1. Get a subway pass.
If you’re there for 4 or more days, get the 7 day Subway pass. It’ll save you money for how often you use the subway, and is so much easier than buying a single ticket every time you get public transport. I only caught onto this on my second or third day, so didn’t get as much value out of it, but it was still worth it for me.
2. See as much as you possibly can.
You will be (should be) exhausted by the end or even the middle of your time in New York. Don’t worry about that, you can rest later. Do all the things while you have the option. See times square, walk round the city until your feet are numb, go to the Top of the Rock, ride that bike through Central Park. Whatever it is that’s on your list, odds are you can do it in New York. Don’t waste a minute of the time you have.
I ended up buying a ticket to the American Open Tennis Tournament at breakfast one morning, and went that night. I had absolutely no idea the tennis was on while I was there and didn’t plan on going when I found out, but $50 to see Djokovic and Sharapova in New York, why not?!
3. Make yourself familiar with the subway system.
Download the Subway map on your phone, you’ll find that after using it a few times you’ll get the hang of it. It’s not rocket science, you’re either getting a train to go downtown (towards South Ferry), or uptown (towards Manhattan). The map will show you where you can swap trains and which station is closest to the main attractions. You’ll also find that you can head to a station that’s close to where you want to go and walk the rest of the way. OR, like me, you can accidentally get off at the wrong station and find yourself in the World Trade Centre. There’s something to look at wherever you go.
4. Pay to stay in a good location.
It’s New York, accommodation is expensive everywhere you go, so you may as well be within walking distance of a subway station, supermarket and if you can, Central Park or Times Square. Our hostel was $50 per night (one of the cheapest ones we found), it was a 4-story apartment just a block away from Central Park, and a 6 minute walk to the nearest subway station. It meant that we could do a lot more during the day and even stay out late without worrying about how to get back. It also provided the opportunity to wake up in the morning and go for a run in Central Park. Don’t kid yourself, we didn’t actually do that. But the option was there.
5. See a show.
That’s the best advice I can give you. See a show. You’re in New York, you have every musical and play that you could possibly ask for. We saw the School of Rock on Broadway and it was definitely the highlight of my trip. The kids played their instruments LIVE, and I’ve never actually laughed so much while in a theatre. I LOVED it. Most Americans are obsessed with the musical of Hamilton, which features an all-sung script of American history. So if you’re into history and have a spare odd $300USD, go for it!
6. Be cautious, but don’t worry too much.
What I mean by that is, as a young female and often solo traveler, I need to have my wits about me. In saying that, the majority of the time I felt completely safe. I did have a stranger hug me to get in my photo on the Brooklyn Bridge, and a couple of smug guys shout out some cheeky comments, but that’s just harmless fun. Although I did decline a free taxi ride, because it was late at night and didn’t feel safe to me. Go with your gut and use your instincts, but don’t close yourself off to talking to locals, it’s an amazing part of the experience.
7. See New York from above.
I went to the top of the Rockefeller Centre, and absolutely loved it. I stayed up there for about 3 hours, so I got to see the city by day, then the sunset and finally nightfall with the lights shining. This way I got to see the Empire State Building on one side, and then a quick skip over to the other side gave a spectacular view of Central Park in the middle of the ‘concrete jungle’. I got some amazing photos and loved being above the chaos of the city. You can also go to the top of the Empire State Building if you’d rather. Whatever you choose, the view will be breathtaking.
Quick hint: Go before the ‘sunset time slots’ to avoid paying extra. Once you’re up there you can stay as long as you like, no matter how much you paid for the ticket!
8. Try a slice of New York cheesecake.
You won’t regret it. It’s like no other cheesecake. If you’ve seen the cheesecake episode of FRIENDS you’ll know how they just spoon it out like it’s cream, well that’s exactly how it is. It’s baked with a thick buttery crust and is unbelievably creamy. I shared a piece with a friend after having one of the best Italian style pizzas ever at a place called Patsy’s. It’s the kinda stuff they mention for your last meal. I would have absolutely no complaints with that being my last meal.