There’s so much more to New York than the top attractions, shows & shopping. We wanted to share some NYC tips so that you can personalise your trip for an even more memorable experience!
Manhattan Bridge from Dumbo
This iconic shot of the Manhattan Bridge is a regular feature on Instagram NYC feeds. If you line up your shot carefully, you can capture the Empire State Building in the distance, between the legs of the bridge. Head to Washington Street in Dumbo.
Big Apple Greeters
One of the highlights from many visitor’s city break in New York is an experience with a Big Apple Greeter. These volunteers take small groups of up to 6 people for a personal guided tour of their city. These tours are free, themes and locations vary. Many grateful visitors take a personal gift for their greeter, such as Harrods tea & biscuits as they have a no-tipping policy. You can make a donation online afterwards, although there is no obligation. You should book at least a month in advance, you have to be staying a minimum of 2 nights and within the 5 boroughs of NYC. Find out more here: https://bigapplegreeter.org/
Soothe your aching feet overnight by taking moisturising foot packs with you. These foot socks come with a variety of lotions and can normally be found for under £1 each at outlets such as Poundland, Superdrug etc.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
It can be difficult to secure a table at Tiffany’s for breakfast or afternoon tea. To be in with a chance of securing your preferred date and time at The Blue Box Cafe here’s what to do. Set up your card details in advance by signing up to Resy, so that there is no delay in making your booking as time is of the essence! Reservations open 30 days in advance at 9:00 in NYC, this is 14:00 UK time. On the dot of 9am go for it! Book here: www.tiffany.com
Avoid Time Square Characters
Do not interact or take photos of the characters found in Time Square, unless you don’t mind paying for the experience. Avoid walking through the blue squares marked out on the floor, as they have to stay within these lines. The same goes for the CD hustlers, don’t make eye contact and keep your hands in your pockets.
More hotels in NYC are now charging a resort fee, this additional cost is on the increase, although you can still find accommodation without. This charge generally ranging from $20-$40 per room, per night is on top of your accommodation reservation rate and paid locally.
The other annoying expense to be covered on check in is the hold on your card for incidentals. This is best covered with a credit card, rather than a debit card so funds are not drawn from your account, it can also be paid in cash. This money is refunded after check out, less any bar / restaurant bills, mini bar drinks, or room damages. This practice can be a shock for anyone travelling on a tight budget without a credit card.
Which Tall Building?
Everyone has their favourite and time of day to visit one of NYC’s iconic tall buildings for a panoramic cityscape view.
Top of the Rock (TOTR) tends to be the favourite, especially at sunset or night time as you can see the others lit up from that view point, although if going up during the day you see Central Park too. https://www.rockefellercenter.com/attractions/top-of-the-rock-observation-deck/
Empire State Building (ESB) offers a great daytime view of both sides of Manhattan Island. ESB is an Art Deco building and for those who aren’t good with heights there’s a solid barrier to waist height. https://www.esbnyc.com/
One World Observatory (OWO) tends to fall into third place, reason being the views are less interesting in comparison. The OWO lift shows a film which helps to distract those uncomfortable with lifts or heights. https://www.oneworldobservatory.com/
Edge is the sky deck on the 100th floor with a suspended glass floor, situated at Hudson Yards. The glass walls offer a clear view of the Manhattan skyline and Central Park on the horizon. https://www.hudsonyardsnewyork.com/discover/edge
The lift times are ESB 33 seconds, TOT 47 seconds, OWO 51 seconds & Edge 52 seconds! The heights are TOTR 260m, ESB 443m, OWO 541m & Edge 345m.
World’s Best 50 Bars
This annual list is compiled by 500 drinks international experts from around the world, 4 of NYC’s bars are listed in the top 20. Here’s where to find these ultimate drinking destinations in New York:
The NoMad (No 7 in 2018) situated in the mid-town hotel of the same name, this bar has been in the top 10 of the World’s Best 50 Bars for 3 consecutive years. Pick your spot in the Elephant Bar or Library inspired by NYC taverns and imbibe a classic cocktail with a twist.
Dante (No 9 in 2018) started life as a Greenwich Village Italian cafe. Over 100 years later, Dante has retained its classic Italian charm, with historical photos of patrons and the original owners displayed on the walls.
Attaboy (No 15 in 2018) on Eldridge St, is the place to go for a bespoke cocktail, if you can find a seat in this busy bar. There’s no menu, simply tell the bartender your preferences and they will fix your drink from their extensive repertoire. Open 5 years, Attaboy has attained a place in the World’s Best 50 Bars for each one of them.
