New York in a Day
July 23, 2015 5:49 AM   Subscribe

I'll be able to visit New York City on the 3rd of August. I'll be there for just the one day. I'll be in Manhattan, that's where my friend works and I'll be going into the city with her in the morning. She has to work, while I'll have the day to wander and explore.

I love museums and history and good food. I hate sports. I don't have a lot of money.
If you were me, what would you absolutely need to do, where would you absolutely have to go, for that one day? As per my friend, I'll be starting my day out where she works, which is near the World Trade Center memorial area.
Also, any tips for getting around? I do know how to handle big city public transportation (Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, London, Paris...these are all cities I've wandered and taken public transit in alone), but every city has its quirks.
What should I avoid?
posted by sandraregina to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Here's a list of museums with free days, or that are always free or pay-what-you-want. Some of the heavy hitters are free all the time, like the Met, but of the ones that charge there's nothing really legendary that has Monday as a free day.

But if I were you, and I had the ability to do so, I'd basically just walk around a lot, especially if this is your first time there. Just start downtown, work your way up through the village, maybe cut through Washington Square or other sites if you want, and eventually get on 5th Avenue and head north to Central Park, then walk through the park to the Met and see whatever piques your interest in there. Maybe you take a detour for Times Square or something if you haven't seen it before, but just doing that will check off a number of boxes on the NY list, and you'll get to experience four of the archetypical areas of the city - downtown, the village, the park, and midtown.
posted by LionIndex at 6:11 AM on July 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

what lionindex says, except that they didn't make it clear just how awesome the met is.
posted by andrewcooke at 6:15 AM on July 23, 2015

Best answer: Hoo boy.

I think with only one day, you need to decide whether you want to take the "hit a lot of classic landmarks" approach or the "pick one thing and delve into it" approach. (I'm setting aside the transportation question, because this will not be an issue, seriously; I'll address this at the end.)

If you're going for the "classic landmarks" option:
Head north ASAP to Central Park, at about 70th and 5th Avenue. Enter the park there and walk south, having a bit of a wander and coming out at 59th. Then walk down 7th Avenue to about 42nd Street - you will pass Carnegie Hall on the way, and you'll end up in Times Square, which will either remind you of BLADE RUNNER with all of the billboards or drive you mad with the crowds. Head east along 42nd Street from 7th towards 5th Avenue - on the way you'll pass Bryant Park, a smallish park that has some nice landmarky stuff. You'll also see the Empire State building in the distance- don't go yet, you've got time.

For lunch, come downtown to Greenwich Village - both the West and East Village are great for post-lunch wandering. If you're going to be in the West Village, I know that Caffe Reggio is very affordable and is a longstanding "landmark" that a lot of people don't know about. If you're gonna be in the East village, go with Katz's for the so-you-can-say-you-were-there factor.

Work your way south again - maybe with a spin through Soho, for the glitz factor - and then meet up with your friend when they get off work, hop on the Staten Island Ferry and just take a ride (it's free). Figure out what to do for dinner, and then wander around a bit more - and then go hit up the Empire State building at night, say about 10:30. The ESB stays open until 2 am, so if you wait until late the lines will have thinned WAY out.
And if you're taking the pick one spot and dig deep option:
You could just museum-hop along 5th Avenue, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art up north to the Museum of the City of New York. There are nine major museums along that one mile of 5th Avenue; some of them have suggested-donation admission rates, so you can in theory get in for just a couple bucks. (Check the admission area carefully.) Or, you could start at the Met, then walk west through Central Park - it's almost a straight line directly west to get from the Met on the east side to the Museum of Natural History on the west side, and on the way you pass by a bunch of Central Park landmarks like Strawberry Fields (the John Lennon memorial area), the Delacorte Castle, and the ramble.
As for transportation - from the WTC area, you will be able to get access to all of the subway lines within just a couple blocks, and all of the spaces I've mentioned are convenient to subways.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:21 AM on July 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

With a limited amount of time like that, a dense agenda of specific destinations would probably be frustrating and/or stressful... I like LionIndex's suggestion of walking through some of the iconic areas of the city. One of the most interesting days I've had in NYC was spent walking fairly aimlessly. A friend and I had taken the subway up to the the Guggenheim at 88th street, but then wound up walking all the way across Central Park and all the way down the west side, through Times Square, and eventually back down to Union Square where our hotel was. Walking across so much of the island really gave me a "big picture" sense of Manhattan than I'd ever had before, and there is just so much to look at everywhere that it never once felt like a slog.

