Welcome to the fantastical world of super secret, total amazing, NYC tips from a real live, local New Yorker (No really! I swear, I’m totally legit. I’ve lived in New York City for well over twenty years. Sadly, I can’t give you any more detail than that since it might actually reveal my actual age! The HORROR!)
Before we swan dive into these 25 amazing NYC tips, let me just reassure you that we’ve all been there.
You visit a foreign city and then bam, you do something that is totally normal at home, and you think nothing of it.
A split second later:
You see some women sobbing in the street, desperately covering her child’s eyes, in. a vain attempt to shield her child from your blasphemous behavior.
And that’s when it hits you.
Maybe you really should have read some super handy, local, New York City tips.
You can read guidebooks all you want, but most publications just won’t explain the subtle nuances of local culture.
These books fail to warn you about all the mistakes that a lot of first time visitors make. And trust me, no one wants to be THAT guy.
Being the kind, loving, caring, and considerate New Yorker that I am (if you have any more positive affirmations for me, please do not hestiate to share them with me in the comments below), I’ve created a list of handy, NYC tips that will be uber-helpful to any first time visitor to the Big Apple; tips that will help you navigate the not-so-mean streets of New York City like well, a real New Yorker.
So, without further ado, 25 travel tips for traveling to New York City!
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1. Do NOT get into an empty subway car (NYC travel tips on roids).
Do not enter, do not pass Go, and do not collect $200, and yes, that is an order! It’s a trick. If there is an empty New York City subway car, then there is a reason.
It’s because the air-conditioning is broken or because there is some icky bodily fluid lurking within.
Either way, you don’t want to find out. So, do yourself a favor and slowly back away from the subway car.
New York may be known for many things, but being the cleanest city in the world is not one of them.
Avoid totally empty subway cars at all costs (probably the most important tip in this entire New York City travel guide).
While we’re on the subject of riding the NYC subway, don’t be “THAT GUY” who blocks the turnstiles, the stairways, or the entrance to the train.
Do this and you will quickly become the MOST hated person in the entire city.
Whatever you do, do NOT lean your whole body against any of the poles inside the subway since that type of behavior is BEYOND rude and will definitely earn you more than one death stare.
***Also, if you are traveling to the suburbs via train, DO NOT take the last train. This is commonly known as the “drunk train” and is filled with annoying, drunken hooligans who are projectile vomiting everywhere. It’s like the Exorcist come to life in there. So, avoid this heinous, suburban phenomenon at all costs.***
2. Do NOT wait for the pedestrian crossing sign to say “Walk”.
Yeah, no. We don’t do that here (this is my special little New York City travel advisory for you).
We look down the street and cross when we think we’re not gonna get squished by oncoming traffic (and if you hit us we’ll sue you for all you’re worth).
New Yorkers are busy people and we don’t really have time to wait around for a pedestrian sign to tell us that it’s okay to cross the street.
This also means that you can’t cross the street just because a pedestrian sign says it’s safe. Drivers in New York are crazy and treat driving laws more like irrelevant suggestions.
That”s why, one of my most important NYC tips is:
If you don’t want to get maimed by a rogue yellow cab, you’ll want to ALWAYS look both ways before you cross the street.
And because you’re such a busy New Yorker:
While impatiently waiting to cross the street, you should probably stand about three feet in the street so that you can cross at the FIRST, opportune moment.
3. Do NOT stop in the middle of the sidewalk for any reason whatsoeverHow I feel in New York City when I’m behind a slow walker. That’s why this is definitely one of my fave NYC tips.
This is the worst thing you can do to New Yorkers.
I can guarantee that if you do this, New Yorkers will hate you forever. This is actually the singular reason why most New Yorkers avoid Times Square like the plague and treat it like the worst New York City tourist trap ever.
Why is impeding the flow of foot traffic such a big deal?
Well, all New Yorkers are in a rush, all the time. And anyone who gets in our way is either openly scorned or is abruptly pushed out of the way.
We are a fast-paced city that is full of stressed out, high strung individuals who have copious amounts of caffeine running through their veins. So don’t mess with us as we speed walk down the sidewalk (BIG New York City tourist mistake).
