I’ve worked in NYC, had several shows in NYC, and been such a tourist – and everytime I go – I ALWAYS find something new and amazing that i missed the 1st time around. Friends here in the UK always ask me for some advise. So here’s some for anyone going to NYC on vacation, for summer camp, for a semester abroad, or interning. It’s not a comprehensive guide but it’s good if like me – you’ll be on a budget! I hope you find some parts of this helpful! 🙂
INSTRUCTIONS: PRE. NYC
Get a guide book with good maps: Lonely planet is pretty decent, or even a AA one. ‘Not for Tourists’ guide books are ok but rather dull for touristying and pictures, but excellent for in depth, detailed maps of every area. If it’s your first time, you just want a book with a clear map for every main part of Manhattan.
Then sit at the laptop and google all of these addresses and places that you like the sound of here in this guide, and mark them on your book. Put a circle in the place where google maps tells you it’s at and then you can like number them, or whatever. use your guide book like a notebook!
** Also, as with any travel prep. you should photocopy your passport before you leave for NYC. just incase.**
Getting into the city
Catch the express bus service from JFK or Newark (info here: http://www.coachusa.com/olympia/ss.newarkairport.asp ) it’s $15, get 1 way. the bus service usually do 2 stops : grand central station (EAST) or port authority (WEST). sTRICTLY SPEAKING both locations are central but in my mind port-authority (W 45th st on 8th ave) is more central because it’s alot easier to get to the majority of subway lines – where as – when you head more east on the central, upper side – the subways become less available.
(There’s the air-train but its not as relaxing as the bus – but the air-train you have to make 2 changes (1 train takes you 2 another train) and it takes you to penn station 34th st)
several days in the city will be costly if you decide to catch cabs everywhere!
The best way is to WALK in order 2 see all the surprise stores you had no idea existed, the art gallery youve never heard of, or to just appreciate the architecture. But never under estimate the power of the subway. ESP. when your feet hurt from too much walking! the subway is amazing as it runs 24/7.
the unlimited subway card for a week: $29 (£15ish) – good for all subways, at any time, and buses, in the whole of NYC. (it was cheaper but prices have gone up) and it is relatively safe 2 catch the subway at like 3am! regardless of what you might have heard. i remember i got totally tipsey, bordering on drunk, i caught the subway from bushwick, brooklyn ( a tiny bit of a seedy neighbourhood) to williamsburg, bklyn – at 3am – and it was absolutely fine. last time my friend and i went from san diego – to newark- caught the bus into the nyc – and it was midnight – and we stayed up all night in the city and bars in manhattan and brooklyn. and we were fine then. nyc is really safe!!
The unlimited card will be good for your first few days in the city because you probably will make mistakes and get on a train going up town instead of downtown, or get on a train that is express at rush hour so you end up 3 stops away from your destination. but it’s good to get lost !
NY has some of the most amazing bookstores. I spend ALOT of my time in them because of the vibe and so much cool stuff!
– http://www.spoonbillbooks.com/ specializes in Used, Rare, and New books on Contemporary Art, Architecture, and various Design fields, with an emphasis on Imported or hard-to-find — but we also hand pick thousands of good books every month for our voracious clientele.
218 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(i lived 4 blocks away from this place- its open until 10 at night – and its in a super cool area- EXPLORE THIS AREA – there’s a few design stores and this really really cool beer store, an internet cafe, and a cool record store on the corner of the building its all in) Williamsburg is where all the hipster and ASOS fashion is coming from atm. but more info later
fiercely independent family business – 18 million books! ALL DISCOUNTED. from rare, out of print, hardback, brand new, best sellers, signed ect.
New York, NY 10003-4805 (which is just off union square – across from this AMAZING CHOCOLATE STPORE WITH THE BEST most expensive HOT CHOCOLATE)
Printed Matter, Inc. is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1976 by artists and art workers – specializing in artist books
195 10th Avenue
New York, NY 10011, United States (near all the commercial galleries in chelsea)
is a modern general store for a well-lived life, combining the charm of a country general store with the sophistication of a modern city lifestyle
365 State Street, Brooklyn
Art House creates massive, international art projects that tie thousands of artists together
103A N 3rd St
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY 11211
aspire to be the center of Manhattan’s literary culture
52 Prince Street
(between Lafayette & Mulberry
New York City, NY 10012
Barnes & Noble (located acrosss the city – best one on Union Square)
GOOD FOR MAGAZINES, LOTS OF BOOKS AND RESTROOMS!! (trust me you will need 2 use a barnes n noble for the bathroom at some point)!
