By Kayla Valera | Staff Writer

Over Christmas break I was fortunate enough to visit New York for the very first time with my family, fulfilling my long-time fantasy of visiting the infamous “Big Apple.” After living in Hawaiʻi for so long, I never understood the excitement of being a tourist on the islands until I found myself there. There are so many iconic places to visit and things to do, just in Manhattan alone. This can seem overwhelming at first, but if done right, traveling in NYC can be a dream come true.

1. Get yourself a Metro Card

With all the moving around that is required in NYC, a Metro Card for the subway will be the best investment. Forget your dream of riding in the back of a yellow taxi in the city. It’s too expensive. A Metro Card costs around $31 for a seven-day subway fare and has unlimited uses. While there will still be a great deal of walking to get to a certain location from where a subway stops off, this will give you an opportunity to truly immerse yourself in the city.

2. Plan your days ahead of time (take into account certain place times, so much to take in)

One of the rudest awakenings that a tourist can experience when coming to NYC is the distance between most places. A preconceived notion that I had before the trip was that all of the notable landmarks or museums to visit would be conveniently lumped together. I thought you could stroll through Central Park in the morning, have lunch at Little Italy around noon, go to the top of the Empire State to see the sunset, and then head to Times Square in the evening until the wee hours of the morning. False. It’s nearly impossible to see all that Manhattan has to offer within the span of one day. Space out your agenda throughout your trip according to the different parts of Manhattan instead of rushing to get to the next place right after the other.

3. Some places aren’t all that exciting

Perhaps this is a common understanding for all tourists whenever they visit a new place. But because NYC has so much to see and do within the city, there should be a word of caution that you shouldn’t waste a subway trip to an area that won’t even be accessible to you. For example, while visiting places such as Madison Square Garden or Wall Street may be one of your bucket-list items, places like these aren’t all too exciting or inclusive towards tourists. If you plan to visit a place just for the sake of visiting it, make sure that it is meaningful and is truly significant to you. Places like the World Trade Center memorial is definitely a worthwhile commute for tourists to pay their respects and revisit a time in history that many won’t forget.

NY is an expansive city, home to famous landmarks such as The Empire State Building. (Photo by Kim Baxter)

4. As a tourist, know that you will be vulnerable to scammers

Upon getting off the subway at Battery Park, my family and I were bombarded by groups of people who were trying to coax tourists onto their ferries to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island at a “discounted” price. One of these peddlers offered us a “special” price of $30 for the trip, including a free car ride to their ferry (which was less than a block away from the park). My sister’s boyfriend, a New Jersey native, knew that the actual ferry’s price is $18. Though my family were able to avoid these peddlers, there are some tourists who don’t know better. Don’t be a gullible tourist and succumb to scammers.

5. Research the places you visit

As much as you can, do your research before traveling or even ask people who have visited the place you’re going to for any travel recommendations. For example, I was advised by my editor Kim that the Metropolitan Museum of Art, despite having a supposed ticket price of $25, this is only a suggested price and any monetary amount will be accepted in its place since it goes to charity. When the time came for my family and I to pay the admissions, the ticket salesman asked, “how much would you like to pay?,” which I thought would have been obvious to others that the price isn’t fixed. However, we noticed that others in line with us did end up paying what they thought that they had to. By letting others in on what we knew, they felt as though we revealed a great secret that just made their trip a little better by dodging a family of four’s $100 fee.

6.  Don’t be afraid of getting lost/Eat your way through the city!

What most rural dwellers might not be familiar with upon visiting the “City that Never Sleeps” is that getting lost on your trip might just be the best thing to happen to you. The city is just so vast and modern that even if you happen to stray on your path to a certain destination, NY will charm you with a store that you’ve never even heard of or a cozy coffee shop that makes you realize that you need said franchise back in your state A.S.A.P.

Of the many places that you will stumble upon while getting lost in the city, food places will be the most amazing. For instance, while we were navigating through SoHo to eat at Lombardi’s (known as the first pizzeria to open in the U.S.), my family and I got lost trying to find the right street that it’s on. As we continued to walk around the area, we noticed that a block away from the supposed location of the pizzeria were a plethora of shops that we hadn’t even heard of before. Stores like “Rice to Riches,” “Luanne’s Asian Vegan Food,” and “10 Below Ice Cream” were among the many eateries that we found.