2006-10-18

"Welcome to New York. Now Go Home."

(The title of this post comes from a favorite t-shirt of a friend of mine from many years ago.)

If you ever visit New York City, a recent article by Kristin Tillotson, writing for Mercury News, actually has some good advice for you:

The secret to being able to say "I love NY" and mean it? Don't plan too much sightseeing, and take lots of breaks. Wander down a street spontaneously to see what's on the next block. Stop to watch a parade - they have about three a week, one for every nationality under the sun and then some. That's the thing about New York - there's always something interesting happening, all over the place.
- Intimidated by a trip to Manhattan? Fuhgeddaboutit


There's too much even for people who live here to see in a lifetime. What makes you think you can do any better?!

Now aside from mentioning specific restaurants, shops, and so on - which just seems like so much product placement to me - there's some good information in the article. She suggests that you try for lodging outside of the main tourist destinations:

Desert the Titanic: Many first-timers in Manhattan cling to Times Square as if it were a lifeboat. Actually, it's the loudest, most annoying, stress-inducing, alienating spot in the city, especially during the 6 to 8 p.m. pretheater crush. So don't stay there.
I would say, "Don't go there!" I've lived in NYC over 25 years, and Times Square is over-stimulating for me! Then again, I moved to bucolic Brooklyn years ago, and I'm much older and wiser than I used to be, so maybe it's just not for me any more.

She suggests several museums smaller than the big names, and I second that suggestion. There are literally hundreds of museums in NYC, covering nearly every imaginable field of human endeavor and curiosity. Find one or more that speak to your passions, and visit them. They need your support more than the big names.

She also provides succinct transportation guidelines, mostly accurate. She notes the MTA Web site and HopStop as online resources for finding your way around the city by subway; StrapHangers is another excellent resource.

However, I completely disagree on "don't feel obliged to tip [a cab driver] more than 10 percent." This is not a good tip! I'd only give that if I hated the driver. Tip a cabbie 15-20% if you enjoyed the ride and his (they're mostly men) driving didn't terrify you.

I offer some additional tips:


  • The Staten Island Ferry. The best views of downtown Manhattan and New York Harbor, and still free.
  • Get out of Manhattan. There are great, world-class cultural institutions and destinations in "the outer boroughs": The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. She mentions just a few in her article. There are many more. For example, she mentions the Bronx Zoo and the Boroklyn Botanic Garden. Did you know that each borough has its own zoo? Its own garden? Brooklyn even has a zoo and an aquarium!
  • Don't wait for a parade to "stop and watch." Walk along the sidewalks and try to identify the diffferent languages you hear, let alone the different accents. Take advantage of any park in New York City to stop and watch. People-watching is one of the best activities you can do in NYC. Believe me, we're watching you back!

She ends with some tips on etiquette [with my comments]:

New Yorkers aren't rude, just rushed: A few "don'ts" for interacting with the natives (and those who pretend to be) [ie: those of us who've only lived here nearly 30 years]:
  • Don't mistake directness for bad manners, and get right to the point. Most New Yorkers are friendly and open, but can be terse [I would say I'm "direct". Whatever ...] when in a hurry - which is usually. [Always. Suspect the one who doesn't seem like they have to be somewhere.]
  • Don't stop to look at your map at the top of an escalator [Or anywhere there are people moving. Step out of the stream of people, or let the stream carry you to a quiet eddy.] or walk four abreast at a turtle's pace [Don't walk four abreast at any pace. Someone will always be in more of a hurry than you are. Two abreast is the maximum to let people flow around you], blocking the sidewalk [NEVER block the sidewalk, especially a crosswalk or corner. This is Rule#1!] ; this ain't Disneyland [Except for Times Square]. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Chamber of Commerce welcome you as tourists, but most of the folks around you are on the clock. [And we would welcome you as well, we're just busy.]
  • Never say "Ya know, you tawk just like Tony Soprano! C'mon, just give us one 'fuhgeddaboutit!' " Don't you mopes know that crew is from Jersey? The finely tuned native New Yorker ear can tell by accents not only who grew up in Flatbush or Bed-Stuy, but who grew up on Avenue K or I. [Another reason: You don't want to know what we think you sound like ... and we will tell you.]
And my etiquette contribution:

You came all the way to New York? And you didn't call? It would kill you to write?!

5 comments:

Kati said...

Very entertaining, xris. I have as yet to visit NYC, can you believe it? I know it will be a trip to relish when I get around to it.

Blackswamp_Girl said...

I agree with Kati that your post was very entertaining... but I must confess that I have absolutely no desire to go to NYC. Ever. Only the promise of a zoo and garden in every borough tempts me to visit, and then only slightly. I guess it's unfair to imagine that all of NYC is like Times Square, but that's my nightmare... such a small town girl, aren't I?!

Xris said...

BlackSwampGirl: So, don't go to "NYC." Come to Brooklyn! It's closer than Manhattan to two of the three major airports in the area, anyway.

Check it, does this look like Times Square?! That's the view from the front of my house, looking up the block, this past Spring. I'll be posting some fall pictures of the neighborhood soon. Just waiting for the color to peak. It's quiet and beautiful here. You'd never know you were in New York City.

Annie in Austin said...

I've had the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens in my bookmarks for almost as long as I've had bookmarks! The odds are not too good that I'll ever get there, Xris, but maybe someday...

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Blackswamp_Girl said...

Actually, it looks a whole lot like where I live now! Homes from the 1900's and 1910's, small front yards, big porches for socializing. You're right, not what I picture when I think of "New York" at all.

My significant other is from New Jersey (just south of Allamuchy State FOrest) and we're going to visit there soon--I've never been to NJ or NY. Might have to sneak up to the BBG at least while we're close... maybe if not this time, then on our next visit.