Use the subway and local buses with a MetroCard. The standard fare is $2.75 for adults, children up to 44 inches tall ride free with a fare paying adult.
A 7 day Unlimited Ride MetroCard at $32 can be the most cost effect option for tourists. Activated on your first use, this card can be used on subway and local buses until midnight (AirTrain not included). Enter 99999# as zip code for non US addresses.
If you are staying for less time, or don’t plan to use public transport that much the Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard is worth looking at. These can be purchased with a denomination from $5.50 to $80 at a station booth or vending machine. Each time you pay over $5.50 on the card, you will receive an additional 5%. Eg. Pay $20 get $21 credit.
Be aware of your subway passes in NYC when travelling with luggage. You can’t use the normal turnstiles with suitcases, so you need to go through the gate. Don’t hand your pass over to anyone offering to help at the gate! The reason is that these people are scammers, you are presenting them with an opportunity to switch your pass for an invalid one, this could cost you $32 for a brand new unlimited 7 day pass.
For Sex and the City fans, you can find Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment at 66 Perry Street in the West Village. Furthermore, you can also see the exterior of the Friends sitcom apartment block at 90 Bedford Street.
The distinctive Ghostbuster’s firehouse can be found at Hook and Ladder 8. Situated at 14 North Moore Street in Lower Manhattan, look for their logo painted on the sidewalk.
The famous fake orgasm scene by Meg Ryan was filmed in Katz’s Delicatessen on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Order a pastrami sandwich and look up to find the actual table, there’s a sign “Where Harry Met Sally… Hope You Have What She Had. Enjoy!”
Buy a slice of New York pizza from Joe’s Pizza on 233 Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. This is where Peter Parker worked briefly as a pizza delivery guy in Spider-Man 2.
Visit Carlo’s Bakery at 95 Washington Street in Hoboken, where the American reality TV series Cake Boss featured art cakes created by Buddy Valastro and family. You can find some great views of Manhattan from the waterfront in this location too.
Newark Airport Public Transport
The AirTrain is $13 each from Newark Airport. Change at Newark Liberty station ( free service 2-4 mins away) for Penn station which takes around 30 minutes, then use the subway to your hotel. The trains are usually standing room only and with double decks, there are lifts and escalators at the stations.
There’s also the Newark Airport Express bus service from Newark Airport which stops at the Port Authority Bus Terminal (41st St), Bryant Park(W 42 St & 5 Av) and Grand Central (101 Park Ave) at $18 one way or $31 return, per adult. The bus can be busy from Manhattan to the airport. Our tip is to board at the first stop in Grand Central at peak times. You can pay on the day, or book in advance online.
JFK Airport Public Transport
The cheapest way to transfer from JFK airport in NYC is via the AirTrain to Jamaica Street $5. Next take the subway to your hotel $2.75 for a single journey (or see MetroCard above for multi trip options). Alternatively take the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) from Jamaica Street to the Grand Central Madison Station.
Budget approx $70 on arrival to take a New York City yellow cab from JFK to a Manhattan hotel. Normal traffic is 40-60 minutes, longer at weekday rush hours 06:00-09:00 and 16:00-19:00. The cost of $70 should cover the flat fee, tolls, rush hour fee and tip.
NYC Express Bus service from JFK is $19 per adult 1 way to Time Square. Or book a return at $35 to Grand Central / Port Authority Bus Terminal.
Harbor Lights Cruise
If you’re wondering which boat trip to take, this one is really popular and easy on the feet after a day of sightseeing. The Harbor Lights Cruise departs from pier 83 in Midtown at 19:00. The standard adult fare is $40, children aged 3-12 are $33. The cruise highlights include views of the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, High Line, One World Trade Center, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Dumbo, South Street Seaport, Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge & Williamsburg Bridge. For more comfortable seating and a better view upgrade to premier seating if available. Book direct with Circle-Line Sightseeing Cruises who have been operating in NYC for 70 years.
The Mills at Jersey Gardens is an indoor mall in Elizabeth, New Jersey with 200 outlets. Take the New Jersey Transit bus 111 or 115 from the Port Authority Bus Terminal for $14 return.
Woodbury Common Premium Outlets is an outdoor shopping centre with 240 outlets. There’s a frequent daily bus service to Woodbury Common from the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Alternatively the MTA Metro – North Railroad offers a weekend train service. Some attraction passes include this shopping trip.
