I have loads to say about New York City. I hate big cities but there is something extremely appealing about NYC – it is a city that made my eyes pop!
Seriously, New York City is one of those cities which I can never forget in my lifetime. I felt I was traveling in a place out of a sitcom, I saw not just the world’s most iconic sights but also some super strange things. It is a city that dazzled and shocked me at the same time.
New York City is one of the must-see cities to visit at least once in your lifetime, so if you haven’t yet you should write it on your travel list.
It is a city full of life, lights and wonder. It offers so many different choices suited for all shapes, tastes and sizes. It doesn’t matter if you are a local or a tourist, it is such a big city with a wide variety of places and sites to see during your trip.
You will find many guides that will tell you what to see in Big Apple, but I want to help you avoid some of the travel mistakes I made in New York City. I can easily write close to 30 New York travel tips for you but I will start with 10 first.
Don’t Stand in the Line for the Statue of Liberty
If you speak to any local New Yorker about visiting the Statue of Liberty, they’d say – no, that’s not something that locals do. It is ok – you’re not a NYC local and you don’t have to pretend to be one and miss out on this. Of course they don’t know if it is worth visiting because they haven’t seen it up close. None of the locals ever visit the Ellis Island that has the statue of Liberty!
During my visit to New York City, one of the biggest mistakes that I made was standing in the line for 2 hours to see the Statue of Liberty. No, not because it isn’t anything special – it is amazing. But I could have totally avoided wasting my time by pre booking.
When you hear or read about New York you (almost) always think about the Statue of Liberty. It is located on Ellis Island, which is 12-acres wide in New York Harbor, and is a national monument that represents a mix of emotions that America experienced such as struggles of the immigrants, financial barriers they had to overcome and freedom from tyranny at the end of the 19th century.
The Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French President as a way to commemorate the centennial of the Declaration of Independence. Visiting the Statue of Liberty is a definite must, and you should get to know it up close on your tour.
Instead, pre book your Statue of Liberty ticket to avoid the lines.
As mentioned before, you can totally avoid wasting your time standing in the queues to see the Statue of Liberty. You can find the best ticket options and more info here.
Avoid the Empire State Building During the Day
Who hasn’t heard of the Empire State Building. This art deco building was once the tallest skyscraper in New York City. It is located in Manhattan’s midtown near Fifth Avenue. Did you know that the Empire State building is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World? It should be a part of everyone’s New York city itinerary.
The famous Empire State Building is on many people’s wishlist because there are observation decks on top. Yes, you can go on the 86th floor and the 102nd floor to enjoy the stunning view. As per me, the view is memorable and shouldn’t be missed.
Note that due to Corona restrictions, one needs to book a ticket in advance to enter the Empire State Building, and even then the numbers of admissions are limited.Book Your Time Slot for the Empire State Building
Instead, visit the Empire State Building at Night
Guess what, most of the tourists don’t know that it is possible to visit the Empire State Building at night and end up standing in the long queues during the day. It is open till midnight and even till 2 am during the weekends in summer.Book Your Time Slot for the Empire State Building
The above link will take you to a third party booking website called GetYourGuide which is a highly reputed brand all over the world.
Once you click on “Book Now” button for the above activity, you will see a table for selecting your date and based on that it will show you the available time slots. For the best results, book a slot where you can see the sunset or one that’s right after the sunset.
Don’t Do A Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour. Or Travel by Bus at all
The USA was my first ever international trip and I wasn’t a seasoned traveler as I am now. During my first hour in the city, I met an extremely smooth talking hop on hop off bus ticket seller who convinced me that it is the best and the most affordable way to see New York, because I anyway will need transport to reach the attractions.
I’m ashamed to say that I believed him.
You see, it is easy to walk from one attraction to another in Manhattan and the Subway is super awesome for visiting the other boroughs. Moreover, the main fun of discovering New York City is by walking around in it, not on top of some touristy hop on hop off bus!
Instead Take the Subway + Walk Around
Be smart and download an offline map of New York City on your smartphone and walk. When in need, take the subway. It is efficient, quick and affordable. The best part about traveling in an English speaking country is that you can stop and ask for quick help with directions. No, New Yorkers aren’t snobby but they have a reputation of being so. Don’t just stop someone that clearly looks like they’re in a hurry.
Don’t Miss Walking Around in Manhattan + Times Square
Manhattan is where it all began – Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Seinfeld, Friends, Sex and the City and many other things that you may have madly enjoyed on the TV.
Don’t miss the chance of being a tourist in NYC and staring up at Manhattan’s buildings. Yes, this is really the most touristy thing to do, but doesn’t mean you should skip it – it is really fun to do this. Moreover, as you strain your neck to look up, it is impossible not to get lost, so go ahead and make the most of it.
So which buildings to look at while you’re getting lost in Manhattan? Of course the Empire State Building but apart from that there’s the Chrysler, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Madison Square Garden , 40 Wall Street (The Trump Building), the Trinity Church, One World Trade Centre, the Plaza Hotel and Rockefeller Plaza are just some of the many.
Go walk on the most iconic NYC’s streets that are in Manhattan – the Broadway street, the Wall Street, Madison Avenue, Park Avenue, Fifth Avenue, the picturesque Barrow Street, and Central Park West street to name a few.
Visit the West Village’s Grove Street and Bedford Street to see the exterior of Monica’s apartment building in the Friends sitcom (The actual apartment was a set in Hollywood). Grove Street also has Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment (Sex and the City) and it is actually marked on Google Maps.
Times Square is in Manhattan’s Midtown and is sometimes called the Centre of the Universe. It is the heart of Manhattan and make sure you walk here because your eyes will literally pop out. Yes, the locals will tell you to avoid Times Square, but if it is your first time then you are going to love the experience! It is surreal.
Don’t Eat Only NY Pizza, Bagel, Cheesecake, Hot Dogs
New York City has a very interesting culinary scene and you should make sure you get to experience it. It is tempting to get sucked into eating NY Pizza, Bagel or hotdogs for all the meals but make sure you do more than this.
Instead, Explore New York City’s highly international culinary scene
As mentioned earlier, Manhattan’s food restaurant scene is expensive. If you can afford it, then make sure you make your meal reservation weeks in advance because it is hard to find a table. If you want to eat a good meal at an affordable price then you should make your way to Queens or Brooklyn to enjoy delicious international and local food both.
In Queens, head to Jackson Heights for Indian, Afghani, Mexican, Colombian, Peruvian and Ecuadorian. Eat delicious Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, Vietnamese and Malaysian in Flushing and Elmhurst. If you love Thai food, get to Sripraphai in Woodside. Get to Howard Beach for seafood and enjoy shrimps, crabs and fish with beer. Astoria area is famous for Egyptian food.
In Brooklyn, head to Smorgasburg Williamsburg. It is more than just a mouthful to say, it is an artisan food market with about 100 local spots that receive their fair share of people every weekend.
Smorgasburg Williamsburg has two different modalities outdoors & indoors. The outdoor- more weather friendly- locations are open from April until October, Saturdays in Williamsburg, and Sundays in Prospect Park. The indoor locations have bounced around to different places, the most recent one at the Atlantic Center. There is no charge to enter, but you won’t resist trying the variety of food as you walk your way. It is the ideal place for locals to discover new chefs, restaurants and producers.
Don’t Party in the Pricey Times Square
I feel like I’m stating the obvious but it is my duty to inform you not to party in Times Square. Yes, many tourists do end up here at night for a party. While I did mention that you shouldn’t miss out on walking around in Times Square, but you should not stick around here because there are other areas where you can experience a good nightlife in New York City.
Instead, head to Greenwich village or Chelsea for a good New York nightlife experience
While I was in New York City, I went for a party in a place called Pacha NYC in Hell’s Kitchen. Hell’s Kitchen in NYC is a neighborhood for aspiring actors. The next day, I went to a bar in Greenwich Village, which is the university area. That’s where NYU is. I was so shocked when I saw how low the beer prices were here in Greenwich Village as compared to the other parts of Manhattan.
When you’re in Greenwich Village, get to Washington Square Park before hitting the bar. Take a stroll down the lanes and find yourself observing an interesting mix of professional chess players, sunbathers, performers and musicians.
Going for a Broadway Show? Get a Seat and no Need to Queue Up
When in New York City, try your best to go for a broadway show. Broadway tickets can be as expensive as USD 200 per person but you can get them for a discount at TKTS Discount Booths or Mobile Apps. You can sometimes find them for as low as USD 50 per person for a same day discount ticket.
Here’s the thing, when you have your seat number for Broadway then you don’t need to stand in the line. Walk around, get a drink nearby and walk in just before the start time.
Don’t get scammed and buy erroneous Broadway tickets on the streets.
Or Try New York Philharmonic Instead of Broadway
If you are into classical music performances, the New York Philharmonic is the perfect symphony orchestra to see, hear and enjoy for a wonderful and majestic music concert.
Their primary place of performance is at the world-renowned David Geffen Hall, located in the Upper West Side at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on Broadway. The auditorium can set up to 2,738 people, in a perfectly designed room to better enhance your musical experience. And it is a performance to be enjoyed by everyone, not just classical music experts and enthusiasts.
Don’t Miss Out on New York City’s Parks
New York City can be exhilarating and it is good to take some time out in one of the city’s many parks. Most of you know of Manhattan’s Central Park already, after all it is legendary. It is mentioned over and over again in one of my favorite books – Catcher in the Rye.
