So while I’m having a lazy morning I thought I’d share some of the tips I picked up in New York. WHAT AN AMAZING CITY. The vibe, it’s something else, and it was an eye opener as my first overseas solo travel experience! I stayed at the Hostelling International hostel (Upper West Side) but when I was joined by family we moved to Chelsea. While the hostel was good and close to a subway station I’d say solo travellers would be better downtown in Manhattan because it’s busier. Otherwise you can head to Brooklyn where Williamsburg will remind you a lot of Sydney’s Inner West – but a lot more packed in! Here are some of my tips:
*Starbucks are the public toilets of New York. They’re on every corner and you don’t have to buy anything. A great tour guide told me this – it’s really important info!!
*I loved the Met & Natural History Museum but don’t even try and do/see everything, I heard MOMA is really good too, so your pick! The general admission fees are suggested only… you can choose to pay less and they ask you this! At the Natural History Museum I paid extra though to see some of the special exhibitions. I saw Dark Universe which I LOVED, the theatre is a globe, it’s pitch black and the top of the globe is the screen! It’s about space and the size of space. The globe also acts as the largest sphere in a series that shows you the comparative size of planetary bodies – very fascinating! Also let’s not forget getting to meet an actual T-Rex skeleton!
*There is shops EVERYWHERE, best I found was Macy’s (I’m so in love. It takes up an entire block. Go to the mezzanine and show your passport for a 10% off card), also shopping at bottom of Broadway (from about Franklin Street and up towards times square direction) and 34th Street on the Empire State Building Block. Times Square has shops but it’s super busy, and all the same shops are elsewhere. Stores like Sephora & H&M are everywhere. The supermarkets (like Gristedes)/pharmacies are worth checking out too – OPI and Essie nail polish are under $10. The Pharmacy’s (CVS/Duane Reade/Walgreens) are like priceline/7-11 hybrids + beer. Century 21 was ok, there’s one at the Lincoln Centre (66th Street & Broadway) and one in the finance district.
*We did the Grayline bus tour… lots of people suggested doing this to get our grounding and see where everything is then decide where you want to go. http://www.grayline.com/tours/new-york-city/new-york-city-hop-on-hop-off-tours-all-loops-nyc-double-decker-tour-48-hours-5870_5/ I have mixed feelings… I went on twice and the first time our guide, Johnny was really good, he told us so much interesting information/history about each area. The second guy was an Andy Warhol/David Spade mix look alike who told us he gatecrashes NYC parties all week.
*Central Park has it’s good bits, I like the statues, I wouldn’t count it as a highlight but I did go on the carousel and see squirrels (this was a highlight for me). Also saw people playing baseball and didn’t go into the zoo (there’s a fee – cheap I know!) but walked past.
* Food I liked – Le Pain Quotidien (I went a couple of times to the one near the Flatiron Building – which is a beautiful area too!), Pret a Manger, Friedman’s Lunch @ Chelsea Market. There is a lot of really crap food but also a lot of really nice fresh food.
*There are cheaper souvenirs in Chinatown, which is also right next to Little Italy. Not highlights for me though, but I didn’t get to explore much.
*My favourite areas: Chelsea Market http://www.chelseamarket.com/ and the West Village/MeatPacking district (cobble stone streets, maybe a bit more Paddington). Then there is the East Village (apparently this is where the cheap trendy eats & drinks are), it’s a bit more Newtown. I found just walking around it’s the kind of city you can just look at! I liked 9th Avenue downtown more and walking down the Bowery was good. For drinks and late night apparently the East/West Villages are the best. I checked out Brooklyn (I caught the subway from Union Square) but only Williamsburg, it’s very inner west/newtowny too but more cramped in. Then there is SoHo and NoHo (south of Houston St & North of Houston St!) and Bleeker Street, but the shops there are a bit more expensive.
*Magnolia Bakery cupcakes, OMG. I bought the cookbook they are that impressive.
*Don’t order an Iced Coffee, it’s normal coffee with ice in it. Unless you’re into that.
*Staten Island Ferry is free and you get a good view of the Lady! If you do though, everyone automatically goes up the stairs, don’t – go downstairs, there’s an open area that’s not crowded. Also Battery city park you can see her and it’s near wall street (I didn’t get to the bull) and there is a Century 21 down that end and also the 9/11 memorial… I found that to be really touching and very confronting.
*The subway is really easy. You can get a weekly metro pass which is unlimited.
*Avenues run Nth/Sth and streets run east to west. They’re mostly one way, even streets run east and odd streets run west, essentially making every corner a compass. Downtown doesn’t have the number system and so you should probably have a map.
*I turned my roaming on but my mobile data off and my voicemail off and just relied on wifi. There is quite a bit of free wifi.
*There is probably more Irish pubs in Manhattan than there are in Ireland.
*Taxis are really cheap.
*Grand Central Terminal is pretty grand.
I hope these are helpful!
Have you picked up any good New York tips you can share?