First Time In NYC: Tips

by - 17:57:00

I often get asked questions by friends and colleagues about New York. They want to know where to go; tips for tickets and such. Today I thought I'd share with you everything I've learnt from my visits and hopefully you'll find it useful so here goes.

Plan Ahead

I'm really not a fan of having activities planned in advance but there are times when it's pretty much non-negotiable. Whether you simply want to avoid the queues or simply get in, booking in advance definitely has its perks when visiting NYC. 

For the main tourist attractions, I wouldn't say it's absolutely essential but I wanted to share with you a special experience which is definitely worth the effort. When I visited this past June I was lucky enough to venture up into the Statue of Liberty's crown. As you can probably imagine, the views are unreal and it was so special because so few people are able to do it each day. When I went up it was just me, my partner and a mum with her daughter. It's such a unique experience but you will have to look into booking your tickets at least three months in advance. I went in June but I booked my tickets in March I do believe, so be proactive and I promise you'll be thankful you did. 

Ditch The Empire State Building

If you're dead set on going up then by all means do. I only say don't because the views aren't that great, the queues are awful and I still feel a little disappointed by my experience over a year on. I had such high expectations but it fell a little flat in my opinion. It's nice to say that I've been up but it's money that I wouldn't spend again I don't think. For better views and a generally better experience, head to Rockefeller instead. You get incredible views onto the Empire State Building, Freedom Tower etc and it's all around a better experience. We got the Sun and Stars tickets and visited both morning and night and it was an experience I won't forget. 

If you do decide to visit Rockefeller of an evening my tip is to go as late as possible. The last lift is at 11:15pm but it pretty much guarantees you a quieter observation deck which makes it all the more special. I was lucky enough to share it with only 6 other people when I went back up in the evening. I could take all the pictures I wanted and I didn't have to worry about elbowing people or having random people in them either. 

Sub It 

Don't get me wrong, I love walking/ running around NYC but sometimes you've got to take a step back and relax a little. Generally speaking, tourist bits aren't that close to each other and you will legs will tire eventually. When you arrive, familiarise yourself with the lines, get an MTA card and stick around $20 on it. You might well walk around but when you've gone too far away from your hotel, it's nice to know that you've a way of getting back. One trip is $2.25 I believe so it's not even that expensive and that small amount can get you right out to Coney Island. 

It definitely takes a bit of patience and learning but once you're familiar it will become second nature. I'm only just there with it now and that's only because my partner is so patient and a great teacher too. Actually, if it weren't for him I'd probably still walk everywhere. If you're by yourself, don't be afraid to ask a local. Most of them are more than happy to help but please exercise caution. If you don't feel comfortable asking whoever's there, exit and go to a shop and ask there. I say this because the subway can be home to unusual people at times so it's best to be safe than sorry. 

Bleecker Street Pizza serves the BEST pizza in NYC.

Pretty much every pizza shop in the city claims to have the best pizza but Bleecker Street really do. I've tried most of the places mentioned online but this one gets my gold star. We didn't actually intend on eating here but when you're hungry you get pizza. We were in the neighbourhood, had never heard of it but there were enough people eating to justify giving it a look. 

Given that we didn't know anything about this place, we were pretty surprised to see the walls filled with pictures of celebrities. Turns out our 'unknown' spot was actually kind of a big deal. The owner told us that Kylie and Kendall had been in just a few days earlier. I mean if that isn't a good sign I don't know what is (jk). 

Celebs aside, the pizza itself is so damn good. It's pizza like I've never had before and I'm doubting I'll have again unless I go back. So if you're in the area or you just happen to spot it, go in and have a slice. 

Take A Second

When you're visiting NYC for the first time, it's easy to fill every second of the day with activities. Even when you do this, it's impossible to fit everything in. I've been two times and theres still things left on my to do list. 

Instead of cramming your days with things to do, choose your priorities and use the rest of your time to enjoy the city. On my first visit, I never would've lounged around Central Park for a few hours. This time I did just that and it's one of my favourite memories from the trip. In between sightseeing, take an hour or so, find a spot and relax. If you're constantly on the go with places to be, it'll feel more like a chore than the trip of a lifetime. You've spent all that money getting there so you may as well enjoy it. 

