How to Visit New York like a New Yorker
Updated: Feb 16
When you visit New York City, go expecting to feel like you missed a lot, because you will. There's just SO MUCH to see and do. People who live here will never see everything there is, so how can you?
Your best bet is to pick a section of the city and form a plan. Spend your day with a particular route and goals in mind. Let's set up some examples for you.
Day 1, Lower Manhattan - Go down to the Staten Island Ferry, it's free. Ride it across and then disembark, turn right around and get back on. You'll get good looks at the Statue of Liberty and watching New York City loom up over you as the Ferry gets closer is breathtaking and a GREAT way to start your day.
From there, you can see Wall Street, DelMonico's (you'll recognize it from John Wick), and South Street Seaport. You can walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, get a coffee in DUMBO and look at Manhattan from the beach. Then walk back across the Brooklyn Bridge, and head to the World Trade Center and the Oculus.
This would be a good day to finish up with the Statue of Liberty, book your tix now. In the evening head to Greenwich Village, whatever food you're in the mood for is there.
Head east to McSorley's Old Ale House. Dripping in history and lore, they have Houdini's handcuffs on the bar rail. You'll have a choice of either light or dark beer, that's it, and you'll have to sit and talk with people you don't know and drink with them.
Day 2, Shopping Day - Start at 59th Street and Lexington. That's Bloomingdales. After that walk west on 59th to 5th Avenue. There's the Plaza hotel and the Central Park Zoo. Head south down 5th and you'll see all the famous stores like Tiffany's, Saks, the Tower of Sauron that belched forth from Trump, St Patrick's Cathedral, and then Rockefeller Center.
Rock Center has a ton of attractions, the skating rink, the Nintendo Store, a LEGO store, and that's where the FAO Schwarz toy store is now, but it's most famous for NBC studios. You may be able to get standby tickets for Jimmy Fallon.
The Top of the Rock is my favorite view of the city, because it includes the Empire State Building AND the Chrysler Building.
On the other side of Rock Center on Sixth is Radio City Music Hall. Head south towards Times Square and you'll pass the Diamond District, the Tower of Saruman that belched forth from Fox News, and the NHL Store.
Times Square is a sight unto itself. Ton of stuff to see and do there, but it's also the most crowded part of the city. The Disney Store is just one example of the flagship stores you'll see there. That's also where the TKTS booth is, where you can get show tickets. All of the theaters with the famous shows will be on hand.
This would be a great night to see a show. Hadestown, Dear Evan Hansen, and the Lion King, are all hot tickets. I'm still partial to Phantom of the Opera myself, it will blow away your kids and may be a (slightly) less expensive option.
If not, head south from Times Square on Broadway to Macy's. Just to the East will be the Empire State Building, and finishing a day by seeing NYC from the ESB would cap it off really well.
You get the idea. Pick an area of the city and just hit it.
When you do a museum day hit the American Museum of National History, then wander through Central Park, Belvedere Castle, Bethesda Plaza, up and down the Literary Walk, east to Kerb's Boathouse and north past the Alice in Wonderland sculpture to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That's a full day right there.
Other landmarks grouped close together that are worth a look include the Chrysler Building, Grand Central Terminal, the New York Public Library, Bryant Park, MOMA and Times Square.
Good food is everywhere. Whatever you want. People will argue about where the best pizza is or the best bagel but try not to worry about it too much. Pizza is especially good pretty much all over the city.
Stay away from the national pizza chains. Even the 99 cent slice places are better than the pizza you can get elsewhere.
Learn to love bodegas. They look like convenience stores with a grill jammed in the back. They may seem sketchy but some of the world's best breakfast sandwiches come from them.
Do not eat the stuff you can get everywhere. No McDonald's or Burger King.
Traveling around the city is easy. The subway is cheap, clean and safe. It doesn't at all look like the old Scorcese films or as it appeared in Joker. Stay away from rush hours when everyone is trying to get to work in the morning and at home at night and you'll usually be able to sit down.
Go to mta.info and you can download a subway map and directions and all of that other stuff.
That should give you a good blueprint to work off from.
Etiquette-wise there are a few things to keep in mind. You will be tempted to stop and gawk at the top of the stairs coming up out of the subway. Do not do that. There are people coming up behind you and New Yorkers hate people who hold up traffic.
New York can overwhelm the senses immediately on the transition from subway station to awesome New York City spectacle, but resist your body's natural urge to stop and take it in.
If you're in a group of three or more, don't walk three abreast on the sidewalk. One of you drops behind. Take up too much room on the sidewalk and someone will tell you not to. Sometimes politely. Most times not.
All you need to keep in mind is not to block the high traffic areas. Don't stop short in the middle of the sidewalk to take the picture, step to the side. The quickest way to anger New Yorkers is to get in their way.
It is a myth that New Yorkers will not help you. New Yorkers are proud to live here and are fiercely devoted to protecting our city's reputation. We're happy to help you with directions or recommendations.
The one caveat is to pick your spots. Look around for who is approachable. Don't stop the people in business suits speed walking down the street. Look for someone having a slice off to the side, or a cop just hanging out keeping an eye on things. They'll not only help you but tip you off on things like where the best local place to eat cheaply is.
New York City has something for everyone. Theater, big business, the arts, sports, science, you name it, New York has it.
With a little bit of planning you can walk around NYC like New Yorkers do. Have fun!
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