Empire Outlets is less than a five minute walk from the free Staten Island Ferry service. Including brands such as Levis, Gap, Nike & Guess. Open 10am to 9pm everyday. Take the free ferry from Whitehall Terminal in downtown Manhattan to St. George Terminal. When exiting the St. George Terminal, turn right and follow signs for North Shore Esplanade.
If you don’t want to leave Manhattan, Century 21 have 2 outlet stores in NYC (Broadway & 5 W 19th St) plus 1 store at the City Point Shopping Center in Brooklyn, where discounted bargains can be found.
Remember in the USA you need to ask for the restroom, rather than the toilet as they find this request rude. If you need to go in a hurry whilst exploring NYC, the easiest way to find an open loo is in a hotel lobby, according to the doormen the hotel can’t refuse if they have a public restroom. Fast food outlets and coffee shops can have a code on the restroom door or ask for your receipt before giving access. Bryant Park restrooms are definitely worth visiting if you get the chance, they have classical music playing, art displayed, fresh flowers and a full time attendant. The public restrooms in Madison Square Park cost 25 cents for 15 minutes. Use transportation hubs such as Grand Central and Penn Station. Department stores are also easy to access without any pressure of making a purchase, try Macy’s, Saks, Bergdorf Goldman and the Plaza Food Hall.
Plan your trip with a navigation app such as Ulmon. It’s free to download to your device and you can use it offline once in NYC if you don’t have data roaming. Pin your places of interest including sightseeing, restaurants and shops that you want to visit. Once you arrive in NYC, connect with WiFi then download an offline version of your map.
Smorgasburg is the name given to outdoor food events held from April to October in Brooklyn. Choose from Friday nights at the Vice Night Market (6pm onwards), Saturdays in Williamsburg at the East River State Park, and Sundays in Prospect Park on Breeze Hill.
If visiting in the winter months, there’s an indoor event Smorgasburg & Brooklyn Flea on Saturdays and Sundays at the Atlantic Center (11am – 8pm Sat & 11am – 5pm Sun).
Take the Astoria route on the NYC Ferry from Pier 11 near Wall Street for a 30 minute boat ride to Roosevelt Island with views of Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. Return to the Upper East Side of Manhattan via the aerial Tramway. Tram payment is via MTA MetroCards only, they run from the Tramway Plaza on Roosevelt Island to 2nd Avenue, between 59th Street and 60th Street.
Television Live Audience
Register with 1iota for free tickets to be part of the live audience for these television shows in New York City:
Always Late With Katie Nolan
Late Night with Seth Meyers
GMA – Strahan & Sara
LIVE with Kelly & Ryan
Shows are listed for the month ahead, it can take a couple of weeks to receive a response, so apply in advance of departure. There’s no catch, the tickets are free, the deal is you smile and clap! Simply create your 1iota account, submit ticket request to be on the waitlist, is you are selected reserve your ticket asap, or it could be allocated to someone else.
Tom Otterness Bronze Statues
There are collections of Tom Otterness’s bronze sculptures scattered across NYC. The Real World in Rockefeller Park (Battery Park) is a delightful mix of human and animal characters on the face of it, look closer and you will find references to the financial world. The Marriage of Real Estate and Money quirky sculptures can be found in the East River on Roosevelt Island. Life Underground at the 14th St./Eighth Ave. station has cartoon style figures and whimsical characters in abundance, but also in unexpected places at the intersection of the A/C/E/L lines. Look out for the shinier ones such as the rat eating a coin, or the moneybag head which commuters rub for luck, plus the alligator in a suit crawling out of the sewer.
It can be quite hard to find toy shops in NYC for your children to buy a souvenir of their trip, or take a present back as a treat for those left behind. FAO Schwarz in the Rockefeller Plaza is the largest toy shop in New York City, founded in 1862. There’s a Disney store on Broadway in Times Square. Kidding Around is an educational learning store in Grand Central Terminal. Camp is a family experience store in the Flatiron district on 5th Ave. American Girl for dolls and accessories at the Rockefeller Plaza. Five Below on 5th Ave is great for older children with lots of ideas priced under $5. Target and Kmart stores also have toy sections.
Vessel is an art project situated at Hudson Yards on the far west side of Manhattan which was inaugurated on the 15th March 2019. Access is free, via timed tickets to manage the flow of visitors. This 150 foot tall structure was designed by Thomas Heatherwick and is a series of 154 interconnected stairways. The ticket states the hour in which you can access the vessel and you can book up to two weeks in advance. Described as a one mile vertical climbing experience, there is also an elevator available for visitors with limited mobility. Open from 10:00 to 21:00 your visit isn’t restricted to the hour specified, once inside you can stay as long as you want. https://www.hudsonyardsnewyork.com/discover/vessel
Free Entry Admissions
Some of the museums and attractions in NYC offer free admission at certain times each week.
