I lived in New York City for a while, so it wasn’t hard for me to get back into the groove of navigating the City. There’s a lot of energy there; a lot of residents doing their NY things; and a whole lot of tourists that stand out mainly because they disrupt that energy with their navigation stops in the middle of busy sidewalks, their selfie sticks, and their inability to walk any way other than 4 abreast. I am writing this post with thoughts of how much more New York tourists would get out out of their visit if they just took a little time to prepare. So here are a few basic tips:
1. Get some idea of NY etiquette basics
It’s mostly common sense. This book will be both helpful and entertaining.
2. Do not fear public transit.
Public transit will take you within an easy walk of just about anywhere you want to go. And it’s cheap. You can get a 7 day MTA pass that works for buses and trains for $30. You can pick up subway map and bus map easily, or download some of the MTA Apps. Locals and MTA employees are generally pretty helpful if you become disoriented. Tourists don’t seem to take buses much, but the routes are laid out efficiently with good information at the stops. They are quicker than walking for short trips, and can be give you a unique taste of the city on longer trips (Hint: Take the M4 bus to the Cloisters).
3. Check out the New York Pass.
If you are planning to pack in all the tourist attractions you can in the shortest period of time, and a $25 admission for a museum, and a $40 admission for a boat ride, or view from a highrise creates some anxious sticker shock for you, you may want to deal with all of it in one payment by acquiring the New York Pass. It could be a real deal if you are doing power-touristing. Of course if you are power-touristing, you miss a lot of the nuance that makes New York the greatest city on earth. If you don’t have a lot of time you may want to avoid the bus tours that are hawked so heavily around Times Square. The tours move very slowly with long stops. You would do better (and save a lot of money) navigating by foot or city bus to see the sights. Remember, your MTA pass will give you unlimited rides, so use it in place of the hop-on-hop-off tour buses.
When we got back from our recent NYC trip my son said he wanted to concentrate more on food on his next visit. You will be overwhelmed with Yelp! reviews, but it’s a good place to start. From fine restaurants, to street food, to ethnic food from places you have never heard of, it’s all there in New York. Follow my simple rule about eating while traveling: Go where the locals go. And don’t depend on the folks at the hotel front desk to know the best places.
5. Don’t fear the Boroughs.
We stayed in Long Island City, about 15 minutes by train from Grand Central Station, in a nice modern hotel in a safe neighborhood for 1/2 to 1/3 the cost of a similar hotel in Manhattan. Also your best views of Manhattan are from Queens and Brooklyn. I also had the best meals on this trip in Queens in Astoria and Long Island City. I didn’t make it to Staten Island or the Bronx on this trip.
View from 4th floor room at Sheraton 4Points in Long Island City