Travel

10 Things You Must Know Before Visiting New York City

Planning to travel to New York? Here are 10 Insider tips that not everyone might tell you before visiting the Big Apple.

Awesome Tips for Traveling to New York City on a Budget - Free things to do in NYC

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Whenever anyone asks me what they should see in New York, I’m almost always stumped for an answer. I mean besides telling the obvious things, how can I sum up my answer? There are so many things that you can do in New York City that if I start talking, I wouldn’t know when to stop.

There are a million things that you can do in the city. After all, it’s the city that never sleeps. But there are also a few things that you should absolutely know before visiting New York.

Here are a few things that not everyone might tell you before you visit the city –

1. Nothing beats Free

You can do a ton of activities for Free in the City. Here are just a few things that you can do without spending a dime –

Catch a Free Ferry to Watch Lady Liberty 

The Staten Island Ferry is a Free commuter ferry that travels back and forth from the Whitehall Terminal at the tip of Manhattan to the St. George Terminal on Staten Island. You can catch a stunning view of the city as well as the Statue of Liberty while on the Ferry.

This is a great alternative especially if you do not wish to buy tickets and go to Ellis Island to see the Statue of Liberty.

You can go to Museums for Free on certain days

Here is a list of museums where you can pay what you wish for or that are free on certain days.

Apart from this, popular places like Central Park, Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center, taking a walk on the Brooklyn Bridge & the Highline are all free activities.

2. Buy Tickets Online

If you’re planning to go up the Rockefeller center, Empire State Building, catch a Broadway show or pose with your favorite stars in Madame Tussauds, you will need to get tickets. The most practical approach is to buy your tickets online as the crowds can be overwhelming and you can save time by not having to stand in line every time.

3. You don’t need a car to roam around the City

Like most big cities, New York also has a lot of traffic and taking a car to get to different locations will only slow you down (& can also frustrate you)

True story – I’ve been in situations when a distance that should actually take you just 5-7 minutes to go, has taken 20-25 minutes just because of the insane traffic! Which brings me to my next point –

4. Public Transit is King

When you think of New York, you might vision yourself hailing a yellow cab. After all, that’s what we have seen in many movies. But New York traffic can really leave you exhausted; not to mention the cab fare can add up and get expensive in the long run.

new york traffic

Subway is your best bet and the 7 Day Metro Pass card will give you the best bang for your buck. And sometimes, Uber and Lyft are better options since most of the time, they are cheaper than regular cabs.

5. Subway can be confusing

Speaking of traveling by Subway, be prepared to spend a little time figuring out which train goes where. Although I have traveled by Subway several times, it can still be confusing for me.

Figuring out local and express trains, downtown and uptown can take some time.

Carrying a Map or downloading the NY Subway app on your phone can be really helpful.

6. Parking can be tricky

If you absolutely need to rent a car, keep in mind that parking can be tricky. New York is pretty strict with its laws.

Once we parked in a parking zone for a mere 15 minutes, not realizing that they had a Work in Progress sign somewhere on the road. When we got back, we saw a ticket for a whopping $180! Of course, this has happened only once with us (Thank God) but what I’m trying to say is, check parking signs carefully.

Tip: There are many free apps that can tell you where you can get the nearest parking garage and the cost associated with it. Parking Panda is one of my favorite ones. You can even reserve a parking spot with it.

If you are going out for a significant amount of time, Parking Garages is a safe choice. It’s worth the money and will save you from a potential headache.

Brooklyn Bridge, New York City

7. The City View from Brooklyn Bridge is something that you should not miss

 

Many people who are on a tight schedule do not go to Brooklyn and only roam in Manhattan (rookie mistake). Not only does Brooklyn have a ton of amazing food options, you can also catch a splendid view of the City while you take a stroll on the bridge.

It’s true that the view from atop the Empire State Building or the Rockefeller Center is beautiful but it does come with a cost. So why miss this when it’s completely free?

8. If you’re on a Budget, consider staying outside Manhattan.

New York is definitely not cheap; and travel, accommodation, food and other things can make your trip quite expensive.

If you’re on a tight budget and do not want to shell out money on expensive hotels, consider staying in cities like Hoboken, Jersey City or Union City. Especially if you are traveling from Newark Airport.

These cities although in New Jersey, are a mere 15-20 minutes away from New York City (the Path Train or the NJTransit Bus has amazing frequency) Plus you’ll get to see the breathtaking NYC Skyline from New Jersey as well.

9. You will have to Walk. A LOT.

Trust me when I say this – wear your most comfortable shoes while doing sightseeing. Touring different places can tire your feet out and while you won’t realize it when you are actually on your feet, you will definitely feel it by the end of the day.

Also if you are traveling with kids or with elders, take regular breaks so that they don’t get exhausted.

10. You will get to experience Diverse Cultures

One of the best parts about New York City is that it’s a melting pot of cultures. You will come across people from all over the world in the city in a very short span of time and by the end of your trip leave you wanting for more.

So tell me, what are your tips to visiting New York City?

