This is a New York travel guide to cover the second part of my trip to NYC. This covers the touristy aspect of the trip. The travel aspect of a mainly fashion-based trip (as posted here) was easy to navigate in a popular mainstream city like New York. It is a huge city but with limited time and other commitments, a first-timer can easily cover the hyped attractions.
This is the very first time that I travelled to any place without any planning on my part for travel aspect. Outside of packing, I left everything to the group’s plans and to my friends’ advice once I reached there. Turns out, packing was all the planning I needed in NYC winters!
If you somehow end up visiting in winters, do not fret or be intimidated by accounts of “how cold it gets” from other people: over-dramatic for someone from Canberra (rolling my eyes here). Yes, it gets terribly cold but the cold is bearable with the right kind of clothing; by protecting your ears, neck, fingers and toes in actual warm accessories. Taking off a few items to pose for pictures, is also totally do-able (and even necessary for travel and style blogging!).
The only times I got terribly tired were when my fingers and toes weren’t warm enough for short walks to sight-see. The winter will slow you down, but the city is worth experiencing in the winters. Do not forget to pack some solid shoes that don’t slip when trying to walk in melting snow. Also do yourselves a favour and get these heat patches that go on over a thin layer of base clothing (or socks, to go on your soles). On the days I was stupid enough to wear just belle flats over socks, the extra patches I had in my purse at all times, may just have saved my toes from falling off!
Booking.com works well here. For better access to the buzzing life and all transport, mid-town is a prime location. Even to visit the further spots, this holds a good vantage point. Winters will get you cheap deals for great hotels even at Times-Square.
The public transportation in NYC is quite good. You can purchase a subway pass for 10 days and travel hassle-free. This article here actually explains using the subways quite well. I will be using this for my next visit to NYC, for SURE. (Obviously there will be a next visit!)
I myself ended up taking yellow cabs pretty much everywhere because of the cold weather and the self-imposed pressure of covering a lot in little time. Also, if you plan to take a cab from JFK airport to the city or back, then the yellow cabs offer flat rates with toll charges. The trip both sides, cost me about half of what I would have paid using popular mobile apps to get a ride! Car-pooling is cheaper but may cost patience and time.
Attractions and sights:
Crowd is hardly an issue at popular tourist spots in winter. Plus, the combination of the concrete beauty and snow is nothing short of magical.
As with any place, research what you want to see and purchase tickets in advance. A Broadway musical is an absolute delight and a MUST-DO in your lifetime. To catch the popular shows, make ticket arrangements in way ahead of time, online or through local friends (especially if you have a few months between your bookings and the actual trip).
Do try and squeeze an evening of drinks/dinner at one of the high-rise clubs/restaurants in NYC. I went to Sky-lark and the view was superlative! I die for the city-scapes at night with their twinkling lights.
Could not have been happier with the food. My friends were kind to introduce me to options and tell me what would cater to vegetarian taste-buds. I could find amazing salads almost everywhere and they were full of flavour and goodness! Unlike European countries and even many parts of Australia, flavour-rich vegetarian food is easy to get in NYC!
Not to miss:
Sales at SAKS, Macy’s, and the sweet deals at Woodbury Commons.
Many of our beloved high street and luxury labels are American and sold at good discounts in the US. I barely had time or luggage space to be able to avail the full benefits but the hype for shopping is REAL. Woodbury Commons is like a tiny town full of such gorgeous stuff and the only way you could survive is by carrying a suitcase with you and shoving your shopping bags in it as you go. Not even exaggerating-exactly how everyone goes there on a mission.
Pro-tip: Ask for your 10% traveller’s discount everywhere that you shop. Show your ID and return ticket for confirmation (most won’t even ask for it if you look wide-eyed and fascinated like me, lol).
Things to keep in mind:
- Beware of the tipping culture in NYC (and I suspect in the US in general). Absolute nuisance. This was the Indian-level of money-extortion! The innocent looking costumed people at Times Square were down-right scary. My phone was just snatched off my hands while Elsa skipped away with my phone! I could not just ‘let it go’ ! She then got me and a friend to take a picture with 2 other cartoons. Then they all just ganged up to ask for money after and WOULD NOT accept coins. I did not want trouble (and believe me, no one would have time to come to your rescue in the busy Times Square). So I begrudgingly handed over 5 bucks and they were even more unhappy taking “only” 5 dollars. Lesson learnt. Do not entertain or take help from anyone apart from your food-servers and cabbies. Even bathrooms at some places have people to squirt soap in your hand, who then expect to be tipped! It adds up over the period of your stay.
- Many eating places are converting to card-only forms of payment so travellers like me who only carry cash, are doomed. Sweetgreen for example, does this and a way to get around it, is to order online and use your regular debit card and then just pick it up at the store. This is a better alternative to being hungry staring at the amazing salads in your face with your useless cash burning a hole in your pocket.
- DO NOT under any circumstances try to use TravelSim (Australian) or any other such nonsense. I was misguided that it is complicated to get a sim in the US. So I bought the TravelSim in sheer panic. Robbed me of a lot more money with the worst data service ever. So save yourself time and frustration and just walk into any T-mobile or similar store around mid-town for excellent internet and peace of mind within minutes. Costs roughly USD $55-65 for unlimited great internet for a month!
- GPS will go crazy when you try to get to places on foot. It helps to understand how blocks and avenues are scattered across the city. I have never seen GPS do this in a developed country! Subway stations are confusing too, I actually was lost for 10 minutes trying to find the right platform to take my train, till a kind lovely lady just physically took me to the right spot!
- Try to make the most of your touristy mornings by googling a good (and perhaps instagrammable) breakfast place.
- Carry a sling bag or back-pack everywhere if possible to keep your hands free. All the winter clothing items need handling for pictures and for switching between indoor-heat and outdoor-cold constantly.
Where’s the hygge?
The trip turned out to be much better than I anticipated. The entire time, I made plans the night before and explored the city with new friends. I haven’t slept this less and functioned this well at this level of Zen ever! I went with zero-expectations and came back a much happier person, and with more hunger to travel and see more of the world. The whole time, my activities and the events seemed like chaos but my brain was more relaxed and happy than it has been in a long time. NYC was just as hypnotic, as advertised.