We made it to the Big Apple this summer, trying to take in the town many have tried to capture in film and books over the decades and the real, beating heart of a home to millions. Who knows if we succeed, but it was sure fun trying. If you follow my Instagram account, some of these might seem familiar to you, but this was New York through the eye of my (cellphone) camera. Below are some our top tips for The City that Never Sleeps.
1) New York Passes- so worth it. I know most people don't like to do "touristy" things and no one likes crowds, but the pass allowed you to bypass lines on many of the must-see attractions. This was good for about 80 sites or tours. There is a City Pass, but that is only good for 8 sites, which, clearly, is not the same thing.
2) See New York from above, at least once. Thanks to the Pass, we visited both the Empire State and Top of the Rock. If you can only do one, do Top of the Rock. The employees were all so knowledgable and helpful. They had pre-timed tickets to cut down on waiting in line and a ton of art (you could take a tour of the buildings just for the art!). Plus, from Top of the Rock you can see the Empire State, which lights up in different colors. We saw it in rainbow to celebrate the Supreme Court decision about gay marriage and in patriotic red, white and blue.
3) We saw four shows, three of which were Broadway musicals. We'd pre-booked Book of Mormon, knowing it was the most popular show in town and a must-see for The Boy who loves South Park. We got tickets for the two other shows (in our case, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, and On the Town) with really great orchestra seats for a great price by looking at the app Today Tix.
4) New York is known for the Great White Way, and we'll never have the chance to see such shows out where we live, so we decided to take a advantage and see a a ton, but it is good to remember there are lots of performances of all kinds in New York besides plays. We bought tickets to see the American Ballet Company perform Swan Lake and- wow. Not only a stellar performance, but the whole thing from the building (chandeliers that moved and TWO Marc Chagall murals) to the people (all dressed to the nines) to the performers themselves were part of the experience. So, look up what is happening and maybe think of trying an Opera, a concert, a ballet or other performance too.
5) There are so many museums in New York and I'm sure all are worth going to. We limited it to four, but to avoid getting burned out on museums, also made a decision to alternate days where the main activities were indoor or outdoor.
6) Use the subway. Fast. Cheap. And Google will help you get there if you're unsure. Actually, Google Maps will also help get you there (They will also tell you what is open and when).
7) Time Square has a ton of people. Its great they've turned the area around from the mess its portrayed as in Midnight Cowboy, but it is very family oriented and a lot of chain stores. New York has many cool neighborhoods. Go check out some of the others for shopping, or try getting of Manhattan to another borough, but- research first. Most of you will agree the cool, funky, small business is fun to shop, but we noticed that A) these cool shops are all over. There may be one on a block and the rest are dry cleaners, lawyers offices and restaurants. So, once again, google can be your friend in finding out what people think is worthy checking out. Pinterest or Yelp can be too, but we ran into the issue that if an article was more than a month or two old at least one of the recommended stores or eateries were out of business. So- Google it.
8) If you want to go up in the crown of the Statue of Liberty, you'd better be booking way in advance. But it is still worth seeing even if you just are outside it.
9) The New York Public Library has free tours and audio tours. It is gorgeous and right next to the enchanting Bryant Park (that's where the cute carousel was. I mean, we saw carousels in every park, but that was the cutest).
10) Go boating in Central Park.
11) You'll be hearing more about the art museums later, but Yes, the Met is worth going to. Ask someone who works there though, rather than use the map, as exhibits may not be only where they say. Also, the Guggenheim is very worth going to; the MoMA is too, but in both cases be prepared for very experimental art. Always take a sweater to a museum, even on the hottest days, as they air condition you within an inch of your life and always get the free audio guide.
12) We took a walking tour through Real New York Tours and loved it. We've found we really enjoy taking a walking tour within the first few days of visiting a place because it gives you a sense of direction/placement of sites. This tour was funny and well-paced, allowing you to see a lot.
The TL;DR version? We had a great time in New York. Seriously though, if you plan to go, hope this advice helps!