***If you do decide to walk slowly, then for the love of God and all that is holy, please keep to the right side of the sidewalk and do NOT zig zag around in an iPhone induced stupor. Because if you’re walking that slowly, New Yorkers really just want to quickly and easily pass you. And staying on the right side of the sidewalk allows us to quickly and easily do so.**
4. Do NOT make small talk with locals.
We are in a rush and don’t really care where you are going or how excited you are to visit New York for the first time.
We’re not about to sit down and give you any insider NYC tips and tricks either.
Talk to someone who cares about those things, like a tour operator or the concierge at your mildly affordable New York City hotel (This isn’t all New Yorkers but you get the idea).
When we say, “how are you?”, we don’t really care how you are. It’s just a greeting to which the only acceptable reply is, “Fine thanks. How are you?”
This will all happen while we are both walking rapidly, so just keep it moving. The answer doesn’t even matter because it’s all just a courtesy anyway.
5. Get Outside of Manhattan (One of my more important NYC tips)
Manhattan is the most expensive and overcrowded of all the boroughs in New York City.
It is essential that you embrace you’re inner Lewis and Clark (I’m a US History nerd so if you’re not American you may not get my references but just know that I’m hilarious ) and go on a little adventure.
Arthur Avenue has the ABSOLUTE best Italian food in the city, and that’s ALL THE WAY in the Bronx.
if you travel outside Manhattan,, the prices are cheaper, people are nicer, and the food is even better (avoid the New York City tour bus while you’re at it).
So get your booty to Brooklyn…ASAP
6. Try Not to Eat at a chain restaurant while you’re here (Gag me with a spoon)
New York City is known, the world over, for having some of the best food in the entire world.
It’s practically criminal if you come here and order a sandwich from Subway, or eat pasta from Olive Garden.
You came all this way, so why not take advantage of all the awesome food we have to offer?
And I’m not just talking about Michelin star rated restaurants either.
Some of my favorite restaurants in New York City are little holes in the wall like Mac Bar or Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles. Super delicious cheap eats in New York City, with entrees, that are less than $10.
7. While You’re at it, Don’t Eat Anywhere in Times Square Either
Times Square is so expensive, with restaurants there are just giant tourist traps (which doesn’t even factor in the insane lines to get into some of these God awful cesspools of heinous food).
Seriously, Times Square is proably one of the worst New York City tourist attractions out there.
Which is why it’s not all that surpsiring that all of the restaurants here cater to tourists who cannot navigate the city and basically eat here because they really have no idea where ese to go.
So, if this sounds like you and you really have no idea where to eat:
Then just ask a local or the hotel concierge for some stellar New York City restaurant recommendations.
***If you’re really not sure where to eat around Times Square, then just walk five minutes down the street to the cross section of Hells Kitchen and 9th Avenue, where you’ll find an array of fantastic, local eateries where you can enjoy a REAL NY bagel and devour a REAL NY deli sandwich.***
8. Don’t Tell a taxi driver where you’re going before you enter the cab.
Never tell a taxi driver where you’re going BEFORE you enter a cab.
If you do, then they can say no.
Just get in the cab and tell the driver where to go once he or she starts driving. This way, they have to take you wherever you want to go.
How do I know this?
Well, this is the only way that I can get a cab in the city to drive me ALL the way to White Plains (it’s in the suburbs and no cab driver or uber driver ever wants to schlep all the way out there).
It literally takes like 3 bridges, 2 toll booths, and a whole lot of traffic to drive to my house from the city. But this plan never fails and I always get home safe and sound.
***If you really want to be like a local New Yorker, you’ll skip the yellow cab altogether and catch an Uber instead. Trust me, an UBER is always WAY cheaper than a yellow cab could ever hope to be!***
9. NEVER Pay Full price for Broadway shows.
Why would you EVER pay full price for a Broadway show?
If want to see something like Hamilton, that’s a different story.
I don’t have an off-shore bank account at my disposal so I ‘m going to wait to see that show until the theater looks more like a ghost town and less like a Lady Gaga concert.
