Author Topic: Things a first-time NYC tourist should know?  (Read 2152 times)

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SleepyKitty

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Things a first-time NYC tourist should know?
« on: July 20, 2013, 03:23:33 PM »
I thought I'd post a thread because of a previous one on escalator etiquette - I come from a smallish city in upstate NY, and would never have known about walking up escalators instead of riding them! So, with that in mind, I'm visiting NYC for the first time as part of a group - it's myself and four other staff members and a group of German university students here for the summer (all adults, over the age of 20). Can anyone offer suggestions on how to be a good NYC tourist that might not be obvious to someone from a small town? Particularly as I will be handling a fairly large group most of the time?

kckgirl

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Re: Things a first-time NYC tourist should know?
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2013, 04:37:24 PM »
I don't live in New York, but I go there several times a year. The most annoying thing to me, another tourist, is a group taking up the whole sidewalk and then stopping to take pictures. Walk in smaller groups of 2 or 3 and move out of the way if you want to take a picture of anything.
Maryland

Carotte

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Re: Things a first-time NYC tourist should know?
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2013, 05:03:37 PM »
I don't live in New York, but I go there several times a year. The most annoying thing to me, another tourist, is a group taking up the whole sidewalk and then stopping to take pictures. Walk in smaller groups of 2 or 3 and move out of the way if you want to take a picture of anything.

And that's not just for the sidewalk. If you're taking the metro for example, don't crowd around the ticket machine, or the map, or on the way in, or when getting out and you're figuring what exit you must take...

Kaypeep

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Re: Things a first-time NYC tourist should know?
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2013, 05:05:36 PM »
POD - walk in pairs at most.  3 across is too wide and jams up sidewalks.  If you want to stop, walk to the side and THEN stop. Don't just stop in the middle of the sidewalk.

Other tips:

If you want to ride the subway, buy a metro card.  Same for the city bus.  The buses do NOT take dollar bills.  Fare is $2.50 in coins, which people usually don't carry.  Go to the MTA website and plan the best metro card purchase for your visit.
www.mta.info
There are daily cards, weekly cards, monthly cards and cash value cards (like a debit card.)  Depending on how you are getting around, buy the one that best suits your needs (and factor in a bit more than you think you will use.)   Download subway apps, too, because there is a TON of work being done on the lines over the weekends this summer, so a lot of lines are not in service or offering limited service on weekends.  You'll want to know this beforehand. for planning trips.

Food is cheaper the farther away from midtown  you get.  So head towards avenues with high numbers (9th, 10th, 11th) or low #'s or letters (A, B, 1st, 2nd) for a better variety of restaurants that are at reasonable (by NYC standards) prices, and are open later if not 24 hours.

Don't hesitate to split your group in two if people want to do different things at the same time, and then meet back later.

If you want to see a play, you can get discount tix at the TKTS booth in Times Square, but if you want to see a specific show you can usually go to the theater in the early morning 8 or 9ish and wait on line for first-come first-served discount tix for the show that night. (Try doing this on a Wednesday and you can have a choice of discount tix for the matinee or the evening show, since they do 2 shows a night then.

Restaurant tipping rate is usually expected to be about 15% for good service.


Aeris

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Re: Things a first-time NYC tourist should know?
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2013, 05:19:00 PM »
I don't live in New York, but I go there several times a year. The most annoying thing to me, another tourist, is a group taking up the whole sidewalk and then stopping to take pictures. Walk in smaller groups of 2 or 3 and move out of the way if you want to take a picture of anything.

A million times this.

Just try to be aware that while it's a an adventure for you (and it should be! enjoy it!) there are millions of people here who are just trying to get through their day: it's hot, it's too crowded, and they are probably late for a meeting. :p Try to be aware, all the time, of whether you are in the flow of traffic or not. It can be exhausting to have a part of your brain always scanning and taking the people moving by you into account, but it's worth it.

In other words, think of walking in NYC more like driving in most places. You may be out for a relaxing stroll, but most other people are 'on the highway' mentally. That's also a major reason why people don't stop and say hello randomly, or get chatty on the streetcorner - most New Yorkers aren't trying to be rude, they've just got their blinders on and are focused on their objective.

