I’ve been to New York several times and often get asked ‘what should I do when I’m there?’
It’s important to plan your visit to make the most of your time there, you don’t want to waste a moment and also don’t want to be disappointed if you can’t get in somewhere.
Sightseeing- If you’re a first time visitor I would thoroughly recommend one of the hop on/off bus passes. These take you to all the main sights and you can have 24/48/72 hour passes. They take you to areas that you may not want to necessarily get off but like to see, for example in Harlem the theatre where Diana Ross first performed. Use this pass to get you to all your must see attractions such as central park, 9/11 memorial, Empire state building, Times Square and Macys.
If you’re planning on visiting the 9/11 memorial be sure to book in advance, there are limited time slots to ensure the atmosphere is respectful. I visited once when the World Trade Centre was there, so when I went back and it was no longer there was very shocking.
A fabulous way of seeing the big apple is by helicopter- I did the first time I visited ( a tick off my book it list!) and I was so overwhelmed I cried!
Another must do is take the Staten island ferry, a few cents will take you across the river for amazing views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline, you don’t have to get off the other side, just stay on and come back.
If you want to get up close to the Statue of Liberty you need to book your admission in advance with the National Parks website.
You will be awake early due to the jetlag and time difference, I’d recommend getting up and going out and about, I was amazed that the manhole covers do actually have steam rising from them like you see in the movies!
If you’re staying in midtown you can walk everywhere although there is a subway and of course the yellow cabs. These are metered so beware that the traffic often means your sat with the clock ticking and bill rising!!
Food- You can get literally get anything you want; high class restaurants (check the dress code, some require jacket and tie!), fast food restaurants, a hot dog on a corner cart (got to be done!) evening sightseeing dinner cruises, diners and delis(Katz deli made famous by when Harry met Sally is worth finding) bakeries, there’s a great restaurant at the top of the Rockefeller centre (great views) and ice cream to die for at Serendipity (go with an empty stomach).Tipping is expected- add around 10-15% on top of your bill.
Drink- alcohol is strictly over 21, expect to be asked for photo ID even if you’re much older so take your photo driving licence around with you (better than your passport in case you lose it)
Theatre-If you like the theatre you have to take in a Broadway show, many top shows get booked up in advance so book as soon as you can. I’ve seen Miss Saigon and The Lion King on Broadway, both were incredible and you never know who you might bump in to, we saw Tom Hanks coming out of a theatre 😉
Shopping– There are lots of world famous stores, Tiffanys,Macys,Bloomingdales to name a few. FAO Shwarz made famous by Tom Hanks in the movie BIG closed its original location some years ago but the big piano can now be seen at its new location in the Rockefeller centre.There’s a great designer discount store near to the 9/11 memorial – Century 21 where you may find a bargain (certainly cheaper than the designer shops uptown!)
The time of year you visit and what interests you determines what else you can do, we saw the Macys thanksgiving parade, went ice skating in central park, went to a baseball match, went to a basketball game at Madison Square garden.
The Intrepid Sea and Air museum is interesting , I was pleasantly surprised (the other halves choice!) I’m not a big museum or art gallery fan but there are plenty to choose from if you are.
There are movie and TV location tours so you can see buildings featured in your favourite shows.
If you’re planning on going up the Empire State building its worth paying extra for a fast pass to beat the queues.It’s worth a trip up to the Top of The Rock, you can see the Empire state building in the skyline then.
There’s plenty of free things to see/do- walk in Central Park, go into Central station to see the famous hall, walk over Brooklyn Bridge Time Out Have a look at this link for ‘What’s on’ and ideas.
Money matters– Tipping is expected, whether its the taxi, the bellboy, the waiter or the bar staff, tipping is a way of life in the states and staff will be upset of you don’t. ATM’s are plentiful, look at getting a prepaid $US currency card (these are insured if you lose them)or a Starling current account card (no fees for using) Otherwise check the fees charged by your card issuer.
New York isn’t cheap, although some goods are better value than in the UK. Cosmetics, medicines (I love the pharmacy stores lol!)jeans,trainers, electronic items and US branded items are generally cheaper than in the UK. If you catch a sale such as Black Friday there are some bargains to be had.
Most hotels will charge a resort fee, these are compulsory and amounts vary but average around $35 per room per day.
Booking sightseeing, restaurants, shows etc in advance allows you to budget for your trip. Many sightseeing passes are cheaper than buying individual tickets and are only available in the UK before you leave.
Travel advice ensure you have a good travel insurance policy as medical bills are extremely high. Be vigilant, as with any city pickpockets will take an opportunity and avoid deserted areas in the dark.
You will need an ESTA or visa Official link for visa
Save time and hassle by booking your transfer from the airport to your hotel.
Check whats on whilst you’re planning to visit- big events will mean prices will be higher (eg the marathon, fashion week)
Wear comfy shoes! You will walk miles.
Dress in layers, in winter its cold but the stores/restaurants are warm inside whilst in the summer the city can be warm but the air con can be fierce!
Hotel rooms are generally small, expect 1 bed unless you specifically request twin beds or more.
I hope this helps you, if you have any questions please get in touch, I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface.