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Living in New York City was always one of my dreams. As a young girl, I was fascinated with Broadway, the bright lights, and the endless number of things to do in NYC.
As a first-timer in NYC, I had no idea what I was doing! On my first full day living in New York, my aunt tried to help me get my bearings. We walked around, and in between getting jostled by the people racing to where ever they were going, I got every single one of the questions on her New York City quiz wrong.
Now, having just celebrated my 20th(!) year living in New York City, there’s no denying my status as a New Yorker! I’m also a traveler, who knows that local tips can’t be beat when you’re exploring a new place, so I wanted to pass on some tried and true local tips for your next visit to New York City.
11 Guaranteed Dos and Don’ts for Visiting NYC like a Pro!
Don’t stay in Times Square. For that matter, don’t stay in Rockefeller Center, either. These places are iconic, sure. Go see them, take some photos in front of the ice rink or the giant billboards with their flashing lights, and then get out of there. New York City has so much more to offer and, with a City Pass, you can even save money seeing all culture, history, and famous sights.
Do explore other parts of New York City. Why not head to lower Manhattan and take a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge? Head to the Bronx or Queens to see a baseball game. Shop and do lunch in Soho. Go to Smorgasburg in Williamsburg. Browse the antique markets in Chelsea.
Don’t eat in Little Italy. What’s left of this neighborhood is just a couple of streets lined with tourist traps selling cheap souvenirs and restaurants serving mediocre Italian fare.
Do walk down Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village and taste delicious pizza, rice balls, and cannolis at the Italian shops lining the street. If you want to have an Italian Dinner out, check respected sources like Zagat or Time Out New York for recommendations. Or take advice from a local like me who just likes to eat good food. Some of my favorites are Morandi and Lupa.
Don’t be a subway oaf! If this list was ranked in order of importance, this would have the top spot. The fastest way to annoy New Yorkers is to in any way block the turnstiles, the stairways, or the train entrance. And, whatever you do, don’t lean your whole body on the poles inside the train.
Do have your Metrocard ready to swipe and know how to use it. Otherwise, step aside and let others pass until you’re ready and have learned by watching. And, yes, it’s a petri dish of bacteria, but hold onto the poles inside the train with your hands so other people around you have space to hang on, too. This is exactly why those mini bottles of hand sanitizer were created in the first place.
While we’re talking about the subway, I feel obligated to say don’t get in an empty subway car! Ok, I admit. I did this once with a college friend of mine. I was new to New York City and flat out didn’t know any better. Just trust me on this one…unless, of course, you enjoy breathing the foulest stenches in creation.
Do move down the platform and find a car with people on it. Your nose and taste buds will thank you.
Don’t be the cause of a sidewalk traffic jam. New Yorkers’ primary mode of transportation is their feet. The sidewalk in New York is what you might call the highway or freeway outside of the city. Walking in a line across with your whole family blocks others from passing and whatever you do, don’t make any sudden stops.
Do “pull over” to the right if you’re just strolling, are a slow walker, or want to stop and figure out where you are and where you’re headed.
Bonus Tip: Whatever you do, don’t take out a map. Look cool and use Google Maps on your smartphone!
Don’t act scared! If you can’t walk around comfortably without a death grip on your bag or family members, stay home. New York City really is one of the safest mega-cities anywhere in the world.
Do stay alert and be aware of your surroundings. New York City is much safer than it was decades ago, but as with any big city, you need to exercise some basic caution.
Don’t drive. Traffic is horrendous and there is no parking. There are no good reasons to justify driving.
Do use your feet, the subway, buses, and regional trains for a faster and more mentally healthy way of travel. New York and the surrounding regions are well connected with public transportation. You can get anywhere you’ll want to go and be much happier when you arrive.
Don’t pretend it’s spring when its winter! It doesn’t matter if you’re hot all the time. The streets in Manhattan have a really special way of funneling the cold winter wind right in your direction. It might feel crisp and refreshing at first, but after a few hours of walking around, you’ll be shivering miserably. If this doesn’t like something you can handle, visit NYC in the fall, instead!
Do dress for the weather. You’ll be walking outside, a lot. If it’s winter, wear a coat, hat, and boots. If it rains, use a pocket umbrella and watch out for everyone else around you. Two eyes are always better than one!
Don’t take disrespectful selfies! It’s sad this makes the list, but crimes, tragic or sad events, homeless people, and the 9/11 Memorial are off limits when it comes to selfies.
If you just can’t resist taking another selfie, please do return to Times Square.
Don’t eat at a chain or theme restaurant. New York City is home to an unlimited number of incredible restaurants in every cuisine you can imagine. Travel is about getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new, right? You won’t regret skipping the Olive Garden and Red Lobster.
Do walk just 5 minutes outside of Times Square to Hells Kitchen and 9th Avenue for an endless array of good food and drink. Have a bagel with cream cheese from a real New York deli. Find something tasty in a food truck. Have a slice of pizza. Try a new type of ethnic food. Why not try out some Greek at Kefi on the Upper West Side or choose an Indian restaurant in Little India in the east 20s?
Don’t wear your souvenirs here. You’re “I <3 New York”, subway line, or Broadway show tee-shirt will be much cooler at home. The green, foam Statue of Liberty crown should only be worn to parties, where the Lady Liberty is the actual guest of honor.
Do dress stylishly comfortable. Jeans are always a good start. Boots, flats, oxfords, loafers, and All-Stars are all better choices than your standard sneaker.
With these dos and don’ts, you are guaranteed to look like a pro on your next New York City visit!
What are your dos and don’ts for visiting NYC like a pro?
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