There is something really exciting about playing tourist in the city you grew up in. For me, that city was none other than the city that never sleeps… the Big Apple… New York City. It’s a really incredible place, and I’m so privileged to have grown up in New York. Now that I live in London, I definitely find myself waxing nostalgic about life in New York, and the things that I miss, which is helped somewhat by the fact that people are always asking my advice on what to do and see while they’re there! In November, I finally made a trip home, and decided to put together a little guide! The New Yorker’s Guide to New York!
When to Go
I think this might be a bit controversial, but in my humble opinion, Christmas and the summer are possibly the worst times to be in New York, because that’s when everyone else in the whole world turns up. Want to see a unique side of New York? The spring is really lovely. Watching Central Park burst into bloom in April is stunning, and being there as the city starts to warm up again and come back to life after a freezing winter is a great experience. Alternately, September and October are really nice! Autumn in New York is, well, nothing short of a dream! If you do plan on going in summer, just be aware that it can get incredibly humid… so humid you might feel like you’re melting into the pavement. On the flip side, winters can be extremely cold as well. Any time you go though, New York will steal a little piece of your heart!
The Best Way to Travel
If you’re used to traveling on the Underground, prepare yourself for it’s dirtier, slightly more confusing little sister, the Subway. Don’t get me wrong, public transportation in New York is pretty decent, but I’ve always stood by my opinion that the Underground is better. That being said, it’s the fastest way to get around the city! Whether you’re going uptown or downtown, take the subway at least once. Oh, and get yourself a 7-day Metrocard. You’ll save more on travel that way!
The alternative? Those famous yellow cabs! They’ll eat up your money pretty quickly, but there is something great about throwing your hand in the air, and watching a cab pull up in front of you. It’s just like being in the movies (except sometimes it takes a little bit longer!). If it’s raining though, I wouldn’t hold your breath. New Yorkers hate the rain, and the second it starts, you can bet your bottom dollar that all the taxis will fill up with a snap of the finger!
Where to Stay
I’m not great with this particular portion, mainly because I grew up in New York, so I never had to worry about where I wanted to stay! That being said, I do think there are some areas of the city that are better to stay in than others! I’d say this goes not just for hotels but for AirBnB’s as well!
The very center of Manhattan, you’ll be right by Times Square and pretty much every other attraction you’d want to see. It’ll be easy to walk around, but it’s incredibly busy, and will be more expensive since it’s a touristy area. Statistically speaking, there are a higher concentration of hotels in Midtown, so you’re more likely to find something you love.
P and I once stayed in an AirBnB in Brooklyn Heights and it was delightful. It’s got a great neighborhood feel to it, and even though you’ll have to take the train, you’re not too far away from anything you’d want to see! Plus, it’s a different side to New York that you might not get to see if you don’t leave Manhattan!
Upper West Side
I’m biased, I think, but I love the Upper West Side. If you’re on a budget, there are a few hostels on the Upper West Side as well, but either way, it’s got a lot of character and is still close to the main attractions without being right in them. You’ll see more of the city if you venture a little further away!
You’ll find a ton of places in these neighboring areas, which is nice and busy in it’s own right, but a little on the quieter side. There won’t be as many tourist attractions nearby, but it’s a very trendy area so there will be plenty to explore!
A Few Unmissable Attractions
I’ve got a post coming on my favorite spots in New York, but I thought at the very least I’d list a few places here, that you have to have on your list. No trip to New York is complete without these guys. They seem obvious but it needs saying!
This one is pretty big, and so easy to find. You could easily spend a whole day wandering through the whole of the park, because there is so much to see! Some really special spots? The Conservatory Garden, Belvedere Castle, Bethesda Terrace and Strawberry Fields
Start at the Gansevoort Street entrance and walk all the way up to 30th Street. It’s an old subway line that was disused and fell into disrepair until it was refurbished as a public garden. It’s nice at dusk, when the sun is setting and it’s a bit less crowded then as well. Definitely worth a visit though!
Empire State Building/Top of the Rock
I’ve never been too fussed about the Empire State Building, but when I went home, I had the urge to go up to the top, just for kicks. It was a pretty great view, and a solid box to tick on your New York City list. Alternately, going to Top of the Rock is just as good, if not better, because you actually get the Empire State Building in your view! They’ll both be crowded, but still worth the hike! If you get up early (8am-11am), you’ll beat most of the crowds and it’s much calmer!
The Statue of Liberty
Everyone goes to see the Statue of Liberty, but I’ve got a little tip for you. Instead of paying for the ferry that takes you to Liberty Island, hop on the Staten Island ferry instead! It’s free and cruises right past the Green Lady! Besides, I think seeing her in her glory with all of New York lit up behind her is a much better view.
When I worked nearby, and had to regularly be within the vicinity of Times Square, I detested it. It’s jam-packed with people and generally causes me some anger and anxiety issues. Still, I can see the appeal of it. The best time to go? Probably the morning. It’s slightly less crowded, but you can still get the effect of all the lights. During rush hour, and around 10:30 (when most Broadway shows will be finishing) it’s a complete nightmare, but there is something oddly charming about it!
I mean it’s iconic part of NYC. I wanted to get a great snap of the iconic red awnings, but there’s scaffolding all around it at the moment, so you’ll have to take my word for it, I suppose. If you’re a big reader, or just want to visit a place that lots of New Yorkers adore, Strand Bookstore is the one. New works, old classics, plus some really great merchandise.
The American Museum of Natural History
The Natural History Museum has always been one of my favorite places to go in New York. There’s quite a bit to see, I think, but I’ve always found it fascinating! Don’t be scared off by the asking price though, because it’s a suggested donation… so you can pay as little as $5 if you want, though that’s only if you buy your ticket at the door.