Mistakes to avoid as a first time visitor to New York

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It’s your first to the Big Apple, you have been planning this trip for over a year. You have scrimped and saved in an effort to have an adventure of a life time in the greatest city in the world, New York, New York. At VisitingNewYork.com.au I want to make sure that you have an amazing time, and learn from past mistakes in what not to do when you are visiting the City that Never Sleeps for the first time.

Here is the VisitingNewYork.com.au guide to not making rookie mistakes when visiting New York:

JFK AirTrain indicator board. One of the fastest ways into Manhattan is via the AirTrain & Long Island Rail Road

1. The quickest way from JFK Airport to Manhattan

Your flight has landed (hopefully on time), you’ve got your bags and you want to get into the Big Apple as quickly as possible. If you have flown into JFK Airport the quickest way to get to the JFK AirTrain from right outside your terminal and take it to Jamaica Station. Once at Jamaica Station follow the signs to the Long Island Rail Road and jump on the next train to Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan. The service will cost $16 and in total only takes about 35 minutes from terminal to Midtown.

A taxi can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes and has a flat fee of $52 plus tolls and tip, and taking the Subway from Jamaica Station to Manhattan will only cost $2.75 but can take up to an hour (or more). For more information on getting from JFK to Manhattan visit our JFK Airport Guide.

Century 21 is a must see for any Australian shopaholic

2. There is more to shopping in New York than just Macy’s and 5th Avenue

New York and shopping often go hand in hand, and if you are visiting from Australia there can be some great bargains to be had, even when the exchange rate isn’t quite 1:1. If you are looking for a bargain head to Century 21 in Lower Manhattan (21 Dey Street in the Financial District) for great bargains including up to 65% off the retail price. If you are looking to shop like a Manhattan local checkout the West Village and browse through their eclectic shops and designer boutiques. Another great spot for designer shopping is in Spring Street, SoHo mixed in with big name boutiques are some great up and coming designers that have outfits and accessories that you can be sure will hit Australian shores in the next couple of years.

Shopping in New York would not be complete without a trip to Macy’s, the world’s biggest department store. In addition to having great everyday prices, Australian (and any international traveller) can get an additional 10% off by visiting the Visitors Center on the mezzanine level.

Don’t go to Times Square expecting a culinary experience

3. Dining in Times Square

Don’t be fooled by all the bright lights and truck loads of people, visitors to New York do not go to Times Square for a culinary delight. Times Square has everything from Hard Rock Café to McDonald’s, TGI Friday’s to Olive Garden and even a Bubba Gump Shrimp (yep that is an actual restaurant). Most restaurants that you find in Times Square offer a similar level of service, the more people they can get through the door, the more money they can make. The quality is generally ok, without being spectacular, and the service is generally nothing short of borderline ok.

If you find yourself in Times Square around dinner time, all you need to do is go a couple of blocks to the West and you start to find better quality restaurants and bars in Hell’s Kitchen or Chelsea that will give you better prices, service and quality of meals.

Yellow New York Taxi Cabs are a very common sight – but don’t be fooled, they’re not the best way to get around

4. They maybe iconic but there’s very little need to take a cab

When I’m in New York there are only two times that I get a cab. The first, if I am heading back to my hotel after a big day of shopping. The second, If I am heading to the airport for my flight home, and my number of bags has unexplainably risen from 1 to  3 (probably related to my first point). At all other times, I either use the subway, bus or lately my favourite option is using Citi Bike to get where I need to go.

The subway is my favourite – in Winter it gets me out of the cold, in Summer it’s generally not as busy as the streets above (particularly during rush hour) and the best reason it’s the cheapest option. Buy a 7-day Unlimited Ride MetroCard for only $31. These can be bought from ticket booths, vending machines or local neighbourhood merchants.

Buses are a great option for getting across town or in the small parts of Manhattan where the subway doesn’t run (parts of the West Village East Village, Midtown East near the United Nations and the Eastern fringe of the Upper East Side).

Citi Bike is fast becoming my favourite way to get around the city when the weather is nice. It’s so easy to rent a Citi Bike and by following the marked bike lanes is a lot quicker than walking and you get to see everything that is great about New York. One word of warning, if you are planning on dropping your bike off at a station in a popular tourist area always know where a back-up station, in case the one you are planning on returning to is full.

If you’re flexible you can spend almost no time at all waiting in line to go up the Empire State Building

5. Time your visits to museums and attractions in New York

New York is the city that never sleeps and its attractions and museums take full advantage of this. Don’t assume just because it is a weekday that you will not encounter any lines or crowds. Some of the most popular tourist attractions are busy year round so planning is crucial. Take note of the closing time of the attraction or museum as you maybe able to visit first thing in the morning or late at night.

For example the Empire State Building is open until 2am each day, with the last elevator ride up at 1:15am. As you would imagine outside of school holidays the crowds do drop significantly which is great for Australians who are travelling during our Summer holidays as most US schools go back in the second week of January, leave 2 – 3 weeks of our longest holiday to enjoy less crowds in New York.

6. Rest up early to dance the night away

If you want to experience the New York nightlife scene and want to head to the trendiest bars and clubs, and want to find your groove to the best beats in town, don’t get too excited and turn up too early. Most of New York’s best clubs and bars don’t get busy until about 11pm, partly due to the fact that they are allowed to stay open until 4am.

If you have had a big day of sightseeing, shopping or just soaking up everything New York has to offer, head back to your hotel, grab a couple of hours sleep to recharge and then make the New York club’s your own playground for a night you won’t forget.

Understanding New York’s street signs will make your trip much easier

7. Pack your most comfortable shoes and get walking

There is just something about being on the streets of New York for the first time. It all seems so familiar and exciting. From the countless TV shows and movies to which New York has played the backdrop you will find a sense of familiarity around every corner. It is for this reason you will want to get out and explore as much of it as possible. VisitingNewYork.com.au recommends packing your most comfortable shoes and start pounding the pavement – get out there and find your favourite New York spot, and your own New York story to tell jelous friends and family when you get home.

Yankee Stadium in the Bronx is just one of the many great options outside of Manhattan

8. There is more to New York than just Manhattan

Without a doubt when Australians think of New York, undoubtedly they think of Manhattan, and rightly so, having most of the hotels, attractions, tours, museums and famous faces, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time solely in Manhattan. If time allows spend some time in the other Boroughs that make up New York.

Whether it be the Bronx Zoo or taking a tour of the famed Yankee Stadium to spending an afternoon in New York’s trendiest suburbs of DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) or Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Want to catch an NBA game at the Barclay’s Center or catching a game of Ice Hockey and cheering on the New York Islanders there is plenty to do in Brooklyn, and of course there is always the famous Coney Island on Brooklyn’s coast line which is perfect on a hot Summer’s day.

A visit to New York seems to be on almost every Australian’s bucket list, and if you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit this amazing city make the most of the time you have and don’t fall into tourist traps that others have before.

If you have any questions about your upcoming trip to New York and want an unbiased recommendation on what to see or do use our Ask a Question service and I’ll answer your question(s) personally.

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