Traveling to the iconic empire city is an incredible experience, especially if it’s your first time, but there are some NYC tips you should know before you go.
New York City consists of five boroughs that cover more than 300 square miles. It’s a world in and of itself, and knowing the top New York City travel tips can mean the difference between a life-changing trip and a spectacular disaster.
I lived in New York City for four years while I was getting my degree and grew up with two parents who were certified New Yorkers. Between their knowledge and my own experiences, I’ve pocketed a lot of knowledge.
Before you dive into my best NYC travel tips, if you need a place to stay in NYC be sure to check out our guide!
Table of Contents
- 21 Travel Tips for New York City
- #1 – Use the Bathrooms at Restaurants
- #2 – Reconsider Your Christmas Trip
- #3 – Use Public Transportation, But Be Mindful of Rush Hour
- #4 – Don’t Skip Out on New York Style Pizza or Other NYC Food
- #5 – Skip the Chain Restaurants
- #6 – Pick Up the Pace When Walking the NYC Streets
- #7 – Check out the Skyline from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck
- #8 – Spend Time in Museums
- #9 – Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
- #10 – Drink During Happy Hour to Save Money
- #11 – Tip 15%-25% at Table Service Restaurants
- #12 – Don’t Only Visit Manhattan
- #13 – Wear Comfortable Shoes
- #14 – Take a Wander Through Central Park
- #15 – Consider Getting a New York CityPASS
- #16 – Don’t Get Your Hopes Up About Times Square
- #17 – Go to NYC’s Music Venues
- #18 – Plan Ahead of Time
- #19 – Don’t Overstuff Your Schedule
- #20 – Check Out Some of the Cafes
- #21 – Prioritize Free Things to Do in NYC
- FAQs About Visiting New York City
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21 Travel Tips for New York City
#1 – Use the Bathrooms at Restaurants
Out of all the New York City tips, this one could end up being crucial for you. In theory, it sounds like a beautiful experience to wander New York City without a plan or care in the world. But, there’s a really big issue with that: the bathroom situation. New York City is notoriously annoying when it comes to the availability of public bathrooms.
To avoid getting caught in a tricky situation, make sure you use the bathroom whenever you visit a restaurant or cafe.
👉 Bonus Tip: If you do find yourself in desperate need of a public bathroom, head to Bryant Park. It’s one of the few places that actually has a public bathroom in New York City.
#2 – Reconsider Your Christmas Trip
Everyone dreams of exploring New York City when it’s a winter wonderland. But, this isn’t actually the best season to visit New York City, in my opinion.
It’s one of the most expensive times of the entire year, and that’s saying something when you’re talking about one of the priciest cities in the world. Plus, the allure of Christmas in New York City wears off pretty fast when you realize how freezing and wet it is.
👉 Bonus Tip: Personally, I think the ideal time to visit New York City is around April. The weather is getting pleasant and the city is coming to life, but prices are still low(ish). But, if you’re dying to see New York City during the winter, wait until after New Year’s Day for a dip in the cost.
#3 – Use Public Transportation, But Be Mindful of Rush Hour
It would be neglectful of me to give you a list of NYC tips without mentioning the incredible public transit. It’s easily the best way to get around New York City.
However, I have two golden pieces of New York City tips to share with you before you set off. First, never get in an empty subway car. There’s always a reason nobody wants to be there, whether it’s a broken A/C or a gross smell. Second, avoid rush hour at all costs.
👉 Don’t Forget to Pack: Nothing is worse than having your phone die right in the middle of an exciting day in NYC. That’s why one of my biggest New York City tips is recommending you grab a reliable portable charger. I always make sure I have one of these Anker portable chargers with me when I travel.
#4 – Don’t Skip Out on New York Style Pizza or Other NYC Food
Some of the best food in the world was born in NYC. New York City is the master of everything from $1 pizza and street food hot dogs to eggs benedict and cheesecake.
And, no, I’m not biased just because I’d do just about anything for a NY slice and an everything bagel with smear.
