Have you ever wanted to visit or move to New York City? You should definitely do it, and I’ve got tons of fun advice to share with you!
Living in NYC was a dream come true for me! There was something new to do, see, and eat every day. It was also chaotic and stressful at times. I wouldn’t have changed my time there for anything though, and who knows, maybe I’ll end up living in New York again someday.
Before I get too settled into Dallas, I thought it would be fun to do a post filled with NYC tips and tricks for anyone wants to visit or move to New York City. This is not an all inclusive list, just something I brainstormed on one of my last days in the city. Let me know if you think I’m missing something!
Finding an Apartment
If you’ve ever wanted to move to New York City, I say save your money and make it happen! It truly is an awesome experience, and there really aren’t any other US cities that compare to NYC in terms of size, hustle and bustle, and opportunities.
That said, finding an apartment in NYC is difficult. First of all, there’s a lot of a lot of competition. If you see an apartment you love, don’t wait. Jump on it. Then there’s the cost. For most apartments, you will need to come up with the equivalent of three month’s rent just to move in. That’s a lot of money considering the city’s high rents.
Using a Broker vs. Doing It Yourself:
- Doing It Yourself: it’s definitely possible to find an apartment without a broker, but it’s challenging. These kinds of apartments are called no fee in New York. You’ll still pay three months rent upfront, but that generally goes toward first and last months rent, plus security deposit. Check Craigslist regularly, but be wary of anything that sounds too good to be true. It probably is. Many listings on Craigslist are bait and switch schemes posted by brokers. When you contact them, they’ll tell you that the apartment is no longer available, but they can show you other listings. #NotCool That said, my husband and I found our NYC apartment on Craigslist, and I know many other people who have, too. Check out these other no fee apartments listing services in NYC, too.
- Using a Broker: if you are unfamiliar with NYC neighborhoods, you need to find an apartment fast, or you just don’t want to deal with the hassle of finding an apartment on your own, consider using a broker. When working with a broker, you will generally need to pay the equivalent of two months rent (first month, plus security deposit) up front, plus 12 to 15% of the apartment’s annual rent as a broker’s fee). As a pro, brokers do have access to a lot of apartments that aren’t even listed on Craigslist. Beware of brokers that show you apartments above your price range (the more you pay, the more they get paid), who show you anything that seems to be too good to be true, or who just seems sleazy! To find a broker, get recommendations from friends or contact a reputable real estate company.
Other things to consider:
- Most apartment rentals in NYC have very quick turnaround times. You can definitely find an apartment 30 days or less before your move in date. My husband found ours two weeks before we moved in.
- Finding the perfect neighborhood. When it comes to figuring out where you want to live, you’ll need to consider cost, amenities, transportation, social opportunities, and more. Make sure to walk around and get a feel for the neighborhoods you are considering. Compass has a decent, although definitely not all inclusive, neighborhood guide if you’re thinking about moving to one of the more popular hoods.
- Roommate vs. one bedroom or studio. If you are moving to New York alone, you need to decide whether you want to live in your own apartment or get a roommate. Having a roommate can save you a lot of money and provide instant companionship in what can be a lonely city. Then again, you could end up living with someone you don’t like. Make sure to weigh the pros and cons before you decide.
- Be wary of gentrifying a neighborhood. Rents are crazy in NYC, and people are constantly trying to find the next up and coming neighborhood where they can save a little money. This is especially true in Brooklyn and even Queens. Just make sure you know what you’re getting into. Sure, you may save a little money, but by paying a higher rent than the traditional neighborhood average, you may be pushing out someone who’s live there a long time and has no where else to go.
Staying in an NYC Hotel
Don’t stay here!
Are you simply planning a visit to New York?
NYC hotels are expensive and tiny. Unless you are staying somewhere truly upscale, there will be space in your room for a bed and not much more. Keep that in mind when packing!
If you’re not planning to spend a ton of time in your hotel (Why would you? You’re in NYC!), I think it’s definitely worth sacrificing size to save a little money. Search the usual travel websites to find a hotel that fits your needs, and consider the neighborhood where the hotel is located, too. Many hotels are located around Times Square, but that area is kind of hellish, so consider other areas of Manhattan and beyond, too.
Tip: try searching on Jetsetter. I’ve had good luck getting deals on more luxurious hotels in New York and beyond through them.
