Central Park is amazing, but there’s much more to New York City. We’ve compiled some tips for those of you that are planning a trip to New York:
New York State Of Mind
New York is made up of five boroughs: Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, The Bronx and Manhattan. When people say they are coming to visit New York, they typically mean Manhattan. It’s the home of Broadway theatre, Times Square, Chinatown, and Central Park.
In the map above you’ll see that the avenues go from 1st Avenue (on the East side of the island) to 12th Ave (on the West Side of the island). Manhattan is only 2.3 miles (3.7 kilometers) wide at its widest point so it’s not that long of a walk from one side to the other. The streets above Houston Street (pronouced Howston not Hewston) go from 1st Street and all the way up to 207th Street as you go North. Midtown is located between 34th and 59th Street and Times Square is at 42nd and Broadway.
Take the subway. Seriously, we all do it. Many people are afraid of the subway. They seem to think it’s full of criminals. In reality, it’s probably safer than the city streets because there are cameras everywhere. To add to that, it’s worth mentioning that New York is the safest large city in the United States. Beyond that, it’s efficient and inexpensive to use the subway. Save yourself the trouble of spending $2.50 every time you hop underground and spring for the 7 day pass. It’s $30 and you’ll probably save money even if you’re there for three days. You’ll be surprised how fast those rides add up. If you decide to buy your rides one at a time, remember to reuse your card. There’s a dollar surcharge for every new MetroCard you purchase. Grab a map of the subway and feel free to ask people how to get where you’re going. Most New Yorkers will be able to direct you anywhere you want to go and you’ll find that we’re much friendlier than we appear in the movies. Another tip, refer to the subway by the letter or number not by the color of the line.
If you don’t feel like taking the subway, it’s very easy to hail a cab from anywhere in the city. Find a corner and stick your hand up in the air. Don’t whistle and don’t yell taxi. Again, that only happens in the movies. Look at the plaque on the roof. If all of the lights are on, the cab is not picking up passengers. The cab is only available when just the center light is lit. Get in the cab before you tell them where you want to go. The law requires a cab to take you to any destination you provide them with so don’t let a driver tell you he doesn’t go there. When you get in the cab, give a cross street (example: 23rd and 10th) and not an address if possible. This conveys to them that you know where you’re going and they won’t try to run your fare up. Try to use a yellow, metered taxi. However if there are no other options, grab a black cab. In this case, do yourself a favor and negotiate the price before you get in the car. Yellow cabs run on a meter and so you can’t negotiate, but black cabs charge per charter.
New York City Anomalies
Corner Delis: The term “deli” has a fairly different meaning in just about any city. We call our corner stores or convenience stores delis. And, as you might expect they all have a deli counter with cold-cuts, eggplant parmigiana, beef patties, and sometimes even pizza. But you can also get canned food, cigarettes, beer, breakfast cereal and even toothpaste. The best part? Most of them are open 24 hours a day.
Food Carts/Trucks: The streets are full of food vendors selling everything from hot dogs to lobster rolls. Don’t be afraid. Street food is part of the culture in New York and you’ll find some really delicious meals. A few tips, always ask the price if you don’t see it posted. Feel free to haggle over the price, particularly with hot dog vendors. Typically you shouldn’t have to pay more than $2 for a hot dog. Check out New York Magazine’s awesome guide to New York food trucks.
New York Neighborhoods
People often ask where they should stay in the city. There is no right or wrong answer here. New York is a very diverse and vibrant city. Some parts offer more for tourists, but all have their own unique flavor. And because the island of Manhattan is so small, it’s easy to get from one neighborhood to another in a relatively short time.
(Between 34th and 59th Street and 8th Ave and 5th Ave)
This is the typical tourist enclave. It’s home to Times Square, Rockerfeller Center, the Theatre District, The Garment District, and the famous shops on 5th Avenue. You’ll also find a number of world class restaurants including Le Cirque, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Per Se, Michael Jordan’s, The Russian Tea Room, and Circo. You’ll also find plenty of chain restaurants like Red Lobster and The Olive Garden and a number of pizza places.
Flatiron District / Gramercy
(epicenter at 5th Avenue and 23rd Street)
Significantly quieter than midtown, the Flatiron District appeals more to locals because of it’s lack of “excitement.” There’s still plenty to see in this area and it’s very close to Midtown and Chelsea. The area is named after Architect Fuller’s famous Flatiron Building which has three sides instead of the traditional four. Across the street is Madison Square park which is quiet and reflective with the exception of the original ShakeShack location which usually draws a line for burgers, fries and shakes. Other noteworthy restaurants include Eleven Madison Square, A Voce, and Eataly.
(28th to 14th Street and 6th to 12th Avenue)
The demography in Chelsea leans toward wealthy, gay men in their thirties and forties. 7th and 8th Ave are lined with quaint restaurants. To the west of 10th Ave you’ll find a number of art galleries, the Chelsea Market, and the Highline Park. It’s also a good neighborhood to shop. You’ll find Barneys CO-OP, Comme des Garçons, and Balenciaga.