More Resources that you might enjoy –

 

XOXO

Smiling Notes

32 Comments

  • dancingpalmtrees

    September 10, 2017

    I was born and raised in New York. I would advise tourists to take Lyft or Uber as much as possible since the subway system often breaks down, certain trains do not run on the weekends and is generally falling apart. Also buy a Metro Card. The buses and subways do not accept paper money. Go for the taxi cab or walk. Plan your trips before you leave your hotel and be careful. Sadly the city is full of crackpots and there is a large homeless population. Do not wander around parks and places that you are not familiar with after dark. New York is wonderful but can be dangerous. Do not be trusting. I notice many people pay no attention to who and what is around them. Be aware of your surroundings at all times.

    • smilingnotes

      September 10, 2017

      These are some excellent points that you have made, Deborah. My husband takes the subway everyday and you’re absolutely right that it often breaks down or there are delays. Uber or Lyft is actually the best for tourists. I should add that point as well.
      And yes, one should always watch out, especially in unfamiliar places.

  • Erika Kind

    September 10, 2017

    I love NYC and for sure we often decided to walk. Only once we took a yellow cab because my daughter wasn’t well. This is the second time I see that there is a free fairy to Liberty Island. I will keep this in mind for my next trip!

    • smilingnotes

      September 11, 2017

      Yes, the free ferry is a great option if you don’t want to go all the way to Liberty island. It will give you a splendid view of the city as well as Lady Liberty. the only catch is it does not go super close to the Statue of Liberty.

      • Erika Kind

        September 11, 2017

        So what! But it is a great option anyway!!

  • anroworld

    September 11, 2017

    Such great post! In case I ever have a chance to visit this fascinating city I will use your advices and will invite you for a cup of tea at some of local lovely places! You are absolutely fantastic, dear Shamira!

    • smilingnotes

      September 14, 2017

      Aww you are the sweetest, Ann. I would really love to hang out with you and go visit beautiful places with you 🙂

  • Freda Dias

    September 11, 2017

    Great post, Shamira! I didn’t know about the free ferry. We stayed for a mere 2 days, but if we happen to visit NYC next time, I’ll sure keep these tips in mind. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • smilingnotes

      September 11, 2017

      Thank you, Freda. I’m sure you will explore more the next time you visit NYC again ?

  • Lifestylebites3

    September 12, 2017

    This is one of the cities on bucket list and I hope it will come to reality pretty soon

  • Great tips here – I’ll be sure to come back to this one day. Never been to the USA yet. Sarah #ExplorerKids

  • talkingmums1

    September 13, 2017

    It’s been a while since I went to NYC, I loved it and really want to go again. Yes, we walked lots and lots but wish we’d gone to the Brooklyn bridge. Great tips x
    #explorerkids

    • smilingnotes

      September 13, 2017

      You should definitely visit Brooklyn the next time you visit New York ?

  • rawsonjl

    September 13, 2017

    Oh yes! Tons of walking. I have been just a couple of times and what I remember most is the sore feet. So worth it though.

    • smilingnotes

      September 13, 2017

      Hahaa I can understand what you mean by sore feet ?But yes it’s worth it.

  • Rhonda Sittig

    September 14, 2017

    What a fun post!! You’re making me want to look for airplane tickets to NY! I agree about the walking and public transit from our past stays there. But what a city– there is so so much to see!! Do you live in NY?? (If so, I’m a little bit jealous!). xo

    • smilingnotes

      September 14, 2017

      Haha thanks, Rhonda. You’re a sweetheart. And no, I don’t stay in New York but very close to NY (I stay in New Jersey) ?

      • Rhonda Sittig

        September 16, 2017

        Sounds perfect– close enough to enjoy New York, but maybe living in a place that’s a bit calmer! fun post!! xo

        • smilingnotes

          September 16, 2017

          Yes rightly said. Away from the city’s hustle bustle but close enough to enjoy it ?

  • dearmummyblog

    September 15, 2017

    Fab tips and totally agree with all the walking. My folks did a carzy about of walking over Thanksgiving in the city watching the parade and walking around central park. Definitely invest in comfy walking shoes! #ExplorerKids

    • smilingnotes

      September 15, 2017

      I’m sure it must have been totally amazing watching the parade and walking in Central Park. I have only been to the Thanksgiving parade twice – it’s so fun but can be exhausting as well Hahaa ? Thank you so much for your kind comment.

  • su

    September 16, 2017

    Fantastic tips, I bet cab fare really does get expensive. I would love to visit one day.

    Thank you for taking part in #explorerkids linky

    • smilingnotes

      September 19, 2017

      Thank you so much for hosting #explorerkids linky 🙂

  • terrihugg

    October 7, 2017

    I’m ashamed to say that I’ve been going to NYC for years and have never made it to the Brooklyn Bridge. That’s horrible considering I’m just in NJ.

    • smilingnotes

      October 7, 2017

      Oh believe me, I myself went to the Brooklyn Bridge just a few years back when a couple of friends were visiting us and they wanted to tour around the city. But now that I know how truly beautiful it is, I really feel one should not miss it. So you’re not the only one hahaa 😀

  • Mary

    October 8, 2017

    Just got here a week ago, you know I’m not gonna miss my opportunity to take a trip on the ferry. Thanks for all the great tips. Might I add one more thing? That awful smell that comes up from the ducts on the sidewalks. It must be the air from the subway. And there is a whole other city underground!

    • smilingnotes

      October 8, 2017

      That’s an excellent point you made, Mary. You are absolutely right about it and I think over time, one just starts getting used to it lol.

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