New York City skyline aerial view at sunset with colorful cloud and skyscrapers of midtown Manhattan.

New York City Tips: 50 Dos & Don’ts for Visiting NYC Like a Pro

If you’re looking for New York City tips that have been tried and tested by a local New Yorker, you’re in the right place!

For more than 2 decades (and counting), New York has been my home. I even married a native New Yorker! The NYC dos and don’ts below come from my own experiences of living here and helping visitors navigate the city.

So whether it’s your first visit or fifth to New York City, I’ve got 50 of the best NYC tips to help make your time in the city a success,

New York City Tips: 50 Dos & Don’ts for Visiting NYC like a Pro!

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.

Fast forward to when I arrived and 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 people racing to wherever they were going, I got every single one of the questions on her New York City quiz wrong.

Luckily for you, it’s been 25+ years since that failed quiz and now 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 New York City tips for your first/next trip to the Big Apple!

NYC Tips: Planning Your Trip

Flatiron Building NYC

When you’re planning a New York trip, there are a few basics you want to keep in mind.

It’s impossible to see and do everything. Instead, you want to focus on the time you do have and decide which places and activities are at the top of your must-see list.

Then, take advantage of the New York travel tips below to help you save money and time, as well as plan for your arrival.

1. Do plan ahead and spend enough time.

Ideally, you’ll want to spend at least 3 days visiting New York City, especially if you’re one of the many first-time visitors who come to NYC each year. This will ensure you have time to see some of New York City’s top sights, as well as a few nights to enjoy NYC’s restaurants and entertainment.

Maximize your time in New York City by planning sensible logistics (avoid backtracking) and making advance restaurant and ticket reservations to avoid missing an opportunity and waiting in long lines.

This includes booking timed-entry tickets for tourist attractions like Summit One Vanderbilt, the 9/11 Museum, and the Statue of Liberty if they’re on your list of places to visit.

And if there is a Broadway show that you’re deadset on seeing, it’s best to secure those tickets ahead of time instead of leaving to chance getting discounted tickets last minute.

2. Don’t overstuff your NYC itinerary.

It’s easy to be wide-eyed as you plan what to see and do in New York City. The city has an endless number of things to do. But you also want to take the time to enjoy your time and not just race from place to place.

Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Unless you’re an absolute die-hard art lover, don’t visit more than 1 art museum in a day. Museum fatigue is real and you’ll likely stop absorbing what you’re seeing after a couple of hours.

If you can, mix in a variety of indoor and outdoor activities. For example, visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art or MoMA in the morning and then spend at least part of the afternoon in Central Park. Similarly, you might want to plan a morning or afternoon visit to the 9/11 Museum and the other part of the day walking across the Brooklyn Bridge or exploring Chinatown.

Lastly, if managing the entire day independently feels overwhelming, join a guided tour or activity for part of the day. Guided neighborhood walking tours can help you explore a new part of the city without worrying about where to go or what to see.

3. Do consider saving money with a sightseeing pass.

If you’re planning a heavy sightseeing itinerary, absolutely consider getting a bundled pass like The New York Pass or New York CityPASS. These passes can help you save a good amount of money when compared to buying tickets individually.

The New York Pass lets you choose the duration of your pass, from 1-10 days. This is a great way to pack together consecutive days of unlimited sightseeing with a choice of 100+ attractions.

The New York CityPASS, on the other hand, gives you access to 5 attractions (2 fixed and 3 of your choice from a set list) over 9 days. This pass is great if you want to sightsee at your own pace while mixing in other activities and experiences around the city.

Central Park NYC View of Lake and trees from the Bow Bridge

4. Don’t miss NYC’s numerous free things to do.

Fortunately for your wallet, there are also plenty of amazing free attractions in New York City. Quite a few of them also happen to be top places to visit in NYC, too.

Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, taking in the harbor and Lower Manhattan views. This is a top New York City thing to do and shouldn’t be missed!

Central Park, Bryant Park, the High Line, Little Island Park, Riverside Park, and numerous other green spaces are all free to explore. Some like the High Line come with art exhibitions, while Little Island Park hosts free performances.

In the heart of Midtown Manhattan, visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the main branch of the New York Public Library, Rockefeller Center, and Grand Central Terminal…all for free!

Many of New York City’s museums have free days including MoMA, the Met, the 9/11 Museum, the Guggenheim, and the Morgan Library. Check individual museum websites for more info and, in some cases, to make a free reservation.

In Lower Manhattan, you can visit the 9/11 Memorial Reflecting Pools for free, as well as ride the Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty and head to Governor’s Island for free.

And on any given day, the city hosts numerous free activities and cultural events from art shows to concerts and live theater productions. Use a resource like TimeoutNY to check free events happening during the days you visit.

5. Do learn how to navigate New York City’s streets.

One of the great things about getting around New York City is the grid pattern of its streets on most of Manhattan (down to 14th Street). The simple tic-tac-toe set-up combined with numbered streets makes it easy to orient yourself and find where you need to be.

NYC’s streets (i.e. 37th St., 38th St. 39th St.) run east and west across the island of Manhattan. Roughly 20 of these “city blocks” are about 1 mile. When you’re walking with the numbers going up, you’re walking uptown. If the numbers are going down, you’re heading downtown.

New York City’s avenues (Madison Ave., 5th Ave., 6th Ave., 7th Ave.) run north and south. These avenues intersect the numbered streets. The distance between avenues is greater than the distance between streets. About 7 avenues add up to 1 mile.

At 5th Avenue, you’ll find the dividing line between the west and east sides of the island.

