Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Travel Tuesday: Things to Do in NYC

I live about an hour north of NYC, in what is often called the suburbs of NYC. I can't say that I think Westchester and Putnam counties resemble suburbs in the traditional sense. There aren't a lot of housing developments with identical houses lined up in tidy rows. I haven't encountered many cul-de-sacs. Westchester and Putnam counties are both surprisingly rural and wild, especially considering how close they are to the city.

Fodor has an interesting list of 15 Things Not to Do in New York City that I wanted to explore.

So here is what Fodor says:

1) Don't Take a Taxi.

I have to agree with this one. I have only taken a taxi a couple of times because the distance was so far and navigating the subway proved to be much. It is expensive and not always fun.

We usually have two options to get into the city--drive or take the train. I enjoy taking the train because you can move around, it isn't stressful, and the kids enjoy it. However, we always weigh the cost of each. Parking in the city with a big SUV is EXPENSIVE. Once we park, we either walk or take the subways.

Fodor recommends you taking the subways or a city bike. I've done the subways quite a bit. It helps to have a map of the lines and to understand where you are going. The only challenge is that if you aren't used to the vagaries of the lines, you might make mistakes. But that's ok, just take your time and ask for help.

The other thing I think all visitors should do is go to Grand Central Terminal. First, its beautiful. The ceiling in the main room is gorgeous and hearkens back to the days when people tried to make public buildings functional and beautiful. Secondly, there is a lot to do in the terminal. There are several different shops, a mini train museum, and sometimes there are bazaars. Thirdly, they have a great and fun food court. I love taking visitors to the food court because there are some great options including Junior's (LOVE their cheesecake and reuben sandwiches) and the Shake Shack.

2) Don't Waste Time in Times Square.

Oh my gosh, yes. Times Square is iconic but is super crowded with tourists. Real New Yorkers really don't go there. We've gone a few times to take the kids to the M&M store and other kitschy shops. If you hate crowds, don't go here. Especially if you have children, Times Square is a nightmare because you have to keep a tight hold on the kids so they don't get lost in the crowd.

3) Don't Go to the Top of the Empire State Building

I don't know if I agree with this one or not. I've never been because it is really expensive to go. The movies don't tell you they charge at least $35 to go to one of the lower decks. I haven't ever been to the Rockefeller Center top deck either--because they ALSO charge a lot of money. Bottom line, if you want to see NYC from above, you have to pay a lot of money. Frankly, I would rather spend it on good food, or on a show.

4) Don't Pay for the Circle Line Tour

NYC offers a free water taxi. You can also take the ferry between Manhattan and Staten Island for free. Both are fun.

5) Don't Go on the Highline During the Weekends

The author says it is really crowded and I believe him. Many green spaces in NYC are always crowded. If you want to go to a green space on a nice day in the city, be prepared to share it with lots and lots of strangers. The trick is to pretend they aren't there and construct and imaginary bubble around yourself.

6) Don't Limit Yourself to Manhattan

Yes, BUT you need to have a sense of where you are going so you don't end up in a bad neighborhood. Do research before and have a good map handy as GPS doesn't always work with the skyscrapers blocking the signal.

7) Don't Take a Horse Carriage Ride

This guy is a killjoy. OF COURSE you should take a carriage ride before they get banned for all eternity in NYC. It is a fun way to see the park. The drivers are often very chatty. On one ride I took, the guy had the thickest Brooklyn accent, I could barely understand him and I've lived in NY for awhile.

8) Don't Go on an Overpriced Bus Tour

I don't totally agree. I once went on a night tour of the Christmas lights in the city. It was magical and fun. If you go with a group of friends, it can be really special. Just weigh your priorities and money and decide accordingly.

9) Don't Go to the Statue of Liberty

Totally disagree. I've seen the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry--which is free and provides a good view of the statue. And I've also done the whole tour of Ellis Island and the State of Liberty. I think it is worth every penny to go and see Ellis Island and the Statue up close.

10) Don't Block the Sidewalks


11) Don't Eat at a Chain Restaurant or Tourist Trap Place

Also true. Do your research and look for restaurants in the area. We also like wandering around to find something to eat. Lots of amazing places worth exploring in the city.

12) Don't Eat from Street Carts

What does this guy have against street carts? I think it is fun and part of the experience. We like the Halal food trucks because the food reminds us of the Middle East. We have eaten some great food from carts.

13) Don't Ignore the Smaller Museums

Also true. And you avoid the horrifying lines and crowds. Or go to the larger museums during the earlier part of the days during the week.

14) Don't Go Shopping in Midtown or Soho

Or don't go shopping in NYC period. Super expensive and not worth it. You can hit a local outlet mall and get way better deals.

15) Don't Limit Yourself to Broadway Shows

Good advice, but you have to know where to look to get that info.


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