Get Rid of Your Car
A car is a major inconvenience in New York, especially if you live in Manhattan. You’ll either spend all your time searching for parking or you’ll need to pay for parking, both of which can get expensive fast.
Plus, you just don’t need a car here. You can get everywhere you need to go by walking, taking the subway, or by catching a cab/Uber … honestly! My husband and I sold our car before moving to NYC, and it was the one of the best decisions we ever made.
Visitors to New York: you don’t need a car either! Parking fees (especially in popular tourist areas) are astronomical, and it’s entirely possible to get around without one.
Take the Subway
The New York subway is convenient, inexpensive, and safe. It will get you anywhere from the northernmost reaches of the Bronx to Rockaway Beach, Queens all for $2.75.
Taxis and Uber add up fast, so whether you are just visiting NYC or moving here, don’t get in that habit. Plus, it’s not always the fastest option. I once had car service after an event, and it took me 45 minutes to get home, when I could have got there in 15 minutes via the subway.
When I first moved to NYC, I was definitely intimidated by taking the subway. I thought I’d miss my stop or get lost. That rarely happened to me, but if it happens to you, you can probably find someone to help you. Once you get the hang of it though, the subway is easy to navigate.
I recommend getting a navigation app, like Embark (my fave). It will help you figure out how to get from point A to point B easily. Once you get off the subway, use the map on your phone to make sure you’re headed in the right direction. You’ll know pretty quickly if you’re headed in the wrong direction.
Quick subway tips for being more considerate rider:
- Keep your packages on your lap.
- Take up one seat only.
- Be aware of man spreading … don’t do it!
- Don’t broadcast your conversation or music to the whole car … no one wants to hear that on a crowded train.
- Skip the food. It smells, plus just think of all those germs!
- When boarding, let people off the train before you start getting on.
- Always offer your seat to the elderly, people with disabilities, anyone with a stroller or kid, or someone who is pregnant.
- Mind your personal space, even on a crowded train.
- Step into the middle of the car to make room for more riders.
- Do not hold or block the door.
I won’t lie: taking the subway isn’t necessarily fun. It’s get super crowded, trains sometimes seem like they’ll never arrive, platforms are extremely unpleasant in summer and can be bone chilling in winter, and carrying lots of packages is a major drag. You can’t beat the convenience and price though!
Walking in New York
I love walking just about anywhere in New York. It’s good exercise, and there is so much to see and do. That said, walking a crowded NYC sidewalk can be very aggravating.
Tourists get a bad name for clogging up sidewalks. I found that New Yorkers were just as bad at causing sidewalk issues though.
A few quick tips:
- Walk on the right side of the sidewalk (not in the middle and not on the left), especially if you are slower. That’s your right.
- This isn’t your Sex and the City moment! Do not take up the whole sidewalk with your group. Get over so people can walk both ways and get around you.
- Don’t be surprised if someone walks right into you or shoulders you if you’re blocking them.
- Watch out for anyone with a stroller; they will run you over.
- If you’re texting or otherwise involved in your phone (we’ve all been there), watch where you’re going or get out of the way.
- If something drips on you in summer, it’s probably from an air conditioner overhead. Eww … keep walking.
- There is always someone walking faster than you, and they want to get around you. Again, stay to the right of the sidewalk … I really can’t stress this enough. 😉
P.S. There’s also Citi Bike if you’d prefer to pedal.
How to Jaywalk
New Yorkers jaywalk all the time. It’s definitely the norm, and you should do it, but with caution!
Follow these tips and you (hopefully) won’t get run over:
- Don’t jaywalk in large intersections unless you are familiar with the traffic patterns.
- Step off the curb with caution.
- Don’t be a jerk! Make sure you are not crowding the street and blocking oncoming cars.
- That car will run you over, so don’t try to race it.
- Get your head out of your phone.
- Don’t blindly follow the idiot in front of you.
If you’ve never been to NYC, you may have heard that New Yorkers are unfriendly or just plain rude. While there are unpleasant people who live there (just like anywhere else), that’s certainly not the case with everyone.
