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6 Essential NYC Travel Tips

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nyc travel tips

Exploring the Brooklyn Bridge

Traveling to the Big Apple? Here are six essential tips for visiting New York City to help ensure a smooth trip. Note: Don’t forget to book your private NYC Photo Journey with me, Jessie on a Journey. The experience includes photos of your group to keep!

1. Look For Alternatives To Touristy Excursions

Sure, seeing The Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building are essential parts of a first-time visit to New York City; however, you don’t need to pay a fortune to see the sites. In fact, there are many free and cheap things to do in NYC! Ride the free Staten Island for great views of Lady Liberty; know that many museums list “suggested donations”, for example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, meaning you can pay as little as $1 for entry to one of the top Upper East Side attractions; go to a TKTS booth for discounted Broadway Show tickets or see a show at a smaller theater like The Flea Theater in Manhattan or Bushwick Starr in Brooklyn; instead of paying to go up to the Top of the Rock take in aerial views from the $2.50 Roosevelt Island Tram. There are many alternatives to the tourist attractions if you just do some research or ask a local.

2. Take Advantage Of Sundays

Sundays are NYC’s best kept secret. Free parking, all-inclusive booze brunches, free films at the Brooklyn Public Library, 99 cent Off-Broadway shows at the SoHo Rep, free comedy shows at Upright Citizens Brigade, and much more. Take advantage of Sunday specials as many NYC establishments offer them.

3. Don’t Be Afraid Of The Subway

Take advantage of NYC’s extremely cheap ($2.75 per ride) and (usually) efficient subway system. Even if you find it confusing, apps like HopStop and Embark make riding the subway easy by giving step-by-step instructions. Additionally, NYC is an extremely walkable city — especially as streets are typically numbered — and Google Maps can help you if you get lost. Also, make sure you check out the amazing subway art.

4. Add Brooklyn Into Your Itinerary

I’ll admit it, I live in Brooklyn and maybe a tiny bit biased; however, I grew up on Long Island and moved to the borough because I loved it. Brooklyn is a more laid-back, less expensive version of Manhattan, with much to do and see. Most first-timers to Brooklyn head to the hipster hood of Williamsburg, where you can enjoy industrial-feel restaurants, live music, wineries, rooftop bars, breweries, chocolate factories, beautiful graffiti, waterside parks, and myriad events. For an active experience, cycle or walk from the Lower East Side over the Williamsburg Bridge to Williamsburg. Some of the many other Brooklyn neighborhoods worth checking out include Bushwick, Fort Greene, Park Slope, Gowanus, Carroll Gardens and, in the warmer months, Coney Island.

5. Get Lost

Even locals are constantly making new discoveries in NYC, as there are always interesting new venues and experiences popping up. Pick a random neighborhood like SoHo or Williamsburg and simply wander. Put away your phone and iPod and really pay attention to your surroundings, noticing every shop, restaurant, bar, studio, gallery, theater, park, and attraction. You’re guaranteed to make some findings not found in your guidebook.

6. Be Aware Of Scams

Despite popular belief, there are many friendly, helpful locals in New York City. That being said, there are also some people who will want to take advantage of you. For this reason, it’s important to be aware of scams. Don’t purchase a MetroCard off of anyone besides for authorized MTA staff or ticket machines, or you might find yourself with an empty card with no subway credit. Always beware of street rappers trying to sell you CDs, as they can be uncomfortably aggressive. And if a stranger tries to exchange four quarters for a dollar, just say no, as you’ll typically wind up with only 50 cents for the exchange. Have an NYC travel tip of your own to add? Please share in the comments below!

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Looking for New York travel advice? Check out my top tips for visiting New York City, including suggestions for non-touristy things to do, like exploring Brooklyn by bike and how to ride the subway. I also share advice for avoiding common scams in NYC.

About Jessie Festa

Jessie Festa is a New York-based travel content creator who is passionate about empowering her audience to experience new places and live a life of adventure. She is the founder of the solo female travel blog, Jessie on a Journey, and is editor-in-chief of Epicure & Culture, an online conscious tourism magazine. Along with writing, Jessie is a professional photographer and is the owner of NYC Photo Journeys, which offers New York photo tours, photo shoots, and wedding photography. Her work has appeared in publications like USA Today, CNN, Business Insider, Thrillist, and WestJet Magazine.

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Hi, I’m Jessie on a journey!

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  1. Rachel on at 1:52 am

    Anywhere in the world, there are people who will want to take advantage of you. Always remember that and be careful.

  2. Charles M. Glaze on at 8:33 am

    Such incredible advice! I think, of all of them, getting up early is my favorite. People always associate sleeping in with vacation, but the early hours of the morning are so unique and special. Animals, lighting, and just the peaceful quiet of a new place… It’s my favorite time of day and a great way to get to know a new place!
    Wonderful list.

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