Once upon a time we lived in New York City. We were residents for more than a year, but soon after we quickly realized that we were not New Yorkers. Although the city was not the environment we wanted to call home, it is still a great place to visit!
There are so many people I come across that have only stayed in Midtown Manhattan when they visit. When we hosted friends and asked what they wanted to do, the reply was:
“I wanna go to Times Square!”
This was always what I dreaded hearing and the last thing I wanted to do with my day. New York City has so many things to offer to residents and tourist alike. If you make a trip to the big apple, and not be a tourist in New York City then check out my personal favorites.
How Not to be a Tourist in New York City
Explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Met is absolutely stunning and MASSIVE. If you are a history buff, you could easily carve out a whole day just in this stunning piece of architecture. They have some great rotating exhibits. The Met is on the east side of Central Park, so try to hit both in one day! The Met is pay as you wish any day of the week, so this is a great cost efficient way to spend a day.
Get to the Outer Boroughs
I know many tourists that have only stepped foot in Manhattan. If you don’t want to be a tourist in New York City then venture into The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island have great things to offer too! Make sure you get to another borough even if it’s just walking over the Brooklyn Bridge!
Spend a Day at Wave Hill
Along the Hudson River up in the Bronx is a beautiful public garden complete with greenhouses, art, and a cafe. You can reach Wave Hill easily by taking the Metro North line from Grand Central into Riverdale Station. Go on Tuesdays and Saturdays before 12 pm for free admission.
Chill in an NYC Coffee Shop
No not Starbucks. There are so many awesome and vibrant neighborhood coffee shops in New York. So grab a latte, take a seat, and people watch the day away.
Go to the World Famous Metropolitan Opera
Sometimes opera or ballet tickets sell same day for less than $30 a piece! Feel posh for a night and head to Lincoln Center to catch a top notch performance by some of the world’s best.
Take the Staten Island Ferry
It’s free and gives you the greatest views of Lady Liberty and Lower Manhattan before heading out to see the Statue of Liberty!
Splurge on Sushi
Are you a sushi lover like me? New York offers some of the best sushi in the world outside of Japan. If you’re looking to splurge on dinner, check out some of the many great sushi spots in the city. If you’ve got the budget this is one of the few places in the world you can try true Omakase. It’s an incredible experience. My favorite sushi place in the city is Aoyu Sushi.
People watch at Grand Central Terminal
Are you an early riser? If so head to Grand Central for the morning commute and watch the fast-paced life of New Yorkers fly by.
Take the subway
Don’t waste your hard earned money on cabs – do as the locals do and take the train. The MTA runs 24 hours a day and can get you within blocks of anywhere you need to go.
Journey Through the Neighborhoods of Manhattan
Take it easy one day and promenade through the Upper West Side or Greenwich Village. There are hundreds of neighborhoods in the city and sometimes and nice and peaceful to just take a walk through them. Best part – it’s free!
Stroll through the New York Botanical Garden
Located in the Bronx, the 250-acre botanical garden boasts beautiful landscapes, lush gardens, and many events and exhibits. A must for any nice day. It’s completely okay to be a tourist though, and if you are then here are some great touristy things to do in Manhattan!
Plan and Pack for NYC
Book a NYC Tour
It’s nice not to always do all the travel planning and book a tour ahead of time.
Sometimes it’s nice just to have a real book in your hands when traveling. We recommend picking up a Lonely Planet to get you through the wireless nights.
A comfortable pair of shoes for both men and women are essential when packing your bag for NYC. However, I wouldn’t recommend packing those terrible clunky hiking shoes or athletic shoes many tourists like to bring. You’ll stand out like a sore thumb in New York.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
Dress Shirt for Men
You’ll likely end up in a nice restaurant or two if you’re looking to do all the romantic things in NYC. Men should pack at least one or two dress shirts and a pair of chinos for the city. Stick with a classic color like blue or white that will never go out of style.
I recently ordered a new selection of shirts and ties from the Tie Bar. All stylish, nice quality, and affordable. Plus their online website makes it easy to order a new wardrobe with suggestions for what matches and inspirations for outfits.
