Aerial panorama of New York City skyline at sunset with both midtown and downtown Manhattan

New York City: travel tips from a local

travel tips

New York City is an amazing place. If you want to have the absolute best time ever, then there are a few things you need to know before you visit.

And I’m just the girl to give you the inside scoop on travel to the big apple since I’m a 30+ year local who was born and raised in this absolutely magical metropolis. Here are a few insider tips and tricks that you probably won't find in any guide book.

Empty subway car in NYC

1. Never get into a totally empty subway car. Ever.

I love New York City. But man, oh man, can it get crowded. That’s why, it can be tempting to avoid the crowds by running into a totally empty subway car the very first chance you can.

This is always a mistake. Because guess what? Empty NYC subway cars are devoid of people for a reason.

Therefore, someone either got sick in there or the AC is broken or something else unpleasant like that. So, do yourself a favor and steer clear of the icky-ness within by staying away from totally empty subway cars.

New York style hot dog with sauerkraut, onions and mustard

2. Try these three foods while you're in New York City

New York City is basically a foodie paradise since it’s home to some of the best eateries in the world.

And while you probably won’t be able to try every single one of them, there are three foods that you absolutely MUST eat while you’re in New York City.

Bagels

In my humble opinion, New York bagels are the best bagels in the world. So, even if you feel like you hate this iconic breakfast food, do yourself a solid and try one in New York anyway. Russ and Daughters and Ess-A-Bagel (near Grand Central Terminal) are two great places to try them.

Hot Dogs

Skip the hot dog vendor and go to Gray’s Papaya instead. They are a New York institution that has been around since 1974. Order the Recession special which consists of two hot dogs and a medium tropical drink (get the papaya) for just $6.45. You should also order your hot dog with mustard, sauerkraut and stewed onions to be like a real New Yorker.

Pizza

You are forbidden from leaving New York City without ordering an iconic slice of New York pizza. And for the absolute best place is get pizza in New York is Lucali in Brooklyn. However, if you don’t want to schlep all the way there then Joe’s Pizza does a really good slice too.

Grabbing a slice of pizza

3. Don't eat your pizza with a knife and fork.

There is only one acceptable way to eat a slice of pizza in New York. You must fold the pizza down the middle and then eat your slice from the end all the way to the crust.

You know you’re doing it correctly when a huge river of grease spills out of the other end of your slice.

And just so you know, most pizza joints in NYC are super casual and so you’ll probably have to stand at a small table while eating your slice.

Duffy square in Time Square, New York City

4. Times Square is a giant tourist trap

I know you’re visiting New York City and probably want to see the bright lights of Times Square at least once during your trip.

But guess what? Times Square is a tourist trap that most locals avoid like the plague. So, I would get in, get your pictures, and get out ASAP.

Also, watch out for pick pockets and don't take your picture with anyone dressed as a character since they do expect to get paid.

Eating near Times Square is also a big no-no since all the restaurants are overpriced and not that great.

Government office buildings in Downtown Brooklyn, New York

5. Get out of Manhattan at least once

I know most of NYC’s major landmarks are in Manhattan but it’s probably my least favorite borough in New York.

It’s expensive and doesn’t really give you a great idea of how real New Yorkers live since typically only the super rich can afford to live in Manhattan.

So, be sure to get out of Manhattan at least once during your trip. I personally love Brooklyn but you can also take the free Staten Island Ferry to - you guessed it - Staten Island and explore this underrated borough too!

Statue of Liberty at sunset

6. Skip the Statue of Liberty Tour and take the Staten Island Ferry instead

Everyone wants to get up close and personal with Lady Liberty during their trip to NYC. But, you don’t need to go on a pricey tour to do so.

Instead, hop on the Staten Island Ferry. Not only is it free and easy to find since the terminal is in Battery Park, but you’ll be able to enjoy stellar views of Lady Liberty during your trip.

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Kelly Duhigg

Author - Kelly Duhigg

Kelly has been a full time blogger for the past five years and is originally from New York City. She loves sharing expert travel advice with her readers on all things New York at her two websites, Girl with the Passport and most recently, Travel New York Now.

Last Updated September 6, 2021

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