September 15, 2012

Tips for doing New York on the cheap

There’s never been a better time to travel to America, as their dollar is slipping by the day and our Kiwi is looking like a muscle mutt! So grab a cheap flight and head to New York to do your best damage with those credit cards.

Taxiii!!!

We were on the final leg of our 3-week tour and arrived in New York city by train, straight into the hustle and bustle of Penn Station from Philadelphia, where a cab ride during rush hour got us to our hotel on Times Square in record time. It seems every hour is rush hour in this town, and the cabbie carries an awful lot of power.

There are thousands of yellow cabs in New York but there are thousands more potential  passengers, and the New York cabbies I met were mostly rude and arrogant. If you’re not going far enough or wanting to go the same way they’re heading, they’ll speed off without a word and you’ll be lucky if you don’t get your finger nails ripped off by the door handle that is suddenly yanked away.

Here’s what you must do to hail that elusive cab: ask them where they’re going and agree to get out when they say. I know it’s draconian, but seriously unless you want to walk, the alternative is to say, “we’re heading to 102 and 5th Avenue” and they drive off with their doors locked. It seems most destinations are out of the way for 9 out of 10 drivers in New York, hence our new tactic: get a ride as far as you can and walk the remaining blocks. It’s enough to leave a girl speechless!

The Rock: Your ears will pop in the glass elevator

Sammi from Egypt was the only standout among the dozen or so we met. After convincing him to take us (read begging with Puss n Boots eyes) he also gave his taxi tips for bargain shopping and great Turkish eating.

Sammi’s Tips:

TJ Maxx on 18th and 6th Ave is the best place to shop for designer labels at bargain prices.
Best Buy on 23rd and 6th Ave for the best buys on electronics. Says Sammi, “don’t believe these places that say closing down or lease expired. It’s bulls**t”.

Turkish Kitchen for great food on 28th and 3rd Ave – and he should know.

 

Central Park from the top of The Rock

Best view of the city

For even better views than the Empire State Building, scoot up to the Top of the Rock. This is the top three floors of the Rockefeller Center and with 360˚ views, your photos on a clear day will reveal the curvature of the earth! (Ok, I’m taking a little license). From the 1st of December the Rockefeller Center has its enormous Christmas tree standing proudly over the ice skating rink. Last year the lucky tree was selected from Mahopac, New York (I know, where?) and had 8 kilometres of lighting holding 30,000 LED lights. It stood 22 metres tall and chopping it down, transporting it into the heart of the busiest city in the country and erecting it with a crane is no easy task.

Here’s my video of whizzing down the Rock in a glass top elevator >>>

Discounts galore

Macy’s department stores throughout the United States offer 10% discount vouchers to all international shoppers. Proof of your nationality is required (driver’s license or a cute accent) and you’re off. Discounts don’t apply to makeup or jewellery though. Ask at any counter in the store.

If you plan on doing lots of sight-seeing over a week or so, buy a CityPass which is a book of discounted tickets to all the main attractions like Top of the Rock, Empire State Building, MoMA, American Museum of Natural History, Guggenheim and some cruises in the harbour. Click here for a price on the New York CityPass >>>

Pillow talk

The Muse

We stayed at The Muse, literally half a block from Times Square. The Muse is a Kimpton Hotel and is unique and very very cool. So named after the Muses in Greek mythology who are said to be the nine goddesses who inspire art and literature.

The ‘muse’ theme is discretely evident – you have to look for it. The nine domains are history, epic poerty, love poetry, song, tragedy, hymns, dance, comedy and astronomy.

Fortunately I was given a heads’ up by the concierge. See the ceiling hangings? Check out the masks on the guest toilet doors. Look at the stone wall behind reception representing water…

But quite honestly you could arrive at The Muse, be greeted by the concierge and just admire the chic and styly decor, double sided fireplace separating the lobby and the bar and water feature. Not only is it uber stylish, it’s very reasonably priced for a New York hotel (from around US$260 per room in the summer) and especially one so brilliantly located to Broadway. Oh, and being a Kimpton Hotel, every evening they host a free wine hour for guests in the lobby. Click here for The Muse >>>

And if you happen to have brought your dog all this way, you can book the Pampered Pooch package and get an amenity basket filled with canine treats. And get this: dogs can join their masters to shop at Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Tiffany’s, Brooks Brothers, Gap and Banana Republic. Oh pa-lease.

Free tickets to shows

The craziness of Times Square

Stand around Times Square for long enough and you’ll be approached by people selling last minute tickets. My friends were turning in circles looking at billboards the other day when along came a girl with free tickets to David Letterman that night. They saw Russell Crowe, Quincy Jones and Snoop Dog, while other hopefuls were left lining up at the last minute ticket counter and missed out.


New York CityPASS

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About Megan Singleton

Megan

Megan Singleton is a travel writer, blogger and radio correspondent. She's been gallivanting around the world telling stories for the last 16 years and has her suitcase always half packed (or half un-packed!) Follow along on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for monthly newsletters if you want to keep up with the journey!

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