10 important lessons learned from a week in New York City


A week in New York might not be enough to properly get to grips with the city – but it’s long enough to learn some valuable lessons for next time. Such as…

Weekly Metrocards are far less hassle

You’re going to use the Subway a lot, and that means using Metrocards a lot. Buying single cards each time is madness, while multiple trip cards involve keeping track of how many journeys you’ve got left. It’s far better to just get the $30 weekly card, with unlimited trips.

If trying to pay for it by card, don’t get stumped by having to enter a US zipcode – putting in 99999 will work for foreign cards.

Beware cash-only restaurants

You expect to see cash-only signs in small, cheap eateries, but New York has an annoyingly high amount of mid-range to pricy restaurants that won’t let you pay by card too. This is particularly so in Brooklyn. They’ll claim it’s because of the high fees they’re charged by credit card companies, but it’s basically about tax dodging or trying to be cool. If planning to pay by card, check before you order.



Brooklyn can be closer

It is generally cheaper to stay in Brooklyn than Manhattan – but don’t assume that it’s further away from the action. For the Statue of Liberty cruises and the 9/11 Museum in Lower Manhattan, for example, you’re only one Subway stop away in downtown Brooklyn. It’d take a lot longer to get there from Midtown.

Beware weekend Subways

The main drawback of staying in Brooklyn is that weekend subway closures can wreak havoc with travel plans. On Saturdays and Sundays, vast swathes of the network are closed for maintenance – check online to see which lines are affected before sauntering to a station.

Dodge the lights

If you prefer to walk (and that is the best way to see the city), it can be worth heading west if trying to cover a big distance. Walking along the High Line (a park along what was once an elevated railway line) or through the Hudson River Park ends up being much faster than waiting for the lights to change at every block.

Stick to the outer avenues

If you do head that way, you’ll find that New York’s outer avenues are far more interesting in terms of bars and restaurants. The soullessness tends to congregate between 4th and 7th Avenue. The main thoroughfares either side of that are much more fun.

Prebook the big attractions

Show up at pretty much any major attraction and you’re likely to find a depressingly long queue outside. This certainly applies to the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock observation deck, 9/11 Museum and Statue of Liberty cruises. Save time and temper by booking pre-allocated time slots online.

And don’t rule out the small ones

Some of New York’s less heralded museums can end up being more interesting than the bigger ones. The Museum of American Finance on Wall Street, is a geekily fascinating look at how money works. The Skyscraper Museum is brilliant for tall building enthusiasts and the JP Morgan Library is packed with rare books in visually astounding settings.

Look inside

Many of the city’s favourite buildings are ogled from the outside, but they’re just as gorgeous inside. Grand Central Terminal’s celestial ceiling is the obvious example, but the Chrysler Building’s marble-drenched, stunningly painted lobby is often overlooked too.

Drink early, and drink on Mondays

Happy hour drinking is the way to merriment without stripping the wallet too badly. These generally finish at around 7pm, but a lot of bars keep happy hour prices all day on Mondays. It’s the slowest day of the week, and they want to lure punters in….