Beware Mosquitoes

If there's one tip I wish I'd known before my tip this year it would be just this. I never even thought that mosquitoes would be a problem when visiting the city but they really are. After a trip to Broadway Bites one evening, we went to Madison Square Park to relax. We sat there for a good hour or so watching fireflies and people meditate and it was all find and dandy. Fast forward to the morning after and I had the most awful mosquito bites. My legs were covered in red itchy blotches and the whole thing was a bit of a disaster to be honest. 

When I go back, repellant with be the first thing going in my case and I will be dousing myself in the stuff daily. The bites took forever to heal and the 8 hour flight home in skinny jeans definitely wasn't a highlight either. Moral of the story, if mosquitoes have a thing for you, take repellant everywhere. You'll thank yourself later. 

Do Your Research 

I feel like this is a really generic tip but it never hurts to do a little recon before you touch down. Have a look at the area directly surrounding your hotel; make any dinner reservations you might want, things like that. Basically do as much as you can to curate the trip you want. There's really nothing worse than booking a trip and coming away disappointed because it didn't turn out like you hoped it would. 

Another thing to look into is what's on in the city. Whether it's one of the food markets or a Shakespeare in the Park performance, you never know what you might find to do. If you don't research, there's a chance you'll miss out on something cool. 

While it helps researching after you've booked, also do some before you book anything. Flights not so much but with accommodation I'd say it's essential. While it's easy enough  to get around the city, if you're going to be doing things primarily in one area, then it makes sense to base yourself there. So if you want something in the heart of it all for example, try and find somewhere off Times Square. It's not the be all and end all by any means but it will definitely make life easier while you're there. 

Shop Smart 

Everyone always talks about how good the shopping is in the states and while this is true, there are some catches. One of the main things that people forget about is sales tax. In the UK, VAT is already factored into the price. In the USA, this isn't the case so your total will end up more than the listed price. 

The reason I wanted to point this out is because nowadays it isn't that much cheaper to shop in the states. By the time you've factored in sales tax etc, there's a good chance you're probably paying the same as you would in the UK. The only place I've found that worked out significantly cheaper was Tiffany and Co but I know most people don't travel just to purchase jewellery. 

Like I said, this isn't to put you off it's just something to be aware of. My $70 dollar Sephora haul quickly turned into a $97 spending spree, so you have been warned. I'm laughing as I write this because I'm fully aware of the tax but it somehow never stops me. Sephora is just my kryptonite. 

Cash Isn't Always King

When I go away, I always feel compelled to get all my spends in the form of the local currency. Over time, I've learnt that this often means I'm short changed. In the states, they're quite fond of the credit card. Find the right one and the exchange rate can often be much better than the one offered to you in any store. If you wanted a personal recommendation and lived in the UK, I'd suggest checking out the Halifax Clarity Card. Unlike most others there's no fee for foreign transactions and the conversion rate has always seemed to be pretty favourable in my opinion. When I visited back in June I actually took far less dollars than I normally would have, used my credit card and I think I saved a fairly decent amount of money. As many of you are probably aware though, any savings rely on you paying off your bill on time and in full. If you let some of your balance roll over into the next month, there will obviously be interest added on top so any savings you've made will potentially be mitigated. 

It's not for everyone but it's definitely worth thinking about if you are able to access one. Cash will still always work but with the way exchange rates are, you seem to get next to nothing nowadays. 

So yeah those are a few little tips the sprang to mind. If anything else pops into my head I'll add it on here, so view this as more of a working document if you will. I hope you found this post useful and feel free to share any of your tips down below. 

In the meantime have a great rest of the day!

You May Also Like


  1. I am in the beginning stage of planning a trip to NYC for Christmas. The adrenaline rush of making plans for an upcoming trip is almost as fun as the experience itself. I think your tips looks interesting. I went to a lot of famous tourist attractions and landmarks the last time I visited NYC and I remember using a website that lists free events in New York which is great because I didn’t have much of a budget. I think might be useful to people also visiting New York city who are looking for free events in New York.