#5 – Skip the Chain Restaurants
New York City has an unreal selection of incredible food, and you don’t want to miss it in favor of a chain.
Some of the fondest memories of my childhood were going to the famous local New York City eateries with my dad. Most of them had been in business for upwards of a hundred years and have no intentions of slowing down.
Some of my top recommendations for famous local NYC restaurants are:
- 🥪 – Katz’s Delicatessen
- 🍕 – Lombardi’s
- 🌭 – Gray’s Papaya
- 🥡 – Wo Hop
- 🥯 – Absolute Bagels
- 🍳 – Bubby’s
A chain restaurant just can’t beat the New York City classics.
#6 – Pick Up the Pace When Walking the NYC Streets
If there’s one thing New Yorkers hate, it’s a slow walker – I mean, the NYC traffic can be just as bad on the sidewalk as it is on the roads. Even if it’s your first visit to New York City and you’re in awe of the enormous skyscrapers, admire it from the sidelines. Otherwise, you’ll probably be getting a few groans from a local New Yorker or two.
Yes, that’s right – the stereotype is true enough for it to be on a list of New York City tips.
👉 Don’t Forget to Bring: A zipper daypack. Honestly, with so many people in NYC all going in different directions, the last thing you want is to get pickpocketed. The Osprey Daylite Backpack is one of the best travel backpacks out there.
#7 – Check out the Skyline from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck
It wouldn’t be a proper New York City tips list without finding the best place to see the famous city skyline. Of course, there are lots of places to see stunning views of the concrete jungle, from the Empire State Building to One World Observatory.
But my top recommendation for NYC views is the Top of Rock Observation Deck. Not only will you see a bird’s eye view of the New York City architecture, but also Central Park.
#8 – Spend Time in Museums
NYC museums are some of the best in the entire world. One of my favorites, and a huge New York City attraction, is the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), but there’s something for everyone in NYC.
You’ll also find The Museum of Modern Art, Ellis Island, the Museum of Sex, and about 100 more.
👉 Bonus Tip: If you’re going to be visiting a bunch of New York City’s museums on your trip to the big city, consider buying a city pass. It’ll give you the chance to visit 3-5 of the biggest NYC attractions, including museums.
#9 – Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge is a top tourist attraction in New York City, and it’s one of my favorite because it’s totally free. Plus, it’s super scenic to cross over from Manhattan to Brooklyn.
You have to do it on your first visit to NYC and probably every next one after that. Just make sure that you bring a windproof jacket for the journey. Even during the summer, it gets pretty chilly up there on the bridge!
#10 – Drink During Happy Hour to Save Money
It’s basically financially irresponsible to go out drinking when you visit NYC – unless it’s during happy hour. This is one of those New York City travel tips that’s bound to save you some cash.
There are tons of bars and restaurants around New York City that put on a terrific happy hour. For 2022, my top recommendations are:
- 🍹 – Jadis (Daily, 4-6)
- 🍻 – Bunton’s World Famous (Weekdays, 4-8)
- 🥳 – Drop-Off Service (All day, every day until 7)
At all of these spots, you’ll actually manage to snag a glass of wine, cocktail, or beer for under $10. It becomes a rarity once the sun goes down. If you need more ideas, read the reviews on Google Maps. New Yorkers are very honest when it comes to their bar experiences.
#11 – Tip 15%-25% at Table Service Restaurants
This is one of the most important NYC travel tips, so listen up. Tipping is necessary for NYC – there’s no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. 15%-25% is customary for a sit-down restaurant and $1-$5 at easy-going cafes.
#12 – Don’t Only Visit Manhattan
New York City is far from just Manhattan, so make sure you get out and explore all the boroughs of NYC if you have time. No matter where you’re staying in New York City, it’s easy to get to any of the other NYC neighborhoods.
This is one of the most important travel tips I can give you. If you don’t see the other boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island), you’re missing out on a huge part of New York.
#13 – Wear Comfortable Shoes
You can walk just about anywhere in New York City with a little help from the subway line.
