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Monday, July 27, 2015

A First Timer's Guide to Visiting New York City

*Though this is certainly not an exhaustive list, these are some of the things I would have liked to know before going to NYC. Some is advice I heard from others and followed, some we learned for ourselves.
  • Get an app for the subway on your phone.
  • Get a paper/plastic map for the subway for when your IN the subway and the app doesn't work.
  • Read the signs!
  • People are nice and willing to help, just ask.
  • The 1 line was our favorite subway route for going from lower Manhattan (Staten Island Ferry) to Times Square, it eventually goes to Central Park.
  • Buses sometimes require a separate "ticket" even if you're transferring from the metro.
  • Read the signs!
  • Buy a one week unlimited metro card at the airport.
  • It's not Florida, but it is humid.
  • North of Central Park felt kinda sketchy.
  • Lower Manhattan was a great place to stay.
  • Right now (2015) the museum at Ellis Island is lame because they moved stuff out after/before Sandy and haven't finished fixing things yet. 
  • The 911 museum at ground zero is a MUST. Stay for 4 hours at least. Worth the $$.
  • Go to the Empire State building after 11:00 pm (last elevator up at 1:00 am) the city is prettier at night and there aren't so many people. Cost is $32/person inside the building (people sell passes outside, we didn't compare.) Some of us felt it was worth the $$, others didn't. They sell great city/subway maps in the gift shop.
  • Read the signs!
  • Eat at the Halal food stands. Amazing food. Cheap.
  • Midtown smells like sewage. 
  • There are SO MANY PEOPLE!
  • Central park is incredible. Spend a whole day there.
  • Ellen's Starlight cafe has really great energy and entertainment, the food is so-so.
  • The Olive Garden in Times Square is a great place to grab a quick soup and salad lunch--lots of tables and you're in and out in about 40 minutes.
  • Eat at The Meatball Shop at least once. This was one of our favorite meals. (Multiple locations.)
  • Pack light. You'll likely be dragging luggage on Metros and busses and wishing for a smaller bag.
  • Eat out! The restaurants in NY are the realization of the owner's dreams and the food is incredible. 
  • Read the signs!
  • Matilda is an amazing show to take the family to. All of us loved it. 
  • Fish in the Dark is billed as family friendly, but was more vulgar than we expected, though it was hilarious. We left at Intermission. A $600 disappointment.
  • There is no metro line at Leguardia airport. Q70 is a direct bus from Leguardia to the 7 in Queens, 7 will take you to Grand Central Station in Manhattan. M60 is a bus that will take you to to 125th street (sketchy area) you can then take the 4, 5, or 6 to Grand Central. Time is similar between both options.
  • People don't look "at" you. Very little eye contact, but few people are trouble makers.
  • Between Grand Central and Times Square, take the S shuttle. Straight shot.
  • Leguardia is a hectic and confusing airport. 
  • The girls in Times Square who look like they are wearing nothing but body paint, are truly wearing nothing but body paint (and a thong.) And there are dozens of them. They came out around 9:00 pm.
  • Don't even think of bringing your own car.
  • Read the signs!
  • The cannolis at Carlo's bakery are 1/4 the size of those at Mike's Pastry in Boston. Just sayin'.
  • Get comfortable waiting. For subways. For restaurants. For everything.
  • Give yourself lots of time to get places, just in case there are delays and traffic and what not.
  • If you run your Metro card through the scanner, you can't use it again for a certain amount of time to prevent people from using the same card. This can be problematic if you go in the wrong entrance, come out, and then try to go in the right one. Most metro stations have an internal way to get to the right train.
  • Read the signs!
  • Late at night, some subway lines will only use the first few cars--the rest of the cars will remain in the tunnel when the train comes to stops. It might seem cool when you are alone in a car--but it might mean you missed some information and as the trains aren't running as often it might take you an hour to undo your mistake and get home. 
  • Don't lose your Metro card.
  • Read the signs!
  • Don't buy a Metro card from a person selling theirs, use the kiosks.
  • If you miss your train, another one will be coming soon.
  • Gratuities are usually added automatically into your meal, even if it's for one person. Not all receipts are clear about this so be attentive so you don't double tip.
  • Don't look too closely at the garbage on the streets. You don't really want to know what it is.
  • Be prepared to walk miles and miles every day if you're doing the tourist stuff. Good shoes are a good idea.
  • Don't expect to see everything in one trip.
  • If there's a preacher on the subway, just close your eyes and enjoy it.
  • Read the signs!