Top Tips for visiting New York City
Have I told you how much I love New York City? It will always have my heart. I first visited when I was 21 as part of my art degree. I was overwhelmed with it the first time! But there was just something about it that drew me back there. I graduated 2 months after that, armed with an internship and a BFA in Advertising Design. I was determined to move to NYC with the best of the best to start my career. I worked in Denver for a few months after graduating to earn money for living expenses. And as soon as I thought I had enough to get a good start, I bought a plane ticket, packed 2 suitcases, found a place to move and a roommate and started my new life in the big city.
It took me 3 weeks to find my first job. I was overjoyed to actually find something in my field and be surrounded with so much creativity at a large branding agency. I lived in the city for 2 years while developing a long distance relationship with my, now. husband. We decided to get married and that it was probably best for me to move while he finished his 8 year bachelor’s degree. We met in Denver to be married in my hometown and then headed to Utah for his college degree. He promised me that we would visit the city as often as possible.
We have returned to the city just about every year since! I love the city and definitely have my favorite things to do… some touristy, some not. My trips always involve eating, shopping and a lot of walking! In this post, I will give you my tops tips!
New York Tips:
1) Pack your best walking shoes! I have a few pair that I rotate between. It’s important to me that I don’t look like a tourist and that I still impart my sense of fashion mixed with comfortability. I love these shoes for any trip where you need to look cute and be comfy. They are a little harder to find now but if you fit into big kid sizing, you can also find them at Nordstrom. I usually bring a version of this shoe too!
2) Bring an umbrella! Seems like there is always at least an hour of rain during my trips to New York. Make sure you are always prepared with a compact umbrella!
3) Transportation - I am fully comfortable with riding the subway and love doing it. It is pretty straight forward and you can now use the maps on your phone to figure out which line you should take to where. You can find the current fares per ride on the MTA website. It is generally about $3/ride. You can buy your card at any of the machines located in most subway entrances.
You have the option of buying a card loaded with money. This can be a good idea if you have a few people in your party and are staying for just a few days. You can share one card and it just deducts per swipe. Another option, if you are staying more than 3 days and plan to ride the subway a lot, is to get an unlimited 7-day card. It’s about $32, so well worth your money if you think you will ride the subway 12 or more times.
Another option is to take a taxi or Uber/Lyft. If you have 3 or more in your party, these can be just as cost effective as riding the subway. Make sure to have the Uber and Lyft apps on your phone to compare price. It can be trickier with a taxi cab because they run a meter, so you can’t price it out before you get in. You can go to the website, Taxi Fare Finder, to get a good estimate of how much it will be. A really cool app to use is Ride Guru, it gives you an estimate of all the car services, so you can compare. You can also visit their website to get an estimate too.
There is, of course, good old fashioned walking too. I love to walk the city. We usually put in 10 miles a day if the weather is good and we aren’t on a time crunch. New York is a grid made up of rectangle blocks. The streets are short blocks that go Up and Down. The avenues are the long blocks that run East to West. That is important information to note because it will take you a much shorter time to walk up and down streets as compared to across avenues. Make sense?
4) Planning your trip is so much fun. You will never run out of things to do. If you are planning on doing many tourist attractions while you are there, I would definitely consider getting one fo the tourist passes. There are several to choose from. There is the CityPass, the Sightseeing Pass, and the New York Explorer Pass. They are all slightly different with lots of pros and cons. I will go into that further in a subsequent post. During our last trip, we decided on the CityPass. It included the main attractions that we wanted to visit and offered some skip the line advantages. We found it to be a really good value and used access to all the attractions that it offered.
5) Eating is very important is New York! You can even make an eating tour out of trip if you want! Before I go, I like to plan out my dinners so that I will make sure to hit all my top places to eat while we are there. You can make reservations for most places using Open Table or Yelp. Occasionally, you find places that are first come, first serve. Those are a little harder to get into but usually worth the wait! 3 things that you must make time to eat in New York are Pizza, Hot dogs and Kebab. Street food is inexpensive and absolute heaven! If you see a pizza restaurant with the name Ray (i.e. Famous Ray’s) in the title, you can bet it’s a good one. Grab a slice, fold it in half and enjoy! I will have a subsequent post on my favorite restaurants and desserts!
6) Broadway is one of the main reasons that people visit New York. There are so many shows to see, it can be overwhelming! I am not huge into Broadway shows but I definitely enjoy them while I am there. I also have a few tricks to getting discounted tickets.
First is visiting the TKTS booth. There is one in Times Square that opens up at 2 or 3pm each day. The line is always insanely long! I avoid it. What people may not know, is that there is a much smaller booth at South Street Sea Port with much shorter lines and still has the same discounts for the same shows. It opens at 11am each day. And now there is a 3rd booth located at Lincoln Center and opens at noon. I believe this line is quite a bit shorter too. You can get discounts at these booths for a number of shows, it just might not be the one you are hoping for so you have to go in to it knowing you may get your second or third choice.
Another great way to get discount tickets is the app, TodayTix. Their prices are usually really good and I love that you can do it all on your phone. I found that prices are really similar to the TKTS pricing. They also list shows on there that have rush tickets for a even more discounted price. Rush typically means tickets that are purchased the day of the show. On this app, you can buy in advance or same day tickets.
Getting Lottery tickets is another option for discounted tickets. In some cases, you can still visit the show box office early in the day to put your name in for the lottery. This doesn’t mean you win free tickets, you win the the opportunity to buy deeply discounted tickets the day of the show. Check the info on your show to see if that is a possibility. Broadway Direct has a list of lottery tickets for that day and you can enter the lottery online which is much more convenient. Hamilton is a very popular show right now and they have their own app to enter the ticket lottery.
7). Hotel location is is very important! Check out this post for a little guidance on getting a good price for a good location.
8). Shopping is one of my very favorite things to do in the city. There are so many options that you can easily lose track of time running from store to store. I find that there are less and less boutiques which is unfortunate. There are a lot more chain stores but they do tend to have a greater selection than the stores outside the city.
Some stores to put on your list are H&M, Zara, Century 21, Uniqlo, Joe Fresh, Bloomingdales, Henri Bendel and any designer that you are interested in. I love Marc Jacob, so I love to hit his store and shop the accessories. I know you are thinking… “Brooke, I have some of these stores at home”. But I am here to tell you, it’s different. Every store in New York is bigger and better! I even like to hit the Nordstrom Rack in Union Square because they have totally different things.
While we are on the topic of shopping, one of my favorite things to do is hit a flea market while we are there. For years, my favorite has been the Brooklyn flea. There is just nothing like it on a perfect fall Saturday. You will find rows and rows of uniquely crafted goods like t-shirts and jewelry. You will also find old treasures like vintage Coach bags and apartment furnishings. My husband loves finding all the food vendors! They also host Smorgasburg which is a bunch of food trucks all together in a park. You can purchase several small plates and drinks. Perfect if you want to try really good food from all over the world!