This post is cobbled together from an email I have sent, added to and sent again and again over the years. It was created in response to queries like “I’m coming to NYC next month, any recommendations?”. If you’ve asked me this question, there is a chance you’ve seen some form of this email. Be warned, some of this information is really, really outdated–in many ways.

Updated 2010-12-11

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To get an up-to-date listing of what is going on, I recommend picking up a “Time Out NY” at the news stand. It lists all sorts of goings on from restaurants to theater to music. New issues are available each Wednesday. Their web site is: http://www.timeoutny.com/.

If one is interested in seeing some live music, one might also want to check out the Village Voice, that is also on the news stand and in street boxes all over the city. Oh, and it’s free. The website is: http://www.villagevoice.com/

Here are my collected hints for NYC that I give to visitors (in random order, some might be obvious):

  • Get to know and love NYC Subway and Bus (http://www.mta.info/). There are 1, 3 and 7 day passes available. Subways are very crowded during morning and evening rush hours (around 07:30-09:30 & 16:30-18:30). It is best to go somewhere and relax during rush hour anyway. Speaking of rush hour, midtown Manhattan can become a huge parking lot during rush hour, if one needs to get somewhere, either take the subway or walk. Taxis and buses can be slower than crawling at times.
  • Avenues run North/South, streets run East/West. 5th Avenue divides East and West. This only applies to Manhattan above Houston Street, there is almost no such order below Houston street (Greenwich Village, China Town, Financial District, Lower East Side, Tribeca, Soho), sorry. Uptown means North (street numbers get larger), Downtown means South
    (street numbers get smaller). For example, someone going from 2nd Street to 23rd street would say “I’m going uptown.”
  • Cab drivers in New York do not know addresses. It is best to know the approximate corner that you are going to and let them know that. Telling a cab driver to go to 201 West 35th Street is pretty much worthless, say “35th and 3rd please.” If you are traveling via taxi outside of Manhattan (and not to a well known destination like an airport), the cab driver might get lost. This is both expensive and frustrating. Try to get some directions to where you are going if your destination is not in Manhattan. Yellow taxis are omnipresent in Manhattan below 125th Street with a couple exceptions including the shift change at around 16:00 when cabs can get pretty scarce and in some neighborhoods on busy nights like Thursday-Saturday between 23:00 and 0:30. In uptown Manhattan and in other boroughs, people rely on car services. The rates are usually fairly reasonable and someone should be able to call a car for you to take you where you need to go.
  • Most of the museums have free or “pay what you wish” evenings during the week. The crowd is usually younger and they sometimes have live music. Also, the Brooklyn Museum has “First Saturdays” which is free and offers live entertainment. First Saturdays are on the, um, first Saturday evening of the month. It is worth the short trip to Brooklyn to check out. More information on their site: http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/
  • Central Park is a great place to relax or walk around or have a picnic. There are plenty of places outside the park to get salads or sandwiches, not so many on the inside. Park activities are not limited to the summer months. There are two outdoor ice skating rinks in the park, Wollman and Lasker rinks are in the south and north part of the park, respectivly. More information here: http://www.wollmanskatingrink.com/. Lasker also serves as a pool during the warm months: http://www.centralparknyc.org/virtualpark/northend/laskerrink
  • Shopping: 5th Avenue is worth seeing but, depending on the store, it is really upscale or really geared toward tourists. Since you are a cut above the average tourist, I recommend checking out some other neighborhoods for shopping like the Lower East Side (LES), East Village, West Village, and NoLiTa. Oh and of course SoHo although, depending on who you talk to, it might be past its prime. Also check out Williamsburg (1 stop from Manhattan on the “L” train to Bedford Aveue) and/or Smith St. in Brooklyn. For photogs: B & H Photo is located on the corner of 34th Street and 9th Avenue. Be aware that they closed in the early afternoon on Fridays and all day on Saturday.
  • News stands and bodegas usually sell cheap international calling cards.
  • To see the statue of liberty, skip the tourist boats and take the Staten Island Ferry, it’s free.
  • All places that serve breakfast around Times Square cater to tourists, therefore the prices are about five to ten times what most people would pay. The food is usually of low quality as well. You’ve been warned :)
  • Walk at least to the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge, if not all the way.
  • There are a lot of FREE events in New York City, especially during the summer months. New Yorkers take full advantage of these, so they are typically crowded, but fun nevertheless. So, plan ahead, for example, if you are going to see a movie in the park and actually want to see/hear the movie, show up early, really early.
  • Getting connected: Most of the coffee places (and some bars) around town offer free or paid wifi. Starbucks Coffee is everywhere, they offer free wifi. Many parks such as Bryant Park (42nd and 6th Ave) have free wireless access. You can also visit one of the gorgeous reading rooms in the New York Public Library’s main research library on 42nd and 5th Ave.

Location Cheat Sheet (work in progress)-

Bloomingdales: 59th Street between Lexington & 3rd Avenue
Brooklyn Bridge: City Hall
Central Park: Bordered by 5th Avenue, 59th Street, Central Park West
and 110th Street
Chrysler Building: 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue
Empire State Building: 34th Street & 5th Avenue
Flatiron Building: 23rd Street & Broadway (5th Avenue)
Grand Central Terminal: 42nd Street & Park Avenue
Macy’s: 34th Street between 7th Ave & Broadway
Madison Sq. Park: See “Flatiron Building”
Pennsylvania Station: 32nd St. between 7th & 8th Avenue
Times Square: 42nd – 45th Street & Broadway
Union Square: 14th – 17th Street between Broadway & Park Avenue South

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