Now, it is true that most New Yorkers don’t go around with a smile on their face, waving to everyone they pass. That’s just a matter of self-preservation though. Living in NYC isn’t like living in rural Wisconsin (I’ve lived in both places). You are constantly being approached by people hawking something (whether that’s someone from Greenpeace looking for a signature, a salesperson, or worse), it’s often crowded and unpleasant to get around, and, not that’s it dangerous, but you don’t want to look like an easy target to anyone.
However, once you stop and talk to someone, you’ll usually find that they’re friendly … I swear!
Money … It’s Expensive
There’s no getting around it: New York is very expensive. Prepare to spend, spend, spend, because everything from groceries to laundry to rent will be pricey.
If you live in a well established neighborhood, like we did on the Upper West Side, you may find that there aren’t many affordable options when it comes to bars and restaurants. Even at places like diners, the most basic of entrees started at a minimum of $10 (if you’re lucky, and that’s not including sides).
That said, all neighborhoods have their budget friendly spots, so seek them out. If you like going out, get on event lists for invitations to free openings, shows, and other fun activities (prepare to wait in line though). Sign up for free haircuts, color, and styling at Bumble and bumble. UNIVERSITY Model Project. Or become a blogger (ha) … I was invited to all sorts of cool events while living in NYC!
Tip: check out Refinery 29’s Money Diary series to see how New York women with varying jobs and salaries spend their money over the course of a week.
Work, Work, Work
New Yorkers work long, hard hours. It’s pretty rare to clock typical 9 to 5 hours. The expectation at most workplaces is that you’ll stay late to get the job done.
Where to Get Cheap Food
Not so cheap … ice cream cake from Parm … yum!
Food can get super expensive in NYC, and if you’ve ever sought out cheap food guides, you’ve probably found lots of listings with $10 appetizers and $25 pizzas. There are definitely great cheaper options to be found though!
These are some of my favorite affordable bites in NYC:
- Dumplings: My favorite spot for dumplings is Tianjin Dumpling House, a stall located in the Golden Shopping Mall in Queens (read all about it on Eater). In Manhattan, hit Prosperity Dumpling (it’s tiny!) or Vanessa’s (my fave) if you’d prefer to sit down. Wherever you go, get a bag of frozen dumpling to take home with you for later … yum!
- Noodles: One of my absolute favorite restaurants in all of NYC is Xi’an Famous Foods. We first started going to one of the Queens’ locations (originally called Biang!), but now there are locations all over New York. Stop here for the best noodles you’ve ever had for less than $10 for a big bowl.
- Pizza: You can get pizza slices all over New York, but for truly cheap pizza, you want a dollar slice. These places are mostly located in high traffic areas. Two Bros. Pizza is the most ubiquitous. It won’t be the best pizza you’ve ever had, but it sure tastes good after a long night! Worth reading: Lucky Peach’s quest for the most adequate dollar slice.
- Food Carts: you’ll find these carts throughout the city. Look for lines or steady traffic if you’re not sure which ones are best. Admittedly, I’m a little squeamish about eating at carts, but I really like N.Y. Dosas/The Dosa Man in Washington Square Park. The Halal Guys are also super popular and delish, and they have a sit down location in the UWS, too. And they’re coming to Dallas this summer … woot!
- Bagels: a bagel smothered in cream cheese is a cheap and filling meal that you can get all over the city. My favorite, not so cheap option is Barney Greengrass. For a more affordable bagel, head to Tal Bagels instead.
Check out Real Cheap Eats (under $10) for tons of other options.
Rats … They’re Everywhere
Not an actual rat … this guy shows up when there’s a strike.
There really are a lot of rats in NYC. You’ll spot them regularly in the subway (usually on the tracks), but you can expect to see them other places, too.
For the most part, you will not be confronted face to face with these lovely little animals, so no need to freak out. You never know though. One time I was sitting on a subway car, and just before the doors closed, I saw a rat start to climb the stairs. He was met by a group of people coming down the stairs, all of whom started screaming when they spotted said rat. It was pretty funny … from my perspective at least!
Shortly after I moved to New York, my husband and father-in-law were confronted by a swarming pack of rats not far from our apartment. I’m glad I missed that. Then, there was our favorite picnic spot in Central Park that was apparently located near a rat nest. Fun times!
