What to see in NYC (a student tourist’s guide)

Part two of the New York City post! This time a guide on all the must-sees in the city. Some may be a little touristy but hey – you’re there to see it all! Bonus: as student tourist’s guide only two things on this list cost money ($), the rest are completely free to do! Of course there are many, many more amazing things to do and see in NYC that are not on this list, these are only what I experienced while I was there.

Transportation note: we did A TON of walking to avoid the cost of expensive transportation. We had great weather and wanted to enjoy every part of the different city streets while walking so it never seemed as much as it actually was. For the extra far lengths we did take the subway, (a single ride subway ticket is generally around $2.75 or $3.00) although the system may seem a bit confusing at first, we were surprised to find how quickly we got the hang of it! Don’t be afraid to try it, not only will it save you time by avoiding the constant city traffic but it’s part of the New York City experience as well!

(The list is in no particular order.)

  • The Brooklyn Bridge

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The bridge looks incredible from every angle, a perfect place for pictures!

The Brooklyn bridge was even more amazing than I had imagined. It’s just a little over a mile in length and a very enjoyable walk. Amazing views of both sides of skyline and even benches half way to sit and take a break. I was there on a Monday afternoon and was surprised by how packed it was with walker and bikers.

  • Water Street, Brooklyn (Gossip Girl’s Humphrey Loft)
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455 Water Street Brooklyn

If you’re a fan of the Gossip Girl series this iconic location of the Humphrey loft is a fun spot to see in person! Just after crossing the Brooklyn bridge it was a short five minute walk over to Water Street. Even if you’ve never seen the show, this location is a stunning place for pictures and a great area of Brooklyn!

  • Central Park
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The Central Park mall

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Proposal Bridge, although I did not see any proposals nor was I proposed to..

I was completely blown away by Central Park it was so easy to spend hours upon hours exploring, at times it felt as if you couldn’t be further from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Some of my favorites within the park were the mall; a beautiful walk surrounded by trees and a great place to listen to talented musicians do their thing! Another favorite being the Bethesda Fountain and Proposal Bridge. The park itself is 843 acres, 2.5 miles long and .5 miles wide so the best advice I can give is to find a map, pick out the things you’d like to see the most and check which direction to get there instead of aimlessly walking to search!

  • The Today Show live taping!
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Had to represent Sideshow on national television when we had the chance!

This is definitely a must do (and it’s free!!)! The Today Show does a live taping every morning Monday through Friday with most of the outdoor activity happening from 7:00am-9:00am. The taping takes place in Rockefeller Center between 48th and 49th streets 5th Ave. and the Avenue of the Americas (6th Ave.). It’s a very cool experience to watch everything behind the scenes happen right in front of you! We went on a Tuesday morning and arrived around 8:00am, we were surprised to find that it wasn’t as packed with people as we had imagined and that we hadn’t missed anything by the time we got there. On a day where there isn’t a concert taking place we were told it generally looks as it does in the picture above; plenty of room to comfortably stand and no waiting in line to get in. Around 8:15am the anchors came out, shook everyones hands and made small talk with the audience until they went live on TV. Overall one of my favorite things we did, best advice I could give is that there really was no need to arrive earlier than 8:00am!

  • Grand Central Station

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Truly spectacular, pictures do not do it justice! Much more “grand” than I had imagined and the perfect place to people watch.

  • Times Square (Day & Night)

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Met the sweetest photographer this night who took wonderful photos for us! @thankyouriz

The ultimate tourist move I know!! But you have to see it at least once, especially at night! Times Square is a constant mess of bright lights, construction and the biggest tourists you’ve ever seen but it truly is quite the sight to see. After we saw Chicago the Musical on Broadway (see earlier post for details) it was the perfect time to experience the night life and it definitely lived up to my expectations. If I had to pick between seeing it during the day or at night, I would pick at night hands down.

  • Ellen’s Stardust Diner ($)
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Located right on Broadway, home of the singing waitstaff

This was definitely one of our favorite parts during our trip. Although it’s touristy, it truly is a very fun experience and a great place for a meal! It’s open from 7am-midnight with diner style American food at reasonable pricing. We went for dinner at around 5ish before we saw Chicago the Musical and the food was fantastic! We only waited in line for about 10 minutes before we were sat, even then it wasn’t completely packed. The environment is so much fun, all of the waitstaff are either Broadway hopefuls or have already made their Broadway debut. They are constantly singing and performing on the tables and up in the balcony. Everyone was immensely talented and interacted a lot with the customers (our waiter even gave Liv a little solo in the mic during his song!) I cannot say enough great things about this place, we found ourselves constantly smiling in awe paying attention to the performers instead of eating! If you don’t have the opportunity to see a Broadway show while in NYC, this is a fantastic alternative! Highly, highly recommend.

  • Statue Cruises to Liberty Island and Ellis Island ($)
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Liberty Island. View from the boat.

 

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Ellis Island

The statue cruise was a really great affordable way to see both islands round trip with one ticket. This company has two boarding ports, one on the New Jersey side at Liberty State Park and one on the New York side at Battery Park (you can not get on at one and off at the other). We bought our tickets and boarded at Battery Park, the ticket cost was only $18 with both islands included in that price. This price includes: access up to the Fort Wood section of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, priority entry into the Boarding Queue which saves you wait time at the departure point, access to the grounds of Liberty Island and Ellis Island and audio Tours of both islands. There is another ticket option with statue crown access for $21 (tickets can also be purchased online, but we had no problem getting ours quickly in person when we went at 2:30pm). The boat begins boarding at 8:30am and again every twenty minutes with the last boat boarding at 3:30pm. Please take note that each day after 2:00pm you have to pick between getting off at Liberty Island or Ellis Island (still paying the full $18) due to the time restrictions. This happened to us and it turned out to be just fine. We decided to chose Ellis Island as Liv and I both have relatives who came through Ellis when coming to the United States for the first time. The boat stops at Liberty Island first and even though we didn’t get off at that point, we were able to take wonderful pictures of the Statue of Liberty from the boat (see above). The second stop is Ellis Island where you can walk around the grounds (great views of the NYC skyline), read the names of everyone who came through Ellis as well as check out the indoor museum. I would definitely recommend this on a beautiful day where you can sit on the top deck of the boat and enjoy the view, but they run the boat rain or shine and there is a lower deck where you can ride as well.