For example, if you’re at 42nd St. & 5th Ave., walk in one direction along 42nd Street and you’ll see that it’s E.42nd Street. But if you walk the other way, you’ll notice the signs say W.42nd Street.

Street addresses get smaller the closer they are to 5th Avenue and bigger the farther they are from 5th Avenue. So, if you need to go to MoMA at 11 W.53rd Street, you know that the museum is on the west side of Manhattan and close to 5th Avenue because the building number is 11.

Lastly, New Yorkers typically use intersections or cross streets to explain where they are or to tell a taxi where to take them. You wouldn’t say to a taxi driver, please take me to 11 W. 53rd Street. Instead, you’d say, 53rd and 5th, please. This tells the driver the intersection where you’d like to be dropped.

6. Don’t rely on taxis to get to Manhattan from the airport

This might be one of the most important New York City travel tips on this list.

I highly recommend having a plan for getting from your airport to Manhattan. All the airports have taxi lines that will take you where you need to be. The problem is they’re expensive and sometimes come with a lengthy wait in line for an available taxi.

From JFK to Manhattan, taxis charge a flat rate of $70. This does NOT include extra for tolls, tips, and any surcharges in effect. From Laguardia and Newark Airports, taxi fares are calculated by the meter with tips, tolls, and surcharges tacked onto that. Depending on traffic, taxi fares calculated by the meter can add up quickly.

Instead, use public transportation or book a transfer service in advance so that you know the cost ahead of time. These guides will help you figure out the best way to get from each airport.

7. Don’t shy away from spending Christmas in New York

I reject the idea that you should think twice about spending Christmas in New York.

Yes, it’s very crowded and hotel prices can be high especially right around the time of the Rockefeller Tree Lighting and during the school break week between Christmas and New Year’s.

But, Christmas in New York is absolutely beautiful. The city sparkles with lights and decorations. The atmosphere at the holiday markets is festive enough to warm even the coldest of Grinch hearts. Even “hardened” New Yorkers can’t help but feel the Christmas spirit.

8. Do know the mistakes to avoid spending Christmas in New York.

That being said, you want to make sure you’re a little extra prepared so that you don’t fall victim to some of the classic New York City Christmas mistakes.

Knowing what to avoid, how to dress, or the best places to ice skate all help to make your New York City Christmas trip a success!

New York Travel Tips: Getting Around

Times Square Entrance subway station at night - New York City.

Pay attention to these New York tips for navigating the city. Getting around NYC (or lack thereof) can make or break your entire trip.

The last thing you want is the stress of getting lost or arriving late only to realize you’ve missed out on something you were really looking forward to.

The good news, though, is that with a little common sense and advance studying by reading these NYC tips, you’ll be on your way to getting around the city like a pro!

9. Don’t drive.

Traffic is horrendous and parking is worse. It can take a maddening amount of time to get around NYC by car and will inevitably waste hours.

And even if for one crazy fleeting moment, you think driving around New York City makes sense, remember that no restaurants, bars, shops, or sightseeing attractions have parking for their customers.

Bottom line. There are no good reasons to justify driving into or around New York City.

10. Do use public transportation.

The subway (and even walking) will typically be faster than taking a taxi, perhaps except for hours in the dead of night when NYC quiets down. (Although this is never a guarantee because night road work is always happening somewhere!)

Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx are well connected by subway trains and buses. This is why millions of people use them every day,

You can get anywhere you’d want to go in the city and be much happier when you arrive…not to mention on time, too!

11. Don’t be a subway oaf!

The fastest way to annoy New Yorkers is to in any way block the turnstiles, the stairways, or the train entrance. We understand that you might not be familiar with the subway system. All we ask is that you move to the side or to a place that is out of the way so you can figure out which way you need to go.

Think of it like this. Navigating the subway is part of our daily commute. Would you stop your car in the middle of a highway entrance ramp (during rush hour) while you read all the signs or looked at a map? No. The subway tunnels, stairways, and turnstiles are no different.

Once you know the train you need, be sure to stand back on the platform. When the train arrives, don’t block the door. Step to the side to allow people inside to get off the train.

Once you’re inside, move all the way into the subway car. You’ll notice that New Yorkers have mastered the art of making no eye contact even when we are smushed together in a cramped space. You should practice this skill, too.

And, whatever you do, don’t lean your whole body on the poles inside the train. On a crowded train, these are the only things that a lot of people can hold onto once the train is moving.

Yes, it’s a petri dish of bacteria, but hold onto the poles 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.

12. Do have your subway payment method ready.

As of 2023, you can still swipe a MetroCard to enter the subway. Although, they will eventually be phased out. The subway and bus fare is $2.90.

Metrocards are refillable (except those that are single-ride cards) and can be used on buses, PATH trains to/from New Jersey, and for the AirTrain at JFK Airport. There are also 7-day unlimited ride Metrocards which make sense if you ride the subway at least 12 times no matter how long your New York City itinerary is.

You can also use the contactless payment system on all turnstiles with your smartphone or contactless credit card. Just tap to pay and you’ll be able to go through the turnstile. Be sure to use the same device or card so the system will recognize if/when you’ve reached 12 rides in a 7-day period. Any rides past that in the same window of time will be free.

13. Don’t get in an empty subway car!

While we’re talking about the subway, I feel obligated to mention this.

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.

14. Do move down the platform and find a car with people on it.

If an empty subway car (while all the others are pretty full) pulls up in front of you on the platform, no you did not just get incredibly lucky. There’s 100% a reason why others have skipped the empty train car in favor of wedging themselves into a more crowded part of the train.

Instead of thinking you landed a jackpot, quickly move to a train car with people on it. Your nose and taste buds will thank you.

15. Do know the difference between local and express trains.

Several subway lines run express and local trains. It’s exactly as it sounds. The local trains make all the stops on the line, while the express trains bypass many stations stopping only in select places.

Know which one you need before you get on the train. Don’t waste time having to backtrack to a station because the accidental express train you were riding skipped your stop.

Look at an NYC subway map. Local stations are marked with a filled-in-all-black circle. Express train stops are marked by a white or unfilled circle. Where the white circle (or oval) overlaps several train lines, it means you can connect underground to these other lines without having to pay again.

Sometimes it’s knowing the simplest of NYC travel tips that can make all the difference.

Subway Train in New York before Sunset

16. Don’t block the subway station escalator.

Some subway stations have escalators to carry you to or from the train platforms. While riding these escalators, it’s expected that you move to the right if you’d like to stand and ride and move to the left if you’d like to climb the stairs and pass others.

Please don’t stand on the left or place suitcases there while others are trying to move quickly to wherever they are going (i.e. work, doctor’s office, picking their kids up from school).

17. Don’t be the cause of a sidewalk traffic jam. 

Other than the subway and buses, New Yorkers’ primary mode of transportation is their feet. The sidewalk in New York is like a pedestrian highway. Walking in a line across with your whole family blocks others from passing.

If you stop suddenly, the people behind you won’t expect this and just might walk into you. Just like there are rules of the road when you’re driving, NYC’s sidewalks come with similar protocols.

18. Do “pull over” to the right

Not to worry if you’re just strolling, are a slow walker, or want to stop and figure out where you are and where you’re headed! Just move to the right which signals to those around you that they are free to move past you.

This also applies if you want to look up or take photos of something. And don’t worry if you need to look at a map. Use Google Maps on your smartphone. No one will be the wiser that you aren’t sure which way to go because everyone else will be looking at their smartphone, too!

19. Don’t wait for a walk sign if there are no cars.

Ok obviously always check for cars before crossing the street. But if you want to blend in with real NYers, it’s okay to cross even when it doesn’t say “Walk” as long as no cars are coming.

20. Do watch for buses and bikes.

Just don’t forget about bike and bus lanes! Bike path traffic can be dangerous and they’re less forgiving than cars. So if you see a small painted green lane as you cross the street, be sure there isn’t someone racing by on a bike or e-bike!

New York City Tips: During Your Trip

Block of colorful buildings on historic Macdougal Street in Greenwich Village in Manhattan, New York City

The New York tips below are all about helping you take advantage of some of the best NYC has to offer while avoiding some of the pitfalls that an unknowing (first time) visitor might not realize.

21. Don’t spend too long 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.

Times Square is full of tourist traps from costumed characters looking to be paid to take photos with visitors to chain restaurants overcharging for bad food.

Besides just seeing the spectacle that is Times Square, the only other reason to spend any length of time there is to get discounted Broadway show tickets at the TKTS booth on W. 47th Street.

22. Do explore other parts of New York City.

New York City is made up of 5 boroughs, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. And within these boroughs are countless neighborhoods, each with their own character and culture. Together, they make up the endless number of amazing things to do in New York City.

Why not head to Lower Manhattan to visit the Financial District and to see the 9/11 Memorial & Museum? The tiny streets at Manhattan’s southern tip are where the city first took root as a colony in the 1600s. When you look closely, you can see remaining bits of colonial history and even visit the final resting place of Alexander Hamilton.

Walk the High Line as it snakes through Chelsea or head uptown to the Upper West Side to visit the northern parts of Central Park and the iconic St. John the Divine. When you’re hungry, take the subway down to Chinatown to sample plates of noodles and Dim Sum.

When you’re ready, ride the subway to Brooklyn for a stroll through one of the most incredible open-air street art galleries in the world.

23. Don’t eat in Little Italy…unless you know where to go.

It pains me to say this as a girl of southern Italian ancestry but unfortunately what’s left of this neighborhood is just a couple of streets with souvenir shops and restaurants serving mediocre Italian fare.

If you do go, avoid the restaurants with wranglers trying to persuade you to sit down. The places worth visiting don’t have people doing this. For example, Di Palo’s on Grand and Mott is famous for their sandwiches and homemade mozzarella. (The line is worth standing in!) Il Cortile has fantastic northern Italian dishes and Ferrara Bakery has been making Italian sweets like cannoli for over 100 years.

24. Do walk down Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village.

Between 6th and 7th Avenues along Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, you can taste delicious pizza at legendary places like Bleecker Street Pizza, John’s of Bleecker Street, and Joe’s Pizza. Save room for a couple of rice balls from Faicco’s Italian Specialties and cannolis at Pasticceria Rocco.

If you want to have a sit-down Italian dinner, New York City has no shortage of options! Some of my favorites are Morandi, L’Artusi, and Via Carota.

And if you’re up for taking a bit of a trip “north,” head to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx for another authentic Little Italy neighborhood!

25. Don’t take disrespectful selfies.

Sadly this makes the list, but crimes, tragic or sad events, homeless people, and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum are off-limits when it comes to selfies. Just please don’t do it.

Chairs on Governors Island facing the skyline at Lower Manhattan in New York City

26. Do take photos of NYC’s iconic skyline.

That being said, please take as many photos as you’d like of the city itself and all of its beautiful sights and attractions. This is especially true of the New York City skyline as seen from above.

Contrary to what others might say, I recommend visiting one of New York City’s skydeck experiences. There are plenty of options so choose the one that speaks to you the most or works best with your itinerary.