10. Don’t Skip Museums Just Because They’re Expensive.
I know you go to some museums, like MOMA, see the price of admission and think, “Does that price mean I get to take some of the art home with me?”
I get it.
Museums in New York City can be insanely expensive, especially if you’re on a tight budget.
But the Good News is:
Some of the best museums in New York City offer free days or evenings, so HINT, HINT, check out my Backpacker’s guide to NYC for more detailed information about when and where free admission times are
Add it Gets Better!
A ton of the greatest museums in New York City offer pay what you wish admission fees, like the Guggenheim on Saturday nights.
Just in case you really don’t feel like clicking through to another post, here is a SUPER handy list of the FREE DAYS, or nights, that some of NYC’s most popular museums offer!
MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) – FREE Fridays between 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm. It will be crowded though so gird your loins!
Brooklyn Musem – FREE the first Saturday of every month from 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm, with pay what you wish admission at any other time of the week.
The National Museum of the American Museum – A HIGHLY underrated museum that is ALWAYS FREE!
The Jewish Museum – FREE every Saturday!
The Frick Collection (Another criminally underrated museum in NYC) – You can pay what you wish on Wednesdays betwen 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm. Admission is also FRR on the first Friday of every month, between 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm.
The Neue Galerie – FREE on the first Friday of every month from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm.
The 9/11 Memorial Museum – FREE every Tuesday from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm.
The New Museum – FREE every Thursday from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.
The Brooklyn Botanic Gardens – FREE every Tuesday and Saturday from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm.
The Morgran Library – FREE every Friday from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.
The Cooper Hewitt Museum – Beginning January 1, pay-what-you-wish hours will be every Tuesday from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm.
The Guggenheim – Pay-what-you-wish hours every Saturday evening from 5:00 pm to 8:00 p.m.
The Bronx Zoo – Pay-what-you-wish-admission every Wednesday of the month.
Whitney Museum of American Art – Pay-what-you-wish admission every Friday from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm.
New York Botanical Gardens – Grounds admission is FREE every Wednesday and Saturday from 9:00 am to 10:00 am (NOTE: This does not include admission to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Special Exhibitions, the Rock Garden, or the Tram Tour.
***PLEASE NOTE: The MET (AKA Metropolitan Museum of Art) used to be Pay-What-You-Wish. But, that is sadly, no longer the case. That option is now only available to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut residents who present a valid form of ID at the time of their visit.***
11. Try NOT to Eat in Little Italy.
I’m sorry but eating in Little Italy is so not worth it.
Just go to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx instead.
The food is way better, the lines are shorter, and the prices are much cheaper because you’re not in Manhattan.
A ton of people think the Bronx is just one giant gang battlefield, so they stay away. But the Bronx can be quite lovely, especially if you dine on Arthur Avenue.
If you only listen to one piece of advice I give, this should be it. I really wish I could tell you otherwise but the Little Italy of your dreams does not exist.
***Besides Lombardi’s, which is a pretty good pizza place. Also, stop by Little Italy for some epic street art. ***
12. There’s No Need to Spend Money on a Statue of Liberty Tour.
O-M-G no (Sorry, my inner millennial is shining through).
But really, you could feed a small third world country with the price of admission to the Statue of Liberty Tour.
Once you arrive at Liberty Island there really isn’t all that much to do.
You wander around, take a bunch of selfies, and cry because you just took out a second mortgage on your house to see Lady Liberty, up close and personal.
So instead of annihilating your credit score:
Hop on the Staten Island Ferry. It’s one of the great free things to do in New York City, operates 24 hours a day, and gives you spectacular views of the Statue of Liberty and the surrounding, New York Harbor.
Definitely one of the best ways to see the Statue of Liberty in NYC.
***The Sea Glass Carousel and the Irish Hunger Memorial are also near Battery Park and well worth a visit.***
***I am NOT a fan of the Empire State Building, but many people consider this a must-see New York City attraction. Therefore, if the Empire State Building is on your New York City bucket list then get an Empire State Building skip the line ticket.***
13. Don’t Wear an “I love NY” shirt.Wearing an “I Love New York” shirt is basically like telling all of New York that you’re a Tourist.