A couple other places that you’ll definitely want to check out are Radio City Music Hall (they offer tours), the new World Trade Center as well as the memorial, NBC Studios (they offer tours), the MET and The Shops in the bottom level of the famous Plaza Hotel. More not pictured: Madame Tussauds wax museum, the Top of the Rock observation deck at Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building observation deck.

I hope all of these places can be added to your itinerary for when you visit! NYC truly makes you want to wake up, do things all day and stay up all night. I know you’ll have the best time!

Sincerely, Sienna

NYC! (traveling on a student budget)

New York City is a wildly popular summer vacation destination and one I’ve been dreaming of doing for quite some time. As it’s known, NYC is an expensive location especially for students, but I am here to tell you it can be done affordably!

Recently one of my best friends (Liv) and I spent four full days in the city that never sleeps and had an incredible time! The NYC post will be split into two parts, this as the first being tips on how to keep the trip within your budget; we’ll talk about travel, AirBnB housing, rush Broadway tickets! The second part will consist of experiences you won’t want to miss out on when you make your visit. The city awaits!

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The NYC skyline view from Liberty Park on the New Jersey side.

To begin, after searching through endless expensive flights we decided to make it a road trip! A daunting task it may sound like but in all honestly, it wasn’t so bad! From where we live in Michigan the drive time was 10.5 hours total; we alternated at the wheel every few hours and split the gas cost. The 10.5 hours flew by with the constant laughter, storytelling and belting Broadway songs for hours on end, if you take this trip with friends the drive truly is surprisingly enjoyable!

The area where we significantly saved the most money was in the decision to use AirBnB rather than stay in a hotel. AirBnB is an online service where hosts around the world list their space for travelers to stay in at affordable prices. You can make a free account online and begin searching for vacation rentals, homes, apartments and rooms for rent. Though we were a bit hesitant on this idea at first, when researching through the housing options we found it is very safe and easy to figure out. Make sure to read the reviews and profiles of potential hosts before you book. Look for verified phone numbers, read everything about the listing, the description, the amenities and the rules. We rented a room in Jersey City, New Jersey which was only a 15 minute subway ride into NYC. The room was wonderful as it had it’s own kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. You can find rooms within any price range depending on location and the amenities the room includes. I would say that a nice and safe room that students my age would be looking for could range from around $50 to $100 per night with Jersey City being the example location. To compare this to what you could expect to pay for a hotel in Manhattan, the cheapest single hotel rooms we could find were all above $250 per night; Liv and I did not even pay that much in total for our ENTIRE three night stay. AirBnB was new to both of us but it turned out to be a great choice that I would highly recommend!

If you’re anything like Liv and I you would never travel all the way to New York City without seeing a Broadway musical! As a theatre fanatic myself, I knew just how expensive Broadway tickets could be. Most shows sell tickets with prices ranging from $80 to even over $200! Feeling discouraged when thinking we may not end up seeing a show, I was thrilled to learn of something called “Rush Broadway Tickets”. Rush tickets are sold only on the day of the show and are available to anyone willing to wake up and get to the box office early and spend some time in a line, you can get greatly discounted tickets to the majority of shows on Broadway. Most rush tickets range in price from $25-$40. There is no set number to how many tickets they have left to sell for rush but you are limited to two per person only. The seat locations vary with different shows, from front row to rear mezzanine depending on show popularity and the number of tickets already sold. Not all shows offer rush tickets, but many great ones do. Almost all shows do also offer an online lottery opportunity; some of the lotteries draw for free tickets and some draw for discounted tickets. You can enter the day of the show online and will find out if you won a couple hours before the show begins. The reason we stuck with only doing the Rush option was because we knew we wanted to see a show that night and didn’t want to risk the possibility of not winning the ticket lottery. If we had been there for a longer period of time, the lottery would have definitely been something we did. So, when searching for a show we wanted to see that also offered Rush Tickets, I found a fantastic chart listing the shows and times their box offices opened each day of the week. To make sure we got tickets to at least one show we made a mutual list of our top three shows we would like to see from the orange rush tickets list. Our first choice that one of us would wait in line for (Chicago the Musical), our second choice that the other would wait in line for (School of Rock), and our third choice if we weren’t able to get tickets to either of those (Tuck Everlasting). All of the box offices opened at 10am so we arrived around 9:30am which in hindsight I would actually recommend getting there even a little earlier to be safe. We split up, Liv when to the Chicago line and I went to the School of Rock line. (All of the Broadway theaters are very close to each other, splitting up was safe and easy – Chicago was on 49th street and School of Rock was on 51st). Liv had about 15 people in line before her and I had around 12. Keep in contact with whomever you split from so you don’t both end up buying tickets for two separate shows! When doing this also remember that each person ahead of you is able to buy two tickets each and the tickets their selling aren’t necessary next to each other. The Chicago line actually ended up being quicker and Liv bought the last two tickets they were offering at $37 each! Needless to say we were ecstatic and show was unbelievable!

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I hope this was helpful to anyone looking to visit the city at an affordable price! If you have any questions feel free to comment and stay tuned for the second part of this post on other experiences you won’t want to miss when you book your trip!

Sincerely, Sienna