For example, Summit One Vanderbilt is the most popular immersive skyline experience and has amazing views, especially of the Chrysler Building. The Empire State Building is an iconic art-deco building full of classic NYC history. The view from the Top of the Rock is gorgeous at night when you can see the Empire State Building and all of Manhattan lit up.

Take a look at each one to decide.

You might even splurge and take a helicopter ride over New York City to take in the epic views. Either way, it’s a quintessential NYC experience to see the city from above.

Can you accomplish the same thing by visiting a rooftop bar or restaurant?

That depends on where you go and what you’re hoping to see. Some rooftop bars and restaurants can come with fabulous views and even ones that are from a unique angle or height. But they’re also usually not the places where you snap off an endless number of photos without running the risk of irritating those around you.

Skyline experiences are for really marveling at the skyline and taking in the incredible scene before you. While rooftop restaurants and bars are for savoring the ambiance of being high up among the city’s skyscrapers.

27. 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. And you only have a limited amount of stomach real estate. Don’t waste it on food that you can get anywhere.

Besides if you’ve landed in one of these chain restaurants, you’ve most definitely fallen victim to one of NYC’s tourist traps. Restaurants like Olive Garden and Bubba Gump Shrimp typically exist in places like Times Square for a reason. You won’t find restaurants like these in the West Village or Dumbo in Brooklyn because most New Yorkers go for local restaurants instead.

You should do the same.

28. Do eat classic NYC foods.

That being said, not every meal has to be at a five-star restaurant. After all New York City is the land of pizza and bagels!

Order a bagel sandwich with cream cheese and lox (smoked salmon) from Absolute Bagels or Leo’s. Grab a slice of pizza at Prince Street Pizza or go for a classic margherita pie at Juliana’s in Brooklyn…my pick for the best New York style pizza in the city!

Try a new type of ethnic food. Whether you seek out local spots near your NYC hotel or you head to ethnic-specific neighborhoods like Koreatown or Little India, you won’t be disappointed by the endless array of authentic dishes. Not to mention, many of these spots are much better priced than what you might expect in New York.

29. Don’t eat at restaurants without an A rating.

Regardless of where you choose to eat, always look for the Health Department’s rating which must be hung in a prominent place in the front of every restaurant.

With so many restaurant options to choose from, there’s no reason to eat anywhere that doesn’t have an “A” rating. Hopefully, there’s no need to go into any more detail on this one.

Fried Dumplings from Fried Dumpling on Mosco Street in Chinatown NYC

30. Do take advantage of cheap eats in NYC.

In a city full of famous restaurants, you might think cheap eats in NYC don’t exist. You just have to know where to look.

Los Tacos No. 1 is hidden in plain sight in famous Chelsea Market. Gray’s Papaya is famous for its hot dogs & “recession special.” Mamoun’s Falafel is listed as one of the 1000 places you need to visit before you die. And Empanada Mama in Hell’s Kitchen will fill you up for about $10. Not to mention Chinatown and its plentiful options of cheap noodle and dumpling dishes.

Or keep your eyes out for any number of New York City’s famous food trucks from one of the Diso’s trucks around 46th Street or in the W. 50s. serving up Italian deli sandwiches to a Souvlaki GR truck also in midtown offering delicious Greek bites!

31. Don’t initiate small talk with locals.

This is not meant to seem rude. But most of us are out and about trying to run errands or get to appointments or work on time. In the process, we get a few moments to pop in our Airpods to listen to some music or a favorite podcast.

And for sure there’s a safety component to this, as well. There’s no need to open up a box of worms if you don’t have to. Better to just go about your business and let others do the same.

32. Do ask a local for directions if you’re lost.

Even with the above small talk NYC tip, I don’t want you to get the impression that NYers are really rude. In fact, I’ve seen countless New Yorkers go out of their way to help visitors who are lost or have a question…myself included!

So if you’re lost or need help, don’t hesitate to ask someone nearby, If you’re unsure about talking to a stranger, pop into a hotel or restaurant or even ask a doorman at one of the city’s many apartment buildings.

I guarantee you’ll come across a friendly local willing to help out!

33. Do avoid tourist traps.

In addition to chain restaurants, places like Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and experiences like a pedicab or horse-drawn carriage rides are best avoided.

They’re overpriced and gimmicky. Plus, in the case of the horses, they aren’t always treated right.

But for the record. I don’t think going to the top of the Empire State Building, Central Park, the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, or the Book of Mormon are tourist traps, contrary to what you might read elsewhere. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

34. Don’t miss the chance to see a Broadway show.

In an era where everything is on a screen, the experience of seeing a live theater production is an unforgettable experience and totally worth it.

Feel free to choose the play or musical that most interests you. Broadway and the countless Off-Broadway theaters have something for everyone’s taste and budget.

Take advantage of discount tickets on websites like Broadway Box. Grab same-day discounted tickets from TKTS in Times Square or Lincoln Center. Or even try your luck at winning a Broadway lottery.

Either way, don’t miss this classic NYC experience!

Cental Park Bethesda Terrace NYC

35. Do tip appropriately.

Tipping in New York City is so important.

If you’re happy with the service you get from a waiter, bartender, delivery person, or taxi driver (to name a few), be sure to tip 15%-20%. These service workers make horribly low hourly wages and rely on these tips to survive in New York City. Don’t forget about tour guides, too, especially the ones giving free walking tours.

While it’s never an obligation if you don’t think a tip is earned, it’s greatly appreciated and often supports artists and students who live off these tips.

36. Don’t give money to beggars.

As difficult as it may be, don’t give money to beggars. You never know what that money is truly going to be used for. If the opportunity presents itself and you feel compelled, purchase a coffee or some food. But always beware that if it’s not asked for, your kind gesture can always be rejected.

