May 18, 2015

May 18, 2015
10 Common Mistakes Travelers Make in NYC

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Monday, Dab the AIDS Bear and I hope you had a beary safe and great weekend. We are gearing up for a very busy week.

AIDS Walk NYC is coming up for which Dab the AIDS Bear and I always get excited. We love the walk and all of our friends in New York City. NYC is a fantastic city like no other on the planet but travelers often make mistakes when visiting which I would like to blog about today.

Don't feel like you have to stay in Manhattan. For many people, “New York City” is synonymous with its most famous island, so of course that’s where visitors often choose to stay. But prices in Manhattan are still quite high — the average hotel room is around $250 per day — and unless you’re determined to sleep at a famous spot like the Waldorf-Astoria, you can get better deals off the island.

INSTEAD: Book a few nights in Brooklyn.

The borough has experienced a boutique-hotel boom in recent years, and many of the options—including Williamsburg’s chic Wythe Hotel, and the Aloft Hotel in Downtown Brooklyn—offer stylish, comfortable rooms for a lower price than their Manhattan counterparts. Plus, both of those options are no more than 20 minutes from the city’s center (by subway, of course).

Don't take taxis everywhere.

Yellow cabs may seem like a convenient way to get around, but they’re remarkably inefficient (you will get stuck in traffic). Plus, the city’s pilot program of green outer-borough cabs aren’t always easy to come by, and Uber will almost certainly overcharge you.

INSTEAD: Get acquainted with public transportation.

The subway will take you just about anywhere you’d want to go, and contrary to popular belief, it’s easy to figure out (be sure to familiarize yourself with routes to and from your destinations beforehand). If the weather’s nice, you also have the option of using Citi Bike, New York’s bike-sharing program.

Don't expect to see it all on a bus tour.

You can’t miss the guides in Midtown hawking tickets for hours-long jaunts on those huge red tour buses that circulate throughout the city. But don’t get sucked in: They give you only the briefest overview of tourist attractions.

INSTEAD: Book a spot on a bike or walking tour.

Get Up and Ride cycling tours aren’t cheap, but they’ll take you to areas of New York that you may not have visited —plus, some tours (such as its brunch jaunt) offer food as part of the ticket price. For history buffs, the Municipal Art Society offers walking tours that show off the city’s architectural gems and hidden spots, often for less than $20.

Skip the Broadway shopping.

Out-of-towners clog the sidewalks in Midtown and SoHo while indulging in window-shopping along the areas' main retail thoroughfares. But those stores aren’t particularly unique; they’re the same chains or designer brands you’ll find in Anywhere, U.S.A.

INSTEAD: Seek out boutiques in the Lower East Side.

The downtown neighborhood is filled with indie and vintage shops that cater to both ladies and gents. Orchard Street has a particularly high concentration of hip shops, including the Dressing Room, a hybrid vintage shop-bar, and the Tenement Museum Store, a museum shop that offers books, New York-centric gifts and more.

Don't wait on line for a cronut.

Dominique Ansel’s hybrid pastry — a cross between a flaky croissant and a doughnut — debuted in 2013 and quickly became the Next Big Food Thing, inspiring crowds to queue for hours to sample the snack. (They still do, more than a year later.) But while Ansel’s creation is tasty, it doesn’t live up to the hype — and it’s certainly not worth planning an entire day around.

INSTEAD: Sample a gourmet doughnut.

There are plenty of shops selling fancier versions of the humble fried-dough snack, but without the four-hour wait. Doughnut Plant, in business since 1994 (and now with several locations throughout the city), was at the forefront of the upscale-doughnut trend and still does it better than anyone else. We like the moist, dense cake doughnuts, in over-the-top flavors like dulce de leche and carrot cake.

Don't compete with the weekend crowds at the Met or MoMA.

Don’t get us wrong: These institutions are among the city’s best, and offer a cultural experience like no other. But you’ll also contend with lots of tourists — especially on weekends — which makes it much more difficult to check out the amazing art on view.

INSTEAD: Visit one of the city's amazing but underrated museums.

The Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, is a pop-culture fiend’s dream, with exhibits covering filmmaking history, video games and movie-related artifacts. The Morgan Library and Museum is also a must: It’s beautiful, located in financier J.P. Morgan’s one-time abode, and visitors can explore his two-story library, among other opulent rooms.

Don't spend a day trying to scale the Empire State Building.

The views from the top of this landmark are breathtaking, sure. But to experience them, you have to pay nearly $30 for a ticket, wait on a crazy-long line, and battle through groups of other people — all for a quick peek at the skyline from above.

INSTEAD: Get a skyline view from Brooklyn Bridge Park.

If it's views you're after, these ones can't be beat. The waterfront space offers multiple vantage points from which to enjoy sprawling Manhattan skyline vistas. Claim a spot on a bench in Pier 5 to gaze upon Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, or head to Empire-Fulton Ferry to see Midtown, the Brooklyn Bridge, and more.

Don't go to Times Square for a leisurely walk.

Yes, it’s one of the city’s most iconic tourist attractions — and that’s exactly why you should avoid it. Unless you’re passing through to go to a Broadway show, there isn’t much to do in Times Square other than get stuck in a crowd of tourists gawking at other tourists.

INSTEAD: Stroll along the High Line.

You’ll still encounter plenty of out-of-towners snapping photos along the elevated park, which attracts thousands of visitors per day. But, unlike Times Square, there’s plenty to see, including the brand-new final section of the park, which curves from 30th to 34th Streets.

Skip the trendy bars in the Meatpacking District.

Unless you’re keen on waiting around for hours just to pack into an overly loud space with scenesters, or really enjoy shelling out hundreds of dollars for bottle service, it’s best to avoid the once-trendy, now-mostly-reviled "MePa" bar scene altogether.

INSTEAD: Have a drink at one of the city’s best cocktail bars.

In addition to being a beautiful space, the NoMad Hotel bar features excellent libations crafted by Leo Robitschek. Or head to Attaboy, a spin-off of the trendsetting Milk & Honey, where bartenders will craft a custom drink for you based on your tastes.

OR if you're LGBT go check out the historic Stonewall Bar where the LGBT movement started in 1969.

Skip the "dirty water dogs" and dollar slices.

Have you ever seen the water that a street dog is kept warm in? We have. It’s not pretty. And while a dollar slice might seem like an attractive option — it is cheap, after all —what you’ll end up with is a rubbery, lukewarm bread triangle that barely resembles real New York pizza. Which is awesome.

INSTEAD: Head to Smorgasburg.

The hip food market is home to dozens of local vendors serving gourmet eats. Stuff yourself silly with savory dishes — including, yes, hot dogs (from the excellent, inventive Asia Dog) and pizza (from Pizza Moto) — and be sure to check out stalls slinging locally-made artisanal foods, such as pickles and granola. This fall, it'll move from the waterfront to a former brewery building in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Hope these tips help you make the most of your visit to NYC and hoping you have a beary great start to your week.

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab