Below are my New York Top 10. They are my suggestions about how to best experience New York – by being street-smart, by being map-savvy, by being subway and bus savvy, by stopping, by looking up frequently, by grazing, by worshipping water, by being mindful of destinations, by appreciating neighborhoods, by being open to serendipity, and – most of all – by walking!Be Street-Smart
If you don’t know New York, relax but be street-smart. The joy is – this city is safe BUT it is a big city. As a newcomer to New York, be sure to:• Obey walk signs – just because a New Yorker jaywalks does NOT mean you should.
• Keep your wallets in your pocket on the street and keep handbags latched and criss-crossed with an over-the-shoulder strap. Keep pockets buttoned.
• Nervous about something on the street? Cross the street. Or step into a store. Wait until you feel safe.
• Don’t smile at strangers. Don’t give money to beggars. Mind your own business and simply say “No” if confronted.
• Travel in pairs before 10, and in quads after 10. Don’t walk or use a subway after midnight. Take a cab.
• There is safety in numbers. Stay where people are. No lonely streets.• Stay under 96th street. Harlem is wonderful, above 96th Street, but you need a guide.
• New York Police, Bus Drivers, and Subway attendants are, in general, awesome. Use them!Be Map-Savvy
There are hundreds of good maps. Use the one that you love. My personal favorite is free – the New York City Manhattan Bus Map. Get it at the Grand Central Information Center. Since it is free, mark it up! Circle things! Use it and abuse it to your heart’s content.
One note – be street-smart and don’t read a map in the street. You are just asking for trouble. Duck into Starbucks or a hotel lobby and study the map to your heart’s content.Be Subway and Bus-savvy
Every New Yorker knows – subways are cheap and fast. Cabs are expensive and slow. The NY Bus Map has subways on it. Learn how to read the map. There are seven lines that are especially useful– the 4 and 5 express (rushes you up and down the eastside)- the 6 local (stops at every stop on the eastside)- the 2 and 3 express (rushes you up and down the westside)- the 1 and 9 local (stops at every stop on the westside)Bowling Green, Wall Street, Brooklyn Bridge, 14th Street, Grand Central, 59th Street, and 86th Street are eastside express stops.Chambers, 14th Street, 34th Street, Times Square (42nd Street), 72nd Street, and 96th Street are westside express stops.“Downtown” takes you South – to the 1st street and even lower, to the bottom of Manhattan at Bowling Green.“Uptown” takes you to 96th Street (westside) or 86th street (eastside).Stop
Stop frequently. Don’t just window shop – go in the stores and browse. Stop at many of the sidewalk cafes and people-watch. Stop in Bryant Park, near Grand Central, to watch the flood of people enjoying a summer day. Stop in Union Square, to enjoy the farmer’s market. Stopping frequently is part of the New York experience.Look Up
New York is a vertical city. Take care to frequently look up. Above eye level are New York’s skyscapers, its penthouses, its upper floors where people work and live.Graze
If this is your first trip, I suggest – no big meals. Instead I suggest – grazing at five or ten different places, with small bites, and fast service. There is SO much to see and do and experience. A two hour lunch will slow you down. Grazing suggestions: street vendors, particularly those with multiple vendors side-by-side (the best are in the high traffic areas, such as 45th street between Park and Vanderbilt; dim sum in Chinatown; the steam table at any heavily-trafficked NY deli; a bakery; a chocalatier; a Belgium fries shop; the Soup Nazi (from Seinfeld); any Irish Pub; any street fair or farmer’s market).Worship Water
Too many tourists miss the water – big mistake. New York is surrounded by spectacular water – water to be worshipped. On the East Side is the East River – my favorite way to experience the East River is from Gracie Park, in the Upper East Side, and the South Street Seaport, downtown. On the West Side is the famous Hudson River. You can’t go wrong anywhere, but Battery City Park downtown is particularly spectacular. In Central Park are ponds and lakes galore. My favorite is the sailboat lake, but they are all great.Be mindful of destinations
First-time visitors can sometimes be frustrated by walking blocks without seeing anything in particular. The problem is – New Yorkers think in terms of destinations. For example, you might walk right by Zabar’s as you stroll Broadway on the upper west side at 80th Street. A typical Westsider would make Zabar’s their destination – a fabulous shopping experience. As you plot out your walk, ask about the great destinations along the walk, and take advantage of being close by.Appreciate neighborhoods
New Yorkers think of their neighborhood as their village. Think like they do, and try to be aware of which neighborhood you are visiting. For example, Chelsea is a neighborhood. So is the “Far West Village.” Or Soho. Or Tribeca. Or Murray Hill. Or Chinatown. Or Little Italy. Each neighborhood is unique – there is no other place quite like it on earth. You will rarely see chain stores – neighborhood butchers, bakers, fish mongers, stationers are usually local merchants with quirky offerings, and long loval histories. (With the notable exception of Starbucks.)Be open to serendipity
Being goal-directed is good, especially in a massive city like New York. But don’t go overboard. You might set out for Soho, and find that Nolita (the adjacent neighborhood) has a great street fair – I suggest you be prepared to adjust plans based on the great things you discover. New York is full of surprises, and part of the fun of the city is adjusting to these surprises.Walk!
Stephen Wright said "Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time." And New York is. Bring good walking shoes and be prepared to walk a lot. You simply cannot experience New York from a moving vehicle. There is way, way too much micro-detail.