Times Square and Other Horrible Places
Everyone who ever visited me in NYC wanted to see Times Square. It is worth seeing once, but don’t plan on spending your day there. There is nothing distinctly New York about Times square. You’ll be confronted by swarms of people, aggressive cartoon characters, sidewalks so crowded you’ll barely move, chain stores and restaurants that can be found everywhere in the US, and possibly worse.
Time Square really is a terrible place, and if you move to New York you will most likely try to avoid going there at all costs. Of course, Times Square is located right by the theater district, so it’s not all bad. You still need to pass through hell to get through your Broadway show though.
Another area of New York that’s pretty annoying is 34th Street/Herald Square. Macy’s is right there, but it’s hardly any more special than your local Macy’s. Honest! You can cross that one off your itinerary. The Empire State Building is nearby, too. A bright spot in 34th Street/Herald Square: Koreatown is located nearby and definitely worth a stop. Try Turntable Chicken Jazz (my husband’s fave spot for wings) or Seoul Garden for two completely different Ktown experiences.
Unfortunately, if you work in Midtown you may need to cut through these areas frequently. I did for my first NYC job. My philosophy when going through these areas is to get in and out as fast as possible. Keep it moving!
Summer in New York is kind of hellish. It’s hot and humid. Subway platforms are pure misery. You’ll probably spend a lot of time walking around/waiting for a train, so you’ll arrive at your destination a little (if not a lot) sweaty. Better hope the A/C is cranking when you get there!
Of course, if you are just enjoying the day and the weather’s not too gross, summer days in NYC can be pretty awesome. Pack a picnic and head to the park or spend the day walking around the city. It really doesn’t get much better than that!
Then there’s winter … ha ha. I actually did not mind winter in NYC at all (it’s so pretty covered in snow), but a lot of people, including my husband, don’t agree with me. My best advice is to get a pair of warm, waterproof winter boots … a total game changer when it comes to navigating slushy curbs.
Spring and fall will both pass in a snap, so enjoy them while they last!
Going to the Beach in NYC
One of my favorite things about NYC was that you could go from city congestion to a wide open beach … all in one day.
My husband and I tried to spend as much time at Rockaway Beach in the summer as possible. It was a really long subway ride (1.5 hours if we were lucky), but it was worth it.
Coney Island can also be fun, but it can get really crowded and unpleasant in summer. We liked to go there in the off season when it was empty. Catch a Cyclones game while you’re there!
Check out these other NYC beaches, too.
What to Wear
Not sure what to wear when visiting NYC? I always like to fit in when I travel. You’ll get better service and feel like a local. Bonus points if someone asks you for directions!
My advice: skip the logo tees/sweatshirts, bulky jackets, oversized faded jeans, and backpacks/fanny packs. A pair of dark wash skinny jeans, a plain tee or blouse, simple jewelry, a crossbody bag, and a pair of cute and comfy flats or Cons are a great option. Guys can get buy with a button down, jeans, and stylish sneakers. No need to buy or wear anything too fancy. Think simple and high quality.
Here’s a simple mix and match wardrobe that would take you pretty much anywhere in NYC (affiliate links):
- Soft Joie ‘Kyler’ Stripe Knit Dress
- Blank NYC Faux Leather Jacket
- AG Ankle Super Skinny Jeans
- Caslon Lace Trim V-neck Top
- Two by Vince Camuto Jean Jacket
- Hinge Fatigue Jacket
- NYDJ Two-Way Stretch Ankle Straight Leg Pants
- Pleione Mixed Media V-Neck Tunic
- Kendra Scott ‘Rogan’ Pearl Stud Earrings
- Kendra Scott ‘ Phara’ Tassel Lariat Necklace
- Kendra Scott Monroe Bracelet
- BP ‘Ipso Facto’ Sunglasses
- Lucky Brand ‘Bartalino’ Booties
- Sam Edelman ‘Dawson’ Sandal
- Aetrex ‘Erica’ Ballet Flat
- Converse Chuck Taylor Low Sneaker
- Street Level Faux Leather Slouchy Tote
- Vince Camuto ‘Bailey’ Crossbody Bag
Grocery Shopping Is a Pain
Shopping in New York is challenging. Most likely, you’ll be walking to your neighborhood grocery store, which means you can only buy as much as you can carry. Because you’re buying less, you’ll need to shop more frequently. And while it’s true that you can find pretty much anything in NYC, grocery stores are much smaller than their suburban counterparts, so sometimes you need to hit multiple stores to find a special ingredient.