And to be clear, I don’t consider musicians to be beggars. If you’re on a subway platform or walking through Central Park and appreciate the music someone is playing, feel free to contribute to their tip jar.

37. Do use bathrooms when they’re available.

Of all the travel tips for NYC, this one cannot be overstated. New York City has hardly any public restrooms. This poses a real challenge when you’re on the go all day.

So the golden rule (sorry pun not intentional!) is to always use a bathroom when you have one available to you regardless of whether or not you really feel like you need to go.

All of NYC’s top sights and museums have bathrooms for visitors. Be sure to use them when you’re visiting. The same goes if you’re at a restaurant or cafe for lunch or a coffee break. Take advantage of the access to bathrooms.

In an emergency, there are bathrooms at Grand Central Terminal. Nearby Bryant Park has one of the cleanest public bathrooms in the entire city. Public libraries have bathrooms, as do markets like Chelsea Market. Hudson Yards and the Shops at Columbus Circle have restrooms. And if you’re in Lower Manhattan near the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, the Oculus has bathrooms.

Otherwise, you’ll likely have to go to a coffee shop or restaurant and buy something to use the bathroom.

38. Don’t use ATMs outside of bank locations.

Nearly everywhere you go in New York City, debit and credit cards are accepted. So there’s never a reason to carry large amounts of cash. However, if you need some money, use an ATM at an established banking location.

ATMs in places like delis, bars, or drug stores aren’t monitored as closely making it easier for skimmers to add devices to card readers that’ll help them steal account numbers and PINS.

Tips for NYC: Safety

A NYPD police car

Is New York City safe is one of the most common questions I get from readers who are considering a trip to the Big Apple. So in this section of New York City tips, you’ll find the common sense safety advice that I live by.

39. Don’t walk scared.

Despite what you might see on the news, New York City is still one of the safest mega-cities in the world. Yes, the pandemic’s empty sidewalks allowed a rougher element to surface. You will see homeless and mentally unstable people more so than perhaps in the years just prior to 2020.

However, with each day that life has returned to normal, the city’s residents and visitors alike are reclaiming the sidewalks, so to speak. To be a part of this, walk with purpose…like you know the streets like the back of your hand.

The more confident you look (and the faster you walk), the more you’ll blend in with every other New Yorker.

40. Do stay alert and be aware of your surroundings.

Yet with any big city, you need to exercise some basic caution. You should always be aware of where you are and the others around you. And if something doesn’t look right, move yourself away from the situation quickly and calmly.

Remember, pickpockets and others hoping to pull off petty crimes are opportunistic. They’re looking for anyone who has an unzipped bag or isn’t paying attention to where their belongings are. Everyone has a smartphone but don’t flash other expensive electronics.

Leave your best jewelry at home and don’t walk around with huge amounts of cash. And never carry phones or wallets in your back pants pocket. It’s an invitation for a quick-fingered thief.

41. Don’t react to catcalling.

As a female living in NYC, I’ve experienced plenty of catcalling. It’s always eye-rollingly annoying, especially when you’re just trying to enjoy the city’s sights like everyone else without feeling self-conscious about how you look or what you’re wearing.

The most important thing is not to react. Just keep walking and don’t make eye contact. I know the feeling of wanting to react but trust me, it’s not worth it.

42. Do trust your gut.

But you should always trust what your gut is telling you. If the catcaller (or someone) escalates their advances or you feel unsafe in any way, don’t hesitate to get out of there, seek help, look for a police officer, or even draw attention to what’s happening.

Go into the first available shop or restaurant. Cross the street. Stop walking and let whoever is bothering you pass so that you can see them in front of you rather them being behind you. Speak loudly so that others nearby are made aware of what is going on.

The same holds true outside of a catcalling situation. Something feels off on a subway car you’re riding? Move to another car or get off the train. The street is too dark or quiet? Take a different route. Always do what you feel is right for your own safety and remember the majority of New Yorkers around you will help if they can.

NYC Tips: What to Wear

Family of father and his little kids walk on Manhattan in New York City

What you pack for your trip to New York City is so important! With a lot of your trip spent outside, you’ll need to wear clothes that align with whatever the weather happens to be, while of course, achieving a few fashion points along the way.

These tips for traveling in NYC are all about the best clothes and shoes.

43. Don’t pretend it’s spring when it’s 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.

What to wear in New York in winter is not the same as what to wear in spring, summer, or fall. It’s also not like home where you likely go quickly from your heated house to your heated car to your heated destination.

During New York City in winter you have to be prepared to spend long periods of time outside regardless of what the temperature is or what the weather is doing. Otherwise, the winter weather can quickly put a freeze on whatever you had planned during your trip to New York City.

44. Do dress for the weather.

No matter when you plan to visit New York City, you’ll be walking outside, a lot. No matter how much planning you do before your trip, it’s so important to check the weather in the days leading up to your arrival. The right clothes and shoes will make all the difference during your New York City trip.

Fall in NYC is a great time to visit, weatherwise! The days are comfortable, with little humidity and plenty of blue skies. Similarly, visiting NYC in April or May comes with moderate temperatures and blooming flowers.

Winter and summer, obviously, come with more temperature extremes.

But regardless of what the calendar says, the weather forecast should dictate how you pack. Visiting in April and New York City is going to be 80+ degrees during the day? Pack like it’s summer with some layers for potentially cooler evenings.

Or are you planning a Christmas trip to NYC with sunny weather and 60-degree days in December? Leave your heaviest winter gear at home. You’ll only end up hot and sweaty as you walk around Manhattan.

