Help us have fun on a NYC day trip
June 28, 2011 5:33 AM   Subscribe

What to see in NYC in only one day?

We have tickets for a one day bus trip to NYC midweek, and need ideas for the best way to spend our time (basically 10am to 6pm) and places to eat. I am taking my 14 year old daughter who is up for just about anything (I am the mom). Are the bus tours where you can get on and off worth it to get to see lots of parts of Manhattan? Should we just focus on one area? Since time is limited, we probably don't want to spend too much time in a restaurant lingering over a nice lunch but would like to eat someplace cool.

Are there any good online sites for maps and tips for transportation once in the city?

I am thinking of this trip as an introduction so we can come back in the fall and spend more time exploring, and doing some college visits with my son. (I was in NYC 7 years ago for a very short trip to see a show and Ground Zero and not much else).
posted by maxg94 to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (23 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: When I was there a few years ago, my wife and I took a cab over the Brooklyn Bridge and then walked back across, through Chinatown, Little Italy, up to Houston, a great walk. We also rented bikes for 2 hours and explored Central Park.
posted by phirleh at 5:53 AM on June 28, 2011

As a native ny'r i personally do not think the bus tours are worth your time. if i were you, i'd focus on two neighborhoods, find a good museum or two, a self-guided walking tour, a well reviewed place to eat, and the chance to people watch and wander during the balance of your visit. Major touristy areas (sadly, much of Manhattan) have lost their original authenticity, so I'd skip Times Sq. and Soho and consider roaming around the lower east side or Chinatown.
posted by mizrachi at 5:56 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Everyone will tell you it's terrible but my 13 year old niece thought Times Square and those huge annoying stores was the highlight of our trip to New York (except for the musical)
posted by interplanetjanet at 5:59 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm with phirleh. I go back and forth to the city often (now more than ever, sigh) and until I've put in a couple of hours with feet on pavement I never feel like I've really arrived.

The walk over and up from the bridge is indeed definitive, full of the iconic views (from Ground Zero to Chinatown to Broadway to Times Square, if you curve a little west) you probably already picture in your head thanks to the bazillion TV shows and movies set in this overused city. You'll also pass all the bagel shops, shawarma stands, hotdog carts and newsstands you'll ever need to see.
posted by rokusan at 6:15 AM on June 28, 2011

I'm not a New Yorker. That said, I wouldn't recommend bouncing around too much. Manhattan is ginormous, but very walkable - you're not really in Manhattan unless you're walking - so pick a section or two and spend your day on that. But without knowing exactly what you'd like out of it (galleries? people-watching? architecture? parks? graffiti? shopping?), it's hard to make recommendations. I'd say stay below 25th (unless you're going to Central Park - just remember it's the size of a small town) and avoid Times Square like a shiny blinking plague.

The east village is great for walking - head east from Astor Place and dawdle along St. Marks or any parallel streets. And there are some amazing community gardens - one of the best things about Manhattan in my mind - east of Tompkins Square. A good day for me would be a leisurely coffee in Union Square (depending on when you're there you could also grab a snack at the farmer's market, or check out the art vendors) followed by a wander to and through those parts, ending in one of the gardens. (And if you like books, that would let you drop by the Strand - also basically the size of a small town, St. Marks bookstore, and East Village books.) For a bit more walking I might start the same trip in Madison Square. In any case, a good dawdle is key.

The High Line may also be also worth checking out - a long elevated park on an old train platform. It's more polished, more touristy, less interactive, and on the eminently skippable west side, but quite beautiful.

That's all personal predilection, and again, I don't know what you want out of it. Basically, if you pick a start point and an end point and give yourself time to be leisurely, you'll have an interesting experience; NYC is made of people. Just please avoid Times Square. It's a mall. They have those everywhere.
posted by Mike Smith at 6:32 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

The amazing thing about Manhattan is that you can see it by walking way better than you can by a bus tour. If you don't mind walking all day - do it! You can supplement with the subway when necessary.

