As one of the most-highly visited cities on the planet, New York offers something for just about everyone. As a life-long New Yorker, I’m amazed at how excited people get when they see the City–for the first time or for the tenth time.
This is the great metropolis of September 11th, and nearly a decade after that day, New York is very much open to the world. Please allow me to offer ten dos and don’ts on how to enjoy a visit to this truly unique place.
L.R.’s List (In No Particular Order):
1) Do Get a MetroCard. The Metropolitan Transit Authority runs the most extensive urban subway and bus system in the world. Try an Unlimited-Ride MetroCard to get the most traveling bang for your buck. There’s no extra charge for all the unusual characters you will happen to meet
2) Don’t Get a Car-except on weekends or holidays. There’s a reason most New Yorkers either don’t drive or ditch their cars from Monday to Friday. Workday traffic can be horrendous and parking is even worse. If you must drive, reserve it for the off days when traffic is much more tolerable.
3) Shop at All the Amazing Stores in the City. As home to the original Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and Saks Fifth Avenue, New York may be the greatest shopping center anywhere. There are also the great designer stores along Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side or the great trendy boutiques downtown in SoHo (South of Houston Street) and Chelsea. Even if you don’t spend a penny, you know it costs nothing to window shop.
4) Don’t Buy Anything Strange or Expensive from a Street Vendor. This is not to slander our great street vendors; some great stuff is to be had from them, but you have to know it’s ‘buyer beware’ out there. If someone is selling you an iPhone for next to nothing, it’s probably stolen or junk. Watch out for $50 Louis Vuitton bags too.
5) Feel Free to Wander and Get Lost. Traveling is all about searching those nooks and crannies not found in the guidebooks. You will find the most interesting neighborhoods and sights along the side streets. Ask people for directions. If one person is not nice, ask another. It pays to ask.
6) Don’t Wander Alone in a Strange Neighborhood at Night. This is common sense, right, but I can’t tell you how many (usually inebriated people) I see staggering along the streets after dark. In fairness, crime is at historic lows, but it never goes away. If you are going to go out, go with a buddy and know where you’re staying. Or at least have cab fare to get back.
7) Mangia-Eat Your Heart Out! New York is the home of the foodies. Both the finest and strangest restaurants are here. Check out great guides like Zagat’s. Many places are affordable and offer early-bird and other specials (just like everywhere else!) But save up for at least one of the great restaurants, like Le Bernadin. The experience will prove to be money well spent.
8) Don’t Eat at Chain Restaurants or Tourist Traps. If you’ve taken the trouble to have a New York City experience, don’t spoil it by eating somewhere you could find anywhere. Sure, grab a fries and a coke once in a while, but savor the international cuisines that are everywhere. And avoid the high-priced mediocre joints like the Roxy Delicatessen in Times Square. You’re paying what they ask for because they know you’re a tourist (aka a sucker).
9) Do Take in a Show. Some of the best musicals ever like The Lion King and Wicked are now playing, and there are real discounts via the TKTS service and other programs. Also check out amazing Off-Broadway plays and other shows-you might meet a star in the making. Publications such as Time Out New York, The Village Voice and other local papers have great listings for anything (and I mean anything) you wish to see.
10) Don’t Go to the Statue of Liberty, but see it from the Staten Island Ferry. The most overrated tourist experience is going to see the inside of the Statue of Liberty. The boat ride there is not bad, but you will climb a mass of stairs just to see a cheesy view, and then you have to go right back down again.
Having said that, I doubt there is a better deal than the Staten Island Ferry (it’s friggin’ free). And you will have a lovely ride along New York Bay. Just try to avoid the rush hour to avoid crowds, watch out for bad weather, and remember to get off on the return trip, unless you’re planning to visit Staten Island.
If you like what you read, look for me on Facebook. I’m happy to lend some more advice. Until later, happy travels.