New York City has long been on my travel “bucket list”. For years I had been planning to go, but for one reason or another, it never seemed to work out.
In October, my boyfriend and I found a smoking deal on flights with Philippine Airlines, and promptly booked them since they fell over New Years Eve. We booked a room in Brooklyn with AirBnb, and a few shows to see while we were there, but mostly left our days open to wander around and explore.
Cities can be amazing adventures, but here are a few useful tips we came across over our week in NYC:
1. Learn “Uptown/Downtown” in Manhattan.
As “small-town” people, we found this a little tricky at first. When you’re in Manhattan, the metro lines will all take you either uptown or downtown. Uptown (North) is essentially the blocks counting upwards, and downtown (South) is the opposite. It’s very simple, but not something we figured out until we got there.
2. Be critical of Airbnb ratings.
We had a terrible Airbnb experience in Brooklyn. We thought we had done our homework, searched through several listings, checked the reviews, and chose one that had tons of reviews.
When we arrived late at night and got into our room, there was no blanket. There was a sheet, a duvet cover (sans duvet), and two towels. The apartment was cold, but there were others staying there who turned off the heat due to noise. Our first night we slept with our towels over us. Terrible. We contacted the host right away and didn’t hear back until we contacted her a second time. She said she’d get us a blanket ASAP. When we arrived back for the night, still no blanket. We immediately contacted Airbnb, who contacted her, and she replied saying she couldn’t get a blanket that night, so we could use the throw from the living room and turn up the heat. Not cool.
The third night, we arrived back and she was home. She left a light comforter at the door and then informed us about her plans to have a NYE party. This was not info we had received prior to paying for the 7-night stay. We made plans to leave that night because we were so unhappy. We booked a hotel for the last two nights of our stay because it was impossible to find an affordable option before January 1.
Anyways, long story, but be warned, if you cancel your booking at an Airbnb mid-stay, you cannot leave a review. This means, only people who endure terrible accommodation for the whole duration of their stay are able to leave a review. I was shocked and super disappointed to learn this. If you’re reading this, don’t stay here.
Of course, there are still great Airbnbs out there, but my advice is to read the reviews and consider there may be some bad experiences that you aren’t able to see.
3. There is so much more than Manhattan.
We spent the majority of our time wandering around Manhattan. Uptown, Downtown, East, and West. Don’t get me wrong, Manhattan is amazing. There is so much hustle and bustle, and your eyes can’t help but look up to the tops of the skyscrapers. The beauty of New York is that there are so many small hidden gems, but they’re hard to find if you stick to the island.
Make your way out to Brooklyn, and wander the ultra-hip neighborhood of Williamsburg. With great little cafes, fantastic places to brunch, and amazing street art hidden throughout, I definitely wish I’d spent more time around there. We enjoyed a very large brunch at Egg, after which we explored the area. There are some great areas to get some photos of Manhattan, as well as some pretty cool industrial spots.
A few ideas of things to do outside of Manhattan:
Brooklyn Flea Market – it’s rated one of the best in the world, so definitely worth checking out!
Staten Island Ferry – it’s free and offers some amazing views of Manhattan. You’ll sail past the Statue of Liberty and can capture some great photos!
Brooklyn’s Prospect Park – if you loved Central Park, you will definitely be impressed by Prospect Park. The carousel built in 1912 is gorgeous, and visitors definitely appreciate the serenity of the park.
4. Don’t pay full price for museums!
Let’s face it, New York City is expensive! So, how can you save a few bucks and still get to visit world-class museums? Visit the museums that offer “suggested donations”. Suggested donations are NOT what you have to pay. When you visit the ticket counter, you get to choose how much you want to pay. That’s pretty cool, right?! Keep in mind that you can’t purchase these tickets online, so you’ll have to brave the lines.
Here are a few:
The Guggenheim (on Saturdays from 5:45 PM to 7:45 PM – the last ticket is issued at 7:15 PM)
Whitney Museum of American Art (on Fridays from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM – last ticket is issued at 9:30 PM)
For a full list of venues with free hours and suggested donations, click here.
5. Walk as much as you can
If you can bear to walk for hours, do it. Walking is the only way to get the feel for New York, honestly. It’s a city of so much diversity, so many cultures, and so many lifestyles. If you’ve always got a destination in mind, you just might miss that amazing vegan dinner spot or that hole in the wall burger joint. You’ll see so many iconic buildings or places of historic interest, it really is a magical city.
I’m sure there’s so much more to add, and if I think of anything else, I’ll make sure to post a follow-up. One parting piece of advice though: DO NOT miss out on Momofuku Noodle Bar. The Hozon Ramen might very well have been the best ramen I’ve eaten in my life. By might, I mean it was.
If you’ve got any amazing New York tips, make sure to leave me a comment!