9/11 Memorial and Museum after 17:00, start queuing at 16:00 first come first served basis, up to 4 free tickets per person and last admission 2 hours before closing.
Bronx Zoo every all day Wednesday
New York Botanical Gardens all day every Wednesday
New York Aquarium Wednesday afternoons from 15:00 to last entry.
Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) 16:00-20:00.
Rubin Museum 18:00-22:00 happy hour 18:00-19:00 with DJ and 2 for 1 drink offer on selected wine & beers.
Brooklyn Botanical Gardens 08:00-12:00 March to November (weekdays are free December to February)
Whitney Museum of American Art 19:00-21:30
New York Botanical Gardens 09:00-10:00
Speakeasy / Hidden Bars
The term Speakeasy dates back to Prohibition 1920-1932 when unlicensed bars were hidden from street view. There’s a good selection of hidden bars dotted around NYC, here’s some tips on how to find them!
Angel’s Share, 8 Stuyvesant St – inside the Kirin Japanese Restaurant there’s an unmarked door upstairs.
Bathtub Gin, 132 Ninth Ave – inside the Stone Street Coffee shop, there’s a door at the back.
Le Boudoir, 135 Atlantic Ave – look for Chez Moi French Restaurant, there’s a staircase behind a false bookshelf.
Blind Barber, 339 East 10th St – inside the barber shop, slide the door no6.
Campbell Apartment – hidden in plain sight within Grand Central Terminal.
Gibson & Luce, 19 West 31st St – situated inside the Hotel Life, you need a passcode for entry!
Raines Law Room, 48 West 17th St – ring the doorbell for access and pull your chain for bar service.
The Back Room, 102 Norfold St – look for an old toy shop, then stairs leading to a back alley.
The Garret, 293 Bleecker St – inside Five Guys, find the hidden staircase at the back.
Chocolate & Candy
If you’re looking to satisfy a sweet tooth or take some local candy back home, then the legendary Economy Candy is the place. Described as “Willy Wonka’s Dream” this candy store dates back to 1937. Situated on 108 Rivington Street in the Lower East Side (by Katz’s Deli). There are over 2,000 items on sale, including those elusive candy bars you can’t find elsewhere.
NYC’s famous Diamond District can be found on West 47th Street, situated between 5th and 6th Avenue. There are around 4,000 jewellery shops & dealers situated in this area! However, it’s not a place for the innocent shopper, looking to bag a bargain as strong sales tactics are employed, and tourists are easy prey to pass off poor quality goods. Do your research, ask for diamonds with GIA or AGS grading reports, don’t pay cash and check their refund policy before purchasing. If these tactics are too intimidating, head to Tiffany’s or Zales instead.
Boating Lake Central Park
Renting a rowing boat in Central Park is fabulous value for money at just $15 per hour. The cost is for 1 hour and includes up to 4 people. Payable in cash only, with a $20 cash deposit. This activity is open April to November from 10am to sunset, depending on the weather. Head to the Loeb Boathouse, they have 100 boats available for a fun way to see NYC from a different angle.
Statue of Liberty
If you’re fit and would like a special view of NYC, book a crown ticket when visiting the Statue of Liberty National Monument. These are sold out months in advance through the Statue Cruises website, tickets cost $21.50 for adults aged 13-61, and $12 for children aged 4-12. There is no lift, the climb is 162 narrow steps from the pedestal to the crown. Any children must be over 4 feet tall and able to make the climb themselves, as they can’t be carried. A maximum of 4 tickets can be purchased at the same time, and only one reservation allowed, within any 6 months.
Discounted Broadway Show Tickets
There are 2 ways to secure last minute tickets for a Broadway show in NYC. Choose from 4 online companies offering a digital lottery system with 24 hours of the show: Broadway Direct, Lucky Seat, Telecharge & TodayTix. More than one person can enter, for a higher rate of success. If you are selected, you have 60 minutes to respond and pay for your tickets, the average price is between $30-$50 per ticket, which are collected from that theatre’s box office before the show.
The other way is to queue in person either at the Rush ticket kiosks under the red steps in Times Square. Arrive from 8am for matinee tickets or from 2pm for evening performances prices, approx price $49. Alternatively go direct to the theatre box office for your preferred show, as some theatres offer late availability tickets at discounted prices, arrive before they open at 10am or again from 2-3 hours before the performance starts.
