New York: Tips for first timers

New York: Tips for first timers

First time in New York city? Check out my tips for a few shortcuts that will help you enjoy your trip to the max.

Get a cab

I generally fly into JFK airport and public transport links to the major international airport are cheap and reliable. However, when I arrive, sometimes late in the evening or with heavy luggage, I like to get a cab into the city. For first time visitors to New York I’d highly recommend it. It’s well worth the $58 taxi ride to central Manhattan which takes around 45 minutes depending on traffic. It’s a flat fee of $52 from the airport ($52 + $6 tolls and $0.50 state tax) so it’s good value and gets you to your destination quickly and directly! Tip the driver 10% of the total fare.

Straight out of arrivals in JFK is the line for the yellow cabs, hurry through if you can as it can get long when a whole flight descends on it – although it moves swiftly. It’s a well organised system and everyone is calmly shown to a cab.

I think the view as you’re driving into Manhattan from Brooklyn is just what you need to start your trip.

NYC cab

Embrace the subway

When I’m in NYC I tend to walk or use the subway, rarely a cab unless it’s late and never a bus. Get to grips with the subway map if you can, its good to have your bearings of what is Uptown and what is Downtown.

A single subway journey is $2.75 on a metrocard which is like the London oyster card equivalent on a pay as you go basis. My tip is, rather than ponder at the ticket machine weighing up how many times you think you’ll use the metro during your stay, just bite the bullet and buy a one-week unlimited rides pass – currently priced at $31. If you are in the city for more than 3-days and have lots of site-seeing to do its worth it, otherwise you can top up a metrocard at say $10 a time only giving you 3 rides and if you make multiple journeys or just make a mistake and end up going in the wrong direction you will soon spend over $30.

NY subway steam

Top of the Rock

I’ve been to New York many times now so I don’t tend to do the main touristy things anymore. One thing on everyones agenda though is some kind of view so here is my recommendation. The first of my trips I went to the Empire State building at 42nd St, which was breathtaking, but on a second visit I thought I’d try the ‘Top of the Rock’ experience at the Rockefeller Centre in midtown (48th-52nd St).

In my opinion the view is better as there’s more in the skyline to recognise from this position in Manhattan. For example to the north you have an unobstructed view of Central Park spreading out as the great lung of the city, and to the south you can see the Empire State Building itself which is a much better building to be looking at. For $32 it was brilliant and there wasn’t much of a queue for tickets either. You can book in advance online. Allow plenty of time for your visit though as inside there can be a long wait for the lift and there is a ‘forced’ group gathering to watch some short films about the building etc but its all part of the fun.

NYC top of the rock

Staten Island Ferry

It’s amazing how many first-time visitors don’t know about the Staten Island Ferry. Remember that Sex and the City episode where Carrie and girls head over there for a night out and get stuck?

At the very southern tip of Manhattan Island is Whitehall ferry port, it’s near to the financial district. Leaving every half an hour from this port is the totally free commuter ferry. On most boats there is an open deck up top which every one scrambles to! Although this ferry doesn’t actually go to Liberty Island it sails right past it giving you great views of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty for photo opportunities! All for free!

New York


Central Park is my all time love in New York. If the weather is sunny I just spend time there, sat by a little café and pond reading my book for a few hours, or sunbathing on the Great Lawn. No matter the time of year make sure its on your to do list.

central park

However there are other green experiences to be had in the bustling metropolis which are worth checking out.

I would really recommend the High Line elevated park to anyone visiting the Chelsea district. It’s still quite young in it’s state as a greenland and is getting established more and more every year. The concept for an elevated garden, on a disused railway overlooking the Hudson River was a genius one – it’s a really nice walk up and above the streets, watching the people below. It has a really industrial structure which nicely compliments the architecture in the area, including lots of seating and glass viewing platforms. Even the planting is urban, in amongst the old railway tracks. You can join it at different points but I walked the whole length taking photos. There’s a great view of the Empire State when you are near the northern end too.

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens is also a lovely way to spend a few hours recharging your batteries away from the hustle and bustle. Its free entry on Saturday mornings and when the weather is lovely it will be gorgeous to walk around. There’s a beautiful Japanese garden and pond, and when I last visited it was perfectly timed for all the Japanese Cherry trees to be full of pink blossom. So pretty.

Free Fridays

There’s no denying NYC can break the bank. Unlike London where we are so fortunate to have free entry to permanent collections at so many fantastic galleries and museums, the entry fee to New York’s hottest can be steep.

UNIQLO Free Friday’s, between 4-8pm every Friday admission is free to MoMA where standard entry is $25. It’s much busier and there will be a queue but if you’re a family and watching the dimes it’s well worth it. It’s an amazing gallery and also there is also a lovely sculpture garden outside – great for a little bit of people watching and a sit down.

MoMA also offers a $10 discount on combined tickets for entry to the gallery and entry to Top of the Rock.

art NYC


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