10 Tips for a New York Newbie
A first-time visitor to NYC learned a few things about making the most of a trip to the city.
Hey y’all. I’m Addie Benson, Texan and blogger at Old World New. I won a trip to New York Fashion Week from Lifetime and Project Runway and stayed at the Refinery Hotel, right in the heart of the city. Before my trip I did a lot of research, but nothing could prepare me for the great experience that I had—it just had to be lived. Here are a few tips I learned and plan on using the next time I’m in the Big Apple!
1. Choose your shoes wisely
I wore casual oxfords when I boarded the plane, and planned to jazz my outfit up with heels once I arrived. I did just that, expecting smooth sailing. WRONG. I wore those heels in the rain while exploring all of the sights around Times Square, and returned to my room with a heel hangover. It’s safe to say that these Not Rated oxfords saved my soles for the rest of my time in New York.
2. Get a bird’s eye view – without the long wait
Most people think that the Empire State Building is the best place to view the city from up high, but there are many more contenders. From the 70th floor of the Top of the Rock, you can see the entire city without the obstruction of glass. Just schedule and pay for the time slot you’d like to go in order to avoid long lines—before you know it, you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world.
3. Don’t overbook
Trust me when I say that you will not be able to see ten NYC attractions between sunrise and sundown. You have to consider lines (there are so many other tourists in town), travel time, and time to get lost, whether that is on purpose or because the map on your phone just doesn’t like you. Expect to lose time in the little moments. Make the most of your time by limiting your day to one borough or area. Day 1 could take place in midtown Manhattan: There you can visit Times Square, Top of the Rock, Grand Central Station, and even walk to Central Park. The next day you could explore Lower Manhattan: Visit the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, catch a ferry to Staten Island and view the NYC skyline along the way, or take the ferry that goes the Statue of Liberty. In addition to these sights, which I’d planned out ahead of time, I stopped at a farmers’ market, listened to artists in the subway and got a free hug near Union Square. It is also fun to have a free day where you roam around one area (like the West Village, or Williamsburg, Brooklyn) and discover all that it has to offer, without maps or a planned itinerary.
4. Pack light
There are so many great souvenirs to buy for yourself and your friends back home. Who doesn’t need an I *heart* NY shirt? Even our dogs have them now! You can find a souvenir shop on nearly every corner and near major attractions such as Times Square. You can also find NYC gear in drug stores such as Duane Reade and CVS.
5. Experience culture through food
Ellis Island saw the entrance of many immigrants, and they brought with them traditional recipes that are still being made in N.Y. today, in Chinatown, Koreatown, Spanish Harlem, Jamaica (Queens). While I didn’t get to Little Italy, I did explore the behemoth Eataly, with a full Italian-style grocery shop, four Italian specialty restaurants, and more gelato than you could ever eat!
6. Take advantage of the culture
It doesn’t have to be highbrow! If art museums aren’t your thing, check out SNL The Exhibition. The best part is the replica SNL Studio 8H with a mini-show recorded for museum visitors. It really feels like you’re watching a live taping of the show.
7. Stay in a central hotel
Sleep in the middle of the action and enjoy waking up with a view of the skyscrapers, and being just a quick walk to Times Square and Central Park. The Garment District (home of the Refinery) is close to all of that—and was especially great during Fashion Week.
8. Take touristy photos
Whether you’re a world traveler or relatively local, there’s nothing wrong with embracing your role as a tourist. Smile in front of Times Square; hop up and catch a jumping shot in front of the skyline; or snap a kiss while overlooking the city!
9. Listen to the locals
If you’re sitting in an Uber or taxi, spark up a conversation with your driver. Ask him (or her) about favorite restaurants and sights. I was thoroughly confused about all of the boroughs and neighborhoods, but on the way to the hotel from the airport my driver gave me a really helpful tutorial that informed the rest of my trip. You can learn so much from locals if you just ask!
10. Send postcards home
I even sent one to myself! I mailed the postcards at the beautiful main post office on Eighth Avenue, and bought them at Duane Reade while ducking inside to avoid the rain. The next morning (cozy in my Refinery robe) I wrote a simple greeting to everyone and an inspirational message to my boyfriend and myself. It is a reminder to keep exploring and to get back to NYC soon. It will be on my vision board until we visit New York again!