I did it. I finally did it. I made it to NYC, the big apple, the city of dreams and opportunity. I set out to get there and I did it. I saved up (and had a lot of financial help, thank you graduation gifts and family!) and booked my own flight and hotel for the first time, planned my own itinerary, and my dad and I, we went.
It was so exciting to make a goal and achieve it. Now to some people, going to NY might not be that difficult, but for me, a North Carolina girl, going to NYC seemed way out of my reach. I got to cross off so many things I wanted to do off my list: see Wicked, visit LIM college, Little Italy, and to just explore the city and be in the city. A lot of things didn’t go as planned and it was a lot more of a stressful trip than I anticipated but I cherish the experience regardless because I learned a lot about myself. Read on to discover the top 12 things that can occur when you go to NYC.
1. Times Square IS a Tourist Trap-and The Sheer Number of People There will Shock you!
You might be rolling your eyes at this, like of course, it is. But when you go, you probably won’t anticipate exactly how many people you are going to see all gathered in one location. Dad and I went to Times Square our first night there, because I really wanted to see it at night. It was about a 20-minute walk from our hotel on 33rd street. To me, it was surprisingly quiet. There was hardly anyone on the street, but as soon as you turned the corner to Times Square, Boom there it is! It was crazy, everywhere you turned there were crowds of people, street sellers, street preachers, street dancers, a real zoo. A kind of a jungle you could say. Masses of phones were up in the air recording the advertising brand magnet that is Times Square. Imagine standing in the middle of that Lion King Stampede but moving at a much slower pace. But I don’t want that to deter you from going, Times Square would still be my number one must see when you go to NYC because even though it’s just a bunch of advertisements, the combination of all the bright lights truly is magnificent, and the energy is truly like nothing else.
2. Expect to Get Lost- Multiple Times!
This can be said for anywhere you travel, but especially for NYC. There are so many streets, avenues, buildings, subways, that everything starts to look the same and you get turned around. I got up early with all the early working New Yorkers to go to a meeting and ended up going to my second appointment location and being late to the first! Needless to say, it was very stressful. I also went exploring Madison Avenue where all the major stores are like Macy’s, Forever 21, etc. On my way back, I literally for the life of me, could not figure out how to get back to my hotel. I was following the map on my phone but it was so confusing. I was so close to my hotel but kept turning on the wrong corners! My advice, Maps calculates the next step a little faster than you get there, find your way by landmarks.
3. The Subway is soo Hot- but The Best Way to Get Around NYC
The roads are so congested that if you bring your car traveling to NYC, you’ll be traveling a mile an hour. I’m serious. The best way to get around NYC in aside from walking is taking the Subway. While a little confusing to get used to at first, once you take a couple trips you get the hang of it. It is unbearably hot, so dress light and pack a water. It’s 2.75 a ride and though my Dad and I were there for three days, I totally regret not getting the 30$ unlimited pass. We definitely spent that much or more paying each time for a ride and it would’ve been much easier going with the unlimited pass. Plus two people can use it at once. Another thing to take note of the Subway is that there is an Uptown and Downtown subway on opposite sides of the street. Make sure you walk down the right one to make sure you won’t go the wrong direction. Remember Uptown is towards Central Park and Downtown is towards Brooklyn.
4.Expect your Plans to Not Go as Planned
First off, throw your expectations of getting somewhere on time out the window, because you will not. And when you don’t, don’t feel bad because New Yorkers are always late (a New Yorker told me this). I was really excited to go to a restaurant in Little Italy called Benito One. I really wanted to try their Carbonara. But because of some vine/internet star who shall not be named and his legions of fans were crowding the street it was on, we had to improvise. The restaurant we ended up going to, La Mela, was cute, but the Carbonara wasn’t anything to write home about.
When we went to Harlem, we were excited to visit the National Museum of Jazz, which turned out to be one disappointingly small room! (So I wouldn’t recommend going there.) We ended up exploring around at some shops, saw the Apollo Theatre, Harlem Studio Museum, and had delicious cornbread at Sylvia’s! So just try to be flexible and go with the flow. It will save you a lot of stress (take it from me!) and it’s part of the adventure anyway!
5. Don’t be surprised to see an abundance of homelessness, trash, and smells
Please don’t come to NYC expecting the same glamour as Hollywood films. As one of the biggest cities in the world, with one of the largest populations within a confined space you will see more homeless people than you would in a smaller city. On every street corner, either hiding in their boxes or begging on the sidewalk, it’s very saddening to see. You go to NYC and dream of glamour and bright lights but you soon discover the reality that many people who live here are struggling every day. For me, the disparity between rich and poor has never been starker than seeing a homeless man sitting outside a luxury store. How can the same place have some of the richest people in the world yet some of the poorest? The pigeons, the trash, and the crazy traffic also keep you grounded in reality. Also, expect to see a lot of crazy people yelling to themselves either in the street or on the subway. I have to admit I was kind of nervous when on the Subway, but I observed New Yorkers. It seems the best way to handle it is to have your game face on and ignore them.
6. NYC Will Make You (And Feel) Broke
How bout those rent prices huh? It’s no secret NYC is crazy expensive to live in, so you shouldn’t be surprised to find it’s also expensive to visit as well. Expect to spend the most money on your airfare and hotel, because there’s no way around it. Unless of course, you choose to stay in a hostel (but my dad was not having that). Everything else you’re willing to pay is all up to you. I spent the most money on Theatre tickets, transportation, food, and just a little bit of shopping if you can believe that. On my trip to Hong Kong, I went ham on the shopping, but I knew for this trip, I really wanted to value experiences and that’s what I paid for. With that being said, being fashion obsessed I still had to check out Soho, and it was actually not the best experience. There were legions of people, as always but every store you walked into whether that was Chanel, Fendi, or Herve Leger, made you feel really broke. It was pretty depressing for me leaving Soho without a single momento and walking into those stores just brought shame like I was too poor to even deserve to stand inside.
