One thing I’ve realized about having visitors is that they try so hard to fit all of the sights into such a short stay and in doing so, they don’t always enjoy their trip. So, I’ve come up with a few suggestions to ensure you get the best out of your stay. Over-planning puts you under pressure to see everything you wanted to see but the city can be unpredictable at times when it comes to weather and volumes of tourists. Also, opportunities arise every minute pulling you in different directions. So, the best mind-set to have is to be completely open to changing your plans. In NYC, there’s so much to see that you’ll never have seen it all, so don’t stress about FOMO!
1. Use Your Time Wisely
A lot of sites are underwhelming because you’ve seen them 1,000 times on television and let’s face it, all you really want is the snap. A certain amount of these ‘Top NYC Things to Do’ have long wait lines and take up a good chunk of the day. So, write down two-three sites you absolutely need to see or things you need to do and have everything else on the maybe list. Bear in mind, the Statue of Liberty cruise takes a whole morning so if you’re only here for three or four days, maybe give it a miss. You can see her from the Brooklyn Bridge, Battery Park, the Staten Island Ferry and from the Q train!
2. Day Passes
Day passes are a great way to save money but definitely plan ahead because a lot of tourists buy a pass with a certain amount of activities included and don’t use it up. The Smart Destinations Go-City pass is great because you can buy three, five or seven activities and chose what you use them for afterwards. There are about 40 things to do included in the pass, the Big Bus Tour (that takes up a whole day and it’s.. okay), food tours, city view sights and much more. Some things are free or cheap so depending on your stay, just use your Go-City pass for the three/five most expensive activities and pay for the rest, or don’t because as you’ll see below, some activities might not cost you at all.
Keep in mind that the best of NYC comes free- Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, Staten Island Ferry, Natural History Museum, NY Public Library, 9/11 Memorial. The High Line is an old elevated railway line now turned into a park and it starts at 14th St, so definitely take the scenic route through Chelsea! NYC is one of the most expensive cities in the world and while most tourists are already aware of this before they arrive, they still get a shock. So, these options should help you with your budget.
By the way, it’s just $15 to rent a bicycle for a couple of hours and cycle around Central Park. This is a great activity to include in your stay because it’s quick and easy with no waiting in line, not to mention it’s so much fun.
4. So Many City-View Spots
There are countless rooftop views of the city, you don’t need to do the Empire State Building, Top of The Rock and One World Trade, just choose one. I know going to the top of the Empire State is a classic, but the big downside is you can’t see the Empire State itself which is the crown jewel of the NYC skyline. You could always just kill two birds with one stone and go to a good rooftop bar and see the city views from there. Another option is going to the Long Island City boardwalk (Queens) just two train stops from midtown. It’s another great spot to see the city lights at night.
I went on the Circle Line Harbor Lights Cruise and it was beautiful! The boat takes you around Manhattan at sunset. It goes right by the Statue of Liberty (again, no need to do both activities) and back around Manhattan as it turns dark and the city lights up. I would definitely recommend. It’s three hours long but very worth it.
5. Food is my Friend
When it comes to dining, there is too much choice, especially for sweet things, my not-so-guilty pleasure. Explore Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side and Chelsea for amazing dining experiences. Every restaurant has it’s quirk whether it’s incredible decor, a signature dish or live performances. I’m working on a blog post just about sweet things but seriously, New York’s sweet game is on point with multiple dessert bars, chocolatiers and more. Take advantage of what the city has to offer other than the famous buildings because honestly, your experiences are what you’ll take back with you and you’ll cherish them much more than the photos.
6. Be Social
Go out at night and make sure to go to the area with the right vibe you’re looking for. Midtown is mostly just Irish bars and it’s full of tourists so I tend to stay away from there beyond 10pm. I love love love the Meat Packing District and the Lower East Side and you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to bars because each area has everything from dive bars, to rooftop scenes to clubs. You never know where the night takes you, you could end up at a house party on someone’s roof in Brooklyn or a sunrise party, just go with it!
If you’re not feeling a wild night out but want something to do, go to an outdoor cinema, a dance class, comedy, a jazz bar.. the list is endless, it’s NYC. I would definitely recommend BYOB paint class, it’s so much fun and surprisingly easy.
7. Beyond the City
If you’re staying for 7-14 days and you love to travel, there are tonnes of options for day trips and over-night trips not too far from the city. You’ve got The Hamptons, Hoboken, Coney Island and a little bit further, Boston, Philadelphia and DC, which is just a four and a half hour bus ride away. Just whip out trusty Google Maps and check out how long a drive it is from the city to a specific destination. Every major city on the East Coast is easy to get to from New York so make sure to be sure to get the most out of your stay.
8. Useful Tips
Get a unlimited subway card, even if you’re just staying for 4 days, get the week pass because you’ll still save money. Trust me, you’ll be on and off the trains all day each day. Remember, if you’re going uptown, enter the station on the same side of the road as uptown-bound cars and vice versa.
When you ask for directions and someone says “that’s on 57th between 8th and 9th” don’t panic, just remember this; Manhattan is a grid system and once you move out of the Financial District at the bottom of the Island, the horizontal streets start from 1st St and move their way up. The vertical avenues go right to left, so they start at 1st Ave and 11th Ave is the last on the left with the exception of Lexington Ave, Park Ave and Madison Ave instead of there being a 4th Ave. Does that make sense? Probably not but you’ll quickly figure it out once you get here. Also, Broadway is sort of like a diagonal avenue that cuts through the city just to confuse the situation even more.
If you want to get all of the sites fit into one day, start by getting the A or C train to the High St/ Brooklyn Bridge Station in Brooklyn, walk the Brooklyn Bridge and make your way uptown from there stopping off wherever you want. Use the public transport option on Google Maps and it will tell you what train you need to take to your next spot.
I hope that’s helped you as much as it’s going to help me. From now on, anyone who asks me about visiting (which is every week basically) I’m just going to send them a link to this blog post and say no more, hehe.