DOING ART/museums FOR FREE, OR CHEAP
MoMA – FREE night on FRIDAYS – starts at 4:00pm – be there early or later (6ish) to avoid queues (i’d advise to be early because this ticket makes it see so you can see the movie which is showing at the MoMA movie theatre for FREE (usually $9 on it’s own) see a TIMEOUT NYC for more details on what’s on) keep the ticket because from the date on it – gives you 30 days to go to the PS1 Contemporary Art center in Queens for FREE. (free night saves you $21 admission charge for the MoMA – daylight robbery)
Guggenhiem – 5:30 (exactly) on THURSDAYS is PAY WHAT YOU WISH instead of $20 or $15 student
WHITNEY MUSEUM OF ART – FRIDAYS PAY-WHAT-YOU 6-9PM. (save about $18)
NEW MUSEUM – THURSDAY 7PM-9PM FREE NIGHT (save about $7 – 10 )
PS1 CONTEMPORARY ARTS CENTER – QUEENS – SUGGESTED DONATION (they ask for $7) but free with MoMA ticket
AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY – SUGGESTED DONATION (they ask for $20!)
THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART (refered to as The Met by cool new yorkers) – SUGGESTED DONATION (suggested $24!) (this place is freaking huge – expect to spend at least 3-4 hours in here)
DIA CENTER FOR ARTS – SUGGESTED DONATION (not in the city, but in BEACON) ($10)
TIME OUT NY is your bible for everything – art, food, music events, book signings, political happenings, tv show audience, musicals. Also Read The Brooklyn Rail to find out what’s on; also, The New York Times on Friday, Saturday and Sunday has art reviews. But the word on the street is key.
after all that culture, food is a must. i’m sorry that i can’t offer you better advise on the food front. i forget the addresses or names of places i like – i just know where they are! like- i could take you to them ha!
Here’s a website i like to check out when in town for places to eat: http://cheapassfood.com/
BEST STICKY CHICKEN WINGS – BBQ Dallas (also my fav meeting spot in the city cuz its open enough, next to a subway and easy get to) 23rd n 8th . drinks are HUGE
INDIAN FOOD – although i’ve never had a groundbreaking curry in the whole of america – curry ave – AKA Lexington Ave between 21st and 38th is where it’s at!
CUPCAKES – http://www.magnoliabakery.com/home.php ( as seen on sex and the city is a tourist fav ) but if you’re looking for a down-key – quick sugar hit to make you go into sugar shock then the cupcakes from Barnes & Noble cafe – foh serious.
Also Crumbs http://www.crumbs.com/ ;
Sweet Revenge: http://www.sweetrevengenyc.com/
and SPOT http://www.spotdessertbar.com/ …. if you can’t be arsed to find all these you can grab a good selection in Chelsea FOOD MARKET – which is very awesome.
THAI FOOD – now you know how i feel about THAI ICED TEA, you NEED to get one of them and think of me! The americans (or rather the 2nd generation of thai americans) know how to cook amazing thai food. this will shit all over what youve ever had (unless youve been to thailand , i suppose?)
So here are a few: http://www.sripraphairestaurant.com/ (this is in QUEENS) which makes it SUPER CHEAP and authentic!
Pongsri – in China town is pretty awesome, there’s a place on 19th street between 8th and 6th (i can’t remember where but it’s gota good lunch deal menu during the week! – thai–ice tea not so good though)
There’s a cheap burger place called: BRGR on 7th near 29th st.
Good, cheap sushi on Greenwich Street (off 6th ave), north side of street. Or my favorite: Monster Sushi, on 23rd street, between 5th and 6th aves.
good farmers market at Union Square, Fri, Sat. Good noodles place off the square, east side. Revolution Noodles, I think it is.
Obvs. Go to China town for cheap-ass chinese food; Greenpoint BKLN for Polish; Queens for mexican and real spanish style food.
Harlem for soul food!! you must go to: http://www.sylviassoulfood.com/!
WHOLEFOODS – for bits and bobs – revolutionary supermarket shopping, i tell ya! it laughs at waitrose. Anyways, avoid wholefoods on union square cuz it’s ALWAYS packed. You can try wholefoods at columbous circle best place is prob 95 East Houston Street
Dylans Candy Bar, near bloomingdales:
There are many pizza joints where you can get a slice of pizza for $1!!! (instead of average $2.60) mostly in Brooklyn, a few close to brooklyn bridge, but The 99¢ pizza place near the Port Authority Bus Terminal is a main attraction these days.
