Here is my easy-to-read guide with a dozen tips on New York sightseeing, hotels, shopping, discounts, Thanksgiving, eating out, Broadway theatre shows, Abercrombie & Fitch and more…
As a regular visitor to NYC (I recently returned from my 10th visit in 7 years) I hope I can pass on some Manhattan wisdom to you. Enjoy the architecture, shopping, museums, sightseeing and the energy that is New York City! Here are some tips I hope you find useful:
1. Try the cheaper alternatives to Abercrombie & Fitch. American Eagle (www.ae.com) and Aeropostle (www.aeropostle.com) offer similar styles for less cash, and there are multiple locations in Manhattan. If only Abercrombie will do, the downtown branch is less busy than the flagship 5th Avenue store, and may be useful in locating the size that you need. It’s not uncommon for the 5th Avenue branch to have only size small or extra large left.
2. For the best hotel room with a Times Square view check in to the Doubletree Guest Suites Times Square NYC on 7th Avenue. This is also a good choice if there are three of you travelling together – suites offer 2 double beds, plus a sofa bed. Prices will vary depending on when you visit, but as an example I paid $250 per night in June 2009.
3. Century 21 (www.c21stores.com) is a large downtown discount store for clothing, accessories, cosmetics, luggage and home wares. Think TK Maxx, but with more variety. It opens at 7.45am weekdays, so go early to avoid the crowds. Goods are arranged by brand name, making it easy to find your favourites.
4. Take the subway to Christopher Street, Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village. There are two great photo opportunities for “Sex and the City” and “Friends” fans with Carrie and Monica’s apartment buildings just a few minutes walk apart. Carrie’s apartment is at 66 Perry Street, and Monica’s is on the corner of Bedford and Grove Streets.
5. For souvenirs Chinatown offers low prices, Grand Slam on Times Square has a huge selection (www.grandslamnewyork.com), and the Empire State Building Gift Shop offers superior quality and exclusive items.
6. Taxis are cheaper than England, but keep an eye on where the driver is taking you. For most drivers English is not their first language and sometimes they will misunderstand you. Check your map so you know what the cross street is, so for the Armani Exchange Store on Fifth Avenue ask for “52nd and 5th”.
7. Avoid overpriced Times Square tourist spots, and enjoy a better value breakfast served 24 hours a day at the Olympic Diner (49th Street on 8th Avenue). I recommend the French toast, waffles and pancakes. See www.menupages.com/restaurants/olympic-diner.com for the menu and prices.
8. Broadway tickets can be purchased for half price on the day of the performance at the TKTS store located in the centre of Times Square, but for a better choice of seats, especially for weekends, I prefer booking in advance online. Try www.theatremania.com or www.broadwaybox.com for discounts. I recently paid £58 per ticket to see Mamma Mia on a Saturday night which was £30 off the full price.
9. The Heartland Brewery restaurant chain (www.heartlandbrewery.com) serves reasonably priced American cuisine in a lively family-friendly setting. Main courses include Beer battered fish and chips, Meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and Grilled chicken breast with stir fry vegetables. There are five locations in Manhattan including one underneath the Empire State Building.
10. The airport shuttle is inexpensive (typically $17 per person from JFK to Manhattan), but if there are 2 or more of you travelling, a taxi is a reasonable option ($50 plus tip), and you will travel in comfort rather than a cramped van that will usually make several stops before arriving at your hotel.
11. In November the Thanksgiving Macy’s Parade is fantastic (www.macys.com/parade). I recommend the Marriott Courtyard Times Square South hotel (www.courtyardtimessquare.com) to be close to the parade (high floors at this hotel also offer great views of the Empire State Building). Rates usually start at around $219 per night, provided you book well in advance. The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday when stores cut their prices. For greater savings, take a coach trip to Woodbury Common Outlets. For serious shoppers, coaches depart on Thanksgiving evening so you can shop all night for the best bargains! For a complete list of stores check out www.premiumoutlets.com/woodburycommon.
12. Top of the Rock (www.topoftherocknyc.com) located in midtown Manhattan offers views to rival the Empire State Building – but without the crowds and queuing!