45. Don’t underestimate the importance of the right shoes.

In a blink of an eye, you’ll have walked 10k+ steps in New York City. You need the right shoes so that you can sustain this amount of pedestrian life for a successful trip.

Fashion sneakers, flat boots, and sporty sandals all work depending on the season and how comfortable they are when you’re walking in them all day. These sneakers are among the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn and I often wear them for everyday walking around New York City.

And of course, weather plays a role. Don’t wear shoes that make your feet hot and sweaty during hot summer days. That’s a recipe for blisters. (Which is also why you should travel with at least 2 pairs of comfortable shoes. You can switch them from day to day so that your feet aren’t being continuously rubbed in the same places.)

The same goes for wearing the right shoes in the rain or snow. Wet and cold feet or shoes that can’t grip the sidewalks on bad weather days are the fastest way to put a damper on what you hoped to do in New York City.

46. Do leave the high heels at home.

Seriously. Unless you’re attending a gala or making an appearance in a Sex and the City sequel, you likely don’t need them. Not to mention, they hardly double for a shoe you can also walk in…outside…for several blocks.

If you need or want something dressier for nights out, consider shoes or boots with more of a platform or wider base that can also serve as functioning walking shoes.

47. Don’t wear your souvenirs here.

Your “I <3 New York”, subway line, or Broadway show tee-shirt will be much cooler at home. Not to mention, wearing items like these immediately identifies you as a tourist just when you might be trying to blend in with the crowd.

Group Of Friends Walking With Manhattan Skyline In Background

48. Do dress stylishly and comfortably.

With all the clothing tips for NYC focusing on comfort and the weather, you might think I’m suggesting you toss all fashion sense out the window. On the contrary! NYC is still a place to look put together. But you can do this in a smart way that combines utility and function.

Jeans are always a good start because you can dress them up or down. Boots, flats, oxfords, loafers, and fashion sneakers are all better choices than your standard gym sneakers.

Think minimalist fashion basics that are chic yet allow you to move comfortably (on foot) around the city. And don’t be afraid to accessorize with a scarf or a hat that will instantly add a bit of flair to your outfit.

49. Don’t wear white/light colors.

Ever wonder why a lot of New Yorkers seem to love wearing black? It’s because NYC is grimy and messy and most of us don’t have washers and dryers in our apartments!

This tip applies especially to pants, shoes, and jackets because they come into contact with park and subway benches and get splashed on by puddles and anything kicked up as you walk. Some of which may never come out even after being scrubbed or washed repeatedly.

Plus, if you’re trying to pack light and plan to wear things more than once, the soot and muck of New York City may upend that plan when it comes to those white pants or pastel pink jacket.

50. Do dress in darker colors.

Instead go for blacks, grays, and even dark colors like forest green, navy, or burgundy when packing bottoms and outerwear. You’ll have a better chance of hiding the inevitable filth that winds up on your clothes after traversing the city by foot and public transportation.

Not to mention, you’ll blend in with the crowd and have a better chance of re-wearing things you’ve packed.

New York City Tips Bottom Line

New York City skyline aerial view at sunset with colorful cloud and skyscrapers of midtown Manhattan.

Your trip to New York City is destined to be fantastic now that you’ve prepared yourself with these NYC travel tips!

If you put these tips for visiting New York City into action, you’re on your way to saving money and time, as well as looking like a total pro as you sightsee, eat, and get around fantastic NYC.

What questions do you have about the best New York City travel tips?

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70 thoughts on “New York City Tips: 50 Dos & Don’ts for Visiting NYC Like a Pro”

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Glad to make you laugh, Dave! I only do selfies when the landscape behind me needs to be in the shot, like when I was hiking in Patagonia. Hope you make it to NYC soon!

  1. Great tips. I used to spend summers in NYC growing up, but I have to admit, I’ve never been in the subway (mostly because of that petri dish of bacteria thing).

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks, Mags. The subway is THE way to travel while in NYC. If you’ve survived the air on planes, you’ll be fine. πŸ™‚

  2. Beverly Burmeier

    I love your do/don’t format. You’ve given better options for things many tourists would probably want to do.

  3. Great tips! We really want to make it back to NYC especially since we were there for such a short time on our last visit. I hate when people stop in the middle of sidewalks too–so frustrating!! And good thing to note about the empty subway cars! I would have probably jumped in one too, haha!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks, Jenna! Seems logical to jump in that empty subway car, at first….but, oh how quickly you regret it! Thanks for your comments and hope you make it back to NYC soon!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      I believe it, Brianna! If you don’t know where you’re going and the aggressive style of the New York driver, then you’re in for a terrifying experience.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      You’re not alone, Anna. Many people visit NYC, and are so used to getting in and out of their cars, they don’t realize how important dressing for the weather is.

  4. I’ve always wanted to go to NYC, I grew up only a couple hours away in Connecticut, have been inside JFK twice and to Yankee Stadium (the real one,) and that;s it. It was such a small taste and I need more… I gotta get my fix jack lol

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      So close, Adam! You should definitely not form your NYC opinions on JFK! And, I totally agree with you about the old Yankee Stadium being the real one! πŸ˜‰

  5. OK, now I am very afraid I want to know what on earth has happened inside an empty subway carriage. Especially as I gather this is a relatively frequent thing?

    I would have to take a cab just once I think though. Unless New York taxi drivers are less legendary than they are painted? That would be disappointing.

    *grins* I am not sure I agree with you about not wearing your souvenirs in country. I see it as an exuberant celebration of how much fun people are having when they are there, and am therefore quite tolerant. I am actually less so when people save it until they get home.

