Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Debunking NYC Travel Myths

Being born and raised in New York, I never thought about it as a travel destination. I always brush off the wide, blinking eyes and dropped jaws from people I meet on my travels when I tell them I am from New York City. It never seems like such a big deal to me. It is just home. But after comparing it to cities all over the world I see that there really is no contest, if you know how to do NYC right. So here are a few tips from a local to help you get the most out of your Big Apple experience.

1. No one from New York calls it the Big Apple, so before you set foot, be sure to eliminate that phrase from your vocabulary.

2. Subways after dark are harmless. You may hear the shadow of a quiver in the voices of your elders, warning you about taking the subways at night. But these pearls of wisdom are coming from a generation when crime was rampant and hookers hung out in droves on the corner where my freshman year college dorm now sits (Third Ave. and East 11th Street, Third North, NYU....go Violets). Now, let me be clear because I don't want any fuming e-mails from people saying they were mugged on subways after dark. Be smart about it. Don't travel to neighborhoods way out in the outer buroughs. And ladies, don't stumble on drunk with your purses hanging wide open.

3. Times Square doesn't exist to New Yorkers. It's a blank spot on a map, a black hole to be avoided at all costs. The only time a true New Yorker goes to Times Square is when connecting to another subway line (Times Square is a major subway hub, home to the 1, 2, 3, A, C, E, N, R, Q, W, S and 7 trains), and even then they never surface above ground. If you are going to go to Times Square, you might as well stay in suburbia where you can still eat at Applebee's or Olive Garden.

4. It's okay to spend $6 on a beer. When Paul Rudd mocks "$9 beer night" in the movie 40 Year Old Virgin, he wasn't far off from describing New York. Now, I don't expect you to know where to go to find the best beer deals on your first trip to NYC. While they definitely do exist (another blog post for another day), some of the best bars that I know have a pretty pricey menu when compared to bars across the country (I'm thinking of you, $2.50 Heineken at Snyder's Tavern in West Shokan, New York). Your best bet is to start at Happy Hour (typically between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.), when there are often two-for-one deals.

5. Williamsburg sucks. That's right, I said it. For those of you who aren't familiar with Williamsburg, it was once a seedy, blue-collar neighborhood in Brooklyn, right across the East River. Slowly more and more young people moved there to take advantage of the low rents. It became a trendy, artistic community, which at one time was probably a funky and bohemian scene. And then word caught on. Gentrification reared its ugly head and rents sky-rocketed. And now? Williamsburg is a breeding ground for the uber-hipster - the kind that spends a ton of money to look like they have none, and in an attempt to be different from everyone else, they all look the same. Don't let anyone tell you that you can escape Manhattan by heading to Williamsburg. Try other neighbs in Brooklyn like Fort Greene. And on a short trip, you really can't go wrong just staying in Manhattan. There will be other visits to the city, I'm sure.

6. Don't let a cab driver tell you that his credit card machine is broken. It's not. They just want tips in cash. If they tell you it's broken from the get-go, get out and find a new cab. If they don't tell you until the end of your ride, that cab trip is on the house, baby.

These are just a few tricks of the trade that I picked up all these years in the city. I'm sure on your own trip you'll discover a few for yourself. Enjoy.

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