A Muslim-Friendly Guide To New York City For First-Timers (By A Local!)


Syahirah Mazlan •  Dec 12, 2022

Known for its bustling city life and thriving art scene that attracts travellers from across the globe, there is no shortage of things to do in New York City (NYC)! With such an exciting city, it may get overwhelming for a traveller visiting for the first time. ? With the help of a local Muslim who has lived in the Big Apple for 6 years, we put together this Muslim-friendly guide to New York City for first-timers!

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Must-Visit Spots in New York City

1. Times Square

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Some may say that Times Square is an overrated tourist attraction, but we’d say that it’s still one of the best places to visit if you’re visiting NYC for the first time. It gets pretty crowded on weekends and holidays but the sights and sounds are just too iconic to pass up! ? Everyone knows that Times Square has long been a tourist magnet, acting as the vibrant epicentre of New York City by connecting historic theatres with street performers, flagship department stores and much more! You should try catching at least one Broadway show while you’re here (like Lion King or Phantom of the Opera). If not, you can always explore the area and take pictures with performers and mascots - make sure to tip them afterwards! ?

2. Empire State Building

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A trip to New York isn’t complete without visiting the iconic Empire State Building. This renowned attraction is known for the panoramic views it offers from its observatory decks on the 86th and 102nd floors. Although the building is mostly populated by office spaces, the public areas are open till late at night which makes for spectacular nighttime shots. ?

3. Statue Of Liberty (on a cruise!)

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Why visit the Statue Of Liberty on land when you can do it on a cruise? ? Hop onto the Super Express Cruise from Lower Manhattan’s Battery Park and coast against the tides. A guide on board will tell you a more detailed history of the statue, which you’ll be able to view from the water! The best part is that you’ll get an up-close view of the statue on the speediest tour of this attraction (only about 50 minutes!). 

4. Roosevelt Island 

Credit: Unsplash

Roosevelt Island is one of NYC’s best kept secrets and you’ll have to take a cable car to get there. Although the tiny island is technically part of Manhattan, once you're on the narrow sliver of land, the bustling city feels like a world away. In the past, Roosevelt Island was home to a notorious insane asylum, a prison, and an abandoned smallpox hospital. Now, the island boasts rich green spaces and spectacular views of the city! ? There are no cars or pedestrians on most streets, which provides residents and visitors with a welcome change of pace from city life. No wonder it’s received the title, “an Oasis in the metropolis”.

Fun fact: It has been said that New Yorkers would pay up to USD3,000 a month to live on Roosevelt Island! ?

5. Washington Square Park

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Is it a park? A cemetery? A parade ground? Washington Square Park is all that and more! For years now, the area has played a part in adding value to NYC’s vibrant city life with its versatility. You’ll find so many things happening at once here, from rowdy playgrounds, chess competitions, street performances, and if you’re up for it, even spray showers to play in (you might want to bring a spare change of shoes for this! ?). If you’re visiting on a Sunday morning, you can show off your artistic side and take part in the weekly drawing competitions.

Halal food in NYC

  • The Halal Guys

Surely you’ve heard of “The Halal Guys'' before. From what started as a hot dog cart, The Halal Guys has evolved into an international chain serving hearty Middle Eastern cuisine! ? Whether you're craving for sandwiches or beef gyro, you can have it here. Follow the crowd and order their famous rice platters drizzled with lip-smacking white and red sauces.

#HHWT Tip: The Halal Guys are located in various areas in New York, and you can find the outlets and opening hours here.

Halal status:Halal-certified ingredients used/ ingredients from Halal suppliers

Website | Instagram

  • Black Nile

If you’re craving for soul food, Black Nile’s HUGE and hearty portions are guaranteed to satisfy you! There’s an assortment of dishes to choose from like mac & cheese, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, fried catfish, and much much more. ? When you enter the eatery, you’ll be surrounded by a cosy and homey atmosphere. Not to mention, the mouth watering options are worth the trip over!

Halal status: Halal-certified ingredients used/ ingredients from Halal suppliers

Address: 705 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225, United States

Opening hours: Wed-Sat;12PM-10PM | Sun;12PM-8PM | Mon-Tue; Closed

Website | Instagram

  • Bagel Point

A visit to NYC is not complete without digging into their delicious bagel selection! Visit Bagel Point, the ONLY halal bagel store in the city! Their bagels are handcrafted and made with organic ingredients. Not to mention, they’re baked fresh daily. ? You can choose between 20 varieties of house-made cream cheeses to spread on your bagel or Crogel (croissant bagel). And if you’re feeling for some meat on your bagel, their turkey ham, turkey bacon, beef sausages are all halal-certified too!

Halal status: All meats are sourced from halal-certified suppliers

Address: 699 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222, United States

Opening hours: Open daily; 6AM-6PM

Website | Instagram

  • Adel's Famous Halal Food

If you’re looking for more Middle Eastern options, give Adel's Famous Halal Food a chance to impress you! Serving up delicious and thickly packed sandwiches, fried foods and salads, you're going to be spoiled for choice. ? We recommend you order the rice platters that are served with chicken kebab, lamb chops or Italian sausages! 