    What good tips though. Especially about where is *really* interesting to go.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thank you for your comments! If the subway car is empty, it’s typically because someone has become sick, a person who has not bathed in quite a while has taken a nap in there, or someone has used it as a bathroom. While I have a great deal of empathy in my heart for someone in these conditions, I don’t want, nor is it recommended, to ride in that car.

      A taxi ride is an experience, but drivers can be hit or miss. Fair points about wearing souvenirs, even though it still wouldn’t be a “NYC Pro” move. Thanks again for your comments! πŸ™‚

  6. I live visiting nyc. Wanted to live there when I was younger but now I think the tourists and other inconsiderate people there would give me too much anxiety.

  7. Great tips! I have to remember those for next time we visit. We did not take the subway once when we stayed in NYC for three days, we walked. And we did eat at non-chain restaurants we found near the hotel, and I’m glad of it. And yes, Times Square is a zoo!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      The subway is a lot easier than it seems, Jolanta. Definitely give a try on your next visit. So glad you were able to enjoy some food at an NYC restaurant! Thanks so much for your comments! πŸ™‚

  8. I loved visiting NYC. There is just so much to love! I wish I had ventured out a little more to explore little restaurants and bars but there is always next time! Also “pulling over” out of peoples way should be practiced around the world haha

  9. Really helpful tips! Bookmarking this one for future reference. Particularly like the one about the empty subway car as I’m sure I’ll be jumping on one if I didn’t read this, but now I know… πŸ™‚

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks, Amanda! Those chains survive only from the tourists who never venture outside of the Times Square tourist zone.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for your comments, Victoria. Just be sure to pull over when you take out that paper map (wink wink!) πŸ™‚

  10. I must say, I read many articles about tips for NYC, this one ranks at the top! Most of the people writing about NYC have visited a few times. You are clearly someone who knows the city well! My biggest tip for any city I visit is to walk like you know what you are doing, even if you don’t. Duck into a store or side street to check where you are going rather than stopping in the middle of the sidewalk!

    I have been planning a 10 day NYC itinerary for someone going for the first time. She gave me a list of places she wanted to see, and my first thing was to scoff. Times Square, Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building. All these places are the things I was trying to tell her to avoid! But then I had to think like her, a person who has never seen NYC (and not like me—someone who grew up there), and understand that it is OK to want to see those places! They are iconic for a reason! So I guess my biggest piece of advice is that its okay to visit all of those popular tourist places in the city, just know that there is more to the city than Times Square!

    Hopefully that all made sense!
    Cheers,
    Katie

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks, Katie! I’m so glad you got one of the post’s main points, which is to enjoy and explore New York City’s iconic sights, but also remember there’s so much more to see and do in the city! It’s such a fabulous city and, those of us who live or are from here, want everyone to get the most out of their trip. πŸ™‚

  11. Do go out and take in a comedy show, especially any of the local clubs that support upcoming talent.

    Don’t wear sandals, especially if you are going to walk around Manhattan all day. Not only will your feet hurt, but it will take literally days to wash the sludge that built up in between your toes!

    Do check out Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! It is probably one of the best outdoor festivals that you will ever see in your life.

    Don’t get caught in the middle of an intersection during a red light unless you are cool with angry New Yorkers laying down on their horn like nobody’s business.

    Do go to the Top of the Rock to get the best view of Manhattan. Don’t throw objects off the Top of the Rock. You might hurt someone and it’s illegal!

    Been to NYC four times in my life and this city just gets better every single time!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Ray, these are awesome tips! Thanks for helping to make the list even better! Love the point about the sandals and walking around NYC all day and there is certainly no shortage of great comedy shows!

  12. This is great we are coming over from Australia in March and it is always a bit weird going to a new city! where would you recommend someone to stay? I was looking at the Roosevelt in Manhattan ?

    thanks for the advice!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Sharna,
      Thanks for reading. How exciting to be visiting NYC! I haven’t checked out the Roosevelt Hotel, but it is in a good location. You are just footsteps away from Rockefeller Center, Broadway, and the subway. Midtown east tends to be quieter at night than midtown west, but this is not so far east that you’d feel remote or unsafe. I have more hotel recommendations and all the tips to make your first trip a success in my NYC Guide. Plus, you can even download a cheat sheet to take with you if you want. πŸ™‚

  13. Hi Jackie,
    Thanks for your advice, what is the best area to stay in that is easy to get around, safe and not overly pricey ?

    Thanks!

    Sharna

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Sharna,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I’m traveling and my wifi is a bit spotty. Ugh! Of course, the most convenient areas to stay are right in midtown, but these will also likely be the priciest areas, too. I’d recommend looking uptown on the west side of NYC, close to the 1,2,3 (red) subway line. It’s quick and easy and has connections in Times Square to nearly every subway you could want. If you really prefer midtown, east will likely be cheaper than west. I wouldn’t go past the Lexington Ave area, though. It’s safe, but so far east it’ll be a long way to walk to a train or to the main tourist areas of Times Square, Broadway, Rockefeller Center, etc. Hope that helps, but feel free to comment again if you need anything else. Enjoy your stay in NYC! πŸ™‚

  14. Hi Jackie what a great post and so spot on! I am a former New Yorker, been gone 20 years and I was visiting recently last month. It was so much windier than I’d remembered. It must be the tall buildings creating wind tunnels or something. I don’t remember that for 20 years ago. Maybe the buildings have gotten taller. I would also recommend the Bronx Zoo and the Botanical Gardens which make you feel as if you’re in an English countryside.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Mary. How great to get back to the city after many years. Great tip about the NY Botanical Gardens. It’s a favorite of mine, especially in fall.

