About Time X New York: A Mini Guide to NYCBy Angelica Malin
Brimming with fashion, art, architecture, landmark buildings, culinary wonders and vast green spaces, it is no wonder, with New York City’s sheer abundance of cultural offerings, that it is so present in our collective consciousness: Even without ever having visited, many people already have a very well formed image in their minds.
New York is one of the world’s’ most popular travel destinations, having received nearly 62 million visitors in 2017 alone! With the average length of a New York visit being a mere four days, there’s not a lot of time to discover all that the city has to offer. For a first or even second time visitor it can be stressful and daunting trying to plan and fit as much as possible.
Enter Eric, New York local and font of knowledge for ‘must-see’ attractions, shows, parks, museums, restaurants, sports games, tours and nightlife. With good planning and help from Eric and NewYork.co.uk, you can get the most out of everything the Big Apple has to offer.
When to go?
The best time of year to travel to New York is either in May/June or September/October, avoiding the blazing sun or freezing cold, go when the weather is mild and perfect for sightseeing. Bare in mind, however that flights and hotels tend to be more expensive due to the popularity of these months.
Travelling between January and March (the winter months) is definitely more economical, but the New York cold is no joke. The thermometer can easily reach -20 degrees Celsius and the odd blizzard is not uncommon, which makes sightseeing a little more difficult. It’s not impossible to enjoy the city in the winter, but it does require careful planning, lots of thermals and some flexibility in case your plans need to change last-minute.
Along with the actual seasons, certain events or sports seasons may factor into the timing of your trip. In order to be in the city to see your favourite band or sports team play, check this New York calendar for events and dates that interest you before you book.
Where to stay?
New York is made up of five boroughs: The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and, Manhattan; the most well-known island and home to a huge concentration of famous tourist attractions. If you are visiting for the first time, definitely stay in Manhattan – it will be much easier to get around and way less stressful. Midtown Manhattan, the ‘city centre’, is one of the most convenient areas for first-time visitors, close to attractions, shops, Central Park and subway connections. However there are also great options in other neighbourhoods of the island.
And yes, accommodation in New York is one of the most expensive when compared to the rest of the United States, so don’t be put off by the room rates – a hotel considered expensive in other American cities may be average for NYC.
Avoid staying in New Jersey at all costs! It is a popular destination among tourists who want to save money. However New Jersey is another state, and most of the time, the effort to commute between states is not compensated by the low accommodation costs and is more trouble than it’s worth. Are you finding Manhattan hotels too expensive? Look for hotels in Brooklyn, near the east coast, or in Long Island City, Queens. These areas usually offer cheaper room rates and offer easy access to Manhattan by subway within 15-30 minutes.
The best item of clothing that you can put in your suitcase is a comfortable pair of shoes. Exploring New York on foot is a delight; you’ll be amazed by the number of little bars, cafes, shops and local restaurants you can find. The subway, although it can be confusing at first, is indispensable and will get you to every nook and cranny you need to go. Buy an Unlimited or a Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard and venture out amongst the locals; it’s also a great way to people watch and see the eccentric personalities you’ll only find in New York. But do avoid staring too much, New Yorkers hate it! (well, anyone would hate it).
Local busses are an option, but they tend to be slow, and of course the traditional yellow taxis are always on hand when you’re tired of walking or working out which subway to take. Going by taxi is an adventure in itself, you never know what kind of a ride you’ll get – but taxi drivers do know the city like the palm of their hand and can take you anywhere. Remember to tip and only go in the yellow cabs; there are many illegal taxi drivers out there, avoid them at all costs. Services like Uber and Lyft are also available, however avoid using them to get from the airport to your hotel, as they are not allowed to pick up at the airports.
In order to always know (or have a better idea of) where you are and to see the city and subway maps on your mobile phone, even without the internet, be sure to check out the free Eric’s New York app, available on iOS here and for Android click here. Find attractions and book tickets directly, the app also displays free wifi hotspots, restaurants, parks and public toilets to ensure you never get caught short.
Bucket list: the main attractions
There’s no escaping them: if you’ve never been to New York, checking some of the most famous attractions off your bucket list is pretty much a must. Of course the city offers numerous options, but let’s focus on the basics for a classic New York tour:
Currently, there are three observatories in New York: The Empire State Building and the Top of the Rock, both located in the heart of the city and the One World Observatory in Lower Manhattan. Visiting all three is overkill and could feel repetitive. I prefer the view from the Top of the Rock – after all, you can see the Empire State! No matter what you choose, it is worth buying all observatory tickets in advance to avoid long queues.
Loved by tourists and hated by locals, seeing Times Square at least once in life is indispensable. Climb the red staircase to admire the thousands of bright lights on the billboards around you – it is even more impressive at night than during the day. And don’t forget the countless street performers: maybe you’ll find the famous Naked Cowboy!
As you are in the area, why not stay and see one of the Broadway’s incredible musicals. The productions are spectacular, and there is an option for all tastes and pockets. Buying Broadway musical tickets online in advance is a good idea so you can guarantee your seats and don’t have to stress or waste time in queues.
A visit to Central Park can not be left off of your to do list, especially between Spring and Autumn. Central Park is immense, with several points of interest, such as the “Imagine” memorial, dedicated to John Lennon, Bethesda Terrace and even a zoo. Buy a bagel, grab a coffee and head to Central Park to savor the moment as you watch people passing by. If you want to see more, it is worth renting a bike to really explore the park.
For skyline views, nice walks and relaxing vibe, Brooklyn Bridge Park is another of New York’s urban green spaces definitely worth a visit. Right under the Brooklyn Bridge the park offers perfect vistas of Downtown Manhattan, perfect for any photo album. Grab a drink or pizza, watch the boats pass by and walk back to Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge.
Go with the flow
Anyone planning to visit Lady Liberty should travel to Lower Manhattan. A round trip ferry ride to Liberty Island usually takes a few hours. Don’t have much time or patience? Take a boat tour that passes by the island instead. Tours last between one and two hours, plus you will see other interesting spots from the water, such as the Brooklyn bridge and the UN buildings. Another option is to take the NYC Ferry. These boats are part of the public transport system and, especially in the summer months, are a nice contrast to the subway.
Newyork.co.uk is Eric’s online guide to the Big Apple. Find local advice about how to get around, where to stay, what to do and much more. You can also book transfers and tickets to shows, sports games, discount passes, tours and attractions. Along with providing a site full of comprehensive information, Eric is available at firstname.lastname@example.org to answer any questions you may have. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/newyork.