Just before Christmas I recently travelled to New York for the first time- and it was AMAZING! New York was number one on my travel bucket list and it didn't disappoint. But I realised that, despite consuming endless movies and TV shows about New York (hello Gossip Girl), I didn't really know much from a tourist point of view. So I thought I would share what I learned with you guys so you are prepared when you finally get there!
So here some of my New York travel tips and favourite places...
New York Travel Tips #1: Finding your way around
In the movies you always hear people saying things like, "Meet me on the corner of West 45th and Seventh", or, "Below 51st St", and it sounds really confusing. However, finding your way around New York is so easy that all cities should be laid out the way it is. Basically, it's just a massive grid. The streets running one way are all numbered, and the cross streets are avenues. 5th Avenue is considered the middle of New York City and therefore, all streets on the west side of 5th Avenue are labeled 'West..." (for example West 52nd st) and to the east, they are all labeled 'East..." (such as East 52nd St). This makes it so easy to find where you are going because all the streets are in order, so just count down as you walk!
Broadway is the exception, it runs all the way from Columbus Circle, up near Central Park on West 59th, all the way down to East 17th, and it runs on an angle, out of line with the rest of the grid.
New York Travel Tips #2: Everyone is Selling Something
New York is the city of hustle, everyone around the tourist areas is trying to sell you something. Those guys handing you a CD? They'll ask for a donation in a few seconds. The guys that try and chat to you? They are selling too! At every site seeing destination, there will be men with signs trying to sign you up to go on their cruise, tour bus, pedal bike etc. It is endless. But ignore them if you know what you want to do- they aren't selling tickets to what you want.
A perfect example is in two places. Firstly- The Statue Of Liberty cruises. There are a number of cruise liners running boats around The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, However, there is only one cruise that stops at both. Statue Cruises is the company you want to go with, and they leave from Battery Park. If you want to go up into the crown of the statue it's important you book your pass in advance.
Now, these sellers will tell you things like, it's a three-hour wait, it's booked out and so on, because they need to sell their cruises, which only go past the statue. So ignore them and proceed straight to the Battery Park terminal. Be aware of giving yourself time because security is just like airport security.
Second is the horse and cart rides at Central Park. Outside The Plaza Hotel, there are men with signs trying to coerce you to go on their pedal powered cart around Central Park. Their signs look like they are advertising all the options so don't be tricked into ending up with the bike chariot rather than a horse and cart if that is what you want. You can only get the horse and carts by going right up to them. The average ride is around 20 minutes. However, if you aren't fussed then the bikes do go for longer.
New York Travel Tips #3: Stay Right in the City
Any money you save by staying further out you'll spend on transport so stay right in the city, then you can walk everywhere. At worst it's a $10 cab fair pretty much anywhere. We stayed on 7th Avenue, right near Madison Square Gardens, and we could get everywhere we needed to go.
New York Travel Tips #4: Don't Buy an Attractions Pass
So we bought a New York attractions pass, but really they are a waste of time. Yes, the discounts look good but, because New York is so busy and big, you'll be lucky to tick off two major attractions in one day. Given that these passes are around $100 for the day it's not worth it at all.
The lines are really long for a lot of things so be prepared and don't try and schedule too many things in a day. We did the Empire State Building at night and we got straight in. During the day you can wait up to three hours!
New York Travel Tips #5: The Hop On/Hop Off Bus Isn't Always Worth It
We got a one day pass for one for the Big Bus but in peak tourist times those buses are so full they don't pick you up. Several times we were left waiting in 0-degree weather because bus after bus was full. It's a great way if you need to see everything in a short amount of time, but otherwise, you are better off just walking or taking the subway.
A Few Things I really Recommend...
Here are a few things I loved doing and highly recommend you do while you are there:
Top of the Rock
This is the top of the NBC studios at Rockefeller Centre, and in many ways, it's better that the Empire State Building. You get a view straight down Central Park and across New York, including the Empire State Building. Also, the lines aren't nearly so long!
The Gossip Girl/ TV Locations Tour
I'm Gossip Girl obsessed so that was my favourite, but you can also go on a general location tour and see places like the Friends apartment, the real Soup Nazi's kitchen and loads more. I did both tours with On Location Tours and they were amazing. (If you're a Gossip Girl fan too, the tour only runs on weekends but it's amazing!)
We didn't stop at the Statue of Liberty but we did get off at Ellis Island because that was one of my must do things in New York. Ellis Island is where they processed all migrants arriving in the US, from 1892 until 1954. It has the most amazing history and it has been turned into a museum. It also has a beautiful view over New York and of the Statue of Liberty. Remember that you can only get there via Statue Cruises, and it closes at 5:30pm so if you take the last cruise (like we did) you won't get a lot of time.
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
Walking the Brooklyn Bridge is a must do. It's a very easy walk (I'm totally not a walker!) of about 1.6km and it takes you from Brooklyn to Manhattan, ending up not too far from Wall St and the 911 memorial. The view is spectacular and so is the bridge. The path is large and it is pram friendly.
The Plaza Hotel
Is there anyone who doesn't love the Plaza Hotel? It's one of the oldest hotels in New York and it's beautiful. These days many of the hotel rooms have been turned into private apartments (I'm saving for one now) but it's still magical. If you want to go to the Palm Court make sure you book and don't just rock up because they won't let you in.
You can't go to New York without strolling around Central Park. It's massive so don't get lost. There is so much to see though. We took the horse and cart and then walked around. We also visited Central Park Zoo. It's very cheap and worth a visit. In the winter you can ice skate on the rink they set up as well.
Well, hopefully, thse travel tips help if you are planning a trip to New York. Make sure you let me know how you go!