New York for first-timers – top tips from Travelzoo deal experts & members
What’s your top tip for anyone visiting New York for the first time? We asked the deal experts at Travelzoo HQ for their suggestions, and then we opened up the debate to our fans on Facebook. As you’ll see, we got some brilliant recommendations...
Hop on a bus
When we asked Travelzoo members for their top tips, taking a hop-on, hop-off bus tour was easily the most popular answer. Here’s member Maxine Van Cromack: “On the first morning, do the 1-day bus tour. This allows you to get your bearings and then go back to the places you enjoyed the most.”
Skip hotel breakfast & hit the local diner
“Don’t be afraid to book accommodation on a room-only basis,” says Nick Cooper, deal expert from our London office. “Instead of eating at the hotel, you can go out for breakfast at a busy, traditional American diner and get a huge breakfast with unlimited coffee for a real New York experience."
Member Mandy Louise Brown agrees: “We stayed in La Quinta in Queens; it's right by 42nd and Lowery subway, 10 minutes into Manhattan! Pete's Grill is opposite the station - all I can say is... amazing! It's where all the locals go and they’re so friendly! We'd eat there in the morning and it would set you up for the rest of the day.”
Transfer the smart way
Michelle Jefferson is one of many members who suggest avoiding a taxi from JFK. “Get the train/subway from JFK. It costs only a couple of dollars, no queuing in traffic and you can get off right in the heart of Manhattan. It also means you are already using the subway, which is a great way to move around - saves your feet!"
Best foot forward
“Wear VERY comfortable shoes,” says Ann Cooper (and many others, incidentally). “The best way to see NYC is on foot!”
Elena Hepp from our Munich office agrees. “You will be walking a lot,” she says. “One of my highlights was walking across the Brooklyn Bridge (from Brooklyn to Manhattan). London-based deal expert Emily Heath agrees: “I took the East River Ferry straight from foodie market Smorgasburg (also a must) to Brooklyn Bridge and walked back. There are some great photo opportunities of lower Manhattan on this route."
Don’t rush it
“Five days is not enough for a city like New York," says deal expert Monica Heigl. "We were walking around from 9am to 11pm every day until our feet hurt, squeezing as many sights into our time as possible, and still missed out on so many things. We even ran out of time to watch a Broadway show!"
Speaking of Broadway, Nick Brompton has a great suggestion: "Try the Broadway ticket lotteries - I got to see Hamilton for $10." Click here to find out how it works.
Buy a New York Pass
Travelzoo member Di Welch has a top bit of advice if you’re looking to tick off as many must-sees as possible. “Buy The New York Pass online before you go and pick it up at The Big Bus Welcome Center near M&Ms World in Manhattan. It costs around £150 for a 3-day pass that gets you into 90 attractions. Great value!”
The free ferry ride with a killer view
Travelzoo deal expert Michelle Brister says: “Take the Staten Island Ferry for a great view of the Statue of Liberty (stand on the right-hand side). It's free and runs every 30 minutes. If you run, you can make it onto the next ferry back without a wait.
Get a free tour from a native New Yorker
“Before you go, check in with Big Apple Greeters,” recommends Travelzoo member Robert Wright. “They're native New Yorkers who take you on guided tours in places not on the tourist trail because they love their city. Best of all, they're free!”
Top views & a diner with a difference
“I’d say go to the Top of the Rock instead of the observation deck at Empire State Building,” says member Joel Williamson. “You’ll get great views up and down Manhattan all the way to the Statue of Liberty on a clear day, plus your skyline photos will include the Empire State Building rather than being taken from the top of it. Oh, and Ellen’s Startdust Diner. A bit cheesy, but all the staff are Broadway understudies or at theatre school and they take turns to sing Broadway songs. Gives you a taste of Broadway if you don’t have time to take in a show whilst giving you a well-deserved rest from all the walking you’ll be doing!”
Avoid the queues
“The Empire State Building is open until 2am – do yourself a favour and avoid the queues by not going early,” says deal expert Simon Smith. For the ultimate experience, follow this advice from member Anne Boyd: “Time your visit to the Empire State Building for just before the sun goes down. That way you can get a daylight and nighttime view.
“Do the Roosevelt Island tram,” suggests member Julie Bailey. It costs $4 for a round trip and ($1 for seniors, kids and disabled). You get fantastic views across the water as you go over on the cable car. Take a picnic and sit on the benches and look back over for fab views on NY city. Pick it up at 59th and 2nd.”
Dress for anything
“Always take a jacket out with you,” says deal expert Rory Batho. “The temperature can change so much in one day.”
It’s all about layering, says Travelzoo member Sally Bowden. “If you are there in the winter it will be freezing outside with heating on full power inside; if you are there in the summer it will be boiling outside and freezing inside!”