It seems that everyone in New York City knows exactly where they are headed – except you.
Marching out of Penn Station, there is a sense of being thrust into this large city. Billboards plaster the skyline, buildings have extravagant window displays and suits stomp by sipping Starbucks while chatting away on their cell phones.
Don’t panic – while New York City is the largest city in America, it is easy to navigate and can be cheap if you know where to go.
The first rule about NYC: don’t drive there. Parking can cost up to $40 a day. Chinatown buses are a cheap way to get to the city, costing between $12 and $15 per trip, and offering discounts for round trips. The jaunt takes around two hours from Chinatown to Chinatown. For the cheap price and convenience, it is worth it to pack an iPod, good read and holding on for the ride.
New Jersey Transit trains also provide transportation into the city. Travelers must first take the SEPTA R7 train to Trenton and then the New Jersey Transit Northeast Corridor Line to New York Penn Station, located in the heart of the city.
The trip altogether costs $18.50. This route is easy, because you can leave right from the Temple Regional Rail Station.
While in the city, the best way to get around is the subway, which offers a $7 unlimited day pass. Trains come frequently and run late into the night. You should know the locations of attractions and subway stops, so you don’t have to spend unnecessary cash on taxis. Most of the city is laid out in a grid, with numbered streets running east to west, and avenues running north to south.
The ideal way to explore New York City is with friend who is a New Yorker and knows the best way to get around and the cheapest places to eat. If they let you crash at their apartment, you will save hundreds.
While nearly every neighborhood is pricey, the Greenwich Village area is always friendly to students. At its center is Washington Square Park, at 5th Avenue and 4th Street. The park is a hangout for New York University students, local artists and musicians.
The Village is known for its bohemian culture, boasting the scene that spawned Bob Dylan, Lou Reed and Allen Ginsberg, among other artists and poets. The area, like the rest of NYC has changed much since the 1960s, becoming more upscale but still retaining its unique clothing and record shops.
The Village also has great inexpensive food. Mamouns, located at 119 Macdougal St., is open late into the night.
There are lines at every hour to buy a $2 falafel, served in assembly-line fashion. Gray’s Papaya, at 402 6th Ave. is another favorite among locals. The recession special is two hot dogs with a fresh fruit drink for $2.95 and 25-cent coffee before 11 a.m.
Possibly the most astounding thing in the city may be the paradox of Central Park, which is a serene wilderness of commons and trails that lies smack dab in the middle of the hustle and bustle of its urban surroundings.
Between 59th and 110th streets and from 8th Avenue to 5th Avenue, Central Park is 843 acres. Strolling through the park along the lakes, it is easy to forget that you are in the city.
The general area south of the park is known as Midtown Manhattan. The best advice
for this area is: look but don’t buy. The corner of 5th Avenue and 59th Street could keep a wandering mind busy for days. It hosts New York City’s Apple store, an underground futuristic store selling i-Everything.
Next door sits FAO Schwarz, which sells thousands of unique and exotic toys. Countless other designers have shops on the ritzy 5th Avenue.
Times Square, the brightest place in the city, is at the intersection of 7th Avenue and Broadway, from 42nd to 47th streets.
The area, which is lit with electronic billboards that scream of commerce, is home to many media companies such as MTV and Viacom.
The Virgin mega-store at 1540 Broadway
has three floors of every music item or movie imaginable. There is also the Hershey’s store, a mecca of candy and the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company among many other shops.
It’s worth taking the subway to the southern tip of Manhattan to see Ground Zero and Wall Street. From here, you can walk through Little Italy and Chinatown to get some food on your way to the bus. By this time, you’ll be tired and ready to sleep on the bus ride home.
Now that you’ve gotten a sampling of the city, you’ll know what to do next time. And hopefully you won’t spend your bus fare home on 10 lame “I heart NY” shirts.
Stu Jerue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.