Before coming to university after leaving 6th Form, I took a gap year with my twin sister and travelled the states. I got to both start and finished my journey in New York as I flew in and out of the city. Here is some advice I have for anyone else planning a visit.
1. Go to Broadway shows box offices early in the morning to buy last minute tickets! – This is a great trick! My sister and I went to see Neverland and got $150 tickets for just $35, and we were sat just four rows from the stage! So believe me when I say it’s worth giving it a shot. Just head down to Broadway before 10 am to visit some of the box offices. Good Luck!
2. Be warned about the weather – Depending on what time of year you go the weather can be awful. When I first arrived in New York in February, it was grey and drizzly, not exactly how I imagined it (I was thinking along the lines of strolling down the street like Carrie Bradshaw). But don’t worry it’s not the end of the world. Getting around by subway means you don’t have to stand ages in the rain waiting for buses. It is also a great opportunity to check out some of the excellent museums New York has to offer, like the Natural History Museum which only asks for an entry donation. Also, the weather changes quickly, and by my return at the end of April, it was sunshine and blue skies.
3. Food – There are so many amazing places to eat in New York, but I’d suggest Joe’s Pizza in Brooklyn. It’s famous for being in a SpiderMan movie and has also been visited by so many celebs whose pictures line the walls. The pizza is delicious and only $1 for a huge slice!
4. Don’t be afraid to try new things – I never envisioned myself eating eel, but it was something that I did in a tiny Japanese restaurant in New York. We even managed to make friends with the waitress when I said bring me anything and scored myself a free dessert! It’s always worth trying to make friends with anyone and everyone, who knows what it might get you.
5. It’s really easy to get around – As tempting as the yellow cabs may be they are not the best way to get around the city. Don’t be afraid of the metro, believe me, I know that it might be intimidating at first but the maps are easy to understand, and metro cards work just like oyster cards making it a breeze.
6. Not everything costs a lot of money – One of best memories of New York was the day before I left where my sister and I went to Central Park (where we had ice skated not a couple of months before) for ice creams. But if it’s not hot enough weather for that there a lot of small food vendors around the edge, selling everything from hot dogs to grilled cheese.
7. Some things do cost money – A couple of things I would suggest doing if you do have the money is the Statue of Liberty, which I would advise booking well in advance as the crown access tickets were sold out when I was there. Tickets cost about $22 to access all levels so be prepared to walk the 162 steps to the top. But you can also take boat cruises that take you to the statue and around Ellis Island which leave from Battery Park and have great views across the water to New York. Also, the Empire State Building is pricey, but seeing the city from above is breathtaking. One way to save a bit is just to go to the Main Deck rather than the Top as there isn’t much difference between the two, and it’s $37 rather than $57.
8. Speak to people – After crossing the Brooklyn Bridge my sister and I were stood looking at a map trying to work out where to go when a man approached us asking if we were lost (something which appears crazy to a British person but turned out to happen numerous times during our trip). When we explained that we were just looking around, he went on to tell us about a lovely café just down the road that we should check out. So I would suggest maybe standing and looking at a map appearing confused, and perhaps you may get some helpful suggestions.
9. Watch out in Times Square – Keep your eye out for some things in Times Square, including pickpockets and people trying to sell you anything and everything! Also, it can get very busy, and it’s easy to get knocked. I know from experience managing to get my iPhone knocked out of my hand which resulted in the screen smashing. On a happier note just by Times Square there is a restaurant called Stardust; it is incredible, trust me. There’s singing and dancing waiters, who work there when not appearing in Broadway shows, need I say more.
10. You won’t manage to fit all in – Even with two trips and tonnes of planning, I wasn’t able to fit in everything I wanted to do. Make sure you prioritise the things you are most excited about. But know whatever happens you’ll be dreaming about when you can next return.