On preview: Seconding Caffé Reggio if you find yourself in the west village! I daydream about their pastries.
posted by usonian at 6:57 AM on July 23, 2015

Thirding Caffé Reggio! On Macdougal near Washington Square Park.

But I wouldn't stress - Manhattan (especially nowadays) is one place in the world where you really can't go wrong just wandering aimlessly all day.
posted by maggiemaggie at 7:05 AM on July 23, 2015

But I wouldn't stress - Manhattan (especially nowadays) is one place in the world where you really can't go wrong just wandering aimlessly all day.

Except...if you find yourself wandering down a North/South avenue and it's mostly residential with not a whole lot going on, then move either east or west until you come upon a N/S avenue that's got stores and stuff.

A block east or west can make a huge difference from residential boring to "Oh, cool!"
posted by kinetic at 7:38 AM on July 23, 2015

Ah, I think even the residential blocks are interesting...
posted by maggiemaggie at 7:43 AM on July 23, 2015

...and I've been aimlessly wandering around Manhattan since I was a kid in the 60s...
posted by maggiemaggie at 7:45 AM on July 23, 2015

Best answer: It may not be your thing, but I like to suggest seeing Cleopatra's Needle to visitors. Its twin lives in London. Red granite, 70 feet tall, the Needle is inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphs. Commissioned by Pharaoh Thutmosis III in 1450BC, to be erected in Heliopolis in celebration of the 30th year of his reign. Made from granite quarried near the first cataract of the Nile and weighs around 224 tons. It's 3400+ years old and is the oldest outdoor man-made object in the entire city.

The obelisk is behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and can actually be seen from the floor to ceiling windows in the Museum's Temple of Dendur room with the reflecting pool. You can reach it by entering Central Park at East 81st street, and following the path (East Drive) up and behind the Museum.

So if you're planning on following Empress' good advice, all you'd need to do is enter Central Park 11 blocks further north, at East 81st Street and Fifth, then turn north to walk behind the Museum. You'll see (unlabeled) stairs leading up on your right, and the hint of massive obelisk through the trees. :)
posted by zarq at 8:26 AM on July 23, 2015

Best answer: I love museums and history and good food. I hate sports. I don't have a lot of money.

-NY Historical Society is amazing. Not near WTC, but you can get the 1 at Rector (? I think) and take it to 79th.
-The CultureNOW app is great for wayfinding combined with the city's cultural assets, available on all/most major mobile platforms.
-Battery Park has been redeveloped and has a lot more options even including people watching. Same for the adjacent Wagner Park which is less crowded. Both easy walks from One WTC.
-Highline is an interesting piece of new history/land re-use. E from World Trade to 14th and walk a block West. That's also where the new Whitney Museum is. It's a bit pricey though. (Museum, not the Park)
-LionIndex's list is great but a little out of date - (the Police Museum hasn't existed since 2012 other than a brief, temp space since closed and the Waterfront Museum has sailed away). Here's (semi self link, one from my company) a good complement - free calendar that you can sort by day.

Have fun!
posted by TravellingCari at 8:44 AM on July 23, 2015

Round trip on the Staten Island Ferry. You'll be in the neighborhood.
posted by LonnieK at 10:16 AM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

My high school French club took a trip every year to NYC that was exactly one day long (we would leave at 2 am from home to arrive in the am and then leave NYC at 10 pm to arrive back home in the dead of night...). We always started the day at the Met, then had lunch and wandered Central Park. Then we would do some other tourist destination (one year the Empire State Building, another year a wander of Chinatown). THen dinner and a Broadway show. If your friend would be up for the show, you could replicate it exactly :) I guess my point though is that the main events in my memory were the Met, because it is the best, and the general atmosphere of the streets in different neighborhoods during our wandering, which remains for me the essence of NYC, even having lived there full time for years and now moved away...
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:11 PM on July 23, 2015

Best answer: Also, a specific recommendation would be to take the gondola over to Roosevelt Island. It's a cheap trip that can't be replicated in most cities and has a great view!
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:13 PM on July 23, 2015

Stay above ground if possible. Catch the buses, walk, or use the bike share. Taxi. One of my favourite memories of Ny is watching the neighbourhoods change as I cycled my way up the length of Manhattan.
posted by kjs4 at 7:46 AM on July 24, 2015

When you are on the subways, don't feel bad about asking for help. People love to show off their knowledge and given the way the express/local trains can run, things can become confusing. For determining routes, City Mapper is probably the best app, as it is much better than Google Maps at tracking incidents and problems.
posted by Hactar at 2:29 PM on July 24, 2015

Best answer: If you like books at all, you need to go to The Strand.
posted by SisterHavana at 2:39 PM on July 25, 2015

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