To see or not to see – that is the question for every tourist in New York.
The Big Apple (an early 20th century horse racing colloquialism and absolutely nothing to do with pink ladies or the like) is second only to London and possibly Paris in terms of the sheer number of attractions on offer in one city.
If you have limited time (not to mention money), every choice must be carefully assessed. ‘If I decide to walk the entire length of the High Line, will that still give me enough time for brunch in the village, a semi-circle cruise on the Circle Line and an afternoon visit to the Met before my front row seats to Annie? Hmmm, that’s probably pushing it.’ But with steely determination you do it anyway. You have to. This is New York, and the pace never lets up. You can take a holiday from your holiday when you get home.
With all that in mind, here are a few top New York City travel tips to help you plan your perfect sojourn in the city that never sleeps.
Invest in a New York Pass
With good planning the New York Pass is well worth the investment – especially the three-day plus versions. This is one of our top New York City travel tips. With most museums and attractions averaging around $30 USD admission for adults, it won’t take long to rack up quite a saving if you aim for at least two included attractions per day. Try and squeeze in three! All the attractions covered here are included in the New York Pass, unless stated.
Book a hop on hop off bus tour
With your pass in hand you’ll need to get around and New York’s hop on hop off buses will take you pretty much anywhere you want to go. They’re certainly not the fastest mode of transport in the city, but they are one of the most enjoyable – thanks largely to the local guides on board and their continuous wry patter.
Purchase your ticket online or from a local ticket seller (they’re everywhere!) and climb on board. There are different loops to choose from and you get to see a lot of more of the city than you do travelling by subway.
However, one of our top New York City travel tips here is planning. Don’t get stuck at one end of town in peak hour when every tourist in Manhattan is trying to get back to their hotel at the same time. The worst spot to be at this time is Lower Manhattan. Be out of there by 3pm at the latest!
Empire State Building vs Top of the Rock?
Choosing between the observation decks at the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Centre in Midtown is the toughest of our top New York City travel tips to call – and to say we’re caught between a rock and hard place would be an understatement. The Empire State Building is a cherished New York landmark and deservedly so, but in all honesty, if you only have time to do one, the Top of the Rock wins hands down. The crowds are handled far more efficiently, there’s more room at the top, and the views are just as spectacular (including straight down Central Park, which you don’t get at the Empire State Building).
Choose a museum, any museum
There are around 80 museums and galleries to choose from in New York and while that does make the decision on which ones to see quite a conundrum, it also means that there really is something for everyone. We chose MOMA for our art fix and we weren’t disappointed. I’m no art connoisseur, but there were enough Picassos, Monets, Warhols, Pollocks, Gauguins and Van Goghs to keep me oohing and ahhing for a few hours. The design shop is nifty too.
To learn more about the city itself, it was a toss up between the New York Historical Society and the Museum of the City of New York. The latter won based purely on its location on Museum Mile. It was excellent. The history lesson continued at the wonderful Lower East Side Tenement Museum (sadly not included in the New York Pass, but well worth the admission price). This is a chance to learn about the perils faced by the city’s early immigrant population, who lived in appallingly cramped conditions. Ironically, a renovated tenement apartment is now one of New York’s most sought after pieces of real estate.
Carnegie Deli vs Katz
What’s the best option for your quintessential New York deli experience? Most travel guides seem to rate Katz on the Lower East Side more highly than Carnegie Deli in Midtown, but we did the latter as it was closer. It was great! You’re packed in cheek to cheek with the locals, chowing down on giant gherkins and the most extraordinary pastrami sandwiches. One between two will definitely suffice (another of my top New York City travel tips!) and leave enough room to squeeze in a slice of New York cheesecake. You probably won’t need to eat again for a week, so it’s a great way to save on your holiday food bill.
Seeing the Statue of Liberty
Seeing Ms Liberty is high on everyone’s to-do-list while in New York City. There are lots of options, including the free Staten Island Ferry. We opted for a drive-by as part of the two-hour Circle Line Ferries Semi-Circle Cruise, which is included in the New York Pass.
The cruise goes down the Hudson River from Pier 83, right past Ellis Island and Liberty Island, giving both sides of the boat a good view before chugging off up the East River (past Lower Manhattan) as far at the United Nations Headquarters. Seat yourself on the right hand side of the boat. The views of the statue are slightly better and on the return leg of the cruise you get a closer view of the various Manhattan landmarks.
Do you have any top New York City travel tips to share? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a Melbourne-based travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. Adam has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. He worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He also appears regularly as a travel commentator on Sky News Business Class. Adam loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.