At the beginning of October, my mom and I took a bucket list trip to New York City to spend time together before my wedding. If you know me, you know that NYC has always been at the tip-top of my list of places I wanted to see. I danced competitively for over 19 years, and a lot of what we did was broadway/musical theater. Name a musical, and I’ve probably danced to at least one of the songs from it. So in my head, I’ve created this huge, beaming idea of what NYC would be like. I was terrified that I would hate it. To be honest, that would be like the emotional equivalent of getting dumped. Dramatic? Yes. Truthful? Probably.
I’m here to say NYC was absolutely everything I’ve ever dreamed it would be and so, so much more. I’d go back tomorrow. Heck, even though I got sick on our last day, I didn’t want to leave and teared up on the way to the airport. It’s one of those places that just felt “right” for me to be in.
I read a LOT about visiting the city before we left. Probably too much. That’s my new thing – not being able to make travel decisions without researching them into the ground. Don’t believe me? Just ask how honeymoon planning is going. You know what. Don’t. Don’t do that.
During my research, I learned an overwhelming amount of information. Some of it was a total lifesaver, other parts were useless. Today, I’m bringing you some of my top tips from an amateur NYC traveler. These include first impressions, things we noticed, and things that other blogs seemed to be WAY off on. Without further ado, let’s jump in.
- SUBWAY. Use it. Learn it. Become one with it. This is THE quickest way to get around. Hailing a cab takes long enough on its own, much less waiting in traffic that seems never to move. We bought a 7-day unlimited subway pass and used the mess out of it. We only got lost twice, but fixing our mistake was as easy as getting off at the next stop and hopping on the train going the other direction. For reference, Memphis has ZERO decent public transportation, and my only other experience using anything like this was in Brisbane, Australia earlier this year. We found navigating NYC simple with the help of the app Citymapper. Put in where you’re trying to go, and it gives you different public transport options to get you there. The only issue we had was the GPS on my phone always showed us about a half a block away from where we actually were, so that was frustrating. But, once we got the hang of the city, it wasn’t too hard to figure out.
- The people are SO kind. Being born and raised in the south, I was expecting to encounter a lot of rude and pushy people. No offense. However, from the moment we arrived, we were proved delightfully wrong. You see, southerners are friendly in that they’ll talk you up in line at the store, but typically mind their own business when something seems off. Not always the case, but for the most part, that’s been my experience. In NYC, people weren’t chatty in lines, but they were always so willing to help. Whether it was a stranger in the subway stopping to help us find our way because we “looked lost,” even though they were in a hurry on their way to work, or a hop-on-hop-off bus pass seller from a different company help guide us to the right direction, even though we weren’t buying from them, everyone we encountered was kind, helpful, and friendly.
- Don’t stop on the sidewalks. You will get run over. Step to the side to take pictures or navigate. The crowds weren’t as bad as I expected, but we did get stuck in Times Square on Saturday night, and that was slightly panic-inducing. Just be aware of your surroundings and those walking around you. Some are just trying to get to work on time, and pausing means getting in their way.
- The Statue of Liberty takes forever to get to. Instead of waiting for 4 or more hours at Castle Clinton to visit the famous statue, hop over to the ferry terminal on Vessey Street (west of One World Trade Center) and take the Hornblower. They don’t stop, but the guide gives you all kinds of history and stories about the statue, Ellis Island, and NYC itself. Some of our best city views came from this cruise! It’s free with the Sightseeing Pass.
- A lot of NYC is going to the top of tall buildings. One World Trade is the tallest building in the Americas and is 100%worth it. The view is mesmerizing. The other 2 popular spots are the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock. I’d recommend doing Top of the Rock during the day, it has some of the best views of the Empire State Building and Central Park. Go to the top of the Empire State building right before sunset, and get the most spectacular view of the city lights coming to life. Be prepared to wait, though. All three are extremely busy all the time.
- You can try your darnedest to plan every second, but it won’t work. We found going with the flow while still having an overall plan for the day was the best (and most stress-free) way to go. We weren’t on a schedule, except for the day we got to sit in on Jimmy Fallon, and just planned our days as we went. It was a blast.
- I read somewhere that you had to pay for public bathrooms. We never encountered a single public restroom or one that we had to pay for. So there’s that.
NYC was a dream. I’ll talk more about what we did each day in my next post, as well as talk about a few other tips we discovered along the way.
Thanks for tagging along!