By Caitlin Kelly
You’ve seen it in movies and on television and maybe read about it for years. Before you head into Manhattan (or Brooklyn, probably the only two of the five boroughs that make up NYC you’ll visit), a few tips. I’ve lived here for 25 years and you can spot the tourists a mile off…
Dress the part!
You can always tell the out-of-towners — the teen girls and women have…unusual…hair color, wear heavy make-up, nude hose, pastels, bright colors and sequins. They have French manicures and pedicures, or chipped nail polish. All of which mark them immediately as someone not from here. A fresh manicure (nude polish on hands) and pedicure are key. New York women are well-groomed!
Like Paris, New York has its own visual style, and understated elegance is a good option, for men and women. Yes, we all wear black, all year round. It’s easy to accessorize and moves easily, if it’s the right clothing and style, from day to evening, usually with a change of shoes. (Bring ballet slippers or flats for comfortable/stylish walking — we walk everywhere. Men might consider a stylish suede or leather lace-up.)
Also not very city-friendly: bulging, enormous backpacks (everything here is small and crowded); chunky white or black sneakers; ripped or super-baggy (or super-tight) jeans; farmer or baseball caps, especially worn backward, logos all over everything, fanny packs.
Get to/out on the water
It’s too easy to forget that Manhattan is an island, and some of the loveliest sights are found on its edges — the bike and walking paths along the East River and the Hudson. The Circle Line takes hours, but the round-the-island boat tour will give you a terrific appreciation of the city, as will the (much cheaper!) Staten Island ferry, which commuters ride to and from their homes on SI. (Rent the classic movie Working Girl, with Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver, to understand the importance of the ferry.)
Get onto the water at sunset to watch the city lights come up — and the Statue of Liberty at sunset. You can also rent kayaks and sailboats here.
Walk faster. No, even faster!
No kidding. Nothing is more maddening and selfish than huge packs of tourists walking abreast — i.e. completely blocking a subway stair or sidewalk — sloooooooooowly.
Move it, folks!
The people who work here have places to go and no time to get there.
Enjoy a drink at one of the city’s vintage bars
Fanelli’s, Old Town Bar, Sardi’s, McSorley’s, The White Horse Tavern, The Landmark. Manhattan offers some fantastically old, weathered taverns with deep wooden booths, pressed tin ceilings and decades, even centuries of history. Settle in and enjoy.
(If you want to go seriously upscale — and dress well! — splurge on a cocktail or two at The Campbell Apartment, the King Cole Room at the St. Regis or Bemelman’s.) Yes, cocktails can cost $12, $14 or more. It’s New York, kids.
Keep your Metrocard filled
Taking the subway or bus is often a lot quicker and cheaper than trying to find a cab and getting stuck in traffic. Keep your card topped up. When you get on the bus, dip your card quickly in and out of the fare box. Then move to the rear!
Ride the bus
There’s no better way to really see the city. Skip the tourist buses and spend a few hours riding the M104 (Broadway) or the M5 (Fifth Avenue.) Comfortable, safe, cheap.
You will not find a cab at 4:00 p.m.
That’s when all the drivers change shifts and all those cars are going to whiz right past you, no matter how much you flap your arm. We know it. Take a bus, or subway or walk.
But…if you beg, nicely, you might still hitch a ride if someone is heading that direction.
If you take a cab, tip at least 15 percent
Or prepare to be brow-beaten.
Carry a small umbrella
Few things are more frustrating than getting caught in the rain and not finding a cab to rescue you. Be prepared.
Eat at Shake Shack
Forget the calories and the lines. Just do it. So damn good!