Oh the magic of New York City…
I’ll never forget driving through the Lincoln Tunnel with my mom and her friend into New York City. It was the summer of 2014 and I was moving into the NYU dorms for the next couple of months to complete an internship with Faviana. We popped out onto the street surrounded by the tallest buildings and weaved our way to 14th Street and 3rd Avenue which I’d later learn is called Union Square and it’s a hotspot for college students and young professionals.
I had about 36 hours to get somewhat familiar with the city before I started work and let me tell you, I thought I would never figure out the subway. That Monday morning, I left for my first day of work an hour early because I was so nervous I’d get lost and I definitely did. I worked off 7th Avenue and 38th Street which is near Penn Station and Times Square, two of the largest subway stations in the city. Being from Indiana, public transportation is such a foreign concept. I’d had some experience with the Metro and the Tube in Europe the year before while studying abroad, but every city is organized in such a unique way.
It took me about five days before I felt comfortable navigating the city and understanding the tricks of the New York City subway. Now when I’ve visited every year since, I feel like I know the city like the back of my hand. Below, I’m sharing some helpful tips that will help you navigate New York City because the subway truly is the easiest and quickest way to get around.
7 Top Tips for Visiting New York City:
Understand the difference between Downtown and Uptown.
Pull out a map and look at Manhattan. With the exception of the Financial District, you’ll notice that there are street numbers and avenues. The street numbers run east and west and increase as you move up the city. For example, if you’re at 14th Street and want to go to 42nd Street, you’ll want to go UPTOWN. If you’re at 64th Street and want to go to 28th Street, you’ll want to go DOWNTOWN. It makes sense once you get past being confused.
Local vs. Express trains.
The first time I hopped on an Express train and it flew past 28th Street, I was so confused. “That was my exit and I don’t understand why we didn’t stop.” Well friends, some trains are Express which means they will drop you at what I’d consider to be more major stops like Union Square, Penn Station, and Times Square to name a few. The local trains stop more frequently. When in doubt, hop on a local train.
Get familiar with the different neighborhoods.
NYC has so many eclectic neighborhoods, each with something different to offer. Midtown is home to Times Square which is what most travelers are familiar with, but trust me, there is SO much more to this city. A few of my favorites are Greenwich Village, Soho, Chelsea (or the Meatpacking District), and Little Italy.
There are multiple subway lines.
Designated by numbers, colors, and/or letters, there are multiple subway lines to help you get from one spot in the city to the next. Apple Maps is extremely helpful in telling you which lines to take to get to your destination.
Wear walking shoes or at least something comfortable.
The subway is great, but walking in the city is so easy and you see so much more. I’ve walked from Brooklyn, across the bridge, through Soho, and up to Midtown. Yes, it’s a long walk, but it’s one of my favorite ways to really see the city. Even if you take the subway, you will walk more than you realize. In the two and a half days we were in the city on this last trip, we walked a total of 15 miles.
Understand the difference between East and West.
Alright, this might seem obvious, but when concrete surrounds you it’s difficult to have a sense of direction. If you are headed to an address on East 17th Street, that is closer to Brooklyn and on the EAST side of Manhattan. If you’re headed to West 17th Street, that’s closer to New Jersey and on the WEST side of the city.
The Financial District is probably the most confusing area to navigate.
I still haven’t mastered this one because there are diagonal streets and areas that cars can’t access. Pull out your Maps and ask for help if needed. Most people are happy to help tourists figure out where to go.
Hopefully these tips are helpful to you when you’re next visiting New York City. It’s one of my favorite cities in the world and it’s so easy to get around once you figure out the subway.
Cheers to experiencing new cultures,