1. Where to Stay in New York CityThere are a lot of options for staying over in New York City. We stayed with family, so I don't have advice on hotels. If you are not comfortable following the Metro map, you may want to stay near Times Square, because all the tourist buses run through there.
A budget option that you may not have realized is staying in New Jersey. My nephew lives in West New York, which is a 15 minute bus ride to the Port Authority and Times Square. The ticket costs $3 - $3.50, depending upon the bus. You may want to check the difference in price between hotels in Manhattan and West New York.
2. Getting Around New York CityThere are so many options for getting around the city. Friends suggested taking one of the tourist buses, where you can get on and off as much as you want for the time period purchased. That can be good if you are trying to pack in a lot of things in just a day or two. You can also see a lot of the city as you are riding the bus.
For people that are good at maps, I really recommend getting a multi-day Metro card and taking the subway. A 7 day unlimited Metro card was about $32 for an adult. As long as you are not trying to take the subway at rush hour, you can easily get around the city.
Download the app, Subway Map: NYC for your phone. This app allows you to see all the subway routes and stations without needing wifi. We used this and Google Maps to help find our way around the city.
3. Plan AheadOkay, I usually am a TYPE A planner, all caps. However, I had this idea that we would just wing it in New York City. That, my friends, is a seriously bad idea. We were there in the middle of October, relatively off-season, and things were still sold out.
The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island - Plan far, far ahead. Tickets to go up in Lady Liberty's crown were sold out for four months. We went mid-day thinking we would have enough time to just visit the islands. Much to our surprise, the ferry tickets were sold out. They also explained that the security line to get onto Liberty Island takes about 2 hours and another 30 minutes for Ellis Island. (If you stay in New Jersey, you could go to Liberty Park and travel from there. It is possible that it would not be as busy as South Ferry.)
The Tenement Museum - I wrongly thought this out of the way museum would be less busy. Nope. They run different tours, but the tours have limited space because they are inside the tenement. Most days, the majority of the tours were sold out by the night before.
Broadway Shows - If you want to see a show at a discounted price, you need to go to the TKTS Booth in the morning and wait in line. If you are lucky, you will be able to snag some tickets. Your best chance of this is during the week.
4. New York City MuseumsThe nice things about most museums is that they have a suggested payment policy. There is a price, but you can pay less if you can't afford it. We went to the American Museum of Natural History, which was fun for a while but exhausting by the fourth floor. We enjoyed the limited time exhibitions though, because they had a lot of hands-on things to do. I definitely recommend buying the extra tickets to see them.
5. Look for Freebies!Okay, even being careful, things can get expensive pretty quickly. My son wanted to see the Empire State Building, and that was actually really nice - but not cheap. Instead of hitting all the tourist spots, we decided to go do "New Yorker" things. Central Park is free - and you could hike around the park for days! In Brooklyn, you can walk under the bridge to DUMBO. Another day, you can go to South Ferry to ride the ferry to Staten Island, see the charging bull statue on Wall Street, and visit the Museum of the American Indian - all for free! It is actually pretty easy to entertain yourself without spending a lot of money.
6. Helpful HintsA few takeaways from our trip:
1. Wear your most comfortable shoes. We walked all day, every day. And be prepared for a lot of stairs. A LOT!
2. The weather is unpredictable. The city feels hotter than the temperature - especially on the Metro platforms. Even in the high 60s, which is usually cold for us, we were wearing t-shirts.
3. You cannot swipe your card at the same Metro stop twice. If you accidentally go down and swipe, then realize you need to be on the other side of the platform you are stuck for 20 minutes. If you are lucky, you might see a Metro worker who could reset it for you. My nephew warned us not to duck under the stalls unless you want a fine.
4. Broadway matinees are only on the weekend. If you are not a night owl, plan ahead to see one Saturday or Sunday.
If you have any travel tips for New York City, I would love to hear them!