So, last week I decided to do something very spontaneous and surprise my boyfriend with a weekend trip to New York City. (Not really, I bought the plane tickets about a month before) but hey, it was spontaneous and surprising for him. A majority of my family either live in or haved lived in New York, not all in the city, but I have been to the city a couple times and thought I was somewhat familiar with the territory and how to get around easily and safely. However, up until my most recent trip, I had never been to the city without one of my parents or some sort of adult figure who knows their way around. Well, although we did make it through the trip without getting robbed or severely lost, I definitely underestimated the struggle of traveling to the city and navigating it, both mentally and physically. In this post I would like to both share some experiences from our most recent trip and share some of the insight I learned, and observations I have made about the city, and being a tourist in this giant concrete jungle.
- New York City is HUGE!
Yes, duh Alex obviously that’s kinda the whole point. However, whatever you think of as a “huge” city, quadruple it, and thats when you get New York. The city consists of 5 boroughs and Manhattan alone is about 300 blocks! Of course I have always known this since I was a kid visiting NYC with my family, but once your out there on your own you start to realize how large and overwhelming it truly can be. Due to its sheer size there are many issues that you may run into traveling in NYC.
- Its takes forever to get from place to place: Do NOT underestimate traffic in the city. I made this mistake many times due to the fact that my GPS would tell me our destination is 1-2 miles away, where I live its takes less than 3 minutes to drive a mile away, in NYC you can’t count on that taking anywhere from 15 minutes up to an hour!
- Cab Fares will make you go broke: Due to the problems with traffic we discussed above, cab fare adds up very quickly and in my case, it was the biggest expense while I was in the city. The average price I paid for a cab was upwards of $20 and at first we were taking multiple cabs a day, before we realized that this habit had to quicly be changed.
- The Subway is your wallets best friend: $2.50 for a one way subway ride that you can ride for as long as you need! Why did I not know about this earlier?! The subway is definitely the quickest and cheapest option to get you from point A to point B in Manhattan. You can skip the crazy wait times, bumper to bumper traffic, and expensive fares, and as long as you watch your things, keep an eye out for any trouble, and preferably travel with a friend, you will safely get to your destination much quicker, and with more cash in your pocket!
Another large issue many people run into when traveling to New York is trying not to overspend, the city has so many great restaurants, museums, sights to see, shopping, etc., it can be very hard to set a budget and stick to it, and on top of that prices for almost everything in the city are ridiculously high. Unfortunately for me, I am an 18-year-old college student and could barely afford plane tickets to fly to New York, so once were there I had to get very creative and figure out ways to save money while still filling our days with good food and fun activities.
There are lots of free activities in the city: Some examples that we personally enjoyed were:
- The High Line: This is basically an (approx.) 1 mile nature loop that weaves through the city, it is a wonderful touch of greenery and nature in such an industrial atmosphere. There was also a great homemade popsicle vendor right in the middle of the walk so we grabbed two lime and mint popsicles and chatted and strolled through the modern Manhattan skyline. This spot is great for a stroll and also has great opportunities for photography
- The Chelsea Market: Located in the neighborhood of Chelsea, the Chelsea Market is an enclosed mall & food court. However, this is no ordinary mall and food court, with its rustic atmosphere, this is a great place for a stroll on a rainy day, some comfort food, or some great photography. There are also many great art galleries in the neighborhood of Chelsea.
- Chinatown/ Little Italy: Another reason NYC is one of the best cities in the world? You don’t even have to leave the city to see a whole new country! Little Italy and Chinatown are two neighboring areas in downtown Manhattan. Both Little Italy and Chinatown are immersive experiences, you can indulge in homemade pastas and pizza or Jiaozi and Kung Pao Chicken. The streets of Chinatown are filled with small street side markets where Chinese herbs, fruits and vegetables, and fish can be found. Even if you are not shopping or eating here, strolling through the streets is a great way to spend the day.
- Central Park: Sometimes amongst all the hustle and bustle and concrete skyscrapers, it can be nice to take a break and temporarily reconnect with nature. Central Park is an 843 urban park. Here you can rent bikes, have a picnic, feed the ducks by the pond, or just go for a stroll. This inner city oasis is a great option for a sunny afternoon.
- Soho: Soho is a very urban, artistic neighborhood in lower Manhattan. It is a trendy spot, great for shopping in the boutiques or browsing the art galleries. Soho is known for being one of the main fashion districts of New York. This is a great spot to grab a hot coffee or tea and spend the day window shopping and admiring independent artists’ galleries and exhibits.
Overall, when traveling to New York there are a few things to remember. Firstly, as with every new place you travel to, be careful and aware of your surroundings, things move at a very fast pace in the city, there are usually many people around you at all times so just be sure to watch your things. As a kid me and mom actually nearly $300 dollars of clothes stolen from us. Along with watching your things, you more importantly have to watch people around you, and your partner/ kids, etc. There is no need to be paranoid, the city is not a bad place, as long as you have your eyes open you will be fine. Secondly, when trying to budget and not overspend, always look for the cheaper option (as long as its safe) and try to incorporate some free activities into your trip to split up the spending. Things like the subway, and special tram services to and from airports can also help you save a few bucks. Lastly, try to explore off the beaten trail, to experience the true culture of New York you have to venture further then the tourist destinations, this can be done by researching before your trip or asking around at restaurants, shops, etc., ask someone what restaurant they recommend or an activity they like to do. You will be very surprised at all the city has to offer. It is a wonderful place to eat great food, enjoy long walks, marvel at all of the art and creativity the floods the city, and open your mind to new experiences.