However, the flip side of this is that you’ll probably be walking a lot. Tourists who ditch comfort for a pair of high heels always end up regretting it. So don’t make that mistake and wear comfortable shoes!
#14 – Take a Wander Through Central Park
Central Park is the perfect place to go in New York City to relax and people-watch.
It’s one of my favorite places to go in New York City when I have no idea what to do. When in doubt, you’ll always find something interesting and fun going on over there – even if it’s just sitting on the grass and reading a book. Check out my guide to the best things to do in Central Park for more ideas.
#15 – Consider Getting a New York CityPASS
The New York CityPASS can save you some serious money on seeing the city’s top attractions, like the Empire State Building, the American Museum of Natural History, and Lady Liberty herself.
The pass costs $95.78-$134.30, depending upon how many attractions that you want to include (you can choose between 3 and 5).
#16 – Don’t Get Your Hopes Up About Times Square
Every New Yorker you ask will tell you the same preprogrammed phrase: “Times Square is one of the worst tourist traps on the entire planet.” If you’re looking for an alternative opinion, you won’t find one here.
There’s not a huge pay-off for dealing with all of the chaos of Times Square unless you’re catching a broadway show. Besides the in-your-face advertisements and chain restaurants.
While I won’t tell you to avoid Times Square altogether as one of my New York travel tips, I will say, don’t have your expectations too high.
#17 – Go to NYC’s Music Venues
New York City is a music lover’s dream come true. Just about every day of the week, you can find some type of show or festival going on at New York City’s incredible music venues.
If you’re traveling to NYC in the summer, then try to catch an outdoor festival. If not, then cozy up in one of the many venues.
#18 – Plan Ahead of Time
Hey, I love spontaneous travel just as much as anyone. In fact, I went to Asia by myself without much of a plan at all!
But New York City just isn’t the place for a spontaneous trip unless you’re seriously rolling in dough. It’s just too expensive and difficult to find accommodations and things to do in NYC last minute.
My recommendation is that you plan as much as you can for NYC while leaving some wiggle room for schedule spontaneity and free attractions.
#19 – Don’t Overstuff Your Schedule
There is so much stuff to do in NYC that many visitors get overwhelmed trying to cram it all into a single trip.
When planning your itinerary, keep your to-do list for New York manageable. Don’t worry. It’ll all be waiting for you when you come back.
#20 – Check Out Some of the Cafes
If there’s one simple activity I love in New York City, it’s spending an afternoon sipping a cup of joe in a coffee shop. Luckily, all of New York’s boroughs have a healthy supply of cafes and coffee.
Specifically, Brooklyn is the best place for quaint, cool coffee shops in NYC.
#21 – Prioritize Free Things to Do in NYC
New York is notoriously known as being one of the most expensive places on earth. This is accurate, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t cheap and free stuff to do.
Some of the best fun, free things to do in NYC are:
- 🌉 – Walking along The High Line
- 🚣 – Ride the Staten Island Ferry
- 🎥 – Catch a movie at Bryant Park
- 🚆 – Check out Grand Central Station
There are way more options out there for free stuff in NYC, but these are some of the most popular. See my guide to how to do New York City on a budget for more.
FAQs About Visiting New York City
How much do you tip in NYC?
Patrons are expected to tip 15%-25% at restaurants in New York City. At coffee shops or cafes, tip at least $1 for drinks and 15% minimum for everything else.
How much spending money do you need per day in New York?
Visitors should plan to spend at least $200 per day on vacation in New York City. Travelers on a tight budget could get by with $140, including accommodation. Individuals who want a luxury experience can easily spend over $500 per day in New York.
What is the cheapest month to visit New York?
January after New Year’s is the cheapest month to visit New York. The prices go down because it’s right after the peak holiday season and the weather is still freezing. The prices stay cheaper all the way until March when it starts getting warm again.
You’ve already accomplished one of the best NYC travel tips I can give – you’ve done your research! Thanks for reading my list of the most important New York City tips. If you plan on taking your NY adventure outside of New York City, don’t miss our list of the best towns in New York.
Have a blast in the Big Apple, and don’t forget these New York City tips!
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