Take a walk through Central Park. Head down and walk through Times Square and Herald Square. Head over to the West Side and walk down the High Line (a park built on an old elevated industrial railroad) till you get to around 14th St, then check out the Meatpacking District, and Greenwich Village, and keep walking east to the East Village. Union Square is nearby. Check out Thompkins Square park. At some point, hop on a subway to get down to the Financial District and take the Staten Island Ferry to Staten Island. Why? What's in Staten Island? Nothing! But the Ferry is FREE and a lovely way to see the harbor.

That's it for starters...
posted by entropone at 6:32 AM on June 28, 2011

Best answer: Here's my NYC tour for everybody.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:34 AM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

What I would do is start at 72nd street and Central Park West -- the 'Strawberry Fields' section of the park. Walk southerly at a leisurely pace, going toward whatever catches your eye.

Once you exit the park by 59th street, head down toward midtown to 42nd street. Take in Times Square.

Keep walking south and a bit west, to 10th avenue and 30th street, where go up the steps to High Line park. Walk the High Line, take in the scenery. Exit at Gansevoorst Street in the West Village. Finish your day by walking around the West Village and Greenwich Village, and eat somewhere you find interesting.

Along the way of this whole walk, stop anywhere that seems good to you, buy something from a street vendor, etc.

By the end of this day you'll have taken in a good swath of what NYC has to offer, from parks to skyscrapers to flashing neon lights and cobblestone streets. It's a small enough tour that you can handle it at a leisurely pace over an 8-hour day, and you'll get some good people-watching done.
posted by meadowlark lime at 6:36 AM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I have to agree with interplanetjanet: I stay well clear of Times Square when I go to New York now, but when I visited the city for the first time around the age of 14 I was blown away. There's time to grow up and realize it sucks later!
posted by ootandaboot at 6:38 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh I think was unfair to the west side / Greenwich. It's not really my preferred part of town, but it is quite lovely for walking, there are some good (if pricey) brunch spots, and the streets seem to get a bit more twisty than on the east side, which is nice.
posted by Mike Smith at 6:38 AM on June 28, 2011

As a jaded NYer, my advice is to ignore the jaded NYers. Sure, Times Square is touristy, glitzy, crowded, loud, expensive, etc. But you know what? There is a reason it is always crowded with tourists, and that's because there is nowhere else in the US (and much of the rest of the world) quite like it. Would I personally want to spend my time for a one day visit to NYC in Times Square? No, but for someone who has never been, I would say absolutely yes, check it out. That being said, I wouldn't spend more than 30 minutes there, and I'd find food elsewhere, too, as the restaurants there are overpriced and not very good. Otherwise, I like meadowlarks suggested path (though you can probably skip Central Park if you want, since I'm sure you've got trees and grass where you're from).
posted by Grither at 6:46 AM on June 28, 2011

You have to do at least one of these two big touristy things: Empire State Building and/or Statue of Liberty. Much better use of time than Times Square or Ground Zero. For the Statue of Liberty, just take the free Staten Island Ferry back and forth to look at it from a distance -- taking the paid cruise and going to the base of the statue is costly and not that impressive. Ellis Island, though, is actually pretty interesting. If you think you had any family who arrived in the country that way, it could be fun.
posted by yarly at 6:49 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

A couple years ago I wouldn't have recommended Times Square to anybody, but ever since they redesigned it to be less of a car-traffic nightmare and more of a pedestrian plaza, it's kind of cool! Not exactly my cup of tea, but many first-time visitors would want to see it, and now, I wouldn't dissuade 'em.
posted by entropone at 7:12 AM on June 28, 2011

Best answer: As for lunch, just get a slice. But get a real one.
posted by swift at 7:15 AM on June 28, 2011

Tenement Museum.
posted by JJ86 at 7:21 AM on June 28, 2011

No bus tour. Do the classics. Times Square. MoMA, Central Park. Probably Empire State Building, maybe the Met. Those could all be done walking.

