New York City is a tourist magnet that never seems to lose its pull, but it is also a bit of an “insider’s town” in certain respects. Therefore, anyone planning to visit NYC should learn a few “ropes” before they even step foot on the jungle gym.
Nothing can prepare you for the feeling of being overwhelmed upon finally arriving to the Big Apple and facing the amazing, ant-hill-like busyness you will witness all around you. But here are 7 tips that will at least help you avoid a number of potential pitfalls and make the most of your upcoming trip:
1. Book (Everything) Well in Advance
Go online to book NYC tour tickets long before your estimated date of departure. You can get some tours last-minute, sure, but knowing it’s all taken care of ahead of time will give you peace of mind. Also, be sure to book hotel rooms, restaurants, and entertainment venues ahead wherever possible, or you could risk hearing that dreaded “all booked up, nothing available for a month” line.
2. Don’t Be Afraid of the Subway
A bus tour is a great option, and you can take a taxi at night as needed. But during the day when looking to cross town for a simple A-to-B-and-back jaunt, the subway can make it fast and easy. During rush hour traffic, you can duck into the subway and beat it. The subterranean trains run 24/7 as they have since 1904, and they are part of the NY experience.
3. Avoid Chain Restaurants: “Eat Local”
There are far too many excellent, local diners, delicatessens, and eateries of all kinds in NYC to just stick with fast food and chain restaurants you could just as easily eat at home.
Try Artie’s or 2nd Avenue Deli for your sub sandwich, experience authentic Egyptian food in Little Cairo, try famed NY Indian cuisine at Jackson Diner, look for Greek diners in Astoria, and don’t forget Little Italy, Chinatown, and New York style pizza.
OK, you can’t eat it all in one short trip, but make food a key part of your tour. Note that many double decker bus tours will build the food aspect in.
4. Book Dinners at the Right Times
For New Yorkers, dinner time is often between 8pm and 10pm. You’ll likely need to schedule a special dinner a day or two in advance, or more. But you stand a much better chance of being able to make the reservation and avoid big crowds if you eat before 7pm or after 10:30pm. It’s much easier to book dinner from Sunday to Wednesday than between Thursday and Saturday.
5. Look for the Small Shops
Macy’s and other big-name department stores may be must-sees on your itinerary. But don’t neglect New York’s wealth of small boutiques and quaint, little shops you can’t find anywhere else on Earth.
6. Walk or Bike
New York can be explored, within a certain radius of your hotel room at least, rather effectively on foot. Central Park closes to vehicle traffic on the weekend, so that’s the perfect time to walk through it or rent a bike to explore it on. Consider biking along the Hudson River or walking over the Brooklyn Bridge. The possibilities are endless, and NYC is relatively safe for a big city.
7. Don’t Block Busy New Yorkers
New Yorkers are prototypically always on the move, frequently in a hurry, and very annoyed if someone blocks their path. Tourists taking up the whole sidewalk and not letting anyone around them or stopping on the subway stairs and blocking everyone behind them are unfortunately not a rare occurrence. Be conscious to let people past you if you stop or walk slowly, because in New York, there is almost always someone in a hurry walking behind you. And you should consider booking a hotel close to the airport.