You’ve heard about it. You’ve seen New York on the silver screen. You’ve read about it in books. And everyone you know has been there. Finally, you’re making your first trip to NYC, but where to begin? Heed these New York travel tips, so you have a more authentic and memorable experience when you visit.
Don’t spend every waking moment seeing major sights and attractions.
Yes, I know. The Statue of Liberty; Empire State Building; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Rockefeller Center; World Trade Center, Central Park! There’s so much to see and do, but don’t run yourself ragged and try and get to everything on the first trip. If all you do is schlep from one attraction to the next, you won’t really experience the uniqueness of New York City. And what’s more important –– checking major attractions off your list or seeing NYC for the fantastic destination that it is?
I suggest picking one or two sights –– maybe three if you’re planning a longer stay –– preferably in the same vicinity, and scheduling those in your itinerary. You might even be able to do a clean sweep in one day, leaving the other days for shopping, eating, wandering, and more off-the-beaten-path activities and places. For example, you can probably swing the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center on the same day, but that will be a full day. Or go to the Empire State Building, Times Square, and Rockefeller Center in a day. Those attractions are all in Midtown, and within walking distance of each other.
Also, having nothing on your schedule for an afternoon or evening is a good thing. Leave some space for spontaneity, if you can. The best New York moments are those that aren’t planned.
Staying in Midtown is okay, but try to avoid a hotel in the heart of Times Square.
Sure, Times Square might seem like the center of the universe, and it very well may be, but it’s also incredibly touristy and unbelievably crowded. (Some days you won’t be able to walk down the street, but rather, you’ll shuffle and get pushed from one block to the next.) And that’s NOT fun. I’m not saying don’t go to Times Square, but consider staying in a hotel that’s even a few streets away from the heart of it. You’ll want to avoid the most congested section (which is anywhere in the 40s near Broadway/7th Avenue), so you won’t be caught up in the pomp and circumstance every time you exit your hotel.
If you prefer to avoid the most touristy parts of town, try staying on the Upper West Side (as compared to Times Square, it’s quiet), south of 14th Street, in Brooklyn, or perhaps Long Island City, which is minutes to midtown.
See a Broadway show, or dance performance/opera, and if you’re a theater buff, shoot for two performances.
I mention this point because, as much as I adore Broadway, ballet, and just about any production on the stage, theater is only one aspect of what there is to do entertainment and culture-wise in NYC. And, if you’re traveling to New York for the very first time, I recommend diversifying your trip and not doing a Broadway weekend. If you like nightlife, head to an upscale cocktail bar or a comedy club. Rather than a second Broadway matinee, head to an under-the-radar museum (not the same as a major sight like the Met), but maybe the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side, or the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. And while we’re talking about Queens, maybe venture to another borough, which brings me to the next point.
Depending on the length of your trip, consider getting out of Manhattan.
Manhattan does offer so much, but so do Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and The Bronx. Sure, if you’re in NYC for just a few days, stick to Manhattan, or you’ll be completely overwhelmed! But, if your first trip to NYC happens to be for a week or more, take a day and ride the train or a ferry to another borough (or two!). You won’t be disappointed, and you’ll witness the minutiae of New York life, and stand a better chance of mingling with locals too.
Look stylish, but be comfortable.
I can’t stress this one enough! Sure, you’ll want to blend in with New Yorkers, so sneakers, sweats, and shorts aren’t on your packing list. I got it. But bear in mind, you can wear more stylish sneakers but leave the sweat pants behind, and opt for a pair of jeans or leggings instead. And ladies, while high heels look amazing and work when you’re dashing around town in cabs, walking miles of concrete in five-inch stilettos is far from practical or comfortable. Still inclined to wear your Louboutins? If you must, bring a pair of comfy flats to change into and carry those in your city bag.
And be sure to dress for the temperatures and whatever crazy weather Mother Nature decides to throw your way. That means cotton and breathable garments in summer and super warm down coats and boots in winter. Spring and fall can be unpredictable (it’s going to be 70 degrees today in NYC as I type this), so check AccuWeather or sign up for daily forecasts from Poncho before you pack. And I almost forgot –– bring a scarf. Always bring a scarf of some kind to New York.
Trying to cut costs? Limit your taxi rides and try to do some FREE things.
Don’t be surprised if you didn’t budget enough for your first trip. You won’t have a clue how expensive New York is until you’ve been here. That being said, you can skip the taxis and ride the subway, which will save a ton of cash.
Most importantly, don’t overlook the countless free things to do in this town, such as riding the Staten Island Ferry or touring Central Park’s Conservatory Garden in East Harlem. New York is a city overflowing with freebies. I recommend both splurging and saving during your first trip to NYC.
Have a wonderful time!