All photos and text are my own. 🙂
Oh New York, New York… what a magical place. Like me, a humble Australian, most people first experience this city through the glow of their television screens. From The Nanny, Sex and the City, Mad Men and Girls, the list is endless. No matter what television show I’m watching, I always seem to end up back in New York. So it was inevitable that I would one day end up in the city itself, for real. For one week, I was enchanted, surprised, dismayed and had stars in my eyes. Needless to say, New York has certainly left its mark on me.
So travel readers, here are my top ten tips for visiting New York, the city that never sleeps (not just poetic, it literally doesn’t).
I met him in Madame Tussauds, NYC.
1. Let’s just get this out of the way straight up: New York is expensive. That’s not to say you shouldn’t visit – you definitely should visit. You just need to be financially prepared. Knowing where to get cheap, delicious food is a must, or you’ll break the bank trying to eat. Chain restaurants in Times Square are more likely to charge you ridiculous prices for meals, so it’s best to head away from the centre of the city to eat. If you can find one of those diners that charges food by the pound, you’re much better off. Places like Bread and Butter on Fifth Avenue serve a really broad range of foods in a buffet style, including vegetables and other healthy options, so you won’t be stuck eating stale cheese slices and French fries night after night. Unless you’re into that sort of thing.
2. And while on the subject of saving money… get yourself a New York Pass! Not only do you get to skip the lines at all the major attractions, but you’ll also save yourself a ton of money on entry fees. Refer to my post, ‘Top Ten… For New Travellers’, for more ramblings about how beneficial this pass actually is. As this is a blog for travelling twenty-somethings with limited funds, I believe the New York Pass deserves multiple mentions.
Places we visited on the New York Pass: The Empire State Building, the Rockefeller Centre (the views are both sensational), The Statue of Liberty (which included the cruise and entry to the island), Madame Tussauds, The Museum of Sex, The Guggenheim, the MoMa, the 9/11 Museum, backstage tours of Carnegie Hall… the list goes on, have I made my point?
The View from the Empire State Building.
3. If there is something you like, New York will have it in bundles for you. You want Thai food? Or Indian? Just jump on Trip Advisor and find the closest restaurant. If you like musical theatre, Broadway is your smorgasbord. If you’re into sports, there are endless sporting matches you can attend at the Barclays Centre or Madison Square Garden. You like music? No problem… see a concert at Carnegie Hall, or hear live music in the street. There are a number of apps and websites that offer cheap tickets to Broadway shows and sporting events, such as TodayTix or TicketMonster. You could base your whole trip to NYC around one of these themes, and literally never get bored.
3b) On a side note, you may think you want to see just ‘one concert’ or ‘one musical’… but New York thinks otherwise. You won’t want to stop at one, because they make everything look so damn attractive. And if you’re a musical theatre nut like me, Broadway will be like crack cocaine. If all your favourite musicals were playing at the one time, you would probably get a little crazy too. The only thing that stopped me from becoming a complete addict was my bank account.
Information overload, Times Square.
4. Use Visit A City. In big cities like New York, you want to see as much as possible, but you don’t want to spend all day trying to get around. I use the Visit A City app to help… tell the app how many days you are staying and what hotel, and it will create a virtual itinerary for you. For each day, the attractions will be organised within reasonable walking distance of each other, which saves you heaps of time getting from A to B. For instance, the Visit A City app decided that it would be best if we visited Wall Street on the same day as the Statue of Liberty, as the ferry terminal was just a short distance away. So why plan when you’ve got the Visit A City app? I mean that’s why apps were invented, to do the hard work for you in literally everything.
5. In addition to this, don’t be disheartened if you don’t get to do everything you planned (and this goes for most big places, not just New York!). I was in NYC for a week, and I didn’t get to see the Whitney or The Frick, or even the Chrysler Building. I didn’t get to go ice-skating at the Rockefeller Centre, or see the Metropolitan Opera. But it’s okay, it’s just New York’s way of saying ‘we love you, please come back!’
6. Do take a break from all the craziness. In a city that never sleeps, it is easy to get overwhelmed by all the noise, crowds, traffic and constant bombardment of amazing things to do. Take this as an opportunity to visit some of the quieter parts of New York. Downtown, (I’m talking Bleecker Street direction) there are a number of great shops and bars that take the humdrum down several notches. I even visited the place they used to film Steve and Aidan’s bar in Sex and the City (great cosmopolitans). In the opposite direction, the New York Public Library is a stunning piece of architecture, and worth a visit, while further uptown, Central Park can provide a quiet walk amongst nature, if you need a bit of time to Zen. I told you New York would provide.
On the steps in the New York Public Library.
7. New York is super easy to get around. You probably won’t need a map unless you’re way downtown where the streets start to don normal names, rather than plain old “West 56th Street” or “East 73rd Street”. To put this into perspective: I get lost constantly when driving places, and I am terrible at reading maps, however I managed in New York perfectly. How much time would I have saved in my life if all the streets were named this way? I would never get lost again. The subway system is also really easy to navigate… so don’t feel you have to sit stuck in traffic taking a cab, or walk thirty blocks to reach your destination!
8. Beware of the ‘free stuff’ in the street. ‘Free’ is actually code for ‘with a tip’… so unless you want to cough up for a CD of rap music you don’t actually want, it’s best just to keep walking. And don’t be worried about being offensive; you’re probably the thousandth person to walk past without taking anything from them.
9. Some activities are worth booking before you go to New York, things that aren’t included in the New York Pass. For instance, I went on a Sex and the City On Location Tour, which took me on a bus around some of the most memorable filming spots from the show. You can also do this for shows like The Sopranos and Gossip Girl, or even go on a tour that smashes together locations from Seinfeld, When Harry Met Sally and The Nanny. It’s a great way to see different parts of the city, and from the comfort of a bus seat. Of course, you do get off at some of the locations, and there are discounts at some of these stops, just for being on the tour.
Hello cheap Cosmopolitans!
10. New York isn’t quite like Sex and the City – it’s a lot more real. Also, really think about the age gap and status of us verses the SATC women, before you start comparing your stay in New York to the TV show. And if you’re a twenty-something like me, you’re probably not going to be buying Gucci or Dolce & Gabbana… or eating in the upper-class restaurants that Carrie and Big dine in… or drinking at fancy bars or clubs with a VIP list. No… you’ll most likely be eating cereal above your hotel sink and making frost marks on the glass outside those stores. But it’s okay, because you’ll be in New York, and nobody can take that away from you.