Our Top 10 Tips for Exploring NYC Like a Pro

New York is an electric environment full of ambitious, busy people. Here's how to have a great trip without disrupting the natives in their natural habitat.

Visiting NYC can be overwhelming if you're not used to the crowds, the traffic and diversity of culture, but there's no place like it. Follow these top 10 tips on how to navigate this concrete jungle and you'll be handling this city like a boss.

Transportation

Upon arriving in NYC, while everyone is searching and haggling for a taxi, avoid the stress and book a Go Airlink airport shuttle from JFK, a LaGuardia airport shuttle, or a Newark airport pick up to your Manhattan hotel. This affordable and convenient option allows you to relax in a comfortable van or sedan, as a driver delivers you safely from the airport. Save money by booking your hotel and transportation ahead of time; at the end of your trip take advantage of the Go Airlink NYC airport shuttle and schedule a pick up from one of the listed hotels to the airport of your choice at a time that works best for you so can maximize your vacation.

You can also save money by staying outside of Midtown like Harlem, Queens, Brooklyn, or even the Bronx. A lot of the best parts of New York involve just walking around and soaking in the city. 

If you’re with a group, don’t walk all together in a row blocking everyone from passing you, and don’t stop in the middle of the sidewalk to look up and/or take photos (New Yorkers hate that.) 

Once in the city, don't be afraid to use the subway. The subway maps located at the station are easy to follow, or you can download the MTA transit app for up-to-date service changes. It will get you where you need to go much faster (and cheaper) than a taxi, especially during early morning and evening rush hours. Get a week unlimited subway pass. It’s worth it if you’ll be taking the subway a lot over four days.

Should you bring a car to NYC? Absolutely not.

You don’t want to have to deal with parking in NYC, which will can easily wind up costing a few hundred dollars in a matter of days. You could also get a ticket if you park in the wrong place at the wrong time, on the wrong day of the week, etc. If you prefer the luxury of a car, then use Uber, Lyft or a taxi instead, but try to avoid rush hour. If you’re not in hurry and on a budget, opt for Uber pool.

Uber pool is a shared ride where the driver may pick up two or three other riders going in the same direction, and you end up splitting the cost, so a $20.00 ride could cost you $5.00 instead. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the discounted rate and never pick up another rider.

Dining: Where to Eat in NYC

Eat as much of the delicious food in NYC as you can. Don’t eat at the chain restaurants that you might know from TV commercials, and don’t feel like you only need to go to the Instagram viral spots. While there are some Insta-worthy spots like Black Tap craft burgers and beer, Union Fare, or the “Baklava Pancakes” at Ovelia, that all serve terrific food, there are also many homegrown gems with eclectic menus and great service that are quietly killing the game like Little Tong Noodle Shop, Gramercy Tavern, The Smile, The Dutch ect. Don’t be afraid to walk-in and explore as long as there’s an “A or B” rating in the window.

Don't forget to tip: just about everyone who gives you service in NYC usually gets a gratuity, including luggage handlers, taxi drivers, waiters and bartenders. Factor tips into your daily budget and it won't seem so unpalatable. 

Things To Do in NYC

New York doesn’t have to be expensive, however, you do need to do your research ahead of time to know which museums you can get into for as low as $1 or for free, like the National Museum of the American Indian.

Several museums offer free or pay what you will admission on different nights of the week including the 9/11 Memorial Museum (5 pm to close on Tuesdays,) the New York Botanical Gardens (free grounds access on Wednesdays) and the Bronx Zoo (pay what you will for grounds access on Wednesdays.) 

Don't stick to Manhattan. Much of the action is happening in the outer reaches of Brooklyn these days, as young people and creatives move out of the city in search of cheaper rent. Astoria (Queens), Brooklyn Heights, Prospect Park and Williamsburg are status quo—check out DUMBO and Bushwick and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, visit Prospect Park or explore Green-wood Cemetery. You can even visit Jay-Z's old stomping grounds in Bed-Stuy.

Visit gorgeous Central Park. It’s the most visited urban park in the United States and one of the most filmed locations in the world. Depending on the season there are a ton of things to do from ice skating to free movies and Shakespeare in the Park in the summer.

If you get lost inside the expansive grounds, the lamp posts in Central Park help you find your way around. Each has four digits at the base: the first two are the nearest street and the second indicates East or West. Even numbers are East, odd numbers are West.

Unless you’re a Broadway fan, avoid Times Square. Especially during the day or rush hour (4-7 pm). Besides it being a must for most tourists, there's only overpriced stores and chain food directly on the Square. So eat beforehand and get a last minute ticket on TodayTix or at the TKTS booth in Times Square for a Broadway production (clear your morning) and when you walk into one of these beautifully adorned Broadway theaters, you’ll understand the hype. 

NYC Etiquette 

Maybe New Yorkers are a bit terser than Midwesterners or Southerners, and maybe they’re a bit more skeptical of strangers but for the most part they are good souls willing to help if you follow these tips.

Don’t give a five-minute explanation if you’re asking for directions. Just look for someone who isn’t in a rush and ask your questions. You’ll always find people happy to help if you’re not taking up a lot of time.

Farah Lopez
About the author

Farah Lopez is the Marketing Editor and a French-Canadian transplant living in SoBro (South Bronx). Follow her food-o...