Free Kayaking Hudson River
The Downtown Boathouse in Tribeca at Pier 26 is open to the public for a free kayaking experience. The season is usually from mid May to mid October and due to weather permitting. Free public kayaking is on weekends and holidays from 9am to 16:30.
If you are only going to walk one of the bridges in NYC, it’s got to be Brooklyn and heading in the direction towards Manhattan for the best views. If you want to do both, take a circular walk. Cross over Manhattan to capture the Dumbo shot of ESB, walk 100m and on go up the steps on the left to the grassy river bank to capture the iconic Brooklyn Bridge/Manhattan skyline. Walk back over Brooklyn bridge. There’s water taxis or the metro to help minimise the distance for shorter walks.
There are three museums dedicated to 9/11 in NYC. The National 9/11 Memorial and Museum is the “official” memorial, situated on the site of the Twin Towers. The reflecting pools are free to visit. The museum is $24 per adult, apart from Tuesday evenings which is free of charge. Download the 9/11 smartphone app for free before you visit, so that you can listen to the audio guide on your own headphones, rather than renting a set. The 9/11 Tribute Center is close by and run by the September 11th Families’ Association. This one is smaller and much more personal being guided by survivors or rescue workers. Entry is $15 per adult. There is a third museum dedicated to 9/11 known as the Ground Zero Museum Workshop. This small one room museum is based in Chelsea and features candid images captured by Marlon Suson, the official photographer from the Uniformed Firefighters Association, in the aftermath of 9/11. Entry $25 per adult.
The Oculus is an extraordinary building situated at the World Trade Center. It’s a shopping mall (almost 100 shops), plaza and train station (13 subway lines). On the 11th September the roof of the Oculus opens to allow a wedge of light shining through in memory of that fateful day. The shape of the Oculus is a dove to symbolise peace. It’s definitely worth a visit when exploring the financial district or 9/11 museums.
30 Seconds Of Fame In Time Square
Pay $20 at the Disney store in Time Square to have 30 seconds of fame! Your photo image will appear in neon lights with a message “Greetings from Disney Store Time Square” above the shop on their advertising space. You can pick a time slot to appear, just speak to a member of staff to arrange.
Swinging Seats With A View
Head to Pier 35 on the East River to find four, porch style, swinging seats with a waterfront view. This elevated position is a great spot to enjoy the view of Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridges.
This free floating park opened 21st May 2021. A project 5 years in the making and costing $260 million was donated to the city by billionaire Barry Diller. Situated at 13th St within the 4 mile long Hudson River Park (Pier 55). The park was designed by Thomas Heatherwick, who also designed the Hudson Yards Vessel. It was inspired by a leaf floating on the water and is supported by 132 concrete tulips. Open daily from 6am to 1am, free online reservations are required for visits between midday and 8pm through littleisland.org.
Visit Nathan’s Famous at Coney Island, on a Thursday after 5pm to buy a hotdog for 5 cents if you buy one at full cost. This is the original outlet and an American tradition since 1916.
Summit @ One Vanderbilt
Summit at the One Vanderbilt is due to open in late October 2021. An all glass elevator called Ascent will take riders up to 1,210 feet above Madison Avenue & Grand Central Terminal. If that’s too much, Levitation offers fully transparent glass sky boxes that jut out from the building hanging 1,063 feet above Midtown Manhattan. Their outdoor terrace bar Après labelled “highest urban outdoor alpine meadow in the world” promises to be a spectacular place for a drink with a view. summitone
Central Park Waterfalls
Head to the Ravine area of Central Park to wander amongst a series of mini waterfalls in the stream valley section of the North Woods. Enter the park from the West Side at the Glen Span Arch. Take the Loch Walking Path which winds through the Ravine to Harlem Meer.
Café Wha is the best place for live music in NYC. Established in the heart of Greenwich Village since 1959, open Wednesday to Saturday. A former hangout of Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix, their house band is highly recommended.
Winnie the Pooh
Pooh has been living at the New York City Library since 1987 along with his best friends Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga and Tigger. This collection is part of the Polonsky Exhibition of the New York Public Library Treasures. Free admission with timed tickets available online.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our NYC tips. We’ll continue to add to this article as we discover more gems to share with you. We also have an article with tips for foodies in NYC.
Do get in touch if you’d like a personal quote for a trip to NYC, we can tailor make an itinerary to suite you for a city break or multi city trip.