After planning a mammoth trip to Los Angeles, on a whim, I booked tickets to New York for 48 hours. If you think 48 hours is not long enough to even catch a glimpse of one of the greatest cities in the world, you are wrong. You can jam a whole lot into two days if you sacrifice a bit of sleep. If you’re limited for time here are a few tips and tricks I would recommend to maximise your stay.
- Book at least one tour it will really feel like you’ve done something special. I am a huge hip-hop music lover so it was essential to me I covered one of the influential boroughs whether it was Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx. I chose Brooklyn because of my obsession with Notorious B.I.G and my fascination with Jay Z. Hush Hip-Hop Tours run a range of tours covering various suburbs throughout the week. My choice, “Where Brooklyn at?” came with a tour bus, two entertaining guides and a multitude of photo opportunities and stops as well as a wealth of information. Rated number one on Trip Advisor, it was a real luxury to just sit back for a couple of hours and watch the landscape of Brooklyn pass-by so I highly recommend these guys. Brooklyn also has some fantastic shopping so spare yourself a couple of hours to hit the outlet stores after the tour winds up.
- You know those hop-on hop-off buses with the open-air rooftops you see in big cities full of tourists that you have often looked at and judged “what a bunch of ”tourists””? Get on one. It is the fastest way to cover ground and comes with your own guide pointing out things to do along the way. As the name would suggest, you can get off when you feel like and it’s really not that long a wait until the next one comes along again. I went with Big Bus Tours as I had already purchased a New York pass which gave me one day inclusive rides. A few of the guides were a little un-enthused but the few that went above and beyond definitely made up for it. They cover a range of areas including Downtown, Uptown and Midtown and you can fit two routes into a day if you plan well enough. I covered Downtown and got out at 9/11 memorial, 5th Avenue (to window shop!) and the East Village. 9/11 is well worth a look around and I would recommend getting out in the East Village to eat. You will find that the closer you are to Times Square, the price of everything almost doubles so take advantage of travelling through areas away from high tourist spots where food is cheaper. There’s also some really great boutique clothing stores in the East Village at great prices. The last bus leaves from Times Square at 5pm and takes roughly an hour-and-a-half to complete a loop so plenty of time well into the evening.
- You can’t go to NYC without hitting a show on Broadway. Quite frankly, it would be rude not to. Times Square is a pretty amazing place to centre yourself and you can get some really cheap tickets to shows at heavily discounted prices. Do not buy online! It’s not worth it. Rather, rock up to the TKT booth and check out what’s on offer. The TKT booth sits smack bang in the middle of Times Square, you can’t miss it. I got into Chicago for 50% off which came to $57USD. Had I brought from New Zealand before I left I would have been paying at least $120USD. Even for the cheap seats, it’s well worth the thrill of hearing “He had it coming” on the big stage from the best of the best.
- Book your accommodation outside of the Downtown district. I understand most would like to be close to the main attractions and it does have its perks. However, I stayed in Harlem which required me to catch a subway in and out which is an experience in itself. Some of those subway rides I won’t ever forget and like many of my visits to foreign cities are etched in my memory. Like seeing a woman asking for money for the homeless and people graciously giving or watching the gorgeous little boy with glasses taking a nap at his mothers feet during peak hour traffic or eavesdropping on the sisters conversations about how her man be cheating. These people on the subways are the heart of the city and you can’t get that experience via Uber. The other benefit of staying outside the districts was the experience of a whole other borough. Harlem was in short, fascinating and nothing like Downtown. If you think it’s ghetto think again because Harlem is one of the up and coming neighbourhoods in New York due to its close proximity to Downtown. The musical influence is everywhere from the Apollo to the stack of gospel churches lining the streets. Had I not accidently booked my accomodation there, there’s no way I would have even ventured out and regularly having to wander the streets of Harlem became one of my trip’s biggest blessings in disguise.
- The New York Pass. Now if you can plan things well (which I could have done) this would most definitely be worth its weight in gold. I managed to get a few things in on this……..the hop-on hop-off tour, 9/11 memorial and the Rockefeller Centre, (for un-obstructed views go here rather than the Empire State Building). Not as much as I could have achieved but the sheer convenience of not having to pull out cash and flashing the card at tourist spots is a convenience in itself. The card gets you into over 90 attractions around the city and if you make sure you stick to your plan and not get diverted by the flashy lights of Zara or H & M, you can cover a lot of ground and save yourself a bomb.
- You can eat for really cheap in New York if you choose to downgrade a little and when you’re on such a tight time-frame, don’t stop to eat rather grab food on the go. The infamous Ray’s pizza at Times Square does big-ass slices for $3USD and out in Brooklyn I spotted a famous hot chilli dog stall selling for much the same price. If you need a sugar hit definitely stop at Juniors in Times Square for authentic Brooklyn cheesecake. My advice, share a slice because a slice is about as big as your head and get a coffee to mix it with for an extra shot of energy. The staff are warm, friendly and the place is a buzz with that American diner vibe. If you’re after healthy options there are salad/juice bars a plenty and I had a pretty amazing salad at Nanoosh in the Rockefeller plaza topped off with a mint iced-tea for $15USD.
- Wander the streets and just take in the atmosphere. It’s free…… in more ways than one. There are people galore, artists everywhere and pop up stores a-go so you can never walk too far without stopping to look at something that makes you think “what the heck is that?” It’s also true what they say that only a moron could get lost in New York, it is super easy to navigate around so make sure you allow a few hours to just wander wherever your eye takes you.
To say I scraped the surface of New York would be an absolute lie. In 48 hours, you are barely peeling a layer back but don’t let that stop you from throwing yourself at the city balls-to-the-wall- no-sleeep and just go hard. New York has to be at the top of almost everyone’s bucket list and even two days of being surrounded by the wonderful people of New York is worth everything. It truly is one of the most amazing cities I have ever walked amongst and for so many reasons one can’t describe in words. Something about New York had me feeling a little bit like “home”, like I could be here, and for those feelings alone I know it won’t be long until I’m back to peel off another wondrous layer.