Halal status: All meats are sourced from halal-certified suppliers

Address: 1221 6th Ave (the corner of 49th street and 6th Ave), New York, NY 10020

Opening hours: Mon-Thu;6pm-4am | Fri;6pm-5am | Sat;11am-5am | Sun;11am-4am

When is the best time to visit New York City?

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NYC is good to visit all year round, and there’s something fun and unique to experience with every coming season. Plan your trip according to the season you want to experience the most or the activities and events that are happening at that time of year! 

  • Winter (December to February)

Winter is arguably one of the best times to visit NYC if you’re trying to avoid the crowds! Thanks to the freezing temperatures (of around minus 3°C to minus 5°C), most tourist spots aren’t as busy as they would be in the summer months. ?This season also proves to be a budget-friendly time to visit the city because hotel and accommodation prices begin to lower to become more reasonable. Not to mention, this would be the best time to go ice skating at Rockefeller Center or Central park!

Credit: Unsplash

  • Summer (June to August)

The hot weather in Summer is perfect for you to experience the city in full swing! Spirits are high in the warmer months as there are many open-air events to spectate like outdoor concerts and visiting the city playgrounds - making this season the best for visiting with families and children. ?As many locals head out of the city during summer weekends, this is a great time to explore and take in the city's ambience. Do note that Memorial Day through Labour Day is a peak season in NYC, plan ahead to avoid crowds and closed attractions.

#HHWT Tip: In the summer months, the city is warm and gets pretty humid during the afternoons, so be sure to dress lightly and bring a water bottle with you while exploring (if you don’t want to buy drinks).

  • Spring (March to May)

Although the weather in NYC can be unpredictable, May is the time of year that has been known to be consistently pleasant and comfortable for travellers and locals alike! ?The weather isn’t too humid, so there are plenty of indoor and outdoor activities that you can look forward to. 

  • Autumn (September to November)

Broadway week in NYC begins in November, meaning this is the best time to visit if you’re looking to catch some performing arts and theatre shows! In the outdoors, leaves turn red and brown, which makes for the picture-perfect backdrop for those cosy autumn IG shots. This is the best time to take long walks in nature because the weather gets progressively colder!

Where to stay

Finding a place to stay in New York is fairly easy thanks to the increasing number of hostels, mid-range hotels and luxury stays. ? But if you're new to this city, book your stay in these recommended areas in New York for convenience and better connectivity depending on your reason for visiting:

  • Theatre District: Budget-friendly stays that are accessible to subway trains
  • Midtown: Shopping, theatre, musicals and sightseeing
  • Long Island City: Value-for-money accommodations
  • Lower Manhattan: Near commercial district and great for business travellers
  • Upper West Side: Family-friendly hotels with nearby parks and museums

Shopping in NYC

Put on a pair of comfortable walking shoes and hit the streets of NYC for some shopping! While the word “budget” may not be the first thing that comes to mind when shopping in the Big Apple, there are some places you can visit to get good deals even when on a budget. ?

Shop at Midtown Manhattan for flagship stores that won’t burn a hole through your wallet! You’ll find brands like Zara, H&M, and much more that are guaranteed to be in your budget-range. While the brands may be familiar to you back home, you’ll probably find a piece or two that’s unique to the season! It’s worth exploring the many outlets to find something you’ll like.

If you’re looking for something more unique to the US, head over to Chelsea. While it’s no Uptown New York, it’s as close as you can get to a suburban shopping experience! ? With Old Navy and T.J. Maxx you’ll find brands that are harder to find back home - and the prices are arguably cheaper too! Chelsea is a great place to shop where you can find exciting deals while supporting worthy causes at the nearby Housing Works Thrift Shop.

#HHWT Tip: NYC is known for its abundance of thrift shopping, so if you’re looking to snag a couple of good deals while in this city, why not give it a try? There are plenty of thrift shops you can visit to find a diamond in the rough!

Transport tips

Although NYC is too big of a city to explore on foot, you might want to limit the usage of cabs and ride-hailing services. Yes, riding in a cab or Uber is arguably a great and quintessential NYC experience, however, each time you take a taxi, you’ll be forking out at least USD15 per ride. Which is why we’d recommend walking whenever possible! ?

Commuting via the Subway is the fastest (and arguably the most affordable too) way to get from one place to another. There is always heavy traffic in NYC which is why you should rely on their relatively reliable Subway system! You can purchase a Subway card and getting on board costs USD2.75 for one swipe and is not distance based. ? That means that you don’t have to worry about cost when you’re travelling further distances across the city!

#HHWT Tip: If you want to see the city from another perspective, you can rent bicycles! There are citi bike docks almost anywhere and you can rent them easily for USD3.99 for one ride or USD15 for a day pass.

Did you find any of these tips and guides helpful? If you did, be sure to SHARE this article with your friends and family, or anyone planning to visit NYC! The country is exciting and brimming with life so explore thoroughly and enjoy for yourself. ?

This article was brought to you by NYC & Company.