A 2011 guest thanked me for advising her of the requirement to book advance tickets for the (then) new 9/11 Memorial. This got me thinking about creating a page here on my website just to share tips for a smooth and successful New York visit. It’s now Fall 2015 and time to update this blog post. Do you have any suggestions to add? Are there things you wished you’d known in advance of your trip? Please email me!
- One World Observatory. Report from my most recent guest is that the view from the new One World Trade Center skyscraper is spectacular, the queue is short, and the visit is well worth the price of admission. For information and reservations, visit http://oneworldobservatory.com.
- National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center site are now both open for visiting. The Memorial is free of charge and open to the public daily from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. For the Museum you need to buy a ticket. There are guided tours available of both. Find out more and purchase tickets for the museum at http://www.911memorial.org.
- Empire State Building vs Top Of The Rock. With the queue for the Empire State Building getting longer and longer and more unpredictable, many guests are choosing to get their “bird’s eye view” of New York City from Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center. Click the links above for info and ticket sales.
- Waiting times at all the major sites are shorter for holders of the New York City Pass. For just over $100 for adults, City Pass gives you “express” admission to the Empire State Building, Musuem of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum and MOMA, a choice of Top of the Rock or Guggenheim Museum, and a choice between Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island and the Circle Line boat ride. As of summer 2015, the Pass now includes the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Guests who have bought the Pass have overwhelmingly recommended it, but you save only if you plan on seeing all the sites included.
- Museum closings. Some museums in NYC close one day a week; for example, the Guggenheim closes on Thursdays and the Frick and NY Historical Society on Mondays. Check museum websites for days and hours. The Museum of the City of New York, Met, MOMA, and Natural History museums are open 7 days a week.
- Most Broadway and off-Broadway theaters are “dark” on Mondays — no performances.
- If you are interested in the history of New York City, then you’ll want to learn about our immigrant past at the immigration museum at Ellis Island. Buy your tickets for Ellis Island and/or the Statue of Liberty in advance at http://www.statuecruises.com. Find out more about searching for your immigrant ancestors at http://www.ellisisland.org. And don’t miss one of the informative, fun guided tours at the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. In my opinion, this is the best museum in New York.
- The biggest complaint I hear from guests is the difficulty of figuring out in which direction to travel by subway. In Manhattan, most subways run north-south, so you will usually see one platform with a sign that says “Uptown” and another that says “Downtown.” If you’re in Chinatown and you are headed back to our b&b, take the “Uptown” train. Often, the direction will be given as “Brooklyn,” “Queens,” or “Bronx.” If you are in Manhattan, and are headed uptown to the Upper West Side, you’re headed either toward the Bronx or Queens. Downtown, you’re probably headed toward Brooklyn (or possibly Queens — sorry for the confusion!) I know, it’s not easy. But there are maps on the walls of the stations and subway cars, and lots of friendly New Yorkers to help you find your way. Every guest I’ve hosted in the past two years has mastered the New York City subway system within a day, and anyway, getting lost can lead to great discoveries!
- Take the bus! Buses are a great way of seeing the city, and exploring neighborhoods that you might miss if you travel underground. Your MetroCard works on the buses too. Download bus and subway maps here.
- Tipping: 15-20% for taxis and 15% for restaurants. Here’s how to compute the restaurant tip fast: Just double the sales tax at the bottom of your bill. (That’s our VAT, and it’s around 8.75%) Taxis add surcharges during rush hour and nighttime, which makes the total confusing. Fortunately, all taxis are required to carry the little screens on the back of the seat for credit card payments. Even if you pay cash, you’ll see the fare calculated on the screen, with all the surcharges and suggested tip.
More suggestions to come. Please add your own advice to visitors below, in the comments box.