New York City is one of the most popular tourism destinations in the world. With world-class museums, shopping, theater, dining, and more, it’s easy to see why. It’s one of the cities in the United States to fall in love with and one of the most romantic cities in the world (for more romantic cities, check out this post).
However, with so much to offer, some of the most popular activities and sites tend to become quite crowded, and prices might be a bit higher than many tourists expect. But with a little advance planning and some creativity, it is possible to actually see the best of New York without breaking the budget or spending hours standing in line.
To get the most from a trip to the Big Apple, consider these alternatives to some of the quintessential New York experiences.
New York is great to explore
1. Use Private Transportation
Now, most people might think “How is private transportation less expensive than taking a cab or using public transportation?” When looking for the absolute cheapest mode of transportation around the city, nothing really can’t beat the subway or bus system. However, when someone isn’t familiar with the routes, or where they are trying to go, using public transportation can be a bit of a hassle, not to mention it’s often crowded and it may mean waiting for a train or bus. Hiring a company will actually end up costing about the same as taking cabs for the whole trip, with all the benefits of a private car and a knowledgeable driver, who can take his customers where they want to be in no time.
Food trucks are the way to go in New York – photo courtesy of Britta Frahm (flickr)
2. Eat at Food Trucks
I am convinced street food is the best way to go when traveling. I tried it in Bangkok and it didn’t disappoint, and it is fabulous in New York. Grabbing a hot dog from a cart on a street corner might feel like the ultimate New York activity, but there’s a good chance one may be disappointed in the fare. When I lived there, most New Yorkers would tell me that the best food isn’t found at street carts, but rather at the food trucks that can be found around the city. I could get everything from Korean BBQ to tacos to desserts at these trucks, which often serve food that is fresher and better tasting than even some restaurants.
Who said the best view is from the Empire State Building?
3. Seek out Alternative Experiences
Most first time visitors to New York have a few “must-do’s” on their lists, like the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty. While visiting these sites will definitely provide great shots for an Instagram feed, they can also be expensive and crowded. Try checking out some of the lesser-known alternatives instead; for example, the view from Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center is arguably better than that from the Empire State Building, but not nearly as expensive. Want to see the Statue of Liberty up close? Hop on the Staten Island Ferry for a free cruise across the river and a great view of Lady Liberty.
4. Don’t Stop at Broadway
Seeing a Broadway show can be a highlight of a trip to the city — but good luck getting tickets to “Hamilton.” While it is generally possible to score inexpensive same-day show tickets at the TKTS booths around the city, I like to expand my research way beyond the shows on the Great White Way. I often easily found seats for shows off-Broadway, which are just as good as those at the major theaters. In fact, many shows begin in off-Broadway theaters before moving to the big time (the aforementioned “Hamilton” being one of them) and I even happened to see a show before it became the next big thing. Be flexible and willing to take a risk, and something great may come up.
5. Shop Small
It’s great fun to shop in the major department stores and window shop along Fifth Avenue, but I never limit myself to the primary shopping areas. Many of the stores in midtown Manhattan and along the most famous shopping streets can be found in any shopping mall in any city, and there I won’t be getting a true flavor of the city. Instead, I head to Brooklyn, Greenwich Village, or the East Village to find some funky boutiques and shops where I can find unique gems to take home. I am not so much into fashion, but I always make sure to check out some of the secondhand and consignment shops for cheap designer duds, or follow my favorite designers on social media to get the scoop on sample sales.
Visiting New York is exciting, and I’ll never be bored there. But I like the idea of saving a few bucks and I also want a more authentic, less crowded experience: try some of these ideas instead of just following the typical itinerary and fun will be guaranteed!
Why do so many tourists choose the United States as a vacation destination? The reason is very simple, the country offers a huge variety of attractions that please the whole family: from cultural rides and adventure tourism, to the possibility of experimenting the unique lifestyle of the Americans.
The thing I like the most is the cultural diversity. According to a United Nations study, the United States welcomes over a million migrants every year, and it’s the country with the highest number of foreign residents living inside its borders (45.8 millions). It’s incredible to walk, for example, in New York and find people from all around the world. That mixture of languages, with the typical sound of a big city and the clicks of the cameras that one can only find in the Big Apple is amazing to me.
Going shopping in the United States is another unique experience. I always find the most important brands, not to mention the great amount of outlets with its brand clothes at cost price. Another important detail is the facility to travel around the country, there are various options that depart at every hour to every destination.
For those who are still planning their trip, I share these six suggestions. Surely these cities will also conquer anybody’s heart.
New York – photo courtesy of Peter McConnochie (flickr)
How can one not fall in love with the Big Apple! Sure enough, it took me a second to do so. And after that one time I vowed to live in the city. Which I did! Postcard to varied movies and theme of emblematic songs as “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra, and “Empire State of Mind” by Jay Z, the “city that never sleeps” enchants people with its skyscrapers, parks and the cosmopolitan life.
Between the tourist routes, the mandatory stops are the Statue of Liberty, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park and the Rockfeller Center. And of course, how can you go to New York and not reserve a day to go shopping! Fifth Avenue is almost every woman’s dreams, with its famous stores like the giant Macy’s. When it’s time to eat the city presents a great gastronomic variety, for all tastes and budgets (from a hot dog car and food truck to the most acclaimed restaurants).