Okay, I know we all love New York City and want to say it loud and say it proud. And you can do that, just not with an “I love New York” shirt.
By wearing this shirt:
You are broadcasting to the entire city that you are indeed a total tourist and that everyone should feel free to swindle you at will.
So do yourself a favor:
And wear the shirt once you get home from your trip to New York City.
Because Scammers See This Shirt and Think:
“pillage me because I’m not from the area and am totally susceptible to any tricks that will u use to separate me from my money”.
14. Giving money to beggars or aspiring rappers.
This happens to me all the time. And the ones outside the MET are the worst and made me part of their show. YUCK.
Anyway, inevitably you get on the subway and some shaggy looking dude shuffles on over and sings about how his dog ran away, his sister got eaten by a tiger, his mom dated his brother, and about how his home got swept away by a tsunami.
After this aforementioned heart wrenching musical rendition:
He asks for a small donation to help him buy a sandwich (if you give him your social security number and access to your kid’s college fund that would be even better).
This is all probably a lie.
Sure, there are people out there who are struggling to get by, but nine times out of ten, these people are at work, not singing on the Subway.
These jokers are probably con artists who prey upon tourists by tugging at their heartstrings.
Don’t fall for it.
Plus, the more money you give these people, the more you encourage them to continue this charade of dishonesty (and if you’re a resident of the area, it gets annoying after about the 500th time).
Do us all a public service and just say no to scammers because I have been on a single subway ride and have had to deal with at least five different scammers doing the same exact thing.
15. You can Still Attend a Sporting Event or Concert, Even If It’s Sold Out.
Come on guys, this is the age of computers.
Who would fail to attend a sporting event or concert just because it’s “sold out”?
What sold out really means is:
Entrepreneurs have actually bought all the event tickets and are now reselling them on sites like Stub Hub so that they can turn a profit.
If you really want to attend a sold-out show or game, just use this thing called the internet and all your dreams will come true (okay, maybe not all of them but you get the idea).
Want to get great tickets for less?
Wait to buy your tickets until about two hours before the event. You’ll l see ticket prices drop dramatically as sellers try and unload their unsold tickets. One of my favorite “how to save money in New York City” tips..
16. Always Bring a Sweatshirt with you to NYC in the Summer.
It’s hot out so you thought you wouldn’t need a winter coat in New York. Aww, that’s so sweet and 100% not true.
Here, we waste electricity like it’s our job and like the Earth doesn’t matter.
Yup. Stores actually crank up the air conditioning in the summer so that it feels like the outer reaches of Siberia in most indoor spaces.
Any seasoned New Yorker knows that you always need a warm sweater, fleece, or jacket during the summer in New York City.
Fail to Heed This Advice?
Then you’ll end up hugging random strangers to absorb their body heat. So just avoid this painfully awkward situation and pack warm clothes.
17. Do NOT use an ATM in a store.
Do you want your identity stolen by a twelve-year-old girl in Nigeria or by an unemployed fifty-year-old man in Arkansas named Butch?
What do you mean that doesn’t sound like a good time?
Live a little!
Okay, no one wants to have their identity stolen but that can happen when you use these independent ATM machines in convenience stores.
So don’t use them.
Because if identity theft doesn’t get you, then the inflated $10 money withdrawal fee sure will. Stick with reputable bank ATMs if you really need some fast cash.
18. Do NOT take a either cab to or from the airport.
This is the worst and most expensive way to get to and from the airport.
There are seriously about 50 other easier and much cheaper ways to get there, so slowly back away from the cab. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
I made this mistake once and ended up paying like $100 to get from JFK to my house.
I now depend on the kindness go strangers or public transportation when looking for the fastest way to get to New York City airports (LaGuardia, JFK, and Newark are some of the closest airports to New York City).
Newark is not in New York at all. Newark is in New Jersey and the airport that is FARTHEST away from NYC. And LaGuardia? Yeah, that’s just a big heapin’ pile of awful that you wanna stay away from).
19. You CANNOT refer to New York City as New York City.
All respectable New Yorkers refer to New York City as, “The City”.
