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Ultimate City Hacks: New York City

17 tips to make the Big Apple seem much smaller.

New York. It’s a hell of a town. The city that never sleeps and so on. Where bars that are licensed ’til 4am help 8.5 million people deal with living in super-close proximity to each other, and every little bit of the city has its own character and unique feel. It’s the world’s cultural mecca, home of Broadway, the world’s best music and comedy, eight professional sports teams and the subject of countless films and TV shows. Also, there’s a bacon bar.

Here are some tips to make your time in NYC a little easier.

RELATED: 10 NEW YORK EXPERIENCES THAT ARE 100% FREE.


#1 Walk Like It’s 1789

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(Photo: @Marco/Flickr)

Here’s the thing about NYC: it’s massive, but you can get around quickly thanks to the subway, and walking places is really, really easy. For instance, you can stretch your pins and walk through Central Park to the Met then down to Rockefeller Plaza (that’s 30 Rock, guys) and Times Square in no time. Just about everywhere in Manhattan, Brookyln and the Bronx are easily navigable by walking and the subway, but walking around New York is like wandering around a living museum.

(A handy geographical reminder for Manhattan: the numbered streets run east-west across the island, while the avenues are big ones and run north-south. The rule of thumb is that it’s about a mile – 1.6 kilometres – per 20 blocks going north-south. So while things may seem a long way away, in Manhattan walking places is a better bet than Gary Ablett Jr to win the Brownlow.)


#2 Offline Maps

Don’t be the loser standing awkwardly outside of Starbucks and surreptitiously using their Wi-Fi simply to figure out where the hell you are in Soho. Screw that – you’re not a loser. Download an offline map of NYC through Google Maps – find out how to here – and go nuts. Speaking of which…


#3 App Your Travel Game Up

C’mon. Apps are indispensable for modern travel, and nowhere is that more true than in NYC. There’s apps for getting around, immersing yourself in culture, seeing the sights, eating the eats, drinking the drinks, and finding the damn toilets. Without Uber, Hop Stop, Trip Advisor, Yelp, Seamless, OpenTable and Cups, how did you ever think you were going to navigate NYC? Like a goddamn unfrozen caveman, wandering aimlessly through Hell’s Kitchen trying to find the Bacon Bar, that’s how. Goddamn son, lift your app game.

The NYC Subway offline map app is pretty awesome and super handy. Open Table is great for eats, and definitely get the SitOrSquat app and thank me later, because there are sweet FA public toilets in NYC.


#4 Forget Cabs

Speaking of apps, we all know Uber is better than the time you fought your way from the North Bronx to Coney Island but how about paying a $5USD flat fee between 32nd and 110th streets in Manhattan? Thanks, Via. Or $10USD in Central Manhattan? Good job, Gett.


#5 Bikes Are Cool

Riding around NYC is ace. And thanks to Mayor Bloomberg there are Citi Bikes everywhere. But if you want a sweet ride that isn’t clunky and have a bank’s logo plastered all over it, what are you going to do? Check out Splinster. And then roll like Leonardo DiCaprio.


#6 Beat the Subway

What’s that weird smell? The subway! It’s cheap – a $2.50USD flat fare to anywhere in the five boroughs – and will get you essentially everywhere. And if you’re only in town for a little while, take into account the MTA’s free five percent when you buy your refillable Metcard by filling it specifically with $9.55USD (4 rides), $19.05USD (8 rides) or $38.10USD (16 rides) rather than the suggested amounts. Yay, maths!

Oh. But steer clear of empty subway cars. They’re empty for a reason. A really, really bad reason.


#7 Dinosaurs and Monets… and Space Shuttles and the Empire State Building and 9/11 and The Statue of Liberty and City Pass

In NYC? Just pipe down and go to The Met and Natural History Museum already. They’re world class destinations – notwithstanding bad Ben Stiller movies – and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) and the American Museum of Natural History are just two of the the must-visit attractions you can visit for cheap on a New York City Pass. If you’re here for more than a couple of days and you want to visit all the well known sites (Empire State building, Statue of Liberty et al) this bad boy will save you about $80USD in admission prices. Oh, other NYC museums have free days, like MOMA on Tuesdays. Hit that modern art up, son.


#8 Don’t Send Yourself Broke With NYC Accommodation

Manhattan hotels cost more money than God has (to be officially confirmed), but for cheaper deals try Hotel Tonight, Stayful and, of course, Airbnb. Again, it’s super easy to get around, so if you stay in Brooklyn or Queens, you’ll be fine. C’mon. Queens isn’t that bad.


#9 Parks & Rec

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(Photo: RYTC/Flickr)

The green spaces in New York are more plentiful than weird homophobic jokes in a Seth MacFarlane TV show. And, y’know, they’re free. The Highline is brilliant (an old freight line running through the city converted into a park), Riverside gives you great views of the Hudson and New Jersey, while Prospect, McCarren and the East River parks in Brooklyn are full of cool dads.