Popular stores like Trader Joe’s and Fairway tend to be very crowded. There was usually a line stretching to the door when I dropped by TJ’s. Thankfully, I lived in a neighborhood with some really good stores, and my corner store had almost anything I needed in a pinch, too.
Of course, you can always order groceries (my fave way to shop). It was actually really affordable. I used Peapod, but there are lots of other options, too.
You Can Get Anything Delivered
Seamless is every New Yorker’s best friend (get $7 off your first order with that link)! It is almost too convenient, and it’s easy to start relying on takeout for every meal (especially when you add in the grocery shopping equation).
Takeout is not the only thing you can get delivered in New York. You can services like Delivery.com to order food, groceries, and liquor, or schedule laundry pick up/delivery (get $7 off your first order with that link, too). There are tons of meal delivery services, like Blue Apron, that deliver ingredients to cook meals. Then there are services like TaskRabbit that can be used to schedule everything from errand running to cleaners.
Here in Dallas it takes an hour to get takeout delivered … boo.
You can’t buy wine or liquor in grocery stores in New York, only beer. Instead, you have to hit up a liquor or wine shop. It’s a hassle.
It seems like almost every block in New York has a corner store. These stores are awesome and convenient, although some are better than others. Depending on the store, they carry almost anything you might need in a pinch, from batteries to food to beer.
You’ll also find a Duane Reade on every corner. It’s drugstore very similar to and owned by Walgreens. Very convenient for picking up all those everyday essentials.
Construction Is Everywhere
New York is constantly changing, and you’ll find construction on what feels like every block. It’s actually kind of nice in bad weather, since the scaffolding protects you from the elements!
So Many Museums
One of the best things in New York, in my opinion, is the quantity and quality of museums. You’ll find everything from the massive Met to the much smaller Museum of the Moving Image, both of which are amazing.
If you are moving to New York, make sure to get an NYC ID. Once you do, you can sign up for tons of free museum memberships throughout the city. It’s a seriously awesome benefit! Although you’ll probably get a jury duty summon almost immediately upon sign up (go during the summer when nothing’s in session; you’ll get excused faster).
Central Park is huge and wonderful. The southern end tends to be thronged with tourists, but the crowds thin out as you move north.
We were lucky enough to live a block and a half from the park and liked to treat it as our backyard. We did everything from exercising there to enjoying summer picnics.
If you hang out in New York long enough, you are sure to spot some celebs. Shortly after I started my first job, I saw Anna Wintour crossing the street. I’ve also spotted Christian Slater, Tyne Daly, Marlee Matlin, Hoda Kotb, Josh Duhamel, Richard Kind, and more … pretty sure they all lived in my neighborhood.
In general, New Yorkers do not bother or harass celebrities. It’s fun to see them, but keep you cool!
New York Accents
You’ll hear a lot of different accents in New York and its environs. Even within the city, you’ll hear distinctions between neighborhood accents, Brooklyn and Upper West Side, for example. Then you’ve got your Jersey accents.
Or are you the one with the accent? New Yorkers are probably wondering where your accent is from, too. 😉
Laundry Is No Fun
If you have a laundry room in your building or apartment, consider yourself very lucky. Most smaller buildings in NYC, like brownstones, do no have laundry machines on site. Which means you need to haul your laundry to a laundromat or dry cleaners (or have someone pick it up for you) … usually a very small, cramped one at that.
You can either do your own laundry or drop it off and they’ll do it for you. It’s pretty typical for New Yorkers to pay for wash and fold. It’s not that expensive, and you can’t beat the convenience.
View of The Standard from the High Line.
This is definitely a non-inclusive list (I’ll probably add more later), but here are some of my favorite places in New York:
- The High Line. I love exploring the High Line; it’s like an oasis in the city (see my post about the High Line here). Go during the week when it’s less crowded or during colder weather. Get a slice at Artichoke Basilles or a New Orleans Cold Brew at Blue Bottle after. Stop by the Top of the Standard for a drink and amazing views, too.
- Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, home of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs. This park is pretty quiet now, but it’s fun to walk around and spot relics from the Fairs.
