One of the best things about living in Upstate NY is the proximity to the greatest cities in the North East US. Nothing excites me more than the prospect of hopping in our car and having a huge list of amazing places we could end up in just a couple of hours.
And maybe the most amazing-est of the possibilities is a place I just can’t get enough of, New York City. After dozens of trips to the big apple with my husband, I like to think I’ve gotten a hang of planning a weekend in NYC. It’s unlike any other city in the world, and it really does have it’s little quirks that you might not think about, even if you’re a seasoned traveller!
Here are a couple of tips for planning a weekend in NYC:
1. Don’t drive into Manhattan. Seriously. Don’t do it. When we first started our weekend trips to NYC, we’d drive our SUV allllll the way into Manhattan. With no train from where we live, and not thrilled about the prospect of taking the bus, I thought the best option would be to saddle up the SUV and just drive into the thick of it. And it was never pretty. Tolls out the whazoo, traffic, bridges with questionable integrity – it’s just not worth it. So for this last trip a couple of weekends ago, we tried something new. We drove to the Croton-Harmon station in a teeny tiny town just north of the city, and took the express Amtrak directly to Penn Station for $30 round trip. Not too shabby considering we didn’t have to park at the hotel for $75 a night (holy crap), and we avoided the whole mess of driving right into Manhattan. So if you’re coming in by car, consider finding a train station just outside the city to save your money and your road-rage-associated high blood pressure!
2. This is not the time for a Mystery Hotel. Ohhh, mystery hotels, you saucy little minxes. I am normally a huge fan of booking through places like Hotwire or Priceline, where you can see the star rating of the hotel, but not the name of the hotel before you book. For a lot of cities, going this route can save you a ton of money and get you a great room. But for New York, I’ve found it’s just not worth the risk. Here’s why: there are a gazillion (real statistic) hotels in New York City, and there is a wide definition of what constitutes a 3, 4 or 5 star hotel. So when you book a 5-star mystery hotel, you might end up with something that might seem more like a 4 or 3. We’ve been burned before – there is nothing worse than clicking the button of no return for a mystery room and to get a sub-par result that you know you’re stuck with
Another reason to avoid the mystery hotels in NYC – you’re likely to get the smallest room in the joint. And NYC hotels rooms can be comically small. Book a specific room to ensure you’re not going to stay in the most cramped room in the building where you can stretch out your arms and touch both walls. (Yes, that’s happened, and I have pretty short arms to boot.)
3. Get your Apps in order. Okay, so when you’re planning a weekend in NYC, it’s great to have your phone apps downloaded and ready to go – and there are a bunch of apps that are super helpful for making your way around the city. The Uber app is a favorite, as well as the Embark NYC Subway App (it works underground!). CabSense NYC is a fun transportation app that shows you which street corner near you is best for hailing a cab, like taxi fung shui! For entertainment and dining, Open Table, Four Square and Yelp will give you great places to eat and shop close to where you are. Download and play around with these apps on your phone before your trip, because fiddling around with an app because you don’t know how it works is stressful when you’re under a time crunch!
4. Book one nice dinner, and leave the rest to chance. This is just personal preference but I’ve found it works pretty well. It’s common knowledge that the food in NYC can’t be beat. There is just such so much good stuff that it’s hard to decide where and when to go. I like to research one nice place to have a romantic dinner, and make a reservation. That satisfies my urge to overanalyze and over search reviews on Foursquare or Yelp, and it makes sure we have a saved dinner spot on busy Saturday nights. For the rest of the meals, I like to wing it. Follow your nose. Walk by something delicious on your way to somewhere else? I’m going in. We’ve had some of our greatest experiences by just winging it!
Any one else out there a seasoned New York lover? Planning a weekend in NYC? Comment below!