Visiting New York, USA
New York is one of the most popular cities in the world for tourists and visitors from all over the globe. This is thanks to the diverse culture, opportunities for activities, shopping, exciting dining experiences and a constant high energy atmosphere at its core. The bustling environment can be a real source of excitement for many visitors, who want to be a part of the heartbeat of the city. It can be overwhelming at times, but it’s best to take it in your stride if you can, to become immersed in what it has to offer you. It is renowned for being the big city that never sleeps, and thankfully, it is one of the safest, as visitors are constantly under the protection of the cities friendly and vigilant police force.
The best times to visit would be between April – June, as this is when Spring has sprung, the weather is fine, and it may be slightly less touristy, allowing you to beat some of the queues and take things slightly slower. That is if that can be done in the bustling city. Also, November and December are popular times because of the Christmas and holiday celebrations that are busy happening around the city. The festive spirit is in full swing. It is incredibly busy at this time but can be really rememberable.
NYC is made up of five boroughs, sitting where the Hudson River meets the Atlantic Ocean. At its centre is Manhattan, an incredibly commercial and heavily populated borough, which is among the world’s most acclaimed financial and cultural centres. The skyline is iconic, being the most photographed in the world, as well as the most posted on social media. Visitors love to share experiences online, letting others celebrate and admire the places they have travelled. Once you have visited a place, a photo can often hold more memories and meaning. Emotions can become attached with images, so they can be incredibly powerful tools for securing everlasting moments. So, don’t be embarrassed, take as many photos as you like to really remember and capture your special moments in New York City. But still remember to live in the moment, a balance can be necessary.
The shopping experiences is a real draw for visitors coming from all parts of the world. The department stores like Macy’s and Bloomingdales are iconic things to check off your to do list before you leave. Even if shopping isn’t entirely your favourite thing, it’s worth a quick visit to see what all the fuss is about. Macy’s in New York is the biggest of its kind, located at Herald Square in Manhattan. Its size is a staggering 2.5 million square feet, including 1.25 million square feet (116,000 m2) of retail space, making it the largest department store America, and one of the largest in the world. Think John Lewis but extreme. The Shinsegae Department Store in South Korea holds the title for the largest department store, being 293,905 m² (3.16 million ft²). Wow! I can just imagine myself being lost in there for days. Bad luck if you’re the reluctant partner being dragged around the shops, but there’ll be something that’ll catch your eye surely.
Macy’s is over 150 years old, established in 1858, selling most things under the sun from men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, home furnishings, cosmetic goods and other general goods. Bloomingdale’s is similar and has a staggering 12 floors to explore. A shopaholics dream! Macy’s can have some more affordable items than Bloomingdale’s, as Bloomingdale’s stock some more exclusive higher end items and designer brands. The Little Brown Bag from Bloomingdale’s can be a fan favourite to buy for yourself, or for your friends and family back home. A great little memento from your shopping spree.
The city loves a celebration of any kind, including Halloween. The big apple goes all out to set the scene for an unforgettable time. From the locals adoring their dogs in fancy dress, the reams of decorations to see; parades to watch, there is a lot to do all year round. A theme and a date in the calendar are always marked triumphantly in New York. In the evening, every 31st of October, at 7pm, the (Greenwich) Village Halloween Parade takes place. This is a very open and public event, where anyone can walk the parade and participate, as long you’re wearing a costume. Up to 50,000 people participate every year, what a scene! The streets will be full of people in great costumes, in front of a backdrop of spooky decorations and live music. If you want to participate in the parade, be prepared to wait, and get there as early as you can to be in a chance of being at the front of the parade. If you would prefer to watch the parade go by, the best views can be from 4th and 6th street. It is almost more like a carnival because of the scale of the event, with an electric atmosphere where there can be so many things to catch a glimpse of. Just remember to stick together.
NYC can be magical during winter! The city really loves Christmas and will invite you to see all the sparkling lights and enchantment on display. Macy’s annual Thanksgiving Day Parade is happening on the 24th of November this year and is the second oldest Thanksgiving Parade in America. It is a full show, with ten marching bands: 15 giant balloon characters, 28 floats, and a whole host of other performances. The time and dedication taken to make the parade special for the guests really shows with the finer details which are fantastic to see. Last year, a whopping 2.5 million people spectated the event. Wow! They were tightly packed along the 2.5miles of streets to see the floats pass by, making their way from the Upper West Side to Macy’s flagship store, located at Herald Square. There is a huge budget for the parade, with the balloons alone costing a minimum of $510,000 each to fill with 300,000 to 700,000 cubic feet of helium! The budget for the parade in its entirety can be upwards of $10 million to produce, being the world’s largest parade, it truly is one spectacular way to kick off the holiday season.
The Radio City Rockettes put on a stellar show in the world-famous Radio City Music Hall. Their Christmas shows and performances, of the Christmas Spectacular, can be a staple in many visitors’ winter calendar, so it may be worth booking very early to avoid any disappointment. The prices of performances do increase the later in the day, and the closer it is to Christmas, so keep this in mind. The show is exactly the same and will still be a phenomenal experience from morning attendances rather than evening shows, which will save yourself some money. The Rockettes first appeared in 1925, where ever since, they have become American icons. They have become symbols, especially for young female dancers, as great figures to aspire to. They strive with passion, hard work, and not forgetting, their signature long legs. All dancers are between 5’6” and 5’10 ½”, despite it appearing like each dancer is the same height, an optical illusion is created by placing the tallest performers in the middle, slowly decreasing in height as the line goes. I’ll need to stetch myself if I ever wanted to dream of being a Rockette! If you do see a show late, the streets will still be busy after midnight, after theatre shows are closing for the day, so just be vigilant in the crowds of people to make your way back to your hotel safely. If you walk past Broadway St, you can be assured you’ll be safe as it is very well lit, filled with friendly theatre goers, nightlife folk and families, and is generally a safe place to be, even at night.