Don’t miss a Broadway show or a typical New York bar like McGee’s, the one that inspired the TV series ‘How I Met Your Mother’. As the Jay Z song said, “there’s nothing you can’t do” in New York.
Downtown Denver – photo courtesy of Al Case (flickr)
I love quietness and nature, and without a doubt Denver is my city to go for that! It’s no wonder I lived there for more than two years while I completed my studies. There are over 200 parks spread around the capital of Colorado. But the advantages do not end there. The biggest Colorado city is also known for encouraging sports and healthy life. There’s over a thousand kilometers of bicycle lanes, transforming Denver into the city with the biggest interconnected lanes line of all the United States.
In terms of food, various chefs chose to work with local products, using fresh food, artisan cheese, organic meat to create healthy, innovative and flavorful plates.
Denver is also surprising for its street art: diverse murals, paintings and sculptures are spread through its lanes. Another curious fact is a program called Denver’s Public Art Program that directs a part of the council’s monthly budget for the inclusion of art in the city’s constructions. I also like skiing, and Denver is pretty close to the most known stations of the United States, Aspen and Vail.
I love the laid back side of Portland – photo courtesy of Stuart Seeger (flickr)
The biggest city of the state of Oregon is known for its unique personality, one of the reasons that attract thousands of tourists every year. Wherever I walk, I’ll find a park, with lots of trees everywhere.
I am a nature lover, so I love visiting the Japanese Garden and O Lan Su Chinese Garden, both downtown. Another Portland curiosity is that a big part of its population are followers of recycling, sustainability, public transport and bikes.
The Portland Art Museum, in the heart of the cultural region downtown, is famous for its permanent modern art collections. In the popular neighborhood Old Town, people line up to taste the Voodoo Doughnut inventions, with flavors like bacon, cereals, and marshmallows, among others. Close to that place is the Portland Saturday Market, the biggest fair of arts and crafts in the United States.
The incredible skyline of Chicago – photo courtesy of Matt B (flickr)
City of celebrities like Mr. Obama and Mrs. Oprah Winfrey, Chicago is known for being the land of the blues and jazz, with unique and authentic rhythms. The starting point for visiting the city is the Millennium Park, with over 99 thousand square meters of green areas above the train stations.
Another postcard I never miss is the Cloud Gate, better known as The Bean, created by the designer Anish Kapoor, inspired by liquid mercury. Whenever I am looking for a wider vision of the city, I head to two of the main skyscrapers; the 360 Chicago (the old John Hancock Observatory) and the Skydeck, the famous Willis Tower.
And no trip to Chicago is complete without a stop at Art Institute. Inside the museum it is possible to find five thousand years of history narrated in different paintings, sculptures, fabric, photography, objects and decorative arts from all around the world.
The Bay Bridge is one of the symbols of San Francisco – photo courtesy of Neil Howard (flickr)
No trip to the United States is complete without visiting San Francisco. The city breathes life and enchants with its beautiful landscapes. I’ll try to resume some of the places that one must visit: the colorful buildings in Valencia Street, neighborhood known for its pre-hispanic inhabitants. The Mission Dolores Park has an impeccable lawn, everything is local, is low cost and has good quality. All the prices in the menu are written with chalk in a big board and have the rates included.
A walk between Bay Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf is mandatory, and taking this journey I always get some of the nicest views of the city, as the bridges Golden Gate and Bay Bridge, the Island of Alcatraz and the sea lions of Pier 39. The Lombard Street is one of the most inclined of the world, with its accentuated curves. The view from the top is amazing, but from the bottom it’s even more enchanting.
I like biking, so I generally rent a bike and cross the Golden Gate to Sausalito and come back with the Ferry. I go for a ride with the F line that connects the Castro (alternative neighborhood), to Fisherman’s wharf. This line has historic trains that come from different cities of the world!
To end up, I love making a stop at Market Place, this brings together a variety of stores that sell all types of food one can imagine. I like experimenting new flavors, so this is my place!
I’m ready for a stroll down Miami Beach – photo courtesy of Daniel Chodusov (flickr)
Lately, I have been itching to visit Miami and road trip around Florida – allegedly the weirdest State of the Union. Interestingly, I have had a number of layovers in Miami, but never got a chance to visit and it is about time I do so.
Needless to say, the first place I’d hit in town would be Little Havana, to get some Cuban flavor and some much needed Cuban food. And while at it, I’d love to go salsa dancing and practice my steps. And, as I am a beach kind of girl, I would definitely spend some quality time toasting in the sun and swimming in the clear waters of Miami Beach.
Don’t forget that in order to enter the United States a visa is necessary. Believe it or not, I forgot I needed it once when I had a layover on my trip back from Mexico, and I almost got stuck. Thankfully, it is possible to stay organized and make ESTA applications before traveling.
Have you ever visited the United States? What’s your favorite city there?
HELLO, NICE TO MEET YOU!
Hi, my name is Claudia. One day I packed my life and started traveling… except I packed too much. Follow me as I fill my life with dreams, drop the weight and inspire you to live your dreams. View and download my media kit here (updated July 2019). Learn more about me here…