There are good bars and restaurants on the Lower East Side, on Ludlow Street, Alphabet City
BEST CUP OF TEA IN THE CITY: ARGOTEA (based in Chicago it’s opened it’s business for new yorkers alike!) it does the craziest of stuff with tea. my fav seasonal classic is frostea! (white tea, white choclate & mint) http://www.argotea.com/
COOL STUFF TO DO THAT YOU CAN’T DO VIRTUALLY ANYWHERE ELSE
MY BIGGEST SECRET! – ASSSSSCAT3000 on a sunday night at http://newyork.ucbtheatre.com/ (07 W. 26th Street New York, NY 10001) just off 9th ave (in chelsea) is FREEEEE and AMAZING!!! it’s improv comedy by the folks ar Saturday Night live, 30 rock, other comedian guests – can i stress that this is the coooolest thing ever?!
Anyways it starts about 9pm. but here’s teh catch – cuz it’s free you gotta get there early to queue for free tickets! I mean like early, like 6pm – hang around. they don’t really give you tickets until 7:30-8:00ish. when they do, you get about an hour 2 eat (this is where BRGR place comes in handy or many cool bakeries around the area) and you have to line back up with your number. It’s nOT to be missed!!!
BEST SLAM POETRY IN THE CITY – Friday night : 10pm ($10) get about 20 mins early to line up for good seats. goes on until 2am. you can leave when you want. http://www.nuyorican.org/history.php puts slamjam 2 shame!
SEE A MUSICAL – catch me if you can is the new broadway hit; jersey boys is the most popular thats still happening. you’ve probably already seen wicked? Anyways, don’t diss Off Broadway shows- off broadway shows often become the next big thing on Broadway and OFF-OFF BROADWAY can be way more interesting than the other shows- and of course. CHEAPER
SEE AN OPERA AT THE MET: $25 for cheap tickets – (nosebleed) http://www.metoperafamily.org/metopera/
BOAT RIDE in central park, RENT A BIKE in central park. take a class in central park:
Walk across Brooklyn Bridge and Williamsburg bridge
See a concert, see the sun set over the skyline
see a baseball game!
drink in a hotel bar with an amazing high view
GO TO CONEY ISLAND and ride on the rollercoaster & eat a hotdog!
Go up the EMPIRE STATE BUILDING 1 hour before sunset, so when you get up there you see it in the light, watch the sunset, and see the city at night – all the best sights for your 1 admission price of $24 (best way 2 get your money worth!)
Go to 24 hour cafe at a stupid o’clock. it’s amazing to people watch! and you cant go to nyc without going to a 24 hr cafe now?
In MACYS take your passport, international vistors get a card that gives you 13% discount on anything in any Macy’s store US wide for 30 days.
In Bloomingdales, if you spend over $100 – you also get a free gift!
GETTING OUT OF NEW YORK
so you wanna travel?
Megabus.com starts at $1 tickets to Boston, Philly, DC amoungst other amazing cities on the east coast. The boltbus.com does the same but less locations and better free wifi on the bus. There’s the fungwang bus that goes from NY Chinatown to Boston Chinatown for $20 on the day, no pre-booking needed! On the eastcoast you don’t need to use the greyhound as it is overpriced and old compared to these cheap-budget services that offer free wifi (trust-makes your journey 10 x better) and more dinner stops on the way!
Priceline.com offers relatively cheap round trip flights than anywhere else online for in-america domestic flights with the option to name your own price on hotels! Orbitiz.com is also quite good.
Amtrak is amazing on the west coast but a bit lame and more expensive on the east coast considering the competition from budget bus services. however, amtrak takes route through the amazing american landscapes that you don’t see in the i-whatever highway and if your under 26 or a student and have got the international card that you can get from STA travel for £5 to prove it, you get a great discount of 15% off ANY journey. I have taken the Amtrak from San Francisco to NYC stopping off for various amount of days in Las Vegas, LA and Chicago all for $150! (one way).
WHAT NOT TO DO IN NYC
– do not take travelers cheques- what are you? like 75 years old? For the safe, non-touristy, cheaper way to live in NYC – exchange your money before you go onto a travel friendly card. that’s what i did when i was living in chicago. they’re supplied by https://www.travelex.co.uk/uk/wallet/options.aspx but you collect them from ilkeston travel agents current exchange provider – or thomas cook. you often get a better exchange rate when you exchange money onto a card than in physicality. plus its all insured!
DO NOT buy purfume from canal street, unless you like your stuff bottled in 1994
DO NOT walk down the sidewalk in 3 + more people
NO fanny packs haha
DO NOT accept taxi rides from cabs that arent yellow
DO NOT NOT tip (remember in the US you have your meal Tax (10% in NY) added on top of the price on the menu + another 20% for tip – great knowledge when you’re short cuz someones not added their bill up right!)
DO NOT forget your ID when going into bars or order alcohol (remember its 21 over there)
DO NOT make eye contact with crazies or homeless folks (theres alot of them)
Try new things!
TAKE GREAT PICTURES! 🙂