Practical tips for your first trip to NYC
You’ve heard about New York. You’ve seen the city on the silver screen. You’ve read about it in books. And everyone you know has been there. Finally, you’re going, so now you have to start planning. Use these practical tips for your first trip to NYC, and make the most of your time in the City That Never Sleeps.
Don’t spend every waking moment seeing major sights and attractions.
Yes, I know. The Statue of Liberty; 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 if you’re in the city for a few days. If all you do is schlep from one attraction to the next, you won’t experience the real New York.
If you plan to spend several days in NYC, it may be worth it to purchase a CityPASS to save on major attractions like the Museum of Natural History and the Empire State Building. CityPASS is valid for nine days from its first use.
Also, having nothing on your schedule for an afternoon or evening is a good thing. Leave some space for spontaneity, if you can. Dedicate time to wander and discover. 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. And if you have your heart set on staying in Times Square, I recommend this luxury hotel because it’s close enough to the action but far enough from the chaos, and this luxury hotel in Midtown because you’ll be near MoMA, Central Park, Fifth Avenue and more.
Don’t Spend Your Entire Trip or Budget on Theatre
I mention this point because, as much as I adore Broadway, ballet, and just about any production on the stage, theatre 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. 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 (totally worth it to do a food tour of the LES while you’re in the area), 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!). Or, head north to Washington Heights and Inwood. Spend a few hours in Fort Tryon Park and eat some of the best Latin-American food in the city. You won’t be disappointed, and you’ll witness the minutiae of New York life outside the hustle and bustle of Midtown.
Look stylish, but be comfortable.
I can’t stress this point enough–– sure, you’ll want to blend in with New Yorkers, so sneakers, sweats, and shorts aren’t on your packing list. That said, you can wear more stylish tennis shoes but leave the sweat pants behind, and opt for a pair of jeans or leggings instead. Or try a pair of cool joggers with a chic jacket. 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 (I don’t like to leave home without mine).
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, so check AccuWeather 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. So save the taxis for late-night outings and ride the subway during the daytime, 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 splurging and saving during your first trip to NYC.
Have a wonderful time on your first trip to NYC!
Also, safety tips for the New York subway. Touristy things that are fun to do.
And a guide to walking the Brooklyn Bridge.
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