New York has so many names! Concrete Jungle, Big Apple, the City That Never Sleeps and many more. It has been depicted in the movies, books and songs have been written about it. Many believe that New York is the place where one can live the life of the dreams, as it offers so many opportunities. New York has a special way of entangling you. I have been there in every season of the year, and every time I thought – I know what New York is and I can move on to other places! But somehow I have come back three more times and now I start to miss that New York Feeling again. I am sure I will visit soon again!
What is New York City? It is the most populous city in the United States, also called the melting pot due to so many different people living here and so many languages spoken (800!). Is it just like in the movies? Some aspects certainly are! New Yorkers really do drink that much coffee, it’s estimated that they consume seven times more coffee than any average American! It’s also the city of contrasts, as I don’t think I have ever seen so many homeless people anywhere else in the States for maybe except in Florida. Still, every 20th inhabitant of New York is a millionaire.
What I like the most about New York is the feeling of freedom I have there. You can wear anything and no one will even stare at you or say something unkind. You are more likely to hear something like “cut dress” when walking in the park. Would I like to live here? Probably not, but I certainly like to visit, and this city offers so many options for entertainment as no other!
It’s a good place to go if you have never been to the States before. First of all, you don’t need to rent a car, having a car might even be a burden here. You get a glimpse of the city that for most is what America is all about. Secondly, New York has very well connected airports and you are most likely to score cheap tickets to New York than to other American cities. Living here is not cheap, but you can either opt for a regular hotel or a service like Airbnb, where you can rent a bed or a whole apartment, depending on what you need (if you register through this link, you will get a $25 discount for your first stay!) It’s also a good idea to use hidden hotel names option in many of the hotel booking sites. This way you pick the hotel by description and location, but you only find out which hotel will it be after completing the booking. This way you can save up to 30%.
When you visit New York for the first time, you must see all of the mandatory tourist places! Time’s Square, the Central Park (squirrels are there!), Financial District, go to Rockefeller Center (good when you are hungry – many options for dining). Apart from the Central Park, a good green place to visit is the High Line park, build on old rails. Grand Central Terminal has been seen in numerous movies and news segments about New York. You should not limit yourself to visiting just Manhattan! Go over the Brooklyn Bridge, see the sunset with the Statue of Liberty and the Financial District right next to it. Visit Chinatown and irrespective of weather go to Coney Island and Brighton Beach! These places did suffer from the hurricane Sandy, but have been rebuild even grander than before. Instead of ice-cream, treat yourself to a fresh peeled mango!
Coney Island amusement park is for all ages, and there is an aquarium right next to it. On holidays you will see Jewish Hassid families walking here, with matching clothing even for kids! Brighton Beach and it’s Russian Commune will be interesting for anyone who has lived in the Soviet Union or is a big Orange is the New Black fan (Red lives there!).
Every time I come to New York, I just must visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Entrance is for donations and there is a suggested donation amount ($25) and that is what I usually pay. Every day there is a different colored pin given in exchange for donations and with that pin you can come back later the same day. I prefer to come first thing in the morning, browse the halls and come back in the afternoon again, as the museum is in the heart of the city – the Central Park. It also has a very nice souvenir shop.
You also must visit the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) at least once! It sometimes gets very crowded, as some very famous works are here, such as Van Gogh Starry Night, works of Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol and many more. Next time I come I will definitely visit also Guggenheim, where I have not been, and Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, the place where Enterprise shuttle is displayed. Nature fans will enjoy the American Museum of Natural History.
For a rainy day the Madame Tussauds will be fun as well. After 9/11 Empire State Building was the tallest building in the city, but last year and this year One World Trade Center and 432 Park Avenue have been completed, pushing it down to the third place, still, worth a visit and nice at sunset. If you like to take pictures, then take into consideration that no tripods will be allowed up on the platform and those will have to be left at the guard.
If you plan to visit several museums and attraction sites with an entrance fee, check if purchasing New York Pass would not save you a few dollars, in some places it also allows to skip lines.
Concerts, Shows and Sports Events
New York is the place where true global stars give concerts. Before you go, check if there are any interesting concerts in the city! I went to The XX and to Sarah Brightman concerts at the Radio City Hall. Tickets can get very pricey very fast, $200 and up, so buy in advance or hope for last minute tickets.
