If you’re like me, you’re probably not one with the New York City subway or the bustling streets and skyscrapers that make your head hurt when you look at up at them. You aren’t too sure about what else Manhattan has to offer besides the Empire State Building and other notorious landmarks. I’m just starting to make my way around Manhattan, which means I’m getting to know some streets, eateries and really cool things to do in the city. For my fellow awkward travelers who still get confused when finding the correct platform at train stations, I made this guide: The Awkward Traveler’s Guide To Manhattan. I figured it would be a great way for me to document my experiences with traveling through the big apple. Plus, the information I share with you just might come in handy on your next trip to the city. Without further ado, let’s get into part one of this multi-part guide!
There are a few things that I picked up on my last two trips to the city. These might sound like tips for “dummies,” but, hey, when you’re not a very gifted traveler there’s no such thing as a dumb tip, so feel free to shoot a death glare in the direction of anyone who makes fun of you for it.
Plan to spend an entire day in the city. There’s no such thing as a quick trip to the city. Plus, you should totally try to get your train money’s worth by spending as much of the day in Manhattan as you can. It might feel like a chore if you aren’t used to waking up early, but plan to get dressed and ready to leave your house before 10am. It definitely takes time to reach your destination and you wouldn’t want to cut your experiences short because of the commute.
Awkwardness loves company – bring a friend! Chances are you aren’t quite ready to take the city of lights by storm all by yourself just yet. Getting yourself lost sounds pretty scary, but getting yourself and friends lost sounds pretty hilarious (and memorable in a good way). Don’t feel shy about asking your friends to tag along with you. On my last trip to the city I went with my best friend, her sister and our other friend. Even though you can enjoy the city by yourself, being with company pretty much guarantees an amazing time. Your friends can catch you when you fall (or when you almost trip over a section of cracked New York City sidewalk because you just had to take the pic for your Snap story). The beauty of it is that there’s no need for perfection on a trip to the city with some besties.
Google maps is the only tour guide you’ll need. (No offense to tour guides or anything). Google maps was literally how we found our way around the city from start to finish. It was really great for the commute when we took trains and had to find the correct stops to get off at. Plus, it helped us find an awesome eatery for lunch, a cool museum and other fun things to do. Google maps is with you literally every step of the way. I have always been that person who would go online to hotspot.com to get super detailed public transportation directions as printouts, so I’d literally be pulling stapled pieces of paper out of my bag in the middle of wherever I was to check what my next move had to be. That’s probably as awkward as it gets. You’d be surprised at how intricate Google maps can be yet how simple it is to use. You literally cannot get lost (no matter how bad you are with directions) if you’ve got this app in your pocket.
There’s nothing wrong with looking like a tourist. Stop thinking that everyone who walks past you as you try to take a picture of the flatiron building thinks that you’re a tourist. Well, excuse the crap out of me if I’d like to photographically document memories and breathtaking sights because I’m not in Manhattan 24/7. Also, if you’re going to take a picture of something, you’ll get a way nicer pic if you actually stop walking long enough to focus on your object or scene. I failed to realize this one or two times and ended up with pics that were okay but not as brilliant as I would have liked them to be. I actually stopped to take this one and it actually came out alright. See my BFF in the pink hat.
Fashion do or don’t: Handbags in the city. Lugging around a big, but stylish, sack through the city doesn’t sound very enjoyable. I don’t really like carrying handbags or purses, but I’ll take one if I have things to carry that can’t fit in my pockets (or if I don’t have pockets because leggings don’t!) So I borrowed my mom’s handbag because that day looked pretty cloudy and I felt the need to bring an umbrella in case of rain (playing it safe is a pretty good idea). My best friend survived our trip to the city with no purse, no handbag and everything in her pockets. Amazing. To be honest, I felt the need to clutch my bag at all times because I didn’t want someone trying to swiftly snatch my bag with all my crap and run off. Ultimately, I say don’t feel like you have to bring a fancy bag because you’re going to the city where all the other ladies will be rocking fancy bags (because I kind of felt that way. Just a smidgen). A small cross body can suffice. If you have no good reason to sport a bag that’s bigger than your head, don’t.
On my trip, my friends and I hung around the Battery Park area, which is the southern tip of the city. I discovered some interesting things there that I hadn’t realized existed. One of the best parts was that they were, wait for it…free! Not having to be bothered by costs and paying for stuff is like music to an awkward traveler’s ears (or any traveler’s ears for that matter).
3 Free Things To Do In Battery Park
Ride the Staten Island Ferry. I had a wonderful time riding the Staten Island Ferry from the terminal located in Battery Park. You can read all about that experience here. You can catch the ferry from the terminal on Whitehall Street. The ferry is free and arrives every 30 minutes. You could actually take the ferry to the St. George terminal in Staten Island and then get right back on the ferry for the return trip to Manhattan. If you’ve never travelled over water by boat before, I highly recommend you go for a ride on the ferry!
Go to the National Museum of the American Indian. Okay, I didn’t actually set foot in this but my friend found it and went in while she waited to meet up with the rest of us. This is one of the few museums where admission is free for everyone. There are exhibits that cover Indian history all over the Americas. If you’re into museums or learning about the American Indian culture then I suggest you take a look.
Relax at Elevated Acres. Elevated acres is literally a park on top of a roof. Yes, you read me right. There’s an open turf that’s perfect for a picnic with an S/O, some nice plant life that would be great for photos and you can watch helicopters take off and fly around the water. We found this place thanks to none other than Google Maps. The only cost is a little exercise, if you’re not particularly fond of it, because you have to walk up stairs to get to the roof. I would definitely like to return in the summer to get pictures of the flora when they’re in bloom. Nothing wrong with looking like a tourist, right?
Awesome Eats in Battery Park
Shake Shack. Shake Shack is a heavenly place with heavenly burgers, heavenly fries and heavenly milkshakes! Did I mention this spot is absolutely heavenly? You will devour one of the most delicious burgers of your life here. I highly recommend the black & white milkshake and cheese fries. The price is totally worth the quality of the food, and they can accommodate to serve dietary needs or restrictions. Just let the person taking your order know.
Financier Patisserie. This is an adorable little eatery on Stone Street in Battery Park. Patisserie specializes in French pastries and is actually home to some of the city’s best macarons. I can’t speak for fans of macarons because I’m allergic to almonds, but my friend got the chocolate macaron and said it was really good. I had a slice of the fraisier, which is a delicate little cake with strawberries and creme. #quality. This is also a good place if you’re looking for a hot sandwich and coffee.
So hopefully you’re starting to see that getting around the city isn’t as dreadful as you might think it is. Plus, if you’re ever in the Battery park area, you’ve got a great place in mind for lunch and dessert, after you work up an appetite after the free attractions, of course!
Be on the lookout for Part Two!