NEW YORK CITY HAS STOLEN MY HEART
Traveling is like falling in love. You learn every detail about the place and it steals your heart. It’s involuntary – it’s scary and it’s magical at the same time.
From the cobbled streets of Soho, to the gridlock traffic of the Financial District, New York City shows you her secrets. The bright lights of the cityscape blind you, just like when you see your soul mate across a room for the first time. There is this sweet, chocolatey smell in the air, and the energy runs through the avenues like lava. You need to know, and accept, that your life will be changed forever.
To experience The Big Apple, you have to do a LOT of research. There is a an over whelming amount of things to see and do, just in Manhattan – but there a few MUST do’s that I picked up while I was researching before my trip.
TAKE WHAT YOU READ ABOUT THE CITY WITH A PINCH OF SALT
During the crazy planning stage of our adventure, we read a lot of over exaggerated truths, and many statements that we found to be ridiculously incorrect.
One of the main ones was that there is ‘WiFi everywhere’. Now, you can connect on the Subway platforms and in the stations, most coffee shops and restaurants, all Starbucks coffee houses and most malls – but make sure your hotel or accommodation specifies that they have free WiFi for you. Another big lie was about flagging down a taxi. Hailing a cab my seem easy in the movies, but don’t expect the first one to pull over for you, or even the twentieth one that drives past. And, the summer is hot and humid as hell (and I’m from Africa) so really prepare for an intense heat, sweating through your clothes and always have a red, blotchy face.
BE A LOCAL
Coming from a country where I don’t use public transport, this was something I had to wrap my head around. Buy a subway pass ($32 for a 7day train and bus pass), and use the subway whenever possible. The grid system of the subway makes it fairly easy to get around Manhattan. There is even an app you can download to help organize routes. The only complicated part of it is the stations themselves – they are SO confusing. Ask the locals for help, they have been raised on those trains and most are more than willing to steer you in the right direction.
Don’t leave your day to chance. The main attractions in the city are spaced fairly far apart, and take time to get to to, especially when using the Subway system. You don’t need to plan the whole trip before you even leave home – in fact, I advise not to do that. Take a map, and split the island into sections (the number of sections should be the same amount as the days you have to spend exploring), and in each section, highlight the places you want to visit. This will make sure you get to see everything.
See a Broadway show (if you have an evening free and want something to do – around 6pm, tickets go on sale at TKTS, which can be found under the red stairs in Times Square), hire a bicycle and ride around in Central Park (didn’t love that, but I can say I’ve done it), make sure set a day aside to walk the art museums (you won’t want to feel rushed in the MoMA) and take in every smell and sound you can.
GET YOURSELF A NEW YORK PASS (OR THE LIKES)
One of the best choices we made on the WHOLE adventure was to get ourselves a 7-day New York Pass! (There are a few other options, but pick carefully as each one has different attraction limits). And it’s so easy to set up and collect when you are in the city – it’s a little hidden building off the Avenue of The Americas, but it’s an adventure to try and find it, since there is no signage outside.
Every main city attraction obviously pulls in the masses of tourists, and when you are on a tight time frame, the last thing you want to do is waste precious time standing in lines. If you have a pass, you get fast tracked to the front of a short queue and get priority access to the attraction. There are also other added benefits with the New York Pass, such as discounts at certain restaurants and we even got a voucher from a great designer department store, Century 21.
Most people won’t have the opportunity to visit New York more than a couple of times in their lives – so don’t waste time. Don’t turn down anything. Try every new food experience you can, and ‘supersize’ that bad boy while you are at it, too. Everything is bigger and better in the US, but in NYC, it seems to be riddled with glitter and sparkles too. We indulged in those brunch time Starbucks ‘fraps’, and those side of the road vender made iced-coffee quickies. We snacked on the salted (and overly dry) pretzels, and tofu-cream cheese bagels. Order yourself that deli-style American burger delux with fries, even add the smoked cheese. There’s only shame in meal opportunities passed up.