This is the one and only city that really matters.
There is no need to say which city you are referring to because obviously, it could only be New York City (Are there even any other cities in the world? LoL.).
So if you want to blend in:
Just say that you’re visiting the city and we’ll know what you’re talking about and maybe even accept you as one of our own (Welcome to the inner circle! You’ll love it here. Now move out of my way. I’m late for work!).
20. You MUST Fold Your Pizza Down the Middle
First of all:
New York style pizza is the only acceptable form of pizza to eat in New York City. EVER. Sorry Chicago but to us, deep dish is not actual pizza.
Since pizza slices in New York are thin and wide, you MUST eat your pizza by folding it down the center and eating from the cheesy end, towards the crust. You’ll know you’re eating your pizza correctly when the cheesy end droops a bit and you see grease spilling out from the crust.
Eat your pizza with a fork and knife and we will shun you forever.
21. North and South do NOT Exist
East and West?
New Yorkers love East and West since we have the Eastside of Central Park and the Westside of Central Park.
But North and South?
Hell no! Those words don’t exist in New York City. Instead, if you’re heading North you’re going Uptown (towards the Bronx) and if you’re heading South, you’re going downtown (towards Brooklyn).
And that’s it.
Use the words North and South and you’ll lose all credibility among any respectable New Yorker. That and all the subway signs say uptown or downtown, so remember this and you won’t get lost.
22. Do Take a Stroll Down Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village!
Who know that there were so many amazing NYC eateries nestled along one New York City street?
But it is 100% true!
Just take a walk down Bleecker Street and you’ll find almost any food that you could ever possibly want, from pizza to traditional Italian rice balls (trust me, they are WAY better than they sound) to divinely inspired doughnuts.
What, not sure where to start first?
That’s awesome because luckily for you, I am a total glutton and know NYC’s Bleeker Street extremely well,
If you wanna do your very own, mini, impromptu food tour, then stop by Amy’s Breads (a total paradise of baked goods for all my fellow CARB lovers out there), Faicco’s Italian Specialties (Open since 1900, this place is the undisputed champ when it comes to authentic, italian sandwiches), Hummus Place (A hole in the wall shop with great hummus and falafels), Joe’s Pizza (the celebrity pics on the walls tell you that this place is the REAL DEAL), John’s of Bleecker, Magnolia Bakery (Get the Banana Pudding), Murray;s Cheese (Get the Grilled Cheese), Tacombi (A great little taco spot with a super grammable interior), and The Doughnut Project (try either the PB & J donut or the bacon maple bar donut for my meat loving friends),
***OR, you can always just make your life 10,000 times easier and book a super awesome, Greenwich Village food tour instead!***
23.When Using Public Transportation, Have your Metrocard at the Ready and Know How to Use It!
Not gonna lie:
I’ve lived in NYC for well over twenty years and am still pretty sucktastic when it comes to swiping my Metrocard.
I always manage to swipe my Metrocard just a bit too quickly and then end up having my access TOTALLY denied.
New Yorkers are an impatient people to say the LEAST.
You should always have your Metrocard out and at the ready, before you board ANY form of public transportation.
And if the worst should happen and your Metrocard just WON’T swipe through:
Step aside and let other people pass until you’re ready to try again (If this happens to you, try swiping your card through more slowly than you think you need to).
Because trust me:
There really is nothing worse than getting stuck behind someone who just doesn’t know how to swipe their metrocard, when you desperately NEED to get to that ultra-impiortant job interview.
The poles inside the subway trains are a total cesspool of bacteria but hold onto them anyway because if you don’t, you WILL fall over.
24. Use Skip-the-Line Tickets If You’re Planning a Short Trip to NYC
If you’re planning a short visit to the city, like a 4 day NYC itinerary:
Then say hello to your new best friend, Skip-the-Line-Tickets,
Not only will skip-the-line-tickets save you a TON of time, but they’re also usually about the same price as, or just a few dollars more than, general admission tickets to some of NYC’s top attractions.