That being said, stroll away in the parks. That's what they are there for.

I think groups of tourists sometimes take up tons of room while walking down the sidewalk because the 'personal space bubble' is a lot bigger other places. So you get 4 people, all with 'bubbles' walking in a group, and it uses up the entire sidewalk. Try to be aware of this and set aside your own personal space bubble when appropriate (most of the time).

Apart from that, I would say make sure you get out of the super tourist areas and enjoy the unique things the city has to offer! Don't eat at a restaurant you could find back home, go for something unusual, one of a kind, or at the very least that you haven't tried before.

The subway runs all night, but it does run very infrequently at 2am, so cabs are more efficient at that point.

Don't give a cabby an address, give him cross-streets. Unless he has a GPS, an address isn't going to help him.

26th St to 27th st is a tiny block. (blocks running north-south) 6th AVENUE to 7th AVENUE is a giant long forever block (blocks running east-west).

HorseFreak

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Re: Things a first-time NYC tourist should know?
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2013, 07:05:56 PM »
Taxis have absolutely no problem flattening you while making a right turn even if you have a walk light. Be vigilant.

Be sure to have a meetup spot if your group gets separated at an easy to find location. Every block will look like the next when you're lost. Major landmarks like FAO Schwarz are good if you're in the area.

Jocelyn

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Re: Things a first-time NYC tourist should know?
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2013, 07:32:03 PM »
If you want to go shopping, visit Macy's at Herald Square. I was really surprised at the huge variety in on-sale merchandise- I got a cashmere sweater set and a silk blouse for less than $50. Plus, if you keep your eyes open, you can see some of the features of Miracle on 34th Street, such as the original wooden escalators and the employee elevators. :)

Venus193

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Re: Things a first-time NYC tourist should know?
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2013, 08:05:31 PM »
POD - walk in pairs at most.  3 across is too wide and jams up sidewalks.  If you want to stop, walk to the side and THEN stop. Don't just stop in the middle of the sidewalk.

Other tips:

If you want to ride the subway, buy a metro card.  Same for the city bus.  The buses do NOT take dollar bills.  Fare is $2.50 in coins, which people usually don't carry.  Go to the MTA website and plan the best metro card purchase for your visit.
www.mta.info
There are daily cards, weekly cards, monthly cards and cash value cards (like a debit card.)  Depending on how you are getting around, buy the one that best suits your needs (and factor in a bit more than you think you will use.)   Download subway apps, too, because there is a TON of work being done on the lines over the weekends this summer, so a lot of lines are not in service or offering limited service on weekends.  You'll want to know this beforehand. for planning trips.

Food is cheaper the farther away from midtown  you get.  So head towards avenues with high numbers (9th, 10th, 11th) or low #'s or letters (A, B, 1st, 2nd) for a better variety of restaurants that are at reasonable (by NYC standards) prices, and are open later if not 24 hours.

Don't hesitate to split your group in two if people want to do different things at the same time, and then meet back later.

If you want to see a play, you can get discount tix at the TKTS booth in Times Square, but if you want to see a specific show you can usually go to the theater in the early morning 8 or 9ish and wait on line for first-come first-served discount tix for the show that night. (Try doing this on a Wednesday and you can have a choice of discount tix for the matinee or the evening show, since they do 2 shows a night then.

Restaurant tipping rate is usually expected to be about 15% 20% for good service.

Fixed that for you.

If you want to buy postcards for friends, the best places to buy them are on 7th and 8th Avenues and Broadway in the 50s.  10 for $1 and you have to buy 10 to get that price.  Just buy a whole bunch and give them out at home.

Don't just stop dead while walking; there's likely to be someone right behind you.

If you get lost or need to ask directions, don't hesitate.  We New Yorkers are very proud of our city and want to be helpful when we can.

