With just under 63 million tourists visiting New York in 2017, the city that never sleeps is one of the most visited in the world. It’s unsurprising that queues for attractions are lengthy, tours are expensive and you can often feel unprepared. Read our guide to tour New York like a local, and boss being a tourist in the big apple.
Statue of Liberty Cruises
If you are going to visit the statue of liberty, the most common option is using the hornblower cruises the predominant service guaranteed to entail hours of queuing. The tickets for the liberty cruises are sold within a castle structure, fiercely guarded by a horrendously long queue of foreigners and locals alike. There are so many things that can go wrong with these cruises, avoiding doing as we did and queuing 2.5 hours in -2 degree winds.
If you don’t want to queue AT ALL; there are people selling ‘express’ cruises which include a boat journey circling the statue of liberty with drinks and food on board. If you have no patience to queue then these tours are probably a good choice, we were offered tickets at a price of $35 each, a reasonable price considering that standard hornblower tickets are $18. Whilst people selling tickets may have a reasonable package on offer, don’t let them discourage you from the ordinary tickets, they often inflate wait times or tell you lies about the queues.
If you want to queue less; get to battersy park EARLY, the first cruise is 9am so unless you are massively against waking up early I would suggest attempting to make one of the first trips. We arrived around 12pm and didn’t make it onto a boat until 2:30pm following the enormous queue, airport-style security and irritating queue-jumpers, had we stayed closer in the city I definitely would have got onto one of the first boat trips.
If you want to queue smart; be prepared for airport security, get one of you queue whilst the other buys the tickets, buy hot drinks for the queue in winter, and be prepared for a VERY long queue!
Empire State Building
Avoid this place at ALL COSTS at the weekend. Perhaps it was because the weekend before New Year, perhaps it was because the weather was nice, or perhaps its a regular occurance on the weekends but the queue for the empire state building was COLOSSAL when we visited. Wrapping around the entire perimeter of the building, the queue was unbelievable at 11am on a Saturday morning, yet there was no wait any other day of the week.
If you are visiting during a busy period or you just really hate queueing, because there are alot in here, including airport style security, there is a VIP express ticket for $65. We visited on a Tuesday evening and queued around 30 minutes so it depends how short your patience is!
Hop On-Off Buses
These are only good if you can get on the open top deck, let's be honest no one gets an incredible view from a city through the sticker of an advert on the bottom deck of the bus, and if you get stuck with that then they are a massive waste of money. Not only that, the tickets for these buses aren't cheap, so to get the most out of the purchase you need to be able to get a view from the top in dry weather and unfortunately the chances of both of these in combination in a busy city like New York are slim. We had to let alot of buses pass us because they didn't have any room for us and when we did finally get a bus we were squashed into a moist and stuffy bottom deck with a murky view of passing traffic.
The best idea for these is to go on a weekday and get on early, whilst the hop on-off feature is useful it might be worth staying on for an entire loop first to get a complete tour and your moneys worth. Avoid Grayline tours, they seem to be the busiest service, a rip off and the staff are rude onboard!
Ice Skating in Central Park
This is a seasonal tip of course, but if you are planning on visiting the glorious ice skating rink in Central Park here are a few of tips to make you more prepared:
The rink opens at 10am, I would recommend getting there for when it opens as not only will it be quieter but there was a constant queue the days we visited the park so this may be reduced at the start of the day.
Bare in mind the rink closes early at 2:30pm on Mon and Tues so if you want to skate at night these aren't the days to do it.
Avoid the ice resurfacing times at 11:30, 2:30 and 5:30 as not only do you lose 30 minutes on the ice as everyone has to leave but also everyone who was previously on the ice is combined with those who just paid to enter making it extremely busy after this period.
And whilst the choice of ice rink is completely up to you, the one at Central Park is much bigger and less busy than the rink at Rockefeller Centre.
Whilst I am going to create a separate guide to the ‘city pass’ options in New York these can either be your best friend or worst enemy. We chose badly and a result spent a lot of money and didn’t get a lot. Read my additional post here but just know that if you choose the right pass you can skip a lot of queues, save a lot of money and get discounts at restaurants and other tour services.
We visited the Brooklyn bridge the same day that the Empire State Building was surrounded by an enormous mass of tourists so perhaps something in all the hotel’s water that day, but TWO HOURS it took us to get off this bridge. It was so crowded it actually made the news and was one of our worse experiences on our trip, so here’s a few tips to make sure you make the most of this insta-worthy spot.
Let us know your tips in the comment to beating the crowds in New York, or perhaps which mistakes you've made in the past, I'd love to know I wasn't the only one queueing for hours..