Dawn and I have been to New York City together more than once. New York is one of those places that is different every time you go. I thought I would write a slightly different post this week.
As a first timer going to NYC can be overwhelming- Where to stay, what to see, where to eat. There is a fear that you are going to go to New York and miss things. For some people a trip to New York might be a once in a lifetime trip.
What if my hotel is far away from the attractions? Do I stay in midtown? In Chelsea? Brooklyn?
What do I choose to see first? The Statue of Liberty? The Empire State Building? Central Park?
Where do I eat? Diners? Steak Houses? Fast Food?
One of the key things I found when planning any trip especially one to somewhere like New York is research.
First and foremost I believe that deciding where you want to stay in is key. What kind of experience do you want. New York is a relatively expensive city to stay in.
I will admit it… I like hotels.
I know this is a rather old-fashioned way to stay at the moment, with the influx of websites such as AirBNB, the trendy way to stay anywhere is in an apartment or house to get the full local experience. Everyone is trying to ‘be’ like a local. Now whilst there is nothing wrong with that, it is not what I like when I travel. I like being a tourist, whilst I don’t walk around with that inscribed on my forehead, I feel that lately everyone is missing out on what can often be interesting places to see because being a tourist is not cool.
When I first started travelling I used to start by looking for the budget hotels and work my way through those first. These days I tend to look for hotels that are close to what I want to see and have the facilities I need, such as WiFi, then search around for a good deal. The first time I stayed in New York I stayed in a hotel called The Pod (now called POD 51). This hotel was reasonable and in midtown close enough to the attractions that a subway could get you to them but not in the busiest area that it was noisy all night. The Pod was very reasonable in price and not the most basic of amenities, however if you were adverse to sharing a bathroom then it wasn’t for you. Nonetheless I will say that the shared bathroom was cleaner than some of the private bathrooms I have been in (a bathroom in an apartment in Tenerife springs to mind). I stayed at The Pod on 3 occasions, twice in one of their bunkbed rooms and once in a double room. Though on our most recent visit, Dawn and I decided to try a hotel in a different area of the city. We stayed at the Holiday Inn near Penn Station, it was quite cool to see the city from a different area.
When I am asked about visiting New York I always give the same advice, decide what you want to see then do some research – New York is not like a beach holiday where you get off the plane, into a hotel and stay on your sun lounger for 5 days. New York requires some planning, now I’m not saying that you should plan every minute and suck all the spontaneity out of your holiday but some planning is needed.
Once you have your accommodation booked decide what you want to see… Do you want to go to Central Park? Do you want to visit The Statue of Liberty and see the New York skyline from her crown? Are you into planes and the military? Then the USS Intrepid is for you…
One of the things that many people don’t realise when visiting New York is that not only is it a huge city but that attractions are spread out over the city. If you plan not to use the subway then New York is a very big city. It would take a considerable amount of time to walk from The 911 memorial to Central Park for example. In fact according to Google maps it would take 2hours and 19mins, that is walking at a reasonable speed and is in fact up hill. I don’t know about you that is not my idea of fun! Also despite the fact that everyone tells you that ‘No one drives in New York’, many, many people do… there is traffic (often at a stand still) on every street in the city, so using buses and cabs is nearly as slow as walking.
In my opinion the easiest way to get around the city is to use the subway. Once you get a grip of which lines go where it is quite easy to use. I look for the station which is closest to the attraction I want to see and then see which train goes to that station. When looking at the transit map the lines are colour coded as well as having a number or letter assigned. One of the mistakes that I made when visiting New York for the first time is not checking if the train I was getting on was going uptown or downtown. For example if I want to go to Central Park from Times Square I want to be on the uptown train but if I want to go to Brooklyn then the downtown one is right.
So once you have decided where you want to visit my advice is look what areas of the city they are situated in. For example, if you want to see the Statue of Liberty, Ellis island and the 911 Memorial try and visit these on the same day or visit Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Bridge on the same day as Wall Street. All of these attractions are in the lower part of the city. If you ant to visit the Guggenheim or the Natural History museum it would also be a good idea to visit these on the same day, you could even squeeze in a quick visit to Strawberry Fields or Columbus Circle as these are more north. If Central Park is high on your list you could easily devote a whole day to this.
Finally I would say the most important advice I would give to anyone going to New York is wear a comfortable pair of shoes. No matter how you decide to get around the city there is A LOT of walking.
Personally, I think planning is an essential to any holiday but I want to know what you do. Do you plan your city trips or do you think I am totally wrong and winging it is the way to go?