- Queens Chinatown. There is so much good food to be found here. Head to Tianjin Dumpling House located in the Golden Shopping Mall for amazing dumplings. Or stop by Xi’an Famous Foods, one of my all-time fave NYC restaurants, for the BEST noodles.
- Fishs Eddy. A really fun store filled with unique dishes, glasses, and other kitchen related items. It’s also a great place for non-cheesy NYC souvenirs.
- ABC Carpet & Home. Stop by after visiting Fishs Eddy. ABC is a one-of-a-kind home store filled with tons of treasures. Definitely a fun place to browse.
- Barney Greengrass. This place is totally old school, from the decor to the waiters. Home of my favorite NYC bagel.
- Arthur Avenue. An Italian oasis in the Bronx! I loved walking around here, checking out the shops, eating a few pastries, and stopping for a slice or sitting down to a meal. Plan a stop at the nearby zoo or botanical gardens while you’re here.
- Enoteca Maria. My favorite restaurant in New York, located on Staten Island of all places. My husband and I discovered this place completely by accident, but we returned again and again for the wonderful food and friendly atmosphere. Don’t forget to make a reservation.
- Staten Island Ferry. If you’re looking for something free and fun to do (along with a lot of tourists), hop on the ferry for great views of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. Once you arrive on Staten Island, turn around and head back to Manhattan, or stop and check out SI (walk to Enoteca Maria!).
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’ve been the Met what feels like a million times, but I still haven’t seen everything. Head up to the roof on summer evenings for drinks and beautiful views.
- El Mitote. Stop by for delicious tortas and other Mexican food … yum!
- Magnolia Bakery. Sure it’s kind of a cliche, but I really do like Magnolia. There cupcakes are delicious, as is everything else they make. My husband loves their banana pudding!
- Levain Bakery. Their cookies are to die for. My fave is good old Chocolate Chip Walnut. Be prepared for a lengthy queue to enter the tiny UWS store or head up to the Harlem location for much shorter lines, then explore the neighborhood when you’re done.
- Rockaway Beach. The perfect escape from the city, in the city! We liked to enter the beach at 116th Street, which was a little quieter. After spending a day relaxing, we’d head to Caracas or Tacoway Beach (formerly Rockaway Taco) for a delish meal and drink. Read more about my Rockaway Beach faves here.
- Roti Roll. This tiny spot in Manhattan Valley serves amazing frankies, Indian flatbread wrapped around a delicious filling. It’s almost like an Indian burrito. My favorite fillings are Channa Masala and Aloo Gobi Mattar. My husband likes the Pickled Paneer and Shrimp Methi Malai.
- Governors Island. Once a military base, Governors Island is now a park that’s open to the public in the summer. It’s fun to walk around here and check out the old buildings and military landmarks. It’s still being developed, and it changes every year. Plan on spending the day: rent a bike; chill out on one of the lawns; swing in a hammock; pack a picnic; or try out one of the food trucks.
- Shake Shack. Stop by for delicious burgers, fries, and shakes. I love the ‘Shroom Burger! Be prepared to wait in line at pretty much any location or time (try Battery Park City for a shorter line), but it’s worth it. Good news: they’ve expanded beyond NYC and coming to Dallas soon … yay!
- Central Park. The best place to picnic, exercise, or just walk around and people watch. Walk around the Reservoir to the northern end for great skyline views. Check out my pics of fall in Central Park here.
- Riverside Park. You’ll find mostly New Yorkers hanging out in this park that follows the Hudson River. Visit during the spring to see the cherry blossom trees in bloom. Run along the path. Go sledding in winter. Stop by the 79th Street Boat Basin Cafe, Ellington in the Park, or Pier I Cafe to relax with some food and drink.
- Veselka. Yummy Ukranian food … I pretty much always get the Deluxe Vegetarian Plate.
- Zabars. Stop in to this New York institution for delicious treats like rugelach and babka, delicious cheese, smoked fish, and freshly roasted coffee. I love their chocolate chip cheese strudel!
- Christmas in New York. I loved taking my annual trek up Fifth Avenue to see all the beautifully decorated shop windows! Definitely worth braving the cold and crowds for.
The Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park
That’s it, you made it to the end! I hope you found some great tips and tidbits for your visit or move to New York!
P.S. Just for fun, check out Buzzfeed’s Should You Move to New York? quiz … funny, but true.