New York City insider tips

The Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline (clemmesen/www.sxc.hu)

By Shandana A. Durrani, your New York City expert

I write for GoodLifeReport.com, .... Read more

How to save money plus other advice on New York City

Some official, and unofficial, ways to see the best of the city while saving money. See my advice on:

Eating and drinking
Getting around
Sights and attractions
Other useful tips 

Eating and drinking

  • Don’t leave NYC without having “a slice”; a big greasy triangle of pizza that would not be recognized as such in Naples but is delicious nonetheless. Best spots: Joe’s Pizza on Carmine Street, Coronet’s on Broadway and 102nd street and Ben’s in Soho where the New York staples sells for about two bucks and fifty cents apiece.
  • Many of the city’s more popular restaurants do not take reservations now. Unless you want to eat at 5.30pm or 10.30pm, your best bet is often to stake out a place at the bar: most places offer the same menu at the counter, often with better service since the bartender has fewer guests to serve.

Getting around

  • The term “gridlock” was invented to describe Manhattan’s streets during the work days. Whatever you do, don’t try to take a cross town bus during rush hour, you’ll end up watching an old lady on the sidewalk outpace you.
  • The subway is really best way to get around, especially during the rush hour. The machines take credit cards, and if you’re in town more than a couple days, look into the 7-day unlimited use Metrocard for $29. See more on How to get around New York City.
  • Sure it’s touristy but the Circle Line boat ride remains the best way to take in the spectacle of Manhattan’s beautiful skyline from the water: www.circleline42.com.

Sights and attractions

  • If you plan on packing in visits to a lot of different sights, look online for money-saving multi-attraction passes at www.newyorkpass.com.
  • The top museums have one evening a week where they extend their visiting hours, and it’s often the best, and most atmospheric, time to visit the popular collections, The Met stays open until 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays; the Guggenheim Museum stays open until 7.45pm on Saturdays (and you can “pay what you wish” from 5.45pm-7.45pm, last tickets 7.15pm); The MOMA stays open until 8pm on Fridays (and is open till 8.45pm on Thursdays throughout July and August, and the first Thursday of the month).
  • Watching a Major League Baseball game is a great way to spend a summer evening with 30,000 other New Yorkers. Both local teams, The New York Yankees and the New York Mets have brand new state of the art stadiums with much improved access and facilities. And with 86 home games a year, tickets are usually available: www.yankees.mlb.com; and www.mets.mlb.com. Don’t miss stadium hot dogs and a cold beer, there are few greater pleasures on a balmy night.
  • A ticket to the Metropolitan Museum includes same-day admission to the Cloisters Museum. Don’t be put off by its uptown location. It’s a relatively quick trip on the A train, and the quiet beauty of this medieval collection on the northern tip of Manhattan is transporting. Don’t miss the stunning view of the Hudson from its contemplative gardens.
  • On a sunny work day at lunch time, Bryant Park becomes one of the city’s top people watching locations. It has free WiFi and often there are free live performances. Also, the Bryant Park Film Festival has become a new summer tradition in New York with a huge open air screen erected every Monday at one end and classic films played at dusk. Secure your place by around 5pm and bring a blanket to spread out and a nice bottle of wine www.bryantpark.org.
  • Steeply discounted standing room tickets for the normally sold out and very expensive Metropolitan Opera go on sale at 10am each day at the box office, for information call +1 212 362-6000. Just bring comfortable shoes for the show!
  • Same day, 50 per cent off tickets, are available to top Broadway shows at the TKTS booth in Times Square and at South Street Seaport starting at 3pm each day, www.tdf.org.
  • Yes, believe it or not, there are polar bears living in Central Park. Well, in the Central Park Zoo anyway. It is a hilarious and endearing sight to see seals swimming with the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop: www.centralparkzoo.com.
  • With kids in tow, consider the petting zoo at the Central Park Zoo, the wonderful Children’s Museum (www.cmom.org) and the Coney Island Aquarium (www.nyaquarium.com).

Other useful tips

  • Sometimes tourist boards can be a waste of time but luckily the official New York Tourism department actually has a great special offers section on its website with details of 2-4-1 deals on Broadway shows and discounts on museum entry. Check www.nycgo.com/offers before you book.
  • When you hit town, pick up a copy of Time Out New York from a news stand to see the latest listings for live music, films and weekly events. You can also get updated highlights from www.nymag.com which is one of the city’s best, most easy to navigate, websites.
  • A couple of pronunciation tips to avoid sounding like a clueless foreigner: Greenwich Village is pronounced in the British style: GREN-itch; Houston Street is NOT named after the city of Houston, and pronounced HOUSE-ton.
  • While New York is much improved when it comes to safety as compared to the 1980s and 90s, it’s important to abide by some basic rules of street smarts: beware of pickpockets in the subway and crowded pedestrian areas like Times Square and Rockefeller Center. Don’t respond to solicitations or offers from people on the street. Keep your valuables locked in your hotel room and not on your wrist or around your neck, and definitely don’t accept a ride from cars except yellow taxis.

For more expert advice on New York City, follow these links: