New York, New York so good they named it twice, the city that never sleeps, The Big Apple… need I go on?! New York is a city that is well known all over, and a city I am lucky enough to be have been to three times (and would love to go many more times FYI).
I am by no means an expert at visiting New York, but in the nature of The Essentials Series, I have written up what I believe it’s vital to know before you head off on a trip there. So if you’re going to the city for the very first time, or you’re only there for a long weekend and are strapped for time, I’ve written down the basics you need to know before you go!
Currency: Dollars. Even if you can use your card abroad, it’s always great to have some dollars in cash to be on hand for tips or slices of pizza (i.e the essentials). My fav, Monzo, works abroad and I personally believe it’s got the best exchange rate for spending money abroad.
One thing to note is that in America the VAT is added on after your purchase, so if you fancy treating yourself to something in the shops, just note that the final price will be higher than the price tag, as it doesn’t include tax. WHY? I don’t know! But don’t forget…
ALSO, tipping is a huge thing in America. I should hope you tip wherever you are in the world, but in the States it’s especially important. I’d say it’s generally expected to tip at least 20%, and not just at restaurants, but also at coffee shops, for taxis and for hotel concierge service.
Getting There: To get to the city from the airport (I’m assuming JFK here) you can either get a yellow taxi which is simple but expensive – I think when I last used this it cost us 75$.
However, you can get the air train to Jamaica Station, it costs 5$ and then the rest of the route is a standard subway ride cost. Handy to pick up your MetroCard there for the rest of the trip.
Travelling Around: Some of the best parts of exploring New York are just walking between stops and seeing what you see along the way.
The subway is roughly $2.75 a ride, and you can pick up a MetroCard and top it up throughout your trip. If you need to get somewhere ASAP you can get a classic NYC cab, but don’t forget to tip!
Dishes you needed to Eat:
A New York Slice
If there’s anything New York is famous for, it has to be their pizza, right? You can either buy by the slice (and they’re pretty big!) or you can find a multitude of pizzerias all around the city – especially in Little Italy of course!
I don’t think it’s possible to move in New York without seeing a new Doughnut-ery to visit. My favourite is DOUGH doughnuts but you also have the choice of Dun-Well Doughnuts, and The Doughnut Project, which promises PROSECCO DOUGHNUTS. Need I say more?
New York-style bagel.
Unforgettably something I’ve never managed to fit into a trip when visiting NYC, but New York is well known for it’s bagels. If you want to go full on Instagram mode you can of course find the infamous rainbow bagel at The Bagel Store in Brooklyn. If you don’t want to go that far, you can find a classic New York bagel in most delis across the city, of course including the famous Katz’s Delicatessen (from that When Harry Met Sally Scene) if, of course, you find it without a queue outside!
Something Absolutely Filthy
Bear with me here, but in New York – and America in general – the portions are huge, and there’s plenty of choice to find your Man Vs Food fix. Spurred on by my new favourite Instagram account, Nyceeeeats you can get inspired for the best spots in the city to over-indulge on something absolutely filthy – and most likely deep fried and covered in cheese.
Okay, technically not something to eat – but Happy Hour is a given pretty much everywhere in New York. It’s great when you’re exploring the city to be able to pop into a pub, bar or restaurant for a pit-stop and take advantage of 2-4-1 cocktails or cheaper beer! And as I always say, if you’re going to a bar for Happy Hour, why not make it a rooftop bar?
Bits to see:
An iconic area of New York, and it’s absolutely huge so you can definitely lose a lot of time exploring here. My personal favourite is to pick up a snack and watch the sunset, or just sit back and people watch in the park. You can also visit the Jackie O reservoir for an alternative, yet brilliant view of the New York skyline!
Empire State Building/Rockefeller Centre
They are different buildings but you now what I mean – pick a large skyscraper and travel up it to take a look at the NYC skyline (my post on the best ones can be found here). Tickets often cost around $30/40 for a trip to the top, and if you’re super organised, make sure you do it in advance to avoid long queues.
Statue of Liberty
One of my favourite memories of my first trip to Liberty Island was going inside the statue and up into the crown, I would definitely recommend it if you’re committed to going for the day, because it’s certainly an experience you won’t forget. If that’s not your thing, you can also pay just to visit the island – and prices are pretty reasonable as it’s a Government national park. If you don’t have any interest in going to the island, you can pay to get a boat tour around it, or even just hop on the Staten Island ferry for free!
Another iconic area of New York not to be missed, although it can be really busy during the day. You can take a seat on the big red steps to watch the world go by, but the best time (in my opinion) is first thing in the morning. make use of your jet lag and beat the crowds to see the square almost empty (and plus you can get Sephora almost all to yourself…)
World Trade Centre 9/11 Memorial
I personally believe this is another essential for a trip to New York, but if you don’t have the time to explore the museum it’s worth taking the trip to go and see the memorials at the World Trade Centre memorial, placed where the twin towers used to stand. If you do have the time I would recommend the museum, as I personally think it’s a well-designed and respectfully curated way to observe and understand the events of 9/11.
If you pick it at the right moment (early in the morning, on a weekday) it can be the perfect way to see New York (and Brooklyn). It’s free, it’s a beautiful view and you can get some really gorgeous views of the city. Take the walk across and explore Brooklyn, or walk back and reward your exercise with a huge meal.
If you have the time:
If you have the time to explore, the area of Dumbo in Brooklyn is a really nice (read – hipster-ish) neighborhood to explore. There are little restaurants, cafes and shops to explore, and you can get a really good view of New York from the other side of the Hudson river.
I have never actually been to Comey Island but it’s always been on the bucket list, as it’s a subway ride away you can reach a beach and fairground rides. If it’s brilliant sunny weather and you don’t want to spend it in the city it would be a great place to escape to.
Hire a boat in Central Park
This was one of the highlights of my trip to New York a few years ago, and I would recommend it if you have a spare afternoon and the upper body strength! It’s not too pricey to hire out a boat, and plus you won’t need it for too long as it really tires you out. But it’s a great way to see Central Park from a different point of view.
Another area of New York to experience is the High Line, which takes you up the left side of New York, along an old railway track that has been converted into a large walkway, high above the normal sidewalks! It’s a nice stretch to walk along – especially in nice weather – with areas to stop and watch the city go by.
There we have it – all the essentials I could possibly think of when summing up the larger than life city that is New York.
If you’re planning on visiting New York soon let me know in the comments! More posts in this Basics series will be coming soon, but in the meantime check out my Grundy Travels Instagram for the latest updates!
Thanks for reading x