I can’t get enough of Seinfeld, Broad City, Friends, or Sex and the City, so it goes without saying I’m one of the many saps who shamelessly romanticizes New York City. Ideally, I’d like to move there someday, but until then the occasional trip will do.
I wouldn’t ever claim to be an expert on the city, but I might be an expert on how to take a great vacation there. Twenty-somethings are primarily interested in experiences, and New York is rich with them if you’re open to it.
Here’s how you can draw out as many experiences as possible while you’re in the city:
1) Skip the hotel.
The greatest expense of nearly every vacation is boarding. Hotels in the city can run upwards of $150 to $200 per night. Let’s be real. Who really needs a mini bar and a fitness center anyway? There’s plenty of great food and opportunities for exercise around the city.
All you need is a place to keep your belongings during the day and a place to rest your head at night, so check out options like Airbnb, Couchsurfing, or hostels. If you’re fine with having a New Yorker stay in your place while you’re away, you might also want to consider house trading.
Importantly, don’t limit yourself to Manhattan — the other boroughs are also great places to stay, provided you’re near a subway line…
2) Take the subway.
If the image of Carrie Bradshaw hailing a cab in her Manolo Blahniks isn’t the quintessence of Manhattan, then I don’t know what is. But if we’re being honest, cabs aren’t the best way to get around.
Instead, purchase an unlimited MTA pass so you can ride the buses and trains to your heart’s content. The sweltering subway stations in the summer and the sight of subway rat or two is easily worth the savings.
Plus, you don’t want to miss out on an impromptu performance on the J train.
3) Ditch the itinerary.
If you’re a planner by nature, I’m sure you love nothing more than to come up with a play-by-play of how each vacation day is going to pan out. I urge you to resist. There are so many incredible things to do in the city that you can only discover once you’re there; you don’t want to miss out on them because you already have your day booked.
It’s best to wake up each day without a specific plan and simply do what you want to do in the moment. Sometimes you’ll be in the mood to do the Manhattan tourist trap thing. Other days you’ll want to find a tiny coffee shop to read in or a quiet park to meander through.
You’ll come across great places and events that you wouldn’t have otherwise, I promise! Your trip will be much more fulfilling than if you were on the go to predetermined locations all the time.
4) Get out of Manhattan.
Manhattan is the epicenter of the city and many people don’t find time to leave it during their trip, But there’s so much more to NYC than this tiny island.
For instance, you can take the free Staten Island Ferry at any time of day to get off the island, see a nice view of the skyline, and snap a few pictures of the Statue of Liberty without actually stepping foot on crowded Ellis Island. The Bronx Zoo is one of the largest zoos in the world, Queens is chock full of inexpensive and interesting museums, and Brooklyn has some of the trendiest eateries and bars in the city.
NYC is made up of five boroughs which each contain diverse neighborhoods, so it would be silly not to explore at least a few of them while you’re in NYC. Times Square is alright, but why go there if you can enjoy a traditional Japanese breakfast in Williamsburg instead?
5) Forget about fitting in.
This is the most important rule of all. Everyone knows New Yorkers despise tourists; we clog up their sidewalks in the summer and offend their eyes with our several-seasons-late fashion sense. But if your goal is to fit in with the hipsters of Park Slope or the WASPs of the Upper East Side, you’re kidding yourself.
New Yorkers can spot tourists no matter what, so just focus on enjoying yourself and having fun. Be respectful and do your best to get out of their way, and they’ll forget about the sight of your fanny pack in a New York minute. It’s all good.
Whether you’re like me and hold NYC up on a pedestal, or if you’re simply going just to soak up some new experiences, these tips will guide you through a kick ass trip through one of the best cities in the world.