Times Square is as you can tell a bit polarizing. The reality is its a quick thing to look at and its a big subway line hub as well - so the actually time committment is small.

I mean all these other ideas are good - but this is your first trip to NY and you have 8 hours. Save the flaneur'ing around the LES for another day.

I personally think its massively overhyped, but then I am the stereotypically jaded NYer, but there is a Shake Shack branch near Times Square that is perfect for a teenager and her mom.
(of course I wouldn't ever go to Times Square)

If you post more about your tastes it would probably be easier for us to tell you exactly what might most appeal to you. But personally I'd stick in midtown and see the big sights. They are the big sights for a reason.
posted by JPD at 7:29 AM on June 28, 2011

I think the meadowlark lime trip is perfection, with one addition- from Times Square, walk down Broadway to Herald Square at 34th St, so you can see the big Macy's you see on TV every year at Thanksgiving time.

Also something to keep in mind (that I sometimes forget, even living here): if you ever get "stuck" somewhere and want to go somewhere else, you will probably be able to hail a cab. And that's something fun, a ride in a real yellow cab.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:53 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you find yourself in the 42nd Street vicinity, I might add a brief sit in Bryant Park and a quick peek into the library; it's a beautiful building and sometimes the exhibits there are top notch.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 7:57 AM on June 28, 2011

My first real experience of Manhattan was being dropped off by a hotel bus on 42nd near Broadway, and blinking into the night, and for all its Times Squariness, it has the requisite country-mouse effect. Better after dark, though.

A round-trip on the Staten Island Ferry, as mentioned by yarly, takes about an hour -- not including the time getting to and from the terminal -- but with limited time, I'd be inclined to follow either the walk over the Brooklyn Bridge or the stroll down from Midtown. That's not the advice I'd give to someone on first-time day trip to London or Paris, but Manhattan demands something different.
posted by holgate at 9:37 AM on June 28, 2011

Having lived in NYC pretty much all my life, I liked 3way's tour from the suggestions above. A 14 year old might prefer to see Times Square for 15 minutes.
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:03 AM on June 28, 2011

Since more of the High Line is now open, I'd add that to my tour as well, probably replacing Central Park.

Times Square is a sight to see though, just to walk through, especially at night.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:11 PM on June 28, 2011

The coolest thing to me, when I was new to New York, is the fact that the city is built on a much smaller scale than people from other parts of the US can fathom. You can walk easily from the Financial District to the Lower East Side via Chinatown and/or SoHo/NoLiTa/what's left of Little Italy (all that alphabet soup is basically one ur-neighborhood with tiny micro-hoods which each feel different from each other).

All these neighborhoods you've heard about and seen in movies your whole life? You can just walk right on through them. Before lunch. You don't need a bus tour, in fact being on a bus tour would be counterproductive because it's difficult for buses to maneuver through the streets of Downtown Manhattan.
posted by Sara C. at 1:56 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for a lot of great tips. The trip was fun, and I took several of your suggestions. We were dropped off very close to Times Square so we did walk through just to see it. She thought it was cool, but we didn't spend a lot of time there. We concentrated on a smaller area as a few of you mentioned, and spent most of the time in Chinatown and Little Italy, Canal Street. Had lunch in Little Italy outside. Walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. Spent time in Battery Park, looked at the Statue of Liberty. She didn't want to see Ground Zero (even though she certainly knows about it, she was 4 when it happened, and thought it would be sad to go there). She had to go to Magnolia bakery for cupcakes. She took her first subway and cab rides. We walked a ton, and did lots of people watching. The day flew by. Next time we will tackle some more of the ideas!
posted by maxg94 at 6:49 PM on July 1, 2011

« Older Please help, I'm 21 and I have incontinence...   |   Visa to Netherlands. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.