West Village (Greenwich Village)
(14th to Houston Street and 6th Ave to 12th Av)
Though the neighborhood was once considered to be a bohemian enclave, it is now one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city. Characterized by quant, tree-lined streets, jazz clubs (Blue Note, Village Vanguard), and quiet little corner cafes, the West Village is sometimes confusing for travelers to find their way around because it goes off of the city grid. The area is also home to Washington Square Park, n 9.75 acre park with a tradition of nonconformity, it’s fountain area has long been one of the city’s popular spots for residents and tourists. It’s not uncommon to hear live music, find seemingly spontaneous dance classes or get in a game of chess with someone you’re sure to lose to.
(14th Street from Broadway to Ave D)
A sharp contrast to the quiet West Village, the East Village is the home to punk rock, tattoo shops, yoga, and hipster dive bars. The area known as Alphabet City, a subdivision of the East Village surrounding Tompkins Square Park was where the character of the musical RENT lived. If you’re a fan of Indian food, you’ll want to check out “Curry Row” which stretches between 1st and 2nd Ave on 6th Street. For a good taste of East Village flavor check out St. Mark’s Place, a stretch of 8th St between 2nd Ave and 3rd Ave.
Upper East Side
(59th to 106th Street and 5th to 1st Avenue)
Characterized by the “old money” families like the Astors, Vanderbilts, and Rockerfellers, the Upper East Side is safe, quiet and has an air of sophistication and tradition. You’ve probably seen it featured on Gossip Girl or Sex and the City. The area also houses New York’s Museum Mile where you can find The Met, the Goethe Institut, the Nueu Galerie, the Guggenheim, the Whitney, the National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts, National Design Museum, Jewish Museum, Museum of the City of New York, El Museo del Barrio, and the Museum for African Art.
Upper West Side
(59th to 116th Street and 8th Ave to 12th Ave)
East siders, typically say that the West Side is new money. Historically it was more liberal and home to actors and musicians. Today the Upper West Side is often characterized by Upper-middle class families. The neighborhood sits to the west of Central Park but also enjoys the beauty of Riverside Park which overlooks the Hudson River. If you feel like heading up to the northern part of the neighborhood, you’ll find Tom’s Restaurant on 113th and Broadway, it was Monk’s Restaurant on Seinfeld. You’ll also find, The Cathedral of St John the Divine which sits right across from Columbia University.
(116th to 145th Street)
The city’s famous African-American culture enclave. Most of the action feeds off of 125th Street where you’ll find street vendors, gospel music coming from nearby churches, and the world famous Apollo Theatre. For food check out the classic Sylvia’s Restaurant or for something newer Melba’s. For some outstanding jazz, check out The Cotton Club, and the Lenox Lounge. And don’t miss out on Harlem’s awesome green area, Morningside Park.
Chinatown / Little Italy
(Broome to Worth St and Broadway to Eldridge Ave)
Bad news first, Little Italy is not really an Italian neighborhood anymore. There’s a small strip of restaurants on Mott and Mulberry Street between Canal and Broome Street. It’s very touristy and overpriced. The city is full of great Italian-American cuisine try somewhere else. If you’re looking for an authentic neighborhood, check out Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. Having said that, you may be interested in seeing the original St. Patrick’s Cathedral which was featured in the Christening scene in The Godfather. Now the good news, New York City has the largest Chinatown in the United States. Wandering around the streets will introduce you to a plethora of shops and restaurants. Be sure to check out Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, Pearl River Market, and Joe’s Shanghai. Bargain hunters will also want to walk along Canal Street where you can buy knock-off name products.
(Houston to Canal St and Hudson to Bowery)
SoHo is short for South of Houston St. At one point in time it was populated by artists and bohemians who converted commercial lofts and warehouses into communal living spaces. The real estate industry decided to sell “artist lofts” in the area with exposed brick and pipe and high ceilings. The idea of living an artist’s life was so appealing that artists could no longer afford it themselves. Today the area is full of designer clothing stores like Prada, Gucci, Versace, TopShop and Armani Exchange. As a result it tends to be pretty popular. Noteable restaurants include Balthazar, AquaGrill, and Lombardi’s Pizza which claims to be the first pizzeria in New York.
(Below Worth St)
Home to the Financial District home of the Wall Street tycoons. But that’s not all you’ll find. South Street Seaport provides beautiful views of the Brooklyn Bridge over the East River and a number of great restaurants and museums. You’ll also find Battery Park, a breathtaking riverfront park where you can look out and see the Statue of Liberty or take the ferry to Liberty Island. We also recommend the Staten Island Ferry if you want to take a free ferry ride that will take you past the Statue of Liberty. Of course, no trip to Lower Manhattan would be complete without visiting The World Trade Center site.
More on NYC
If you’re planning a trip, we recommend checking out some of the following website for ideas:
Where to Stay: An NYC.com article that talks about picking a hotel room. It takes into consideration logistics and property considerations more than neighborhood but is full of some great tips.
NYC The Official Guide: New York City’s official marketing, tourism and partnership organization. Chock full of events, restaurant listings, hotel information and more.
New York Blogs
NewYorkology, Basic New York Tips: The essentials every visitor to New York should know from one of the city’s best blogs.
New York Tours
Tenement Museum: Awesome tours of the Lower East Side.
Central Park Sunset Tours: Our own extensive tour of Central Park which ends as the sun is setting.