Horse and carriage rides around central park are a time-honoured tradition that many New Yorkers are carrying on. The horses are well cared for, and owners take pride in carrying on the well-intended activity. There are roughly around 200 licensed horse and carriages in New York, with 130 active drivers, with the majority being in famous central park. There is no need to pre book this activity as the horses will be ready and waiting for you. The horses have been a tourist favourite since at least World War 2, historians say. “It’s a part of New York’s history, a real New York phenomenon, and it goes back at least 125 years,” said Kenneth T, from The Wall St Journal. Central Park is also home to the scenic views, sat against New York’s landscape. The contrast of the green grassy fields and park scenery in the 480-acre space, whilst looking ahead to the manmade skyscrapers and tall buildings can be quite remarkable. It can be a nice place to escape the rush of the main popular streets, by relaxing in the park with a snack for a moment or two. It is also the 5th largest park in the world, which means there is plenty of greenery to explore at your own pace. The walk through the park can be around an hour without stopping, but it can be nice to take a break to admire and appreciate the destinations. It offers several opportunities for fun with friends and family, it has the beautiful nature, historical monuments and places of world value. Your Fitbit will definitely be thanking you for all the steps you’ll be doing around the city! There are bridges to walk across: boats to paddle, reservoirs to see, and castles and fountains all to explore. There is so much to do in the park alone, yet alone the city. All remarkable sights, picture postcard places.
I would recommend Ellen’s Stardust Diner for an unforgettable dining experience. The multi levelled 50’s themed restaurant has singing servers and a long menu full of American classic dishes. It opened in 1987, and since then, many of its servers have gone onto have successful careers on Broadway or off Broadway, with may accolades to their name. They unfortunately do not take bookings or reservations, and queues can be long, but it would be worth the wait for the food, atmosphere, performances and memories made. The singing staff, named the Stardusters, sing all day, open to close, so you won’t miss them singing if you go later in the day. They’ll put on a real show! Not often you can have Broadway quality singers whilst eating your dinner, it’ll be quite the thrill.
Unfortunately, if you walk around, eyes bright with a smile on your face, you’ll probably stick out as being a tourist, and not a typical New Yorker who has walked those streets daily. This sadly means that a lot of tourists and visitors become targets for scams from people who take advantage of visitors trying to have a nice time in a new exciting place.
Scams may even begin before you even leave the airport. New York is famous for its yellow cabs, so as you leave JFK airport, you can’t miss the large bright signs directing you to get an official yellow cab to your hotel. But if anyone approaches you, trying to convince you that they can offer a taxi at a cheaper price, do not listen to them! They’ll be trying to do one of a few things. Either they’re trying to avoid paying airport fees to pick up passengers, they’ll charge you a ridiculous amount for your journey, or will try to direct you to a quiet place in the airport to try and steal from you, so keep this in mind and travel by the official safe means. Even yellow cab drivers may try to make extra money from your ride if they think you don’t know where it is your going. Have a quick google on maps before you leave to get to your destination, just to be sure your driver isn’t taking you the long way around. This can easily be prevented and can save your well-earned spending money.
The Staten Island Ferry is free! So, if anyone tries to make you buy a ticket for it, it’s a scam, and something to be sure to avoid.
It is common to see Monks around New York, but often they are fake, and will try to offer you a ‘gift’ or will ask you to sign their book. Quickly after what may seem like a nice exchange of kindness, they’ll quickly demand money. It’ll be best to try and avoid these people and politely decline if they try to give you anything.
This one isn’t necessarily a scam unless you are unaware. Along Times Square, many will make money by dressing as popular characters, and tourists will want photos with them. It is expected to pay for the photo, a small amount will do, but keep an eye out for your bags and other belongings whilst you pose on the busy street with your favourite character.
Whilst out and about, you may come across people who are offering you bracelets or CD’s for ‘free.’ Sadly, nothing in this world is free. If you accept and begin to walk away, the person who gave you the item will start to demand money, it may be $5 or it could be more, so it will be best not to accept anything from strangers. There are plenty of souvenir shops and stores where you can spend some time to pick and choose any gifts that you wish to take home from the big city yourself.
The subway can be a scary place for first time visitors. It can be incredibly busy, packed and noisy. No one wants to be scammed in such a stressful place. It can be useful to buy a MetroCard which will last the duration of your trip, many of these cards allow you to hop on and off the subway as many times as you like a day, without a limit. You pay for one card and use it as much as you like. These can be bought at the subway, so avoid buying them from anyone outside the subway, who is promising you a bargain. It may be an empty card with no credit left, or it may have enough to get you on one ride, but not another, so just be wary. Whilst on the subway, look out for pick pockets, this thankfully isn’t as popular as it once was, but just be vigilant with your belongings, and maybe keep wallets and valuables hidden away in the main compartment of your bag, rather than a front zip pocket, which could be easy to open as you leave the carriage.
So, enjoy your New York adventure! I’m sure it’ll be a memorable one. Be safe and be sure to enjoy yourself, there’s fun to be had whatever you get up to with your friends and family.
Written by Holly Richardson