New York City Review

Think of all the typical tourists’ traps in New York and you’ve got a perfect list of where to visit on a short trip. This may sound obvious, but on a short trip, you really need to maximize what you cover. Fast paced is also the best way to cover New York, as it’ll fit in perfectly with the pace of the city.

New York isn’t cheap, even as major cities go, but if you want to save some money whilst you’re there, the places to prioritise are; the Statue of Liberty (as well as the immigration museum at Ellis Island, which can be purchased as part of a boat tour to the Statue), the Empire State Building and Central Park.

An unlimited metro (Underground Train) pass is also a godsend – it works on New York buses as well, which is a bonus. You may find it takes a bit of time to get accustomed to how the metro system works, like working out whether somewhere is uptown or downtown. But once you’ve sussed it out, you’ll be using it like a proper New Yorker! Be wary, however, of the “15 minute rule”. If the machine registers your card as you swipe it through the turnstile, but then the turnstile fails to let you through and you try to use the card again, your card will be locked out for 15 minutes. Exceptionally frustrating, but it was brought in to deal with an issue that used to be widespread. Commuters were going through then passing their cards to friends to get through, essentially free. If it locks only one of your party out, calmly approach a police officer (you can’t miss them, they’re the ones with guns!) and explain the situation and 9 times out of 10 they’ll authorise you to open the alarmed doors to let that person through. The alarms are loud however, so you will likely draw attention to yourselves – have your metro cards to hand to wave at metro staff if they want to know what’s going on.

In terms of food and drink, essential for any good holiday, is it worth a reminder that the legal drinking age is 21. It is of course possible to play eating out safe and visit the big establishments, synonymous with the USA, but if you’re prepared to be a bit adventurous, step into a “side street” and you’ll find a whole variety of small, independent restaurants, serving all varieties of cuisine. In fact, whilst in Queens (where we were staying) we managed to find a restaurant serving Afghani food, it’s well worth a try if you ever get the chance, just be aware many such establishments do not serve alcohol for cultural reasons and they request you bring your own.

Tipping is big business in New York, it’s seen as rude not to. Unfortunately even for poor service 20% (!) is the expected norm. The easiest and quickest way to calculate how much to tip, is to check the bill for the “sales tax” and double this figure. This will give you, roughly speaking, the correct amount.

Whilst in New York I, along with the rest of my family, went to watch a New York Yankees baseball game at the Yankee

Yankees Stadium

New York Yankees Stadium

Stadium. Regardless of whatever you’ve heard about the Bronx, I never felt it an unsafe area, even when spilling out after the game at 10.30 at night. Usual advice about busy areas still applies of course. Though the biggest threat I felt was from ticket touts! Any chances of understanding even the basic rules of Baseball are slim, but the atmosphere (and indeed the size of food portions on offer!) is something to behold – it really is something I’ve never experienced anywhere else. A couple sitting below me must have overheard the conversation me and my dad were having about our confusion of the rules and tried to explain some of it to me. It still didn’t make much sense, as demonstrated by the fact that we were completely unaware that the game had finished a whole match early! (Tickets for a game will set you back about $60 per person and should ideally be booked via Ticketmaster whilst still in the UK. As most matches are sellouts.)

Central Park

Central Park

If you do decide to visit Central park (and I would recommend you do) invest in a decent map, as many are not detailed enough to easily reach many parts of the park. I actually managed to end up on the wrong side of the park entirely and I thought I was quite a good map reader! Central park is a brilliant way to have a relaxing day in New York, especially if you end up visiting the Big Apple in a heat-wave, as we did.

Ground Zero, the site of the horrific events of September 11th 2001, is also well worth a visit and unless you wish to look around the Museum at its base, is completely free to observe. A memorial museum, (as well as the memorial park itself), has opened this month in time for the 10th anniversary of 9/11. At the end of the day, Ground Zero is currently very much a building site, but it’s definitely worth a visit, if only as something to tick off as having visited. Having witnessed the attacks back in 2001, I felt almost compelled to see the exact place where history was made on that day.

If you choose to ascend the Empire state building (~$20 for tickets to the 86th floor observatory per person, lots of additional extras), you will not be disappointed with the views! You may well find people in and around the building trying to flog an “experience” that flies you over the city in a simulator. If you want to save money, you can easily bypass this, the experience of the view from the top is spectacular enough. I would recommend you do the Empire State Building near the end of your visit to the Big Apple. So you’re able to look over the awe inspiring cityscape and the place you’ve visited. It’s a brilliant way to place yourself and to end your trip.

Empire State Building

View from the top of the Empire State Building