Editor’s Note: Last week, publisher Paul Rhodes shared how to visit the heart of New York City – the Theater District and Times Square – on a budget. Here’s more information on how to navigate your way around New York City on your own…without spending a small fortune on transportation.
By Paul Rhodes
NEW YORK CITY – I love New York City, but that affection is focused on my experiences as a tourist. There is only a tiny part of me that would ever want to live in NYC, and I can understand the apprehension that some people might have about visiting this amazing, bustling and overwhelming city.
If that feeling of apprehension is deep-seeded and truly frightening, visiting New York City to check off some bucket list items might best be left to some kind of tour group. But if you believe that apprehension can be set aside for the chance to see this city on your own terms, then by all means, give it a shot.
Last week I shared how Kim and I spent eight days in the heart of NYC…the Theatre District and Times Square. Our hotel was a half-block from Times Square, and we were able to walk to many of the Broadway shows we saw, the restaurants we wanted to try, and sights we wanted to experience.
If you think you can’t afford to see Broadway shows, think again. Sure, you can spend hundreds of dollars on the best seats in the orchestra section, but many of the theaters in the Broadway district don’t have a bad seat in the house. You can get a balcony seat to some of the hottest Broadway shows for under $100 a ticket.
In a nutshell, we saw four Broadway shows and stayed in the Theater District for about $1,200 per person. I’m not underestimating.
Like any personal plan to go “show hopping” in NYC, visiting other landmark sights in the city requires a plan. Figure out what’s important to check off your bucket list, and then make your trip comfortable and laid back by planning no more than one landmark a day (two if there’s something that you know you can experience in an hour or less) and then determining how many days you need to spend in the city.
Some landmarks come with a cost – like the observation deck at the top of One World Trade Center, the Statue of Liberty, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Others don’t cost a thing, like a walk through Central Park, visiting Grand Central Station, and people watching in Times Square.
Just remember, even the sights with ticket prices can be worked into a budget. If those are your bigger ticket items, you can certainly cut costs with less expensive dining options, and for the brave, public transportation.
I’ve always been fascinated with the subway system in New York City. It’s cleaner and more user friendly than it was when I first visited the city 45 years ago. But, you still need to have your wits about you if you want to use the subway regularly in the city.
It’s relatively inexpensive – currently $2.75 per ride. It’s the same price if your destination is a mile away, or several miles away.
In a given day, Kim and I might ride the subway to one destination, then from there to a second destination, then finally back to our hotel. That was just $16.50 for a day’s worth of travel around Manhattan Island for the the two of us.
Cab fare, or an Uber, might have been triple that or more for the day.
If you want to ride the subway and you’re new to it, you should download the city’s subway app. It does help. Also, in Manhattan, trains basically run uptown or downtown, and east or west. Many destinations require you to transfer trains (but no new fare), and that’s where you have to keep an eye on where you’re going, and where you need to get off. Stations are clearly marked and announced loudly as the subway pulls into the station.
On our first full day in the city, I was a little rusty. As our subway train seemed to be traveling a long way between stops, I asked a couple that looked like locals where our subway stop was, they grinned and replied, “about three stops back.” At that point, we were almost in Queens, riding an express train that made few stops.
We just got off at the next stop, and immediately got on the next train going the other direction.
If all that sounds like a little too much for you, it’s fine to utilize cabs and/or Ubers. Here’s a simple rule: the farther the destination, the more likely that an Uber will be cheaper. The shorter the destination, you’re probably better off with a cab.
From our central location in the Theater District, we rode the subway to Central Park and our museum stops, the World Trade Center Memorial and One World Trade Center, and Little Italy. We walked all over Times Square, and to Grand Central Station, the New York Public Library, and most of our restaurants and shows. On our final night in the city we took a cab from dinner to our show because it was raining. It was just a few blocks and cost us about 10 bucks.
In the end, travel destinations like New York City are all about your own comfort level, and your ability to be confident about the decisions you are making.
And remember: walk the city like you live there, hail a cab with determination, and ride the subway like you’ve been doing it for years.