoods.


If music theater is your intended major or you just love plays and musicals, New York is the place to be. With long-running musicals like Wicked, to the Tony award winning Kinky Boots, to off-Broadway shows, there is something for everyone. Then, of course, there are live tapings of television shows and live musical and comedy nighttime entertainment in small clubs throughout the city. The quantity and quality of entertainment within a few square miles is unsurpassed in any other city in the country.

NYC college visit

A sign at Times Square advertising the award-winning play Wicked.

Planning ahead is key when visiting colleges in NYC

If you’re only there for a weekend, plan ahead. Decide which parts of the city interest you the most and pick a few great restaurants to experience. If you want to hit the monuments, consider buying tickets before you arrive and purchasing the passes that allow you to skip the lines. We did that for our Empire State Building stop and it was well worth the extra cost. Why waste any of your precious time standing in line?

A word of advice: use the subway to get around. New York cabs are expensive and the traffic is horrific. You can use Google maps for the transit system and it will guide you to the right entrance/exit and the right subway train to take for your destination. If you simply must ride in a car, try Uber. For about the same cost of a taxi (or less), an Uber driver will come to you and pick you up wherever you are. You don’t have to flag down a cab.

To find hotels near the colleges you are visiting and for booking, click here.

For more information on New York City, check out the New York City Travel Guide from Fodor’s Travel.

Author: Suzanne Shaffer

Suzanne Shaffer advises parents and students in the college admissions process and the importance of early college preparation at She is excited to share her knowledge with the readers of Smart College Visit.

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