You can head to Central Park for a quick stroll or rent a bicycle to explore a larger area. The park is massive and it also has a reservior. Try to check out the seasonal shops in the Columbus Circle. Apart from this, New York City has many other notable parks.
Battery Park is also in Manhattan and is where you can get on to a ferry for Ellis Island to see the Statue of Liberty or a free ferry to Staten Island. Nearby Hudson River Park is also a good place.
Another amazing park in New York city is the Brooklyn Bridge Park. Get to the Harbor View Lawn on Pier 1 for a memorable view. You can see the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan’s financial district from the park.
If you’re in Queens, visit the famous Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and Gantry Plaza State Park. It has a waterfront promenade with a view of Manhattan’s skyline.
When in the Bronx, visit Bronx Park which also has the New York Botanical Garden inside it.
Don’t Get Stuck in Manhattan
Yes, I get it – Manhattan is lively and full of bright lights because of which you don’t want to leave this island. Not only is Manhattan expensive but if you stay only in one spot, you will miss out on New York City’s other boroughs: Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island. They all have something unique to offer.
Instead Visit Other the Boroughs
Here’s what you can do in the other Boroughs of New York City:
If you’re in New York City, you really need to walk on the Brooklyn Bridge to walk from Manhattan to Brooklyn – it is an unmissable experience. While in Brooklyn, get to one of the vegan cafes in Williamsburg, spend time in Brooklyn Bridge Park and look for a good bargain in Brooklyn Flea Market. Brooklyn’s restaurant scene is amazing and I have already mentioned it at length in the earlier section.
The Bronx has the famous Yankee Stadium and Little Italy! Make sure you come here hungry to enjoy some really good Italian food. If you’re staying in an Air BnB, you can shop for food supplies at Little Italy or Hunts Point Farmers Market in the Bronx.
I have mentioned Gantry Plaza State Park and Flushing Meadows before but Queens also has China Town. Visit this part to eat a delightful asian meal, the kind you won’t get in the other parts of the city. Not just Asian but Queens is famous for other kinds of international food because this borough is so ethnically diverse.
Apart from just food and parks, Queens also has MoMa PS1 art museum. This is far from your ordinary art museum. It has a setting that has its own character, as well as the wide collection it has on display. It houses over 200,000 pieces of cutting-edge contemporary art, from renowned artists such as James Turrell and Ai Weiwei. The building was once a Renaissance Revival public school that was transformed into a unique art museum. If you’re into avant garde art and enjoy a creative space, then MoMa PS1 is the place for you.
There’s a free ferry that goes from Manhattan’s Battery Park to Staten Island. There aren;t many free things in New York City and you should take advantage of this. Visit Staten Island’s one of many parks and you won’t feel like you’re still in New York City.
Avoid Getting Ripped Off in an Overpriced Hotel in Manhattan
The Hotel Rooms and Hostels are super expensive in New York City and you should prepare to spend a good amount of money if you haven’t planned your trip in advance.
Of course Manhattan island in general is going to be expensive but you can sometimes get cheaper rooms in Greenwich village near NYU. Of course, it is a good idea to look for a place to stay in other boroughs of New York instead of Manhattan.
Instead, get a place in Queens or Brooklyn
Here are some affordable hotels in New York that we recommend:
Bonus: Book Lovers Should Not Miss these below landmarks of New York City:
New York City has some of the most amazing places that are heavenly for bookworms. Here are some of them:
New York Public Library, Fifth Avenue
There are many public libraries in New York but I’m talking about the New York Public Library on the corner of Fifth Avenue and West 42nd Street, which was also featured in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Sex and the City movie. It is a historical landmark which will stun you with its beautiful architecture. It has more than 6 million books.
The Strand Book Store
Yes, we recommend an old fashioned bookstore to include in your visit. The Strand Book Store has towering stacks, filled with more than 2.5 million titles, and it has been standing for 93 years and counting! It is considered as a global institution.
The Stand Book Store also has a great staff that help you find exactly what you are looking for, and if you are only just venturing into reading books or browsing they will most likely recommend you with a nice read that you wouldn’t have picked for yourself. They also have several on-site and offline events to share with their audience.
The Morgan Library & Museum
Because yes, we still love actual printed books and the smell of leather, we recommend you to include a visit to The Morgan. It is a library full of history that belonged to Pierpont Morgan, who was a multi billionaire collectionist, and one of the most influential financiers on the history of the United States. In 924 his son, J. P. Morgan, Jr. offered his father’s extravagant and extraordinary library to the public to view and admire.
Once inside you will see more than just books: find yourself admiring rare artifacts that date back to 4000 B.C., paintings, original manuscripts – and unique ones as well – from all over the world.
Did follow our recommendations for New York City?
So, have you ever visited New York city? Do you also love any Books, TV Shows or movies that are based in the city? Comment and let me know. Want to read about some of the other famous big cities that I have visited? Check out my posts about:
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