Have you ever traveled to a large city, and wanted to see as much as you could but were limited on time?
In the past year, I have been traveling quite a bit for seminars on personal growth. I do my best to stay a couple of extra days to visit the city and see the sights.
New York is filled with things to see and do, and I wanted to see it all. I had an amazing time visiting this city and done properly you can see plenty in a short amount of time. But lace up those walking shoes, because you have a lot of ground to cover.
This is how I conquered New York in just over 48 hours:
1. Do Some Research and Plan Ahead.
You don’t need to spend weeks planning your vacation, I don’t think it’s necessary.
Start by making a list of all the things you want to see and explore. Check online for hot spots and maybe some hidden secrets. I spend time on Tripadvisor reading comments.
When you make your list don’t be shy. Put as much as you can on there, because you may be surprised at just how much you can get done.
2. Identify What Time the Places on Your List Open and Close at.
Once you have your list made, check what time everything opens and closes at. Write it down. This will help you identify where you can go early in the morning and which places to hit late at night.
3. Get a Map.
I spent the majority of my time in Manhattan. You can look online and find a map that highlights all the hot spots.
The tourist attractions in Manhattan are not necessarily centralized like they were when I visited Chicago. I needed to see what was close together so I did not spend a bunch of time walking from one end of Manhattan to the other; and then BACK again! Yikes.
By becoming aware of the streets it makes it easier to identify just how far of a walk it is from one place to the other. To give you an idea of where things are located, it spans from Wall Street to 52nd Street. You will find Central Park north of 59th Street. Times Square is not centralized between all the attractions, it is one of the most North places to visit other than Central Park, so be aware of this when planning where you want to stay.
Essentially, the sights in Manhattan span from Brooklyn Bridge all the way to Central Park. So to give you an idea, well over 60 blocks.
4. Get some good walking shoes.
If you plan to see a lot it is crucial that you have some good walking shoes. I walked over 40km in two days. And yes, my feet were killing me.
I headed back to my hotel and was in bed by 9 pm every night because I had sore feet (to be fair I had also previously spent five days at a seminar where I jumped up and down and cheered for 12-16 hours a day). So I do feel you can probably accomplish more than I did, or at least not feel rushed.
5. Plan for the Weather. And no matter what.. invest in an umbrella.
You don’t want to waste your trip staying indoors because you didn’t account for the fact that New York City gets snow and rain. I wore my winter coat, Ugg boots (obviously not great walking shoes haha), mitts, and a toque in November.
I knew I was going to be outside most of the days heading from one place to another, and I would have appreciated a scarf in the evenings because it can get fairly windy.
Make sure that you invest in an umbrella. I actually learned to invest in a good one, and bring it on all trips since this experience. I would definitely suggest the umbrella for Spring-Fall. Unfortunately, I never got to see Central Park during the day because it was raining that morning. The days were short (dark by 5 pm), so although I visited Central Park, it was in the dark. I would not recommend it. Ha!
Central Park was the only time I felt unsafe when I was visiting. It is much bigger than I ever thought, and once you’re inside, it is difficult to get an Uber or Lyft to come to find you.
6. Weigh Out the True Costs of Your Accommodations
I stayed at a hotel that was a 5-minute walk to Central Park. Although this was great, the rest of the sights were between Wall Street (the New York Stock Exchange and Brooklyn Bridge area) to 52nd Street (Times Square).
To give you an idea of how far away I was, my hotel was on 77th and the attractions start from 52nd Street and south. Because of this, I did spend a bit of money through Uber and Lyft getting around. In the future, I would stay closer to Times Square. Although the hotels are more pricy, it all works itself out in the end.
If you don’t want to stay in Times Square or Manhattan due to cost, check out Union City. One thing I often do, is look at the hotel on my Uber app and pretend as if I were to catch a ride to Times Square from that hotel to have an idea of the cost. I also check how far the hotel is from the Subway.
7. Don’t Be Afraid of the Subway System.
Before I left I had many people tell me, along with reading online that I should stay away from the Subway System. I read it was complicated and that if you got lost people would not be much help. This was absolute bullsh*t.
There were a few times I got confused about where to go, and I would find someone who was working in the terminal or ask a stranger if they knew what Subway I needed to take. Taking the subway was an afterthought, so for you, it may not hurt to familiarize yourself with a map, which you can easily find online.
It is much faster to travel throughout the city using the Subway, which will save you a lot of time. Rides are $2.75 each and you can get a MetroCard at any terminal. With the knowledge that rides are $2.75, you can have an idea of how much to load your card with. But don’t worry, you can always get another one if you run out of rides.
Oh, and one more thing – either walk fast or get the fuck out of people’s way. Many people using the subway system are locals heading to work or school, and you don’t want to make them late because you aren’t in a rush to get anywhere. I saw a woman yelling at a lady to hurry up because she almost missed her ride.
At the end of your trip, if you still have some money left on your MetroCard, it is also greatly appreciate by the locals if you offer it to them.
8. Plan a Walking Tour Your First Day in any City You Visit.
Yes, it was chilly outside. I went on a 6 hour long walking tour (however, we were in and out of buildings). But if you can find a walking tour that has as many attractions as you want to see on it, I strongly encourage you to plan that for your first day to help get you familiar with the landmarks.
I went on the NYC Highlights Walking Tour. We started at 9:30 am and went until approximately 4 pm. This allowed me to orientate myself with the city so I would have landmarks for when I ventured out on my own.
Through seeing many of the highlights I was able to identify where I may want to spend a little more time, and where just a few minutes was sufficient. I learned while visiting Chicago that I spent more time at places that I probably could have spent less at in order to see more of another place.
9. Be Flexible.
Don’t forget that you are on vacation. There are some places you may want to spend longer at than you thought. Don’t stress about not being completely on schedule. As I said, you may come across a place that you spend less time than you thought you would at.
I once spent over an hour watching the butterflies at a butterfly garden and watching kids play in a fountain. Remember to go with the flow and have fun.
10. Purchasing Souvenirs
Unless you find something unique (like the super cool metalwork statues I found at the Christmas market in Bryant Park) do your best to stay away from the I love NYC stores. Some things are reasonable, but the majority of it is way overpriced.
If you decide to visit the Brooklyn Bridge, this is where the best-priced knickknacks I found were at! The vendors set up along the ends and you can find keychains for $1.
I got some pictures and drawings for less than $10 each. They had snow globes, magnets, and other types of knickknacks as well. Keychains in the stores ranged from $5 and up (and they were the same ones).
Clothing varies throughout all the stores in price. At Grand Central Terminal/Penn Station I found the clothing to be less than most of the I love NYC stores. The airport was also better priced, but the selection was a lot more limited.
11. Going to See a Show on Broadway
I did not get the opportunity to see a show on Broadway because I did not manage my time in the evening the way I could have. I decided last minute it was something I was interested in, however by that point I wouldn’t have got to the show on time.
If you do plan to see a show, check out the TKTS kiosks around Times Square. They have tickets for the day of the shows at reduced costs.
These are the basics as to what I feel are musts to KNOW before you visit NYC. I felt it was generally safe, because there were always people around, even at night. Just be aware of your surroundings.
This is how I took on New York in 48 hours.