Why not save yourself monumental amounts of time, waiitng in line, by purchasing either a MET-skip-the-line-ticket or the MOMA-skip-the-line-ticket since both tickets are the SAME EXACT pirce as a ticket bought at the museum?
And while many other NYC attractions will charge you a small fee for skip-the-line-tickets:
Nine times out of ten, the price increase is totally worth it since these are places that you’ll probably only see once, maybe twice, in your life time (I mean, look at King Kong. He saw the Empire State Building a grand total of once and probably would have done much better if he had just bought a skip-the-line-ticket).
Here are some other, top NYC destinations, with insnaely long wait times that you MIGHT want to think about purchasing skip-the-line-tickets for.
The 9/11 Memorial Museum – Okay, so while you can totally can visit the 9/11 Memorial for free, I would also reccomend visiting the museum as well. Now is it heart breaking and an experience that you really have to mentally prepare for? Of course! But, a visit to this extraordinary museum will give you a much better understanding of what happened in New York City on that fateful day and how it really impacted NYC as a whole. So, if this museum is at all of interest to you, then definitely save time and book your skip-the-line, 9/11 Museum tickets in advance!
One World Observatory at The World trade Center – Since this is the tallest building in the ENTIRE Western Hemisphere, I’m sure you’ll pribably want to grab some tickets to go to the top. But, the problem is that so will everyone else and their borther’s, sister’s cousin. So, do yourself a HUGE favor and save massive amounts of time by purchasing a One World Observatory skip-the-line ticket in advance!
The Empire State Building – Honestly, I’m not a HUGE fan of going to the top of the Empire State Building. I mean, not only are the lines to get in long and the ticket prices steep (like second morgage on your house level steep), but since you’re standing on top of the Empire State Building, you can’t really get an epic, panoramic shot of this amazing piece of NYC architecture, now can you? But, if you absolutely HAVE to visit the top of the Empire State Building (And I get it since this is one of the most iconic buildings in all of NYC), then definitely opt for the skip-the-line Empire State Building because well, DUH, you know why.
Top of the Rock – The Top of the Rock is without a doubt, one of my all time FAVE, NYC photography spots since you can get a killer view of the Empire State Building from here! However, the lines here can be excruciatingly long so, you know the drill, get the skip-the-line-ticket for the Top of the Rock and gleefully whizz past all those fools waiting in line. And if you can, do try and get the flexible entrance ticket since the weather in NYC is nototriously finnicky and you want to time your visit for when views will be at their most epic. With this type of ticket though, you will have to stop by the day before your planned visit and reserve your preferred time slot.
Statue of Liberty: If you’re not gonna take the Staten Island Ferry and NEED to get an up close and personal look at Lady Liberty, then do yourself a favor and get a priority ticket to the Statue of Liberty!
25. NYC is BEYOND Dirty, So Be Prepared!
If this is the part of my NYC tips post where you wait for me to gently reassure that NYC is not in fact as gross as people say, sorry but that ain’t gonna happen.
Because in truth:
NYC is just straight up, GROSS and as a result, you will find garbage, rats, and bacteria everywhere.
When you visit NYC, always be prepared and carry some anti-bacterial hand gel with you at all times since grabbing the handrail in the subway is basically the equivalent of holding hands with almost every New Yorker in the city (that’s an exaggeration but you know what I mean).
Do yourself an epic favor and do NOT use public bathrooms. Yeah, I’m not even gonna begin to decribe them because doing so would probably make you vomit.
Just take my word for it and steer clear of any public toilets (minus the one in Grand central since it’s usually not THAT bad).
And if you do need to use the bathroom while you’re out exploring NYC:
Then do so in a nice restaurant or coffee shop (not a bodega or cornerstore) where you have to purchase something in order to enjoy the privledge of using their bathroom.
I know you may not want to pay to use the bathroom but I assure you, it is money well spent.
Well folks, that’s all the Ultra-fab, NYC tips that I’ve got for you today!
So, go forth and enjoy all of the top attractions in New York City.
Just do yourself a HUGE favor and keep an eye out for any potential NYC travel fails that might just sneak up on you.
And if need be, you can always pin this post now and refer to it again later!