You’ll need something to stash your photography gear, hand sanitizers, papers, phones, and anything else that you need for a full day out when traveling. Saddleback Leather makes some of the best quality backpacks – hands down and fantastic for walking around NYC. They aren’t cheap by any means, but they are quality.
Saddleback Leather even ensures their products with a 100-year warranty. They only use sturdy materials on their bags including full grain leather, pigskin lining, and marine grade polyester thread.
Travel Carry On
As far as design the Knack Expandable Backpack is one of my favorites in the travel world. It’s a new backpack and company for 2019 and from a number of executives who worked for the luggage company Tumi. The exterior and design of the pack are overwhelmingly positive. Compared to any of the other travel-specific bags we’ve had the chance to take a look at it delivers high quality with nice features. See our full review of the Knack Bag here.
Where to Stay in NYC
When it comes to New York City hotels it’s easy for the romance to fizzle. The vast majority of hotels are mega hotels with hundreds of tiny rooms. We’ve been in and out of many different hotels in the city and without fail we’re almost always disappointed with room/service to value. However, when it came to The Chatwal Hotel we found the perfect romantic escape in the city.
The Chatwal is a part of the Luxury Collection owned by Starwood Hotels, but it operates totally independent from any other Starwood hotel in the city. It’s a 76 room boutique hotel that is right in the center of Midtown, something of a rarity. It’s high on charm and low on the standardized formula of hotels. When it comes to romance no one wants to feel like a number, but when we stayed at the Chatwal we were surprised to find the staff remembered our names and were quick to help.
Rooms here are glamorous and do an amazing job at blending the elements of classic New York with modern hotel amenities.
Hilton New York Fashion District
The Hilton hotel is located in the Chelsea neighborhood and within walking distance to Penn station. It’s great for a late-night arrival or departure from New York. It also has a 24-hour business center, 24-hour fitness center, and a concierge who can help you with any planning needs while in New York!
Millennium Hilton New York
This is a great option if you want to stay in downtown Manhattan. The Millennium has a business and fitness center and is just steps away 150 meters of The World Trade Center.
Should You Get a City PASS?
The New York City Pass is great if you want to see multiple tourist sites around New York. Entrance is included to the Empire State Building, American Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Top of the Rock Observation Deck, Guggenheim Museum, Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises, 9/11 Memorial & Museum, and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
It can save you some serious money if you are planning to visit at least three or more of these sites. Once activated upon first use the City Pass is good for nine consecutive days so you never have to feel rushed. You can get your City Pass before your visit to New York City here!
What is the Best Way to Get to New York City?
New York City is serviced by three international airports. John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), LaGuardia Airport (LGA), and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). If you have the option I would recommend flying into JFK or LGA as EWR is in New Jersey and will take more work and time to get into the Big Apple.
JFK is in Queens and has the Airtrain which will connect you to the MTA system for $5. Once there you can easily navigate your way to where you need to go into the city.
LGA is the smallest of the airports but the closet to Manhattan. The easiest and cheapest way into NYC from LGA is via the public bus which can connect you to the subway. You can also use the private bus companies for about $15 a person and a taxi for around $40.
If you arriving into EWR you can take the Airtrain Newark to the Newark Airport Rail station ($5.50) and hop on the NJ Transit train ($13) to New York Penn Station.
Transportation Around New York
Once in the city, the best (and my favorite) way to get around is the subway. Yes, it is dirty and loud and over 100 years old but in my opinion, you haven’t seen New York until you have navigated your way around the underground world. The subway is always full of interesting characters so you’re bound to be entertained at least once. MTA tickets are $2.75 a ride. You can also take the bus, but I personally would rather walk to most places.
The only other viable option to get around is to hail a cab, Uber, or Lyft. Don’t attempt to rent a car and drive through Manhattan unless you are comfortable with crowds, crazy drivers, and don’t suffer from anxiety. If you are only staying in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, or Long Island a rental car can be a good option – just not in Manhattan.
If you only want a car for a short period of time check out Zipcar. Zipcar is a car sharing platform that operates in big cities. Essentially it is on-demand access to drive cars by the hour or the day in New York. Here is $25 off!
If you’re traveling to New York City it’s best to accept that you will be walking a lot so bring a good pair of shoes.
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