New York is rightfully at the top of most people’s wanderlists. It is an experience of a lifetime the very first time and every time after that. There’s so much to see and do you need to strategise how to take your first big bite of the Big Apple.
Start planning early to take advantage of good airfares. You might get a great deal to fly in October but as I found out it is also New York’s most popular month for tourists making accommodation in an already expensive city extra pricey. City restrictions on Airbnb and other home-sharing sites doesn’t leave many alternatives to hotels. An apartment hotel could be the best option.
After seven trips to New York, I’ve still only barely scratched the surface. Here are a few hints and tricks even if you’ve already tried it and want to go back for more. This is not an ultimate guide to New York. That doesn’t exist. Instead, here are few ways to save some dollars and try some of the best experiences that money can’t buy.
Buy a book. In 2018, you’d be surprised how a book might be one of the best places to start your New York odyssey. You can still get a copy of City Secrets: New York City by architect Robert Kahn – a subjective guide with contributions by architects, writers, with a liberal sprinkling of local celebrities. It’s filled with little gems and insights that only an insider knows.
Put yourself in the hands of the experts at nyc.go. This is THE place to learn everything about a trip to New York’s five boroughs. From museums to hotels, Broadway to shopping nyc.go gives you the lowdown.
nyc.go works with the seasons and special events from Broadway Week to Restaurant Week for great deals on shows or dining. NYC Must-See Week (it runs for a month from mid-January to mid-February) for 2-for-1 tickets to the top attractions and tours.
There are countless lists of the best pubs, free stuff, events and tours. It’s where I found the magnificent Oscar Wilde bar. Located at the former NYC Bureau of Prohibition at 45 West 27th St.
TIP: Go for the otherworldly interiors (including New York’s longest bar), order cocktails and take a selfie with Oscar himself.
The Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building are some of the world’s most recognizable sights. No matter how seasoned (or jaded) a traveller you might be I can guarantee they will take your breath away the first, second and maybe the third time.
The cheapest and most convenient way to see the sights is with CityPASS. Since 1997 over 17 million CityPASS ticket booklets have been sold for 12 US destinations.
New York CityPASS includes admission to the most unmissable New York City attractions from the Empire State Building to the Statue of Liberty and the Met. You have 9 days to use the passes giving you plenty of time for the must-sees.
Even if you’ve been before the icons are always worth another look.
TIP: Take a magical Circle Line Sightseeing Harbor Lights cruise. Viewing the world’s most famous skyline, the bridges and Lady Liberty glittering at night is unforgettable.
You can opt to pick up your ticket booklet or receive by email and now there’s the entirely mobile New York C3 for 3 attractions.
BIG APPLE GREETER
Big Apple Greeter was the first program of its kind in the US when launched in 1992. Lynn Brooks the founder wanted visitors to be unintimidated and get to know her New York: a great big small town with diverse neighbourhoods and friendly helpful New Yorkers.
Now, over three hundred volunteer Greeters introduce seven thousand visitors per year to over a hundred neighbourhoods.
Retired schoolteacher Barbara welcomed us in 1997. She showed us around some great spots for the kids and schooled us on the subway and the bus.
Greeters are locals who love their city and hope to share their knowledge to enhance your stay. They aren’t professional tour guides but will spend two to four hours showing you around as only a native New Yorker can. (Greeters meet up to six people including kids).
The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre is one of the breeding grounds for some of America’s most celebrated and talented writers and performers. The UCB4 – Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh produced ‘Upright Citizens Brigade’ for three seasons on Comedy Central from 1998 to 2000. They went on to open theatres in New York and LA.
As one of the country’s premier improv theatres and training centres, it has given us some of comedy’s biggest names including Donald Glover, Kate McKinnon, Ellie Kemper and Ed Helms. The theatres including one in Hell’s Kitchen offer high-quality comedy for as little as $7. We saw a hilarious improv night with some of the regulars from 30 Rock. Absolute bargain.
GETTING AROUND NEW YORK
Navigating Manhattan isn’t hard – always remember it’s a grid. (Except for downtown but that’s another story). Generally, the subway is the quickest way to get up or downtown. Buy a pay per ride MetroCard or a 7-day Unlimited Ride Pass. You can also use MetroCard on the Roosevelt Island Tram for one of the best views of the city. Note that the MTA has started phasing out the MetroCard in favour of a new electronic readers system.
E.B. White wrote that New Yorkers have “… the sense of belonging to something unique, cosmopolitan, mighty and unparalleled.” Truer words have never been written. Ask a New Yorker if you’re a little lost. They’re always willing to help and they still do love an Aussie accent.
Disclaimer: TML was hosted by CityPASS but all opinions expressed are our own.