Aeris

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Re: Things a first-time NYC tourist should know?
« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2013, 10:07:00 PM »
POD - walk in pairs at most.  3 across is too wide and jams up sidewalks.  If you want to stop, walk to the side and THEN stop. Don't just stop in the middle of the sidewalk.

Other tips:

If you want to ride the subway, buy a metro card.  Same for the city bus.  The buses do NOT take dollar bills.  Fare is $2.50 in coins, which people usually don't carry.  Go to the MTA website and plan the best metro card purchase for your visit.
www.mta.info
There are daily cards, weekly cards, monthly cards and cash value cards (like a debit card.)  Depending on how you are getting around, buy the one that best suits your needs (and factor in a bit more than you think you will use.)   Download subway apps, too, because there is a TON of work being done on the lines over the weekends this summer, so a lot of lines are not in service or offering limited service on weekends.  You'll want to know this beforehand. for planning trips.

Food is cheaper the farther away from midtown  you get.  So head towards avenues with high numbers (9th, 10th, 11th) or low #'s or letters (A, B, 1st, 2nd) for a better variety of restaurants that are at reasonable (by NYC standards) prices, and are open later if not 24 hours.

Don't hesitate to split your group in two if people want to do different things at the same time, and then meet back later.

If you want to see a play, you can get discount tix at the TKTS booth in Times Square, but if you want to see a specific show you can usually go to the theater in the early morning 8 or 9ish and wait on line for first-come first-served discount tix for the show that night. (Try doing this on a Wednesday and you can have a choice of discount tix for the matinee or the evening show, since they do 2 shows a night then.

Restaurant tipping rate is usually expected to be about 15% 20% for good service.

Fixed that for you.

If you want to buy postcards for friends, the best places to buy them are on 7th and 8th Avenues and Broadway in the 50s.  10 for $1 and you have to buy 10 to get that price.  Just buy a whole bunch and give them out at home.

Don't just stop dead while walking; there's likely to be someone right behind you.

If you get lost or need to ask directions, don't hesitate.  We New Yorkers are very proud of our city and want to be helpful when we can.

I'm going to disagree with the tipping rate. In my experience, 15% is absolutely 'standard', but a lot of people give 18% for 'good service', and 20% if it's great, or they are feeling math lazy.

EllenS

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Re: Things a first-time NYC tourist should know?
« Reply #9 on: July 20, 2013, 11:44:59 PM »
Tipping: unless the tax rate has changed in the last 5 years, we used to just take the cost of the meal and add 25% - that covers tax at 8.25% and tip at 16.75%.

Never stop on, or at the top or bottom of stairs.  Move to the side.

Many parents with kids in strollers take them in the subway.  Helping them up or down the stairs is sometimes appreciated, but do NOT grab a stroller without asking!  You would not believe the number of well-intentioned people who almost made me fall down the stairs while I was pregnant with #2 and had #1 in the stroller.  Screaming happened.

If you are going to a numbered street, make sure you know whether it is on the West or East side.  Crosstown travel is slower and more inconvenient than uptown/downtown travel, especially between 59th and 100th streets (Central Park).  It is a total pain to get to the right latitude and then realize you have to double back 10 or 15 blocks to go crosstown.

When walking, there are approximately 20 up/down blocks to a mile, and 5 east/west blocks to a mile.

The cheapest, easiest, least smelly, most pleasant way to get around is by bus, as long as you are not on a deadline or going a major commuter route in rush hour. I never saw a bus without air conditioning, but it happens on the subway all the time.

If you are taking the subway and there is one empty car on an otherwise crowded train, do NOT think "Wow! Plenty of seats!".  There is a reason nobody wants to be on that car.

Many museums and nearly all theaters are closed on Monday. If you are interested in theater that is not just Broadway, pick up the Village Voice or Time Out New York and check out some of the OB (Off-Broadway) or OOB (off-off) listings. OB is pretty well publicised and attracts a lot of well-known actors, while in OOB shows you sometimes get to see quite good unknown actors doing interesting non-mainstream work.