It definitely pays to visit the Opera House as well. Just to see the contrasts, if not for the world-famous performance. Old ladies with diamond necklaces taking their foil wrapped sandwiches from the purses and eating them during the intermissions. Just next to them students in jeans drinking champagne from plastic glasses. It can be hard to get a ticket to the opera, especially in the beginning of the season, so check when the tickets go to sale and try to see if any are sold right before the official launch – this is how I managed to get mine. Even season premiere tickets were available, but twenty minutes later all gone.
Broadway shows is another popular entertainment option in New York. If you have student card, be sure to take it with you, as you might get a discount! Last day 50% off tickets can also be purchased here or at the ticket booth.
Sports fans should definitely take a look at what games are in the city.
TV Show and Movie Tours
Many TV shows and movies take place in New York, and there are companies, such as On Location Tours, that offer special tours based on places seen on the screen. I really enjoyed my Gossip Girl tour, and my colleagues spoke well of the Sex & The City tour. The tour is by bus, full of other show fans, and it drives by the places seen and shows the relevant bit on the screen as well. In some places you can also get out and take a few pictures. Of course, one can also research the locations online and go and see them on foot. For some places you definitely can do it yourself, such as the big piano in FAO Schwarz store.
Apart from the famous FAO Schwarz, it’s always fun to go to M&M’s and Hershey’s, where you ca buy boxes and boxes of sweets. Speaking of sweet, my colleague bought an engagement ring at Tiffany’s in New York, and his girlfriend was very happy! Apple fans will enjoy the giant store at the Central Park, movie fans will like Warner Bros., Disney stores. You can buy clothing, make up in Bloomingdales, Macy’s and also go to the outlets outside of the city.
Another very interesting tour to take in New York is by helicopter, offered by various companies. Especially good if you are very lightweight, as the lightest person gets to sit next to the pilot! They will weight all of the passengers themselves. The tour takes roughly fifteen minutes and costs $100-200.
If you have a few hours free, visit the Statue of Liberty! It’s a national park, but the pass will not help to save some money in this case, as the fee is for the boat ride and not the park entrance. Adults pay $18, audioguide included (unfortunately, not too good). Crown visits have to be booked months in advance and cost $3 extra.
It’s easier to be in New York without a car, and if you must get somewhere on time, use the subway, as traffic jams can be insane. Subway is relatively cheap, $3 per ride, but it’s better to choose a 7 day card with unlimited number of rides, then you can ride even the small bits and save some time. More information on the subway here. Cabs are not expensive and accept cards. I think New York is the only city where I have not had any issues with cab drivers trying to cheat me.
New York has also a few very pretty metro stations. The closed station under the City Hall is visible through window if you take 6th to Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall, don’t get out at the last stop and ride through the loop. It’s not possible to see it in any other way. Opera- Lincoln Center also has nice stations. 14th Street/8th Avenue has more than 100 small bronze sculptures.
Hotels are not cheap in New York, so it’s worth to see if you could save some money by staying outside of Manhattan and getting there by subway.
Where to Eat
From famous brunches to expensive steak houses, New York has it all. If you can get something edible anywhere in the world, you are likely to be able to get it in New York. Very particular African, Asian cuisine, and typical burgers and cheesecakes. Some very nice diners too, such as Stardust Diner near Broadway where waiters sing to get tips, so they can improve their vocal skills. They tell stories of waiters who have managed to get on stage in Broadway.
Upper East Side brunches should be reserved in advance. Try a hotdog on the streets! It’s often that you can see people with hotdog in one hand and a Starbucks cup in the other. Tipping in restaurants is at least 10%, preferred 15%.
1-2 Days Trips Outside of New York
Even if you are not planning to rent a car, you can take a bus to Washington, Boston (5 hour drive), Philadelphia (half way to Washington). If you buy ticket in advance, Megabus ticket would only cost you $1! Regular ticket price one way is more like $20, train can be as high as $100 and more. If you still decide to rent a car, this article will help you to save a bit on that.
New York is beautiful all year around. The biggest crowds come in summer, so visit in spring, autumn or January (annual sale time!). Everyone will find something to like in this city and it never gets boring here. Comfortable shoes, small camera and enjoy exploring this wonderful city!