There doesn’t seem much point writing a list of things you should do in New York, because there’s thousands out there from people who’ve been many more times than I have. And also there’s Trip Advisor and everything you need just a quick google search away, so I won’t bore you with ‘oh you should go to Central Park!’ Instead, here’s some things to keep in mind if it’s your first time:
1) Learn how the streets and avenues work on a map ASAP
Familiarise yourself with the streets and the avenues before you just roll into Manhattan starving. This might make us sound stupid, but as people who have navigated many cities without much trouble, we found NYC confusing even though it’s essentially a massive grid.
We skipped out of our hotel on day one all starry-eyed and jet-lagged and with plans to go in one general direction to get breakfast, but ended up getting really lost and walking in a circle until a kindly man in a sharp suit took pity and explained a few things. “What you need to know is that the avenues run north to south and the streets east to west. Then you’ll be fine.” We still got lost because obviously, but for some reason having an actual person tell us this, rather than just a massive map, made it slightly easier.
2) The subway is your friend
Don’t be a hero and walk everywhere. Also don’t be scared of getting lost or being squashed. It’s actually really easy to use, just get a subway map and follow the coloured lines. The only thing that might catch you out is the difference between ‘express’ and ‘local’ trains- always opt for the local as then you know it will go to your stop.
We didn’t go underground on day one because we wanted to see everything and soak up all the NY vibes but you can get so much more done if you use the subway, and save your feet from crippling blisters!
3) Get a Metro Card
You can get these at the airport, or from any station. If you’re in the city for a week you can get a week pass and it’ll be worth every penny. If not, just buy a Metro Card for $1 and top it up in the machines in stations. You can also share them, which when you’re used to oyster cards and tapping out seems too good to be true, but we shared one all week and just passed it back over the barriers as instructed by the lovely subway worker who helped us out.
4) walk the highline early or in the evening
I guess this is mainly for hot weather, but avoid it in the day. We both agreed we couldn’t have survived the whole thing in the humidity or sun, and you really need to walk all of it because it’s glorious. Early evening was perfect, as there were still patches of sun to lounge in, but there was also plenty of shade and relief from the immense humidity/heat/sun combo that June decided to cook up.
5) Take full advantage of the street vendors
The juices. Oh sweet heavenly, fruity, sugary juices. Cheaper than popping into a cafe or diner for coffee and also good for icy water, quick, cheap snacks and emergency ice creams.
6) The Rockerfeller Center is actually 19 buildings
We were looking for just one, to go to the Top of the Rock, but you actually want the NBC building for that. Just look for the glitzy NBC signs, or the flags and go in opposite those. You have to go to the basement to change your City Pass into a ticket FYI. There’s also a whole load of shops and food places in the basement floor. You could essentially live in this building and never ever leave. You can also access the subway from down there. You can also go to Bar 52 for dusky views across the city and fancy cocktails, just go armed with cash a-plenty.
7) If you want to go for an early morning walk, make it a Saturday
We got up really early a couple of times and headed out of the door pre-7am on one occasion, because jet lag is a bitch, but if you fancy seeing the city quiet and calm, go out early on Saturday. Even at 9am on Saturday morning we found the streets remarkably empty and actually quite tranquil, so the earlier you go, the emptier it’ll be. I know holidays aren’t meant for really early mornings, but watching a city come to life is worth the alarm clock.
8) Don’t leave it until the weekend to use an ATM
There aren’t that many out on the street and the banks don’t open on Saturday mornings generally. You most likely would find one eventually, but to save time just get money out in the week. Some of the drug stores have ATMs in too, which you can use at weekends, but unless the ATM is attributed to your bank, expect a hefty charge for your own money.
9) There are turtles in Cental Park
Okay, so this isn’t useful advice, but how did I not know this? There are turtles. Lots of turtle. Just chilling on rocks and going for swims and sunbathing on grass. They have my dream life. And my dream postcode.
10) Head for Spring Street for shopping
We found one-off boutiques here where you can buy shoes and dresses for $30 rather than bankrupt yourself or get overwhelmed in one of the many H&Ms. You’re also close to Little Italy for an immense carb-fest of a lunch with cold beer and much cheese.
11) Little Italy and China Town have seriously, seriously good street art
If you’re into that sort of thing, it’ll blow you away. So colourful, so big and just everywhere.
12) Don’t forget to make time to wonder through Brooklyn
Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Shake Shack by the water might be what you want for your photo diary, but walk into Brooklyn and just marvel at how glorious it is. The houses and the many small dogs and the many quiet, tree-lined streets with the best front doors in the business. Serious real estate lust.
13) You must, must, must go to Don’t Tell Mama
This is a bar/restaurant located on west 46th street, off of 8th Avenue and one of the best things we did in NYC. We went straight to the bar at about 10pm, where you get served by singers and treated to a sort of rolling musical comedy that gets more and more hilariously offensive as the night goes on. The bar staff sing, the waitresses throw jokes around and there’s a guy called Jerry on the piano cracking Kardashian jokes. We spent a small fortune on the delicious cocktails but it was worth every penny. I would like to gather all of my friends and transport them here and stay forever. You can book to guarantee a table or take your chance and just turn up- either way go here for sure.
Excuse me while I go weep into my photos and Google flights.