But it’s important to remember there’s nothing wrong with you for not being able to drop 1000$ on a bag. Luxury isn’t the measure of your worth. It’s just a facade. You have all these people (tourists) who couldn’t afford what the few rich were able to buy, just wandering around, hoping the mere glimpse of a Chloe bag would make them feel a little more luxurious. But while it may be easy to feel poor in most shopping destinations in NYC, there are also a lot of budget places like Century 21, where we both scored great deals on name brand pieces. Also at Union Station, I went to Beacon’s Closet, the rich man’s Plato’s Closet or Uptown Cheapskate (where I work) and found some awesome finds from Jeffrey Campbell and COS. I’m actually pretty proud of myself for not going for the usual fast fashion places and buying some unique pieces. I also scored a gorgeous pink jacket at a boutique in Little Italy! So, there are places to shop, just have to look!
7. You Need To Take Safety Precautions- But it’s not as Dangerous as it Seems
News channels and 80s movies have us all thinking New York is one of the most dangerous places to live, but that’s actually not true. Statistics and New Yorkers will tell you it’s actually pretty safe! That doesn’t mean you should be nonchalant about guarding your belongings or using your head. Your conscious is actually a pretty good indicator if something is wrong. And street sellers will take advantage of you because you are a tourist. Be polite if you can, but don’t stop and listen to their pitch and don’t let them shove anything into your hands like CDs- they will harass you into paying for it! I saw most New Yorkers carrying regular bags, but I used extra precautions and purchased a chest bag with hidden compartments and sleeves with RFID. I looked a little goofy but better safe than sorry! Wherever you are- always be vigilant.
8. You will not have time to See Everything
I tried to create as detailed an itinerary as I could to include everything I wanted to do. But because of this reason or that reason, we were tired or there was not enough time in the day, I didn’t do everything I set out to do and that’s okay. Pick the top things you want to do based on your timeframe, budget, and how many people are going with you because all these things will definitely come into play on what your limitations are. For me, I knew I wanted to see Wicked on Broadway and have a photo shoot in the city, and because I did those things I was okay with not being able to do other things on my checklist. I’ll just have to come back again!
9. So Many Options!
One of the best things about NYC is that there are so many options from things to do, things to buy, and food to eat. It can be fun and challenging figuring out what you’re going to do next! As a lover of cheese and pasta, it was a no-brainer for me to go to Little Italy and eat what- cheese and pasta. I also found this adorable little cupcake shop called Buttercup Bake Shop across the street from my hotel. But if that’s not your thing, there’s something literally for everyone. Pizza, sushi, Korean, bake shops and cuisines, everything! Shopping in NYC is crazy, but once again there’s something for everyone. Want designer? You got it. Department store? Sure. Vintage? Why not. If you’re looking for something to do, there’s no other place on Earth you can walk out your door and have dozens of options to choose from. Take a walk in Central Park, check out the NY Public Library or a Museum, go to a free concert. I’m sure the nightlife is great too but I’m a square so I won’t bother with that :). I would recommend checking out the travel guides they give you for free in your hotel because they are really helpful resources too!
10. You Will Need to Learn Patience and Stress Management in Order to Survive
The most important thing I learned not about the city but about myself is that I can’t handle it well when things don’t go as planned. The most stressful part of the trip for me was actually the airport there and back. My first flight to Hong Kong was easier because I went with my school and my advisors had everything all set up. This time I was on my own. Dad was there as support but I had to book this myself. It was so stressful finding a good deal on a flight and hotel package. And once I got to the airport, I had 40 minutes from getting there to when the plane was boarding. It was probably the most stressful experience I ever had waiting in the surprisingly long baggage line, to the security check, and running to the gate 2 minutes before eta departure, only to find everyone was still waiting to board. I freaked out numerous occasions on this trip, from getting lost, being late for things, subway confusion, it’s not worth it. Freaking out won’t solve anything especially things you can’t control. If possible, leave your starting point to arrive early and from there practice patience and leave anxiety at the door.
11. There’s Something About This City That Will Keep You Coming Back
With all the stinky sidewalk trash, jaywalking tourists, musty Subways, and honking horns, there’s still something about this City that will make you want to come back. At least that’s how it was for me. There was still so much I wanted to do and as someone who wants to work in the fashion industry, I still dream of working here one day. This is a city of dreamers and hard workers. A city for creatives, innovators, and leaders. The hustle is evident in the people and the promise of success is plastered on billboards. Yeah, this place is crazy but I love it already.
12. You Will Discover that You Are More Capable Than You Think
New York is not a city for the faint of heart. It’s not for people who aren’t willing to hustle to get where they want to go. While I did learn that I need to practice handling situations with less anxiety, I also learned that I am capable of handling myself. I did all the research prior reading articles, forums, watching videos months ahead to prepare. It was the first flight I ever booked, the first hotel we ever reserved. I got lost by myself, but I managed to find my way back. I learned how to maneuver the Subway system so that we didn’t end up in the wrong place. These things may not seem like a big deal, but it taught me that, I am capable of being an independent adult and if I want something I can get it. New York I’ll be seeing you.
I hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful! If I ever go back to NY, I’d love to write more travel tip blog posts about it. Have you ever been to NYC? Do you love it or hate it? What things did you not anticipate about the city? I’d love to hear in the comments. Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog for exclusive content and post updates and my social media links can be found on my profile!