But go to Central Park. Just do it. It’s great. And make sure you go super north, up past the Jackie O reservoir, and wander around in the suddenly empty expanse of parkland in the greatest city in the world.


#10 Follow All The Late Night Shows On Twitter

Because they’ll tell you when their (free) tickets are available and where/how to get them. Good luck getting into Letterman or SNL though. Jimmy Fallon and Seth Myers are great though, so give them a shot. You can’t argue with free comedy and famous people. Unless, y’know, they’re Jeff Dunham.


#11 Hey, I Know That Place!

Look, if going on the Sex & the City tour is your thing, fine. I get it. You want to feel, just for a second, what it’s like to be just like Carrie, Samantha and the other two. But why go on the Sex & the City tour when you can wander past iconic buildings like the Ghostbusters HQ and see the old firehouse that Egon, Ray, Winston and Peter tore out of in Ecto 1?

Do a little research and you’ll be able to find amazing spots form Annie Hall, Manhattan, Midnight Cowboy, Taxi Driver, the Godfather and loads more. Would you rather sit on a bus with a bunch of other tourists, or fake an orgasm and smash a sandwich at Katz’s Deli (from When Harry Met Sally)? Just about every corner of the damn place has been on TV or film. Argue with your deadbeat best friend at Tom’s Restaurant from Seinfeld, splash around in the Pulitzer Fountain like the peanuts from Friends, or run around Central Park like you’re Kevin McAllister trying to lose the Sticky Bandits before being saved by a pigeon lady. Top hack: the pigeon ladies aren’t actually that friendly. Stay away.

RELATED: AWOL’S GUIDE TO FILM SITES YOU CAN VISIT IRL


#12 Rooftop Bars…

…Are usually hidden on top of exclusive hotels and are primarily reserved for finance workers and legal aides. Everybody else? Sure, check one out, spend your week’s rent on a beer or your month’s car payment on a cocktail. Then get out.


#13 On Brawwwwwddddwwwwway

Only schmucks wearing ‘I Love NY’ t-shirts stand in line for tickets for Broadway shows. The TKTS box in Times Square is a novel concept, but there are wayyyy better things to be doing with your time while in NYC. So track the wait times and what still has tickets with the TKTS app… or instead, check out the Today Tix app, discount sites like Broadway Box and the amazing Broadway For Broke People, which details Box Offices that have deals you should be hitting up harder than Sting’s financial backers after.


#14 Every Band Ever Plays In New York City… For Cheap

Use Bandsintown and OhMyRockness to check ahead of time who’s playing in NYC while you’re here, because chances are one of your favourite bands are touring. Because one of you favourite bands is always in NYC. Year round. Guaranteed. From ratty DIY bars to mega halls, there’s more gigs than you can poke a stick at. If you’re after great free music, check out Brooklyn Night Bazaar – it has amazing food, booze, a market, mini golf, plus awesome bands play there. Again. It’s free. What a town.

And if you’re fancy, the Met opera, NYC ballet, NYC Philharmonic and everything else at Lincoln Center is one of the greatest collections of fine arts organisations in the world, and they do discounts if you pay attention to their site.


#15 Go See The Mets & Nets

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(Photo: RYTC/Flickr)

Want to see some basketball or baseball, but not deny your kids a university education in the process? Well then, go to a New York Mets game rather than a New York Yankees game, and a Brooklyn Nets game rather than a Knicks game. The difference in price means that lil’ Johnny might one day actually be smart enough to make a similarly excellent decision. The Yankees moved to a new stadium in 2009 anyway, so it’s not like you’re passing up watching baseball in a place history (Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio etc) was made.

Everything’s about 30 percent cheaper in Brooklyn, including the basketball tickets.Cheer on the Brooklyn Nets rather than the New York Knicks. Plus, the Knicks are off their game at the moment, so why would you want to spend $150USD for nosebleeds in Madison Square Garden to watch Langston Galloway hoist bad jumpshots on a losing team? Go to a Nets game instead – it’s cheaper, the food’s better and you stand a slightly better chance of watching half-decent basketball. Also, around Barclays Center there are some cool bars and good food. Buy your tickets through secondary market sellers like Stubhub or Ticketsnow and save some coin.

Pro tip: If you like NFL, then you have to go to New Jersey to see the Giants or the Jets. Godspeed.


#16 Street Eats

Wet Dogs (boiled “hot dogs” from street carts)? Don’t eat them, no matter how interesting they might smell. The street meats are fine and cheap though, especially the Mexican carts. Keep in mind that you might need the intestinal fortitude of a Spartan.


#17 Up your Transfer Game

Don’t spend the $60USD plus late fare on a cab to/from JFK. From Penn Station, take a Long Island Rail Road train to Jamaica station – it’ll take around 20 minutes and cost you $9.50USD in peak hours and $7USD off-peak. Then switch to the Air Train, which will drop you off at your Terminal for $5USD. Wayyyy cheaper, huh? You now owe me money. Or at least, like, three beers.

(Lead image: Tina Reynolds/Flickr)

See? It’s not so hard. Head to New York City with Qantas.