Library Dragon

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Re: Things a first-time NYC tourist should know?
« Reply #10 on: July 21, 2013, 12:06:49 AM »
POD - walk in pairs at most.  3 across is too wide and jams up sidewalks.  If you want to stop, walk to the side and THEN stop. Don't just stop in the middle of the sidewalk.....

If you want to see a play, you can get discount tix at the TKTS booth in Times Square, but if you want to see a specific show you can usually go to the theater in the early morning 8 or 9ish and wait on line for first-come first-served discount tix for the show that night. (Try doing this on a Wednesday and you can have a choice of discount tix for the matinee or the evening show, since they do 2 shows a night then.

POD

If you can be at the TKTS booth at the South Street Seaport you can often save tons of time (http://us7.campaign-archive2.com/?u=ef3cee2808cd7f8b66cb607f9&id=35252ab997).  Don't over look what's showing Off Broadway.  Some of the best shows are at the smaller theaters. 

As others have said don't hesitate to split up a little.  One year we dropped our DSs (15 and 22 years) off at the American Museum of Natural History while we went to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was easy to split and get back together.

On our last trip DH and I did the hop-on-hop-off tours (http://www.newyorkpass.com/En/bus-tour-packages). DH is a Brooklyn boy and he enjoyed.  We squeezed all the options into one day.   

I always warn people we take to Manhattan that they haven't seen so many people in one place at one time.  Even friends that have travelled to Paris and Rome are surprised. 

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cicero

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Re: Things a first-time NYC tourist should know?
« Reply #11 on: July 21, 2013, 10:00:05 AM »
If you want to go shopping, visit Macy's at Herald Square. I was really surprised at the huge variety in on-sale merchandise- I got a cashmere sweater set and a silk blouse for less than $50. Plus, if you keep your eyes open, you can see some of the features of Miracle on 34th Street, such as the original wooden escalators and the employee elevators. :)
go to their visitor's center (I think that's what it's called) - if you are from out of town you are entitled to a discount card (I think it was 10%).

And remember - for the most part, NYers are very friendly and helpful. Ask for help, people will help you. Subways are very self-explanatory - there are loads of maps. Just don't stand at the metro card machine during rush hour and contemplate the meaning of life (or how the heck you work the machine) because people will get impatient.

google "free things to do in NY" which will give you a list of , well, free things  ;D but also which museums are free on which days.

NYer pedestrians view the cross/don't cross lights as a weird suggestion...

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Thipu1

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Re: Things a first-time NYC tourist should know?
« Reply #12 on: July 21, 2013, 10:15:01 AM »
Depending on the amount of time you have in the city and the weather, a visit to Governor's Island may be in order.  It's only open on weekends but the ferry is free and the place offers gorgeous views of the harbor and lower Manhattan.  There are also two forts to explore and other historic buildings.  You'll have a hard time believing that you're in NYC. 

This year through the end of September, Governor's Island is the site of 'Fete Paradiso'.  This is a show of several dozen 19th century European carnival attractions. 

'www.nps.gov/gois/index.htm'

Whatever you wind up doing in NYC, enjoy yourself.  We'll be happy to have you. 

jaxsue

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Re: Things a first-time NYC tourist should know?
« Reply #13 on: July 21, 2013, 10:27:11 AM »
I love going to the city. I live 1 hr away. I highly recommend going to the Tenement Museum on the lower east side. It is a small venue, and I recommend going online to secure tickets.

poundcake

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Re: Things a first-time NYC tourist should know?
« Reply #14 on: July 21, 2013, 11:27:51 AM »
It's expensive. Everything is expensive. Yes, that bottle of water is six dollars. Yes, that is really the cost of a pizza and a pitcher of beer. Complaining loudly about it won't change a darned thing and will only make you look ignorant.

Do not, no matter what, pay attention to or give money to the buskers on the subway. Not if it is the best doo-wop you've ever heard, or the saddest looking person desperately selling batteries, or the most adorable child on the planet doing break-dancing moves. They are not there to entertain you, and their presence is disruptive at best, and a hazard at worst. Just ask the person I saw get kicked in the face on a moving subway by the aforementioned adorable break dancer.