In case you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the New York City sights you won’t have time to squeeze in on your trip, here are a few tips about ways to experience some attractions the sneaky way – that is, with less hassle. So while these aren’t exactly things ‘not’ to do at all, they are definitely things that you could consider doing differently!
1. See the Statue of Liberty.
You could take a Statue of Liberty tour (which can take an hour and a half to board the boat in peak season), pay the fees, and stand with hordes of camera-snappers and get crammed into elevators… or you could take the Staten Island ferry (which is free) and get photo opportunities from a bit farther back, saving you both time and the stress of being herded like cattle. Sidenote: the Statue is currently being renovated for a year anyway – but those who want to can still get up close.
2. Ride a Carriage in Central Park.
Yes, it’s just like in your favorite movie, and yes, it can be romantic if everything falls into place nicely. But the reality is that Central Park carriage rides can be very costly (think over $100 for a relatively short amount of time) and in truth only reveal a small percentage of Central Park – which is much larger than you might think and full of fun activities that are a fraction of the price of a weary horse and driver (whom you’ll also have to tip). Instead, rent a bike and ride through yourself, take a picnic, see an outdoor play, or just head in and see where you pop out the other side; you’ll have a much better experience (and you won’t get giggled at by people passing by, which is always a downside to the cheesy tourist trap activities).
3. Eat someplace famous.
Magnolia Bakery, Serendipity, anything you’ve seen repeatedly on the big or small screen… these places are usually bursting with people and way overpriced. The latter takes hours to get into, and although the food may indeed be tasty, New York has hundreds of tasty places! Any place around Times Square is also going to be pretty overrated; it’s much wiser to wander and find cafes and shops that are a bit quieter. But of course there’s nothing wrong with taking a NYC food tour of all the hot spots in one swoop!
4. Rely on taxis.
Cabs come in handy when it’s later than you thought or you’re slightly lost or it’s been a long day – but relying on them for the majority of your transportation needs is not a good idea. Firstly, even though it’s now really easy to pay by card (there are swipe machines in the backseat), you’ll also be presented with that dreaded screen where you’re recommended to tip an extra 10, 15, or 20 percent. Secondly, with spontaneous traffic and numerous one-way streets (and, occasionally, shifty cab drivers), you might take the ‘long way’ and pay twice as much as expected. And lastly, New York City has one of the easiest subway systems you’ll ever use – it might be dirty and intimidating at first, but NYC is laid out on a grid, and there are so many subway lines that you really shouldn’t be walking very much between your starting location and destination. The only time you’ll really have to worry is late at night when certain metro routes run less frequently. Even if it adds a tiny bit of extra hassle to your day, paying a couple bucks and zipping across town is much better than emptying your wallet and getting stuck in an avalanche of angry, honking drivers.
5. Expect things to go as planned.
New York City is a wonderful but crazy place. Its intensity fuels both the desirable and less desirable things about it; some of the stereotypes of ‘rude New Yorkers’ might not even arise for you at all, and the lights of Broadway, starry-eyed crowds, ubiquitous street kebabs, and countless pockets of subcultures are enough to keep anyone entertained – but if plans change, you’ll have to take it in stride. The people who live there have a lot more chaos to deal with on a daily basis than most people, and they have adapted accordingly. If you try not to take anything personally, keep an eye on your belongings, and be respectful of touchy subjects, there shouldn’t be any problems to which you can’t adapt as well!