New York Travel Tips
This past week was my 40th birthday! A #bucketlist item has been to see New York at Christmastime - especially the lighting of the tree in Rockefeller Center! Fortunately, my birthday landed on the same weekend of Thanksgiving which made it easy for my teaching schedule, but unfortunate that it was still too early for the tree lighting. Boo hoo!!! I still had the time of my life and want to share my travel tips for all my friends!
If you like adventure, don't be afraid of public transportation! We saved some bucks by flying into Newark, NJ. There is the very convenient NJ Transit train that takes you from Newark to Manhattan, you'll just need to give yourself some extra time for commuting if it is during rush hour. Once in Manhattan, the subway is a cheap and wonderful way to travel. Our trip was only 5 days but it was still cheaper for us to purchase a 7 day unlimited pass. Each single ride on the subway is almost $3 a person. If you know that you will ride the subway more than 12 times (the average trip for us on the subway was 5-6 times a day) you definitely get your money's worth by doing an unlimited pass. The passes are also good for the public transportation on the bus lines but we didn't need to use the bus at all during our 5 days.
Choosing a place to stay can be tricky because some folks prefer staying in the middle of the craziness, but some prefer staying outside the hub of activity around Time Square. We chose the latter and stayed at the end of the Q line on the upper east side. It was a wonderful area and still very convenient to everything in Manhattan. I also heard that the Chelsea/Meatpacking district on the west side is nice for your room reservations. I personally love using Airbnb and meeting new people, but if you like hotels, I have heard great things about the POD hotel chain, as well as the Hilton Garden Inn hotels in the city.
Here are my favorite resources on planning the trip! Watch my embedded videos on each neighborhood! Also, to get around the city, download this awesome app called Citymapper!
- Columbus Park (I loved hearing the authentic music and watching locals enjoy checkers and chess!)
- Shops (Aji Ichiban and any little novelty shop! I bought a tea set and some loose leaf tea!)
- Food (Tasty Dumpling, Fried Dumpling, and Nom Wah are my favorites!)
- Museums (I didn't go in but there are two museums in the area. One for Chinese Americans and the other is an Italian American museum.)
- You can also walk around Little Italy when you are in Chinatown. The prices are a little higher for food in this area compared to Chinatown.
Financial District/South Manhattan
- Free Tours on Foot (HIGHLY recommend the 2 hour tour that gives some NY history as well as shows you the great sightseeing spots within walking distance.)
- Charging Bull Statue (Get there early for a picture!)
- Wall Street (See the original wooden "wall" on the street built by the Dutch!)
- Clinton Castle (National Park)
- Federal Hall (National Park)
- Stone Street (Grab lunch or dinner on this great pedestrian street!)
- Occulus (HUGE mall and shopping area)
- Brinkman's Plaza (Located within the Occulus. Skating rink, shops, food, and a view of the water.)
- World Trade Center (Museums, parks, and Tower One observatory)
- Staten Island Ferry (Free ferry ride over to Staten Island with a great view of the Statue of Liberty!)
- Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (Purchase your tickets near Castle Clinton. There are a lot of scammers that will walk up to you.)
- All things Rockefeller (The Art and Architecture Tour is wonderful and I loved the view from the observation deck on Top of the Rock!)
- St. Patrick's Cathedral (Beautiful church architecture and art!)
- Christie's (Free to go in and look at auction items! Nice bathroom and coffee/water area in the lobby)
- Saks 5th (Check out the window displays and visit the different levels of the store!)
- Times Square (HUGE screens and lights! A lot of fun to check out!)
- Penn Station (Central hub for Times Square)
- Grand Central Station (Beautiful architecture and a nice place to sit and rest for a little while!)
- Carnegie Hall Rose Museum (Free museum about the Carnegie family and music!)
- Hot dogs (Gray Papaya and Sabara hot dog carts)
- Jazz at Lincoln Center (Free wall of fame display with video)
- Lincoln Plaza (Many art performances and museums)
- Natural History Museum (I recommend the "highlights tour" on the website! It's free and you can see all the notable artifacts!)
- Shops (A lot of cool boutique stores and vintage clothing)
- Washington Park (Beautiful walking area with the famous Washington Square Park)
- Pizza (Joe's Pizza is a legend! Definitely try a slice!)
- Small's Jazz Club (Intimate setting with amazing music!)
- Village Vanguard (Famous performance venue with a rich history!)
- Chelsea Market (Cappone's was a really yummy Italian sandwich place! Fresh and authentic ingredients! Enjoy all the market shops and the old converted Nabisco factory!)
- Highline (A beautiful walkway park that sits above street level. It was originally a train track that they converted into a pedestrian walking park.)