  15. Hi Jackie! Thank you for sharing such interesting tips. I will be visiting my Uncle and his family this June and it is my first time to go to US, and I am glad to be visiting New York. However, I do not have any idea what type of clothes to bring. Your suggestions will be very much appreciated.

    Faith

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Faith,
      Thanks so much for reading. πŸ™‚ Summers in NYC are warm and some days even, really hot. Sundresses, short sleeve shirts, shorts, capris, elephant pants (loose-fitting pants) are all good. NYers always wear jeans no matter what time of year. As for shoes, NYers wear all kinds of shoes, but we are also used to walking in them. Sandals are fine if they’re comfortable to walk in. Also, there can be afternoon rain storms, so pack an umbrella or pick up one once you arrive. Finally, most places have Air Conditioning, so sometimes a light sweater or sweatshirt comes in handy! Hope that helps, Faith. If you’re looking for more first-timer NYC tips, check out this post. Enjoy NYC!

  16. This is a great list, except that blocking people in the subway is absolutely not “the fastest way to ingratiate yourself with New Yorkers.” It is, in fact, just the opposite since to ingratiate yourself means to bring yourself into favor.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Ha! I can’t believe I never picked that up after all this time, Lizzy! I guess that’s why it’s good to have lots of eyes reading. πŸ™‚

  17. Great post. I am a travel and sports blogger who was born and raised in New York City , even though I lived in other places. I would definitely recommend that tourists check out the Outer Boros. Take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry , which is free. See the real Little Italy on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. See the Queens Zoo as well as attending a game at either Yankees Stadium or Citi Field . See the other Chinatown in Flushing. Have some Asian, Indian or Latin American food in Jackson Heights . Visit Grants Tomb or Alexander Hamilton ‘ s home Hamilton Grange in Harlem. There is more to New York City than times square . Also, please tourists , don’t take a picture of the rats on the subway. They’re just like their human New York City cousins , aggressive and in a hurry to get to the train.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Jo Ann, and for all the tips! You are soo right about getting to the outer boroughs. I’ve included many of these in my 100 things to see and do in NYC. πŸ™‚ Love that last bit about the rats. They’re definitely camera shy!

  18. Hi going to New York for the first time late June for 4 nights then heading to upstate for a wedding.
    I’m getting freaked out because I’m disabled with visual and balance disabilities. So with that in mind do I stay in Manhattan and cab into the city for getting a feeling of NYC? I walk slowly and afraid of getting bumped around. 4th of July holiday Yikes what have I gotten myself into!?!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      I’m so glad you reached out, Lisa. It’s more than possible to enjoy NYC in a way that you’ll feel comfortable. I’d recommend looking into the Global Greeter Network. There are locals who volunteer to show visitors around for free. It’s even possible to be paired up with a local who also has some type of disability. I’d also think about bus tours if the idea of getting bumped around too much is nervewracking. You’d be able to get around to different parts of the city without the stress of doing it on your own. Thanks so much for reading and I’m sure your trip to NYC will be great. πŸ™‚

  19. Ok list, but remember I think the the thing to remember is A LOT of people walking on streets in NYC are tourists!
    Been there many times and it runs like any other large city. I think the thing to remember, do what you want…there are no β€œrules” to walking around and subways just use common sense.

  20. Wow, how kind of you to share this information. I am taking my wife Dec 14-18 and 3 exchange students–all 16, here for entire school year. This is a surprise for them (first trip), and I am attempting to put this all together, a play, a convenient hotel (will need two rooms) and recommendation would help. Prior post indicated you may have an article(s) out there with this information. Also, flying in from the south, ATL so all airports are reasonably price options, any recommendations there? Thanks again for taking time to share important information. Mark

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks so much for reading, Mark. That will be such an amazing surprise! I do have a where to stay in New York article. If you’re open to seeing any play or musical, I’d recommend going to TKTS the discount ticket booth in Times Square just before showtime. So if it’s an 8pm show, go to TKTS at 7:30. There will still be tickets available and no line like there would be had you gone earlier in the day. If you have a specific show in mind, look at websites like Broadway Box for discounts and buy in advance. As for airports, I have guides on all 3 NYC airports (JFK, LGA, and Newark) and how to get to Manhattan. I’d recommend JFK or Newark because their public transportation options are the best. But LGA also has options, so no need to worry if that’s where you fly into. πŸ™‚

  21. I have a package deal and have to travel to NYC before 11/25/2020. When do you suggest I go? I would like to see the decorations and some iconic sites also and maybe a show or two but am only there 4 days and 3 nights. I will be staying somewhere in Manhattan, not sure where, yet.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Ellen. New York City in the fall is the best time to come. If you want to see some decorations, I’d recommend next November right before your package expires. The Rockefeller Center tree won’t be lit but there’s a chance it’ll be up. The ice rink will be up and the Bryant Park holiday markets typically begin right after Halloween. Not to mention the weather tends to be a little chilly but mostly pleasant for walking around. Hope that helps. If you need other NYC tips, start with this guide.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Shannon. πŸ™‚ To this day, I don’t know. But it was absolutely putrid!

  22. I plan on driving to visit New York from Virginia with my two teenagers this summer. I’m driving because we also plan on visiting family in Rochester. I do not want to drive in the city. Where do you recommend we stay and park our car while taking public transit into the city to sightsee?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Rachel. What I would do is to look for cheap parking around Newark Airport or JFK Airport. You can find cheap airport parking at hotels and off-airport sites and then take public transportation into NYC from there. Definitely a smart choice to avoid driving in Manhattan. Enjoy your trip!

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